January 30, 2006

Living la vida Estonia (Three day trip to Talinn)

By Sigge. S. Amdal © 2005

Homemade (ramble)

So I'm at this cafe at Oslo airport, right? I'm there for nothing but a cup of coffee, and standing in line, I notice these huge chocolate muffins the size of a sheep's head, which costs nearly fifty NOK each (that's about ten dollars). They are big, of course, and the looks of it reveals quite a good mocca fill. Anyway, the tag next to them wants me to believe they are 'homemade.'


Now, this is not a local vendor, it's a chain, baby. I'd like to see the home they were made in. That's what I'm talking about. There's no respect these days, when you can call pre-fabricated shit that only needs ten minutes in the oven 'homemade.' It's OK that they say it's "nearly as good as homemade," 'cause that's a comparison in accordance with Einstein's theory of relativity, and far from stating that it actually was made in an actual home.

And I'm not one of those who care so much about where stuff is made. All you need is common sense. If it's cheap, an Asian kid made it. But homemade food is something different, not just expensive.

'Homemade food' has love, security, family and all other sorts of positive relations bound to it that I refuse to just give away to Corporate Crap, Inc.

'Homemade' is not some brand you can buy. Because of the economical world thinking differently, we now have to introduce 'levels of authenticity' in regards of items matching the criteria of being homemade.

I am aware of the public relations that these companies need, and I understand that "pre-fabricated then heated in a genuine stove" doesn't have a nice and appetizing ring to it, but there's a line here and they've crossed it!

Mika, the Finnish lesbian waitress coughed.

"Oh," I said, realizing it was my turn. I cast a hateful glance at the quote unquote homemade muffins and smiled to her. "Just a coffee, please."

Arriving Talinn

The first native word I learned in this, the capital of Estonia, was affald. It means 'trash.' The second one was aitäh which means 'thank you.' In other words I could communicate that I am trash, but appreciate it. Women love that sort of thing.

My first fuck-up was not bringing any cash. Yes, I'm lazy and it was all my fault. But not only the future takes VISA. Estonia does too. My second fuck-up was leaving my camera at home. I despise tourists and consider myself a traveler. A traveler sees what he sees, a tourist what he came to see. I wasn't expecting to see much, though, having to stick with the group and attend all those jaw-busting conferences. It's amazing how far the jaw can open in a yawn. Anyway, having arrived here at the Reval Hotel Olümpia I soon found out that I was on the twenty-first floor. Man, the view from here is awesome! The hotel is pretty good too. They've got plenty of bathrobes, a bathtub (man have I missed one!) and suicide stoppers. When I enter a hotel room I instinctively check for suicide-stoppers by the windows. Could be something from a previous life, or something. It must have ended tragically.

There's just one thing, though. I've got a double bed. Now that is depressing. Which is why I've decided for my third fuck-up this far; checking out the Bonnie & Clyde Bar at the first floor. Good night!

(The fuck-up was far from fucked up, since I got in bed around midnight.)

La Vida Loca

One would think that conferences primarily made up by researchers and government officials would be boring, if you're not into the politics, or whatever it is they call it. But you should think again! These people really can party! Which leads me to my fourth fuck-up, but let us take it one step at the time.

In between sessions of groupwork and plenum presentations, I walked around a little and tried to suck in the atmosphere of Talinn. People there seem to have two moods: they're incredibly happy, or they hate your guts. This woman behind the counter of a kiosk nearly barked at me when I bought cigarette paper with a big bill. The architecture is nice, although a bit worn, but I found a lot of potential in the city. Apparently there's a lot of mafia innit too, capisce?

After a session on trafficking, more precisely the term 'vulnerability,' in which this woman from the Social Department of Estonia made me feel like a chauvinist, I decided to have a bath. It was a really good bath. I hadn't had a bath for years (since I left the North of Norway, late summer of 2003, actually). In this wonderful bath, an hour which I treasure immensely to this day, I had a long monologue which concluded that having a penis doesn't make you a chauvinist after all. It comes in addition. I just got the double package.

There were two hours left before the big dinner after which the drinking would commence, and I went down to the bar. Had a cup of coffee with one of the researchers who wanted to discuss my future. Almost everyone wants to know what the hell I'm doing this fall, so let me spill it out to you once more: I have no effin' clue!

Anyway, we were soon joined by two more, and we decided to head into the old town to get a head-start on the drinking (told you so). We ended up at this place where women in old style farm girl dresses served mugs of beer. The kind of place you just have to like. The beer was plain but the company amusing, drafting - among other things - a common bird's sex life, and after an hour or so we were ready for some food.

We went up to this restaurant whose name begins with the letter 'M.' I can't remember more than that, but if you ever get to Tallinn, just give me a call and I'll direct you. It is highly recommended to go somewhere else.

The food was tacky and didn't have much taste (so much for traditional Estonian food, sorry to say), the service was slowly killing us, and the only thing keeping us alive was the steady flow of beer, wine and spirit that we more or less had to provide for ourselves. During the meal, which we masterfully managed to press in between the drinks, I had a terribly interesting conversation with a sign-language translator. I have no idea what we talked about, but I can tell it was interesting.

One beer led to the other, but we soon found the restaurant too bad a place for our loitering, and headed back to Bonnie & Clyde. This is where the fucking-up begins.

I was already on my way to get pissed, you see, and the lack of real food had made room for extra beer, that's what I was thinking, at least. So, in Bonnie & Clyde all we had to do was race for the bar and get a beer. The band was playing crappy music, and later on the arrogant DJ (who swore on his mother's life that he'd never heard of Tom Waits) would take over, sending vibes of crap all over the place.

I got into conversation mode, since I tried to escape these looney students at the institute, who had this idea that making me dance would be a real blast. I think they had something of a bet going on. So I kept refusing.

I remember at one point giving up on the entire party, walking piss drunk out into the Estonian night heading for this Heavy-rock place I'd seen down the street.

Thank God it was closed.

After that, things kind of took off.

I woke up wearing all the clothes from the night before, my zipper unzipped. My throat was sore, my tongue thirsty and my cellular phone was stuck into the stuffing of my James Dean leather jacket. I had a glass of water. I had a litre of water. Then

I remembered: "Shit! We're going home today!"

I had a look at the watch, it was midday, and I had time for a shower.

Then I checked out and headed into the restaurant where lunch was to be served, knowing that I'd missed a couple of "classes" and would loose my head over it. I found a table with the students mentioned and I sat down without looking at them, poured myself a glass of water and had a piece of dry bread.

"Tired today, Sigge?" one of the girls said. I grunted. They laughed.

There was something in their laughter, some hidden knowledge that I presumably had lost.

I manned myself up and turned to them: "Did I dance?"

"Sigge, don't you remember?"


After a while, having eaten my lunch in a very solitary mood, there was a pat on my shoulder. I looked up into the grinning face of my boss.

"So, Sigge, what was all that about the mafia, then?" The girls giggled.

Being my boss I gave him my best answer: "I have no idea."

I must defend myself. I think someone must have slipped me something. Maybe three shots of whisky. The thing is, girls are very secretive. Especially if there is something they know which they know you want to know. After a week I learned that I'd tried to pick up a few women from the institute, that I'd asked the DJ to go fuck himself and that I'd danced half-naked on the dance floor to "I'm too sexy for my shirt…" in addition to running over to my boss (getting dressed) screaming that there was mafia all over the place out to get me.

Jesus Christ.

There are two lessons to be taught from this trip:
1) Having a penis doesn't make you a chauvinist
2) Drinking too much at seminars (or in any other co-worker scenario) is probably the stupidest thing you will ever do. It comes back to haunt you whenever someone wishes to set you back. And I have a lot of enemies. Including the mafia.
But apart from that, it was a good trip, and the first thing I did when I came home was got pissed. Not a runner-up, but a cover op. Should've seen more of the city, though, so Worry, Estonia! I'll be back.

Sigge S. Amdal is a word wanker from Oslo, Norway.

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