Monday, August 7, 2006

Don Juan in Helsinki: 15

Hey, this is Donho Likkanen. I am still alive. My cancer is in remission today, though I am still feeling a bit ill and have decided it is wiser not to eat quite yet. A true Finn, of course, never actually suffers from a hangover--even the Finnish word for this, 'krapula', had to be imported from abroad, which is positive proof that as a people we are mostly immune to them. Normally, I would go visit the hotel sauna, but today is too hot for that, a real heat wave. Here is the forecast:

Vaantaa, mitattu klo 06:22: 22.5°C, poutaa.
Helsinki, mitattu klo 06:31: 25.2°C, poutaa.
Turku, Auranlaakso, mitattu klo 06:30: 23.3°C, poutaa.

So I am sticking to strong black coffee (with a shot of viina in it, of course) at the moment; perhaps in a few hours I will try a few Finn crisp crackers or even a bite of Karelian pie. Perhaps. Naturally, the Strawberry is nagging me to eat. She is a frustrated mother, one can tell this about her at once, she is almost bursting with it--likely she will have many little Strawberries very soon, which is yet another good reason to avoid her sexually. She will get pregnant if I even blow my nose on her. Oh yes, here she is sitting beside me while I blog, chewing away happily with her big perfect teeth. Do I care if she reads these words? Not at all--it will do her good to see them. She would just blush madly anyway. BTW, her breakfast, if one can call it that, is four 'mushrooms' made from boiled eggs with red tomato slices on top of them, served in a sauce. Finns love to play with their food and turn their dishes into toys. Often marzipan candies are coloured and sculpted to look like fish or animals or little houses or vehicles. With her deep love of bad taste, Finland is a perfect place for the Strawberry. I hope she marries a Finn.

I managed to get her out of my hotel room at about 6 am today, which was already evening for my body's clock and early afternoon for hers. Being young, she will quickly adapt, of course, but I will blunder around in a half-waking daze of sunny night-time for a week or so. This is partly why I will be so stupid, over and over, as you are about to see. This and all the viina. And of course, the effect of being Finnish again after so long. After I woke her up, she found a Finnair business card on the floor on her way out.

'What's this?' she says, holding it up to show me. Something is scribbled in pen on the back. I recognize it with a slight groan.

'It is the telephone number of the stewardess from the airplane,' I say. Suddenly the thought of unsuccessfully trying to bonk that woman makes me feel quite a bit sick, so I take the card and flush it down the toilet. The Strawberry looks at me in astonishment.

'Why did you do that?' she says. 'She was so nice! It would be fun to meet her again and all have drinks together.' Really, is there no end to this girl's stupidity??? I must find another hotel quickly. Because, just a few hours later, while I am lying in bed trying very hard not to fall asleep, there she is at the door again, dragging me off with her to the restaurant. She thinks we are chums together in some college dormitory, obviously (I will tell you about some of my many adventures in these delightful places in another post, when I am feeling a bit less queasy.)

Beside me the Strawberry is chattering away, asking questions from her guidebook. She is very excited, because in an hour or two Riita Koivistu will meet her and take her to the university for the rest of the day. Do I know the university, she asks me? Ha! Do I know Helsinki University? I say nothing, so i won't spoil things for her. Perhaps while she is away this afternoon chasing fairy-tales, I will be able to find another hotel to stay at. That way when she returns, I will be gone. For some reason, this thought fills me with a great joy. And she is young, she will get over it very quickly. She can find some nice young man in this hotel to sleep next to. Another American, perhaps, or a German. They are very clean. Or even the Finn she will someday marry. We are the cleanest of all.

In the meantime, I have other errands to attend to. Yes, I must find a new hotel. But first I must replace my cell-phone and the mini-mouse which lies now somewhere in the limbo of the sewers along with the Finnair stewardess. Already, as I enter the Nokia shop on Bulevardi, I am regretting flushing that away. But never mind, there are many more where she came from--here is one now, selling me a new cell-phone. Naturally I buy the most expensive one, the one with video and a little tiny camera. Perhaps I will take pictures for you now of my visit to Finland. It might be interesting for you to see all the people i have described here for yourselfs. What do you think? One strange thing, though--my company credit card is not working when I go to pay for it. Naturally, I could phone New York to find out the problem, but no one will be there today. It is Saturday morning. And the telephone with all my business contact numbers is lying smashed in a dustbin somewhere at Kennedy airport anyway. Oh well, that is is what American Express is for. I will straighten this out on Monday. For now I am on vacation.

But I am a bit worried. I have four people working for me at the Likkanen loft in New York. First there is Jesper Pedersen. He is Danish, clever with computers, gifted musician, very good with money. He is my Business Manager, but I know he is impatient to start his own business. He is also bonking his assistant Camilla Sjoblom, who is in charge of Marketing, which is a bit uncomfortable for me, because before I hired her, it was me who was making the hot squishy monkeys with her. But they are a happy, stable couple now, and part of Manhattan's burgeoning 'polyamorous community.' So they have a young blonde woman from Kentucky living with them now as a 'Gorean slave'. 'Gor' is apparently some kind of imaginary science-fiction planet, popular with submissive woman, who tattoo the word on their arms as an advertisement. Later, when they have kids, this girl will also function as an au pair, Jesper tells me, which will be a tax write-off; he is very efficiency-minded. Then there is Johan Fremin, who is perhaps the greatest pure designer in the world. He is Swedish, a bit of a legend online because of his amazing talent, and a very close personal friend. Unfortunately, I have many issues with him lately, because a few years ago he went down to the Amazon on a 'mystic drug-lodge tour,' and he never came back. While under the influence of some Indian shaman's drug, he became convinced that he had been contacted by an extra-terrestrial mechanical intelligence in orbit around the earth, which he referred to as a 'VALIS' (I was later told that this is from a novel by Philip K. Dick, but whatever, Johan was very serious about this. In fact, he sent me a transcript). So far I cannot lure him back yet, though I have offered him more and more money to return. Occasionally I see some Peruvian tourist guide website he has designed from his mud hut, which seems like a terrible waste to me for the best designer on the planet. But he says (via the occasional voicemail) that the alien intelligence doesn't want him to return to North America. Consequently, I am now heavily relying on Magnus Hagerman, also Swedish and a brilliant designer, but much more of a traditional graphic artist. Under his influence, the Likkanen designs are taking a bolder, more Giger-like organic look; it was his idea to branch out into ceramic toilets that actually look like bowels. But in his personal life, he is rather normal, which means he actually comes to work sometimes. And in design, that is often what matters most, as you can tell by looking at any modern office building.

I have my troubles. This is what happens when you stop being an artist only and also have to function as a businessman. I would like to live in a mud hut, too, but I have my responsibilities. Of course I will not have them for much longer, because I will soon be dead, LOL.

As I take a long walk through the city centre, I am thinking about my horrible recurring dream. How glad I am I never bonked Aino. At least I will not have to be chopping the poor thing up, too. And no sexy airline stewardess, either! Now every pretty woman I see on the street I think to myself how grateful I am that I will not have her in that cavern with me tonight hanging from a butcher's hook. I bet that is not what they are guessing is going on in my head, ROFL! Or perhaps it is if they are 'Gorean', I don't know. And then it occurs to me how strange it is that although it was Likki I was dissecting last night, it was Stina I have been thinking about. Of course, that night in 1971 was also the first time i ever set eyes on Kylikki as well, so i suppose it makes some sort of sense. I suppose that if I really want to understand why things never worked out between me and Stina, I really should slaughter and eat her first. Perhaps the symbolism of the digestive act will yield me this knowledge. Perhaps this is actually the whole point of the dream. But I still wish I had brought along a cigarette lighter and a few sacks of charcoal, at least. And that is when I decide never to fall asleep again. Maybe if I can keep drinking coffee and viina in this eternal daylight, I can avoid it altogether. What is the longest a human can go without sleep? I must Google that. A week, perhaps? After a certain amount of time, I know it is fatal. But perhaps it is only under the deepest REMming that I would have this dream--if I could just doze lightly, or REM while I am awake, then maybe the dream will go away. As if. But hey, it's worth a try! And anyhoo, as I have said, I am on vacation. I can drink and watch TV all I like. Why else would one fly off to a foreign country?

So I go back to my hotel room to pack, and then I notice a very strange thing. Several of my possessions are not quite as I left them, and one of my cases seems to have been rummaged through. Nothing is missing that i can tell, however. Still, this is very disturbing. Has the maid been in? No, the room has not been tidied, and the towels have not been replaced. Perhaps the hotel has a thief, like in an old Hollywood film--if so, however, he has no interest in my iBook. Except to go through its folders, I see, when I open it. Why would anyone want to do that? Has a competitor hired an industrial spy to sabotage my business? Of all the many strange things that have happened to me since leaving New York, this is the strangest. For an instant a crazy idea passes through my mind--did the Strawberry somehow get back in and go through all my things while I was gone out of female curiosity? And as if summoned by that very thought, there is suddenly a shy tapping on my door. It is the Strawberry. She is so excited and happy that she is almost dancing up and down like a little girl. Standing behind her is Riita Koivistu, who is also smiling.

'Look! Look!' says the Strawberry, pushing them under my nose. 'Riita found me two tickets for the concert tomorrow! She's a magician! You'll come with me, won't you?' Oh God, why do you hate me so? At the thought of spending a whole evening watching the Cricket prancing and screeching about the stage, I totally lose my temper. I admit I am not proud of it, but this is the dark side of Likkanen. If you like him in times of laughter, then you must also like him in the time of tears.

'Of course I won't go with you!' I snap. 'How can you possibly imagine I might enjoy that? Please, just leave me alone!'

She looks stricken, then turns beet-red and bows her head. Behind her in the sunlit hall, Riita is shocked and angry, as if she wants to hit me. 'I thought we were friends,' whispers the Strawberry.

'Well, we aren't! There is no such thing as friendship between a man and a woman, anyhoo, you stupid girl. It is always based on an attraction--everyone just lies about it.' I swallow hard. 'Look, I am too old and useless for you. Just find some nice young man and give him this ticket, OK? Go away!' And I slam the door.

Now I am going to have to change hotels very quickly. Even I cannot stay in a place after a tantrum like that. So off I go again out to find a free hotel room. Any hotel room. I don't even care how many stars it has; I am suddenly willing to give up any luxury. Except of course, viina and coffee. I discover I am trembling and shaking all over with anger. And perhaps some other emotion, though I cannot put a name to it. Perhaps for you it is sad to see the last of the Strawberry, but not for me. Finally Likkanen is free of her! I stop at a cafe on Mannerheimintie as I walk north toward Toolonlahti, and drink a glass or two of viina, then order a coffee. It is then, through the front window, that I notice that the Gollum-like fellow who followed us around Esplanadi yesterday is back. Now he is hanging about in the street behind me like a 'puukki' or traditional Finnish elf in his blue beret, pretending to stare in a perfume shopfront while he waits for me to come out of the cafe bar. He is obviously following me still. But why? As I wonder about this, I am suddenly filled with the certain knowledge that it is he who has been in my hotel room and gone through my laptop. And this makes me very angry again. So angry that I feel the urge to rush outside and strangle him with my bare hands. But by the time I rush outside, he has vanished. Perhaps he really is a tomte or a puukki, I think to myself. Or worse! Perhaps he is just a figment of my imagination! I have read of such hallucinations happening to the sleep-deprived--perhaps this is merely the first symptom. It is while I am looking in the front window of the Parfumerie that I suddenly remember the Strawberry's soapy smell. Should I go in and buy her an expensive scent for a 'peace offering'? I shake my head to clear it, and begin to walk off again to search for another hotel. There will be plenty of rooms near the bus station.

Long before I worked for Givenchy, I already understood the importance of smells to a woman. When a woman chooses a scent she is not trying to smell good. No. no, she is behaving as an animal does in nature, she is advertising herself. But the mistake we men make is in thinking that all women are alike, like a single separate species. When we advertise ourselfs as men, we beat our chests and howl our lyrics of love to the world like orangutangs in the jungle. We are trying to attract the attention of all women. But women do not think this way at all, take it from Likkanen; they correctly see that we men are as different and distinctive as all the types of songbirds in a Finnish forest. When they select a smell, it is to send their pheremones out floating in the air to appeal to a Spotted Woodpecker, perhaps, or a Marsh Warbler, a great Crested Grebe, or even a Coot. See that aging shop assistant lady in the chiffon dress? She is wearing enough Chanel #5 to take a bath in. But with it she is saying, 'I want to meet a nice rich elderly man who smokes too many cigars to have any sense of smell at all.' See the young Goth girl with the red eyeliner and the tattered black stockings? She is wearing a shy blend of mousse spray and mothballs; with it she is saying, 'I want to meet a nice teenage boy who will take me to the Lordi concert next weekend.' The American tourist girl in the batik skirt soaked in patchouli? 'I want to meet a nice pimp!' LOL! Oh yes, there is a language of the nose. Stina taught me that. A man must read all the right signals and then make the correct ones back if he wants to make the hot squishy gland-slapping monkey sex with them. Because women do not like it so well if you are the wrong species. Oh no, not at all. That is the problem with the Strawberry and me, of course--she has mistaken me for one species of human being when I am really quite another.

Stina never made such mistakes. Though often I wonder, if perhaps I was not her only one. Because really, she was far too driven and ambitious to ever have a boyfriend at all for very long. And yet, she really had quite a soft spot for me, one might almost say a real weakness. Why else would she waste a whole year of her life with me, which was such a huge interruption in her studies? I don't mean her school studies, because she cared nothing for those, or even her acting--I mean, of course, her single-minded study of men. She was rather like a zoologist in this, or perhaps an anthropologist. Of course I had no idea of this when I asked her to be my 'girlfriend'. I didn't realize I was actually volunteering to be a test subject in clinical scientific trials, like for a drug company. But I suppose this is how all young people learn with each other. Those who learn at all.

I will give you an example of what I am talking about. Just like in the film 'Sunset Boulevard', an actress, even a young one just beginning, needs a chauffeur. So today, only a week or two since that night in the Torni, I have been wheedled by her to borrow my father's old Volvo and drive Stina out to the old Espoo CityTheatre for an audition. The director of this play, which is called 'He Who Gets His Face Slapped' (I think), is an old Swedish coot I have never heard of, but who Stina says is a little bit famous in Stockholm. Stockholm is her New York City, you see. So I have arrived early, just like Erich von Stroheim, to hang about, to rehearse her in her lines and watch her while she puts on make-up and selects her perfume. Already her parents have given up disapproving of me; now mostly they just accept my presence with typical Finnish courtesy and, I detect, a slight sense of relief. This is not entirely a good thing, because it means we must all sauna nude together, and Stina's mother is quite a bit fat in the hips. So I don't know where to look sometimes.

'This is not a film audition,' Stina is saying. 'So at my age, my body doesn't matter so much--what's important is my face. It has to stand out from all the others in the director's mind. In addition, this is a theatre; it is always very hot and smelly on a stage, so I have to make sure he remembers my smell as well.' For this reason she has been drinking Verbena tea all day. She has read that this will engorge the tissues of the vagina and make them very fragrant. So she has not washed down there either in two days, or bathed at all today. 'There is even a name for this in Paris,' she tells me. 'That's where I was really born, you know, not Solvi. The French believe that every woman has a unique body odour called a "cassoulet". With it she can enslave any man she wants.' She is sitting at her dresser in front of a collection of scent bottles, which are arranged in rows like toy soldiers. She selects one with a red cap and swabs her red pubic hair gently with it. 'He's an old guy, not a young one, and I've read that he smokes. So there's no point in being too subtle. And the other girls will back off from me, as well, if I stink.' She giggles, glancing at me slyly from under her veined eyelids. 'That's good, because then I will stand apart from the rest. But my breath has to be perfect. Let's just pray he doesn't like boys.' In the corner a little plastic radio beneath a cross on the wall is playing softly, 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. She is brewing pure witchcraft--but naturally, it is all according to the strictest scientific principles.

She applies these same principles to her acting, as well. She has read a book that says all emotion in acting is in fact sexually expressed, so she interprets this to mean that her facial expressions must mimic sexual acts. So when we rehearse her lines, which call for her first to be angry, and then to cry, she first pretends to choke while performing oral sex in order to convey anger, then imitates a long and profound orgasm to illustrate grief. I feel a surge of jealousy at this sight, since she has only just achieved her first one with me quite recently, and naturally I am not in a terrific hurry to share it with the world. But that is the life of an actress, I suppose.

Next time: The Magus.

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