Sunday, July 20, 2008

Erkki Määttänen and Anna-Kaisa at Alpo's, Part II

It was on Thursday that Erkki Määttänen, Anna-Kaisa Kontinaho and I dropped in on Alpo. I had arranged with Alpo a week ago to go look at Marianna's photo albums again, but then invited Anna-Kaisa and Erkki to come along. I picked up some pulla and strawberry tarts from Harri Bakery on the way. Alpo served us instant coffee in Marianna's best china cups.

Alpo lives alone. He was born in Goreham Ware, out by Lappe and Jake Township ways. Despite never having been in Finland, Alpo speaks Finnish very well. Before we sat down at the kitchen table to have coffee, Erkki pulled out the double bass that Alpo keeps beside the sofa and tried it out. Besides being a great filmmaker, Erkki is also a very good musician. I heard him play a few years back at Gargoyles on Cumberland Street, when Ari Lahdekorpi invited him up on stage. At that time Erkki had made a road trip up here, having come to upper Michigan to film Haapalan Pojat [Haapala Brothers], a documentary he made about two 90-something brothers of Finnish descent who had never been to Finland but learned to speak Finnish at home.

Then Alpo showed Erkki a few tricks. Alpo used to play the double bass in a band. He also plays mandolin. He played the mandolin at our SuperiorFinn Midsummer Festival a few years back but now arthritis has come to visit his fingers. Alpo likes music. He has stacks of old LPs of Finnish singers and musicians; some of the LPs are piled on the sofa, some are stacked by the telephone. You can see Alpo's hi-fi behind Erkki in the photo above.

The double bass is overlaid with mother-of-pearl decorations. Erkki said he thinks it was made in Italy. Alpo said it used to be in the Ukranian Hall here in town.

Alpo's telephone is sea-foam green, a rotary dial, corded, table-top model from the 60s. Its design and colour set it apart from the old black table top phones, and it became known as the Modern Telephone. I said I'd call him Monday night about going out driving in Lappe on Tuesday morning with Anna-Kaisa and my two sisters, Della and Katja, to check out old landmarks and homesteads, such as where Alpo's family home used to be, where the old Finn Hall used to be, and visit the two cemeteries where many Finns are buried.

On the wall over the hi-fi is a portrait of Marianna, Alpo's mother, with his sister and brother. Marianna is dead now, but Alpo still lives in the house that they built in the early 50s after they moved closer to town from Goreham. The house is in Jumbo Gardens. Alpo has been a bachelor all his life. Marianna's family knew my mother's family from back in Hyyppä, Finland; so, too, our families were neighbours in Jumbo Gardens. I met Alpo by chance years ago in the weight room at the Canada Games Complex. A year or two after meeting him, he said, I think I have a photo of you in my mother's photo album. Sure enough, there was a photo of me and my sister, Katja, as toddlers and my sister, Della, as a baby in our mom's arms on Marianna's back steps. Marianna took the picture from the bottom of the stairs. Because Marianna was older than my mom (my mom is the same age as her son Alpo) and had come to Canada much earlier than her, she could give helpful advice to my mom about living in Canada.

Alpo has continued growing the flowers Marianna loved, and has inherited her green thumb. He had a plate of strawberries that he had picked that morning on the kitchen counter, and the rhubarb in his garden was wild.

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