“Hello? Yes. This is Mauro. Where? Yes. What? Wrong street? No. I’m on the correct street. I’m not?”
Regardless of a rather tricky address of mine, being on an alley that is not legally a street my first experience with Uber Helsinki was a success.
– Waiting time: About 6 minutes from pinning my pick-up.
– My trip of choice: From Eira to Vanhakaupunki on a Friday evening.
– Price: 16,89 €.
Dafuq is Uber?
Uber is “Everyone’s private driver”. An app on your phone. The basic idea is that registered Uber drivers (you can apply to be one) drive around town and you pinpoint your desired pickup location. Wait for a few minutes and you’ve got a ride waiting for you. Call it a personal taxi, but far nicer, since you register your credit card into the app and never ball around with money nor plastic money.
ONE CAR! Well, the service hasn’t been around too long in Helsinki just yet, but as a tourist and a heavy user, you will find a ride even here. Moreover it’s 23:30 on a Monday night. Maybe it’s Mauro?
See, the great part about Uber is that you get to rate your drivers on their behavior. For the drivers not to be enslaved by their customers, they get to rate you too. Order too many times with a no show? Be sure to hardly ever get a ride again.
I got my Uber virginity conquered by a great guy, Mauro. An architect from Italy, doing architecture during the day and meeting new people and studying the architecture and the intra of Helsinki by night. And making a buck while doing it. We had a bumpy start him not finding me at first, but because this is an app, it is connected to your phone which means you can message or call the driver for further instructions. Heavenly.
Although the conversation was mainly a one way street, Italy towards Finland, I got to know (apart from the architecture part) that Rome is not a place for ladies to walk on their own during the night, that spaghetti pomodoro is the greatest Italian dish available and that Finland is saturated with beautiful women. Si si!
When finally arriving to our destination I get a firm handshake, a thank you, I give a Buena Notte and Mauro drives off to find somebody else to drive around. I get a notification to my phone that my credit card has been charged and voilà! No hassle.
Now there’s always the discussion about whether this is legal in Finland and what not. Well, remember the time I went to Open Bar & Club in Helsinki? The booze buffet. Well. That was fun while it lasted. Uber is a third of the price of an ordinary taxi. Take advantage of it as long as you can here in Finland!
Download either for Apple freaks or Android nerds. In case you want a 10 € discount from your first ride, be sure to use the code fredk172. Tested that too. Works.
Guess what? Friends & Brgrs, the fast-casual burger joint with extraordinary burgers is expanding to Helsinki this Spring. You’re probably familiar with the trend where hyped up street food restaurants open up in remote, shoebox-sized spaces where you can fit about 20 people. Always a line outside.
Friends & Brgs has been mastering their art in the Pietarsaari restaurant for quite a while already, so the burgers are top notch, but how about the location? The burgers speak for themselves, but being able to find the place even for people who have never heard of it makes life easier on both ends. After a while of scouting and searching a spot with about 80 seats and easy access was found. Needless to say, the spot is locked and soon to be loaded.
Friends & Brgrs Helsinki will be available for your tastebuds in Aikatalo at the corner of Yliopistonkatu and Mikonkatu at the latest in the beginning of April 2015. Yes, RAX used to house the perimeter.
But what has to be done before a restaurant can be opened? Demolish the old one. In-joy! More about F&B on their website: http://friendsandbrgrs.fi/
2014 passed by, this blog wasn’t updated too many times. The rare occasions when it happened was when my IP address referenced me to different Starbucks’ in Los Angeles and San Diego. That’s about two different occasions this year. Sorry about that.
Resolutions and promises etc seems to be hard to fulfil when you talk about them. So let me write it down; I’ll write one blog post per week. This means that I either have to experience something new or get furious about something which seems in my eyes to be wrong. I’ll hope it will mostly be the first.
Maybe I’ll start an underwear blog, “Folded Trunks”. Or “DIY Dinner for a Dime”. Perhaps a fitness parody: “I lift weighs so that I can lift some more weighs” Or not. One thing is for sure though. If I’m about to write once a week, all of these topics will get covered in one way or another. With unforgettable and breathtaking footage of course.
I’ll just start 2015 with reminiscing the last one. In-joy!
May – June
November (nothing) – December
Apart from these highlights lots and lots of first timers were witnessed. Among these are diving in Finland, going to a burlesque show, enjoying vappu at Ruka on Wappulounas, golfing, cooking karjalanpaisti, moving into a house with two awesome blokes, getting shut down by the police and bringing your own drinks to a restaurant because they couldn’t serve any.
2015 will be just as super awesome as we make of it, so let’s make it count!
What is the most obvious place to eat dinner when hungry and you’re only looking for food? The family friendly Hooters of course.
One starving Fred and one starving Juuso walked on 3rd Street in Santa Monica looking for something, anything but bad. We saw Hooters, high fived and walked in. It was game night anyway so why not? Patriots vs Chargers on about 42 screens of different sizes.
A crash course in what Hooters for all of you who have lived underneath a rock all your lives: Hooters serves food, mainly wings. Hooters waitresses wears mainly not much in white and orange or black and orange.
Our waitress of British descent briefed the unknowing into masters of ordering the only reasonable thing in this extravagant restaurant; Wings. As told before we are starving, so we go all in and order 20 pieces. Each. 4 different wing sauces. Our waitress warned us that it will be somewhat of a challenge. A minute later she tried to sell sides to us. We were fine with the wings.
While waiting for the grande finale we enjoyed a pitcher of Dos Equis, watched the game and voluptuous waitresses. Interesting concept. Especially when you see a boy and his sister playing tag between the tables.
40 wings with Daytona, Hot sauce, Honey Chipotle and a fourth sauce which we already forgot before we got the them. These were served with ranch dressing and blue cheese dressing along with a pile of celery. The boys were happy! And off we went.
30 minutes later we are both staring into eternity, stuffed, not so content anymore and 6 wings left. Just. Can’t. Make. It.
A bill of $70 + tips in a sports bar for wings was definitely also a new fun experience! We took the six remaining pieces with us and walked out. Incapable of doing anything right, stuffed as we were, we took the wrong turn and walked parallel with the beach so we ended up walking 30 minutes in vain. Well. Whatever. We got the Hooters experience.
Apologies for the image quality. An iphone was all we had at the time.
Juuso walked into me in September in our local bar. He had a vision; California in December! A sip later and a huge smile I was in. The tickets were booked in late September and I thought to myself “Finally some time to make plans for this trip”.
Then came October. And November. All of a sudden it was December with Christmas carols chanting in every store. Yet no plans whatsoever, except the promise to ourselves that we’re going to hike and have a good time.
6th of December. 7:15 in the morning I recall that it’s our Independence Day in front of a closed Alepa. No breakfast for me then apparently. This was the day though. We’re taking off!
Our itinerary: Helsinki – Stockholm – Chicago – LA. We’re looking at a whopping 20h of traveling.
In Helsinki we thought that it’d be nice to get some personal help since Juuso was going to check in his surf board too. Well, they pointed us to the self service check in boxes. OK. “Maximum amount of baggages you can check in: 2. How many baggages do you want to check in?” We looked at each other, looked at the machine and entered 3. No problem. A surf board to LA for no extra cost. Nice SAS.
I had only one thought in my head. Greasy great food for 2 weeks! Even the flight food was good on SAS. No movies watched. I read a book. Juuso slept, I took pictures. I even edited a batch of wedding photos. “Please fasten your seat belts for landing” – we were landing to O’Hare. Finally!
In Chicago we had ourselves hotdogs which were pure awesome. A three hour layover and a customs officer that didn’t get the memo that Movember is over. The trip felt like an eternity, but we still had a rough 4,5h domestic flight ahead of us. So we bought a sandwich with us and two bottles of water. 15 DOLLARS! Fck, this better be good.
Horrible times. 21 hours of being “awake” since waking up in Finland. Finally landed. We got our gear. Walked out of LAX to an evening enjoying about 16 degrees. We still had to pick up our car.
Taj at Alamo was efficient. I asked whether he’s going to throw a compact shoe box at us or something nicer. He tried to upgrade us for money but because he thought that we would not be able to cram into a Nissan Altima with all of our extravagant traveling gear (My 6.4 kg bag, Juusos 8,2 kg, two backpacks and a surfboard) he subliminally upgraded us for free. Now we’re driving around in a GMC mini SUV.
Some Del Taco later, we’re settled in Monterey Park. Looking forward to some adventures! 25 hours of being awake, finally a Californa King size.
“Who the hell is Flip Schultz?” I thought to myself back in 2007 when he warmed up for Pablo Francisco in Helsinki. He turned out to be way smarter in his jokes than his successor. No offense if you by any chance ever get to read this post, Pablo. Anyway, Flip came back to Finland in February this year. I attended. It was awesome. Laughing to a controversial sketch of Stephen Hawking giving his wife a moral speech after cheating on him. Epic. After the show I was so convinced and confident that I sent Flip an email asking if he’s going to throw any gigs in the LA area in March and if he’d be up for a little interview. The response: “Hey Fred, that should be fine.” Awesomeness.
March 12th. My 27th birthday. I’m enjoying a locally brewed beer at the Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank while waiting for my interviewee to appear to the bar. I’m moments away from chatting with Flip Schultz and all I can think of is how the hops are getting to my taste buds like beer angels sent from heaven, soothing my senses.. Flip walks in. “You’re Fred, right?” I return to Earth from my day dreaming and focus. “Yes, indeed I am.”
Small talk and such never seemed to be problem to Flip or Americans in general which smoothened this a whole lot. So what got this seemingly normal fellow on the other side of the table into comedy? “It sounds a bit cliché, but it’s one of those things that I always knew I was going to do.” Originally from Florida, Flip started amusing people when he was eight years old. Eight! Going to school he used to go to talent shows and he watched other comedians. He hasn’t stopped comedy since his amateur night debut when he was 18. Lucky us.
If you’ve seen his show, you know that he’s clever with his audience and from time to time he cracks himself up for coming up with a joke on the spot and delivers it to somebody in the audience. The enthusiasm, fresh thinking and the intense interaction with the audience makes this guy a joy to watch.
“Interacting with the audience. I love that.” Has it ever gone to the point of no return with somebody in the audience? “No, not really… No wait. Yes as a matter of fact it has. I had a guy threatening me once. He was something like ‘If you say one more word to me I’m going to break this beer bottle and shove it up your ass.’ It was in my early career and it was because I wasn’t so confident in my ability to go to the audience.” (here we laugh a little, especially when I picture this scene happening.) “It’s one of those aspects of being a comedian to be able to go to the audience and interact with them. It was scary at first, but I just made myself do it. It got easier over time.”
On one of his DVD:s Flip asks a 20-something in the front row if he jacks off. The response is “yes, unfortunately.” “WHAT, what do you mean unfortunately, it’s the best thing you can do!” Flip responds – and it goes on for a while until he asks a follow-up question whether the guy has ever got caught doing it. The guy then responds to him “What? Got caught of doing what? Weed?” which then turns into eyeballing and more laughing “do you even recall our chat 7 seconds ago?”. Flip goes on telling that “Interacting creates a sense of intimacy and those moments are never going to happen again. I feel that the audience really appreciates that”.
I’m all out of my delicious local beer so we go into talking about his international tours and especially Finland and Sweden which makes his eyes light up. “To me it felt like standup is this exciting new kind of phenomena. It felt like the States in the late seventies, early eighties. All of the support people were giving me, it felt amazing to be there on tour.” (Flip likes Finland! Let’s get him back soon!)
When being in Finland you knew quite a lot of the local things that were going on. Are you hardcore on doing research before a gig abroad? “Not really, I just talk to people, pick up something and my brain goes with it and turns it into a joke.” He goes on to dig out a book to clarify his sets. “This is my ‘book of jokes’. It has every gig in it, which jokes I should pursue, which ones (out of experience) I should definitely not go with depending on location and new ones on what to work on. So don’t worry, I’m always prepared regardless if I interact a lot with the audience or not. Furthermore I do like to change my set in order for it to remain fresh for people who’s seen me before.”
As the clock is ticking, people are getting louder and the show is about to start I pursue one last question in hope for something good. ‘What is your greatest memory in your comedy career?’ “Going from being the biggest fan of Weird al Yankovic, to actually touring with him was a turning point for me. That’s when I realized I’m really good at this, I’m a professional now.” How awesome is that? Going from being the biggest fan of somebody to hanging out with them on backstage.
“This is the dream. You know, there are a lot of people who wants the fame regardless of how you get it, but in the end of the day if you can make your living doing exactly what you want to do and actually enjoying it. To me, it’s making it.” I thank Flip sincerely and look forward to being picked on during the show. Off he goes to host another standup comedy show at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank.
The venue is great for laughs, but for your own sake please don’t eat the pulled pork sliders. I ran into some serious relationship issues later on that night with my good friend, my tummy. Nonetheless thank you for the show and everybody’s inability to pick on the Finn properly due to lack of geographical expertise!
Mind you, Norwegian flies to LA from Stockholm back and forth for as cheap as 380 € as long as you’re willing to travel without food and luggage on an 11 hour flight. Food and luggage included it makes about 120 € more.
Anyway, I booked the cheapest tickets back in October and now here I am in sunny California. I survived the flights by getting myself a few bottles of water and a baguette from Arlanda airport.
LA! What to say? I’ll give you the essentials:
Prio #1: Get a car. It’s worth it. Watch out for rental companies with hidden fees. FOX is one of those. I would recommend to go with Alamo or National. You also want a GPS, but you don’t want to pay $20 for it per day. I recommend downloading a GPS navigation app that works in offline mode to your smartphone while in your home country. I went with Navigon by Garmin ($26,99 for West U.S.) and it’s worked like a charm. Remember to load up with a 12 V car usb charger as the GPS kills your phone’s battery in no time.
Starbucks: You would think that it’s a place to go for coffee but you’re wrong. It’s actually the go to place for free wifi. As a tourist you really appreciate it. Need to update facebook with a fancy picture from Hollywood boulevard, but feel like the roaming costs might get sky high? No problem, a Starbucks is found pretty much everywhere and the wifi (attwifi – same name everywhere) works outside of the coffee houses too, so don’t feel like you have to buy anything.
Experiences of various kinds to pursue:
If you feel like buying 3 gallons (about 10 liters) of milk, go to Costco. It’s ridiculously huge. The shopping carts are huge, the products are huge, the strollers are huge and the customers are huge. I almost got lost. Apparently you have to be a member to buy anything or even get in. I guess I looked like their normal everyday customer then.
Drive up to Griffith Observatory and hike up the rest of the hill to see a nice view of LA. I had a morning walk up there. In March with the clear skies even in the morning it’s a definite must. In July with the fog going around until the early afternoon I wouldn’t be so sure on getting up there the first thing in the morning.
Eat at In-n-Out. Get the Double Double. Enjoy.
Go to a hockey game. My experience: Get in touch with an old buddy (Dante) who had it all covered before I even said, “yes, please, I want to see a hockey game”. So we saw the Ducks – Maple Leafs yesterday at Honda Center in Anaheim. 3 fights, 4 goals. Toronto won 3 – 1. Selänne didn’t score. The atmosphere, cheering and overall feeling is over the top and a lot more interesting and fun compared to the Finnish league. Definitely one of the highlights of this trip. That was then topped with a Hooters night. Never been before. Definitely a family restaurant.
Drive around LA without a GPS and try to find your way. If you’ve been playing GTA V, you might recognize quite many places.
Once you’ve done this, find a Starbucks and upload your experiences for everybody to read.