I'm doing something wrong here...
I sat around watching some TV for a while. They ran an English-language documentary called "How Do You Like Iceland". The name is based on the ever-repeated question visitors get here. I'm already sick of hearing it. I didn't think the show was so terrible but I haven't been here that long. Icelanders and those who live here are of another opinion, namely that it's a group of semi-famous people spouting the same rehash of "The weather sucks, the hot water stinks, the people have cold exteriors but warm hearts, the women are so beautiful, and the people drink themselves stupid on the weekend." Now all of this is more or less true, but it's all so damned cliché. There's much more to this place, although I'd drop it right now if one of those so beautiful women would go out with me.
There were also the quintessential references to trolls and elves. Other than the 13 trolls of Christmas
1 and a silly newage
2 wacko and her tourist trap, there ain't no talk of that crap around these parts, though I've been told that there really are those in some small towns out east that believe in the trolls and elves and whatnot and won't even let you out of the restaurant in the afternoon hour when the trolls are out.
I need to go to Hressingarskálinn (the place I've been calling "Kronenborg" up until now) for an espresso, a beer and some Net access. I could probably do without the beer, but why stop now? The most interesting things tend to happen after a few of them. Unfortunately this place only has port 80 open. Nothing else. No FTP, no IRC, no remote access of any kind to my machines. Dammit.
Check it out!
Paying attention to the surroundings
On the way down I stopped by a gallery on Klapparstígi at Laugavegi with an interesting display that I'd seen a couple days earlier when checking out the side streets. They're closed today, but I had the camera with me this time and got the interesting shots. When you consider the general brutal reputation of Vikings, you might be surprised at what is one of the most humane methods of turning livestock into dinner. When you think about it, what other method would you expect a people whose favourite god is Thor to come up with?
They put this little leather bonnet with a spike in the center (called a "death mask") over the sheep's head. The blinders keep the sheep calm. The big hammer comes down and drives the spike into the head, killing the sheep instantly. Even it the spike fails to hit exactly right, the blow itself knocks the beast out. Damned humane compared to most other methods, not that I'm actually planning on trying it out myself.
Crappy quality due to shooting through a window. Sorry.
What's the point?
Lots of words, but why?
What I'm writing here ain't really nothing new. What I say about the country, the people, their attitudes and style... it's been said by others, though admittedly a bit more cohesively. What I'm doing, however, doesn't seem to appear in print, probably because few people are willing to admit to getting totally ratted here and not pulling. I'm an idiot; I have no such shame.
Steve Martin said "Comedy isn't pretty" and he wasn't kidding. Comedy in this case is stumbling up now-familiar streets at 6:00 a.m. Comedy is eating rotten food. Literally "rotten". And then writing about it as the natives laugh about your reaction to it.
Comedy is waiting for people at the wrong bus station. Comedy is reading about a sheep testicle shortage right at the time of Þorrablót. Comedy is drinking a beer and trying to explain to people why you're reading a children's book at a bar. Comedy is trying to ask for another beer and some nuts in the local lingo but actually saying "I want to pour beer inside you and smear peanut butter all over you while we sing praises to Thor" or something similar. Comedy is hearing about the Penis Museum (Icelandic Phallological Museum) and planning to go there Tuesday as soon as they're open.
Comedy is wondering what the hell I'm going to do tonight and knowing whatever it is, it probably won't be what I'd intended. [Update: dat's da fact, Jack!]
Comedy is funny when it isn't happening to you.
How about another traditional dinner?
As long as it's not sour!
Dinner is at the Café Bar, near my flat. I'm finally having the very common Supa í brauði (suppa ee bröithee; "Soup in Bread"). At only 750kr or so, it's a bargain, though not as much of one as a pylsa með öllu, also pretty filling but loaded with fat. It also arrives at the table inside two minutes. About 30 seconds after the beer (Egil's Gull, of course). They even give you the inside bit they ripped out to make the bowl. With butter. Screw Atkins. This is the perfect simple, quick and hearty meal for a cool evening, something that Iceland, not coincidentally, has in spades. No one's gonna accuse me of any Post hoc, ergo propter hoc shenanigans here.
Hearty soup in bread with a beer. Fantastic and a bargain here.
It turns out to be a lot of food, really. A big bowl of soup (I reckon close to half a liter) plus an almost football/rugby ball sized loaf of crusty bread. I'm stuffed and only got 2/3 of the way through the bowl. It's almost 10 Eurobucks, (17 with the beer) but in the big picture (and on a night I don't feel like cooking) Joe Bob says, "Check it out."
Getting back to business
There has to be an adventure around here somewhere...
So what's on the agenda tonight?
I'll drop the computers off at the flat, see if there's anything on TV and then go back to some bar with the kiddie book. Either that or I'll get to work on the Þorrablót food reviews. Sour lamb meat smoked over lamb shit and preserved in a whey by-product. Makes your mouth water, huh?
I think Tuesday will be "Penis Day". Penis museum in the morning, penis mall in the afternoon, and if the gods smile upon me (rather than laugh at me as usual), perhaps even use of the penis at night. Stranger things have happened...
So I went to Monako, that crappy hole where a few weirdos hang out and play the no-armed video bandits. Maybe you remember it from my second day in Iceland last summer. I certainly remember Gunny, the "buy me a double-vodka-grapefruit) barfly.
Some other 30-ish barfly-looking girl was sitting next to an old guy I'd seen the last time I was there (buying double-vodka-grapefruits, no less) and she was beckoning me over. I made a bee-line for the bar where they denied any knowledge of my Get-a-Free-Brennevín-Shot-if-you-buy-a-Beer card. Fine. I started to read Vera again but every time I looked up, the girl was looking pleadingly at me.
Meh. I closed my book, went over to the table and she couldn't pull a chair over fast enough. About 30 or so, long, fine, straight dark hair. I said hello in Icelandic and she said hi in English. I asked how she was in Icelandic and she replied in English. I asked who she was in Icelandic and she answered in English. Then she said that she's Swedish and her Icelandic is crap, so we should talk in English. Whatever you want, sweetie.
She said she doesn't ever come to this place unless she doesn't want anyone to see her (good choice; no one comes here). She'd been partying for two days straight, with beer and three little yellow tablets that were definitely not Nuprin. The conversation quickly turned to the banal musings one hears in such dives. As I finished my beer it came out that she's an artist. Oh shit. Now this would be a perfect time to duck out, but as these diaries have made painfully clear, I'm an idiot. Normally this is the point where I say, "Honey, you're a nutjob and I'm outta here," but I'm on holiday and writing and perhaps ramblings about her studies in ayurvedic and holistic medicine could work toward my amusement.
Some stoner with eyes more Chinese than Chairman Mao in bright sunlight showed up and joined the table. Great. The Swediush girl spoke to him in what sounded to me like pretty damned good Icelandic and I got to go through the "I'm a Yank who lives in Germany and who is trying to learn Icelandic while here on holiday" explanation for the umpteenth time. He still asked me three or four different times where I was from. Totally baked.
Let's blow this jernt!
Just you and me.
After a while, stoner and gramps walked off somewhere and Sophie asked if I wanted to go somewhere else... quickly. Jackpot! Adventure time! Hilarity must ensue. I grabbed my jacket and we split, walking all the way down Laugavegi past Aðalstræti. She said hi to the couple guys we walked past asking them if they wanted to come along. They clearly didn't. Sophie said she likes to play with Icelanders' minds. Uh, yeah. We showed up at a pool hall, something I can handle.
A couple guys she knew were there and we ended up shooting doubles. My partner wasn't Sophie but the tall, skinny guy. I understand he does some horticultural stuff on the side. Sophie was playing with Ásgeir, who later told me they're just good friends. I knew right away that she was going to make it gooder that night. I got the brief story from him which may or may not be true, namely that he'd rescued her once. Can't top that, but the evening remained interesting enough that I stayed. He had some candy but them 10% sweets with 90% sugar ain't my thing.
Traveller's TipMy partner gave up and I ended up shooting alone against the two. She kept saying "kiss my ass" whenever I made a crappy shot. Whether it was the beer or my general cockiness or just a sad attempt to get her to bare her very nice bottom, I announced that there was no way they'd win and if they did, she could climb up on the table and I'd kiss her ass for all to see. You can see it coming, and in retrospect, I should've. But at the time...
Icelandic Billiards Rules
You only call the 8-ball (and maybe not even that). All slop counts. Scratching allows the opponent to place the ball anywhere and take any shot, including direct shots behind the headstring. You have to hit your ball first or your opponent gets to place the ball anywhere. Meh.
She blew an easy shot at the 8-ball and left me perfectly set up to drop the three and then the eight. But I'm an idiot... and a weenie. I didn't hit the cue ball squarely and instead sent it around the three to knock the eight right up the rail. Sophie started hollering away about how I "suck ass" (her favourite expression of the evening) and started waggling her jeans-covered ass in my face, screaming that I had to kiss it. The guys looked on and I earned some respect by getting on my knees and planting my lips on her back pocket.
And the townspeople rejoiced.
At least I won the second game and got my ass kissed in return. It was not bared.
Some other friend of theirs showed up and he looked vaguely familiar. We were introduced to each other and I had to give the story again. I'm sufficiently "in" enough to know that you don't answer the question "How do you like Iceland" with anything but a rolling of the eyes and a look of disdain for that dreaded cliché. He said, "You were dancing at Pravda last night."
"No man, I wasn't dancing. I don't dance. I can't dance."
"But you were there."
"I recognise you. I'm the DJ in the downstairs bar."
So we talked for a few minutes. I was right about the full concentration; he doesn't drink while working, something pretty unheard of in these here parts. I didn't even see a water glass.
Sophie was fucking around at the pool table and Ásgeir (her hero) and I were chatting a bit. I noticed the two girls and the two lunkheads who were playing darts. "Eastern European", said Ásgeir confidently. What I'd noticed is that the guys were drunk and the girls -- especially the gorgeous one -- didn't seem too thrilled with their company. I just said "Hi" to Cute Latvian Girl and then kept coming over to me when she wasn't hurling the darts sideways at the board.
You can see where this is heading...
No, I'm not ready to start learning Latvian.
She's Latvian and lives here with friends of the family. Her friend is also Latvian. The guys are some other Latvians they'd promised to take out as a favour to someone, one that will demand a huge payback, no doubt. Her name is Buttercup (think PowerPuff Girls) and she liked me. As we talked about names, she wondered aloud why her mother would name her after a poisonous flower.
Buttercup's grubby, drunk Latvian dude wouldn't leave us alone, constantly trying to paw her. She said she'd already told him she wasn't going with him but this wasn't enough. I told her to tell him I'm gay. This could be dangerous with eastern Europeans but the guy was too drunk to be a danger to anyone but himself. I gave the requisite "we're girlfriends" look and he was off.
This only helped briefly, but Mr I-Need-Attention kept coming back and interrupting. I made come-hither eyes at him and that gave us another five-minute respite. Then the five of us were sitting at the table with Bozo sitting on Buttercup's opposite side, constantly groping and trying to pull her over to him. Despite his drunkenness, I had to give him credit for his persistence, though what I really wanted to give him was a firm tap on the occipital bone. It was about 3:00 a.m. and Buttercup had to be home and up at six. While she said wanted to come back to my place, she had to be at the family's house to go work at the bakery. She's gonna be hurting.
She'd given me her name and number and said to call. We're planning on going swimming (I'll try anything), then dinner, then... she may be able to arrange not having to be at work Wednesday. Things are looking up.
The Latvian Krew left to find taxis and I rejoined the group. When she wasn't busy snogging her saviour, Sophie would alternatively ask me if I was having fun and tell me -- and I quote -- "it's just blah blah unimportant blah blah blah." If I didn't know better, I'd swear she was a Kraut, but she didn't understand when I swore in German and we had a couple brief Norwegian-Swedish exchanges. Unfortunately, most of the Norwegian I try to speak these days comes out as some exotic mixture of Norwegian and Icelandic with some German thrown in.
Bartender! There's too much air in my glass!
I know I didn't drink it all.
My beer seemed to be the one that would always empty first but I was only sipping at it, having had high hopes on going flower-picking later. Additionally, while being weird here is almost a requirement (as is being drunk and stupid at 3a.m.) I'd rather my reputation be a bit different. Reputations here are everything and the one you get from the start is the one that follows you around forever. It's a small country and smaller town and everyone knows everyone. While I got half-ratted at the Þorrablót, I was among like-minded and like-intentioned people, and my unfamiliarity and desire to learn kept any stupidity in check.
I was offered someone else's drink. It was Coke with something. I sniffed. Brennevín. Well hell, I drink gin & Coke normally and I like Brennevín (to every Icelander's surprise and amazement) so I took a swig. I saw in their eyes this was another Let's Fuck With the Tourists moment. I passed. It was actually very nice. So much so that I went to the bar and got one myself.
The bartender likes to be called Linda rather than her real name which is nothing like it (she showed me her ID or bank card or something). She also liked helping and correcting me. If her insanely jealous boyfriend hadn't been there looking so ready for a tussle when anyone said anything but a drink order, I woulda talked to her some more.
We all shot a little more pool and talked some and around five I decided to head home. I was sent off with a strong hug from Asgeir and a demand to keep in touch. Better believe it, dude.
It took me a few minutes to get my bearings but I finally figured out where I was before walking into and off the docks and headed back up Laugervegi, walking in my door at about 5:20. I wasn't tired but knew I had to sleep. I set the computer up and watched about half of Mr Monk and the Three Pies before
passing outfalling asleep.
Wasn't I supposed to call someone?
|< I hate Valentines day. | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >|