SILVER WAS ON the north coast. I had never been there before and I wasn’t sure if it had been named after a precious metal or a popular folk musician. The city was located in the fjords somewhere between the Pakri Islands and Akureyri. The architecture revealed both Japanese and Nordic influences. The rooftops were angular, half Shinto, half Norse. It was dusk when we arrived by train and an orange sun was sinking into the cola-colored sea on the horizon. There were long piers along the waterfront. Vendors were out selling ice cream, painting portraits, and strumming guitars. I took a walk out to the end of one of the piers and climbed down a metal staircase. Then it began to rumble. This was another submarine, right beneath my feet! We began to voyage out into the harbor. There is something magnificent and a little terrifying about the stealthy and quiet movements of a submarine. Once far enough out from port, the one below me began to dive. The water levels rose quickly. The dark and warm seawater pooled at my ankles, then was at my knees. So this was it then, the big end. The submarine was going to go down and I was going to drown with it. Davy Jones Locker. I was somehow resigned to this fate, when the submarine suddenly rose again and returned to port. When I disembarked, I saw that the submarine captain — a certain Peter Townshend, the guitar player for The Who — was wiping his head with a handkerchief and pacing on the docks of Silver. “All my friends are dead! All my friends are dead!” There were tears behind his blue eyes. His face was pink from the moisture. I didn’t know what else to do, so I went and tried to cheer him up.

esplanaadi reveries

I WENT BACK to the Esplanaadi, to revisit the scene of the “Esplanaadi Bakeries.” Dulcinea’s Bakery was closed but Strindberg was open and there were clients inside. Interestingly, Dulcinea’s Bakery was actually closer to the Svenska Teatern, Strindberg’s was farther. I remembered it as being the other way around. And I didn’t see any metal ovens inside at all, so how was it possible that I had seen her baking there one morning in November? That was something that was recorded on the spot. Jotted down in the journal. I had not made that up after the fact. All had happened as it had happened. But even my rendering of a scene in real time had been altered by some personal filter. Maybe I was dreaming? It’s also possible that I could return to the site of the bakeries within a few months and what I recall from yesterday will have rearranged itself. The human mind is just not a reliable tool of measurement. There is no line between fact and fiction. Yesterday, I walked past four teenage boys on the ship back from Helsinki. All four of them were seated in an almost catatonic stupor, staring into their smartphones. It was like something out of a science fiction novel. The great zombification of the masses. “Gen Z.” I’ve managed to pull my mind out of “the matrix” for now, but it’s not so easy. Pieces of the matrix remain with you. You are “here,” in the physical reality, but your mind is still “there,” in the digital one. People speak to you, but you don’t hear them, because you are too busy thinking about something you saw in a virtual environment. It takes time to detox. It doesn’t happen overnight. In the morning, it rained in Tallinn, but then the sun came out. I saw a pretty girl outside Viru Keskus and followed her into a shop, just to see her a few more times, so that I might remember her just as she was. She was dressed ordinarily and there was nothing special about her. That’s why I liked her. I pretended to be involved in the purchase of some vitamins. Later, I showed my daughter the hotel that had been built in 1972, complete with KGB listening stations. We’ve been free for so long. How could anyone ever take our freedom away from us? The Old Town had its fair share of foreign women wearing shades and clutching expensive bags, as if they were just fired from some modeling job. We walked past the Rae Apteek, and chatted about the Apteeker Melchior films. They struck just the right balance, I said, of historical accuracy and Hollywood action. Perfect for popcorn. Pure satisfaction. We couldn’t remember the plot of the last film. Something about hallucinations.

esplanaadi bakeries

THERE’S AT LEAST one decent bakery on the Esplanaadi this morning but there are many others. The first one is called Strindberg, and it would certainly suit Mr. Strindberg, should he still be among us. But it’s actually quite gray and stuffy in there, without any clients or espressos, and there is no life in Strindberg this morning at all. The next one is farther along the Esplanaadi, down beside Marimekko, where the window displays are colorful and bright and even the mannequins look lifelike. Joggers and students are out in the park and the neon sign of the Svenska Teatern is glowing gold at the end. There’s something reassuring and supportive about that theatre. Inside the second bakery, a young woman is taking cinnamon buns out of the ovens. She’s dressed all in white and her gold hair is pulled back into a messy ponytail. I watch the girl work and I can almost taste the rich texture of those buns through the glass. From behind, she looks just like Dulcinea. I hope my love helped Dulcinea. Maybe something really bad was supposed to happen to her, maybe Dulcinea was supposed to be struck dead by a tram, but it instead she is here baking because of some positive energy balance in the universe. One of my favorite encounters with her was years ago at the beach. She herself came up to greet me. She was so small in the sunshine that day, and I wondered if she really could be the same vivid Dulcinea, the beauty who fired the ovens of my imagination. She was so small and light that day, but gentle and warm too, like a life-sustaining spark, cupped in one’s hands. “How old was that girl?” my daughter asked when she had gone. “Twenty-four or 23,” I said. The sand swirled up in the wind and then she was gone and I mostly forgot about her. I forgot all about Dulcinea and had no idea what became of her. Apparently, she moved to Helsinki. She got a job in this bakery on the Esplanaadi. She spends her mornings inside, baking the buns behind the glass, wearing that white outfit, and walking to work in the dawn light, past the joggers and dog walkers, and the steadfast Svenska Teatern. I did love her though and still do and she doesn’t needs to turn around to know it. I’m at peace with that all now. Not everything has to be hammered through correctly, you know. Not every shape must fit. Not everything has to be as neat and as trim and as perfect as they say it should be.

i’ll see you in the faroe islands

WE WERE SITTING next to each other in the studio when she told me that she was leaving. Delivered, matter of fact. The young engineer pretended that he couldn’t hear, because he had his big headphones on and was editing the tracks, and making them wet with reverb. His eyes were on the screen. My eyes were on her. I was still stunned by her smallness, and to imagine that she was a full-grown woman, completely bloomed, and that she would never grow any bigger than this. Even when she was an old grandmother, long after I was gone from this world, she would still be this small. Diminutive in the flesh but stellar in the soul. She was so pale with such light eyes, but as sweet and as tart as a red wild strawberry, the kinds that grow out on the islands. But who dressed like that? Wearing those pants? Who held their coffee like that? Who drank it like that, with both hands? She had pretty hands and lithe fingers. She was beautiful. Young ladies drank coffee like that, with fingers just like that, and they blinked wonderfully at the world with eyes like that. She had the eyes of the forest foxes. She looked at the world through her fox eyes and sized it up and then she sized me up. Large, hairy, spent, craggy, but good humored and good natured and well enamored. She told me she was leaving. “I have to go to the Faroe Islands,” she said. “There’s a folk music camp there and I want to work on my music. I need to work on my instrument.” Those islands, those green rocks flung out there in the Atlantic somewhere between Shetland and infinity. She was going out there and of course I was going with her, even if I had to hide myself away in her instrument case. It was decided. I would come too and even try to enjoy the taste of smoked fish. She came to my house the day of the departure. She rang the bell and I heard the bell ring. She was downstairs waiting. I was up in my chaos. There were clothes all over the floor. My daughters were popping their heads out of the mess like prairie dogs and demanding orders of Indian curry. “I want the chicken tikka. And get two orders of basmati rice!” The bell rang again. This was just not going to work out. I was too old and burned out and had responsibilities. I couldn’t even find my shoes! None of them matched up. She buzzed the room yet again. She was down there in her snow boots waiting. Oh, I wanted her so. I just wanted to run away to those islands and vanish into a warm bed of rain-splattered mornings of moisture and everything. I wanted her so, and desperately, and she was right here and it was time to go. The bell rang and I couldn’t find my shoes. When I finally got down, my stuff tossed into a rucksack, journals and such, she had already gone. There was a tiny handwritten note left in the crack of the door. It read, “I had to go ahead, but don’t worry, you can always join me later. I will wait for you and will always be waiting for you. I’ll see you in the Faroe Islands.”

a meeting of the baltic foreign ministers

ONE MORNING, I just got tired of it all and left the house and went out on the beach. Brynhild was there in her swimsuit, sunning her lonesome hourglass self, but with her head covered in one of those old-fashioned, big-brimmed hats, and her eyes covered with sunglasses, and her skin covered with cream, and her soul covered with unrequited love. She had given me everything, but I was always distracted. “It’s like you’re not even there,” she had said. I didn’t know how I felt about the thing. Sad, I suppose. There was just sadness. Gulfs, bays, and estuaries of the stuff. I told Brynhild that I had no time for her and that I had to go, and I left her behind too, sunning herself on that desolate beach. For a while I just walked on with the sun in my face like a hot blade, passing ice cream vendors with handfuls of chocolate and strawberry, sprawled tanned sunbathers, and little boys pushing copies of Le Monde. Finally, I arrived to the grand Krusenstern Villa and went inside. A meeting of the Baltic foreign ministers had convened and the hall was draped in the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian colors. The gloomy war criminal Russian foreign minister was there, though he looked sulky, droopy-faced, and mildly bored, as if he had been seated at the children’s table at a big Hollywood wedding. Linda was managing the catering. She’s involved in organizing almost everything in this town. She poured me a drink as soon as she saw me come in and tossed back her hair. We decided to go for a walk down the beach together and when we got tired we stretched out in the sands and I told her my story in all of its tawdry, inglorious detail. Linda is just a friend and she’s a lot older than me. Such had become my lot in life, to go from one woman to the next, like one of those pilgrims of constant sorrow they sing about in cowboy songs. “What all of this means,” said Linda looking at me with those blue eyes and tracing a finger across my chest, “is that all of your old relationships are ending now. When old relationships end, new ones begin. That’s what this all means.” My eyes followed her lips to her neck, and then down to her blouse and its white candy buttons that led beyond. It was as if she had the whole sun stuffed in her shirt, and I lost my patience with those buttons. I ripped them apart and soon was face deep in her topography. “There, there,” said Linda, “There, there.” “But what will the Baltic foreign ministers do without you?” I asked. “And the Russian foreign minister? He looked so grumpy today.” “There, there. There, there. The ministers are all having their coffee break now,” said Linda. “And after that, they will have chocolate cake.”

north one-two-five

ONE DAY I was in Lapland with Riho and Alar. They were teaching me how to cross country ski. I couldn’t recall how we had all decided to head up there, but there we were. I had a good set of new skis too, just perfect for freestyle. Riho in particular was a strong skier and seemed to know the terrain quite well. “You just don’t have vistas like these down in Estonia,” he said. He was right. There were long, descending slopes that just went on and on, past lines and lines of pines. It was like butter. The freshly fallen snow billowed up like smoke and it only kept snowing. I was happy there but the following day was less happy. That was the day my daughter and I were driving around Kharkiv pulling Ukrainians from the wreckage of ruined buildings. Another Russian missile strike, the bastards. One woman was trapped up on the second floor and we had to pull her free from the rubble. She was a middle-aged singer in a black dress with red curls. She alone had survived. The poor woman had been living indoors since Christmas and hadn’t taken down her decorations, so they were now strewn about in the rubble, the broken pipes and shards of glass and concrete, the plaster and sheetrock, the blinking ornaments. My daughter wanted to keep rescuing people, but I told her that if we kept going like that, someone would need to rescue us or even worse. Besides, the next morning I had to attend a climate change conference in Stockholm. Some denialists were giving a talk at a posh hotel by T-Centralen, but I was surly and disagreeable and interrupted them. The police were called, of course, and I managed to evade them in the kitchen. But the police went in there too, asking to see everybody’s passports. I stole a white coat and pretended to be the sous chef and made it out the back door, but then realized that I had left the cat in the room — North 125 — and had to go back to get her. When I made it back to the room, I saw four officers standing around the door, pounding on it. I didn’t know what to do so I just approached them. “Excuse me,” I said, “but do you happen to be looking for me?” After I was released from jail, I went to get a coffee at a Chinese restaurant. It turned out the owner had assaulted his girlfriend and also done time for it, though he insisted it had all been in self defense, and that she had attacked him first. He was a young kid, maybe 25, with a baby face, and seemed kind enough. It was hard to imagine he had done it, but I decided to leave anyway. I didn’t want to wind up back in the slammer and, anyway, what kind of person drinks coffee at a Chinese restaurant? I went to find another café and rode my bike all the way down the avenue. I saw posters for the elections everywhere, but there was no café open at that hour. I thought about going back to Lapland instead. Maybe there was a good café up there? Some place with warm pastries and cocoa, hot espresso and hot Sámi women? Maybe Riho and Alar were still waiting for me? The skiing had really been wonderful up north and there was no war.

the last dispatch for the time being

12 NOON, AN ESTONIAN CAFE. The last dispatch for the time being, as my attention returns to work and creative projects and other things. Traveling is a good way to shake up one’s perspective, even in going to a country as close and as similar as Finland is to Estonia. I forget that while Finland is about five or six times larger than Estonia, and has had a less complicated story of statehood, it’s still a small country. Helsinki feels like a metropolis, and there is a certain kind of local aristocracy, or at least wealthy old families, but it’s still the capital city of a nation of 6 million. Helsinki also has a stronger Scandinavian influence, and I don’t even mean official bilingualism, but just seeing the name “Vasa” here and there, or encountering the Swedish Theatre at the head of the Esplanaadi. In Tallinn, we have the Russian Theatre across from Freedom Square. Finns are not exactly a friendly, outgoing people, but they are at least polite in their indifference. In Estonia, one thing I noticed on the train was that people seemed a bit brusquer, or just annoyed by each other. I didn’t notice this on the trams in Helsinki. People keep to themselves, but I do get anxious on the trains here, that I might overstep some invisible boundary and get a lecture on what is “normal” and what is “not normal.” Yesterday I went to a restaurant and got the feeling that the server was doing me a major favor by even taking my order. I understand that most of these workers do this work temporarily, that it doesn’t pay well, and that they would rather be somewhere else, but it’s still a restaurant, and there is a menu, and it’s open. Do you want my money or not? Of course, that’s just one instance of shitty service. Actually, it snowed the day before I got back, and I begged them to change my tires the next morning. They relented and offered me 8 am, and I put my phone to charge, with the plan to set the alarm. I fell asleep within second. When I noticed the light behind the curtains, it was already 8.20 am. I had a strange dream that I had gone outside to put the winter tires in my car, but in my underwear. So, there I was, half naked and standing in the snow, when a whole bunch of mardisandid showed up seeking candy. This is a holiday in November somewhat similar to Halloween where girls and boys dress up like Saint Martin and go around telling riddles and singing songs in exchange for candy. I let these little Saint Martins serenade me and challenge me with riddles and dispensed the chocolate. Then one of their mothers, whom I did not recognize, showed some interest in me, and so I wound up cuddling with one of the Saint Martins’ mothers in a wood barn. She was a fine woman, with curly brown hair. Attractive, I guess. Everything was quite affectionate, if not a little weird, until I woke up and realized that I was late for the tire appointment. I went there and the mechanic was quite understanding and friendly. When I went to pay, he presented me with one of my books and requested my autograph. How strange, to come from a country where no one knew me to one to one where even the mechanics knew me. I didn’t know what to think about it. Then another driver, a middle-aged woman who was quite cute and rosy-cheeked had a bit of a country lilt to her voice came up and asked if she could get her tires changed within an hour and the good-humored mechanic assured her that she could. There were nice people in this land, I thought, and whatever the history had been, they had always been here, getting their tires changed, and wagon wheels before that. I left feeling rather content and relaxed about things.

with bourdain and my new helsinki friends

BEFORE I MET BOURDAIN, I used to live somewhere else. Where exactly that was is not important to this story. Okay, it was in Estonia. But for various reasons I had to leave that country. That was when I hightailed it across the Gulf of Finland on the Tallink Megastar, and walked down into my new adopted home of Helsinki. That same night I met Bourdain at a burger restaurant on Lönnrotinkatu. I immediately fell in with Bourdain and his crew of Finnish degenerates. Gutter punks. Motorcycle gang rejects. Venture capitalists and angel investors. Tony always rolls with his crew, you see. Even if he hates people, even if he detests them, Bourdain needs to surround himself with a circus. Most of my free nights after that were spent right there in that madcap company, with Bourdain and my new Helsinki friends. 


Obviously, there is a problem with this story. Bourdain is dead, so they say. He hung himself in some provincial French town a few years ago. His last known meal was a Choucroute Garnie dish, which contained sauerkraut, sausages, and roasted ham. They said Bourdain was in low spirits when he took his own life. He hated his celebrity, his fame, and his relationships were struggling, especially one with a younger Italian actress who shall not be named. All of which is very true. However, if you hate everyone in your life and your life itself, there is actually no reason to commit suicide. Bourdain did not need to hang himself to get away from these pressures. He just needed to disappear to a place where nobody cares if you’re alive or dead. Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Bourdain recalled a newspaper story about an accountant named Otto Nieminen, aged 64, who had died at his desk in his office from a heart attack and had been left sitting there for days because nobody could tell if he was alive or dead. Nieminen was in the same position as always. That, Bourdain thought, is where I need to be.


If you have ever read Bourdain’s memoir Kitchen Confidential, you know that when Bourdain was young he worked in Provincetown, the bohemian enclave at the tip of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod. You may also recall that some rival chefs in 1970s Provincetown had affected an 18th century buccaneer swagger, and that Bourdain watched them with elements of terror and awe. This was exactly the new persona Bourdain took on with his new Helsinki friends at the burger restaurant. He even kept a colorful parrot, called Papukaija, or Papu for short, who would sit peacefully on Bourdain’s shoulder while he fed it crumbs of Gruyere cheese from his pocket. Then he would announce, in a pirate captain voice, “Seppo, Pasi, me thinks we should go to the A-Plus Karaoke Bar tonight and set us up with some buxom wenches. And fetch me my rum!”

Bourdain and his Helsinki friends had numerous scrapes with the law. Such as that time that they punched out an R-Kioski cashier because he put too much mustard on the kabanossi. Another cashier who worked at Aleppa was tarred, feathered, and forced to drink Lapin Kulta. All because the karjalanpiirakka or Karelian pies were a little undercooked. The Finnish police came around the burger joint on Lönnrotinkatu that night. I was seated with my favorite chef, a young Finnish woman who wore a t-shirt that read, “count orgasms, not calories.” I was having the double burger when they questioned me, while Bourdain fed Papu some fries with pesto aioli. But when it came down to it, I lied. I felt uncomfortable about Bourdain and his Finnish convenience store ultraviolence antics, but I valued our new-born friendship even more. When you are in with Bourdain’s gang, you’re in. There is no turning back.


This is all just background information, because what I am about to tell you might seem a little unbelievable. You might even be shocked. Even though Bourdain was hiding in plain sight in Helsinki, a cold city where he was free to indulge all of the sinister elements of his dark side, he was still Bourdain, of course, which meant he loved to eat. Often, we would go to Mr. Lee’s Great Wall Kitchen across from the A-Plus Karaoke Bar, enjoying hot bowls of beef or chicken noodles, heavy on the chili. Bourdain swore by the broth, claiming it to be as rich and satisfying as the homemade stuff he had tasted in villages along the Yellow River. Whenever Bourdain tasted the broth, he would start quoting Lao-tzu and rambling on about Wu-Wei. “When your body is not aligned, the inner power will not come. When you are not tranquil within, your mind will not be well ordered.” And so on and so on, etc.

There was a little TV on in the corner of Mr. Lee’s and it showed an image of the surface of the Baltic Sea frothing white as the methane from the Nord Stream pipeline made its way up into the atmosphere. Swedish investigators had concluded that the explosions were caused by sabotage, the report said, but they did not name the perpetrators.

Bourdain watched the news report quietly, spearing out some noodles with a pair of chopsticks. He sucked the noodles down and licked his lips. Then he said to me, in a very quiet voice. “Do you remember a few weeks ago when Pasi and Seppo and I went on that booze cruise to Mariehamn in the Åland Islands with Henna and her girlfriends?” 

“Yes, of course,” I told him. 

“Well,” he said. “The thing is, we didn’t actually go to the Åland Islands.”

“Really? Where did you go?” 

“Actually, we went to Bornholm, that island in Denmark. Then we took a boat out into the Baltic Sea and blew up the Nord Stream pipeline.”


It was just Bourdain, Pasi, and Seppo that carried out the mission, as far as I understand it. They put on their diving gear, synchronized watches, swam down, and laid the explosives. By the time they were detonated, they were back in bed with Henna & Co. at a quaint B&B.

“But why did you synchronize watches?” I asked Bourdain.

“That’s what you do when you blow shit up.”

I stared at the TV, then back at the world-famous undead chef.

“I must admit, I am a little hurt,” I said.

“Hurt? It’s not like you were benefiting from those pipelines.”

“No, no. It’s just. I thought I was one of your new Helsinki friends.”

“That’s why I am telling you this! Do you think I told anyone else?”

“Then how come you didn’t take me along!”

“Have you ever blown up a pipeline before, kid?”


“Well, I have. At least now I have,” Tony said. He pinched his nose. I suppose it all bothered him, just a little bit. The faked death, the escape to Helsinki, and now this, international espionage and acts of terrorism. No matter where he went in this world, Bourdain just couldn’t stay out of trouble. If there was a red button, he pushed it. If there was a hot sausage, he ate it. If there was an explosive, then he dove to the bottom of the sea and nestled it nicely alongside concrete-coated steel pipes. Bourdain reached into his pocket with his gnarled chef’s hands and pulled out a few crumbs of savory Kaltbach. Papu the parrot dipped his head down and Bourdain fed him some of the cheese. Then Papu did something unexpected. He hopped on my shoulder. I could feel his claws and adjusted to the weight of the bird. 

“He’s warming to you. Papu doesn’t just sit on anybody’s shoulders. You have to be in the gang, be one of Tony Bourdain’s Helsinki Wild Ones.”

I said nothing but beamed with pride.

“Here, here, feed him some of the Kaltbach.”

“I thought Papu only ate Gruyere.”

“Papu’s like me. He’ll eat anything.” 

I held my hand up and Papu pecked at the chunks of Kaltbach.

“Tell you what,” said Bourdain. “I’m sorry we didn’t invite you. Next time we blow up a Russian gas pipeline, I’ll make sure you come along. They have other pipelines, you know. We’re planning a Turkish holiday.”

“Okay, okay,” I said. “It’s nothing really.” I smiled at Bourdain then, and he gave me a weird look. Bourdain doesn’t like being smiled at, you know. He hates people, detests them really, and honestly only likes parrots and food and vintage horror movies. And karaoke sometimes.

“Why are you looking at me like that? Are you happy I blew it up?”

“I don’t care about the pipeline, Tony. I’m just happy you’re still alive.”

the 8:30 pm train ride home

THE 8.30 PM TRAIN RIDE HOME. Back in Tanel Padar Land. In some ways, Tallinn reminds me of Tanel Padar the musician. It used to be kind of grimy and edgy, but it’s cleaned itself up and grown respectable. The port area is symmetrical, logical, and beautiful in some ways. I feel an odd pride in stepping down a ramp into the city and not feeling like I am entering the hood. I used to feel so disappointed whenever I traveled from Helsinki to Tallinn, to see the wealth of the north dissolve into the gulf waters the farther south we sailed. Now I can see almost no difference between the west terminal in Helsinki and D terminal in Tallinn. It’s about as seamless as two countries can be. It was cold, of course, and the water looked nice. A young woman was walking her dog, who was bundled in a sweater. They both walked so quickly. I tried to prepare myself mentally for being among the Estonians again, speaking their language, thinking their thoughts, distinguishing their thoughts and ideas about the world from my own. At the conference, I met an Estonian and he asked me, as if on cue, what my “nation” or “people” was. He described the Russians as an imperial people, bound up with the idea of empire, so that no matter where they go, they are part of one moving organism, born and bred to follow their leader. The Estonians though have been the help for centuries. They served the Danes and the Germans, the Swedes and the Russians. They built the grand estates, but they did not sleep in the master bedrooms. Theirs was a peasant democracy. “How long, how long does it take,” he inquired, “for a people to change their mindset?” I told him of the Greeks who sailed the Mediterranean, and who brought Greek life with them wherever they went, to the south of Italy, along the riviera, and up the Black Sea. Every port is home, and you can never not be at home because you take your home with you wherever you go. That’s how I feel about this world I live in, and these places I travel to, on a ship from Helsinki to Tallinn. Something feels very comforting about traveling between cities on a ship. And knowing that the one you left behind was your home, and that your arrival city is your home too. It’s probably not true and just some nonsense I made up, but I liked that idea, of being some reincarnated Argonaut, sailing around, looking for good adventure.

helsinki, 8.30 am, restless

HELSINKI, 8.30 AM, RESTLESS. My hands are so cold and tight from being exposed to the dawn elements, I can barely type. This is a budget hotel, if it can even be called a hotel. In the center, there are two types of lodgings: high end and low end. For about €300 or €400, you can rest and eat well. For the rest of us, it’s the low end, the R-Kioski coffee at 7:30. Actually, I stumbled into a hotel, but they agreed to give me a filter coffee for €2. In Estonia, I would pay more. I am not so concerned with prices. Numbers are numbers, but the server, Henna, was even engaging and friendly. Finland is colder than Estonia, but the Estonians are colder than the Finns. So, as I said, it’s the low end for me, and that also means The Low End Theory. Walking up and down these avenues and down and up these boulevards with A Tribe Called Quest in my ears. Watching those green trams glide away. There is something about the neon lights, and the iconic Ravintola sign that I recall from my first visit here 20 years ago. I remember I called my parents from a payphone to let them know that I was alive. I left a message on the answering machine and that was it. Internet was doled out on an hourly basis at a cafe. People composed messages beforehand to send them to anxious lovers and relatives. This morning, I noticed a few gray hairs. It’s happening to me too. Time. But how should I manage or think of this time? Or should I pay it any attention at all? I don’t want to think about it. I just want to write some more. I think of ideas as wreaths of a kind, or necklaces. I mean this in the sense, that they are put upon us, or made to hang around our necks. However you conceive of yourself, that conception probably comes from someone else. Maybe it came from your family, or from a film you saw, a book you read. You learned to think of your life a certain way. You learned to position yourself against a background, the same way one of these granite or metal statues stands before a gleaming Helsinki department store. I walk by giant images of hulking men sporting luxury watches and ecstatic women in sheer brassieres. This is what it means to be a man. This is what it means to be a woman. This is what it means to be. We have all become characters in some kind of soft pornographic film. This is the essence of existence, a €2 coffee to go at 8 AM on a Friday morning in Helsinki. Back and again through the Esplanaadi, pausing at the corner for the Number 9 tram to make its way back up to Pasila, I decided it, that I would have to finish the book, and the other ones I had planned. Even if nobody ever read them. Even if it came as a great loss of time and energy. The books needed to be finished, I decided, they were worth more than money or time. They required respect and devotion. I would see them through to the end.