E-Travels With E.Trules.....finnn-land......Scandinavia,
Borneo, Malaysia, S.E. Asia Travelogues
may 17, 2001
good morning. it's friday. it must be finland.
i'm trying to wake up. get conscious. i'm a little hung over. jet lagged after only two to four hours sleep my first 3 nights in helsinki. the green onion-domed orthodox churches have welcomed me to this most eastern of all european cities. maya's late night-early morning tour upon my arrival revealing a crisp, cool, glimmering and golden-lit city. a mix of pristine modern and old world, eastern architecture, sitting half soberly, half drunkenly, on the cold baltic sea, like a stoic beauty still subjugated after so many years by her rival swedish and russian kings and queens.
first night and i'm already driving. a volvo naturally. but there are no cars on the road. and it's only midnight. even the freeways are deserted. welcome to cold, northerly, unpopulous scandinavia. superficial, sunshiny LA, it ain't. my israeli diplomat friends, maya and raphael, show me my spacious, well-appointed quarters on lissankatu street. the boys, lihran and elon, have each grown half a foot each, their voices changed an octave. the baby girl, almog, is already toddling about and speaking a hybrid mix of finnish, hebrew and english. i give the guys their purple and gold laker caps and jerseys. shaq and kobe? oh yeah - basketball. culture shock.. it must be finland.
first day. walking. walking. the massive, baroquely ornamented central train station, the 19th century greek-columned national theater with the pepsi banner flying adjacent, the green oxidized statue of alexis kivi, finland's most Famous writer. coffee, yogurt, and croissants at the kiasma, helsinki's world class ultra modern art museum. me, standing under the nude statue of paavo nurmi, the flying finn, the nation's great long distance runner. the same man my high school, cross-country-running dad held in such great esteem. 1952 still a living and breathing memory in this country trying so hard to carve out an identity between its proud beowulf-styled literary legend, the kalevalla, its multi-national success story, nokia, and the last time it hosted an olympics.
today the city is breathing its first gulps of spring. the leaves have been on the trees for perhaps five days. new buds, new energy, intense light, blue sky, outdoor cafes, everything is green. the finns are walking around in shirtsleeves for the first time. leaving the dark behind. thawing. white-blond finnish girls in tank tops. wow! two euro guys, one shaved head & goatee, the other wire rimmed glasses & buzz cut, are bending the notes on their guitars and singing the blues, "'i'm in the mooood for love." why not? me too. it must be finland.
second night. and we're seeing dvorak's new world symphony at finlandia hall, the chic contemporary concert hall designed by finland's most Famous architect, alvar aalto. guests of the czech embassy, don't you know. back for coffee and desserts afterwards at the moravs. it's 10:30 and the sun is still stubbornly refusing to go down. sitting around talking. economics. politics. serbia, prague, the mexican-US border. why is it as soon as i leave LA, i suddenly feel like a world class citizen? culture, arts, god forbid -- ideas!! not that i don't consume culture in LA, teach at a university, or read the LA times. but here, i'm the foreign guest. the man to meet. what do i, as an american, think? european union? israel? immigration? on and on. 'til 2 in the morning. thursday night. have to get to work tomorrow at the embassy. alright, goodnight. kiss, kiss. me? i can't sleep. weird dreams, sexual fantasies. i wake up completely disoriented, have no idea where i am. i look around at my open suitcases. blond hard wood-paneled floors. oh yeah, it must be finland.
next day. sleep in. pick up e-mail. oh hello, you got my mail. nice. howse it going?
walking. walking. cell phone? car rental? damn, so many decisions to make without a home. where will i sleep tomorrow? never mind. be here now. on to the national museum. the history of finland 101. from ice age to new age in four and a half hours. you know how i love history. i'm always the last one to leave the museum, leaving some tedious detailed historical accuracy message for the curator. paleozoic, mezolithic, neolithic... ice age, stone age, bronze age, early iron, late iron... doesn't it just kill you? trying to keep it all in order. pre-romans, celts, visigoths. charlemange, carolignian, and now here come the vikings................... half a millennium of swedish rule, an autonomous grand duchy of russia. 1918 independence, a civil war that's hidden from memory, the first european women's suffrage --- it must be finland.
third night. dinner. pietu, maya, raphael, bibliana, howard from brooklyn. you know, all the right people in the perfect finnish cuisine local eatery. broiled white fish, raw reindeer meat, boiled potatoes with fresh dill, red beet borscht with sour cream, red salmon roe, home made crepes with gooseberry jam, good coffee. and all the euro-fashioned eaters - looking so genuine, authentic, unpretentious, unglamorous... so -- fucking real. and interesting. then back to pietu's studio. a 4 level factory-type converted loft turned into finland's top commercial production & post production house. this guy, pietu, 50 something - long hair, barrel-chested, tan leathered skin - has invented his own motion control system. he has a crane-like lego-land system to shoot table top products, tiny details, perfect focus. fantastic show reel. cinematographer-director. "hacienda"' productions. high quality. relaxed atmosphere. mandatory bar and sauna included. i have to either: 1- get this guy to hollywood. or 2- get hollywood to helsinki to see Him.
four in the morning. i'm exhausted. but still excited. overly stimulated. try to sleep. not much luck. eyes throbbing. i tell ya, it must be -- finland.
erik the green