Loyal readers like you will remember that Risto wasn’t my parents’ first choice for my name. Their first choice was Kalle to the point that even my godmother thought that I was going be one. I’m not sure when she heard the news that I was going to be Risto, but whenever it was, it was too late for her to get her gift spoon re-engraved.
That spoon, that had the time of my birth, my weight and height on the front, and then “Kalle” on the back, was my favorite spoon for decades, and I think I still have it, although, unfortunately, I may have lost it over the years as well, or I may have left it at Mom’s.
I suppose I can’t say that I’ve been Risto all my life so let me just say that for as long as I can remember, my name has been Risto.
And just as long, I’ve thought about different aliases. I’ve never thought Risto Pakarinen is a name for a famous person. It’s not like, say, Wayne Gretzky or Bryan Adams, or Mark Twain. Or even Sam Clemens. Maybe it’s the “nen” at the end of the name, as salt of the earth Finnish as they come – the opposite of a celebrity.
I remember my first trip to the US, when the stewardesses handed out immigration forms, and I noticed they asked for possible aliases. I was very tempted to put something down … but I didn’t come up with anything. No Bonehead, Sting, or Rick Perry (for which I’m now very grateful).
What made things even more complicated for the fame hungry younger me was that I was also a proud Pakarinen. Should I ever become famous, I wanted the world to know who they were dealing with.
Now, there are other ways to spice up the name. Initials, for one. Who wrote about Harry Potter? J.K. Rowling. The Lord of the Rings? J.R.R. Tolkien. Game of Thrones? George R.R: Martin. Winnie the Pooh, and more importantly, Christopher Robin (Risto in Finnish)? A.A. Milne. Jeeves? P.G. Wodehose. The list goes on and on (on Wikipedia) and I haven’t even mentioned my other favorite stars, like Michael J. Fox, who just added a random J onto his name.
But I couldn’t go with Risto K Pakarinen. When I was five, I liked my middle name, even though I said it wrong, maybe because it doesn’t have any s’s or r’s – unlike Risto – two sounds I couldn’t make my mouth to produce. But I don’t think I’ve said it out loud since 1988. (And I’m not going to write it here. Identity thieves, you know).
So I’ve done something else. I’m just Risto. Like a Brazilian footballer, like a Pelé, or a Zico, or Socrates, I most often introduce myself by my first name only.
I’ve always felt that while it’s a good solution, it’s not a perfect one. But it’s had to do.
A few weeks ago, Son. Daughter, and I were on a mission. Kellogg’s had a fantastic promotional deal in which if you sent in three secret codes, you’d get a cereal spoon of your own. Of course, the codes were inside the cereal boxes, but we all loved Special K anyway. So we ate a lot of cereal and Son got the first three codes. A couple of weeks later Daughter had got her three codes, and then, another two weeks later, I got my codes.
I sat at my desk and logged on the Kellogg’s website. I punched in my codes, and got to the page where I got to type in my name for the inscription.
But I didn’t want to type in just Risto. So I put in “Izgäbäng”. That’s my Pokemon name around the house. Sort of like “Dadster”.
“That is not a name in our database, please try again.”
Frustrated, I tried “Izgäbäng” again, but was denied again. I leaned back in my chair, thought about other alternatives, then cracked my knuckles – and typed in “Kalle”.
My spoon will arrive any day now.