Recently in Travels Category

not writing it down.

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

in the backstreets of GuangZhou

"hope you are writing this down. even if just for yourself."

i recently walked down a street in london and the shutter speed of the camera was set to 1/500 of a second. i thought that i could somehow sneak by a few minutes by letting the little machine have a very brief look at the world, all together not even adding up to a single second, and yet sliced in space in a way that could recreate a book blown away by a gust of wind if printed out and thrown back. into thin or thick air. air.

when i sit in a taxi and it speeds under a bridge that carries a train filled with standing people, in that very moment, going from one side of a country to the other. when we meet for that one tiny fraction of a blink. was it worth it? was it worth preparing for this one moment for our entire lives. and what if all these moments were familiar. like the face of a friend in a street somewhere in a place seemingly visited for the first time?

what if there were the anticipation towards that moment of passing. people in objects, moving in very different directions, at different speeds. lucky enough to meet. to overlap almost, if only seen from a distance great enough.

"see you next time" i have abandoned the idea of leaving any memory completely. a shadow of it will eventually find me and turn a gap between words into a trap, or a garden i did not anticipate.

or maybe both. maybe gardens are traps. and traps are made to be teachers or kind friends who allow to pull the world into a bitter, or sweet taste at the top of one's mouth.

the most lovely part of getting lost in the back streets of guangzhou was that my palate was remembering the stones of the houses. breathing in was more enjoyable than i could have anticipated just moments earlier.

like objects enclosed in objects, moving at various speeds into directions that are set by the gravity pulling on other objects. a never ending restless dance of little particles on a ball of spinning dust. there it goes.

i will try to sleep for an hour. the recording of a brass bell will remind me to wake up and walk into my evening that will look like bright day to a place i like to call home.

sleepy. perhaps that's the way to describe the split second that will follow.
my eyes are shaking.
because that's the only way they can see.

Fruit in the streets of GuangZhou

back at the Louis Hotel

It is a rainy morning in Munich. I have not left the hotel and hope not to have to until it is time. Maybe in two or three hours. Working from the room now. 503

The sound of the spinning hard drive a not very pleasant reminder of the transitional nature of analogue things.
That would include me.

I have been reassembling myself in places. Sometimes more successfully than others.
The interiors are often similar and then the software, the wetware makes the difference.
I sit in some of the same seats on the same numbered flights to the same places.
The neighbor in the seat next to me is a different person.
Sometimes they will not speak at all. Sometimes they will speak too much.
The flight attendants perform the same scripts.
Taxi drivers take the same routes.

I look around in the room and it feels like an assemblage of things I like, minus the people and things I miss, plus a few objects and ideas that might not belong here.
And that could in fact include me. Maybe.
I can never be certain.

Had a calm dinner in one of the good places in town last night. And I did not feel very well yesterday, so I hoped that there would even be a seat for me.
I happened to have the entire place to myself.
The other people arrived in pairs, just when I my main task was to break the caramelized crust of the dessert.

Munich feels like a frozen crystal box at times. It sits here. Beautiful and calm and just suspended in itself. Some of the people in it playing dress-up.

The concierge and I had a conversation about this past year. Some of the staff decided to move on. Some are still here. Hopefully here to stay. At least for another year.
Johann will keep exploring the beauty of spirits from interesting places. Suzi is putting together a new wine list for the winter.
She says it is a good one this time.
And I completely trust her.

I have to get back to work now. Break is over. There are many paths that need a little bit of grooming and sweeping. Some glowing charcoals need the encouraging breeze for a brighter, warmer glow.
I like everyone I have the pleasure to work with. I like them a lot.
Met some new people but they appear to be just the people I always hoped to meet.
I will meet some people this week. And I am very much looking forward to it.
And I am not making this up.

Will be in New York for two days,
then for another six or seven in
Munich and Frankfurt.

Hope to feel better by then.
Many amazing worlds lie ahead.

I might need to steam that jacket.

The boxer looked at me suspiciously as I was on my way back to the seat behind his.
I felt a bit as if he were just about attack me. But I guess that's jst the way he looks at people sometimes. It was a bit as if his eyes were capable to generate a rede dot of light. The last warning before a bullet follows.

The three men who are with him, pudgy, loud and happy drinkers certainly do not have that sniperish spark. Or at least not today.

I met several flaneurs in Garmisch-Partenkirchen yesterday. Maybe they were far enough out of their element to be called something else. I met them for seconds at a time.

A woman walking down the path towards Partenkirchen gave me directions to a place she never had the opportunity to visit. A place called Schöne Aussicht simply had to have a good view. Or at least at some point in the conscious past.
I am now not completely sure if I actually ever managed to arrived at the Schöne Aussicht, or if i managed to walk beyond it without actually recognizing it.
The views were beautiful. All along. I might have passed the one recommended, of course.

Then there was the elderly couple who liked that I was using my umbrella to protect myself from the afternoon sun. Their dog Baloo could not know that it had the same name as the most recent friend of my parents. The one whom they had to bury in their neighbor's garden, after the poor thing was not strong enough to lift his leg. Or any leg. A smart little buddy of a border collie reduced to a shitting carpet. Blind. And yet happy.
The dog running around the Alm somewhere above Partenkirchen was still oblivious of his destination. It was a golden retriever. A dog not completely aware of the jobs available in this mountain environment. It even ran away for a little while.
That's how I knew his name.

Soon after I met two horses under the shadow of the tree. With them, hundreds of flies eating on them. The Horses' eyes were almost completely closed. They looked very tired with their bodies standing close to each other and in a way that would allow them to kick anybody with the audacity to get too close to the tree, the flies, them.

Ten cows, and their ten sucking calves walked up the hill not far away from any shadow. They had come to drink in a place prepared just for that occasion. The mothers were able to have the water. The little ones were hungry, and allowed to have the milk.
All played their part in the symphony of bells. Small and large.
The mountainside. Suddenly beyond romantic. The sounds. The sounds.

Down the road, beyond the gate made for cows and people, I encountered the snake. A snake I almost stepped on. It looked too big and its colors were too interesting for it to be harmless. And its neck had turned itself into an S. It was ready to bite me, or at least launch its head after me. Clearly.
We both stared at each other in a calm or perhaps even focussed way. Or at least that was my interpretation of it.
We just stood there for a while. Well, I stood there for a while. The snake obviously did not.
I wondered if it was my now stupid black umbrella that worried the animal so much. I imagined that I must have looked like a large bird? I could imagine how the snake did not want to die exactly here an now. I moved away slowly. And so did the snake.

Then there was the girl on the meadow. This one was dressed. She was unlike the one who lay there naked next to the train tracks a few miles out of Garmisch.
Staring at the passing by trains.
The dressed one on the meadow here had her head turned away. Privacy can somehow achieved by just not looking. It is true for the New York subway. And apparently also for the meadow just outside of Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Further down the street, a little girl on the monocycle pedaled by me. "this looks incredibly difficult" I said. "it is incredibly easy. You just need to practice." she answered,
as she sped down the hill and between the painted houses.

The saddest encounters were not even with the living. At the St. Anton church, nailed to its walls, a cemetery of memories. Men and women who left the place for a war, never to return.
Their photos looked like those of friends.
Some of them looked the way I used to look when I was their age, 18, 20, 21, 30, 35. One was exactly my current age when he died.
Some were not even allowed to have died. They were just "lost". They were not even given the privilege to become actual bodies in an actual grave. No closure permitted for those left behind.

One board had been carved for two twin brothers and their older, third.
It was tragic enough that all three brothers did not return to their home here. But what seemed to make matters worse, was that one of the twins apparently managed to survive the war. He died in 1948 when finally allowed to go back home from siberia. Or at least I hope he was allowed to go home. I am not sure why in exactly this moment I remembered the two fly covered horses under the tree.
Did he die knowing of what had happened to his brothers?
Was he hopeful and looking forward to returning here? To the very spot I was standing on?
Most of the men seemed to have died in February; in Russia.
I felt privileged to be able to encounter a summer in the beautiful town they were forced to leave to die. And I was aware that there were many other photographs somewhere out there, tragically connected to these. Mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers in other villages somewhere far away. Connected to the same horrible events. Their family killed or "lost".

A man barely able to utter a sentence had sent me on the walk, actually.
He was a man in his twenties maybe? His eyes hidden somewhere in the depths of their sockets and stumbling words seemingly barely able to find their way out of his mouth.
He seemed to be a head taller than me, his arms somehow uncontrolled and randomly helpful and almost dangerous.
He approached me in the little chapel where I happened to be taking a picture of the "holy water to go" in a corner. It was a relatively large jar.
I refilled my bottle with holy water from the plastic barrel nearby. When I was taking the picture, the need to frame it correctly must have made me look pious. I was a person kneeling in the corner of a tiny church. Not even in any center of it.

The man was very helpful.

He sent me in the direction of the pictures, the snake, the girl on the monocycle, the cows, the horses and even the beautiful view of Zugspitze.

The train rides from and back to Munich were pleasant. Out of habit I had purchased first class tickets. And so I ended up being the only person in a car attached to an otherwise crowded train.
I paid for the solitude.
And the lack of conversation.
But perhaps also for the luxury of reflection.

I hope the boxer from flight LH410 will win his fight. The three pudgy men will undoubtedly be very happy when it happens. They will probably take the plane back to Munich with more joy then. And they will drink more and they will take more pictures of their boxer.
And he looked quite good with a yet unbroken nose.

like a not very well organized suitcase on a back trip, the collection of thoughts and observations allows for good arrangements, but only for those who take their time to make them.
and every little object is somehow related to another little object. the world is contained in each and all of them together as well.

in the past 12 months or so, i managed to circumvent the world no less than six times, a database told me. and yet i feel as if i were coming from the moon, and still the world appears a distant blue marble against the backdrop of the infinite soup of the universe.

i learn something tiny with every flight. i am getting better at selecting seats that allow me to look out the window during the day, and to sleep relatively undisturbed at night.
i try to select airlines that bring me to certain places in a certain way. and i prefer the ones that treat me in a certain way when i am on board.
the ability to make the choices themselves is probably the main luxury i managed to carve out of the experience of having been in the air so much.

there are always surprises, of course. and sometimes they are good. sometimes not so great. and every next flight is a mystery.
one plane recently was almost empty, probably because not many people like to fly on passover, leaving that to a particular breed of angels. then the flight coming back was so full because of the upcoming easter, that i ended up being pushed forward to one of the most comfortable seats. the ones that earn two chocolate bunnies per flight.

going to beijing next. on tuesday. for two days. and i know already that my internal clock will not arrive on time, and that i will be lost in a debilitating chamber of jet lag. 12 hours of time difference after an almost 14 hour flight. it is going to be bad. perhaps even horrible.
and i will need to be awake during the day. more than awake really.
what i am going to beijing for is certainly not sightseeing.

and in some ways i have been there for the last few nights already. a beijing assembled from little snippets of stories about the city, and even from whatever my brain seems to think about the world at large.
so what will need to happen is for my wrong expectations to trade places with over millennia assembled reality and for my old assumptions to trade place with completely fresh observations.

it happened that way all of the recent journeys. perhaps on all journeys ever taken?
oh yes, i remember it being much more difficult after watching too much television.
but for the innocent mind, the one that wants to see and learn all anew, the quote "Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it" still feels very valid...

and with the proper exploration of any little object really, the meta picture of understanding the world gets better and better. and it is the "better" in the emotional meaning of the word. i will never be able to assume any rational improvements.

and so my feelings about beijing are completely innocent. someone on the last call mentioned "we will feed you things you have never eaten in your life." and i know it is going to happen. and it will take me years and years for my mind to improperly digest them.

this is not a book with empty pages.

managed to not say a word to the guy sitting next to me on the plane. even though we appeared to be the same age, we seemed to read the same magazines, and even ordered the same food.
well, i watched "wickie der wikinger" right after "kojak" while he held his iphone close enough to his face to leave smear marks on the screen. with his eyelashes. it was some art movie. mostly blue pictures of people doing something.
it was not my seat anyway. i was supposed to sit two rows back, in a seat i had booked months in advance. but there was this father who wanted to sit next to his sons.
"i speak three languages" said one of the boys, maybe 8, instead of a hello, when i was exchanging my opened blanket for the one that had not been used yet.
"oh that's nice, what are the languages?" " i speak english, german, and french."
"das ist ja sehr schön, dann haben wir zwei sprachen gemeinsam" "ja"
i was a bit upset that we did not have three languages in common. today.
perhaps the boy will end up learning polish at some point in his life, or perhaps i will finally be forced to learn french.
that charles V quote i recently read somewhere made me smile... I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.
he should have probably mixed it up now and then. and would he have used other languages had he not suffered from the habsburg jaw?

we are back in new york. the snow flurries are turning the palette of the brooklyn i can see out of the window now into something that one would probably use a pencil to describe, perhaps some dirtied sienna? a true lead pencil?
it appears to be cold enough for the flakes to actually bounce of each other as they land. they do not feel they should be come one cover of snow yet. right now they want to be new year flakes.

we travelled a bit too quickly in the last few weeks. it is so tempting to just jump on a train to go to a place that is so close and yet so different than the current location. köln is now about an hour away from frankfurt? really? that's pretty much the length of my daily commute today.

what is it like to express anything in more than 140 characters? how many facebook friends does it take to make one who will actually save one's life when it is threatened? not just like or comment on one's fall. or just retweet it.

jetlag can be a beautiful thing. and now i am even 5 minutes early.

There was a bit of a problem with a part related to electricity on our plane from Newark to Copenhagen. The pilot tried restarting the entire system by shutting down everything and then starting it up again. But that did not really help. A part was indeed broken and so we were stuck in an airplane, in the sun, with bad air conditioning... I think for about four hours?

I kept sending emails and little sms messages back home and to the office, until the electricity on the blackberry ran out as well, so I reached for the iPod, the trusted little friend, to teach me some Japanese. Real beginner stuff; I can barely count to three. (And that's probably because I am also a bit of a Mr. itchy knee.)

The earphones I have had for my iPod for a long time now are rather great. They really block out noise without requiring batteries. That's why I got them. I can push them really deep into my ear canal and the world around me quiets down; so the music, or in this case a person counting in Japanese becomes really loud and clear.

Things were going okay, until one of the ear plugs fell out of my ear. The right one just fell out onto the seat. Very annoying because it did not just fall out, it also lost that rubber piece that actually makes the noise cancellation so good.

How was I going to find a little rubber piece stuck somewhere in the seat of a plane, stuck in the airport, with the night really setting in now, and the sweatiness level increasing all around me?
I tried to just move as little as possible. Perhaps the piece fell actually onto me. Maybe it was just there, all I needed to do it to look really thoroughly.
It took me probably a minute to realize that the the piece was not really as lost as I at first thought.

It had never actually fallen out really.
The rubber piece was simply stuck.
In my head.
I could now feel it with the tip of my finger.
A rubbery piece, fitted very snugly in the depths of my head.
Now that was a bit of an unpleasant feeling.

Great. So here I had an adventure on top of an adventure.
I had to share the story with someone. Hopefully someone who could somehow help me. Oh yes, tweezers are no longer permitted on airplanes.

A very friendly flight assistant, she could have been a long lost sister of pippi longstocking with dyed hair, seemed to react to my story and the way I told it.
Here was my iPod. There were my earplugs. One of them was missing a piece.
"Do you know where I lost the piece?"
I would then point to my right ear.
"It is stuck in here."

She wanted to help me. Flight attendants are apparently allowed to bring tweezers on board. She began to ask her fellow flight attendants is they had a "pinzette" that word is apparently the same in Polish and in Danish.
("Tak" means "Thank you" in Danish, yet "Yes" in Polish. And I wonder why.)

I went to the bathroom to check if I was perhaps able to see the object in my ear. The bathrooms on SAS airplanes are rather huge by airline standards. Two windows, all around mirrors. Do I need to say more?
I could not see the piece in my ear. Maybe a shadow. Maybe there were too many mirrors I had to use to actually see anything. All I could really see was that I am losing hair in the back of my head as well.
Big time.

The bathroom did not contain a "Pinzette" just a few towels (frottee), some lotions, cups, some abandoned sewing kit, a shaving kit. Nothing useful really, unless I wanted to sew up or shave my ears.

I left the bathroom and ran into the flight attendant again. She had rubber gloves on, and indeed a nice little Pinzette. She looked excited.
We looked for the brightest spot nearby. It happened to be in front of the still open door of the airplane. We were still grounded. Three airport workers spoke with the purser of the flight, a woman in her 50's maybe, wearing a butter colored dress that somehow matched the idea that butter might have been one of her favorite food groups.
The purser should have been the calmest person on the plane, but she somehow managed to make everyone slightly nervous, trying to look friendly when it was a bit obvious that it did not really come easy for her.

"I have to tell my boss what I am going to do," said my rubbergloved flight attendant.
I was seated on one of those jump seats the crew has to tie themselves to during the very moment of takeoff and landing.
The purser did not really seem to care what was about to happen, and so the flight attendant lowered herself to my height and began operation earplug.
I obviously could not see what she was doing, but it appeared that she was not really pinching the rubber piece very hard, and it kept slipping out of the grip of her tweezers.
What kind of tweezers were they anyway? They looked a bit like the cosmetic equivalent of a hammerhead shark. What I was looking for was something pointy and strong, this was not really going to happen?

"What are you doing?" The purser was here now. She had completed her chat with the airport workers and we were apparently the next little vignette in her walk of worry through the more and more chaotic airplane.
"The tweezers are too big." My friendly flight attendant said.
A brief exchange in Danish, or Swedish followed.
The flight attendant looked at me.
"Are you American Sir?"
I was not sure what she meant by that. I am a legal resident. I am a New Yorker... well,
"I guess I am almost an American, yes, you can speak English to me, why?"
I hoped that was the right answer.
The purser looked at my friendly flight attendant.
"Stop helping him right now. If you make a mistake he is going to sue you."
Her English was not fantastic, but clearly some understanding of the world was really somehow simple...
(And I had apparently not given the correct answer.)
"Maybe we should just..." and she made a movement with her hand that somehow indicated that she would just like to slap me in my face. ...
"We can't do this here right now. Get back to your seat Sir. We will now serve dinner. We will deal with this after dinner."
My poor helper had to take off her rubber gloves... "Don't worry, I have children. I take stuff out of their noses all the time."

Dinner was served.

I felt worse and worse.
What would happen once we closed the airplane door? What happens to the ear canal after takeoff? The pressure changes. And then what?
Was I destined to carry a piece of rubber in my head for the next few days?
What if it moved further inward?
I was not sure, but there was just a slightly uncomfortable sensation about all this.
Was I going to lose my balance?
My hearing?

I could not have dinner before I resolved the issue.
The sewing kit in the bathroom could actually be the answer.
I locked myself in and found the abandoned sewing kit again.
Several colors of thread, two needles, two small white plastic buttons, a small golden safety pin.
There was a solution in here somewhere.

I opened the safety pin and bent it to be more of a straight piece of golden wire with a point. I then inserted the point into one of the little buttons and bent it into shape until I has a golden little tool, a hook custom made to remove rubber objects out of my ear.
I obviously did not want anything sharp to go deep into my ear canal. The bent hook seemed like just the right thing to do.
I decided to not rely on any of the mirrors. They would just confuse me. I would probably end up poking myself in the eye.
So with closed eyes and as gently as I could, I slowly began to look for something that would give the hook just the right amount of resistance.
It was very obvious when the point touched the skin in my ear. It did not really hurt, it just allowed me to somehow create a bit of a mental picture of my ear canal.
After several attempts, the hook gripped something.
I pulled on it gently. A sound as if I were pulling out a shoe out of mud told me that I was indeed pulling something.
Then the hook slipped.
Okay, I had to try again.
I must have attempted to penetrate the rubber with the hook about eleven times. It was a fascinating experience in reality perception really.
There was the resistance, the hook was penetrating the material, there was more resistance, I pulled... the loud noise, the pleasant feeling of a foreign object being removed from the body...
a little more, a little more...
and there is was.
The result of my fishing expedition was in my hand, stuck onto the end of a golden hook. I had managed to bring myself into a dumb situation, but I also managed to get myself out of it somehow.
A pleasant feeling.

When I left the bathroom, there were three flight attendants looking at an instruction manual of sorts. "We are looking for safe instructions how to remove the object from your ear."
I showed them my little contraption.
My friendly flight attendant looked like she really wanted to hug me. I guess we were all relieved, but it would be a bit odd to hug someone because I just managed to pull a piece of rubber out of my ear.
So we did not hug.
She rubbed my shoulder.
I rubbed her shoulder.
We were both very happy this had all happened without any interference of the purser.
And actually before dinner!

For the rest of the flight, all of the flight attendants came by to see me. Some of them just looked at me, most pointed to their left or right ear and either smiled, or had an inquisitive expression on their face. Their lips would move, but they would not utter a sound. "Are you okay?" "How is your ear?"
It was pretty obvious what they were asking. The words were overly expressive.
Yes, I still had my ear.
And I can still hear.
All of my actions might have actually been very dangerous though.
On a tiny scale, of course.
Compared to us riding on two jet engines across the ocean.
But it was a personal story.

The ear incident.

We arrived in Aalborg about 23 hours after leaving the office at 2pm.
The baggage did not make it;
but that's not that special.

As I am writing this, the suitcase was actually delivered by the friendly SAS staff.

And Aalborg is alive tonight.

I will need to finish writing now.
Tomorrow will be a truly fascinating day.


Back in Los Angeles

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Back in a hotel I stayed in about 5 years ago. And it is a much better place now. And I am also in a much better room. Well, suite really.
The little plants in the different rooms are very much like the ones I am growing at home, so it feels very much like a little part of me came here to the west coast with me.
A tiny part.
My heart is in Brooklyn, of course.
But the plant here on the desk in the office is smiling at me, somehow telling me not to worry, and that I am going to be back on the east coast in just a few days really.
My reason to stay here five years ago was for a client presentation, and it was a very strange one, in a place just a few blocks from here.
This current trip is much more focussed. We will be shooting. Traveling without moving. We flew west to shoot the far east. It will be interesting.
I am looking forward to it.
And the people joining me here are so excellent. More reasons to be calm.

If only my cold finally went away. Soon I hope. I really hope to not have to land with the pressure in my sinuses. It is a painful affair.

Oh, and we also stopped by an in-n-out burger. A group of men was performing some magic, the gathering mass. The men at the table next to us were discussing the benefits of mario cart. We were there in the largest production car... I guess it was a very fast reminder that we were indeed in Los Angeles.

Hmm... feeling like an actor somehow. I guess I should get ready for tomorrow.
And we continue...

Walked around the castle this morning. There is a field in the back, waiting for its yellow color. the trees are currently covered with multiple layers of moss. birds are moving in slowly into the many homes prepared for them. what sounds like a joyful song could potentially be an angry territorial argument.
it is still cold here, but the water around the castle is molten now and school of huge carp wait for their feeding, or maybe for the mosquito larvae which could also make a delicious snack.
my room is like a snail house made out of oak planks and granite. so wonderfully quiet, calm, a very fine filter for concerns. perhaps the very tiny ones make it through. no big ones allowed.
calmness. or slowness, as suggested by the Hamish Fulton piece in the lobby.
there is a small one in my room as well. each room has a special one. there are 65 of them.
also sat down in the old chapel of the castle. a Lawrence Weiner piece reminds about stone plus stone & stone and stone.
stone and wood.
we are just like water around them.
calm now.

going back for a short visit to munich now.

Soft as snow but warm inside.

| 2 Comments | No TrackBacks
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.)

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Travels category.

Star Aliance is the previous category.

turtle is the next category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 4.25