You’ll learn nothing from this

They say we learn something new every day. Even I say that every once in a while, mostly when I realize I really have learned something new, often an unexpected fact. Then there are the things you learn and keep telling forward even though you really can’t explain them, not really, and even though you can’t be really sure if they’re true.

I have two such stories. I still keep telling them to people, even though I have no idea if they’re true or not, and if pressed, would probably guess that they’re not true.

In fact, I told one of them to our neighbors just the other day. We were sitting at a restaurant on the ferry to Finland, having met there by coincidence, and as we talked while the kids were in the playland, the ferry moved sideways a little. Not as if in a storm, but just a little so that people stopped walking on the decks, and grabbed a hold of the tables in the restaurants, leaning back, trying to figure out if the problem was the ferry or their heads.


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Lessons in style

If Richard Nixon could leave the White House for the last time in style, looking like a winner, after he’d been run out, forced out, after he’d lied to the nation, and had faced impeachment, you can emerge from your little adversities looking like a winner, too.

And that’s more than half the battle. If you look like a winner, you are a winner.

(Of course, results may vary).

Here are a few examples of situations you may find yourself in, and the proper response.

1. You go to an all-you-can eat tex-mex buffet, and just as you’ve loaded your plate with nachos and salsa, and guacamole, and cheese – a lot of cheese – and meat and beans, and just as you’re about to get some more nachos with your right hand, while balancing the tray with your left, you realize you forgot to get a glass, so you take a few steps back, then trip on the bag you left on the floor, and while trying to hold onto your food and the glass, you fail miserably at both, and drop everything on the floor.

As you get up and see the entire food court staring at you, you stand up, brush the nachos and the cheese – a lot of cheese – off your shirt, and you do this:


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You’ve got nail

Last weekend, I gave Son a task. A job to do. It was one of those bogus jobs you give to your kids so that they’d stop listening to mindless Minecraft parody songs while building Harry Potter scenes out of Lego, come out of their room and say hello to the sun. You know what I’m talking about.

So, I asked him to hammer all the nails on our porch stairs, and the deck, and make sure none of them stick out. (This, obviously, turned into a power struggle between Son and Daughter.) Just as obviously, Son was fast, and even more obviously, once the feeling of the honour of being chosen by Father wore off, he got bored.

He decided he needed a bigger hammer, so he ran back inside, and rummaged through the toolbox we have. One look at the toolbox would tell you that I’m not much of a handyman – if the fact that I told Son to “ask Mom” when he couldn’t find a hammer wasn’t already a dead giveaway.

Here he is.

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El Guano

Right now, if I lift my eyes off the screen and stop typing this, I’ll see one of the most beautiful views over Helsinki. I’m sitting at an outside café on a hill, overlooking the bay, with the National opera, the Finlandia Hall, the National museum, the House of Parliament, the museum of modern art, and my old gym to my right.

And one lonesome swan slowly swimming across the bay from north to south.


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Awkward non-silence

When I was a kid, and home alone after school, I sometimes stood in front of the mirror in the hall holding another mirror, and gaze into the mirror tunnel I saw in front of me. I used to stand there and think it was an entrance to another world.

Decades later, when I was a single man living the single man’s life, it sometimes happened that on a Sunday afternoon, while watching a rerun of “Friends”, I realized that I hadn’t spoken with another person since Friday night when I had left the office.

Now, that didn’t mean that I hadn’t spoken at all, or opened my mouth one bit. I’d most likely been singing along classic 1980s hits, or laughing out loud – back then nobody LOLed – and speaking to the talking heads on TV, even arguing with them.

Esa Pakarinen. No relation.

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Names and numbers

Last week, I was back at the Joensuu rink that was my home rink for four years in my teens. It’s been 25 years since I moved from that town to go to college in Helsinki, and most of my old friends have moved somewhere else, too, but if there’s one place I can see familiar faces, it’s at the rink.

Also, the rink pulls me back. I’ve walked around it hundreds of times, I’ve run around it as many times. I’ve jumped up the stairs, I may have eaten hundreds of sausages and chocolate bars there, and I’ve spent countless hours in the cafeteria – that is no longer a cafeteria.

I walked around the rink and climbed up to Dad’s old seats, way up in the stands, at the red line. I sat there for a while, watching the game, and noticed some familiar names on the backs of the sweaters, the names of my former teammates, now on the backs of their sons’ sweaters.

Then I looked for number 17, because I always do that.


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A journey through the center of the earth

A few months before my class was about to graduate from high school, our biology teacher told us to enjoy the time we had left there. Those were, she said, the best days of our lives.

“And remember, you will never be as smart as you’re right now,” she said.

We all laughed, as I guess we were supposed to. After all, we did know everything about everything, like all 18-year-olds everywhere in the world. We also knew that we’d just get smarter and wiser, and that there was no stopping us.

If you start digging here, you'll end up in Helsinki.

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Driving like crazy

Besides the phone line you could call to find out answer to any question that I invented in 1986 – remind me to tell you this story – there’s one other big invention I’ve been working on for decades now. Car-to-car communication.

I remember sitting on the bus to school, in high school, watching the boring short ads and one-sentence news run across a ticker, when I got the idea. What if we put those on all cars, so we could send short messages to each other in traffic.

“Excuse me, coming through.”

“Need to get to turning lane”

“How YOU doin’?”

Always funny. He he.

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