Clouds across the moon

Look, there he is. His hair flowing in the air, or at least the half mullet that’s sticking out from underneath his baseball cap, as he rolls down the hill on his Persian green bike, a Peugeot. He’s on his way to … well, nowhere to be honest. He just hopped on his bike and rode around for a while, and here he is now, a walkman clipped to the waist of his shorts, listening to music and taking in a perfect summer’s day. Just as comes to the edge of town and rides by the car dealership he’ll buy his first car from a couple of years later, he hears computer making beeps and bleeps.

He puts his hands back on the handlebar and turns up the volume. He’s never really listened to the song before.

“Good evening. This is the intergalactic operator. Can I help you?”
“Yes. I’m trying to reach flight commander P.R. Johnson, on Mars, flight 2-4-7”

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Canada & me

I remember when I realized the world had truly gotten smaller. About ten years ago – maybe more, but I’ve learned that everything seems “ten years ago” these days even if it was 2 or 22 years ago – I was visiting my old small hometown in Finland and an old friend of mine told me that Deep Purple was going to play at the sports arena in town.

Deep Purple? In our town? Surely there must have been a booking error. Deep Purple was a legendary band we only read about on the pages of Metal Hammer (if somebody could find a copy of the magazine in one of the two kiosks that carried such magazines).

Back then, all I ever wanted to do was to travel to Canada. That’s when Terry moved in our house, pinned a huge Maple Leaf flag on his room’s wall and hung his maroon Fort Qu’Appelle Falcons baseball hat on the lamp.

Even if there was no Internet, no Facebook, no Instagram, no Pinterest, naturally, I had always k that the world was out there, somewhere. I watched Happy Days and Dallas, and the world came to me as foreign hockey players, first on TV, and then at a rink near me as Canadian import players – none of them more impressive to me than Mr. Frank Neal of Toronto, Ontario, Canada who played with a long stick and sported an impressive moustache, and Marcel Dionne of Drummondville, Quebec, Canada who – according to Dad who had read about him in the paper – had the strongest forearms in the world.

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Chef Paul Svensson – All or nothing

Join the navy, see the world, as the saying goes. In the case of acclaimed Swedish chef Paul Svensson, who’s now spearheading the sustainability and reuse food movements, being assigned kitchen duty in the Swedish Navy opened a door to a world he hadn’t even known existed.

In some other dimension – maybe in a galaxy far, far away – there may be a diligent hydropower engineer who goes by the name of Paul Svensson. That’s the version of Paul Svensson who didn’t fall in love with cooking when he was doing his military service.

And if you subscribe to the multiverse theory, then you’ll also be interested in learning that in yet another universe, Paul Svensson is an Olympic gymnast.

One thing we know for certain, though – there’s a Paul Svensson who’s currently a bestselling culinary author, TV personality, and celebrated head chef at the top floor restaurant housed inside Fotografiska, the Museum of Photography, which sits in Stockholm’s harbor in a stately Art Nouveau building dating back to 1906.

He has a boyish face, gorgeous hair, the posture of an athlete (due to his early interest in a gymnastics career), and a moustache and beard that bring to mind the Three Musketeers as he darts among the tables and crew members at the museum’s restaurant. He greets everyone by their first name – even this reporter, whom he’s never met before. He’s wearing a black shirt, black apron, black pants and sturdy black boots – all of which make his blue-banded sports watch stand out.

We’ll get back to his boots shortly.

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Axel Adler – The hand is quicker than the eye

Blink and you’ll miss it. Don’t blink, and you’ll still miss it. Axel Adler’s illusions will make you doubt your own eyes.

Axel Adler has been talking for over an hour when he gets up and walks over to a side table. But not to get a cup of coffee though. He returns with a small spoon in his hand. Walking back to us, he mutters something under his breath, cursing the spoon for being difficult to bend. “What’s this made of? Solid iron?”

No Uri Geller tricks here, in other words.

He sits down and holds the spoon upright, between his thumb and index finger and wiggles it.

“Anyway, you can see the optical illusion, it looks like the spoon is made of rubber, right?”

I nod and frankly I’m a little bit excited, because I get it now. It’s just an illusion!

“So now, if I do this,” he says, holding the spoon with both hands by its tip and neck, and making bending moves with his fingers, “…it looks like the spoon is bending, but that’s just your eyes playing a trick on you,” he says.

Three seconds later, he holds the spoon in his hand.

It’s bent.

Which is exactly what was supposed to happen – except that it was supposed to be merely an optical illusion.

Adler smiles and puts the spoon away.

“You see,” he says, with a smile. “You can’t really trust your eyes.”

Nor should you trust a magician, and Adler is a good as they come.

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Keep pushin’

Her name was Gladys. Must’ve been. Well, one hundred percent it would’ve been if she’d been a character in a book. An American book. From the seventies, maybe. Come on, man, that was prejudiced. Maybe even racist?

Racist? Puh-lease. How could it be racist when she was a white woman and I’m a white man.

Fine, it was a little … rude. And probably – what’s the word – “namist”? Slapping a name on to a person who I knew nothing about, except for what I saw right in front of me, and then thinking the name is a catch-all for everything. And what’s in a name? Not all Gladyses are the same. (Gladysi?)

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Read ’em and retreat

I still have the J. Finnemore book on Robin Hood on my bookshelf. It’s a book I must have read a dozen times when I was around 12. I read the book, ran outside to play Robin Hood, then ran back in to read the book all over again, bracing myself for the emotional ending – spoiler alert – in which Little John finds Robin at a monastery, betrayed by the prioress, who lets out too much blood and lets Robin bleed to death.

John picks him up and carries him to the window so that Robin can shoot one last arrow to mark where he is to be buried.

That is a beautiful, beautiful ending to a book. Try to visualize the last scene with human beings, though, and not with a bear holding a fox (thanks Disney).

But I digress.

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The Hobbit (moves on)

In Hovin, an Oslo, Norway neighborhood, there’s a small pond that freezes in the winter, which makes it perfect for kids who want to skate. It sits inside a pocket of red brick houses, a stone’s throw from Valle Hovin, a speed skating arena, and Vallhall, an indoor soccer arena.

You can see the pond from the houses on the hill, and if you’re lucky, some kids will be playing. And just like kids everywhere, half their game takes place on the ice, the other half in their heads. Nobody’s ever just himself, because everybody’s pretending to be someone famous.

When Mats Zuccarello, the New York Rangers forward playing in his fifth season in the National Hockey League, was younger, his heroes were Peter Forsberg, the Swedish Hockey Hall of Famer, and his Colorado Avalanche teammates, Canadians Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy. Posters of those three were plastered on the walls of his room.

On that same wall, now his brother’s room, there’s a New York Rangers sweater number 36, with “Zuccarello” on the back.

How times have changed.

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Home game

Yesterday, as I was at a hockey store, getting some new skates for Daughter, it occurred to me that outside our house, there are two places where I’m fully comfortable and at ease. One of them is a car and the other a hockey rink. Any car and any hockey rink in the world.

One of my earliest memories involves a drive to a hockey rink in Helsinki. My Dad had a game and for some strange reason I got to tag along. In the mental image in my head, it’s the middle of the winter, there’s a lot of snow, we park our car far from the rink, I walk into a wood-paneled dressing room – and smell the stench of hockey gloves for the first time.

And, oddly enough, even the smell is a pleasant memory.

Naturally, I have no way of verifying any of that, except that it probably was the middle of the winter because back then, the hockey season was much shorter and that the gloves probably did stink because they always stank back then.

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Story man of Sollentuna, Part III

Since I was a writer, it was easy for me to put aside some time to solve the mystery. I called it “research” to silence my guilty conscience, which wasn’t that guilty to begin with. After all, I was “between projects”, the creative term for being unemployed.

Now, when I said that he was always at the mall during Christmas, I was using the phrase in a casual way. I obviously meant that he was there every time I was therebut surely he couldn’t have always been there. It was a shopping mall, he couldn’t live there.

Or could he?

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Story man of Sollentuna, Part II

Sollentuna is a 15-minute commuter train ride from downtown Stockholm, Sweden, with a population of about 70,000. We had everything: fancy restaurants, middle-of-the-road restaurants, pubs, a mall, public swimming pool, gyms, grocery stores, teams in all sports divisions, trains and buses to – and with the arrival of the old man, a celebrity.

A celebrity that didn’t seem to like publicity, as it was. The next time I saw him was a year later when he set up his table and chairs in the middle of our mall and traded stories with people until Christmas Eve. Then he disappeared – only to return a year later.

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