Young at heart

She looked like a grandmother. Not like either one of my grandmothers but a grandmother nonetheless. Her hair was white and her face tanned and wrinkled in a distinguished kind of way. The way that, should you have a face like that, you can just thank your lucky stars for it. There’s nothing you can do to make your face turn out that way.

I was startled to see the face, distinguished as it was, because it seemed to appear out of nowhere and it was very close to my less distinguished face. I had just been sitting there, next to Wife, and while I had noted that she had stood up, I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the world.

After all, we were on an airplane. I thought that maybe she just wanted to stretch her legs.

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The islander

»People often say that island people are special. I say it, too, but the difference is that when others say it, they put air quotes around special. I don’t.

But living on an island does something to a man. (And woman, I don’t mean it like that). I don’t know what it is, like you don’t know what booze does to a man until you see it, you don’t see the island in the man – until you do. But it gets to every one of us, believe me.

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I see candy

We moved to this house eight years ago, and while Stockholm isn’t in the Top 10 of the most expensive housing cities in the world, it was and is too expensive for us, so we happily relocated from the south side of town to the north side – and a little farther away from the Old Town.

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A writer procrastinates

I write this, like most things, in my home office which is one of four bedrooms in the house. It’s also the smallest one because, well – don’t mind me – I’m just writing here. How much space do I really need?

I’ve tried to make it an inspiring writer’s room by having photos and paintings on the wall, and on my desk, things that remind me of a trip or a place, or that I just think are sort of cool. They include a Donald Duck figurine that I’ve had since I was four or five, a Peanuts calendar holder I bought in Tokyo, a tiny bust of H.C. Andersen – my favourite fairytale author – I bought in Copenhagen, and a miniature DeLorean Son convinced me buy at the Universal Studios two years ago.

The latest addition to my desktop collection is a flower I bought last week.

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A Swedish lesson

I don’t know what startled me more, what was being yelled at the office or who was yelling in the office, or whether it was the combination of what and who.

Thinking back, I think it may have been neither, because I couldn’t make out the words anyway and I didn’t recognize the voice so what shocked me must have been simply the sound. I didn’t know what it was, except that it was such a loud and piercing sound that not even Journey (playing in my headphones) could push it back, and I know I tried. I didn’t stop believin’ but I did remove my headphones to get a better idea what was going on.

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Concrete memories

Every time I take the commuter train in Helsinki, I make sure to get a window seat on the left side of the train, so that about seven minutes into the journey, I can press my nose against the window and see if my old neighborhood still looks the same.

From the train, I can see the ten-year-old me’s entire world, minus the skating rink and my school. I can see our balcony, the playground, my daycare, my two buddies’ houses, the small candy store, the pub that the local soccer team’s players were rumored to hang out in, the houses that replaced our small forest, and just after the train passes them, another friend’s home.

The last time I checked, it did look about the same. Of course, upon a closer examination, it’s not the same.

I know that because I have lived in the same apartment first as a pre-teen and then in my late 20s. I know things changed while I was gone.

Thanks to my return there, that neighborhood is where I’ve lived for the longest time in total and until a few months ago, it was where I had lived the longest without interruption. Now, at eight years and three months, that honor goes to Sollentuna, Sweden.

Last shot.

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My new best friend

Sitting in a home office writing stuff can get lonely. No, let me rephrase that. Many people think that sitting in a home office writing stuff can get lonely and by many people I mean the rest of my family. They’ve been dropping a lot of hints about friendship lately, how nice it is to make friends, and how I should get out more.

Well, see, I don’t make friends. I buy them. And I only go for the best.

And who’s man’s best friend? Who? Whoooooo’s man’s best frieeeeend, come here, boy!

That’s right. A dog.

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You can go home again

Children have their first idols close. The first ones are their parents and siblings, and then when the venture outside of the house, the cool (bigger) kids at school and sports teams, and naturally, for hockey playing kids in Europe, the players on their hometown teams and then the national team and NHL stars, although things have changed somewhat in the 21st century, with the access to NHL games having gotten better. Even then, often children idols are NHLers that come from the same country as them.

No wonder then that Anders Engqvist, a big, lanky kid who lived five minutes from the rink in a northern Stockholm suburb found an idol who also was a big, lanky kid from a northern Stockholm suburb. Also a right-hand shot, who had also started his career elsewhere but ended up in Djurgarden, one of the oldest hockey clubs in Sweden.

That they’re both right-hand shots and centers also made the comparison between them almost too easy to draw when Engqvist was coming up the ranks. That’s how a local scout described him to Djurgarden and maybe that’s why he had turned down a contract offer from AIK, the other big club in Stockholm.

Of course, by the time Engqvist made his men’s league debut with Spanga in Division 2 in 2003, Sundin had been the Toronto Maple Leafs captain for six years, and had won three World Championship titles with Team Sweden.

Four years after having signed with Djurgarden – or seven years ago – Engqvist led the team in playoff scoring with 13 points in 16 games as they went all the way to the final. They lost to HV71 in six games but five of the six games were decided in overtime. After the season Engqvist followed in Sundin’s footsteps, and left for the NHL when he signed with the Montreal Canadiens.

Since then, he’s played for five different teams in the NHL, the AHL, and the KHL, but now he’s back.

Home.

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Gospel of Boston

His father and grandfather built houses, but rather than homes, Jonas Reinholdsson is turning his O’Learys into a sports bar empire.

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.” That’s the opening line of the 1980s TV show Cheers, about a Boston bar, its staff and all the regulars. Cheers was the place where “everybody knows your name.”

And it was that kind of place Jonas Reinholdsson wanted to open when, as a 26- year-old looking for a fresh start, he bought a debt-laden Gothenburg restaurant for one Swedish krona.

Today, Reinholdsson’s single restaurant has grown into more than 130 franchises in 12 countries. Most are in the Nordics but as far as Reinholdsson is concerned, the journey has only just begun – he foresees 150 restaurants in the Nordics and 250 restaurants in total by 2019.

“I want to grow into one of the world’s biggest restaurant chains. We opened 21 new bars in 2016, we’ll do 25 this year, 35 more in 2018 and 50 in 2019,” he says. “If things go to plan, we’ll be opening one restaurant per week.”

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