January 2006 Archives

The Morning News will run a new feature with fifteen new photographs of the little bear in Helsinki. The gallery is not up as I am writing this, but knowing my recent days I will not have the time to write this entry tomorrow. (You are probably reading this entry "tomorrow" anyway, so it probably really does not matter. I like the new series very much. Those who would like to see which five pictures did not make the cut can take a click over to my flickr page. oh and I obviously did not take 20 pictures. (it was more in the hundreds.) A big "thank you" (again) to Rosecrans Baldwin for being so patient with me.

Soft as snow but warm inside.

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For the first twenty minutes of the day or so, the brain remains in a strange place, a bit of a semi-slumberland, where reality is a dream and those other dreams are still just a thin, thin membrane away. And that's just after a few hours of sleep. Or dreaming. What happens if we throw a brain into a very fascinating place, where almost everything appears new and familiar at the same time and then crank it out of that state after about seven days and throw it into a very quickly spinning wheel for a sporty hamster and just pull it and push it and drag it over the floor of a midtown office space and then splatter the remains all over the tracks of the f line ... well, not really, of course, just the imaginary brain, the neurons, you know what i mean? It is going to be almost a week soon since the return from Helsinki and I am just now getting back to some of my senses. I was able to work very hard through the week, but I was not really able to digest what truly happened in Finland. Helsinki was pretty much exactly like nothing I had expected. I am ashamed of what I had expected. Some bizarre little portion of perhaps my brain-stem had expected the stewardesses on finnair to be dressed as snork maidens, the pilot to look like moomin papa, the groke to work at the hotel counter... you get the picture. Once in the city, I was expecting scenes a bit comparable to ghostbusters, with a giant moomin walking the streets of the Finnish capital. I thought that everyone would have cute and soft furry paws and that it would be a happy place where the snow on the trees is sweet and not cold. You know, like frost-ing. Helsinki was nothing like that. Instead there was a gigantic Alvar Aalto, standing over the city like the Colossus of Rhodos (only bigger) and he was not only standing there, he was waving at us all with his "young Eskimo girl's leather breeches". (Google it if you think I am crazy for using that description.) Everywhere. It somehow became too much too soon. And then there was Marimekko. The stripes and dots and the poppy flowers were even more in our faces than Alvar Aalto. Was everybody secretly wearing striped underwear? Is a printed giga flower on a cotton fabric the equivalent of a venti soy latte for the Finns? Parts of the city felt as if they were being preserved inside of a giant dry-ice block. Some of the restaurants we entered have not been altered since the 30's. Some since the 50's. They were beautiful places. I guess it was just common sense to leave them exactly the way they were. Down to the glasses, down to the waiters, down to... the young eskimo girl's underpants (everywhere, everywhere.) And yet the other side of this stunning freeze-frame experience was a superbly contemporary way of things. 97% of the hotel room was recyclable. no chemicals were used unless really necessary. there were so many layers of glass in some windows of the hotel that it might have been as well our body heat that made the giant sheets of glass amazingly cosy, while there was a raging snow storm outside. Nokia phones come from Finland and it is not surprising at all if one just spent a day there. And it was also not surprising to see what looked like a whole collection of 2006 model cellphones at the Historical Museum, made out of stone, thousands and thousands years ago. (Tools of a different kind of communication. Or maybe not.) It is somehow not a contradiction that contemporary thinking can be thousands of years old. One can be incredibly efficient and create amazingly simple and beautiful things if making them somehow helps the survival in an incredibly wicked winter. It sometimes felt as if elements of contemporary design were not developed but unearthed here. Common sense and simple beauty are truly good things if one wants to stay alive and see the next spring. And it was f*cking cold. It was dark and f*cking cold. And I do not usually curse, yet here I found myself stepping into the street, wrapped in layers upon layers of fabric and just cursing through these layers, and more and just angrily punching words at the wind which kept hitting even the tiniest parts of any exposed skin. My eyeballs seemed to freeze. And I cried and cursed and sled and punched until we reached another warm oasis of commerce and clarity and common sense beauty. And i have never in my life seen more women who hated their blond hair so much they would turn any visible representation of it into something else. (and something completely different at times, some of it not even resembling hair.) And it also felt as if changing the color of a Finnish woman's hair gave her the ultimate protection from even the most severe cold weather. no hats were used by so many here. how did they do this? and why did so many men shave their heads. did they not hear the news? winter was definitely here. again. Who knows. Maybe they kept warm from the inside. It happened more than once that we by accident scratched the thin friendly surface of a person at a store, for example, and flames came shooting out, hot flames. Some heat (and anger) seemed to be bubbling wildly under the skins of more than one person here. the snow at first felt and looked like friendly dust. it moved around and freely, shaping snow bunnies in some corners here and there. it later became the ultimate surface of things. snow streets, snow sidewalks, snow trees, snow everything. and it seemed completely okay and not new and just the way things were suposed to happen. were helsinki in the united states, the streets would be drenched with dirty, salty, poisonous water and the giant all wheel drivers would pretend to be in sport and utility and vehicles. because helsinki is in finland and because of all of the factors mentioned above, there was just a trace of gravel on the sidewalk in some areas. the streets were often perfectly white and shiny ribbons which i was able to cross by running up to them and then pretending i was on a snowboard. One glide across eight lanes. No problem. (I was looked at as if I were the village idiot. Nobody looks at the village idiot.) and cars were not driving slowly, ever. the speed of vehicles did not seem in any way adjusted for the obviously lethal snowy conditions. it was some sort of miracle that nobody got hurt. or maybe not. Maybe somebody got hurt. Or maybe it was not a miracle. And Kiasma was even much better than expected. Even much better than that. (And I will need to write more about it.) And reindeer steak was delicious. And so was smoked reindeer. And I am angry with myself that I did not buy more Dumle. And I had completely forgotten that shops in some counties do not open on Sundays, no matter what. and so I failed to buy any of the Arabia Moomin cups I wanted to get. Here we go again. Yes, Moomins. Soft as snow but warm inside. Or maybe more than just warm, really.
for pretty much a week I am going to be away from communication devices that would allow me to change things here. i am going to be in the capital of one of the most wirelessly advanced nations on earth, and yet my phone is going to stay in new york, and it is going to be turned off too. i am sure the site is going to receive tons of spam (i do get plenty of spam here every day,) and maybe there will be some strange comments that are going to be on the edge of spam (happens too.) I probably should have prepared better for the trip, though nothing prepares better for a trip than the trip itself. (Prepares for the next trip, I guess.) I always wanted to visit the place from where the moomins and nokia and aalto and saarinen come. (Nice bizarre combo in one sentence, isn't it?) Tonight, very late tonight, the place outside the window is going to be helsinki. And I have no really solid idea what is going to happen next. (And yet, I can't wait.)

what side of it all now?

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This morning I ran for about 13 miles. It was an easy one, I do it all the time. Just up to the park, then around, then by the museum, the botanical garden, down the streets, then over the canal, say hello to the birds by the ocean, then all the way back, up third street. I got a tiny bit warm running up the 52 steps to my apartment, but the windows had been left open, so it was nice and cool, and there were three birds feasting on the feeder. A squirrel was pushing its nose against the glass (makes that squeaky sound, like a small eraser). It looked like it wanted to smell the white tulips in the window. I think this is when I woke up. It was about 15 minutes before the alarm was supposed to go off. All of my limbs hurt from the dream run, I guess, perhaps more likely from last night's dinner, an odd composition of what was left in the refrigerator. I sat in the chair for several minutes, just slowly gathering the pieces of the morning. I drank a glass of water. The tulips by the typewriter are wilting in all possible directions, even before they had a chance to open. I guess it is too early for them to be around really anyway. The lime tree next to my bed feels as if it were dying. The leaves do not seem to be producing the oils they used to produce. I had forgotten the plant behind a curtain one time, found its leaves curled into dry skeletons. I managed to bring it back to life, with just seven well placed leaves, but it is just not completely recovered yet. I am watching this one very closely now. I took it to the south windows, where it gets much more and much better light. It is too far north for this little guy. It is actually the top of a much larger plant which I grew from a pit i found in a salad bowl about two years ago. Maybe three years. I bet the plant does not know, or care. I will draw portraits of it, I think. I should draw portraits of all of my plants. Yes, I will do that. Will start soon. They are not the best looking plants. Most of them were found half dead in some dark offices, abandoned. Some were just pits. Trash. Hmm... The train was incredibly packed this morning. I had taken an early one. Maybe that's why. The guy next to me was reading something about beasts with pure golden hair. No other colors. Pure gold. Purest. They seem to have walked to the water. Whatever this might be. The water. I found a homeless house the other day. I did not want to write too much about it. I think I will. I just need to feed it something good. It is still very dark. My reality is often much stranger than my dreams. I think I like it that way.
what a perfect day to take a walk to the train... (well, not really.)

The serious plan of a tree.

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Sat down at the table in the strangest corner of my kitchen. The tea tastes a tiny bit soapy and I am not sure why it would. Why would freshly made tea poured from a clean pot into a clean cup taste like that? I am admiring how thin the edge of that cup is. Amazing grace achieved through the use of horse urine? Or was it burned bones? I think this is why it is called bone china. The burned bones give it that extra little something. But why is the tea so soapy? Rubbed the floor behind the sofa with some branches taken from the tree thrown out by one of my neighbors. (Made sure to use branches out of reach for little dogs.) I also steamed some of the branches, which really changes the color of the needles but also incredibly transforms the atmosphere in the kitchen. (In a good way. Really.) Just noticed that i wanted to write about the sticks growing branches again. Will i turn into a shrivelled up apple man who is going to repeat a few stories over and over again? (has this process begun?) Will i be able to type them up here? Wouldn't it be interesting to see the same stories progress and turn and wind themselves up like little toys in the middle of the night? the tea looks really rather good now. the colors are fading. soon everything around me is going to be black and white again. (The setting sun does that to the colors.) and tomorrow i am going to take a train... ag-ain. and it is going to be exactly ten years that I arrived here in New York. I had two suitcases with me then. I had sent my computer (a powerful Quadra 800) in a very special grey box, via fedex. One of the suitcases is still in my closet. The grey box is in my living room, covered with a blue blanket. It is now empty, turned into a very strange little coffee table. I think the tea pot here right next to me actually arrived in that same box? Or maybe it did not. I am not quite sure. I am also no longer sure if my plane arrived on the 3rd or the 2nd of january of 1996... Was I in the air right now? Or on the ground? Or where exactly? and the plants next to me by the window did not exist then. No, wait, they actually did. Their idea existed already. The plants have been around for much longer than the idea of humans existed, or so I think... and so the plants next to me, by this window, overlooking what used to be the battlefield of brooklyn, their idea just happens to be here and the idea of me just happens to be lucky enough to be next to them now. And the streams of existence objects and living things are like braids, like very oddly woven braids perhaps, on a head that never stops thinking... or dreaming... or growing... or... Hmm... language allows for some very strange little particles to find a comfortable state together. All on strings of sentences, one after the next after the next. Over and over and over again. And there is no way I could even attempt to describe what that tree in the backyard is up to. I think it has a really serious plan. (Wow, now, did I?)

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