Last week, I found a secret portal that took me to other worlds. No, it wasn’t books, silly, although that was a good guess (and I do encourage everybody to read).
No, this portal was a garage in downtown Stockholm, a block from Stureplan, which is the center of Stockholm’s nightlife – or so I have been told, it’s been a while I’ve been in the city centre after sunset.
The funny thing about my finding the portal is that I wasn’t on my way anywhere in particular. I was just walking around, waiting for a movie theatre to open so that I could go watch Chaplin’s Gold Rush when I was suddenly, unexpectedly taken to another world.
Every time somebody in Wife’s family gets a present that is shaped like a box, just after s/he has torn the wrapping paper off it but before s/he opens the actual box, somebody will say, “oooh, did somebody pull a mormor?”
Mormor is Swedish for maternal grandmother, and pulling a mormor is a reference to the fact that Wife’s mormor often gave presents that were packed inside boxes that were just the right size for the purpose, but wasn’t the box in which the actual present came. For example, cookie cutter may have been in a razor box, creating confusion and hilarity.
Believe or not, I love Xmas shopping. I mean, I may moan about the stress and I may get angry at other people in the stores, but I like to go out and buy stuff to others. Also, believe it or not, I’m great at it.
Because I like buying presents to others, I often seem to get pretty good presents, which obviously raises the bar for the next year, but with a little bit of luck, I seem to stumble on nice presents every year.
Except this year, but then again, I say that every year.
If I had to choose another profession, if I couldn’t be a writer guy, I would want to be a ghostbuster. Even today, as the middle-aged man living in a Stockholm suburb that I am, a part of me is walking around keeping an eye out on sliming ghosts and when nobody can see, I do the Peter Venkman hop on the mike lane to the mall, and in my mind, I tell people to “back off, man, I’m a scientist” even though I’m really not.
“Ghostbuster”, the word itself, didn’t practically exist before 1984, when the movie about three buddies who set up shop to catch ghosts in New York. It opened in the US in June, but as always, us Finns had to wait a little longer to see it.
It had its Finnish premiere on Dec 14, 1984 – 33 years ago to the day.
Tom Petty sang that “the waiting is the hardest part” but sometimes it may also be the sweetest part. Sometimes it’s exactly that time spent waiting that makes everything worthwhile.
It’s all those little things along the way that tell you that you’re going in the right direction even if you’re not there quite yet. And sometimes the things along the way are almost as nice as the big reward at the end of the road (and sometimes they get tangled up together so that it’s hard to say which is which anymore).
These days, you can catch a live broadcast of not only English football, the Super Bowl, and any NHL game you choose but the nichiest of niche sports anywhere in the world – and nothing means anything anymore.
There’s a guitar in the corner of my office, but I can’t play it. I can pretend to play a few songs but I’m the only one who knows which songs I’m playing. On the bookshelf, resting on a Hockey Hall of Fame book that I wrote a chapter for, there’s my recorder from seventh grade. I can play one song on it, the one I had to learn for the test then. The song is “Papa Pingouin”, “Papa Penguin”, Luxembourg’s entry in the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest, and thanks to the obscure nature of the song, I am still the only one who knows the song I’m playing.
But I love listening to music and as far as I’m concerned, the most peaceful thing to do in life is to lie on the floor and listen to music with headphones on. It’s not because I like to do it – although I think I do – or that I do it often – I never do it – but because it always looked as such a cool and peaceful thing to do when Dad did it.
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.
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.