R is for Risto

The family legend is that when I was born, Dad looked up “Risto Pakarinen” in the Helsinki phone book, and noting the absence of the name in the mightiest phone book in the country, he decided that it was a good name for a son.

A little special, you see. Not just another John Smith (although, back then, being called John Smith would probably have been even more special in Helsinki).

So Risto it was.

And like most of us, I take my name personally. Every time I’m traveling, and I see signs that have “Risto” in them, I take a photo, and claim ownership. In Gothenburg this week, I saw a restaurant called “Ristoria” and sent the photo to my friends and I used to do that with every single “ristorante” as well, but it got a little tiresome. For years, even decades, I also often made the same joke of my being a secret restauranteur, and that my partner’s name was “Rante”. That, too, got a little tiresome – or so I was told.

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Born to be a goalie

Denmark’s Frederik Andersen just waiting to be discovered

COLOGNE – The hat he’s wearing says it all. It’s a gray baseball hat, with “The Great Wall” in red letters printed on the side. That’s exactly what Frederik Andersen was on Saturday in Denmark’s opening game, when he led his nation to its first win over Finland.

In the nine previous games between the countries since 2000, Finland had outscored Denmark 51-8, but on Saturday, Andersen turned away 37 Finnish shots, or 97.30 percent of them.

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A boy on the bus

“At least 15 people are dead after a crash between a tractor-trailer and a bus carrying a Canadian junior hockey league team, a tragedy that struck at the heart of a tightknit city in rural Saskatchewan and immediately echoed through the hockey world and beyond.”

– Washington Post, April 8, 2018

The bus was always my safe place. Well, all cars were and still are. I wasn’t born in a car even though it sometimes feels like it. From the day I was born, I’ve spent so much time in cars, reading, sleeping, talking, eavesdropping, eating, counting other cars, and being bored that cars have become my second home. 

Early on, my hockey bus trips were mostly short and infrequent. Maybe we took a bus to a camp four hours away, once a season, maybe not even that.

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Open Sesame

Last week, I found a secret portal that took me to other worlds. No, it wasn’t books, silly, although that was a good guess (and I do encourage everybody to read).

No, this portal was a garage in downtown Stockholm, a block from Stureplan, which is the center of Stockholm’s nightlife – or so I have been told, it’s been a while I’ve been in the city centre after sunset.

The funny thing about my finding the portal is that I wasn’t on my way anywhere in particular. I was just walking around, waiting for a movie theatre to open so that I could go watch Chaplin’s Gold Rush when I was suddenly, unexpectedly taken to another world.

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Door 20: Wrapping presents

Every time somebody in Wife’s family gets a present that is shaped like a box, just after s/he has torn the wrapping paper off it but before s/he opens the actual box, somebody will say, “oooh, did somebody pull a mormor?”

Mormor is Swedish for maternal grandmother, and pulling a mormor is a reference to the fact that Wife’s mormor often gave presents that were packed inside boxes that were just the right size for the purpose, but wasn’t the box in which the actual present came. For example, cookie cutter may have been in a razor box, creating confusion and hilarity.

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Door 17: Shopping

Believe or not, I love Xmas shopping. I mean, I may moan about the stress and I may get angry at other people in the stores, but I like to go out and buy stuff to others. Also, believe it or not, I’m great at it.

Because I like buying presents to others, I often seem to get pretty good presents, which obviously raises the bar for the next year, but with a little bit of luck, I seem to stumble on nice presents every year.

Except this year, but then again, I say that every year.

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Door 14: More movies

If I had to choose another profession, if I couldn’t be a writer guy, I would want to be a ghostbuster. Even today, as the middle-aged man living in a Stockholm suburb that I am, a part of me is walking around keeping an eye out on sliming ghosts and when nobody can see, I do the Peter Venkman hop on the mike lane to the mall, and in my mind, I tell people to “back off, man, I’m a scientist” even though I’m really not.

“Ghostbuster”, the word itself, didn’t practically exist before 1984, when the movie about three buddies who set up shop to catch ghosts in New York. It opened in the US in June, but as always, us Finns had to wait a little longer to see it.

It had its Finnish premiere on Dec 14, 1984 – 33 years ago to the day.

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Door 12: Hockey

Tom Petty sang that “the waiting is the hardest part” but sometimes it may also be the sweetest part. Sometimes it’s exactly that time spent waiting that makes everything worthwhile.

It’s all those little things along the way that tell you that you’re going in the right direction even if you’re not there quite yet. And sometimes the things along the way are almost as nice as the big reward at the end of the road (and sometimes they get tangled up together so that it’s hard to say which is which anymore).

These days, you can catch a live broadcast of not only English football, the Super Bowl, and any NHL game you choose but the nichiest of niche sports anywhere in the world – and nothing means anything anymore.

Scarcity creates value.

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Door 10: Music

There’s a guitar in the corner of my office, but I can’t play it. I can pretend to play a few songs but I’m the only one who knows which songs I’m playing. On the bookshelf, resting on a Hockey Hall of Fame book that I wrote a chapter for, there’s my recorder from seventh grade. I can play one song on it, the one I had to learn for the test then. The song is “Papa Pingouin”, “Papa Penguin”, Luxembourg’s entry in the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest, and thanks to the obscure nature of the song, I am still the only one who knows the song I’m playing.

But I love listening to music and as far as I’m concerned, the most peaceful thing to do in life is to lie on the floor and listen to music with headphones on. It’s not because I like to do it – although I think I do – or that I do it often – I never do it – but because it always looked as such a cool and peaceful thing to do when Dad did it.

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