For those who find this TL;DR and too dense with inside jokes, I jam-packed this post with pictures. I even made an album for da public. Also for people who are better at blogging about the actual competitions go to Zoomy’s thing or AlexJMullen.com. If you’re really late to the party, everyone else went to Xmtlive.com for the LIVE results and for behind the scenes, training software and other info ExtremeMemoryTournament.com.
I woke up at Fro’s in Stockholm on Wednesday morning before the flight to San Diego, with the epic part of Nobody Love in my mind. Synesthesia was rampant and the colors were so strong and vivid I almost couldn’t find my way to the bathroom to shower. It was a good sign though and I basically found my soundtrack for the entire southern Cali trip that morning.
OK, so Lance, Livan and Briones called me out on this. I didn’t have the best opinion of the American population, but most Americans are so friendly, so warm and so casual it’s almost a joke. Lance is one of very few people who calls me out on my bs in general in a way that doesn’t make me feel bad and makes me laugh when I’m the least ready for it. Such a bro.
And as per usual the memory people are awesome and I’ve already annoyed the living fudge out of Hannes by talking about how much I like everyone. I could make a 1000-word post on almost everyone I met on why they are awesome. But I’ll post a bunch of pictures instead.
I was very afraid that Katie was going to be mean and she was afraid I was going to be mean as well but it turns out neither of us are mean! YES! I love talking to Katie for a myriad of personal reasons… some of which actually make me tear-up in a good way, but one major thing that I feel I can share is that she makes me feel less crazy.
« I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy » – Lana Del Rey, Ride.
She has synesthesia/ideasthesia and she understands what I mean when I say I can get confused about when something is happening because “those two months are the same deep-blue colour”, she thinks people have pretty birth dates and that their names have different feelings – so of course we made a secret sign language the first day we hung out. I could also write a million happy things about having breakfast with Katie but this trip taught me secrets are fun. Secret sign languages and all. FUN SECRETS ARE FUN!
“Sometimes when I memorize the word “happy” I think of you. Even before we met”.
I can’t even. The amount of work I’ve done to get myself this happy and then to hear Katie Kermode THE GODDESS OF WORDS say this… #figurativelydying #cuehappyleaffeeling
I didn’t get to talk to Ben as much as we’ve done at previous competitions. I mostly talked about him with all the staff at the hotel. Ben is so eccentric it’s impossible for people not to notice him. I got to talk a whole bunch with Mr. Knight (who is completely different from me neurologically) and Rudy (is that how you spell that?) and that’s always nice. I love the entire British team and listening to their distinct accents.
Anne and I played a hand-clapping game that I hope we’ll build upon further in future competitions, fitting since she’s 14 and I’m mentally 14 when it comes to hand-clapping games. Except unlike most 14 year-olds she can memorize a deck of cards in 46.3s. Bam.
Also I love taking pics of Mr. Abrina because he always looks so displeased and/or skeptical.
Ola Kåre Risa is so handsome I couldn’t stop taking pictures of him. I even took this of him posing next to a picture of himself. Anyone who thinks binary is the best discipline is a person I trust.
Christian and Annalena were so nice as usual, I didn’t get to talk to them much but they totally kicked butt in their group with Annalena going undefeated at 9-0 the first half of day 1.
The Mongolian team is so ridiculously fierce I always feel a little intimidated, but I’ve always enjoyed talking to Mr. Khandsuren. That man is prolific as fuck and told me the Mongolian team thought I was ignoring them or something.
“They are more scared of you then you are of them”.
So I got a chance to speak longer to Aka and Enji on day 2 which was fun. Mr. Tsogoo told me I didn’t look Mongolian. Dafuq does that mean? I mean, HAVE YOU EVEN SEEN MY CHEEK BONES? No, you probably didn’t because you bumped into them so hard when I walked past you they blinded you. I really adore the Mongolian team though and I want to join them for a year or so but alas sports politics says I cannot. :’(
Team Sweden though <3 Jessica and Jonas are always so supportive I try my best to return the favor. Marwin’s mom is ridiculously bad-ass and pretty. #sorrymarwin. We were all a little out of shape but we still managed to survive until day 2. #sosorororymomarorwowinon
Boris knocked me out in the morning on day 2. I was too happy. I was singing along to the songs in the surprise event of remembering a deck of cards to music changing up all the time. “Got me looking so crazy in love” mixed with imagining Hitler eating crickets on the loo. Imagery I will never get rid of. Boris really deserved his silver position this year. Boris happy, I am happy.
Johannes, my German teacher extraordinaire won the XMT. I have a lot to say about Johannes. Only good things I promise. But the man thinks I talk too much so I won’t say much about him. I like him.
At the US Open Simon Reinhard broke his own world record of 5-min names and faces and I got the new Swedish record and the second-best result of all time, memorizing 71 names. He told me I wasn’t close to my potential during dinner in LA. I’ve captured this moment.
Finally a fine fucking thank you to the MC and organizer Nelson for making memory sports exciting, bringing awesome people together under the sun and helping a poor student survive the summer with the prize money.
Also a huge thank you to Micha and Flo for organizing the first ever US Memory Open – digital is the future. Hugs and conversations with Flo (sometimes I just see myself in him, it’s strange) are always appreciated and Micha even let me borrow his awesome hoodie.
Thanks to <3 Beth and Brad for giving me rides, cookies and encouragement.
And so many thanks to the rest of the XMT/Dart peeps – Mary, Mike and the ominous “Simon Orton”… Thanks to Linda for being so nice to me and helping me find a curling iron and getting Ola to buy me tacos (he also got me 4 cans of Mountain Dew, that’s 1,33l of soda for lunch – WHO DOES THAT?).
After only having pretty shit pizza since like November, it left me in a non-pizza funk. I even thought I had celiac’s disease just because I felt so bad afterwards. At one point, dare I say it, I even thought I didn’t like pizza.
The pizza in China wasn’t great and when I got back to Stockholm it was more of a comfort food than something I was craving.
But this pizza in the U.S. was awesome. I had forgotten I love pizza. I love America!
P.S, Wessel and my epic friendship would’ve never blossomed if he hadn’t been wearing a t-shirt with the words PIZZA on it at the UK Open. Pizza is my saviour.
The Places – poverty and paradise
San Diego is gorgeous, but the East Village was a little shady. Same with deep in Downtown LA. Even though I’ve been in the slums of Mumbai and Kibera… holy shit this was like a whole new level of poverty. I think it felt worse because most of the people were so miserable and angry all the time. You’d be walking down the street and BAM – there’s a person sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk or BAM – person screaming about money in yo’ face. What is that?
Anyways except for my one experience with these weird areas when I took the bus from LA to San Diego it was beautiful EVERYWHERE. And also I think Starbucks is only hiring gorgeous redheads. I recommend Starbucks +++++.
There is a distinct smell that happens only in palm-tree dense areas. I like it. It reminded me of a breezy day in Mombasa with Jo. I usually don’t like Mombasa, but that one day when it was breezy. Damn. Heaven. Also, the less I need to wear the happier I am so <3 sunny places.
The XMT 2015 was very media-friendly and everyone was really nice and interesting… I almost always find journalists interesting, maybe I’m biased because I never managed to become one myself.
Joao Medeiros from Wired talked to me which is amazing since I share his piece on dyslexia with every one of my dyslectic friends but unfortunately most don’t read it because… they have dyslexia. Conversations with him were sporadic but almost always jam-packed with interesting things that made my mind explode, but I think I managed to play it cool.
Damon had the best “atmospheric” and portrait pictures – I couldn’t stop bothering him about sending his RAW files to me. I know, I’m a bad person. Also Jeremy was helping out even though he fractured his finger “playing basketball”. Please click for a NSFL picture of his finger.
Liana and Keegam making a piece for the Guardian were cool. I wish I would one day be as cool, calm and collected as Liana. But alas, I am me. The things I do are cool and calm and in my moments of solitude I’m collected but I am bursting at the seams with emotions almost 24/7 otherwise. I have an instacrush on her @lianaagh – “hopping from LA to Yerevan and everywhere in between”. I mean come on? HOW COOL IS THAT!?
Jeffbenzac is a dashing new boy-band slash film crew. They were cool. I’m extremely weak for people who can afford to give compliments that I think are genuine and for people who know how to handle C300’s so I’m biased here as well I suppose. Oh well. I signed away my soul to them so I have to be supportive. GO JEFFBENZAC!!! (feat. Bob).
Also, the NBC crew were cool. Joe Fryer had the biggest smile it was distracting and I couldn’t string together sentences that made sense at times and I accidentally kept saying shit. Shit. They were all super professional though. Jody acted as my make-up assistant because I’m so bad at trying to be pretty and Steve told me he could tell I was from Sweden based on the way I expressed myself hehe… Can’t take the Swede out of the… No. I’ll stop here.
THIS IS WHY AMERICA IS OBESE. It’s not the gluten, the corn-syrup etc. THE PORTIONS ARE GINORMOUS EVERYWHERE. My fridge was overflowing with left-overs when I left San Diego. No one needs to eat « a mountain of nachos drenched in cheese ». Why would anyone even order that? (I’m looking at you, Herr Konrad). I liked the size of the pizza though.
Ah yes. I started playing this game – « how many minutes does it take for this man to make a comment about the way I look? ». Then I started playing a reverse game called “Say something about his looks back and wait for his reaction”. “Women should be wearing hats” – is totally OK to say. “You look hot for 68” – said by a girl is somehow not OK.
Many guys had to make comments about their own masculinity as well. « OK. Is there another store in the vicinity that does sell tampons?». « Well I wouldn’t know. » Yes dude, I’m aware you’re a dude, but I hope you having a penis doesn’t render you completely incapable of knowing which stores sell tampons god fucking damn.
Number of times I can recall that I heard the tired phrase « sex sells »- 23.
THE STARING. I would walk into a place and people would just be staring at my legs like it was their business. I know my legs are awesome and without heels it looks like my calves will explode in your face so people stare just to take precaution but goddamn. Guys would also ask me about my hair, my height, my lashes etc. It was weird. So many American men are like metrosexual and über-machismo all at the same time. Verwirrend.
The personal/psychological stuff about competing
I made a little rough calibrating in my mind about how to get to day 2. It was down to the last match of images, the discipline in which I qualified in first place. I knew Enkhjin was good enough to get 9s in images though… So it was all about whether I wanted to risk not moving to day 2 for the chance of 2000 dollars. If I lost and either Marlo or Lance won their rounds I would have no chance. I made a very mature decision to go super-slow on images at around 21s and made it!
On day 2 I decided the happy attitude is the only thing I cared about. I made more than enough money to pay for my summer flights to Paris, Tokyo, UB, Hong Kong, London and with me landing in the group of death I really didn’t think I would advance to day 2. I was just happy. As soon as I got eliminated I took a nap and continued research for my thesis. Take a look at me now, I’m an adult and I make adult decisions.
The rest of the trip was mostly euphoric. I got super-sad and started crying during a hiccup of the abstract images that left me with a raw score of 196, but I decided to look at it from the bright side and I realized after a few minutes that the bright side was blindingly bright… So it was somehow still good.
And because someone else has always said it best:
“Some of the best days of my life, with some of the best and coolest people around, and all of this in Southern California – what else can you wish for?” – Simon Reinhard
And also just go Team Wessel for motivating me to no end and a HUGE thanks to Cathy for saving me from menstrual cramps and for taking my new favourite picture.