Imagine a teenage boy. Now imagine he’s a hockey player, then imagine he’s a pretty good one, and then, imagine him on the ice. Imagine it’s the 1980s, and imagine he’s playing a game in a fairly big rink. Imagine it’s the main rink of the town.
Despite it being the city’s biggest rink, and the only indoor arena, imagine only a handful of people watching the game. Imagine there are a few teenage girls, but mostly men of different ages. Imagine some of them in the stands, and some of the standing behind the plexiglass at ice level.
One of the coolest pieces of clothing I know is a blue spring jacket. To me, a blue jacket is a true sign of spring, just like running shoes, and a net bag in which I’d carry my soccer ball.
As soon as Mom let me wear running shoes outside, take a soccer ball to the back yard, and wear my blue jacket, winter was over.
When I was twelve, I had a blue winter jacket as well. Most kids in my hockey team had one, a team jacket, as did Mom and Dad, so we, too, made a good-looking team. But Dad also had a blue spring jacket, sort of like a bomber jacket except that wasn’t what we called them then, and it was a little more special than any other jacket I’ve ever seen.
Dad’s jacket was a magic jacket.
When Phil Verchota was born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1956, pinball machines were still illegal in his home state. However, the state supreme court made a ruling that pinball was a game of skill, not chance – and therefore not gambling – a year later, so it’s safe to assume his pinball playing days weren’t cut short by law.
Although, eighteen years later, when he enrolled in University of Minnesota, pinball machines were still illegal in New York City, and the games took place in back rooms of establishments that already had a questionable reputation.
In 1980, pinball machines were legal almost everywhere in the United States, but by then, Phll was in Finland, and that’s where I met him. We played a few games of pinball in the Helsinki hockey rink cafeteria.
See, Phil was also a pretty good hockey player and had won Olympic gold in Lake Placid about six months earlier. People call it “Miracle on Ice.”
The man at the New York souvenir shop was just trying to make some chit-chat. He was the one greeting us as we walked into the “bobblehead store” which is what Son calls all those souvenir shops now because that’s where he happened to buy his Abraham Lincoln bobblehead doll.
This time, he couldn’t decide whether to get a Kennedy or Clinton, or maybe George Washington so he didn’t buy anything which is why we were hanging around the front door, waiting for Wife and Daughter.
“Where are you guys from?” the greeterman asked Son.
“Oh, we’re from, em, Sweden,” replied Son, and then looked at me.
“And Finland,” he added.
Now, if I’m traveling alone and people ask me where I’m from, I always say “Finland”, but that “I live in Sweden now”. When I’m traveling with the family, I most often say that we’re from Sweden, always making a mental note to myself that technically, we have traveled from Sweden. Sometimes, I add that I’m actually a Finn, but most often I simply don’t want to engage in a conversation, so I let it slide. It’s not important.
Last weekend, Daughter had another bandy game. Bandy, if you don’t know, is like field hockey on ice, and Daughter, if you don’t know, rocks the sport. She’s a great skater, and more importantly, she’s got the gene that I don’t have, which is the one that makes her want to practice every time she gets a chance.
The games last Saturday were especially exciting because they were her first games indoors.
Maybe everything would be different had I acted on my impulse. Maybe I wouldn’t be sitting in this little office room in our yellow house, for example.
Maybe I’d have another job, maybe I would wear a suit every day, and not just on days when I want to pretend to be a guy who wears suits to work, like today. Maybe I wouldn’t have seen the Life of Brian, and maybe I still couldn’t tell the Spice Girls apart.
This is where the countdown ends. Not at zero, but at number one. Here are the number one stories posted on the site in 2014. Thanks, see you next year.
» Attempt at humor: “Nick of Time”
» True fiction: “Good day, Mrs. Sunshine”
Here are the stories that will take over as stories of the year should the number one stories not be able to deliver.
» Attempt at humor: “A Top 10 list”
» True Fiction: “This is how I role (model)”
Oooooooh, we’re halfway theeere. Number 3.
» Attempt at humor: “University of Hockey”
» True Fiction: “My girl”
The countdown continues. Yes, there’s more: here’s number four.
» Attempt at humor: “A guide to understanding Finns”
» True Fiction: “Me, Superhero”