Jante – 9:19
Staring into the Sun
Helsinki photography by Justus Hirvi
Words by Axel Lindquist
There are enough skateboard stories told about the ferry between Stockholm and Helsinki already, but I will tell you ours anyway: sitting in the Jacuzzi with Vincent, Axel and Simon, I overheard a middle-aged man sitting in the Jacuzzi next to ours, talking to his colleague. He was sad, on the verge of crying; the lord of conflicting emotions. It so happened, apparently, that his ex-wife had left him for another man, who now turns out to have leukaemia. The sad man told his colleague that he could not help but feel for his ex-wife, who he still loved, and the man who made her happy.
I went to bed early.
Tucked down in the big chaise sofa I lay with my book, reading:
‘In the coming age of increasingly technologically interrelated life, analogue tools and toys will be celebrated by humans; used as a symbol of revolution.’
The apartment is quiet. Next to me on the sofa lies Josef still sleeping, fully dressed, hat on, ass out, phone still in hand. On the floor next to us lies Axel in front of the massive TV, surrounded by three different remotes, none of which are able to make the Chromecast work. That’s how they sleep, the bravest of my fellow revolutionaries.
I put my book down and picked up my phone to start scrolling again. Luckily it’s not charged, so it’ll hopefully die before I do.
‘Historical fun fact number #7: Isaac Newton once tried looking at the sun in a mirror, essentially blinding himself for three days and experiencing afterimages for months.’
This ‘Historic fun fact number #7’ suddenly made a great impression on me: Naivety is crucial for human flourishing.
This understanding could have come to great use the previous day, standing at the ‘Itiksen ruukut’, the volcano spot. I’d been longing to skate this spot ever since Bag of Suck, but now standing there I had nothing to offer. Mind blank. Limited by my insecurities.
Surrounded by drunks and dark clouds I reach for my bag of wax when a warm whiff of lavender strikes me, and I pull out what’s left of the scented candle my girlfriend gave me for Christmas. Comforted by the warm smell I used the moment to express my concerns to Vincent.
— I don’t think I’m feeling it.
— Well don’t think then – feel it, he urged.
This was of course great advice. Only issue being that I felt that I had to take something in order to feel something in the first place.
But now, still under the blanket, knowing that even Sir Isaac Newton made a complete ass of himself I felt encouraged. I should just skate for the hell of it. So be it if I fail. To be bold is to dare the risk of being foolish. From now on this was my tactic to alleviate my anxiety. You sometimes have to look straight into the sun. Of course easier said than done, because as expected from a Jante trip: it was raining outside.
When the phone finally died I carefully climbed out of the sofa, restless. Helsinki is so expensive that you feel guilty for eating, but this didn’t stop Fritte from drinking on his job. The previous evening, while bombing backwards down the Stockmann double sets, stretched like a weasel, he managed to bang his elbow in the rail, opening a deep cut. The wound was soon dealt with and he continued with his work, claiming ‘What does not kill you makes you stronger.’ But now, when I carefully open the door to check on him, I find him sleeping with an arm like Popeye’s resting on his stomach. The constant peril for the free-thinker is having to rediscover that the sun will blind you, or that an old sock and some stickers are not a suitable substitute for a first aid kit.
When I try to quietly close the door again, a draft is created. Our lessor had promised a sauna, and made sure to shut down any possible question about it by turning the whole apartment into one. That’s why Martin is sleeping on the balcony. Thinking about it I realise that even he, this well-structured single-child engineer, has an enthusiastically ingenuous approach to life. A couple of days prior, when we were all hiding from the rain under an elevated container, we found him constructing a man-size slingshot, frantically, as if our NATO membership depended on it. But as much as Swedes are really good at making weapons, Finns are really good at using them: this entertained us for a good couple of hours, launching rocks, sticks and beer cans at each other.
The time could have been greatly used to explore the many spots depicted in Justus Hirvi’s book ‘Under the Complex’, but considering this violent behaviour I can’t blame him for keeping us out.*
*Don’t tell that to Stoltenberg.
In the kitchen the microwave reads 08:13. As I’m trying to figure out how the coffee machine works I notice a plastic bag on the kitchen table. When I pick it up it reeks of root cellar and mysteries, containing turquoise-veined mushrooms. Bolstered by my new convictions, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ all of a sudden feels like a convincing argument. This is as young as I’ll ever be again. I mean, if the other guys can do it.
Then it was time to head out to the weekend of Helsinki Helride, and my new approach served me well.
The open-minded is easily mistaken for being starry-eyed. But not me. This was a deliberate conviction: naivety
is crucial for human flourishing. I dared to stare straight into the sun, and so it turned out apparently that the skate scene was not so intimidating after all.
Essentially tiny men in Big Boys. I had a blast watching the Simon Karlsson and Jonas Bünger demo at Suvilahti DIY, cherished every second skating infamous street spots with Simo Mäkelä, and I’m not even going to mention how
I beat Pat Duffy in the Koff race. All feeling and not thinking. Surrounded by many hundreds of like-minded people, all cheering for Felipe Nunes, Marius and the bunch skating the Arto-gap. Atmosphere euphoric. And just as I’m asking myself why I haven’t had this approach before, an old man barges through the crowd towards the massive jump ramp, covered only by a tiny blue helmet and ignorance, eyes wide as a hammer shark. For a second I’m still convinced by my new convictions, thinking that if this man has both the confidence and capability to ride down the hill then he is probably ready for the gap.
So be it if he does not make it. But as the second went by the whole crowd and I were taught life’s lesson of humbleness. The old man launches horizontally through the air and lands on the edge of the landing, breaking both his femurs, before disappearing into the water. To this day I wonder how he got up from there.
Considering his naivety I can only expect that he at least tried to walk.
Back in the kitchen that early restless morning, as I Google how long the effect of the mushroom lasts I suddenly hear some noise from the living room and I put the bag down, saved by the bell.
I return to the sofa with my coffee. The TV is on, showing ‘Little Einsteins’ dubbed in Finnish.
I am yet again humbled, reminded that next to me, with one hand clutching his phone and the other down his pants, lies no madman of ignorance and luck, but simply one of the world’s most talented skateboarders. Free by competence.