Level up

There was a lot of snow that year. So much so that it came halfway up my bedroom window, blocking the little sunlight that we had in Finland during the Christmas holidays.

I didn’t mind it, though.

To be honest, I barely noticed it because it was also the the year I got ZX Spectrum.

I spent the Christmas Eve night setting it up, connecting the tiny plastic box with the rubber keys to the 14-inch TV set on my desk, and to the tape recorder – the mass storage unit – next to it.

I only had one tape, and it was a collection of programs that came with the computer. To call it a computer makes me smile, because I think there’s more computing power in our fridge than in that Spectrum. The programs on the introduction tape were chosen to have something for everybody.

Continue reading

Sunshine Sketches of Another Little Town

Barry “Big Deal” Davis sat down at his table and gestured to the young lady in the caravan that was also the food truck that he wanted a cup of coffee. Davis had hardly had time to get properly settled in the white plastic chair when the waitress came out with a paper mug and set it on the table in front of Davis. 

He liked to tell people that he had once been kind of a big deal – hence the official nickname – but when asked to elaborate on the topic, he clammed up, and changed the subject. That, naturally, as was his intention, only made people to want to know more. It also made them believe the story.

And that’s why that nickname stuck, instead of one of the many other names people called him behind his back.

Andre.

Fat Bastard.

Dumbo.

Orson Welles.

And of course: Fat Elvis.

Continue reading

All by myself

Diagonally across the street from Helsinki’s first indoor hockey rink parking lot, there’s a low, one-storey yellow stone building with a red roof. In the winter, it’s visible from the street, but in the summer, it sits in the shadow of the birches, elms, and maples that line street in front of it. 

Behind the small building, there are several bigger and slightly Gothing-looking buildings – designed by Magnus Schjerfbeck, brother of painter Helene Schjerfbeck – and originally built in 1910 as Helsinki’s first epidemic hospital but by the 1970s, they were home to a children’s hospital. Aurora, it was called. 

What the one-storey building was built for meant for, I don’t know, but I do know that when I spent about a month in the children’s hospital, a measles epidemic broke out and to spare me, the doctors put me in quarantine. 

I was five years old. 

Continue reading

Just another magical day

While it may seem that we, up here in the northern-most part of the northern hemisphere, spend most of our days between November and March in a haze in which every day is like the one before and that we only come alive when we finally see the sun again, with a little effort, you can see tiny miracles almost every day. 

Today was one of those days. 

Continue reading

Let’s go to the tape

For a couple of years now, regardless of sport, Daughter and I have played Ed Sheeran’s “Divide” album in the car on our way to one of her games. When we play it during the trip isn’t set in stone, but we do always play it, and we do always play it from the top, starting with “Eraser”. 

And we talk about this and that, but most often we simply sing along all the way to the arena, and get our minds in the right frame of mind. Hers into playing her best game, and mine, getting ready to show those hotdogs who’s boss. 

Does it work?

Of course it does. Those hotdogs don’t stand a chance.

As for Daughter, it’s a nice little routine that makes her feel like a player, and gets her in a game frame of mind. 

Also, it’s nice. 

 

Continue reading

A Christmas story (with a cactus)

I could hear them calling for me but I wasn’t ready to come out yet. I was deep underground, in a cave where I was sure an ancient Inca treasure was buried. Or, maybe it was a treasure chest left there by Blackbeard, an infamous pirate, like my friend Ari said. 

Fine, I wasn’t technically underground, because the cave Ari and I had built was made out of snow and the pile of snow was most definitely above ground. 

I guess it’s needless to say that there was no real Inca treasure, either, but I’ll just say it anyway so that there aren’t any misunderstandings: there was no Inca treasure. There was no pirates’ treasure, either. It was all in our our nine-year-old heads.

Continue reading

Heaven on a highway

Yes, I was giddy. I knew the radio would be on as soon as I started the car, and I couldn’t wait for Daughter to hear what was on. 

(Me!)

Granted, it wasn’t radio per se, it was a podcast, but I knew my phone would connect to the car stereo first so I started the engine and pulled out of the parking spot, my right eye on Daughter so I could see the look on her face when she heard my voice. 

It went from delight to disappointment to concealed disappointment to fake cheeriness to neutral to serious as she listened to me talk about my book. 

“Well…?” I said. 

“You know,” Daughter began, “you know how your voice always sounds a little off on a recording?”

“You mean mine or everyone’s?”

“Everyone’s. Mine, too”

“Yeah. Do you know why?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, good. Me, too.”

Continue reading

Here’s looking at you, kid

Most of us associate selfies with the advent of mobile phones. The truth is, they go a long way back.

Last May, Team Sweden (and the New York Rangers) superstar goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was sitting in a press box at the Globe Arena in Stockholm, watching his teammates play an exhibition game against Russia, when suddenly a group of small boys caught a glimpse of their idol.

The group got closer, slowly but surely, and then one of the boys mustered up enough courage to walk up to the box and talk to Lundqvist.

“Hi, Henke, what’s up? Why aren’t you playing? Where’s your brother?”

Lundqvist had almost gotten to the end of his reply when the boy went on.

“Can I take a picture?”

“Sure,” Lundqvist said.

The boy turned his back on his idol,

raised his arm and aimed his camera so that they were both in the frame, and snapped a photo. In front of him, a line was beginning to form, and they all did the same – greeted Lundqvist, turned their back on him and snapped a photo. The last boy in the line also wanted his little brother to get a photo and instead of taking a photo of his brother, he lifted him up so that he could take the photo of him and Lundqvist himself.

A selfie, that is.

Continue reading

Five questions

Scandinavian Traveler, September 2019 (pdf)

5 QUESTIONS TO…
Risto Pakarinen about his book Someday Jennifer

What’s your new book about?

Someday Jennifer is the story of a man in a mid-life crisis who, having watched Back to the Future at the end of a drunken night, decides to solve his problems by traveling back to the good old 1980s, when everything was all right. Going back in time, he knows things worked out OK. Also – and this is important – back in the 1980s, he had Jennifer in his life. But, since he’s not crazy, he knows he can’t build a time machine. He simply re-creates the world around him in the 1980s style by wearing old clothes, listening to all those great tunes and watching movie classics such as Trading Places and Ghostbusters while moving back in with his parents.

It’s a feel-good book for sure, because I wanted to read a book that gave me hope and didn’t deal with the horrors of life. I promise that you’ll smile while reading Someday Jennifer.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

It’s sort of funny that I have been a freelance writer for 15 years because I never planned it that way. I have a business degree from Helsinki Business School and I originally wanted to be either in advertising or a hockey agent. Then I moved to Stockholm to work with custom publishing and was asked to write. My pieces got longer, and I became a writer. I even managed to combine hockey with my work, and I’ve covered World Championships and Olympics, and big games in Europe and the NHL since 2003.
When I got the idea for this book, I decided to give writing a novel a serious shot. And here we are – Someday Jennifer came out in English in August, while Swedish and Finnish editions will be published by HarperCollins in September. A German edition will be published next summer.

How did you come to write this book? What inspired it? ‘

Well, it wasn’t a huge leap for me to get into the shoes of a middle-aged man in a mid-life crisis. I also love Back to the Future and remember vividly the first time I saw the movie. And don’t we all sometimes wonder what might have happened had we taken door number two? One night a couple of years ago, I was walking home from the gym, listening to my 1980s playlist, when Peter, the main character, popped into my head and told me he’d figured out a way to become a time traveler. The book is set in Finland, so I’d already done most of my research by living through the 80s.

Is there a next book in the works?

There’s always a book in the works, but it did take me a while to get completely out of this book’s fictional world and back to creating a new one. I do hear new voices in my head now, and they seem to belong to a gang of interesting and funny people that I want to write about. But that part of writing a book is easy. It’s the sitting down and actually writing one that makes it feel like work.

And if you had a time machine, where would you go?

I’d go to 7 July, 1978 and walk right into the Roxy in LA and catch a Bruce Springsteen show. Fortunately for all of us, we can travel to 2020 and see him in Asbury Park, NJ.

SOMEDAY JENNIFER
by Risto Pakarinen
A feel-good novel about a man who wants to travel back to the 1980s, but since he can’t actually time-travel, he simply fills his world with things from the 80s to get the same effect.