I do generally dislike it when someone says “there are only two kinds of people” unless the subject is trivial—“those who like mustard as opposed to mayonnaise” or “dog vs. cat types” or something along these lines. Those who hail from historically marginalized positions know all about the Victorian “either/or” taxonomic system—women are whores or angels; people of color are savages or properly obedient; the disabled are evil or holy—everyone do your own list. One does one’s best to resist bifurcation and entrapment.
But there I was, walking Helsinki’s historic esplanade this morning and realizing just how many old restaurants and shops that I’ve known throughout my life are now gone, replaced by newer places. And I thought, “well there are two kinds of people, those who have nostalgia and don’t like the new, and those who are open to change.” I knew I was of the latter. So what the old Havis Amanda seafood restaurant is no more? There’s a score of fabulous places nearby and they are truly amazing. I felt some happiness then. I like change. I like it that new people are doing new cooking, opening new shops.
I didn’t like discovering there’s a Starbucks in Helsinki’s most famous bookstore. Ugh.
Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
At least some things remain the same. Kappeli, the beautiful 19th century glass cafe still stands next to the harbor.
Ain’t no Starbucks in the harbor by God!
ABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.
(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger