Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The pitfalls of Kallio

They tell me most people who move to Finland, do so through Kallio. We immigrants may move further on later, to other neighbourhoods or townships, but this is where we take our first steps in a brand new civilization – this is where we form our new misconceptions and build complex new stereotypes in our over-exposed heads of what it actually constitutes to be Finnish. And for foreign eyes that have grown up leering at miniscule wooden houses in a small town of 3 thousand inhabitants in the north-west of Iceland – what a place! Situated 1.305 nautical miles southeast of Ísafjörður, Iceland, Kallio is, to the untrained eye, one of those places you read about in beatnik-novels and hear Tom Waits croon about – it’s the neighbourhood on the wrong side of the tracks, a fairytale land for anyone with a mild streak of bohemian romanticism. And a borderline paradise for those with a more solid, rampant streak.

Waking up in the morning I am free of the ceaseless chirp-and-chatter of birds, the belches of moo-cows, bleating of sheep and ripple-gurgling of the ocean that has swallowed so many – sounds that thus far have plagued my life with mundaneity and a sort of rustic backwardness. Instead I’m softly awoken by the sweet and melodious song of the drunkard, the smell of traffic driving through rain-soaked streets while teenagers on skateboards scuttle by. The world is born anew when the hierontas open for business, with their yuletide neon-illuminations flashing in rhythmical splendour, as if to welcome one-and-all. The last of the grill-shacks close as the bars reopen, and the incence stemming of newly implemented smoke-law victims trails across the street. Ah, ‘tis a new day in a new world, ours to seize! These truly are the bee’s knees.

My parents still live in the old country, the old world, and I’m obliged to understand that they may worry, as all people fear what they do not know. Nobody fears a drunkard as much as he who has never seen one, and the city-bred invariably avoid the sight of such country-side standards as udders, dung, fish entrails, straw hats and denim overalls. I’ve even heard of city-folk who live in fear of meat, which would suffice to get oneself institutionalized in the part of the world I originate from.

And sure enough there’s no shortage of dangerous situations in Kallio. To begin with it seems to me that highly infectious plagues of allergies are rampant in these parts. Since coming here I have not met a single person who doesn’t suffer from lactose-intolerance, hay fever, pollenosis, glutein-intolerance, dust-mite allergy, or one of the other species of city sickness. My own body has completely stopped understanding midge-bites and city-gnats, and chooses instead to puff up all over in pinkish inflammations. Apparently experience doesn’t come free.

Automobiles incessantly hustling and bustling up and down every asphalt-covered surface provide the ideal setting for a country-bumpkin to get himself roadkilled; cheap bars are traditional pitfalls for the bright-eyed surrounded by big city bright lights, and even Google Earth knows that beer doesn’t get much cheaper than round these parts; the the house of our benevolant Lord, The Kallio Church, doesn’t seem to bode anything remotely nice after dark, casting it’s pitch-dark gaze over Karhupuisto with such weight as no man can withstand; and I don’t think the naked guy standing outside my front door yesterday evening, flapping his hands like a monkey apeing a whooping crane, was particularly safe company. In fact I’d dare venture that he was downright dangerous, to both of us.

But I’ve survived so far, and hope in fact to survive a little longer, in this human forestry of civil (and uncivil) engineering, macheting my way through the thicket of passengers crowding the trams. For a while perhaps I may remain wary of the bright lights, but eventually I guess even the drunkard’s song will become as mundane as the ocean-ripples, and the midge-bites will stop itching, but until that day arrives I shall be the happy recipient of my own blue-eyed alienation – fully nelsoned by the bee’s knees.

Written for the finnish magazine MoveOn.


latimer said...

There are so much words, decorated with long sentences, why one can't say that all more simple way, just like a native in Cupa whose intention is nothing but to make the thing undertood, nothing more, nothing less. Your answer should be yes or not.nothing else.
Not need to prove a point tha I'm not the man who belong in those forty million illiterate americans

Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl said...

Some thoughts require more than "simple".

Anonymous said...

I heard today that we have some mutual close relations; and that you live really close to me. :P Also, never thanked you for including me in that anthology you did, only heard about it thru Leevi. Cheers for that.

Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl said...

You're welcome. So you're in Kallio? Perhaps we should have a beer at some point?

Anonymous said...

Actually in Vallila, but the distance is minimal. And a beer would be grand. I was also trying to shamelessly plug my fab new old blog.