And another thing about
The Lion Cub House
“Like similar abstractions, participation is an empty goal unless it is gauged in relation to the job to be done. It is a means, not an end, and when treated as an end, it can become more repressive than the unadorned authoritarianism it is supposed to replace… No one wants to see the old authoritarian return, but at least it could be said of him what he wanted primarily from you was your sweat. The new man wants your soul.” – William Whyte, The Organization Man, 1956
Our dresses fly over crunchy streets.
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
Stripped of their faucets, the rusty tubs looked out onto the road and tried to tell us something.
The cars stopped and the pedestrians walked in every direction they could think of.
Once you understand the nature of color, space and design, your prison will reflect good planning and radiate a personality only you can give it. Play smooth surfaces against rough. Reserve brilliance for accent pieces. If you keep it simple, serene, with a minimum of clutter, you’ll find it warm and friendly, and most easy to keep.
In Mexico Beach the waves crash into a Connie Francis song and one firework poofs in the sky.
The Blue Angels thunder across the sky while BP workers pile up trash bags of tar balls and girls lay out topless. A tan lady stares at the trash bags. “Why are they going so slow with toy shovels? It all makes me want to puke.” Another woman says they’re only allowed to work fifteen minutes each hour. The workers show me what they’re scooping – soft dark pellets the size of cockroaches to coasters. He circles a tar ball in the sand and says they collected ones the size of plates earlier this morning. Then he looks around. “I’m not supposed to be talking to anyone.”
It’s hard to tell where vacation ends and hazard begins. 125 miles east, in Mexico Beach, the Gulf is full of kids. 125 miles west, in Biloxi, families are splashing in the waves. One mile west, an official sign from the county health department says the beach has been affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and avoid the water. No one wants to cut the local tourism short if they don’t have to. Six out of forty beach chairs are used. Men in neon vests walk slowly with shovels while girls in bright bikinis adjust their straps and waves leave brown outlines in the sand. “Is it safe to go in the water?” one lady asks me. “I let my grandson go in yesterday… Is that wrong?”
“At the edge of Brooklyn or the world sits a quiet tea room waiting for you.” – Justin L. on Ashbox Cafe
Goats, ballerinas, bananas, and kings! We all marched the streets to the misfit drum and turned our neighborhood into a Fellini film.
The first thing I saw at last year’s Vappu in Helsinki was a girl in a party dress licking a puddle of beer on the sidewalk. This time around I felt less fazed seeing men topple into bloody concussions and leggy blondes hold one others’ hair while the other hurled. This year I met with the Helsinki Public Works Department to understand how the City cleans the hot mess so quickly. Vappu brings out the slob in everyone and not only are there broken bottles, vomit splatters, deflated balloons, and the occasional lone sock, but there is a lot of post-boozin’ food residue: pizza boxes, burger wrappers, coffee cups, and sometimes healthier fare. Charmed that someone got trashed and ate a yogurt. District gardener Sampo Sainio enlightened me on the process that turns Helsinki so fresh and so clean by Monday:
Number of employees on the clock:
12 on Friday night
10 on Saturday morning
22 (plus 40 volunteers) on Saturday night
30 on Sunday
Likely exceeding 100,000 euros (last year’s cleanup cost 121,000 euros), which includes rent for:
40 waste containers (240 litres each)
75 waste containers (3.6 cubic meters each)
16 trash pallets (8 cubic meters each)
4 containers for bottles (8 cubic meters each)
man hours cleaning streets and parks
Total amount of trash collected:
Over 250 cubic meters (9,000 cubic feet), including around 24,000 sparkling wine bottles!
“Should have gone with peanuts.”
“Rosemary felt that this swim would become the typical one of her life, the one that would always pop up in her memory at the mention of swimming.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night
Tube Dress with Bow
Volumous Vest. Layered Shawl & Skirt
This is what Helsinki’s dance floors look like at 4am. People get hammered. Glasses drop. No one cleans. More glasses drop. The floors get crunchier by the hour. Pieces get stuck to your soles. One friend had to get three stitches after a shard speared his toe. Even in well-lit sit-down bars glasses crash to the floor, people turn their heads, people turn back, and life continues with new terrain. Why? Is it because people don’t sue here? Or is it an extension of Finnish minimal service? This is not a sloppy country. Bartenders pour your wine into measuring cups and trams arrive at the exact minute on the timetable. But the floors look like anarchy at night. We still dance hard, brushing shards away with our shoes, feeling more concerned about feeling the music, stomping away on party jewels and leaving an apocalyptic scene behind.
“Bob, our sales are down. What we need is a sign that will freak the fuck out of everyone.”
“Thus what had begun as a man’s impression of an animal ended in an animal’s impression of a man, and a few drops of private blood gained general currency and became a great pool of public blood, and the world immediately contained more persons who had seen a lizard bite a man.” – E.B. White, on television, 1948
We end another intense work week with a drink at the top of Hotel Torni. It only takes 14 stories to have a spectacular view of Helsinki and feel very poignant. Olly’s new album Karhu ja Tiikerini (A Bear and a Tiger) makes it even easier. Music made in and for Finland. Wait for the drop in ‘Break Fast’. A gush of optimism like the first wave of heat when you step into the sauna.
One of these magnets is not like the other…
Riffing off the ground signage dividing bikes and pedestrians in Helsinki…
someone created a more nuanced edit on my block on Uudenmaankatu.
The tables tell the story in Finland’s immigration office in Malmi: Chechnya 09, Espana, Israel, Be cool, Kosova, Moskova, 30.9.2008 Today, Kurdistan PKK, Kill Bill, Estonia, Turkey, Ahmad 2010-1-13, Iran, Unite, Somali, Vive la France, Hello Everybody!
“Why do you have a long thumbnail?”
ear-cleaner, nose-picker, status-symbol (non-menial-job-worker), cigarette-wrapper-opener, screw-driver, coke-scooper, roach-clip-replacer, luck-bringer…
I’m watching Google Translate re-calibrate in real time as I enter Finnish into the text box, and it’s making government mail kind of exciting:
“In order… In order to fall… In order to continue to be on Social Security… In order to include the Social Security system you must submit a new oleskelulupanne…”
By the end it falls apart (“If you do not ask the time limits by asking clarification, video tracks will be settled between us”), but this is what you get for being an expat. Learn the language or enjoy creative cooking instructions like “pour into a mature pasta strainer” and “catapult the water.” When I first arrived I was pumped to learn Finnish. My coworkers laughed and said they tried and stopped. A year later the extent of my vocabulary still sits around hei (hi), moi moi (bye), kiitos (thanks), miten menee (how are you), mahtava (awesome!), loistava (brilliant!), kippis (cheers!), and suksi vittuun (a noteworthy way to say fuck off – literally, ski into a cunt!). Since most Finns speak English and work at Nokia is in English, the experience has been more like Expat for Beginners, and even Finns admit the language is complicated and hard on the eyes. I feel most immigrant-y when I get my mail or go to the grocery store. Typing words like “haltuunottotodistuksen” into Google Translate isn’t easy and I bring the serious-looking stuff to my Finnish co-workers for help. I only translate mail that looks like I might get deported. I’ll wait for a point-and-shoot translator gun for the rest.
Despite appearances, appelsiini is in fact not apple juice but orange juice (apple juice is omenamehun), and leipäjuusto is Finland’s tasty mozzarella-like “squeaky cheese”. That’s as advanced as I get with food words. I treat the grocery store as a sensory experience and pick what feels right. I believe the milk in the lighter blue packaging means it has less fat. I pick the mystery meat slices that look most delicious. I choose the salad dressing that’s not too orange and not too yellow. I try the bread in the green packaging this time and the orange packaging next time. I have no idea what this is but I like the design of the label. I go by the pictures. I know what it’s like to be illiterate. This has actually encouraged me to linger longer around the fresh produce, which feels familiar without effort (I know you, banana), but winging it also means you end up buying a zucchini when you meant to buy a cucumber.
I ask him for movie recommendations. ”Mannequin. Schindler’s List. House Party 3.”
Low winter sun and Le Soleil Est Pres De Moi by Air makes even riding the bus romantic.
Trucks and autorickshaws in India actually ask drivers to honk at them with elaborate bumper signs. It’s the lazy man’s driving strategy – “I’m going to keep driving like this. If you have a problem with it then toot.” This has led to a ruckus in traffic and initiatives like No Honking Day. But how do you tell the driver in front of you to stop honking?
After Helsinki’s first big snow, the City sprinkles pebbles on the sidewalks to help pedestrians walk with grip over the ice. They continue to add more after each snowfall until the Spring/Summer when they sweep it, store it, and use it again next year. This means no contamination of the groundwater and desertification from salt. This also means that many winter walks involve you, your thoughts, and one tiny pebble caught in your shoe.
“Have you sold any today?”
“Yes, to that restaurant over there… Don’t go there.”
If it’s going to be winter, then let it be WINTER. The Big Ship by Brian Eno on repeat while gliding on a train through soft Finnish snow forests.
Finland offers free local maps in public spaces like Helsinki’s train station and downtown streets. Just push the button and out pops a handy guide and a welcoming feeling.
After people complained that elevator rides took too long, dozens of engineers were hired to develop a faster elevator. Someone else put a mirror on the wall. People didn’t complain after that.
Fun and classy signage in Helsinki’s Alkos that includes over 20 icons to help customers feel out potential food pairings. The duck with the holes? Game birds.
Fuck yeah for brass band disco rock taco truck bottle rocket booty-shaking block parties on Frenchmen Street.
Trains with open doors are better than trains with locked ones. Sticking your head out like a dog in a car – and better yet, doing this with other people – can be one of life’s greatest moments.