The Phantom and I

Twenty years ago, my phone rang and a nice American lady at the other end informed me that she had a job offer for me. I accepted it on the spot, obviously, having been through several rounds of interviews and a visit to the company’s offices in the Stockholm Old Town.

I hung up, and got back to work without telling anyone. In fact, I kept the secret for another week, waiting for my frustrating boss to say something idiotic so that I could just quit my job right there, in a Hollywood movie kind of way. (He didn’t, so I gave my notice that Friday).

But that evening, I drove to the local pizza place and while waiting for the pizza to be ready, I went to the video store next door, and rented a movie to celebrate my new job.

The pizza? Pizza Bolognese.

The movie? The Phantom.

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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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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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Do the unna

There I was, leaning against a construction site wall, looking out to Sergels Torg, the heart of Stockholm’s downtown. That’s the location of the main subway station and the commuter station hub, with a tunnel connecting it to the main train station. It’s also the place for markets and on most days, demonstrations of all sizes and for all causes.

Right behind me on the wall, there was a gigantic H&M logo and in front of me, a stage where a band was playing Swedish pop. All around me, there were blue-and-yellow flags, and faces and wigs, also blue-and-yellow, as Stockholmians got ready to celebrate the nation’s beloved hockey team, Tre Kronor, the national team that had won the world championship the night before.

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Robin Hood lives

By the time I was driving down the M1 between Leeds and Nottingham, I was pretty comfortable driving on the left side of the road, and passing others on their right. That’s exactly what I was doing – driving on the farthest lane to the right – as we approached Nottingham, and I saw a brown sign by the side of the road.

It said, “Sherwood Forest”.

I looked at Wife (my co-pilot, to my left).

“What do you think? Shall we?” I asked her.

“I don’t know. You?”

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Upside down and looking daft

Often, when I see street artists, and every time I see artists that do things that completely surprise me, I try to think of how they get ready for another day’s work.

How the large man in Cologne gets up, checks his water bottles, fills them up with fresh, clean, pure water, and then takes the bus to the shopping street next to the cathedral and entertains people by drinking up all the water, a few liters at a time, only to then somehow get it all up and become a human water fountain.

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John, Paul, and Risto

Today, the world looks a little sunnier. The colors are a little brighter and the sky a little bluer, and I feel peaceful. The reason for that is that I’m sitting on a hotel bed in Liverpool, England, wearing my new £3 John Lennon styled yellow-tinted sunglasses.

Liverpool was a household name in our household thanks to the Beatles, and Kevin Keegan, Liverpool FC’s (and England’s) small but skilled midfielder with a big hair. While I liked the Beatles a lot, it was a Kevin Keegan magazine clipping I had on the wall. “Don’t let success get to you head,” he advised me.

But obviously, I’m not doing “bed peace” because of Keegan. It’s just that the the city and the Beatles Story exhibition rekindled my love and admiration for the Beatles, the greatest band ever.

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