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Loyalities, For The Lack of Better Word

So, I seem to be back, still. Computer broke down, so bit hard to find a quiet spot to write these down, but one can always manage something.

You know how there’s that story that lies within some other story you try to tell? The one without any real connection to the themes of the first one. The one you just have to tell right away, no matter how disconnected it feels like from everything else. Gets annoying to listen to one of those, doesn’t it? Knowing that there was still something in the first one that was waiting to be told.

Sky’s gone asleep, drifted to shades of deep, dark blue. Getting nice and late. Midsummer. June. I’m sitting on the stairs to the veranda of the summer cottage, enjoying a feeling that can almost be described as post-coital. Having a cold drink after a proper hot sauna. Steam rises from my body in the cool night air. Moonlight glistens on surface of the lake. Couple of the people are still heading in for one more dive straight from the sauna. I’ve already had my share for the day. Taking a breather. Enjoying the moment. It’s nice and easy.

Life’s good.

This is probably the best trip here I’ve done in years.

I love spending time at the cottage. Hasn’t always been the case. There was a period, somewhere in my late teens and early twenties, when I couldn’t have cared less about the place. It was too far away (4 hour drive from Helsinki) and inconvenient (wasn’t in Helsinki). The cottage is and always has been surrounded by forest on three sides and a lake on one, so it’s been a place devoid of modern comforts. And I was young and needed to be everywhere at once, and have everything. My TV and my CDs and my computers and my whatnot. These days, the fact that there is nothing modern at the old log cabin just feels like another added bonus to the place.

It’s wonderfully isolated from the normal crap of everyday life. Nothing about my hectic schedules can reach me here. If the cellphone works, it’s a miracle. And nothing that I don’t specifically invite here can cross the threshold. Hell. Of all the people I’ve been in relationships with over the years, I’ve only invited one girlfriend to visit this place, and that was years ago. I don’t really know if that tells more about my relationships with people or with the place, but either way, the cottage is a hideout from normal life.

But at this very moment, I don’t need to hide from anything in particular. Not even the usual suspect, work. Can’t remember now if  I’ve ever given details about what I do for a living, but that doesn’t really matter just now. Advertising is a nice way to sum it up. Art Director is a good term to let you know which part of it. But as said, doesn’t matter. My contract would be expiring in a week, start of July.

So, backtracking a bit on the calendar. It’s a few weeks before Midsummer, and I’m watching the clouds go by, doodling up something or another for the firm. The HR lady walks in my office, with a new contract in her hand. “That time of the year again. As an added bonus, this’ll be the last one you’ll have to sign in a while. It’s not just for a year. You’ll be a part of the firm, properly.”

I promise to take a look at it and return it as soon as possible. My eyes focus on it and the first thing on my mind is… “Run!”

I don’t want to sign. I stare at it like it’s a death sentence.

Air starts running out, panic fills my head. I need to get out of the office and call an old friend who works nearby. Ask if he wants to come get some lunch. He apologizes, saying how he’s quite busy today, but asks what’s up, anyways. I lie, can’t tell I want out now that I’m standing in the middle of the office. We chat for a bit, and out of the blue he asks if I know anyone who would be interested in coming to work for for him. My heart skips a beat. And I move to a place where my co-workers can’t hear me. I half-whisper that I sort of might be interested, but I don’t know about hopping industries. While advertising can be seen as a sibling to entertainment industry, it’s still very different on some core levels. He understands my worries, but ends the call with “Well, I have to run now, but come over tomorrow around noon, we’ll have a chat and see if you could like it here.”

The next day I’m at what turns out to be a job interview, surrounded by important people. My head is pounding with a migraine I managed to acquire from worrying all night about what I should be doing. I wasn’t prepared at all to be scrutinized on if I was a proper candidate for the position or not. And I truly wish I could let you know what were all the magic words I managed to spew out of my mouth at that point, because after the interview they seemed pleased and told me they’d let me know next week if I made it to the second round of interviews. But I can’t. My mind is a total blur of the whole day. Migraine can be a bitch.

So the next week rolls past at a slow, steady pace. Agonizing, even, because I have no idea if I’ve impressed them or made a fool out of myself. I eventually get a call from the company to know I’ve been selected for the second round. Another round of interviewing, this time I know it goes well. All the time, there is a nagging sound in my other ear as my bosses keep asking me when I’ll sign my contract. I tell them about the situation (of course), but doesn’t stop them from asking. I tell them that by next Friday I’ll know. The new company promised to let me know by then if I get the job or not.

Friday comes. No word. I send a text asking my friend what’s up. On Saturday I get a text back saying it’s been a hell of a week and that they’ll let me know on Monday.

Monday comes. No word. I get an email on Monday evening stating that it’s just been so hectic that they’ll sort it out tomorrow.

Tuesday. The person responsible for the process is ill. Will get to know on Thursday.

Thursday. Mind you, this is just a week before my previous contract is expiring. “Sorry, thought they let the people who applied know what had happened already. Will get back to you as soon as possible.”

Guess how stressed I am on Friday evening. Pressure building from all sides at this point. I’m shopping for groceries for our Midsummer’s cottage trip. The phone rings.

So, we’re back on Midsummer. Me, sitting here, watching Nee and Mitch scramble back from the lake into the sauna. I silently toast the night for the fact that come next month, I will be starting work at one of the big entertainment brands here. Doing something I’ve been dreaming of ever since I was a kid. No need to worry.

People call for me from inside. While the work-thing is good, it’s not the reason this has probably been the best trip to the cottage, ever. I’ll get back on that in a moment.

What’s up?

It’s absolutely dreadful, deep-freezing really, to try start re-writing a blog after an unannounced radio-silence-for-a-break of over a year. With some run-of-the-mill blog that would be just a matter of finding the hottest new thing that’s related to whatever electronic cat-scratchers you write about, and picking up on that like nothing ever happened. But with Finnish Beauty things aren’t that simple. The related thingamob is my own life and the blog is really just a collection of stories about it. No product reviews, no latest news from the car shows. Just life.

So, I’m thinking there’s one or two ways to go about it.  The easy way for me is to just suck it up and start explaining on what’s happening just now, like no break was ever taken, leaving the poor reader wonder things like “who is that?” and “what the hell?”. The other is to start telling stories about the break and explaining what went on there, which means getting to the point where the stories actually get to the present day might take a while. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

It’s the other night, getting quite late, sun has gone down. I’m standing on the shore of Tervasaari with Kat. Enjoying the view.

“This is something I truly love to watch. Half-dark summer skies, pitch black silhouettes of the buildings in front, with a light on the window every here and there. Like stars in the sky.  All the ugly parts of Helsinki sort of melt away and even Merihaka manages to look beautiful. I do admit being an urban person – something so very right about seeing things like this. Makes me get all creative.”

There’s a moment of silence. You can feel that something clicks in her mind few moments before the words come out.

“Do you still write that blog of yours?”

I sigh.

“Haven’t for a year. Too much dark stuff happened for me to write about, at least in that format. And after that things have been sort of too legendary. Would be hard to give them a coating that would be even remotely realistic. Even if I told the truth straight up, people wouldn’t believe what I was saying.”

“Do they have to?” Kat’s smiling that warm, knowing smile of her, as always. We’ve spent the evening enjoying bungee jumping, a delicious dinner for two and some sparkling moments to top things off. Been a good night.

“Not really, I guess. People would read some things the way they wanted to, hard to put everything important to words without sounding all wrong.”

“You’ll find a way.”

I smile and nod. Don’t always have to tell everything the way they are, right?

We walk around the island and then head back to the city. A nice night comes to an end eventually. Even if I meet her all too rarely, it’s always a pleasure. Always makes me think about the questions that need answering. Kat bids me farewell and heads home. I enjoy the night air a moment longer and walk home as well. My new home. One of the many things that have changed since last year and last post.. I did the scary thing, got a brand new mortgage and bought a nice flat in the old part of Helsinki. It’s not huge, but it is comfortable. The kitchen will need to be renovated at some point as the previous owner must have been something like a foot shorter than I am. But it’s home and it feels like it, to a level that’s unlike any place I’ve lived in before.

Lights are out. No music playing on the stereo. Means that my (for the lack of a better word) flatmate, Nee, is either asleep or she’s found something  interesting for the night and is not at home. After a quick walk through the place, I conclude she’s probably home, just sleeping. I look at the time and agree that I should probably be doing that as well. To be polite, I try my best to stay as quiet as possible when getting a late midnight snack and brushing my teeth.

Fast forward a few hours, to three in the morning. I’m standing on the balcony, watching the stars fall from the sky. It’s been a long but a good day.

“What’s up?” I hear Nee ask from inside. She’s a nice addition to my life. One of those people who share my appreciation of The Legend. And for that reason alone, I will not go into details about who or why Nee is. Nice stories I will save for a later day. Just because I can.

“Thought I was being quiet. Sorry if I woke you up.”

“No worries, mate. Been up for a while, thought I’d go get some late snack from the kitchen and saw the light. Didn’t hear you come in. Is everything ok? What’s up? You look like a kangaroo is eating your dingo.”

Nee can read me perfectly, as always, noticing my moods from minute details. Also, to be honest, that’s probably not exactly what she said, but she has all these weird Aussie expressions that rarely make any sense to me.

“I’m thinking of blogging again. On Finnish Beauty. Writing about The Legend,” I take a Meaningful moment before continuing, “Will mean exposing my life to it again, and you know where you found me last winter.”

“You’ve come a long way from that. And besides that wasn’t you exposing yourself to it. T’was you walling behind too many masks. You enjoying your life and writing about it had nothing to do with that. You know that as well as I do.”

I nod and point up to the pitch-black sky.

“You know there is a meteor shower up there?”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Come take a look.”

We stand there for almost an hour, watching the skies, doing some commentary on our strange lives, me telling about my evening, she telling about hers. Pretty much the same stuff with the same flavor I’d normally be writing about here. A few streaks of light every now and then confirm the presence of the meteor shower.

“Did you really call your blog Finnish Beauty?”

“Yup.”

“So, what will your first post be about?”

“Dunno. Don’t think I’ll start with a legendary story, but something that would be a good way to start explaining what’s been up for the past year. Sort of a meta-commentary thing as a way of saying that I’m back. Probably begin it with someone asking What’s up? or something.”

All the Best Laid Plans

There are those days when you only have one thing in your mind from the beginning of it and yet you never get around to actually do it. Things that are inevitable just keep pouncing in front of you like a cougar in heat and you are totally screwed in regards to what you were planning on doing.

So. I got invited to this private album release party (of one of my favorite bands, none the less) the other day and of course that meant that I wasn’t home really early. One could even say that I ended up home pretty late that night.

And now it’s the morning after that, and I’m slowly opening my eyes. This has been happening too much lately. The alarm clock is making more noise than humanly possible and I look like a Gordian Knot on my bed. My yoga instructor would be proud. I probably have slept for something like three hours again, and most of that upside down, or something. I notice I can’t really move my neck all and that my shoulder aches a bit. Oh boy. This will be a fun day.

I grab some breakfast supplies from the kitchen and hop in the car, since I’m already almost late from the Very Important Meeting at a Very Important Client’s office on the other side of town. We’ve had a lot of these lately. Stuck in the morning traffic is not really that much fun, even if you have the newspaper and your breakfast with you in the car. Luckily I arrive on time, find a parking place right in front of the office building, and run in. I pitch my ideas like a true pro should with my neck slightly tilted to the left and my eyes falling asleep half the time. Thank God for coffee. Then drive back to our office and when I get there remember that it’s moving day.

We’ll be carrying tables from one end of the building to the other. If my neck had a mouth, it would cuss. And my shoulder would agree.

Somewhere around the point where a table crashes on my foot I start fantasizing about the evening – going home, taking a long bath, grabbing a muscle relaxant and going to sleep early to get the day over with. Once the moving is done, time for some normal work, but I’m more or less just looking at the clock, counting the minutes to when I can go home.

It always does this at these points, doesn’t it? The phone. It rings. Mine has this little wonderful song as a ringtone. (Go ahead, listen to it, you’ll need the knowledge later on)

“Ptr.”

“Hiya. It’s Mi.” Ok, another Mi. Not the one from Tampere. Better call this one something else. Mie, yeah, that’s a good solid and won’t get confused with Mei or Mi (or Mi) at all.

So, “Hiya. It’s Mie!”

“Oh, hi.”

“I’m heading to Itäkeskus already to do some shopping, so if you get there early, give me a call.”

Right. We have plans to go for a quick cup of  coffee after work today. Mie is a wonderful girl who I went to high-school with who I see maybe once every two months over a cup of coffee, trade the latest rumors, complain how people around us are getting married and find solace in the fact that Mike at least is still single so all hope is not lost for us yet. It’s more or less a “When someone manages to get Mike married, we’re officially the last single people on earth” situation.

“Sure, yeah. Might take a moment longer, we’ve been carrying tables and shelves at the office all day and I’m all sweaty and covered in dust now. Will take a quick shower before heading there, ok?”

One thing I love about our office is the showers downstairs. Not so keen on the idea of delaying the bath and sleep, but we don’t see each other that often, so I can stay up using the power of coffee a bit longer. It won’t take long anyways.

“Oh, ok. Give me a call when you get here.”

I close the line. Right. Quick shower, another cup of coffee, and drive to Itäkeskus. This won’t delay my plans a lot.

I arrive around six o’clock.

It’s fun to see her. Always is. We catch up. I tell stories of my birthday party, the week when Santtu was here (damn, that one has some good ones I just have to tell you at some point), how I’m loving my work again, and so on. She tells about what’s good about hers in response. Then we gossip about the people we know, complain about other people getting married, and find comfort in the fact that Mike’s still unwed. Usually at this point we say bye, and that was pretty much what I had in mind when I promised to see her for a cup. But then we end up talking about cars. I don’t know how this happens, since neither of us are really “car-people”, but somehow we’re so caught up in discussing her getting a new car that when my phone rings cheerfully again (1, 2, 1 2 3 4!) at around eight, I have for a moment forgotten the plans to go to sleep early.

“Ptr.”

“Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!”

There is no question who is on the other end.

“Hi Kat, what’s up?”

“Well, you said that you might have some spare moving boxes at your place I could borrow?”

“Right, sure, of course.”

I suffer from chronic case of chivalry. I can’t stand the thought of a damsel in distress. While this has landed me a cameo role as an actual knight in shining armor in a book by an American author (long story), at the moment my neck is protesting loudly to my habits. But can’t help it. I bid Mie farewell, apologizing that I have to go so soon, finish the cup of coffee and go pick Kat up from Kallio.

Quick stop at a shop to get the basic grocery shopping done, then to my place, stack the food in the fridge, find the boxes and drive to her place on the other side of town.

During this, we end up having one of those ultra-deep conversations about human nature that just keeps going on and on. Life, love, freedom, all that. So our stops take a moment. When we finally get to her place with the boxes, it’s about half past nine.

“Thanks for the company, but I really think I should get going, take a bath, get some sleep. Maybe take something for the neck pains.”

“Yeah, of course, I need to start packing as well. And thanks once again for the boxes.”

At this point Kat’s flatmate pokes her head through the door.

“Aaa! It’s you! I’m just making some pumpkin pie, would you want to stay and have some?”

Curses. One of my weaknesses. A cute girl offering me pie. How can I refuse? And one slice of pie won’t take that long, will it.

So, some quarter past ten I’m getting ready to head home. Can you guess what happens next?

Yup. “One, Two, One Two Three Four! We accept h…” rings out from my pocket. I answer the phone, quickly glancing who is calling. And knowing what’s next.

“Dude. Where are you? The party’s been going on for like 2 hours already. People have been leaving disappointed when they’ve seen you’re not here. You got to come here. Stat.”

I sigh.

“Sure, Mike. I’ll drop by on my way home. Won’t stay long, my neck is killing me and not drinking anything, I’m by car. Wait? People leaving? What sort of a lame-ass house party are you having there?”

Not so lame, really. If there is something Mike’s good at (ok, he’s annoyingly good at everything he does, but anyhow..), it is hosting a party. Good, big house, lots of nice people. My “dropping by” turns to “Well, I might as well sit for a while and socialize” and then to “Oh damn, is it past midnight already, I should head home.” and to “Ok, it’s damn late and I’m tired, I’m going. See ya, guys”

I don’t really even care about the bath anymore. Just muscle relaxants and sleep. Really.

“There are a couple of things about your latest project I’d like to ask you before you go,” asks Matt when I’m heading out the door.

“If you want to leave, I can drop you off on my way home, you can ask me in the car, I just really need to get home at this point.”

“Sure.”

I recently started to waste my free time on a three year long art project (to be finished in December 2012, one of the reasons I suck at updating this blog) that Matt is somewhat involved in, and he’s really interested to hear what I have to say concerning that. A couple of girls who are also leaving at the time beg for a place on the backseat so naturally they are free to join. They’re more or less on the way.

It’s fun to explain what you’re doing to someone who is actually interested in listening to your plans, so we take the scenic route.

Around two in the morning I’m finally driving back home.

and then …

“I want to move to Finland!”

It’s Thursday, not that long ago. Early morning for me, so it’s probably closer to noon out there.

I think I am finally waking up. Slowly, but surely.  Left eyelid. Right eyelid. That’s it. Wide awake.

Feels like it’s been a long night of research.

I look around, searching for clues to my location. After a moment of analysis I deduct (Sherlock Holmes would be proud of me) that I’m in a room of one of the finest hotels of Finland. My arm is wrapped around some cute redhead French goth girl.

Right. Research. I was planning on writing about something when I set out to go to town yesterday. What was it? The girl turns a bit and mumbles something in her sleep.

It tastes like I’ve been singing last night. Lyrics still stuck somewhere to the back of my mouth. Karaoke.

Damnit.

How long have I been out? When was the last time I updated the blog? I remember people bugging me about it for a long time.

I try not to wake the girl up and go get a glass of water. That helps a bit. It’s pretty incredible what singing can do to one’s throat. I squint my eyes to the direction of the curtains and decide not to open them. Instead I sit down to write down some thoughts into my little black notebook. These will come handy later-on when I recall this moment later and blog about it. I’m sure of it.

  • Society’s norms
  • Buy a new hat
  • Language
  • Culture (introvert)
  • studies/work
  • Metal!

Well, could be that the list is not that helpful.

There was some thing on my mind I was supposed to write about. I look around. The damn room is a mess. At least the TV is intact. Reminds me of some cruises I’ve been on.

Time to focus, man. Think of the blog. Think of the damn readers. Which month is it?

I listen to the sounds of traffic and people behind the window for a while and think of all the conversations I’ve been having lately. Figure out a common thread and just write. What’s so great about this country? So great that these people are dropping their lives in better places and just heading here.

I’ve made a few new foreign friends since I started writing Finnish Beauty and reconnected a bit with a couple old ones. Sort of making an effort to hear the “why Finland?” from them.

The first one I want to mention is Kisu, a PhD student who just moved here to do the same weird, unethical genetic research stuff my sister is into. Since her arrival she’s been a constant source of really strange lines that haven’t really made sense to me when I’ve heard them. Lines like “But the Finns are so wonderful and helpful people.” and “Everyone has been so nice to me.”

We’re not wonderful or helpful or nice. We’re grumpy people who keep to ourselves. We don’t talk to strangers!

But the more I think about it, the more I have to agree with her. She’s right.

If you were to ask a Finn for help, it would stun them for first 10 seconds as they’re try to figure out what it is that’s happening – no-one ever stops you and asks you for anything here. Well, actually, no-one talks to you for any reason. Period. But after that 10 second pause, my, and probably a regular Finn’s as well, gut reaction would be to do anything to help the poor soul. I’ve seen tattoo shop owners call through all their friends to arrange a last-minute tattoo time for someone who needs the work done in three days before they leave abroad. I’ve gone through bookstore shelves to help a woman find the latest Stieg Larsson book from the shelf since she didn’t know what she was looking for and I seemed like I could know.

So yeah. We do help. It’s just the we don’t ever get asked for help. And we don’t offer it without someone asking.

But back to Kisu. She’s just arrived and will be staying for a few years, working on her PhD. So she’s still in awe of the exotic nature and whatnot. And one can easily understand the reason for her coming here. Finland is where work is, just a stop on the road of academia.

The ones who are giving me more headache are these completely random people, who just love Finland and come here without any sense in their head.

I’ve mentioned Ry before, but she’s sort of one of those people. Just dropping everything and coming here. Literally packing into her car what she could fit and driving here. Not looking back (except for like a couple of CDs she’s missing)

I think she’s come around a bit over the years. It’s not all sunshine and wonders as it is for those who have just arrived. She knows to hate the winter like a proper Finn and knows how to complain about everything. But still, she’s staying here. A feat of strength. When I asked her why here, I think the answer was something along the lines of:

Well, I wanted to go somewhere. Was fed up with where I was living and well, ‘anywhere but here’ sounded just like the place I wanted to be. Also, since I’m a linguist at heart, going to a place with an exotic (non-Indo-European) language like Finnish was intriguing.

And yeah, there’s also the fact that people here don’t want to party in public all the time. This is a great place if you’re an introvert. No-one’s bugging you if you don’t want to be bugged.

Well. She’s making sense.

But! Seriously!

They’re both sort of special cases. Really. Have to be.

So. Who else do I know then. Besides those who’ve come here after work or who are like Ry? There are the few goths and metalheads.

I take a look at the list I wrote. Yeah. Last couple of points on it fit these people. For them, a big thing seems to be “Finland not only accepts us, but welcomes us with open arms.”

Yup. This is the country where it’s not uncommon for the girl at the local shop stacking bananas into a neat pile to have a couple of facial piercings. Or the person on the counter of the airline to have a bright magenta hair to go with her cheerful smile. This is the place where you’re as likely to see a trash metal band on the top of the sales charts as you are for example Lady Gaga. Here, wearing black doesn’t label you as antisocial and dangerous. Just another person. Quite typical a person, in fact.

“This place is just amazing! You guys have Ville Valo! And The 69 Eyes! And Lonkero!  And this korvapuusti is AMAZING! Why wouldn’t one want to live here? Ooh! Cute! I want one!”

Whoa. Flashbacks from the previous night. Yeah. I was definitely singing yesterday.

It was a damn metal karaoke place. With my sis, her boyfriend, and a couple of friends. All the people I knew beforehand left early. I just had to wait for one more song.

A heavy metal karaoke. Right. Only in Finland. That’s why I was going there to do research. I was planning on writing an entry on the Finnish metal karaoke thing.

Now, who on earth was the person I was just quoting. Right. Santtu, the Aussie. Damnit, I need to write about her misadventures here at some point. So many things to write. How long was I out anyways.

Now that I’m finally on track about what I was going to write, I take a deep breath, pick up the pen and start making notes about the Finnish Karaoke culture. It’s pretty unique cons…

Wait a moment. The notebook says “Buy a new hat”.

Where did I put my hat? I think I had a hat yesterday. Did I? I look around for it.

No hat to be seen anywhere.

And another thing… Whose hotel room is this anyway? And who are all these people?

Moodswings, pt. 1

Maturing is a theme that’s going on. I aged a year the other day. And the blog is reaching the first turning point. I have a sort of a creeping feeling of the fact that I should move on to phase two with it soon. Would like to keep things the way they are sometimes. But change is coming, can’t help it. We have to move forward.

It’s last Tuesday. I’m enjoying an excellent 3 course dinner at Vespa in the most charming company, reminiscing the good old days. The duck melts in my mouth, the wine is good and it’s nice to have a normal chat that doesn’t have anything to do with work.

Actually, let’s stop right there. Might be better if I started a couple of hours earlier, just to get some context in. Sorry about that.

It’s last Tuesday, my payday, and I’m getting ready to go home, sending out a last minute work email. Thinking of going to the store, getting some food to celebrate said paydayness, when the phone rings. A familiar female voice greets me.

“Hiya, you still at work? I’m heading to the student café next door to get some dinner or something. Wanna come with?”

“Sure. Ok. Just give me a sec. Need to finish up here first.”

Well, that came out of the blue.

I walk out, around the corner and to the café. The place isn’t serving food anymore for the day, they stopped like 3 minutes earlier. Student restaurants. Typical.

“Sorry about dragging you here like that. What do you wanna do next?”

“Dunno, what do you want to eat? I’m buying.”

We head towards the city center, thinking of getting something Indian or maybe Tex Mex. For some reason we end up just walking around, dismissing one place after the other with “let’s not go there”s and “don’t really feel like that”s.

And then along comes Vespa, with a jazzy track playing from the speakers that makes us both stop and look at each other.

“Here?”

“Here.”

Neither of us have ever been here, but this seems like the perfect choice.

So, it’s last Tuesday. I’m enjoying an excellent 3 course dinner at Vespa in the most charming company, reminiscing the good old days. The duck melts in my mouth, the wine is good and it’s nice to have a normal chat that doesn’t have anything to do with work. Or relationships. Or trying to get to know the other person. Or the million projects I’m doing outside of work (like this blog). Or anything stressful. We talk about our dreams and our fond memories. Get lost in the moment while sailing in the everything that was and will be.

When we walk out from the restaurant I realize how I have lost the track of time during the dinner – the sun has just gone down. The regal shade of blue of that moment between the evening and the night fills the cloudless sky and the lights of the city are just being switched on, patterning the buildings with light and shadow. Gradients of yellows, greens and purples paint all flat surfaces.

The view is absolutely stunning.

I admit, that I’ve somehow missed the fact it’s spring already. Sure – the snow is gone for good and there have been birds doing their cacophony of music for quite some time. But I haven’t had time or the open mind to enjoy or realize that.

We walk through Esplanadin puisto and have to stop a couple of times to take photos of what we’re seeing and feeling. We climb up the stairs of Tuomiokirkko, smile at the cute couple sitting on top. It is said that Helsinki is one of the most romantic cities in the world. Even if I would normally just laugh and scoff at the idea, when I’m looking at those two sharing that moment in the flash frozen storm of color and shadows, I can see there being some truth to that.

This tranquil view is a side I remember Helsinki having, but one that I don’t get to see very often. I try my best to verbalize it, but all the words I can sigh just fall short. Incoherent.

Random happenstance, perfect timing, beautiful weather. No stress whatsoever. No rush. Life is good.

And then it’s last Friday.

It’s so last Friday.

I’m about this full of people and their problems with me, and people and my problems with them, and their problems with each other.

I’m driving in my blue Mitsubishi towards Tampere to get to a party, and I’m going through a bloody snowstorm to get there. Déjà vu much. It’s like Tampere is more tightly wrapped in the clutches of Winter than the rest of Finland. Reminding me that we, as a country, belong to the snow and the cold no matter what happens or how much hold Spring might get somewhere.

The party I head to is a good one, as the parties I head to usually are. A traditional house party. The kind where everyone has their own bottles. First person passes out before midnight. The conversations continue until the dawn breaks and a bit after that.

I really like Mi&Mi’s place, it  feels like a home. Small furry critters keep you company when the rest of the people at the party decide to go for a smoke outside. Warm colors dominate the palette, with orange holding court over reds and browns. There are people I know and love here, and some new ones I have never met before. Technically the premise is my birthday and the fact that one of the Mi’s got a dream job for the summer, but really it’s more a generic house party than anything. I must admit I’m not in the mood, but I smile and nod.

I am seriously doubting my decision to stay in Finland. I was originally going to a conference in Stockholm this weekend, but decided against it as I wanted to keep my birthday weekend for myself and the important people this time (was at another conference in Tartu last year this same time). I know conference trips are a great fun, so I’m really thinking that “what if I had gone this year as well” thought.

Friday turns to Saturday, and night becomes morning. I’m sitting in the living room with Mi, pouring my heart out. The two hours of sleep, combined with the cascade of things that I feel are wrong, is devastating. I whine about everything. How people aren’t getting along and I can’t invite them all to my parties because of that. How I feel helpless sometimes because I can’t help all those who I care about in my life. How it’s horribly annoying to wait for an email you know might never come. How there was That One Who Got Away 15 years ago who I never got a chance to talk with properly. How I miss my old cat that died last year. How it’s stupid that it’s snowing in April.  I’m just letting it all out. No matter if it’s recent or relevant to the moment.

I spend a good hour and a half just whining about everything that’s been bugging me the past few days.

It’s good to have someone who listens.

And while the whining helps with the annoyance, the melancholy stays. Mi listens, and is interested in everything I’m saying (she’s nice like that), but the tiredness gets to her eventually and she heads back to bed with the other Mi. I do some writing on their computer and head out, bidding my hosts farewell with a note thanking them of their troubles.

This birthday weekend is turning into a sort of a downer. No matter how much fun the party was, there’s too many things bothering me. Annoying.

A deep breath once I’m out. There’s still things to do at Tampere. Just bite your lip and carry on.

I have no idea yet how awesome things will turn out over the next 24 hours.

Partying Without Moving

I had the perfect trifecta of nightmares the other night. First I had a horrible work-nightmare where I couldn’t understand one bit of the stuff I was supposed to do. Then there was a blog-nightmare in which they had hacked Finnish Beauty and turned it into an adult site about gay Moroccan soccer players. And last I saw a nightmare about organizing some event – with the wrong people coming there at the wrong times. The last one probably relates to my upcoming birthday (which is happening right about now, really)

I hate it when stress starts building up on. For me it has a damn snowball that builds into an avalanche. Something starts lagging behind, it keeps nagging in my head and then it gets harder to focus working on the next thing, that might start lagging behind as well. Been a bit behind on everything lately as things pile up. So, it’s Friday night, I’m sitting at Mi&Mi’s computer, somewhere near the city centre of Tampere, typing this while there are drunk people around me talking about love and relationships. Yes, I know I’m being lame, but the party’s been over for a while and I have the time to write now.

It’s a very bleak and cold Saturday a few weeks ago. After a damn busy day of shopping, carrying bags, moving furniture around and whatnot, I’m psyching myself to go somewhere. I mean really forcing myself to get into the mood of going out. It’s not really working well. I’d rather just relax a bit. I know I still have some stuff to do, but sis had called me earlier and made me promise to go get some drinks and have fun with her after we’re both finished with our regular days. The clock booms 8 p.m., I decide that I’m almost done and give her a call.

“Oh, I think I’ll be okay to go around ten or so, is that cool with you?” she asks

“Sure, I’ll get a cab when I’m done here and will head to your place then.”

Half an hour later than planned, the taxi arrives at her house.

“I’ll be out in a sec. Just give me a minute!”

The meter is running. The taxi driver asks if I’ve ever considered a career as a singer. There is snow falling slowly from the sky. Dum-de-dum. The driver’s telling a tragic story of some Greek singer who reminds him of me. Damn. It’s not going to be one of those nights when the weather is warm. I wonder if I should have worn something else tonight? Where should we go? I wonder what’s the meaning of life? The tale the cabbie is telling sounds tragic. Something about a fan getting killed by accident. Why is he telling me this? Who is this guy? Oh, he’s a news reporter for some foreign channel, who has a second job as a taxi driver. Makes sense. Wait… I decide to ask more, when sis runs out from her house, looking all exhausted and ready to go. Finally.

“Sorry it took a moment! I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go or not, so I wasn’t really ready when you called that you were almost here!”

“Wait, you weren’t sure either?”

“I’m so totally hungover from last night you don’t even want to know. Wait… What’s your excuse?”

“Been running errands for mom all day. And when I was about to head out I got rewarded with one of her ‘small’ meals. Feel like I just want to roll into bed.”

“Sheesh. I feel your pain. So? We have a taxi, so we’re not backing out anymore. TigerCuba?”

“Cuba! We went to Tiger just the other week and I know you hate the place. We’ll have the best night ever. Family night out and all that shit!” The enthusiasm in my voice is 100% fake.

We get to Cuba. I like the place, even if it’s a bit out of the way. Upon entry some random drunk guy tries to pick up on my sis with a pick-up line that, from what I can hear, sounds pretty much like “brewwwghmn?”, she tells him I’m her boyfriend. The cute girls next to the guy hear this of course. Naturally. What else.

One thing I like about Cuba is the music of the place. Usually it’s a positive soundtrack with latest hits combined with classics, with emphasis being on the classics side. Now it’s even better. There is a live saxophone player alongside the DJ, bringing a fluid, organic, and most of all, strange atmosphere groove. 90s with a twist. We make a passing pop culture reference to an old animation we used to watch as kids and then Ay (I have to call her something else than “the sister”, or it gets annoying in long posts like this) starts.

“So. First things first. I’m not going to drink anything tonight. I’m feeling way too nauseous. Was puking my guts out a few hours ago. How about we go take over the dance floor, family style?”

“Oh joy,” I take a deep sigh, “Well, that means I’m not going to have much to drink either. No fun in only one of us being a complete fool. And didn’t you hear a word I said earlier. I am not going to move anytime soon, let alone dance. Mom had some meat stew thing. that I just had to eat or else I would have offended her.”

“Yeah, wouldn’t want that, momma’s boy.”

“Why you little…”

“Ooh, look, free chairs!!” she heads to safety from my reach.

Now. We’ve had awesome nights together out and about. New Year’s comes to mind. No additional people required. But it looks like neither of us are really in the mood. No matter how nicely the music beats in the background – Madonna or something else light, with the addition of the saxophone. This could work on a different night. This would be awesome on any other night, really. I’m just tired, and I think the sis is in a bit of a bitchy mood even if we both try to keep up appearances.

“We’re having fun!”

Silence.

“Party?”

Silence

“Yay, party?”

“Yay.”

“Party.”

Silence. Awkwardly long.

“We’re not really having that much fun are we?”

“Nope. Not really. No. Not at all.”

Once we start realizing we’re not having fun, the mood starts getting tedious. We start squabbling in no time at all, and then just sit there, annoyed at each other like we were 5-year-olds or something. Eventually a danceable song that we both like starts playing and without a word we head to the dance floor. Not that you can really call it a floor, there is barely room to move there.

Way too many people here tonight. I’m too full from the food still. Or maybe I’m just not in the mood. And could use a break from Ay and her grumpyness. Bloody family sometimes.

“I’ll go to the bathroom, be right back.”

“Sure. Whatever. I’ll stay dancing.”

If you’ve never been to Cuba, the lines to the bathrooms are legendary. Truly. Unisex toilets, 2 small stalls. Long queue. People being drunk so they take their time in the stalls. It’s funny how the need to be urinating is a great conversation starter sometimes. I chat with the girls from earlier (the ones who think I have a girlfriend) on while we wait in line. I’m actually starting to have some fun and find myself slipping to a more social role, forgetting about the sis and the stupid fight and all that. Don’t know how long we actually keep talking.

And I notice Ay sitting at a table, looking a bit gloomy. She’s been a bit off all evening, come to think of it. A quick priorities check later, I ditch the group and head back to her.

“Ok. Tonight’s not a night to party. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“Yeah, sounds like an idea.”

We walk to the taxi line.

“What’s up? You seem a bit bummed.”

“Nah, nothing,” she claims

“I know you’re lying, but since you passed on your shot to go first with the whining, I’ll start. Might take a couple of hours. You can tell me your problems after that.”

“Bah. You’re supposed to ask at least twice, you jerk!”

“Okay, okay. What’s up?”

Adventure

This is one of those cases where I just have to begin by apologizing. Been a while. It’s not really my fault or anyth… ah, screw it. Been lazy. Been a bit thoughtful about what I can write about. Making excuse after excuse of not to write about what’s been happening. Stopping that now and just writing.

Trying to get back on the track now.

Sorry about that.

Rewind to last summer. I’m standing in the middle of a small town square, eating the most delicious hamburger I’ve probably ever tasted. It’s the bachelor party of one of my old friends. While the actual party that’s taking place in a cabin in the woods somewhere in the middle of nowhere, we came to the nearest town here to go to the local bar. Get a feel of the culture outside Helsinki. After a bar we found a nightclub here where we really dominated the dance floor. And now we’re eating grill food from the local food stand.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be posh. Small towns can be incredible fun. You just need the right people and the right attitude.

I’m meditating on this thought and it’s last Saturday, around eight in the evening. It usually is, come to think of it. And guided by this meditation, I pick up the phone.

“Lou.” The person on the other end answers, apparently confused by the fact I’m calling him. I admit, it’s been a while.

“Hi. What are you doing in an hour?”

“Uhmn. What?”

“You. At nine?”

“Uh. Nothing.”

“Ok, I’m going to need you for a few moments. Maybe a couple of hours.”

“Whuh?”

“Great, get ready.”

“Ok…”

I hang up and a couple of minutes later I have to call him again.

“A change of plans. I’ll be there in 20 minutes. Get dressed! I looked at the time wrong.”

“Wait, what?”

“Go go go!”

It’s about 9pm. We’re sitting in a car on Lahdentie. Me, Lou and Mei. I’m driving. Mei and Lou are trying to figure out what the hell just happened.

“So, originally you and Ptr were planning on going to some party at Otaniemi around eleven, and then he calls you just before nine he’ll be picking you up right now?”

“Yup. Do you have any idea where we’re going? He hasn’t told me anything.” Mei is apparently a bit worried we might not make it to Otaniemi by eleven. She’s so right.

“Well, on this road, the possible places are Korso, Kerava and Tuusula. I don’t see anything good happening to us when we get there in the next 20 minutes. Let’s just wait patiently and see what the crazy guy has planned for us.”

20 minutes later.

“Ptr?”

“Yeah?”

“We just went past Tuusula, didn’t we?”

“Yup.”

“Don’t tell me we’re going to Lahti?”

“Ok, I won’t tell you that.”

“Dude. What?!”

Lou is an old friend of mine. From ages ago. We sort of lost Lou for a while when he got married and got a kid, but he’s made a comeback lately (Still married, don’t worry). He’s the guy I was going to see Nouvelle Vague with back in 2007, so he’s not really surprised that I might pull off something like grab people from their homes and drive them to Lahti.

And it means a world to Mei to have him here. While I still keep in touch with Lou because of hobbies, Mei sees him maybe once a year, if that. And these two are like a sister and a brother. Lou’s an artist, Mei’s a scholar. But still they are best friends. Well, when they happen to see each other. Their approach to the situation is completely different. Lou is curious, Mei might actually be a bit worried what’s going on.

“Ptr?”

“Yeah?”

“Are we going to do something I’m going to hate?”

“Probably, why?”

“No, seriously. I should be preparing for a seminar.”

“Well, you were going to Otaniemi today, it’s not like you would have gotten a chance to anyways.”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“Oh, come on, it’s gonna be fun,” Lou saves me from having to convince Mei, “I know Lahti pretty well, used to hang a lot there when I was younger. They for example have these awesome mugs-of-kebab there that you can eat… Wait, we have to turn here if we want to get to Lahti.”

I wave at the intersections as they go by.

A brief moment of silence as it sinks in.

“We’re not going to Lahti, are we?”

“Nope, you might want to get a beer from the back. This will take a moment more.”

“Dude, what the hell do you have planned for us?”

To those who don’t know what sort of distances we’re talking about, we’re about 100 kilometers (bit over 60 miles) north from Helsinki right now and the road keeps going on.

After a lot of wondering and singing along to Mokoma, I pull over the car at a information stop / road map of Heinola. We walk to the map.

“Ok, try to find Ravintola Tukkijätkä from there somewhere.”

There is a moment of silence. Footsteps walking towards the car. The sound of the car door. Some rummaging. And then the sound of a beer can opening. Followed by footsteps back to behind me and a fatherly sigh, the one that Lou pulls off so very well.

“You’re saying that you drove us to Heinola to go to a place called Tukkijätkä.”

“Yup.”

Tukkijätkä is a guy who rafts timber. Closest analogy in English would be Lumberjack. So I’m taking them to a place called “Restaurant Lumberjack”

Hence the beer.

“Why?”

“There is a gig there tonight. Irina is playing. But probably we’re late from the gig already, so don’t get your hopes up.”

“You drove us to Hollola, to a place called Ravintola Tukkijätkä, to listen to Irina. You do realize that I’m going to gut you alive for this.” Mei is looking like she’s about to do exactly that.

“Not Hollola, Heinola!”

“Whatever dude, it’s outside Ring III.”

But wait. It gets better.

10 minutes later we arrive at Tukkijätkä, and there is a sign outside saying “Sold out.”

So, we’re at Heinola, without anything to do. There is a big blonde guy and a small furious brunette chick staring at me.

“Dudes. Wait! Don’t kill me yet, the night is still salvageable. Let’s walk this way, we’re sure to find something to do. The evening is not lost, come on guys!” I take a few steps towards what probably is the center of Heinola.

Something’s off. A memory creeps up my spine…

Shit. I’ve been here before. The bachelor party was here. This is the same bloody small town.

“Oh my god. I know this place.”

“What?”

“Follow me!” I start running.

It’s four hours later, we’re standing in the middle of the town square of Heinola, I’m eating the most delicious hamburger.

“Ok, that was just horrible,” Mei says while devouring french fries from a dish bigger than her head, “I don’t think I’ve laughed that much in ages!”

Lou says something in agreement while enjoying a mug-of-kebab-meat. I have no idea what he’s saying, but he’s smiling and munching down food.

I smile and nod. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be posh. Small towns can be incredible fun. You just need the right people.

Srsly

The thing about writing this blog is that it forces me to a situation where I can’t stand still. I can’t get caught in any sort of status quo in my life. Even if that would be going out and partying, like it has pretty much been. A lot. Lately. So, need to go out and do something different. Or stay in and do something different. I can’t really end up just repeating the same post over and over, no matter how much fun I’ve had. Poses some challenges to a writer.

Remember Tampere? The place where the streets are empty, there are no sights to see, the weather is cold, and the friendliest face I can find is the hotel receptionist. Well, I’m back, standing in the middle of what I assume to be the central square of this city and thinking “Oh, srsly?”

It’s about 3 months after the Great Christmas Trip of 2009, and the reason I’m quoting Grey’s Anatomy is… *drumroll*… the weather. I’ve just spent 2.5 hours driving from Helsinki to Tampere in a weather that is best described in words that are not suitable for live studio audiences. It started off as gray and uninspiring and by the time we were looking for a parking space, there was a full-blown blizzard trying to throw our car into the nearby buildings.

To get the full irony of the moment, a flashback to early this morning is in order. In this said flashback, imagine me being all cheerful and saying “Oh, the spring is finally here!” to my unimpressed co-workers. Clearly, in Finland, there just is no escaping the winter, is there?

I slowly rotate 360 degrees to get a good feel of my surroundings. Looking south is painfully impossible because the snowflakes want to dig deep into my eyeballs at supersonic speed. But in the other directions, the city looks exactly the way it did on December. Well, the snow is a bit more moist.

But still.

Srsly.

What the fuck is wrong with the weather in this place?

I’m here with a few Finns and a German. We’ve come to see a gig at a small café that holds about 20 people, and there’s 5 of us.

Interesting statistics of us five: Each one of us knows only two other persons in the car. Except the German, who knows just one. Each and every one of us has done capoiera at some point of their lives. Except the girl who sat on the front seat. And every single one of us had a relaxing drive here. Except me, who had to focus on not getting us all killed a lot. My hands are still a bit white from holding on to the steering wheel. Or might be the freezing cold. Hard to say. Either way, not exactly healthy.

We walk a couple of blocks in the snowstorm to Kahvila Valo, where the gig is just starting when we enter. Upon entry to the café, the artist introduces us to the rest of the people who are there, and we go occupy the last big table available (she knows two of the group beforehand, so that’s why we get introductions) I fetch a cup of Maté from the counter and settle down on our table. I don’t really have any idea what we’re going to hear, but all my doubts go away when the girl behind the piano starts singing a wonderful cover version of one of my all time favorite songs.

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us

The gig ends way too soon, but at least I finally have some time to get to know the new people who have been in my car, we have loads of time before we have to hit the road.

And frankly, I don’t want to hit the road. It was painful to drive here. I don’t want to go there again just yet.

The German is a blast, as ze Germans usually are . We already talked a lot on the way here, but you can never really get to the finer nuances of who someone is when you’re trying to keep a drifting car on a road at 100km/h. This guy studies journalism in Germany and it’s his first time in Finland. He’s pretty much the same way I am when it comes to foreign cities – It doesn’t matter if there aren’t that many grand spectacles to see in Helsinki. He’s just been soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying the feeling of the city.

He, for some reason, finds Helsinki a wonderful place. When I ask “what’s so great?” He replies without hesitation “Well, the sauna for example.”

Well, even I can’t argue with that. He’s talking about our public saunas. They are a damn great thing. Especially in the winter. Man, I wonder how long it has been since I’ve last been to a proper sauna.

I talk a while with the Finns as well. One of them is pulling a “Dropping everything and getting the hell out of this country” stunt, which I think is kind of awesome, and something I’ve heard many of my friends dreaming of. Heading to somewhere warm and tropic. No idea what to do there, but figuring out that it would be better than here. Sunlight. Warmth.

And as a total opposite, I end up having a conversation about the meditative nature of that perfect moment of silence in the Finnish winter. Just walking to some field with nothing but snow in sight. And no sounds of life anywhere to be heard. It’s nice to meet someone who has shared that wonderful moment. The peace and quiet. The tranquil colors.

I exchange a couple of words with the girl who was singing, thank for the performance, pretty much. And then it’s time to head back home. We walk out of the café. The snowfall has ended. The sky has taken a purplish hue from the city lights getting reflected from the clouds. The sounds of the city are dampened. Everything just feels tranquil and perfect.

We enjoy the moment. Talking about how it’s wonderful that the ride back will be nice and relaxed, compared to the storm on the way here. The songs from the gig still echoing in our mind. For a moment, it feels like every bad thing in the world disappears.

It’s 15 minutes later.

We’re back on the big road between Tampere and Helsinki, and the Blizzard is back. I’m holding on to the steering wheel with both hands, fearing for our lives.

There is no escaping the damn winter here, is there?

Balance

It’s been a bit slow lately. Way too much work-related stuff in the way of actual time to be happy. And my social activity has been pretty much been limited to me scouting for locations for my upcoming birthday party. And while interesting, not something I want to blog about just yet.

“You know…

Your life really sometimes reads like a weird HBO series.”

Best compliment I’ve heard in a while.

It’s funny how the blog keeps popping up in normal conversation a lot these days. Everything from jealous-sounding passive aggression to people laughing at the moment they’ve recognized a person behind a nickname. And of course people suggesting what I should be doing next.

Suggestions are the best sort – “You really should go check out this..”, “You know what? You should go get yourself a traditional..”, “I think what you really need to do is go and..”

And while listening to one of these the other day I realized that I was getting boring. Doing the same stuff with the same people. Hours on the dance floor, partying like there’s no tomorrow. Nothing new under the sun. So, did something really old to balance it out. Well, something I hadn’t been doing in a while – Gaming!

And no, I’m not talking about Neil Strauss now.

Yeah, sometimes one just has to geek out a bit. And say what you want or act all high and mighty, but I am yet to see the guy to turn down the opportunity to beat his friend up in Tekken or to have fun rocking out on their favorite song while playing Guitar Hero World Tour.

Backtrack a couple of days. I’m having a bad day. One of the worse ones I’ve had in a while. And it’s not really anything specific about the day in question. It’s a cumulative effect.

I’m just annoyed.

Biggest annoyance is the fact that I’ve been disappointed by some people. Not all that uncommon, really. People do stupid things, you get disappointed, shake your head and move on. But when the disappointments happen in clusters and you happen to be on the receiving end, it’s not fun.

So, I’m sitting in the office, pretty much just going “Gah, people!” at the cubicle wall. The weather outside is gray. Things look bleak.

I hate to call this guy Mike on the blog, but it’s a pseudonym that suits him. Why not call him that? In the stuff that I’ve written in the past, people called Mike don’t have the best track record, ever. They don’t have what one could call bright and shiny futures. In fact they’re usually the ones who end up dead or worse. Just have to hope that this is not foreshadowing and call Mike Mike.

Anyways. Mike. Cheerful guy, one of my older friends, know him through Mitch originally. Used to go out with my sister a couple of times back in the nineties. A b-movie fanatic, b-boy… and I run out of b-words to describe him at this point. He’s one of those people who have born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but manage to stay relatively human despite this. He studies journalism and whatever else he happens to fancy at the moment. And probably will have a shiny future ahead of him no  matter what happens with his studies. One of the lucky ones. Nothing bad to say about the guy.

“You up for some fun and games tonight, I’m having the shittiest day and could turn my brain off for a moment or two after I’ve finished writing this paper. When are you getting off work?”

Nice to know that I’m not the only one having a bad day. Work ends early (can’t be bothered to stay there any longer than I need to, not being really productive) I pick up Mike and a couple of other friends and we head out. Now, say what you will, but no matter how crap you felt or how bad you play, couple of hours of blowing shit up virtually with a few friends just turns that frown upside down.

Back when we were younger, there was a tradition to go to someone’s place for the evening every now and then, play some, listen to music, hang out, have fun. And after that, walk a round through the neighborhood, talk about things. The hanging out was a prelude for the talk of all the serious stuff. Troubles in relationships, hardships at work, fears, hopes. Talk about the stuff that Finnish men just don’t talk about when they’re sober. These days we don’t live near each other anymore, so if someone’s by car, the ride home has replaced the therapeutic walks.

And 6 hours after feeling like crap when getting off work, I am back on track. Things are good again. It doesn’t take really elaborate things to accomplish good mood. Good friends, chance to wind down. That’s all one needs.

On some other days, it’s even simpler. This morning, all it really too was the fact that the sun is shining in the sky. The roads are clear of snow. I have a fast car under me (borrowed, my own car is reliable and rugged, not fast) and great music on the car stereo. And I’ve pretty much been smiling the whole damn day even if things haven’t been all that easy.

Tomorrow’s plan: The Return to Tampere.

“What do you mean, my life reads like an HBO series?”

“Well, take the trailer of that new series Treme, for example.”

“Yeah?”

“Lots of music, some girls, a city in ruins. I don’t know yet, but it could fit.”

“Right…”

Crash and Burn, Live and Learn

This is actually a post that splintered from the Synchronicity one somewhere around halfway through writing it. I realized I was talking about two things and that I had a lot more to say about both of them than was practical for a single entry. So now there are two.

It’s one of these days. Friday morning, I’m driving through the traffic and the snow to go to a Very Important Meeting. Sometimes it feels like that’s all I’m doing these days. At least on these few days a month they seem to be all clustered into. Yesterday was like this, today’s going to be too.

I’d rather just be doing my job, not talk about it with clients. If I liked customers, I’d be doing customer service jobs to begin with.

I survive the meeting, and 3 hours later, I’m grabbing a sandwich for lunch and finally getting to do some actual work. Well, at least until I have to head to the next Very Important Meeting. As said, it’s one of these days.

During that later one, I get 3 texts – Mi (the girl one of Mi&Mi) is in Helsinki and asks if I have time to see her after work; There is an album release gig of a former roommate of a friend of Kat’s later in the evening and I should go; And my sister is heading to Baker’s with some of her work buddies after work, and I absolutely need to be there.

Combine these invitations with that the fact that Pens is having a house party (the legendary sort that you’d be a fool to miss), that there is a house-warming party at another friend’s new place that I’ve sworn I’d be going no matter what comes up, and that I’ve sort of convinced myself to go to eat properly after work.

Yeah, I can already see that I’m going to have a very tight schedule today. Quick look at the time. It’s three in the afternoon. All should be manageable if I don’t spend too much time on one thing. And at least, thinking map-wise, all the places where I should be at are quite near to each other.

Eventually my eight hour work day is over. Time to go grab some actual food (one ham sandwich just isn’t enough for a full day) at the nearby restaurant. The very same where there was that one waitress that my sister thought would really be my type. There is a sort of a perfect moment for it, so I find myself asking her out. She declines. Crap. For some reason “Crash and Burn, Live and Learn” feels like a good motto to adopt right about now. At least I have the perfect answer the next damn time my sis asks “Have you considered asking that waitress out on a date?”

I head out the restaurant (Note to self: Figure out a new lunch place. Also, think of excuses to tell work buddies on why you can no longer go there) and call Mi, who is just heading out from Kiasma.

She tells me, sounding extremely weary, how she’s been to a lot of meetings during the day as well (some important art people maybe? Dunno? Mi is a painter who has sold her works internationally. So my best guess on what’s she’s doing at meetings in Helsinki would be her agent or some future client) and now, according to her words, is “far too tired to see anyone.” She lets out a dramatic sigh (something that would suit a flapper perfectly) and tells me how it would have been delightful to see me again, but that it will just have to wait. She has style. I admit that. I let her know that it’s okay, I’ll live.

And don’t tell her that once the call is over I’m letting out a sigh of relief as my schedule seems to be getting so much easier. Only 20 hours of people to fit into some 6 hours or so remains.

So, next stop. Baker’s. I have mixed feelings about this place. It’s really a wonderful place to go to during the evenings, but gets dreadfully overcrowded and loud once the dance floor opens. Today our table is full of my sister’s work buddies who are celebrating a good week of well-cloned sheep or whatever unethical research it is that they do at the lab. A moment later Mitch joins us. Apparently miraculously cured from whatever it is that was bothering him on Wednesday.

A former co-worker of my sis opens up the subject that I keep talking about a lot these days - Finns feel awfully close to their stereotypes once you’ve spent some time abroad. You just don’t get into conversations with strangers here. He’s been to South America for a year and I find myself agreeing with his points a lot and providing my support for his claims with the experiences I’ve had lately.

My personal sad example on Finns being unapproachable comes from a small party a couple of weeks ago.

I go there because I was invited by one of the Finns I met in Norway last year and was told that it’s going to be a fun event with music, drinks and dancing. Event with a lot of friends, and friends of friends present. So, I mosey there, still fresh from the amazing openness that I’d gotten used to enjoying while abroad, and am greeted with what? Room full of people, huddled in groups of three or four, talking amongst themselves, about the same things they always talk about.

I’m perplexed.

I try to approach. First the few people I sort of know. And then others. While I claim success in the end, I find that it’s actually hard work to get to talk with these people, people who are supposed to be friendlies. Everyone is in their comfort zone with the group they’re there with and a “stranger” just doesn’t fit in.

I have this sense of being the ultimate outsider, the one who has lost the Finnish ability to sit around a table and not say anything until you’re too drunk to say anything intelligent. It really starts to get taxing on my nerves and psyche. I actually feel physically exhausted because of this after the party.

We talk about this sort of experiences for a while at Baker’s and after that I bid the people there farewell and I head out to the neighboring club to listen to the gig with Kat. She’s there with some other friends of her already, and I end up having the same discussion with one of them who has just come back from Miami. Everyone agrees, Finns are very closed and hard to approach and you can’t really talk about anything real with them.

Yeah, it’s paradoxical to keep talking about that with strangers who are Finns. It’s not lost on me.

It sort of feels good to find a peer group of others who share the view.

The band starts to play. I head to the floor. They’re actually damn good.

More talking after the gig. The DJ playing one of my favorite dance tunes of the moment, so dancing. Enjoying the music. Talking with strangers. Talking about strangers. Talk of Singstar. Ah, karaoke, the secret Finnish weakness. I allow myself to enjoy the moment for a while. I still have lots of time.

I get a text message from Pens: “A party of legends! You really should have been here! Where were you?”

I look at the time. It’s 3 a.m.

I look up from my watch. I’m standing outside in the blistering cold, somewhere a few dozen miles North from Helsinki.

Wouldn’t be hard to imagine a wolf howl in the distance right about now. The wind is picking speed.

I suck at making plans. I really do.

Live and learn…