Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Don Juan in Helsinki: 22

'All Russian weather begins here in the Baltic, then blows to Moscow where it meets the Arctic winds and gets churned up just like in an ice machine. Do you know why?' We were inside the Hermitage Museum pretending to look at famous paintings; earlier we had stood under an umbrella just outside and pretended to gaze at the famous Peter and Paul Fortress across the water, which was still, it was said, used as a KGB prison. Maarit had declared that, despite the weather, we would at least act like tourists for the rest of the afternoon. It was like the old joke about Soviet salaries, she said: '"We pretend to work, and you pretend to pay us." They pretend there are sights here to see, and we will pretend to see them.' It was fun, like playing at being spies. Maarit had the knack of making everything a game. On weekends, anyway.

'No, why?' I said now.

'Because the earth spins east to west, of course. Didn't they teach you anything at your fancy school?'

'Just how to pretend to work,' I said. 'And how to lie to our teachers and parents.'

'But not how to lie in Russian,' she said. 'I can only lie in a foreign language, never in Finnish. I think that's why I like to learn languages. Each time I do, it's as if I've become a whole different person, like an actress.'

'Perkele,' I muttered. I didn't want another Stina. I had already become addicted to Maarit's blunt honesty. It was remarkable, though at times quite painful, to be with a girl who always told you the truth. We stopped at the cafeteria for the worst food, followed by the worst coffee, I had ever had. Maarit refused hers after the first few tastes.

'Never mind, the hotel will have better. It will have to have. At least this cost us nothing, since we paid in rubles. Have you ever seen a Russian film?'

'Only "Alexander Nevsky",' I replied, after some thought. 'The one where the German knights drop the babies in the fire.'

'Let's go to the cinema tonight. Maybe there will be something more interesting playing. I'll translate it for you.' And that was how we happened to go to see 'Solyaris', the famous science-fiction film by Andrei Tarkovsky. In those days, not every Russian had a TV set, so films like this were shown on successive nights in two-hour segments. This meant that we had to also come back the next evening (after another dreadful supper; by the time we returned to Helsinki my gums ached, and my teeth felt loose from eating the Russian food) to see the second part. We sat in the dark together in the front row watching this story of a man who cannot escape his dead wife, who has been revived from his memories by an alien planet as a method of communicating with him. Beside me, Maarit whispered constantly: 'Now she is saying that she has no memory of the past, now she is begging him to tell her if he still loves her...' It was like dying or being born again, to sit in darkness staring with wide eyes at a bright, blazing mysterious new world, having it explained in whispers by the voice of the woman one loved. Did I say I had never again been so happy as on that night with Matty and Stina? I was wrong. I was happiest in Leningrad with Maarit.

And it was this very same film Solyaris that caused me to bonk my very first Russian babe. Now this is something you must know about me: even though I am a most liberal fellow when it comes to bonking all attractive young women of every race and nation of origin, still I have never cared for the Russian ones. They are like English girls; not so terribly clean downstairs. And perhaps it is the bad food, but all of them seem to become very stout and unattractive rather soon in life. The staff of the Hotel Sovietskaya, for example, aside from the KGB men, was almost completely cleaning ladies who looked like sumo wrestlers in nurses' kit and sat in a sullen group inside a closet at the end of the corridor, chain-smoking and trading dentures. The younger ones on the streets of the city were more slender of course, but they dressed badly and wore bright make-up like clowns. It is not such an easy thing to do, but they managed to make even Finnish girls look chic. So for these reasons, Likkanen had no interest in them. In fact, I had never bonked any Russian women before 1979 or so. By then many had emigrated to the West and learned how to dress and wash themselves, like gorillas in captivity.

But in spite of this I had remained in love with Soviet-bloc cinema. And to be perfectly fair, even Tarkovsky preferred to use Armenian actresses, who are very lovely women and quite bonkable, in his films. I think it was 1979, perhaps it was 1980, when his 'Stalker' was finally released in Paris, as part of a 'Soviet Science-Fiction Film Festival' at a movie theatre on the rue des Rennes. It is gone now. It was not the 'Grande' or the 'Galande'--what was it called? The 'Metropol'? I cannot remember. For years I kept the playbill and the schedule, but they are lost. If you know this, please post a message on this blog. This cinema was quite near to me at that time because I was then living in a rented flat at St. Sulpice, in fact, directly beneath a large one owned by Catharine Deneuve. And no, in reply to your natural question, I was never fortunate enough to bonk with this lovely, tragically vulnerable actress and French national sex symbol, though on the two occasions we shared a ride in the lift, she snubbed me most rudely, which is what one expects and even desires from a beautiful star of her magnitude. In some ways, that is even better than a bonk, because the memory of it stays with you longer. The little flat I had had formerly been rented to a 'Miss Kitkat', a Turkish airlines hostess; all that year, at any hour of the day or night, the telephone would ring and guttural male Muslim voices would say, 'Allo, Miss Kitkat, s'il vous plait?' Often they would not take 'non' for an answer and would attempt to forcibly negotiate a price with me. To this day, I cannot even look at the candy bar of the same name without shuddering. Sometimes I would then launder the bedclothes again (and wipe off the receiver with alcohol) after such a phone call, out of sheer hypochondria. Anyhoo, this film festival was showing three films a day for 10 days; not even I had the time or stamina to see them all. Aside from 'Stalker,' I recall quite clearly 'The Savage Hunt of King Stakh' (http://www.russiandvd.com/store/product.asp?sku=41217&aid=6729), the Strugatskys' 'Dead Mountaineer Hotel' (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0204526/), which was Estonian, and Lem's 'Test Pilot Pirx' (http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1809357531/info), which was Polish. The highlight of this last was a scene where the rocket-ships, which had foolishly been filmed horizontally rather than vertically, all had their exhaust flames curling upward from gravity, which made the audience laugh. Well, they were used to 'Star Wars', I suppose.

The theatre was large and cavernous and had once been quite grand, with dark mauve velvet walls, art-deco sconces and railings, and marble bathrooms. Unfortunately, these were so poorly maintained that while I was pissing after watching 'Pirx', which was quite a long movie, the overhead cistern cracked and soaked me with a flood of water. Outside, it was one of those bright, sharply cool days that occasionally race through Paris in the autumn, and I stood shivering and dripping under the marquee with a group of photographers, who were there to snap some expatriate Russian celebrity or other; the theatre served as a sort of cultural centre for the Slavic exile community. A wave of Algerian terror bombings had recently hit the rue des Rennes, so the street was fenced off by a row of grilled metal crowd barriers. As I debated whether or not to try to dash the four or so blocks home in the cold (though of course this was quite pleasant weather for a true Finn), a taxi-cab pulled up directly in front of these, and a very tall, very glamourous young tinsel-haired woman in a brown sable fur coat got out and looked about, scowling. 'You!' she said with a dramatic Russian accent, pointing at me. 'Pay this man at once!' This was Batgirl.

In Paris in those days, there was a class of people, usually foreign, who existed only to be noticed. Some of these wanted to be actors, some clothes designers, some musicians, some merely wanted to become generic celebrities. And this could happen in an instant in that city, and quite often it did. I will give you an example. Not far from me on D'Assas lived a rich young Dutch fellow from a wealthy family, what we would nowadays call a 'Trustafarian'. He and his wife were also terrific hippies; I would often see them shopping at the Vie Claire on Raspail or Le Jardin on the rue du Bac. They would eat only biotically-grown grains and vegetables. They were both quite handsome people with very blonde long hair (she wore hers in flaxen braids) and fancied themselves clothes-makers; they would always be dressed in their latest creations, which were sewn together from bits of bright coloured felt and rather resembled what you might see worn by small children at a 'Renaissance Fair'. And in every sort of weather, rain or sunshine, he always wore a little gilt-edged pill-box hat that he had made himself from stiff felt and brocade. He wore this ghastly thing every day of his life for three or four years, until one night, I saw him at a 'Zoom Magazine' party in the Dixieme chatting up a few lady fashion critics. He was also pimping his wife (whom I ended taking home that night; she turned out to be quite charming, despite her unshaven legs, and was an expert at organic Tantric sexual techniques), but since all the male fashion people there were gay blades, he was a bit out of luck there. No good ever comes to anyone from bonking Likkanen. Nonetheless, the next week his stupid hat was in all the magazines, and a month later it was in the window of Galeries Lafayette. Because those writers who work at magazines have very little imagination. They are easily hypnotized by any bright new thing that is dangled in front of their eyes. Sometimes a single glimpse on a Paris sidewalk is enough to make a career. I have seen this happen with woollen caps from Ecuador and cheap red Korean ear-muffs sold by street-vendors, as well. And, of course, often with beautiful young women like Batgirl.

Normally, when I bonk a babe, I have to think up a nickname for her as an aide-memoire. This can be quite a chore! Not so with this one. 'You can call me Batgirl,' she said. Well, not just to me, but to the photographers as well, who were now all madly snapping her picture. She had leaned back against the cab and struck a pose, which caused her sable to shift enough so that one could see that underneath it she was wearing nothing but black stockings and garters. I could not help but notice that her hair was not naturally tinsel. She was a very big girl, looking a little like the tennis player Maria Sharapova, but with paler skin and finer bones and more graceful from her training as a prima ballerina. Her first name was perhaps Galina or Ludmila or Alexandra or something, but her patronymic was 'Batkovna', so she told everyone to just call her Batgirl. God only knows what her last name was; I'm sure she changed it every few months. But now, while I bargained with her Senegalese driver to take me home, she suddenly stared at me as if thunderstruck. 'Where are you going?' she demanded.

'Home. Before I catch a cold,' I said.

'OK, I will go with you,' she said, getting back into the taxi and slamming the door. 'I am a good nurse.'

I clambered in beside her while she continued to stare at me, her pupils dilated like those of a feral animal in the dark. Had I met her somewhere before? 'Are you married?' she asked suddenly, lighting one of my damp cigarettes.


'That's too bad. I prefer to be with couples--I like it to have a woman wait on me. But in this case, I will be with you only, because I'm a little bit in love with you already,' she went on, with the greatest sincerity. 'It happens to me this way sometimes. I had an orgasm when I first saw you, without even touching myself. How do you say, a spon...spon...'

'"Spontaneous'?' I suggested.

'Yes, yes, spontaneous. I am always very spontaneous. This has only happened to me twice before, so don't laugh at me. You should feel very, how do you say...'


She stuck out her tongue at me. 'No,' she said, blowing smoke at me. 'Scared!' In that moment, something about her manner reminded me of Maarit, so I took her home. Perhaps they were cousins. Or perhaps it was just having smoke blown at me. Or, as my dear friend Lou would say, blown up my ass.

The rest of the week we watched Russian films in the day and made hot squishy monkeys all night. Batgirl's sexual technique was simple, and basically it was the same one that she employed for every other activity, like eating or telling a joke; whatever she did, she tried to do it to death. I think this was something very primal from her Slavic heritage as a huntress and herder of livestock. It took a real man to please Batgirl, and I am proud to say that I survived it. But it was about this time that I decided to move to New York. The problem with Batgirl was that aside from making monkeys, she did not actually want to do anything else in life, except eat candy bars and watch TV and films. She had no interest in pursuing her career as a ballet dancer, saying only that she was already 'too old and fat for serious parts'. The one time I got her out of the flat on a grocery shopping trip to Inno, she bought a stack of Elles and Vogues, which she then flipped through indignantly for the next few days. 'I am much prettier than her!' she would exclaim contemptuously. 'I am sexier than this one!' She would then tear the offending page out and throw it on the floor, which soon became covered with debris. As she watched TV, her lips would move with those of the actors, her eyes would well up with tears, or her face would turn bright red while she laughed hysterically. This got even worse when we were watching 'Stalker' at the theatre, for instance, though luckily there were not so many laughs in that film, so she merely wept her way through it noisily. Hearing Russian again, she said, made her particularly emotional. Then why had she ever left, I asked her.

'Oh,' she snarled, 'It is a terrible shit-hole!'

One night while she was alternately shrieking and sobbing her way through a Louis de Funes comedy on FR2, I slipped out for a walk. I needed to think. In Stockholm, where I had lived for several years before moving to Paris, I had been friends with several musicians in the folk-rock bands 'Tretiarkriget' ('Thirty Years' War') and 'Knebnakajse' (the name of a famous Swedish mountain peak). One of these, a guitarist, lived with his wife in a big group house in Bromma, along with a bunch of other hippies, including a medical student. One day the medical student brought a big blonde puppy home. At first everyone loved the little monster, but it kept getting bigger and bigger, until it was eating everything in sight. In addition, it could not be paper-trained; my friend's wife soon spent most of her time either feeding it or cleaning up after it. Then the medical student decided he was sick of the animal and wanted to have it put to death. Naturally, being a tender-hearted chick, my friend's wife refused. The last time I saw the poor fellow, he had quit his gig with the band and he, his wife, and the huge monster dog were moving out to the country. I realized that this was exactly my situation with Batgirl. She was not a human being, she was simply a big blonde pet. Soon she would eat everything inside my flat. Either I would have to have her put to sleep--or else take her with me everywhere I went in life, even to New York. Though she would likely have to be kept in quarantine for several months first.

But I had forgotten that Russian wolfhounds don't just bark, sometimes they bite. And they always run in packs. There was a human one following me now across St. Sulpice on my way back home. The Place was brightly lit for the tourists, which is pretty but very annoying if your windows overlook it; by the pink sodium vapour glare I saw his sharp face quite clearly. He was dressed like a clochard and had a dark stubble of beard. How did I know he was Russian? He looked like he'd been murdered the week before but had somehow survived the autopsy. He was just too nasty to die. He stood in front of me now, blocking my way. 'Want her?' he said in bad French.

I shook my head. We both knew who he was talking about. 'Nyet, komandir,' I said, thinking of Leningrad. 'You can have her back.' He gave me a very hard stare and flicked cigarette ash at me. I knew that trick.

'Either way it will cost you the same,' he said.

'Forget it,' I said. 'Wait here and I'll send her down to you. All she does is eat.'

'Don't fuck with me, pédé, or I'll hurt you. A lot,' he said, raising his voice sharply. 'Really, it's cheaper for you just to pay me off.' This was a mistake on his part, to say 'vraiment'. It's not something real gangsters say, not even in France. He took me for a Swede, but I was actually a Finn. You see? Again, the wrong dog. So I head-butted him very suddenly, and his nose exploded. Then I kicked him hard in the groin. Well, I was in a bad mood anyway, and this made for a nice distraction. For a Russian, he was not so very tough, but I suppose living in the West had done that to him. Also, he was very likely a heroin addict, since he was also clearly a pimp. A pimp who was very bad at his job, I thought. Perhaps he was a dissident poet; these were always popping up in New York in the '80s. I made sure he had no gun and threw his switch-blade clasp knife down a drain. Then I left him there for some American tourists to rescue. It is tempting in a situation like this to have the last word, like the tough guys in the movies. It is just like dumping a woman; for hours after one's head is full of clever remarks. But take it from me, it is always best to walk away in silence and never look back. It is the Finnish way. It makes for finality. Or 'closure', as the magazines say. I felt that he and I had achieved this. But with Batgirl, it might be a bit more tricky.

Upstairs, Louis de Funes, wearing a Catholic cardinal's robes, had just jumped off a balcony into a manure pit, much to her delight. Well, this simple childlike pleasure was a great part of her charm--I could not resent it. "I met a guy outside who says he knows you,' I said to her. 'A Russian guy.' French has an excellent word for guy: 'mec'. Almost as cool as 'dude', I think.

'It has nothing to do with me,' she said, without taking her eyes from the screen.

'Is he your husband?'

'No, no! He is just some low-life scum-bag I did a few favours for once; now he thinks he owns me. He is always following me around making trouble.' But her mood was spoiled. The rest of the evening she was quite cross, and the next afternoon, she said, 'Why don't you go to the cinema by yourself today? I'm not feeling so very good.'

'Then I'll stay home with you.' I replied. 'I am a good nurse.' Ha!

'No, no, you go. I want to spend some time by myself.'

'That's just the illness talking. Besides, "Solyaris" is playing; I have seen it three times already.'

'What about "Aelita"?'

'I hate silent films,' I told her. 'Just stay in the bed, and I'll make you some soup. It may not taste very good, though--we are running short on groceries.'

Over the next two days, Batgirl grew more and more restless and angry. At one point, she even screamed at me, 'Why can't you just leave me alone? Why won't you just go out, you bastard?' She used the word 'crapule', which I have always had a very great affection for, since it sounds like 'krapula' in Finnish. So I just I pointed out, very reasonably, I thought, that it was actually my flat we were in. 'Well, why is there never anything to eat then?' she said and burst into tears. I think, in retrospect, this was a sign she actually felt some affection for me and was sorry at the direction our relationship had taken. Or perhaps she was just getting very hungry.

I gave her an embarrassed smile. 'No money,' I said. 'I'm sure my mother will send me a cheque on the first of the month--then I'll take you to the 'Tour d'Argent".' Until then, I almost said, we can live on love, but I didn't want to overdo it. The next morning she was gone, along with the television set. Which was fair enough; I was sick of the sound of it anyway. In fact, I still cannot bear to hear a very loud French film playing on TV--this is a trauma from which I may never recover. I had hidden my wallet and passport away in the one place I could be sure she would never look: inside a box of powdered soap in the cabinet under the kitchen tap, along with the other cleaning supplies. So really, I was quite lucky. If I had left the flat at all, the two of them would have stripped it completely. Russians may think all foreigners are weak-minded fools, but Finland has had 200 years experience dealing with them. They do make wonderful films, however.

Next time: Redrum!

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Don Juan in Helsinki: 21

Hey, this is Donho Likkanen, still drinking at the St. Urho Bar. Remember what I told you about Riita Koivistu? You know, the one who met Strawberry at the hotel, the typical Finnish 'daddy's girl'? Well, Maarit was a bit like that, except that her father was an alcoholic in Oulou, who she rarely ever saw. She was from a poor family, what you Americans would call 'from the wrong side of the tracks'. And while I would bet that Riita is Riita all the time. Maarit was different--she was only Maarit during the weekdays. Cool, calm, sensible, greedy, sober, responsible, hard-working, well-organized Maarit. Everything you would ever want in an office supervisor or accountant. On weekends and holidays, she was someone else altogether. Someone wild, unpredictable, almost a savage. Her hair was very dark, black and shiny as a raven; her teeth were white and sharp like the wolf. Perhaps she was part-Russian or even Sami, which is what we call the Lapp people in the north. Because on weekends, she was a witch. I had never met a girl like her before. For one thing, she was poor. For another, she was compulsively honest. Which turned out to not be such a good trait, really. But at that time, as you might imagine, I was hungry for someone who was the opposite of Stina.

I was on the deck, standing at the thick white iron railing trying to light a cigarette. In the roaring Baltic wind with its mist and spray, this was an impossible task; every time, as soon I struck a match it blew out, no matter how quickly I cupped my hand around it. Suddenly I heard a laugh beside me, and the click of a butane lighter; then a pair of pink hands holding a tiny flame were suddenly in front of me. I leaned forward and lit my cigarette from it. The owner of the hands was short, black-haired, very pale and smiling, with big icy-blue eyes and round, red cheeks, like a doll. This was Maarit. She lit her own cigarette and looked at me. I looked back. For a few moments we stared this way at each other (which I had never done before, only seen in films), while the deck pitched and rocked beneath us. In fact, it was just like a film. Her expression softened, she exhaled mentholated smoke and said, 'Want to bonk?'

To save money, I had been napping in the lounge, but she had booked a tiny sleeping cabin. For the next few hours we made hot squishy squid sex on the bottom bunk, all sweaty arms and salty squirting, adjusting our movement to the swell of the sea. In between, we drank viina, and she taught me how to play poker. I believe she enjoyed gambling more than she enjoyed bonking, even.

'I've never bonked a rich boy before,' she said while we were getting dressed in order to disembark.

'I'm not rich.'

'You talk like a Swede. You went to school with the Rosens and the Herlins and the Julins,' she said. I shrugged.

'They're just like everybody else,' I said with heavy irony. 'Under socialism, we all are.'

'Socialism is crap,' she said. 'Someday I'm going to be rich. Really, really rich. Know what I'll do then? I'll build a chain of luxury hotels with gambling casinos inside them. All over Europe. And I'll just spend my life going from one to another--there will always be a suite reserved just for me on the top floor.'

'Do you bonk lots of guys this way?' I asked her. 'You know, just meeting them casually like this?'

'Japp!' she said defiantly, her eyes daring me to say something more about it. We were walking up the stairwell now to the main deck, hauling our bags. Suddenly it seemed terribly important to me to say exactly the right words and in the right tone of voice. I tried to imagine what the Old Man of Odense would say in my shoes. Well, aside from drooling and howling.

'Do you think you might ever want to give that up for a bit? If you met the right guy, I mean?'

She looked at me crossly. 'I might,' she said at last, just as we reached the gangplank. And suddenly, just like that, I possessed a new ambition.

The problem with my ambition is that compared to hers, for example, or Stina's, or even Bjorni's, mine was not really very great, was it? Certainly my father would not have thought so, if I had offered it in place of becoming a doctor. I could just imagine that conversation: 'Donho, what do you plan to do with the rest of your life now that you've dropped out of university?'

'Oh, I plan to spend it being the right guy for Maarit, so she'll stop bonking strangers on ferries.'

But that thought leads me to another. I really had no idea of what being the right guy for Maarit, or for anyone else for that matter, might actually mean. How did one go about becoming such a person? What made my cold, distant, elderly father the 'right guy' for my mother? Certainly I hadn't been the right guy for Stina. Somehow I had managed to become so invisible to her that she had cried more tears over her agent in Copenhagen than she ever had for me. But was that what I really wanted, though--to make girls cry? One thing I already knew for sure about Maarit: however things turned out between us, she would never cry any tears for me or anyone else. She was tough. I admired that. Plus, she was amazing at bonking. Already, I didn't want anyone else. That is always the first, most dangerous trap to avoid when meeting a woman, I tell a group of Swedish dudes at the bar. Never, never limit your precious natural resource of bonking desire to just one woman, no matter how much you are tempted to do so. You are only squandering it. It is like petroleum. They agree with me enthusiastically. Then they ask me where they can actually meet some young Finnish women. I have no idea, really, so I will take them to 'Onella'. Hold on, I will BBIAF. In the meantime, think of happy thoughts, like bonking. I always do.

OK, here I am in Onella, which is a club to go to in order to dance and meet people. It is also a much noisier place than the last one. Of course, it is getting later in the day, and with the rain there is nowhere else to go for most people. I really should write bar reviews as I rove about like this. But why bother? I am sure there are many of them online already. Besides, all I am drinking is coffee right now. I suppose I could review the toilets.

That was what Maarit reminded me of. Coffee. She was sharp and dark and bittersweet, like espresso with a shot of Salmiakkikossu. Even her clothes smelled of this aroma instead of perfume (for obvious reasons, as I was later to discover. There are no coincidences). And of course menthol cigarettes. Speaking of which, it is time for a cigarette. What time is it? Late afternoon. Soon, I can call Maarit's office. Soon I can call New York. Oh wait, not until tomorrow at this time. So I have 24 hours more drinking and wandering about to do, like in 'Ulysses' by James Joyce. You are surprised I have read that book? Why? In addition to being the world's largest per capita drinkers of coffee (and therefore pissers), we Finns are also the largest per capita readers of books. Yes, it is true! It is our secret national vice. We may look stupid, sound stupid, and speak in a stupid, half-invented language, but we all read lots of books. What we choose to learn from them, of course, is anybody's guess. We aren't talking.

It may surprise you to learn this, but actually I think about bonking quite a lot. I don't just mean the sexy parts, though of course, I think about them, too; I mean that I contemplate the subject in a detached, scientific manner much as a Zen Master or a great philosopher might. Often when I am in the middle of it. Well, sometimes that is the best time for such meditation, since sex can become very boring rather quickly, actually, if you really think about it. Especially if you are doing it with someone who does not interest you. I will explain what I mean. A few years ago, I read a paper by the British academic, Will Self, called 'The Quantity Theory of Insanity'. In this he theorized, 'What if there is only a fixed proportion of sanity available in any given society in any given time?' This applies not only to society as a whole, but to smaller groups within it, such as the country of Finland or the Swedish dudes drinking with me now. The way this works is that when one person in a group, in a typical office workplace, for example, is clearly insane and causes terrible trouble for the other persons there, it unites the rest in comparative sanity. In other words, that lone nutcase person becomes a sort of totem or 'scapegoat' for all the crazy and bad behaviour in the office; it becomes mentally 'designated' to them. This causes everyone else to be nice and polite to each other. Laura the crazy temp was like that. Or Camilla in my office in New York right now. But once this person leaves or is fired, then suddenly everyone starts behaving badly toward each other again. There is no unity in the office any more. It is exactly the same principle as when you spend up to your income. Or with NATO after the end of the USSR. It is obvious that this Quantity Theory principle extends to economics, as well. Capitalism proves it; the richer one person in a group (let us say a group of friends from high school, for instance) becomes, then the poorer the rest are by comparison. By contrast, socialism is based on the principle that everyone is naturally half-poor and half-sane, and I think this is particularly true here in Finland.

So naturally then I began to wonder: is this principle also true for sex? Is there perhaps a 'Quantity Theory of Bonking'? In other words, is there only a limited quantity of sex available in any given society in any given time? In the old days, of course, young people did most of the bonking, so old people didn't bother to. But these days with Viagra all that has changed. Now seniors are bonking like crazed weasels, and the latest statistics show that young couples are too tired and busy to do it very often at all. In addition, there is always in every group of friends a sort of 'designated bonker', and this person, whether male or female, is assigned more and more of this role over time, as a quick tour of the online 'swinging community' websites will show you. Is it even possible that when one person in a small community is doing most of the heavy bonking, it makes everyone else more pleasant and polite? Like in an office? Or a primitive African tribe, where the chief has all the wives? Or even at an orgy in Westport, Connecticut? Of course, there is jealousy at first, but after a few years, doesn't that often turn into a sense of relief, even gratitude? After all, it is such hard work to just keep on bonking all those boring and sometimes surprisingly unattractive people. And one must really have a deep inner sense of optimism to keep working away at it, decade after decade. One must have 'sisu'. I think not so many people really have that these days, not where sex is concerned. Maybe even I don't any more. It is like those Hindus who are suffering from a new disease nowadays called 'curry fatigue'; they are eating spicy curries for many years, and then one day--BLAAT! Their digestive system just explodes. Perhaps that is what has happened to me with bonking.

But I do not tell the Swedish dudes this. I do not mention 'bonking fatigue', because no studly young dude wishes to hear about that. Let them find some nice young Finnish ladies to dance with. Why spoil their fun?

Only, they have not met any nice young Finnish girls. They have met two 'natashas'--Russian 'sex workers', who often come here illegally. These are a big problem to Finland nowadays, and there is talk of banning prostitution in the country, I have read. The number of sex clubs has risen in Helsinki from 1 to 13, and recently the Russian embassy was discovered to be running a brothel. I tell one of the Swedish dudes this, but unfortunately, as the result of this good deed, now I need to find another bar. The manager has overheard me and asked me to leave this club. Apparently there is an 'upper age limit of 27' here, and they don't want any old men hanging about. Quite right, too. Bonking fatigue is contagious.

BTW, another reader has emailed to me asking how I can connect to Wifi networks so easily wherever I go in Helsinki. Do they have public Wifi access for free? Well, to be totally honest, I don't know. I use a package of WEP networking password detectors called 'Aircrack' in order to connect to other people's protected networks. This scans nearby routers for password keys, which are notoriously poorly encrypted over WEP packets. For example, right now I am inside the Onella's office manager's computer on the club's private server, which is a Dell in his office. I am going through his financial records now. Oops. I accidentally deleted them. Oh well, I'm sure they are all well backed up. You are surprised I am a bit of a criminal? Don't be. Finland is perhaps the most law-abiding country in the world, with some of the world's highest luxury taxes on things like cars or computers. Or alcohol. Or cigarettes. Therefore every Finn is constantly buying and selling things on the black market and thus breaking the law. Historically, we are a nation of smugglers, anyway, especially during our 'Prohibition' years, which were roughly the same as yours in America. A true Finn is always a bit of a criminal. Maarit taught me this, as well. In fact, Maarit taught me everything I know about money.

And about life in jail. Oops, must run!

Well, he deserved that for kicking me out, didn't it? There is no justice in this life, you know--one must arrange for it oneself on an impromptu basis, when handed such an opportunity. OK, I am back. The rain is over. Now I am in a bar called the 'Angleterre', which is an English-style pub with a big Union jack flag outside the door. Have I been in here before? I cannot remember. It seems very familiar to me, however. All of these bars are beginning to look the same to me. They are like women. I think it is time to switch back to viina, I don't fancy the look of the 'fish'n'chips' here. Or maybe I will have a Guinness. Yes, it's true, I have been to jail. I haven't told you that. In fact, I have never told anyone. But it's not such a shameful thing these days to have spent a bit of time behind bars. It is common in professional sports in America. And in business. And only a few people are still alive who know my secret--Vaino, I suppose. Kylikki. Bjorn Wahlroos. And, of course, Maarit, who put me there.

It was a very strange feeling when I returned to Helsinki that midsummer. I had been away less than three days, yet my life was now changed in every way. For one thing, I was no longer in school. For another, I was madly crazy in love with Maarit. And for the third, I now had to serve my year of military service. We Finns do not quite view this the way the rest of the world does. In 1972 there was no war here and little likelihood of one. Our draft is fairly popular, even today, particularly with reservists, because it gives them a chance to get away from their wives and children for a week or two each year and go camping. The training part is most unpleasant, however, and so i was quite right to dread it, but dodging or evading it was simply out of the question. Even Vaino had submitted to his 'intti' the year before. Nowadays, of course, one can be discharged merely for being an 'Internet addict' (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/08/03/internet_addicts_finland/). I guess I would qualify for that now.

Uh oh. A 'natasha' has sat down next to me. She is not Russian but Latvian, she says when I ask. They are the 'poor country cousins' of the Swedes, just as the Estonians are ours. When she climbed into the barstool I saw needlemarks on her thighs, poor thing; she is no use to me, just as I am no use to her. But I will buy her viina until she finds a nice customer, I tell her, and she tells me to call her 'Yasmeena'. OK, Yasmeena, I will you the story of me and Maarit.

Next time: Leningrad Cowboy

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Don Juan in Helsinki: 20

The rain has nearly stopped outside, so now it's time for me to move on to a different bar. I will stop at Stockmann's on the way and buy an umbrella and a raincoat perhaps. So now I am saying goodbye to my friends here, Nad and Ville and all the others. You know, if they were Americans or Swedes I truly might suspect them of being gay blades! But, joking aside, that is rare in Finland, because gay sex is almost physically impossible for a true Finnish man--they must go to places like New York to do it. Although it is true those young fellows did seem a great deal more interested in Stina's partner than they were in her during the nude scene on TV. Of course, I know just how they felt, since I felt myself a similar horrible fascination that night in Odense watching 'Hamlet.'

This was not the only time I have ever had the strange experience of reading about myself in a journal and discovering that my memory of the relationship was very different from the lady's. I have had several reviews of myself posted on http://www.dontdatehimgirl.com, for example, that were very crazy and inaccurate. For example, I do not wear my sunglasses indoors very often--and never during sex. And then there was 'Laura'. This was a very strange chick who was writing a website, while working unsuccessfully as an 'office temp' during the daytimes, so from the very first date I could read her account online of everything that happened between us. Including her version of our conversations. So naturally, I asked her to remove my real name and any references to Finland or the street where I lived in New York. But she still seemed to think I was her boyfriend. I thought we were just bonking (actually, I thought we were NOT bonking, because she claimed to have deep problems with the idea of sex, so mostly we just slept together the first few dates.) But when I first read her website, I was forced to send her a legal agreement from my lawyer. So after that, she changed my name to 'Jason'. You can read the whole thing at: http://web.archive.org/web/20030323170602/http://www.laurasnyctales.com/. To be totally honest, I have almost no memory of her at all, except that she was always suggesting ways she would redecorate my loft if she moved into it. In New York, this is the worst possible warning signal to send a person, sort of like a romantic '911'.

OK, I have moved on to a new bar, the 'St. Urho'. This place is named after the satirical festival invented by Finnish refugees in Minnesota to mock the perpetual rule of Urho Kekkonen. The rain has driven many tourists and local drinkers off the Esplanadi and indoors, so now there is a crowd of them, smelling of warm wet dog, in here drinking and talking very loudly. The music is strictly 'The Streets' and 'Daft Punk', very last year. But all the women here are with men, so at least I am safe from them for now. I have taken great care to avoid Vaino, as well; I thought perhaps I spotted him in the distance on Bulevardi, after I left Stockmann's, standing in the rain and howling like a wolf, but I might easily have been mistaken. Actually, that reminds me of an odd incident that happened to me in Odense on the way to the theatre, that I had not thought of again until this moment. The theatre, BTW, turned out to be just south of the train station; Stina had cleverly detoured me around it in her written directions so that I would not try to meet her there. I suppose, instead of at the flat. Where, of course the journal, with all of its terrible information, was waiting for me.

You know, shock is an odd thing. When you are old, it robs you of all appetite, even for life, but when you are young, it can also make you very hungry. Odense, in addition to being the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen--who ran away from home at about the same age as Stina and never came back again--is also the home of Odense Marcipan, so on my way to Jernbanegade, I stopped at Den Gamle Kro Bakerei and bought a few marzipan pastries. I was eating one outside on the street when I was hit by a bicycle from behind. The impact knocked me over into a puddle, and sent my pastries skidding along the pavement. The bicyclist, a pimply teenaged boy, quickly pedaled away, while I lay there too stunned to move. 'It seems we've drowned,' said a voice roughly in my ear. I was helped slowly to my feet. My right leg was very sore (I would limp slightly for days), and I had a bruised and swollen cheek where I had hit the cobbles, but nothing appeared to be broken.

My rescuer was an ancient homeless guy, squat and gnome-like, with wet shoulder-length grey hair that had been carelessly braided in places, and a long streaked grey and white beard. He had a black pirate patch over one eye, and when he smiled, it showed that every other tooth in his head was missing; most of those remaining glinted a dull silver. 'Could have been worse, son. In the old days that would have been a horse,' he said in thickly accented Swedish. His breath was a rotting mix of gums, stale Albani beer and akvavit. 'Or even a Leichter Panzerspahwagen. I can remember this street when it was hung over with swastikas. Your Count von Rosen was the first to use those, you know, not Hitler.' He belched, and began to brush the mud from my jacket, attempting to dry me off with the pages of a newspaper. I looked down--I now looked as wretched and bedraggled as he did.

'Thanks,' I said miserably. 'Can you tell me which way is the theatre?'

He gave me a shrewd glance. 'Love trouble?'

'How--how can you tell?' I said.

'There's always a girl in the picture. Remember that. Always a girl in the picture for you, son. Will you be staying on for Midsommer Aften?' (Midsummer Eve, later that month, what we Finns call 'St. John's Eve').

'I doubt it,' I said,

'Too bad,' he replied with every sign of deep regret. 'Denmark needs babies, many more babies. The theatre is just there, past the hotel, on its own little court.'

'Thank you, Herr..?' I said, fishing in my pocket for some change to give him. All I could find were several Danish kronor coins, which I handed to him.

'Me? I'm the Old Man of Odense!' Then he began to howl quite loudly, startling an elderly couple passing by. He popped the coins into his mouth one by one and swallowed them; then winked at me. 'You're a good boy. Give my regards to your mother and father.' When I glanced back in his direction from the next block, he was gone. And you want to know the strangest thing of all? All evening long, in spite of my heartbreak and despair at what I had just read in Stina's flat, a part of me deep down glowed from what he had said. 'You're a good boy.' No one had ever called me that before, certainly not my own father. Not that I could remember, anyway. Words have a magical power all of their own. I think I should like to be the sort of person who travels the earth always knowing the right words to say to make people feel that glow. But I am not. Instead, I must bonk them.

The plot of Hamlet is a very easy one to remember, even if you don't know it. It's about a kid, Hamlet, who is supposed to be king of Denmark, only his uncle Claudius has murdered his father, married his mother, and seized the throne. So he sulks and throws tantrums and occasionally kills people. He has a weepy girlfriend named Ophelia who drowns herself after he accidentally murders her father. Almost exactly like Vaino's life, really, now that I come to think of it, although his father didn't actually die for another year or two. But of course, Aino had. At the end of the play, in the final scene, everybody dies in a great bloodbath, basically. I must admit that I was rather looking forward to that part. My seat was on the balcony; after the lights went out, I went down and sat in an empty seat on the first row, so my view was not obstructed. Therefore I could see the faces of all the actors quite clearly.

The object of my most intense and horrified fascination was, of course, Hamlet himself. He was wearing a tunic and medieval tights, so it was impossible for me not to be constantly and most unpleasantly aware of his 'powerfully huge thighs' throughout the evening. After Hamlet has seen his father's ghost on the ramparts (who spills the beans about having been murdered), then Claudius makes his first appearance. Frankly, even in tights, he was not so 'old and frail' as I should have liked--but I suppose that is the trick of the actor's craft. Certainly, Stina looked ravishing and otherworldly in her stage debut; if she was nervous, she did not show it, other than by a certain over-loud emphasis of the wrong word at the wrong time. But in fairness, she was still very young. She did not do any worse than 'S' did in the role of Hamlet, really; both did pretty well I thought during the long, difficult scene when the 'play within a play', the 'Mousetrap', is performed. So I went wildly back and forth in my convictions. I was almost convinced at first that they had only a professional relationship from observing the 'chemistry' between them--but then in the famous 'country matters' scene I changed my mind again. Of course Ophelia was soon dead and out of the picture; but by then I couldn't help but notice the obvious hatred between Hamlet and Claudius. But was this, again, merely a professional jealousy? Or even just good acting? That seemed unlikely to me. And so it went for me for over two long hours, wavering back and forth between certainties, between elation and despair. Until at last, we came to the long final bloodbath.

In this scene, Laertes, the son of Polonius and brother of Ophelia, has arrived at the court of Elsinore to revenge himself on Hamlet for murdering his father and driving his sister to kill herself. So Claudius helpfully arranges a duel between them, at which Hamlet will drink poison and so lose and be killed. However, halfway through, Hamlet goes crazy and kills Claudius by stabbing him with his sword. When it was time for this in the tonight's production, however, Hamlet was over-enthusiastic and 'his wild thrusting' was far too 'painfully vigourous' for Claudius to bear. So instead of dying in a dignified fashion, after a brief soliliquy, Claudius hoisted himself to his feet and, screaming obscenities, tried to strangle the much younger Hamlet. For a few suspenseful moments the two men swayed and tottered about, then tripped over the footlights and fell heavily together into the orchestra pit, for all purposes ending the performance. Though some attempt was made by Fortinbras to shout out his 'goodnight, sweet prince' speech before the curtain was pulled.

Stunned, I exited with the rest of the audience; I was to wait for her, according to Stina's intructions, at the cafe across the street. It seemed fairly certain to me that the two actors had some good motivation to dislike each other--and increasingly, the evidence was mounting that the reason for this was inside the pages of Stina's journal. But still, I felt I must actually meet Stina face to face again before I could be sure. It was irrational, of course, but I am sure everyone has felt this way at some time in their lifes. I sat at a little table facing the window; by the time she finally trailed out of the theatre doors and crossed the street, it was nearly midnight, and so was dark at last, since we were so far south. But it was a Saturday, so the streets of the little storybook city were quite brightly lit; I thought i could detect a weary reluctance in her steps as she walked in the cafe door. Perhaps she was just tired.

'Oh, I'm so exhausted!' she said when she caught sight of me. 'What a terrible ordeal! Did you see it, Lemo?' We hugged; she kissed me listlessly. 'Professional actors are so jealous--they are like big babies. Did you see how the two of them conspired to wreck my debut? I'll never forgive either of them as long as I live!' We ordered coffee and cakes, while she continued to chatter. She went over every nuance of her performance--she quizzed me for my opinion of each of her lines, but without waiting for any answer. Did she seem properly polished to me? Or over-rehearsed? She begged me to be honest with her: should she just give it all up? Was she totally without talent? It crossed my mind to say yes, but her performance at that moment would have made a liar of me. She was displaying a great deal of talent at hiding her emotions, whatever they might really be, where I was concerned.

As she talked, I saw a figure furtively steal out of the theatre doors behind her and tiptoe across the street during a long lull in the now very sparse traffic. It was Hamlet, still wearing his tunic and tights and little gaily-coloured feathered cap, with his stage sword thrust at an awkward angle into his belt. By the time Stina announced that she was too tired to eat and just wanted to go home to enjoy a long, hot bath, I had forgotten about him. But as the two of us walked together down Jernbanegade back toward her flat, I looked back and saw his shadow flitting behind us, hopping and dashing from one bit of cover--a lamp-post, a shop doorway--to another. Several times groups of tourists noticed him also and pointed him out to each other; perhaps they thought he was part of the town's miniature 'Hans Christian Andersen' theme park staff. In spite of his sword, I felt no fear of him; quite the reverse, in fact. If he confronted us, I felt I would enjoy giving him a good beating. The reason for my sense of confidence was very simple, if maybe unrealistic; we Finns traditionally believe all Swedish men to be 'homos'. In fact that is a favourite crowd chant during hockey matches between the two countries. By the time we approached Stina's front door, I was even feeling quite eager for him to rush out from the darkness and cause a scene. But he did not. For all I know, he spent the rest of the night outside, staring up at her windows. Swedes are always scared of a true Finn.

But still his haunting of us had an effect on me intellectually. It forced me to face the fact that at least most of what Stina had written in her journal had been true. He was behaving exactly like a jealous lover. In fact, I even found myself approving of his courage to make such a fool of himself--he was behaving as a jealous lover should act. Of course, I reminded myself, he was an actor. Now a part of me wanted to simply pick up my suitcase and walk out; perhaps I could find an open bar and deal with this crisis properly in traditional Finnish fashion. Perhaps I could even find Mr 'Powerfully Huge' and beat the devil out of him. But I stayed where I was out of simple curiosity. Wounded though I was, still I felt an idle, almost malicious interest just to see what Stina would do next. In that sense, her performance now was far more entertaining than it had been onstage.

When we got inside, and she turned on all the lights in the flat, I could see for the first time what a shambles she really lived in. Clothes were spread everywhere, even thrown in heaps on the floor; we had to clear them off the bed in order to lie down. 'Oh, you go ahead and fall asleep if you like, Lemo darling,' she told me. 'I know you must be tired from your long day, just as I am from mine. I'm going to run a hot bath and relax in it before I come to bed. I need to wash all this terrible disappointment away.' I said nothing. I took off my soiled, stained clothes and put on clean ones from my bag, then lay down on her duvet, which was little cleaner. A cool breeze rustled through the lace curtains. Somewhere out in the night below, Hamlet lurked, lovesick. An hour passed. I went into the bathroom; Stina was sleeping soundly in the bath, the water nearly ice-cold. I was considering whether just to leave her there or not when the telephone rang loudly in the bedroom.

It was her agent, Holger, in Copenhagen. He had heard that she was dumping him for another agent in Stockholm. He rang her twice more that night; each time she would lie next to me in the bed crying into the receiver at him. 'Oh, I know, I know, I'm being so unfair to you,' she would sob. 'This is cruel and terrible of me. And after you've invested so much of yourself in my career. It's just that I've outgrown you already. It has nothing to do with you as a person--you're a warm, caring, kind, decent man. Oh no, you mustn't say that about yourself.' I could hear him weeping as well on the other end. And he wasn't even gay! He was married with two children! On and on this went for hours. And in those days long-distance telephone calls were quite expensive. Near to dawn, about three hours later, she fell sound asleep again (this time snoring very loudly), and I took the opportunity to slip out of the bedroom with my clothes and my bag. I dressed quietly, repacked my suitcase, and crept quietly out the front door. On the front landing, I thought of leaving her a farewell a note, but decided against it. There seemed nothing to say, really. Then, as I walked down the silent, deserted street, it occurred to me that I had not actually said a single word to her the whole time we had been together. Not one word! And being both Finnish and a woman, she hadn't even noticed.

I caught the first train that morning back to Copenhagen. I spent an extra day or so there, and saw the sights and went to the Tivoli. Then I caught the ferry home. And it was on that ship that I first met Maarit Näkyvä. The Old Man of Odense had been right--there is always a girl in the picture.

Next time: The True Finnish Girl.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Don Juan in Helsinki: 19

Hey, this is Donho Likkanen back with you again. Or 'moi', as we say in Finland. Now I am blogging from a very nice bar called 'Hideaway' inside a club called 'Lost & Found' on Annankatu where there are no women at all, not a single one. Phew! What a relief. I just hope the Strawberry doesn't see the name and decide to come inside to look for me. I have met a few friendly young men in here who have listened to some of my bonking tips for driving women mad with ecstasy with very great interest. I am always happy when I can mentor the young in this helpful manner. And make them happy and amused. Those who cannot do, preach, as the saying goes in English. As you can probably tell, I am beginning to relax now and get just the tiniest bit drunk from my diet of viina and black coffee.

One of them named Ville tells me he has never had a girlfriend. He is a typical local type. 'You Finns!' I tell him, jokingly. 'However do you make babies? You need to bonk more.' For some reason this makes his friends giggle. They all have tickets for Cricket's concert tonight and are very excited.

I have been thinking about sexual fidelity since I have arrived here. Why on earth was I faithful to Stina for all those months??? It is true, I was. I passed up many opportunities to bonk with beautiful young girls--and on more than one occasion, their mothers. Never, never be faithful, I am telling these young dudes at the bar now. It is a total waste of time. I suppose I fell into this trap from a naive, optimistic yearning after something better than just making hot monkey sex. Perhaps it was a fear of abandonment, as a shrink has suggested. Or perhaps I wanted to experience the feeling of being in love, whatever that may be, LOL. Whatever, this crazy delusion did not go away after Stina, oh no. I was actually faithful to Maarit and even Kylikki, as well. But that was not so much out of principle as exhaustion. That's right, my true bonking career did not even begin until after Likki left me. For the second time. I haven't told you the whole truth about that yet, actually--after Likki ran off with Vaino and made a baby with him, I took her back. Along with the kid. Of course that only lasted a few months. But that story lies in the future, at the moment it is Stina we are remembering. By an amazing coincidence, a film she was in called 'Amorosa' is playing on the bar TV right now to provide me with an aide-memoir (http://stan1.nudesonline.com/track/MTczMjg5OjI4OjMz/). I am familiar with this film already, having bought the DVD when I discovered she had a nude sex scene in it. Well, naturally I had a zoological interest in how she had aged. And really she has kept in most excellent shape (BTW, if you follow the link you will also get to see her 'bravely fighting back tears' as a special added bonus. Since posting my revealing hot squishy glandslapping sexual encounters with such celebrities as Christie Brinkley and the 'artist formerly known as the Cricket', I have been contacted by the agents for a number of other famous ladies who wish me to write 'exposes' of them in this blournal. I am very sorry, but at the present time I cannot fit even Christine Lahti, the famous Finnish descended film actress, or the effervescent pop chanteuse Paula Abdul into my memories. However, I shall certainly keep them in mind should vacancies arise.) Ah here it comes, her scene. I doubt if I told all the studly young dudes in this bar that she had once been my girlfriend, they would even believe me! But young people are different nowadays. They have no faith in others.

After her visit with me at Joulu, things became a bit cold between us. We had planned for me to visit her at Easter, but she wrote to tell me that it wouldn't be possible yet. She was living in some sort of pension or dormitory connected with the theatre school, and boyfriends weren't allowed to stay. But if we waited until summer, her parents had agreed she could rent a flat of her own. After that her letters and phone calls became more infrequent. By then I had given my medical studies, and mostly sat in my room listening to Jimi Hendrix and Cream and drinking viina. Naturally, my father was deeply disappointed in me. My only real activity was still to arrange lighting and 'light shows' for rock bands, though the craze for the latter was just about dead by now. It wasn't the '60s any more. But by summer, I had saved up enough money for a trip to Odense. These days, of course, there is likely a commuter flight every day from Vaantaa to Odense, so I could maybe have been there in an hour, but in 1972 I had to first take a big Baltic ferry to Copenhagen and then a train which was carried to the island of Fyn, where Odense is, by another ferry. It is lucky for me I have always been a good sailor. Especially because it was still June and so rained every day.

Speaking of which, it has now begun to rain heavily outside. The fine weather has finally ended, just in time for the Cricket's concert. Poor Strawberry!

It was Stina's idea for me to come to Odense. All that spring, things had become very distant between us, and she never seemed to have time to write or phone. I had grown so sick of this 'up in the air' feeling, I had even asked her, during one of our infrequent calls, if she wanted to break up with me. 'Oh, no, Lemo!' she had said. 'I would never do that. To dump someone by letter or over the telephone is inhumanly cruel. Besides, I have always believed that if two people ever decide they no longer love each other, they should still meet face to face to say goodbye. So often when that happens, they realize they're making a terrible mistake and change their minds before it becomes final. But of course, that has nothing to do with us. Just because two people have been busy with other things in their lives doesn't mean they aren't deeply and passionately in love still.' So I bought my tickets. The journey took a whole day. This was the first time in my life I had ever been to any other country than Finland or Sweden. Copenhagen seemed very huge to me, but I thought Odense was a bit like such Finnish 'wooden towns' as Savonlinna or Turku. I won't bore you by writing much about the city; if you are interested, you can Google it. Better yet, just go there. It is the the third-largest city in Denmark, and lies on the 'garden island' of Fyn at the tip of a fjord. It has one of the best-preserved medieval 'old towns' in Europe, and even in 1972, when most of Denmark was still a bit poor and shabby, it was a lovely place to visit, even in a steady drizzle. I wish I'd seen more of it.

When I arrived at the train station, there was no Stina there to meet me. She had warned me that this might be the case, because she might be stuck in rehearsals all day, and so had written me directions to her flat and even mailed me a spare key. I believe it was this key that had filled me with the optimism to make the journey at all. I had turned it over in my palm a hundred times, trying to imagine her life there, how her flat might look, how it would feel to be together again. Surely she wouldn't mail me the key to her front door unless her feelings for me were still strong. Would she? Her flat was on Vestergade over a beauty salon just across the street from the Hansen Vinhandel, which is a large wine shop. School was out, but Stina had landed a part in the Odense Theatre's prestigious summer stock program as understudy to Ophelia in a Danish-language production of Hamlet. An 'enfant terrible' named Bille August had come down from Copenhagen to direct it, and the cast featured a few well-known actors and actress, including the most popular TV actor in Denmark, Paul Hagen, as well as the young Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, who had made a big hit all over Scandinavia in his TV series 'Bombi Bitt och Jag', in the role of Hamlet. I knew all this, of course, from Stina's letters on the subject--just as I knew, deep down, that she would not be just an understudy for very long. I imagined her practicing her 'drowned face.' Then I thought of Aino and felt a bit sick.

They say that any Swede can make himself understood in Denmark. Perhaps that is so, but I couldn't understand a word they said in reply, and in those days I thought and spoke in Swedish as fluently as in Finnish. After a while I gave up asking where I might find a taxi or a tram, and just picked up my suitcase and umbrella and started walking east. As it turned out, there were no trams in Odense, merely dark red buses and hundreds and hundreds of bicycles everywhere, many of them whizzing about quite dangerously. Now, you should know this about me: I hate bicycles! I consider them both dangerous and unhealthful. They are a great enemy to good bonking, because prolonged exposure to a bicycle seat causes impotence and damage to the male testicle. If you don't believe me, that is why Lance Armstrong got cancer there. So Likkanen will not go near one of those vicious things, not even in a gym. I turned south and walked down Thomas B. Trigge Gade (I think that was its name; I am too buzzed to check it) through a very pleasant shopping district with wide slippery, cobble-stoned streets and ancient timbered white houses leaning all wobbly toward each other at crazy angles. A few even had thatched roofs! And I could see green everywhere, with many rows of old trees and hedges around the buildings. It seemed very lush compared to Helsinki, even in the grey drizzle. I could see why Stina was happy there. Perhaps she would ask me to stay. All the way down the street when I was not dodging cyclists, I was daydreaming about what my life might be like if I lived there. Then I took a wrong turn on Vestergade, but finally I went back in the right direction and found her flat up a flight of stairs from the street. Her key fit in the lock; I turned it, and went inside.

Stina had many talents, but she was no housekeeper. The place was a terrible mess. It was dingy enough anyway; the floorboards were so old and chipped and worn away that one could glimpse down into the hair salon beneath through the cracks between them. But Stina had done nothing to pretty it up or even clean it--in fact. from the state of the flat and the stacks of dishes in the galley kitchenette, it was difficult to tell whether she had even been home at all recently. However, there was a note cello-taped to the mirror above the hall table addressed to me. 'I'm still rehearsing, dearest Lemo, and won't have time to meet you at the flat, because you'll never guess what--Birgitta, who was the lead Ophelia is in the hospital with a terrible case of food poisoning, so I will be taking her place in the play tonight!!! Isn't it exciting? And you will be there for my world premiere onstage in Shakespeare! Come to the theatre at 8 or so, but don't come backstage--it isn't allowed. So I'll meet you at the coffeehouse across the street after the performance is over. But promise me you'll be there to see me! And hoping I 'break a leg'!! Oh, Lemo, isn't this exciting? It's just what we've always dreamed of.' So I would have two more hours to kill, I thought, glancing around in the gloom, illuminated only by the grey daylight through the curtains and glowing strips of pale light leaking through the floor from below. Perhaps I would get something to eat at a local restaurant or bakery in the meantime; certainly there was nothing left here to eat. Then I noticed her journal on the table directly beneath where she had left the note, carelessly left flung open with a pen on top of it.

Now Stina had always kept a journal, and often during our months together she would read to me from it; bits of poems, thoughts about her future, gossip from school, reasons why she hated Finland, even short stories set in the mystic forests of the Norse twilight. 'Someday I'm going to be very famous,' she would often tell me. 'Then we'll both be glad I kept a record of all my thoughts and dreams.' Still, I did not feel I had the right to read from it without permission. I had never done so before. Yet...in this case, it seemed an easy and very tempting way to discover exactly what her feelings for me really were and whether or not I had in fact wasted my time and money by coming here at all. In addition, by leaving it wide open in the hallway beneath her note, it seemed fairly evident that Stina, who left little to chance, was choosing this means of communicating with me. But what was she trying to tell me? I stood there, wavering back and forth, unable to decide what to do and filled with a vague sense of trepidation at what i might find inside those pages. I remember once, many years ago, reading of a famous Japanese poet (I cannot remember his name) who had committed suicide in the 1920s. In the note he left behind, he said his reason for killing himself was from 'a vague sense of trepidation.' So this was my emotion also at that moment. Finally I picked up the notebook and read it. Naturally, I turned on a light first.

The early parts of it--written in the spring--still bore some resemblance to the girl I knew. Several I times I was even mentioned in the first few pages, such as in: 'Note to L: Shave no more often than every other day, but whatever you do, don't ever grow a beard, as so many of the ugly Danes here do.' The 'beard', it turned out, belong to Paul Hagen, the veteran character actor who had recently become a household name all over Scandinavia for his role as the pet shop clerk Clausen, in the Danish TV soap opera "Huset på Christianshavn'. There was no mention of his taste in shirts or shoes.

In Stina's words, 'this gentle, sensitive, yet much older man' was deeply troubled by a bad marriage with his wife at home. They had met after some sort of theatre program speech he had given at her school; he had then 'taken her under his wing', and recommended an agent in Copenhagen. In fact this agent, Holger was his name, was responsible for her to be in summer stock right now. She had also, at his suggestion, joined the Danish Actors' Union. There were perhaps a dozen pages where she agonized deeply over Hagen's growing affections for her, because she found him physically 'repugnant, even repulsive'; however, when at last after a week or two their relationship was finally consummated, 'this very aged and frail, yet still aggressively masculine, figure made love to me tenderly and sobbing with gratitude, exactly as would a baby or small child' and afterwards 'wept nakedly and unashamedly in my arms'. (BTW, I just looked him up; the very aged and frail fellow was 52 at that time, exactly two years younger than I am now. Stina's present age, in fact).

Feeling very nauseated, I skimmed through the next chapters a bit, noting the absence of any more references to 'L', and arrived at June and with it, the arrival of Bille August. 'What a relief it is at last to be around a man of nearly my own age, and not only that, one who is frighteningly, almost terrifyingly cerebral. I feel that around him I am almost naked, he seems to see right through me, leaving my every emotion open and stripped bare to his gaze. He agrees with me that Holger is not really doing his job properly and has some very sardonic and witty things to say about P. Whatever am I going to do on this score?' Then later. 'B. has extensive experience and has suggested more professional representation in Stockholm. He is coming over tonight, and I will cook him supper. I have told him of my Cordon Bleu classes in Paris. He says there is even a chance I might land a part in a TV series next year! Imagine that! P. will object, of course, but his possessiveness is becoming creatively stifling. I will have to put my foot down with him soon. Yet each time we are together, his childlike need overwhelms me once again.' Then there followed a list of healthful suggestions for Hagen to improve his appearance, including exercise, weight loss, and dental and cosmetic surgery. The beard, it seems, had been shaved off some time before.

Now her writings appeared to contain more 'B's than 'P's. Such as: 'B's need for me terrifies me, as does his jealousy. I am becoming convinced that any moment he will become completely deranged and attack P. Last night, he made violent love to me more than 5 times, by my count, though his passion overwhelmed him quickly each time after just a minute or two. Still, I am most satisfactorily sore this morning, thanks to his masterful and artistic performance. I even offered to bring the "maestro" breakfast in bed this morning, but he insisted that he had to dash out. I think he is afraid we will be discovered by P. Of course, I have pointed out that as a still-married man, P. is hardly in any position to cause a scene. Still, I am beginning to see that B. is often unrealistic and inclined to endlessly over-intellectualize. It is all very well to have a "meeting of the minds" with a sexily charismatic partner, but sometimes one wishes for the all-consuming embrace of a raw, animal lover, who doesn't cry or beg for permission or make excuses but simply savagely attacks, literally ripping my clothes off before raping me most deliciously.'

Enter 'S'. 'At the beginning of rehearsals, I had thought Stellan to be arrogant and foolish. After all, what is his theatrical background? None at all, really, merely the role of a juvenile delinquent in a popular TV series. Hardly any sort of qualification to play the part of "Hamlet", one would think. And yet, I have found him to actually be both sensitive and genuinely charismatic. And Swedish men are always so irresistable to me! Last night we escaped from the 'grownups' and went off on our own after drinks. What a relief to finally be around a man of my own age, to laugh and joke together like happy children. If I am honest with myself, B. is awfully old and serious for his age. And P. has already become a grandfatherly figure to me in my affections--often I will simply allow him to doze off and have a nap. But S. is so different from either of them. How powerfully huge he is! His thighs are like a bull's! His wild thrusting was so painfully and thrillingly vigorous, I was actually afraid I had injured myself! And yet this morning, I find myself only wanting more. He has suggested his own agent in Stockholm would be perfect for me!'

Now I need hardly tell you that as I slowly read all this (and much more besides, which I have mercifully forgotten after all these years), I became filled inside with a growing sense of horror. In fact, I felt very numb and cold, as if I could not move. Yet, with this feeling came also a strange sense of mental detachment. For one thing, it is important to remember that Stina was very dramatic and always inventing her own fantasy world. It was quite possible, perhaps even 50% possible, that none of this had actually happened at all, except in the pages of her journal. If I confronted her with it, aside from being able to accuse me of violating her privacy, she might simply laugh it off as 'ideas' for a script or short story. Or, worst of all, she might admit to all of it or some part of it merely to get rid of me. I was actually in a terrible quandary. If I started a fight with her over this, I would either force her to dump me--or else I would have to 'officially believe' her explanation and accept things the way they were forever after. But if I said and did nothing, I was accepting her right to do whatever she wanted to do in future, to sleep with any lovers she liked, and therefore submit me to endless humiliation, without a word being said aloud (which is quite typical of many Scandinavian marriages, actually). So you see, I had just been thoroughly checkmated. And that is why I decided, in my shocked, numb state of mind, to do nothing, to postpone all judgement in the matter for the evening. I would simply go to the theatre and watch her performance, then meet her in the cafe after. I had never set eyes on any of these guys, this 'P' and "B' and 'S'; I had no idea what any of them even looked like. Perhaps none of them actually existed at all. But if I met them and saw them with her, I thought, then I would know for certain. It seemed the wisest and most natural course to take. And besides, it was a bit late to find a hotel room.

And so, armed with this dreadful foreknowledge, I went to the play.

Next time: Alas, poor Likkanen...

Read more!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Don Juan in Helsinki: 18

Now I am feeling very badly to desert Lou like this, but the gentlemen's code is like Cinderella's carriage. It expires at midnight. And it is now three minutes past. One cannot expect more loyalty than this from any wingman, not when he is lumbered with someone like Priscilla, who perhaps should have hired an ambulance with an oxygen respirator for the evening. I am sorry, but Lou is on his own now. He has had his opportunity to seduce his stick-insect fashion model, and all he has done is amuse her instead. He cannot expect me to pass up this opportunity to bonk a woman who has just appeared in a swimsuit on the cover of 'Sports Illustrated.' He is a man; he will understand. Twiglet and I use the back 'celebrity exit' into an alley off 53rd just in case. She doesn't want to be seen with me any more than I want to be seen with Priscilla Pig. But soon Likkanen will change her mind on that score, have no fear! She is in for a night of ecstasy beyond her wildest dreams.

Unfortunately, it doesn't quite turn out that way.

I think maybe you know me well by now. You know I am far too discreet to give away any lady's secrets, no matter how famous she is. But still I am sensitive to the many moods and chemical tides that wash through a woman's veins like the deep, dark mysterious sea. This is the essence of being a great lover. And so sometimes even I am forced to notice when a lady who is in my arms is having perhaps just a tiny little bit of momentary trouble achieving the delicious ultimate climax of a powerful and deeply fulfilling orgasm, the sort she has a perfect right to expect from a Likkanen. There are many kinds of possible distractions. Often her mind is just on other things; perhaps the telephone has rung several times during our bonking. Or perhaps her small infant is howling in the next room. Perhaps 'Auntie Flo' (or 'puolukkapäivät', as we say in Finnish: 'lingonberry days') is just about to make her monthly visit. Or perhaps the lady is mentally balancing her chequebook. One can never be sure with women, LOL! Their mystery is why we love them. But for an experienced lover there are subtle signals that tell him when this lovely natural process of sexual release is being frustrated; tooth-grinding, for instance, nervous tics (like belching), or occasionally even loud disappointed groans and curses. With Twiglet, this whole dreadful business began with a single innocent little giggle.

Now, for me at least, bonking is not a laughing matter. Not in the middle of it, anyway. And scientific studies have proved this is so for all men. This is why there is no comedy in pr0n fims. They even tried to make some in the 1980s, but they were a total flop. Even the actors complained. Of course, it is different for the times in between bonks. Laughter is very natural then, especially if you are actually conversing with each other. Though most people used to watch TV instead in 1981. One former lover even enjoyed playing cards in between. Nowadays, of course, the women just talk on their cell phones, and the men play video games. No, no, sex is not a funny business. Female laughter is the deadly enemy of the healthful male erection. So, naturally, I stopped what I was doing at once. I had to.

'Am I tickling you?' I asked.

'Oh no,' she said.

'Are you nervous?' Once I bonked two Chinese girls who giggled for hours, but of course, they stopped as soon as I actually was making monkeys with them. Later I discovered that Chinese people often laugh when they are frightened or uncomfortable; it is a cultural thing. But Twiglet wasn't Chinese.

'No, I just think it's sort of funny. I mean look at you--you're all upset and red in the face.'

'You think bonking is just funny? How long have you felt this way?'

'Well...always, really,' she said, in a vague sort of voice. 'I guess.' They say that Frenchmen are the world's greatest lovers, but I must say I doubt that very much. Her husband was French, and she told me later he hadn't even noticed this laughing habit of hers. Or that she had never had an orgasm. However, I certainly did! But the harder I tried, the louder it got and the longer it went on. And please believe me when I say I tried everything. And I tried it for many many hours. I even invented three new zoo animals just for her, including the 'goldfish', the 'anteater', and the 'vampire bat'. But it was no use. After a week of this, my neck froze up, and I had to wear a brace, like someone who has been in a traffic accident. But of course, this did not affect my ability to bonk. So I swallowed my manhood and continued trying to conquer her strange inhibition. It was a challenge, you see. Also it was not just about sex any more. I even tried to employ romance, as well! I lit dozens of scented candles, spilled rose petals everywhere, bought champagne dinners...and of course, lots of cocaine, since Viagra had not yet been invented. I was bankrupting myself. And all to try to stop her from laughing.

Now for pure bonking, as opposed to oral sex, the animal kingdom makes for a very bad guide. Birds, for instance, are finished in several seconds. Lions are so lazy they often fall asleep in the middle, and the bonking habits of apes and monkeys are frankly disgusting, even to me. And I will not even mention insects. This is one of the many reasons why the 'Kama Sutra' is so useless a book to learn sex from. I will admit that some of the principles are sound: size and shape actually really do matter, and a 'bear woman', for example, will find very little lasting joy with a 'deer man' (luckily, Likkanen is a 'bull man', LOL!) But the positions are generally foolish and uncomfortable and the romantic advice is for the mentally handicapped, IMHO. Of greater use to me has been the study of the techniques of the Sufi masters and those of Tantric Yoga. The manipulation of the prana and the kundalini, or vital sexual energies that rise up from the base of the spine, is of particular interest, as well as the meditative techniques that can help one think of other things during the inevitable boring or unpleasant moments. The best teacher, of course, is constant practice, but if you cannot arrange for that, you may find the disciplines of the Zinja monks of ancient Japan most useful of all to the skilled and sensitive lover. They teach arrhythmic variations to regular everyday bonking based on the harmonies of nature. I have personally adapted these to more modern rhythms which I have named, for example, 'The Dropped Ping-Pong Ball' (each thrust taking place in half the time of the one before, particularly effective when alternated with its precise opposite, 'Flubber'), the 'Mambo', and the 'Tail-Gunner'--along with its delightful but exhausting variation, the 'Spinning Tail-Gunner.' But even this last one caused nothing but more shrieks of mocking laughter! It haunts me still, this mad sound, like the screams of banshees or evil water-witches. Since then, I have always been a bit afraid I will hear it again from other women. For me the true moment of ecstasy only arrives when I know there will no screams of laughter but sweet moaning noises or even just polite silence.

But with Twiglet, this was never to be. Finally one night, I grew so overheated in my bonking that I opened up a window in her bedroom. It was winter, and we forgot all about it when we fell asleep. The next morning I woke up with my back seized up completely. I could not move! Not even the littlest bit; not even to go to the bathroom. I could not get out of her bed for nearly three days, and I had to piss in a bucket. To ease the pain I took some Motrin that she had for her 'heavy periods'. This made me very stoned, but did not loosen my muscles. Worst of all, Twiglet now had the opportunity she had been waiting for--to start talking to a captive audience. And after she started, of course, she would not shut up. Looking back on it, I suppose that in many ways, her laughter during sex was really much better than her conversation after it. She had two main topics. The first was all the people in the industry who had slighted her or who had been cruel to her when she was first starting out in it. Someday, she said, she would write a book and expose all of them by their real names. This seemed a very infantile and even pitiful ambition to me. And so much work! 'Move on, lady!' I thought to myself, LOL. The second subject that preoccupied her was her lifelong battle with constipation. For two days I heard about nothing but various sorts of 'roughage', while she sat or exercised in front of the professional make-up mirrors that took up most of the adjoining room. On the third day, when she was off on a shoot, I phoned Lou and he and his friend Brad Balfour came over and carried me downstairs to a taxi-cab. I suppose Paris must have looked very much the same when his dead body was carried back on his shield to Troy.

In fact, I wonder if Helen of Troy wasn't a bit of a giggler as well. It might explain many things.

It is Sunday. When I was young the cathedral bells would be tolling, as well as in churches all over the city. But now nothing. Only the radio can be heard booming up from below. And all the talk I hear from it is of Cricket's concert tonight. I suppose this is the new religion these days. I hope the Strawberry has a happy time when she goes to it. I like to think of her jumping up and down and singing along with the music. I realize I was very cruel to her, but truly, that was a good thing. She is much better off without me. Still, I am sure she is not a giggler. Not even when she is drunk. And there is something else I liked about her a lot; unlike Twiglet, she didn't snore.

What shall I do with my long free Sunday, this 21-hour day filled with bright sunlight? I cannot think. The floor is covered with plastic Stockmann bags, Antiilla bags, Academy Bookshop and Free Record Shop bags. But suddenly I do not want any of the things inside them any more. I cannot telephone Maarit at her business number until tomorrow or even Tuesday, August 1st, if she is still on vacation. I cannot telephone Magnus or Jesper in New York until tomorrow evening. There is no one in Hawaii I wish to call at all; the only person who knows me there is the manager of my condo building. I am bored. I had not realized until now just how much of my life was devoted to bonking. And not just bonking, of course, but all the rituals and preparations and prayers that accompany the activity. Perhaps those are what I am really missing about this Sunday. Of course, at least now I am spared all the messy cleaning up after.

This is becoming morbid. Inside every true Finn there is always this tendency too much to brood. It is not healthful for me to just sit here inside this boring hotel room on such a pleasant sunny day and blog. No no, I must find something constructive to do with my time. So, after much thought and some watching of TV, I decide to take a tour of every bar in Helsinki and get very, very drunk. And while I get drunk I will have many deep, profound philosophical reflections about life. And bonking.

It is a strange thing, isn't it? Asking a woman to bonk is very easy for me. Asking a woman to be my girlfriend is not. In fact I have only done it twice in my life, first with Stina (who said yes) and then with Maarit (who said no). Likki doesn't count of course, because I never asked her anything, she simply demanded what she wanted. In fact, that was how I learned we were to be married, by overhearing her conversations with other people on the telephone. With the Strawberry, I have never had any urge to ask her to bonk with me. No, no, none at all. Well, that is for most obvious reasons, since I am dying of cancer and therefore have no interest in sex. But I can imagine asking her to be my girlfriend. Perhaps it is her hair. But, of course, it would be a disaster if she said yes (it always is). When I asked Stina, I had no idea of this. It was like those old cartoon filmstrips of a 'Lovers' Leap'. When two people fall in love they take a giant leap of faith together off the edge of a cartoon cliff. Because everything that lies ahead for them is unknown; in fact, they are really two strangers to each other. It is very sad, however, that only one of them ever survives this great leap. Perhaps the one who falls the harder cushions the impact for the other one. Such matters are all very strange to me. You know, matters like 'love'.

I think love was very strange for Stina, too, but she came prepared for it with many maps and manuals. You can bet she would have had plenty of plans and things for me to do today; oh yes, she had a very definite idea of all the many duties and responsibilities of a boyfriend. And she was very adaptable--she was always adding new ones. I had no idea of all this, of course, when I asked her to be my girlfriend that night in the Torni. I had only a very vague sort of dreamy picture in my head of what it would be like to have a girlfriend at all, lots of nice bonking and parties with friends, for example. Her vision of romance came as quite a surprise to me. But I went along with it, partly because it was all so new, and partly because I was simply amazed at her energy and inventiveness at finding new things for me to do. Also, it was nice at first to have someone to fuss over me, arrange my schedule, and order me about. Medical school studies are very hard work and take many hours; one has no time for a real social life. It was a nice feeling to have her curled up in the corner with a book sometimes while I revised or to have her interrupting me with snacks or meals. She even committed the ultimate sacrifice for an actress--she would sometimes cook for me! And a few of her dishes were actually almost edible. Every time we had some sort of screaming fight (and this often happened because of her terrible temper), she would buy a new shirt or phonograph album for me as a present. I knew by then that this was simply a tactic from one of her books, of course, but it still felt pleasant. After all, when someone still makes the effort to deceive you, you know they truly love you. Also it turned out that Stina and I had many things in common. For one thing, we both hated Finland, but unlike me, Stina already had a plan of escape. As soon as I became her boyfriend, she started to include me in her plotting. And of course, this was very flattering.

'First we'll move to Stockholm,' she would say. 'Then after you have studied at the Karolinska and I've studied at the Teaterhögskola, we'll move to Paris. We'll be the most famous and glamourous couple there. You'll become a famous doctor at the Institut Pasteur, and I'll become a famous actress at the Comedie Francaise and make films with Truffaut and Godard. Everyone will desire us, but no one can have us because we'll be totally, blissfully faithful to each other. That's why you need to learn proper French, Lemo.' This is how she talked, often for hours. This was how she wove her magic spells, by repeating her fantasies over and over until everyone around her became maddened and exhausted by them and made them come true. Stina was lovely, but there are actresses far lovelier. However, she was not even so very talented, merely stubborn and ambitious. She had 'sisu'. Oh yes, she, who hated Finland, had more Finn in her than anyone else I ever knew. And she was not stupid, either, not like most other stubborn girls. Oh no, not her. She was very sly and clever. I think she loved me perhaps because I was the first fellow she had met who noticed or could appreciate this. And who still could stand to be around her for very long, I mean.

Actually, rereading this last paragraph, it is amazing how much of her fantasies really did come true. We really did move to Stockholm, though of course, not with each other. And she has been in many films. And in the end, I really did move to Paris, too. So the French classes came in very handy. But next I will tell you how, just nine months or so after we were together, she suddenly left me. And after that, naturally, things were never quite the same between us. But first I need a drink, so I will need to find a good bar. Perhaps I will drag the iBook along with me and blog from there. Ihop! That's Swedish for 'Off we go!'

OK, here I am back again. I am logged onto a wifi network of some sort, but the signal is very weak. I am sitting in a bar called Kipinä on Vuorikatu. It has polished wooden tables and yellow curtains and a nice view of the tram junction. I think I will be moving on soon. I only selected it because it is so dark and boring and therefore there is absolutely no chance of meeting the Strawberry or the Gollum and Dr Pretorius or anyone else I know here, although I must still be very cautious not to come across Vaino again in the street. Who would have ever imagined that only hours after landing here and quite by accident, I would have managed to meet the one person in Finland I totally did not want to see? Well, that is so typical of life, isn't it? It has happened to me on more than one occasion in Rockefeller Plaza. Especially after dumping someone. However, if I wish to remain anonymous here, I will have to stay on the move, which will also require me to drink more or less continuously. I am willing to commit to this.

Stina. Sometimes I wonder what my life might have been like if she had never left me at all. Would we have been sweethearts forever, perhaps? Married eventually and had two children? Would I have become a doctor and she the director of a theatre school, as she is now? Imagine, if that had all happened, instead of being happy and successful and wealthy, as Likkanen is now, he would just be a dull, boring old Finnish fellow driving an old yellow Volvo to work every day, LOL! And instead of 2,999 corpses inside my cavern there would be only a dozen or so, if you count Matti as just one person. Which I suppose she was. The barmaid here looks quite a bit like Matti, but of course, is young enough to be her daughter. Or even grand-daughter, if we were in New Jersey. Of course, I had known for months that Stina was madly applying to every theatre school in Scandinavia. Well, all except for the Finnish ones, that is. I guess I just thought she was too young or that her marks were too poor and that she would never actually be accepted into any. But one afternoon when her parents were away, she greeted me at her front door with that slight flush of excitement, that calculating sideways look and half-smile I had grown to know so well. She was fond of greeting me at her front door in surprising ways. Sometimes I would find a trail of notes or clues leading up to her bedroom. Or the bath. One time she met me wearing only the open front page of the 'Hufvudstadsbladet'. Today, however, she was wearing all her clothes. And that expression.

'I have some wonderful news!' she said. 'Only, well, you aren't going to like it.' I did not react. I was too young to have learned that when people say these words to you--women, dentists, doctors, for example--you are really, really going to hate it, whatever 'it' is. But of course, she often spoke to me dramatically like this if she had decided not to go to a film that night or if for some reason we couldn't bonk. Like if her grandmother was staying over. So I assumed that was all this was. 'I got accepted into theatre school. In Odense.'

'Odense?' I had no idea where that was.

'In Denmark. It's where Hans Christian Andersen was born.' I thought from her tone that she was very disappointed. She had set her heart on Teaterhögskolan in Stockholm, which is their prestigious Royal Dramatic Academy, like RADA is in London. So naturally I decided it would be easy to dissuade her. After all, I would have months to try.

'When will you go?' I asked her, my heart sinking at the very thought.

'In three weeks,' she said, bravely fighting back tears. I realized at once from this of course that actually she was quite happy and thrilled to be going, even though it wasn't Teaterhögskolan. Bravely fighting back tears was an expression she practiced rather often, based on a face she made during--well, never mind. 'But we'll see each other on holidays. And you'll come visit me there. This is only temporary, until we can move to Stockholm.' I didn't believe her, of course. I was no more a fool than she was. Well, not much more of one. But I discovered to my very great surprise that I wanted to believe her, which in some ways is even worse.

Ah, I will have to move to a different bar soon. The young barmaid has started flirting with me. She is looking at herself in the mirror and fidgeting with her hair. I know what you are thinking. Oh ho, Donho, you are saying, you think every woman wants you. Well, only the pretty ones, anyway. But no, no, this time it is perfectly true. BTW, several young dudes have messaged me at this blog recently asking for 'sex tips'. To them I will say only, observe closely now. The barmaid does not 'want me' because she is playing with her hair; not at all. Young dudes who believe this when they see a woman are fools. Women play with their hair in public whenever they feel self-conscious, which is almost always. Or at least whenever they feel men are watching. Or other women. What a tragedy for the world it is that Likkanen, who has so much bonking wisdom to impart, has so little time to do it now! And of course I have Stina to thank for so much of it. She taught me everything I know about zoology, just as Likki taught me about biology. And physics. You see, to the scientific eye the young woman at the bar is not just a 'woman', at all--women are not a single species, anyway-- she is a 'Matti'. Nature evolves very few true phenotypes, without beginning to repeat itself. And it is shocking but true that often people who resemble each other greatly physically share many of the same character traits, as well. So I can tell just by looking at this girl that she is bored, self-conscious, romantic, a bit overweight, a bit too generous in her affections. All of this from my intimate knowledge of Matleena those many years ago. And most important of all; she is myopic. Look at her big soft eyes glancing over shyly in my direction; all she can see is a male outline, a white blob for a shirt, a tanned lean generic older face. But that's OK, she likes older men. And she knows I am a foreigner, because Finnish men have no clothing sense; they either wear T-shirts with stupid slogans on them or else dress like the Mafia in dandruffy dark shirts with even darker ties. I have seen men wearing every crazy color in the world since I have arrived in Helsinki; they all look like Russian cabbies in LA. I suppose the seasons must keep them eternally confused over their proper plumage. But back to this barmaid: like most young women, she is very nearsighted, which is a kindness of nature. Because as she grows older, a woman's vision sharply reverses itself and gradually becomes very farsighted instead, able to read a line of email on a man's computer screen from the next room--or foresee when a relationship with him has no future. You can Google this, it is a scientific fact.

It was Stina who first taught me how to dress, as well. Oddly, her best advice came in her letters after she was away studying at theatre school. 'Most men dress to please women,' she wrote me once. "Never make this mistake, Lemo, darling. Always dress as if you are too rich to care how you look. Whatever else you are wearing, be sure to wear an expensive white dress shirt, so that it will seem as if you have just come from a party to which no one else has been invited. It's quite all right for your jeans or your jacket to be shabby--in fact, the older, the better--but you must take care that your shoes are very, very expensive and come from an exclusive shop. Everyone judges each other by their shoes; you can tell everything from them. Your socks are your own affair.' And indeed, I have followed this advice to the letter ever since. I have all my shoes hand-tooled from lathes cast from my feet at a shop in London's Savile Row and then shipped to me wherever I am in the world. But I have discovered a strange thing about socks over the years; secretly, women hate the thin ones, the tight ones, the colored ones, the translucent ones, the dark ones that go to the knee or end below the ankle. Leave these for the gay blades. You know what women really like? Thick white fluffy ones. Yes, it's true, such socks seem soft and cozy to them, like bunny feet on pajamas, and when worn with black hand-tooled leather dress shoes give a man a nice virile Finnish blue-collar image, making a subliminal promise of some great rough bonking ahead and a bit of soft cuddling in between. This is why women love men in uniforms. The socks. The other great Finnish contribution to success with women is polite silence. I have learned long ago never to make the 'small talk' with them, just to half-smile and appear to agree with whatever stupid nonsense they are saying. This way they are able to project any emotions they wish onto my 'meaningful expressions'. And again, it was Stina who first suggested that I should keep my mouth shut.

It made me uncomfortable to imagine how Stina was discovering such useful insights, so I refused to think about it. Much. Besides, she was very open on the subject, as she was on all others: 'We must be very, very faithful to each other, Lemo, if we are to survive as a couple. What that means is it's OK to kiss other women when you are out on dates with them--I must allow you that, because theatre people are always kissing each other, though it means nothing to us. But you are different, my dearest; to you a kiss means something, so you must promise not to do it with other girls too often, or I will worry. And no sex! This is a very definite rule for both of us, no matter how tempted and unsatisfied we might feel after an evening of kissing only. But we must save ourselves for each other. ' In those days, there was no name for an 'LDR' or Long Distance Relationship. Few people even tried to have them. There was no email then, no instant messaging, no Internet, no cell-phones, no web-cam. We exchanged a letter or two a week, and then a long-distance telephone call on the weekend. And of course, she came back at Joulu. But she had already changed quite a bit by then. For one thing, she was now a blonde.

OK, the barmaid has actually drifted over here to talk to me now. Up close, I can see many tattoos and piercings, including a sort of stud that dangles from her nostrils, like a shiny bit of metal mucus. Frankly, this is disgusting to Likkanen. Perhaps I am just too old for women any more. Anyhoo, I am going to find a new bar, BRB.

Next time: Something rotten in Denmark.

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