I became a self-taught shaver one summer’s day at the tender age of fifteen when I took a disposable yellow Bic razor and shaved the hair on my upper lip. It had grown to the point where it was no longer cool. Oddly enough, I don’t remember how often I actually shaved going through high school, but I do remember the cool summer breeze hitting my lip when I rode my bike downtown later that day.
I didn’t use any shaving cream, or foam, or gel – I’m fairly confident gel didn’t even exist then – or even soap, and neither did I use any aftershave.
Not even Dad’s Old Spice.
I’m a simple man with simple dreams. I don’t generally think the universe owes me much, and I have no demands to make. And because I think my wishes are small, there’s no need for them to not come true. I’m the kind of guy who’s happy to have just enough milk in the carton for his cappuccino, just enough sunshine to ride my bike into town (and then sit outside for a while), and a decent WiFi connection.
Oh, and the hand.
I do want to see the hand.
You know the hand, it’s the one you see in the car in front you when they’ve passed you on a highway, and the hand you see in your rearview mirror when you’ve passed another car on a highway. The hand that waves at you when you meet a car on a narrow dirt road in the bush, and you let the other car pass first.
Loyal readers like you will remember that Risto wasn’t my parents’ first choice for my name. Their first choice was Kalle to the point that even my godmother thought that I was going be one. I’m not sure when she heard the news that I was going to be Risto, but whenever it was, it was too late for her to get her gift spoon re-engraved.
That spoon, that had the time of my birth, my weight and height on the front, and then “Kalle” on the back, was my favorite spoon for decades, and I think I still have it, although, unfortunately, I may have lost it over the years as well, or I may have left it at Mom’s.
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.
“You know how the homeless people say “taaaaacksåmicke”, with that long “aah”? I wonder if that’s how they were taught to say it, or if that’s their natural accent?”
– Wife, the other day
My natural accent in Swedish should be Finnish, but is not. Of course I don’t know exactly what my Swedish sounds like, except that probably worse than I think. When I first moved to Sweden, and wouldn’t speak Swedish, my colleagues and new friends often – naturally – asked me how much Swedish I spoke to begin with.
My line – because of course I had a standard line for that – was: “It’s probably better than you think but worse than I think”. And I think that applies to my accent as well.
This past fall, I helped Bernd Bruckler write a memoir of his time in the KHL. This is Russia: Life in the KHL – Doctors, bazas and millions of air miles finally appeared on Amazon today, so it’s been a good day. Here’s that link.
Wanna read a small sample of the book’s “Money makes the world go ’round” chapter? Maybe? Here it is.
Oh, here’s ThisIsRussiaTheBook.com.
And here’s the cover:
<%image(tir_show.jpg|325|487|This is Russia: Life in the KHL - Doctors, bazas and millions of air miles
Tonight, I went to the gym wearing my brand new Paris Saint-Germain football team’s hat. Well, its not technically just mine, but Daughter’s and mine. We bought that one, and a Gryffindor hat from the Warner Brothers studios’ Harry Potter Tour in London last week, and the deal is that we’re co-owners of those hats. We both can wear those hats.
As I walked up the stairs to the gym, I saw a dude say something to me. I didn’t hear him, because I was listening to a hockey podcast, but when I saw that he said something to me again, I took the earphones out of my ears and said – as politely as I could – “What?”
“Easy, easy there. Easy now, boy.” That’s what my grandfather apparently told the helicopter pilot that was showing him the sights during an agricultural fair decades ago. Maybe it wasn’t a helicopter, maybe it just a small plane, and the pilot was just trying to show Grampa his own house, but either way, the turn was a little too abrupt for Grampa’s taste so he let the pilot know that he did not approve.
As soon as he got his feet back on the ground, the story about Grampa calling the pilot a boy started to make rounds in the family. It wasn’t just that he had called him a boy, it was also the way he always used to say it, with a drawl that made his dialect so distinct.
”Come on, Daddy, come stand in line with us. You said you wanted to high-five Pluto.”
– Daughter to me, today, at Disney World
Who knows what has led me to believe that I have a special relationship with Disney, but that’s just what I’ve felt all my life. And my connection isn’t just with the Disney characters, not just Donald Duck and Goofy, but with Walt Disney himself, a man who died before I was born.
The special feeling didn’t end when I grew up. Disney was one of three companies on my very short list of places I wanted to work at when I graduated from the business school. Disney, Coke, and Nike was my complete list. I applied for jobs with all of them, interviewed at Coke and Nike, but never at Disney. Not yet, anyway.
Exactly four meters below me, there are two piles of LPs, sitting on a shelf in our basement. If the floor of my office suddenly opened up, so that I’d fall straight down, and then through our hallway floor as well, I’d land on a photo of three dogs in the backseat of a limousine.
Those two piles of vinyl were a big part of t my teen years, which were my most active music listening years, and what seem to have defined my musical taste for the rest of my life. Every once in a while, when I go downstairs to look for something, I stop to look at my old records, and my old turntable sitting next to them in a plastic bag. Every time, I realize that I have most of those LPs also in other formats: First CDs, and then those imported onto my laptop as mp3s, and now somewhere in a Spotify cloud, as “The Only Playlist You’ll Ever Need”.
(That, in a word, is pathetic).