Burt Reynolds on a Ship

I highly recommend the boat from Turku to Stockholm. It was only 18 euros. Blue waters and little isles pass by for hours and hours and hours. The food aboard ship is good, and the alcohol prices are competitive (but compared to mainland Finland, what isn’t?). I have spent the majority of my time writing in the smoking room. It looks out on the water nicely, and the coming and going of faces for the fix make it a kind of sanctuary, a vestige of proper ritual.

However when I assumed a position overlooking the water, I became more exposed. And sensing my anxiety, a Burt-Reynolds of a Finn sat down next to me and asked what I was writing. He was one of those good-natured guys who would never take a serious thing seriously. He refused to speak any English, and would only explain himself in more Finnish. I appreciated his humor. He bade me luck that the bulb go off in my mind, and he took for the buffet room.

Lunch was good; at first, I lamented the expense. Then seeing how there was an open tap of wine and beer, my spirit was relieved. I drank and toasted, and ate as much as possible, salmon and sauces, lox and mosses, salad, and cheese, and bread, and dessert. The conversational company could have been better. But such is drinking alone, you have to imagine your people around and have the recitation with yourself.

I saw the Burt-Reynolds Finn as he walked out. He stopped and asked skeptically if the food was any good. “It is good, good.” I was the last one in the dining room. They closed, but I still had more to eat and drink. This has been my lot since high school. To be the last one sitting at table, others cleaning up, I wonder, “Why has everyone left so soon? What’s all the rush? There is no where better to go! Yo-ho-ho-ho! Where is MY civilization? If I were king…”

I took the train from Rovaniemi last night. I have not taken an overnight train in many years. Now I remember what is so miserable about it. It is not the seats. The seats are bad; they are as bad as Amtrack (maybe worse). They leave a terrible crick in your back, and generally, unless you are totally beat already, sleep will be difficult. But the fundamental problem is that as soon as you fall asleep to the rhythmic rocking of the train, it stops. It sits motionless for 15 minutes, then moves 50 feet then sits again. It is like the terrible sensation of being at a traffic light which lasts too long. It is easy to sit for an hour doing nothing. It is hard to sit for 10 minutes waiting for the train to move so you can go back to sleep.

The train stopped at the dock station (30 minute time window) and I walked one block to the titanic Viking cruise ship. I didn’t realize I was taking a full blown cruise. I’ll take a hostel tonight (settled that ten minutes ago). My flight leaves early Wednesday morning. I’ll see how Stockholm is until then. If my return journey somehow included swimming, cycling, and canoeing it would be better. Turku by train, Stockholm by boat, Chicago through some bizarrely complicated flight pattern, and I have a return ticket to Stockholm for September 11th which I do not plan on using. The cheapest flight just happened to require I buy a return journey.

Neither Libraries, Nor Pictures

One day I’ll finish the post about Kuopio’s library, but not yet. One day I’ll post my favorite pictures of Kuopio. Today I am in Kajaani, a town 2.5 hrs north of Kuopio. It is smaller than any town yet. From the balcony of my new host, Samu, I can see an art deco clocktower on the other side of the river. It reminds me of the States. The architectural battles here are waged between traditional wooden structures whose beauty is unquestionable and the terrors of the 70’s and 80’s during which time they replaced the expressive architecture from the beginning of the century with functionalist messes. Contemporary constructions seems to have found an acceptable niche of good style within the modernist trend. But I do not know enough about architecture to speak more precisely about what this entails (besides wonderfully large windows!).

In any case, my days with Teemu were filled with Jazz, both of his compositions and excellent stuff he showed me. I took a bus to Kajaani yesterday; it is all part of my effort to trek north. I’ll be here one more day, then cross the country to Oulu.

Samu is a freelance photographer. Today he showed me bakery Pekka Heikkinen, the best in Finland. It has been owned and run by the family of the Heikkinen name for over 100 years. As we walked up to it, a baker was sitting outside. He popped up, asked if we wanted coffee and instead of asking generally if we wanted anything else, he said to me directly, “Do you want a fish sandwich too?” Salmon, cold smoked for five days with fresh sea salt, tomato, lettuce, and a little relish. The salmon was caught by a friend of his, the bread was made by him. Pictures of the family history lined the walls, and crisp sunlight poured on us as we sat in the summertime outdoor seating. Summer however is about over here. The air smells autumnal.