I'm in the surreal, fugue-like state of being up for 36 hours straight, made worse by the anticlimactic release of handing in my MA thesis. Crossing Torgallmenningen in the warm sun, my newborn thesis still actually warm from coming off the printing press, I notice an unusual crowd. A gaggle of journalists up front, and an unusual mixture of people standing behind the barricades: teenagers, pensioners, academics and working class and the occasional punk. I wonder what celebrity could cause the police to carry sub-machineguns. With a little more presence of mind, I might have deduced that this might have something to do with the former President of the United States being in town. I do not. Staring like an idiot, I watch his handlers emerge with golf clubs, stuffing them into the waiting SUVs. Then, small, rodent-like men - his bodyguards - emerge from the hotel and form a perimeter leading up to the car. Finally, like a silverback gorilla stepping into the sunshine of some rainforest clearing, Bill Clinton, wearing an ugly yellow shirt, emerges from the hotel.
The crowd goes wild; cheering, applauding. I'm desperately trying to claw my camera from its holster. He's red-faced and radiant and surely much shorter than Bill Clinton. He waves at the crowd with large, red hands; smiles a huge, electrical smile. He shakes some hands. Stops to speak to the press.
(Later, I will see the interview on TV. It goes a little something like this:
LOCAL NEWS REPORTER:
about to shit himself
What do you think the big issue is?
BILL FREAKING CLINTON:
You mean facing the world? Well, first off bla bla the environment bla bla international security bla bla first generation to really end extreme poverty forever bla bla.
LOCAL NEWS REPORTER:
Say something nice about Bergen...?
BILL HOLY SHIT CLINTON:
Oh! Bla bla bla just gorgeous bla bla bla mountains bla bla fjords! bla bla golfing.
steps into car. The clip of the convoy driving away lasts fifteen seconds too long. As though nothing else happened in the world that day.)
mr. Clinton's hair (right) adressing the cameras
While he is talking to the reporters, I finally pop off some shots. They show nothing. I can only barely make out the president's hair. The object of interest is completely unsymbolically obscured by members of the free press. Lowering my camera, knowing I'm not going to get another shot, I start contemplating what it must take to become the kind of person who can step out of a hotel and instantly get an applause.
But eventually, I emerge from my dream-like reverie to a sudden, deep focus on the ex-presidential hairdo. And suddenly I realise what they are all on about, all the people talking about his charisma and his charm. Once you've been in the presence of the former president's hair, you never really forget it. It's like nothing else in the world. Words fail me, but I feel compelled to try:
Despite the silvery tone of mr. Clinton's hair, the impression really is one of warmth and intensity. It never lets you feel like you are getting less than 100% of its attention. It seems completely and overwhelmingly present. The hair is right there. It seems focused and efficient, but nonetheless also friendly. It really is hair that makes you feel like you are at the centre of its universe. It is the dignified hair of a leader, but not the (h)airy, distant kind. Mr. Clinton's hair, instead, gives off a sense of being rooted and connected to the rest of the world. It makes you feel like you've made a connection. It communicates, and gets its point across efficiently. You are never, for instance, in doubt as to the gap in intelligence between mr. Clinton's hairdo and president Bush's head. As it leaves, you have the distinct impression that those silvery waves will never forget you. You will certainly never forget it. It stays with you for the rest of your life, and you are honoured to have been in its stroked-back presence.