If there was a way to go back in time, would
you do it, and would you
put your best foot forward and change
your past – and your future?
Mind you, it’s difficult, if not impossible
to know the full effect of your action.
It could turn your life into a nightmare,
you just never can tell. But,
can you, looking at it from another perspective,
accomplish your dreams in another way? Do something.
This is the From The Desk of Risto Pakarinen 2017 advent calendar. Behind every door, you’ll find something related to the 1980s.
A long time ago, yes, back in the 1980s, somebody told me that I was one of those people who wouldn’t live in Finland for the rest of his life. I don’t remember how we got to that topic, but I think it came totally out of the blue. The fact that I still remember it tells you how surprised I was to hear someone say something like that.
Naturally, I was pleasantly surprised, in case you’re wondering.In Finland – like many other, especially small countries – making it out of there is a small sign of success.
I’m not sure of that’s what my friend meant and I don’t remember us having a big debate on what it meant to be Finnish, or whether I’d leave the country voluntarily or not.
We probably just went back to talking about Springsteen or the latest James Bond movie, or something similar.
Turned out that my friend was right. I didn’t live in Finland for the rest of my life. I got a job in Sweden and moved to Stockholm.
Every year around this time, the Internet is all atwitter about one question: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?
(Obviously, this is not a decades long tradition because Die Hard came out in 1988 and the World Wide Web a few years later…)
And while you may think it’s a straightforward thing, a hard yes or a hard no, it’s not. Why would it be?
These days, news travel fast. We still get the morning paper, and we read it at the breakfast table every morning, always sharing the different sections the same way: News and Culture to Wife, Sports and Stockholm News to me, and if we see anything we think might interest Son and Daughter – who read comics – we’ll give the article to them.
Often when Wife tells me about something she read, both Son and I will have already heard it. Now, my excuse is that I’m a freelance writer so I tend to spend too much time reading my RSS feeds and scrolling down my social media timelines. Son? Well, he’s a teenager.
News hasn’t always traveled that fast. Back in the 1980s, of course, you couldn’t find a video stream, legal or illegal, to any sports event online and even the TV sports news had to use still photos from boxing matches in America.
During my university years, my student apartment in Helsinki was an old hotel room converted into a student apartment which gives you a good idea of what it was like but in short: it was tiny.
I didn’t need much, though, just my vinyls and an ever growing collection of CDs that provided me with the most of the soundtrack of my life. Also, I had Sky Channel and its music shows so there was always music playing in the background from the moment I got up and grabbed the remote to the moment when it fell on the floor from my hand.
And yet, when I think back to those days, I think of just two songs.
In 1986, I spent six weeks of varying gloriousness in Harbor Beach, Michigan, on a summer exchange program. It was a memorable summer in many ways but one of the highlights was that I got to taste New Coke. They were exciting times because not only was there Classic Coke and New Coke, there was also Cherry Coke and Diet Coke, which had been introduced to the Finnish market two years earlier as Coca-Cola Light.
Like all families, mine had several Christmas traditions. They were of different sizes, and some of them came and went while others have stayed to this day and have been passed on to Son and Daughter.
The three big ones were Xmas Eve drive, dinner, and movies.
One thing they all have in common is that they all have something to do with the relativity of time.
Five years ago, I wrote “Ten Little Stories About a Ten-Year-Old Boy” and since the little boy is now a broad-shouldered teenager, it’s time to list 15 short stories about him. These aren’t really stories, mostly just random facts. They have not been cleared with him, and any embarrassment caused by them is purely coincidental … and part of being a teenager.
She looked like a grandmother. Not like either one of my grandmothers but a grandmother nonetheless. Her hair was white and her face tanned and wrinkled in a distinguished kind of way. The way that, should you have a face like that, you can just thank your lucky stars for it. There’s nothing you can do to make your face turn out that way.
I was startled to see the face, distinguished as it was, because it seemed to appear out of nowhere and it was very close to my less distinguished face. I had just been sitting there, next to Wife, and while I had noted that she had stood up, I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the world.
After all, we were on an airplane. I thought that maybe she just wanted to stretch her legs.
»People often say that island people are special. I say it, too, but the difference is that when others say it, they put air quotes around special. I don’t.
But living on an island does something to a man. (And woman, I don’t mean it like that). I don’t know what it is, like you don’t know what booze does to a man until you see it, you don’t see the island in the man – until you do. But it gets to every one of us, believe me.