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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