Monday, May 22, 2006

44 HRS IN HELSINKI

At this point in my PhD student lifestyle, I am near poverty. So, you would think that I’d have saved the less expensive countries to travel to during this time of near-homeless hedonism. But instead, I saved the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland – the most expensive parts of Europe – for last. Stupid Hedonist. Bad, Hedonist, bad! Returning to Italy next month ain’t exactly gonna be too affordable either, particularly Florence, Tuscany and Rome.

I don’t know why I wanted to go Finland. Uh…I still don’t know why I wanted to go to Finland? In Helsinki, the best things to do…are…uh…um….well?...uh…I was there for two days and I still haven’t figured that out. Helsinki is really small. I covered the entire city in an afternoon. I walk quickly and (seemingly) with purpose and a keen sense of direction, and thus often speed through foreign cities without ever consulting a map, but still get a thorough, substantial feel for the place, too.

About a week before I hopped on the plane to Finland, I pulled a muscle in my lower back when I’d been running one morning. Awesome has since given me the high-tech medical term for this muscle, the name of which I quickly forgot. So we’ll just call it my back-ass muscle. Not that I have a front-ass, too, but rather, I have severely injured whatever muscle it is that covers my entire lower back and then stretches down into my left ass cheek (this morning, the pain seems to have moved down into my entire left leg, too?). By the end of every day while trekking across three Scandinavian cities, I was in such pain that I would limp back to my hotel. I looked and felt like a raped whore after a 72-hour shift. Picture Elisabeth Shue at the end of Leaving Las Anus Vegas and that's me. Only, on some unfortunate days, I would leave my hotel in the morning limping, rather than waiting for pain to overtake my entire body after a day of walking. (Why do I always break myself at the most inopportune times?)

So, understandably, I was popping Hydrocodeine pills like Tic Tacs all over Scandinavia. If I could have injected it directly into my bloodstream or had a daily Hydrocodeine shake for breakfast, I would’ve. Awesome nursefully instructed me to not swallow massive amounts of Hydrocodeine and then walk around for 8 to 10 hours a day, that it would only make agitate the pain and make things worse since I would have no idea whether or not I was aching. So, me being me, I did the exact opposite of what my private nurse practitioner instructed, and wandered aimlessly in a state of faux joy (!!!!). I! Loved! Everyone!

I know that the sizes of Helsinki and Copenhagen are comparable to Amsterdam. And while I do not remember much of my trip to Amsterdam for obvious reasons, I did my best to feel no pain – NO PAIN, BABY!...well, at least on and off – all over Scandinavia. Thus, I’m not sure if I have an authentic take on any of these cities and countries – but hey, when do I ever? Plus, at the end of every night, when I was literally panting or grunting while limping like I’d been bum-fucked to Saturn and back (this feeling might sound pleasant to some readers, but oh, it was not), I recurrently decided that my only option was to get really, really drunk with strangers, in order to numb the pain in my special middle zone.

But wait! There’s so much more to tell you about Helsinki! I limped around the 1952 Olympic Stadium and completed an entire lap in pain (I pictured a bottle of Ketel One at the finish line)! I rode on a little rickety wooden boat out to Island of Pihlajasaari (I don’t know about you, but this is the sound I make when I sneeze) and gimped about in the lush Finnish greenness! I gluttonously inhaled an all-you-can-eat Finnish food buffet! Oh. Wait.

I’m not really sure what the culinary fascination is with buffets in Scandinavia, but they’re everywhere. Even at posh restaurants. All my life I have had a mondo problem with the concept of buffets. Consider what a buffet is at gloriously white trash American restaurants like Cici’s Pizza, The Golden Corral, Pizza Hut, Fresh Choice (wow, how ironic is that name?), et. al. If, as a restaurant patron, you separate yourself from the buffet-goers, what you see, without slight exaggeration, is a bunch of farm animals waddling up to a trough. It’s unnerving. Who wants to eat from a trough? I don’t, especially with my back-ass pain. Some people must’ve thought I was making passes at them as I hovered over in pain while reaching for salad tongs, and all the while sticking my ass out for all the restaurant patrons to see.

I cannot get involved with buffets because, really, what they ask people to do is to become snorting piggies who dip their hands and ladles into a giant bin of grub. If you really think about this, I’m not even speaking metaphorically. There’s always the big fat piggies who return to the trough like eight or nine times, as if this is his/her last meal on earth; and all the while, they’re glancing around to see if the other farm animals are counting how many times they trough-it-up (and duh, of course the other animals have a piggy tally). Then there are the uncultured suburban child piggies without manners who literally stuff their hands and faces directly into the trough because they don’t know any better, and then wind up with mac-n-cheese stuffed up their snouts and buttermilk gravy glopping down their pink faces. Sorry, but: You (anyone) + buffet = feedin' time at the livestock ranch.

Waddle, waddle; dip, dip, grab, grab; snort, snort; stuff, stuff; check please! That’s a buffet. Or, rather, a trough. So, how and why, then, are these methods of eating so bloody popular all over Scandinavia? I don’t know. You probably don’t know. I’m not even sure that the skinny Finns, Swedes, Danes and Norwegians know either, but buffets are the places to eat in Scan-land. And, um, they’re like way cheaper, too, which is why I went. Twice I even snuck dinner into my bag. I was not pleased when I had limped back to my hotel on Tuesday night and my laptop was swimming in salad dressing – which, at one restaurant, they had accidentally called Rhode Island instead of Thousand Island. (Who knew the smallest state had its own condiment!?)

That’s all I can report about Helsinki. Really. Period. Capesh. Well, other than the fact that I drank with two friendly male Finns for like five hours one night, who then ended up beating the shit out of each other in the street at 3am. I saw at least two fights a night in Helsinki. Those Finn guys love to fight, like it’s a requirement after heavy drinking. Even more so than Irish blokes. Whenever this happened, I would just give in to my back-ass pain, lay down in a pile of my blond midget self in the street, and play dead. Then I would sneakily crawl away when no one was looking. Worked every time.

So. Helsinki. Sort of a thumbs down. (But now I want to go to the north of Finland to play in more pretty Finnish greenness.) Just go to Stockholm instead, which I loved and shall report about tomorrow.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:
The cool thing about being famous is traveling. I have always wanted to travel across seas, to like Canada and stuff. - Britney Spears