Ugh. Just plain Ugh. With a big U. I came from Kemi last night, drove 733km practically non-stop, just to wake up at 6:30 this morning to drive to Kotka. Girly tossing and turning through the night, had to evacuate myself to the couch in order to get a few hours of shut-eye in, so I figure I must have gotten about 4 hours of uninterupted slumber all in all. At least the 130km drive to Kotka didn’t feel like much after driving back and forth along the Helsinki - Kemi stretch for the past couple of months. 130km? Pah! Like popping down to the local grocer for a kit-kat. But grumble one mustn’t. Stiff upper lip and a puritan work ethic have never been my forte, but it seems that life gradually changes a man, and I seem to have grown some extra cartilage in said lip, as well as experienced a thorough ossification of the vertebral column. What next, I wonder? Giving up drinking? A flat in the suburbs? Marriage? A half-score of grubby little crotchfruits? Shudder.
But I digress. What I actually wanted to write about was my last night at Kemi. I stayed at the low-budget, three-stars-is-a-squeeze, hotel called Palomestari ( “The Firechief” ). It was not a pretty sight. Hemmed in on both sides by pubs and disreputable-looking eating establishments, it did not inspire confidence. A dingy front door that looked designed not to attract undue attention and a neon sign that, if perched atop a classier establishment, could be interpreted to be ironic, just served to deepen that depressing first impression.
The events took a turn from depressing to surreal once I entered the hotel. As I walked in to the dingy reception hall, my senses assailed with a gut-wrenching 70’s color scheme, I was acosted by a seemingly senile hunchback. The man was old, by the looks of him he could be in anything from his early 60s to late 70s, and mumbling constantly under his breath, occasionally craning his head to shoot me dirty look from under his greasy white hair. It apparently displeased him that I so brazenly invaded his favorite haunt. I stood and stared, bags in hand and mouth most probably open, abashed, sense of speech and propriety taking leave of me, until the receptionist, utterly ignoring the malevolent hunchback, cleared his throat and tapped his glasses against the counter to snap me out of my confusion.
I got a room on the fourth floor, with a suitably depressing view over the parking lot, a 21″ CRT television bolted to the wall, and a shower that smelled overpoweringly of sewage. The TV didn’t understand the concept of the colour white, preferring yellow instead, and buzzed annoyingly when switched on, compensating for that by ticking soothingly when switched off. At least they had free wifi and plenty of electric sockets.
The following day I met my liason at the factory I was supposed to photograph the staff at, and, as he inquired as to how I liked the hotel, related my experience to him over a cup of coffee. He smirked, shook his head, and said: “Well yeah, I shouldn’t think that they have refurbished, or indeed repaired, the hotel since 1989.” “Why 1989?” I asked. “Ah, well, see, that’s when the young couple that owned the hotel were brutally murdered there.”
Yes, that’s right. On the 7th of March, 1989, at 3:30am, the young owners of Hotel Palomestari, Tiina, 22, and Juha, 30 years of age, having only a year and a half ago opened their new hotel to great fanfare and much attention from the local press, were brutally murdered at the hotel, where they lived and worked. Their murderer’s name was Jesse, and he knew the couple well, and was rumored to be insanely jealous of Juha, reputedly having had an affair with Tiina, her then leaving him and marrying Juha instead. There were also dark rumors of debts unpaid and a contract killing, but those were never substantiated by the police. At any rate, the murderer demanded to be let in “for a talk”, and the exasperated husband unwittingly obliged, perhaps thinking of putting an end to the ongoing harassment. But the day before, Jesse had gone and obtained a shotgun from somewhere, sawing the barrels off, clearly premeditating the bloody deeds to come. And, after arguing with the couple for less than half an hour, proceeded to splatter their brains all over the walls of their new hotel. He then calmly called the cops and surrendered without offering resistance.
Oh, and the best thing is that I am returning to that hotel on Halloween come next week.