I missed him at first. I guess I was reading my book and, besides, it was the subway, so people are coming and going all the time. Even people with accordions, and guitars. Not that he had any of those. What made me pay attention was a word he used.
“You wouldn’t happen to have a few bucks to give to an apartmentless man,” he said.
We were walking home from school, as always, my friend and I, talking about this and that. I couldn’t stop thinking about the advertisements I saw everywhere. I could see one right then, on a lamp post.
“Take an egg to work,” it said.
Take an egg to work? How? As far as I could tell, it was impossible. It was funny, but impossible.
INT. – A CLASSROOM – DAY
Two dozen adults sit on small chairs, facing a teacher who’s smiling and nodding to them.
The sun is out and the beach is crowded but we found a spot, we found a spot! It’s not too close to the water but not too far, either. It’s not too far from the café but not too close to the garbage cans, either. It may be a little too close to the soccer game, but Wife promises me I won’t get hit by the ball so that’s where we lay the blanket.
And yes. Yes, there is a soccer game going on close to us. They’re playing barefoot on a dirt field, the kids and their fathers. The shirtless children are brown and browner, some by birth, others turned brown by the scorching sun. The fathers hop around trying to figure out how hard to play, whether to let the kids get the ball easily, or whether to use their bodies to separate them from the ball, so they experiment with their own kids.
Every family’s got them. Their very own legends. Stories that may or may not be true but that get told so often that even if they didn’t start out true, they’ve become such a big part of the person they’re told of that they might as well be.
Like the one about how I learned to read. The family legend is that I always asked my parents to read for me, and tell me what each letter was, until one day, when I once again asked my father to read comics to me, and he just told me to do it myself. So I did.
Or how the reason for my not eating tomatoes – (Except that I sort of do these days, on pizzas and in salads, but never just a slice of tomato) – is my father making me eat one at dinner even after I said I didn’t want to. I put it in my mouth, but threw it back up again right away.
Last weekend, Wife and Daughter packed their bags and drove south. Now, because it had been snowing when we got up, instead of driving to the cottage, as planned, they only drove south for ten minutes, parked the car at the In-Laws’, and spent the weekend at their imaginary cottage, giving Son and me the male bonding weekend we had talked about. (And the female bonding weekend to them).
This was to be a weekend of life lessons, something they would make a Hallmark movie about. Son and I would talk and hang out, watch movies, eat hamburgers, and while doing that, I would drop some words of wisdom his way.
Like, “Did you know that they just found the Apollo 11 engines?” or “Did you know that there are actual flying cars these days but they’re now called roadable aircrafts.”
And Son would nod, and take notes like I was going to ask him to. That was the plan. But first, we had to run to the train so we’d make it to the 12.10 showing of the 3D version of “The Phantom Menace”.
I don’t know if we were friends anymore, although I’m pretty sure we were. I know we weren’t enemies, which is natural since we were teenagers, and at least for me, there were just buddies and other people. When I look back now, I think we had been pretty good friends because we went to the same school, but I also know that we only went to the same school for about a year and a half, two years maybe, and I had lost track of him a little bit.
Maybe I liked him because he seemed to be always smiling, or because he was nice to me, a new kid in town, or maybe because he shared a name with my father, which made his name unusual for somebody his age.
In Finland, there are thousands of jokes about the Swedes. Entire books have been dedicated to the art form, and one of my all-time favorite jokes actually comes from one of those books. I read it when I was about 12, and I’m not really sure why I still think it’s sort of funny. It’s almost not even a joke.
“A Swede shot an arrow to the sky. He missed”.
Anyway, Finns like to tell jokes about Swedes, and often it’s the Swedish man who’s the butt of the joke. In the jokes, the Swedish men are slow, thick, and often, if not homosexual, then at least soft and feminine. They discuss things.
[Professor Hood’s] researchers convince the pre-school-age subjects that their special item will be put into a machine that can produce a copy of the object which is identical in every way. The infants, who are offered the choice of having the original or the “perfect” copy returned to them, strongly prefer the original. – BBC, 2004
Every once in a while, when I’m writing longer pieces, my fingers seem to swell, and I take off my wedding ring. It’s something of a pause to collect my thoughts as well, and a minute or so later, I slip the ring back on because I’m worried that I might lose it.
Before Wife and I got engaged, we were fake engaged for a while. Or, I know that I was. We’d only been together for about a year when we moved in together. She had sold her apartment wanted us to take a really nice, long trip somewhere with the money she had made so we took a trip to Mexico. For a week, we traveled around the Yucatan peninsula in an air-conditioned bus with an active group of mostly retired people.
I’m a simple man, with simple needs and simple pleasures. Like food. I like food, but because I’m a simple man, I don’t need a gourmet dinner to be happy. After all, I grew up on Finnish lihapiirakka, a deep-fried pie with ground meat and rice inside. (Add ketchup and mustard).
When our family moved from Helsinki to Joensuu, a rural university town in Eastern Finland, one of my biggest fears was that there wouldn’t be a good burger joint in Joensuu. It may sound weird now, but back then, there were no McDonald’s restaurants in Helsinki, and there was just one “real American” burger place in town.
It was a Carrols. And we went there on Sundays.