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.”

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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.

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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.

You do you

One recent Thursday, I hurried across the street in Kallio in downtown Helsinki. Unlike thirty years earlier when I rushed across the street in the morning to get breakfast, this time I walked in the opposite direction. 

My old apartment building was still there, as was the downstairs pub, but the store that I used to run to is all gone, and many of the other stores have become coffee shops and restaurants. 

Around the corner, where there used to be nothing as far as I was concerned, there is now a small movie theatre called Riviera. That’s where I was headed. 

It was the Helsinki media day of my book launch.

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On ZX Spectrum

My first contact with a computer was a printout of Snoopy made out of x’s and o’s and ampersands. I don’t remember where it was, and not what the computer looked like – although in my head I saw it during one of our field trips during my two weeks with the scouts and it was one of those room-sized mainframes but both claims are just as likely to be fake memories I created as I typed this – but I can see that Snoopy as clearly as if I was holding the two-tone continuous form paper in my hand right now. 

To me, it was the work of genius. Looking at it up close, it was just a mess of characters, but once you took two steps back, there was Snoopy dancing! Snoopy!

If that’s what computers could do, count me in! However, it took me a couple of years to get my hands on one. 

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On nostalgia

When Son wants to make fun of me, he pretends to be writing a blog post as me. The punchline? They all begin with “When I was a kid.” I always laugh, because I know he must be kidding. Not ALL my posts begin like that. 

When I was a kid, I often sat in a rocking chair in my grandparents’ house. It was best seat in the house. It was in the corner of the kitchen so you could see and hear everything. I also sat right next to a cupboard should you need a hiding place, and it was next to a daily calendar and sometimes I got to tear off a page. Right next to ie, there was a photo of an even smaller me which made me feel very special. 

There I sat, listening to my grandmother walk around the kitchen, singing quietly or talking to herself while wiping the table, carrying things from one place to another, or cooking dinner.

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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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