The tall man with silver hair is turning in the sun on a quiet beach on Malta, staring at the Mediterranean from a sheltered cove on that island south of Sicily. He has not worked in months, but he is not worried.
He will begin to think about a job in a few more weeks, and then he'll pack up and fly north. The man in Malta is one of the veteran waiters at one of the elegant restaurants in Copenhagen's Tivoli amusement park. Like others at Tivoli, he works every day from May 1 to mid-September. Then, with his earnings, his tips and his warm-weather clothes, he heads for Malta--or sometimes Majorca--and enjoys a simple life of leisure for the rest of the year.
The opening of Tivoli is like a second coming of spring, a bonus season of blossoms and merriment, of music and laughter. With Tivoli, Copenhagen is complete again, its heart pounding with joy. There are open-air concerts and boat rides on a lake, pantomimes on stage and lanterns in lacy trees.
The closing of Tivoli, on the second Sunday of September, is like New Year's Eve: a little sad, a little happy, a time to look forward, a time to look back.
Off to View Parade
After a splendid feast at the garden restaurant, Belle Terrasse, on the last night of last season, my Danish friend, Kurt, whispered: "Come, we must go to the Promenaden cafe for the best view of the torch parade. It only happens on closing night."
So, as others veered off toward the street called Vesterbrogade, three of us turned left--two American women and a great Dane--and marched arm-in-arm through a drizzle of lamplight.
On the balcony of Promenaden we squeezed around a tiny table and ordered champagne. The Tivoli Boys Guard, more than 100 lads in the red-and-white uniforms of the Queen's Royal Life Guard, passed in final review to the beat of drums and brass.
"Hello, hello," called my Danish friend, raising his glass. "Goodby, goodby." We followed his exuberant lead and waved to the throng.
Galaxies of fireworks exploded overhead; clouds of silver burst in the sky and sprinkled down like a blessing.
One Last Scheme
As we strolled toward the exit at midnight, Kurt had one more celebratory scheme: He turned around and approached two young Danes.
"We are Americans and we just arrived," he said in lilting English. "We are having so much fun that we will be back tomorrow. What time does it open?"
The teen-agers stared at him in confusion, and some pity. The young girl said slowly: "It does not open tomorrow."
"Oh, well," my friend said. "We will come the next day."
"No," the teen-ager said, "this is the last day . . . the last day until next year . . . until the first of May."
"But we have come so far," said my friend, with tongue in rosy cheek. "Still, do not worry. We will come back in May."
A lovely bit of make-believe that, for me, cannot come true.
But I'll bet all the kroner in Denmark that Kurt Nielsen will be there. And that he will be toasting "skoal" with an icy aquavit served by a waiter with a Maltese tan.