Saturday, November 17, 2012

Turn and Face the Strain

Fall is just about gone. Everything is dead or dying, and when someone comes in from outside you can smell the cold on them.

So, now is the winter of our discontent.

Things have been very strange, as of late. I'm working on a restructuring, and while I think it'll be good in the long run, right now I'm feeling pretty terrible.

See, there used to be this place where I was always happy, and then that place outgrew me [or I outgrew it?]. And now I have a gaping absence where once was a loving presence, and oh how it aches.

This is a challenging time, you guys. In a few weeks, I'm going to graduate. And while I'm very much looking forward to living a more self-designed life, I'm also filled with trepidation. My confidence in my ability to handle people is waning, and my gosh - do you realize how big the world is?

Also, I sometimes joke about existential crises. I'm not really having one, but I am having something that might grow up to be an existential crisis. Over the last month or so, I have been mistaken for another person again, and again, and again. I'm tired of it. I know that I am being emotional and overly sensitive at the moment, but if it happens again I might break down and start weeping uncontrollably.

I know. I should be an adult. I should shrug off these repeated cases of mistaken identity. But, really, my own identity is the only thing I have that is ultimately preservable - the choices I make, the things I think, and the way I act. And when the Other takes that from me - writes me off as someone I have never been and will never be - I am terrified and angry. I know it isn't done intentionally, but I'm past the point of caring. It was funny the first five times. Now I'm questioning the fundamentals of my own personhood. And I hate it more than I can even put into words.

I. I. I.

I'm afraid to gaze too long into the abyss, you know?

Because, I mean, I'm still here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


The woman on the lawn is dying of cancer. She and her husband stand close together, not speaking. She gestures up at the roof, and both stand staring a while longer. They stand still, so still, as the cells inside her belly multiply and divide - squirming to fill all the empty space. She is being consumed from the inside out, starting with what makes her woman, and ending with what makes her human. And while her insides churn into oblivion, she stands outside so still, almost-but-not-quite touching the man for whom eternity will not come soon enough.

After a while she turns into the house, leaving the warm Sunday thickness. He stands a few moments longer, then picks up a rake - still in his church clothes - and begins swiping feebly at the gutters, or at something no one can see, weary of urgency.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Today I have a bit more time, so I'm going to try to do some more synthesis than just detail vomit.

Something about shivering in wet clothes on a bus is remarkably enlightening.

I haven't really been privy to a lot of revelation in my 22 years. I'm not one for epiphanies, generally. I used to want to live in some sort of mystical state of perpetual discovering, but that dream died a while ago [though more recently than I might admit]. Now, I sort of go through life learning, but not being astounded at the context, if that makes sense. I used to avidly seek transcendence everywhere; now I just wait to be surprised by it.

And I got just such a surprise today, coming home from a tour of the Southern Coast of Iceland.

We started the day early, getting on our transport van while it was still dark. We met the actual bus outside of Kex hostel, several blocks away from our hotel. There were several others taking the tour with us - a pair of Russians, a pair of Danes, two girls out of Sydney, two other girls who looked Singaporean, a boy from Hong Kong, and a dread-locked coupled who sounded American. Once we'd all loaded onto the bus, we headed out of Reykjavik on the Ring Road, just as the sun was coming up.

[For those of you who aren't aware, the Ring Road is the one road that goes all the way around the outside of Iceland. If you drive on it long enough, you'll end up back where you started.]

As we were leaving the city, our guide, Ragnar, told us various things about Iceland - about the geothermal energy they use for heating and power, about the traffic in Reykjavik, about the volcanic range we were driving through. He spoke with a beautiful and delicate cadence [I've fallen head over heels for Icelandic and its accent], and I sort of drifted in and out of sleep. The flat, brown grass fields swept by the window, stretching on forever.

We reached our first stop - Seljalandsfoss - after an hour or two. We all got out and stomped through the mud to take a few pictures and to shiver in the waterfall's mist. Fifteen minutes later, back on the bus. Another half an hour down the road, we got out and did the same thing for Skogafoss. It was pretty, and I've got pictures to prove it.

If I sound apathetic, I don't mean to. Or maybe I do, but in strange way. I wasn't moved like I wanted to be. Elisa and I have been talking about this ever since we arrived: something about this whole trip has felt remarkably dream-like. I'm in the country I've wanted to visit for ages, I saw Sigur Ros play their first Icelandic concert in four years, I snorkeled in glacier runoff, and I am nonplussed. None of this feels like it really connects to my life. It's not that I haven't loved every second of this trip. I have. But I don't feel like I'm feeling it as intensely as I should. I'm awash in a sea of just general happiness. I want to be lost in a world of manic enthusiasm all the time - I really do - but you can't force that sort of excitement. So I have to be content with contentment.

Anyway, back on the road, we headed towards Solheimajokull - the glacier that provides a lot of Reykjavik's power and water. We spent a lot longer here - more than an hour. As we drew close to the base of the ice-wall, Ragnar and I started talking a little. Mostly we just chatted about the weather, our trip, and the presidential election. He told me about his job as a tour guide, his frustrations and appreciation of it. As we talked, we walked across a field of ice that hadn't been exposed for 1000 or more years, crunching over black sand and volcanic ash.

On the bus with wet jackets and cold hands, we continued on along the road. We stopped in Vik, walked around the Strikerie [the knitting warehouse] and dropped off the two Singaporean girls at the hostel there. Then, onto the Ring Road again.

Our last stop was at Reynisfjara - the black sand beaches. By this time, the wind and rain had picked up. After a cold ten minutes huddled in a rocky cave looking out at the ocean, we straggled  back to the bus. We shed our dripping jackets and slumped into our seats. The rain had completely soaked my bottom half, and my sweater was pretty damp, too. So I sat shivering, mentally preparing myself for the three to four hour ride back home.

Driving by some old ruins, Ragnar started talking about Iceland's history - the sagas, the wars, the golden ages. I sniffled and stared out the window. Eventually, his started talking about the rocks of Iceland - about the elf rocks of Iceland. My interest was piqued.

For those of you unfamiliar with Icelandic culture, elves and magic play a huge role. Hossi mentioned a few days ago that in Reykjavik today there are still big boulders that people refuse to move for fear of upsetting the elves that live inside of it ["I mean, you'd think, 'It's 2012, move the ****ing rock,' right? But no." as he put it]. It's a part of the culture that seems immovable.

Apparently the elves have become a sort of series of warning stories for children: don't lie to the elves, don't break a promise to the elves, respect the elves, OR ELSE. This is the story Ragnar told as an example [read it with an Icelandic accent, and say "an" instead of "a" in all cases]:

"Once, in a village, the young men would all go gather eggs on one day in spring. They would take boats out to a small island and climb and gather eggs all day and then return home. One year, the boys all went to the island and gathered eggs, but one of them went missing. He did not return home with the others. People in the village were sad, but these things happen. Then, in exactly one year, the boys went back to collect more eggs. On the island, they found the boy - and he looked healthy and in good condition. He helped them gather eggs all day, and then he came back to the village with them in the boats. The people were surprised, but they didn't say much about it. A few days later they all went to church, as they usually did, and when they came out, there was an elf-queen with a basket. She wanted to the returned-boy to take the basket but he wouldn't! She said, "You promised me that our child could be raised with men!" but the boy still kept refusing the basket and pretending he didn't know what she was talking about. So the elf-queen cursed him, and he took off running towards the ocean, and it looked like he was getting bigger and bigger all the time, and when he jumped into the ocean, he turned into a whale. Then he swam up to a fjord where men fish, and began to attack all of the fishermen. The problem got so bad that the men called upon a priest who could do magic - he was a very religious man. He went down to the fjord with his wooden stick, tapping it on the ground. And he tapped it and the whale followed him. And he tapped it up a river, and the big whale squeezed in and followed him up the river. Then they came to a big waterfall, 200 meters high. It's very high, but not much water - like a shower! The priest climbed up the rocks beside the waterfall, tapping his stick, and the whale struggled up the waterfall, too. Then, the whale got to the top of the waterfall and fell into a lake at the top and died. And to this day you can still see big whale bones in a lake on top of the waterfall, 200 meters above the sea-level. So that is why you never break a promise to the elves, and especially not to the elf-queens. And there you see is a story of the elves, and as for me, I've never seen an elf. I don't need to. I think as long as there are children in Iceland, there will be elves."

Now, something - I'm not sure what - really hit me about that legend. For a few minutes, Ragnar wasn't an old bus-driver, but a preserver of culture - a storyteller.

At the next gas station, Elisa started talking with him about Njal's saga. He smiled and launched into a history lesson about the height of culture during the time of the vikings. When times were good, when weather was good, when crops were good, people made art. They had peace. That was the golden age.

Back on the ring road for the last time, I started thinking about stories. Ragnar had invited me into a beautiful part of his culture by simply telling an old-wives tale. But why? What about that simple story pulled me into Iceland  more than anything I'd seen or heard before?

I don't know if I have a simple answer. I don't think there can be a simple answer. Sharing isn't about simplifying. It's about communing. Like the very road we drove today, if you go on long enough, you'll end up where you started again. We're all moving on the same cycle, just riffing on the theme. Stories are necessary because the harmonies and synchronicities they breed are what make life worth living.

I could stand to do better in regard to that. I have intense anxieties, sometimes, that the things I'm sharing are inane or irrelevant. But no story is really irrelevant, right? An orchestra losing any piece suffers. So I'm going to try to be better. That is what Iceland has given me, above all else: a reassurance that my voice is welcome.  Yes, I walked on a glacier and I tasted the salt from mist in the harbor and I saw the northern lights dancing in the sky above Harpa [which was all alight with its own northern lights]. But the simple experience is only mine until I pass it on. It needs to be shared to really mean something.

So, I hope you've enjoyed my posts about Iceland. Maybe they were a bit sporadic or lacking polished eloquence, but that is inconsequential.

I've consecrated them. For you. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012



So. I did so much better today. We woke up at 8:30 this morning, got ready, made it to breakfast by 8:50, and were out the door at 9:20. We power-walked in the early Reykjavik sun [the sun!] down along the coast. It was so gorgeous. I walked on some lava rocks and watched the sun on the mountains. We also found a sculpture of a viking boat, and it was beautiful. 

We ran back to the hotel - made it by 10. At 10:15 out snorkeling tour van came and got us, and we rode up to Thingvellir with our guide [named Joakim], a very nice Swedish man [Jim], and a couple from Sydney [I don't know their names, and also the husband was from Canada originally]. The drive was good. It took about 45 minutes, and we were in the back and couldn't hear much. But we saw lots of Icelandic horses. Also, a joke: What do you do if you get lost in an Icelandic forest? Stand up. Hah.

We stopped a little inside of the Thingvellir park to sign wavers and pay for our dip. Then, we drove on to a small little dirt parking lot across the street from Silfra. The process of getting ready to snorkel was insane. First, we walked to the entry-site and were briefed [get in the water, let the current carry you, hands behind your back, turn left before you get into the lake]. Then we walked back to the lot and got our warm undersuits. So we stripped down to our thermals in the middle of the Icelandic wilderness to put them on. We also made friends with two Norwegian girls: Anna and Marina. It was very cold at first, but the suit itself was very warm. Next, we got our dry-suits. They were challenging to put on - the neck was difficult to get my head through. Plus, when the neck was actually where it was supposed to be, it was too loose and would let water in, so I had to wear a very tight collar over it. Then, all zipped up, we got gloves, fins, headcover, and a mask/snorkel combo. The headcover was also difficult to put on because I couldn't raise my arms very well in the suit, and the gloves were hard because my hands were cold, and the fins were hard because my suit-boots were big, and the mask was hard because I was wearing gloves, BUT I DID IT.

All geared up, we walked over to the water again. And got in. To the freezing cold 3 degrees Celsius water. Oof. It was actually the strangest sensation - the suit was a dry-suit, so I couldn't actually feel much, except for on my hands and head. It took some orienting, and my suit was fairly buoyant, but once I got sorted out, it was fantastic. The water was so clear [and sweet to taste, too!]. You could see forever. The rocks were covered in a yellow moss that collected air-bubbles and glittered in the sun [YOU GUYS THE SUN]. I don't know if I already mentioned this, but Thingfellir is where the Eurasian tectonic plate meets the North American plate, so we were snorkeling in a rift between the two in water from a melted glacier that had been filtering through lava rock for 100 years. You could look down quite a ways into the depths of the divide, which was neat.

The actual swim was about half an hour, and when we got out, a very nice guide named Jammi [with a great Eastern European accent] helped us out of our fins and then we got to walk back. Back at the lot there were some cookies, and also hot chocolate without cups. So Jammi helped us all out of our suits [none of us could feel our hands], and then ran back to the shop just inside the park and got some cups. Jessie [a very nice girl guide who was from Colorado but moved to Reykjavik with her Icelandic husband who she met in the tropics] gave us some cookies, and Jammi got back very quickly with the cups, so we also had hot cocoa. While Elisa and I were holding out cups [it was more worthwhile to hold them than to drink the contents], the first group of scuba-divers got back, and we had a nice chat with an Irish doctor named Aiden. He was just taking a little holiday - He'd spent a while in NY [during the storm], came to Iceland [during the storm], and was headed to Berlin next [probably during a storm, right?]. He was very nice and enthusiastic, but then he had to go dive again. About this time, all of the snorkelers were dried off and ready to go, so Jammi took us back to Reykjavik. There was some nice conversation - we found out that Jim was a vegetarian [also, that he wanted to find a wife to marry to get a visa for America], and that the Canadian fellow was a pescatarian. So that was neat. There was some discussion of driving rules, too, but I don't remember much. Jammi dropped us off at our hotel and gave us a hug, and that was that.

We ran up to the room, I jumped in the shower for a few minutes [because I still had no feeling in my hands], and then we were back out the door on our way to the Pylsa stand [again!]. I am not one for hot dogs, but as I said before, THESE ARE AMAZING. So I got a pylsa and a coke, and we headed up to Hallgrimskirkja. There was a great statue of Lief Ericsson out front. We got to the top, and boy was the view amazing. Maybe I'll post pictures eventually. 

After Hallgrimskirkja, we started walking towards Laugardalsholl to see Sigur Ros [!!!]. The walk was very long, but we did stop by the Museum of Phallology [yep]. They had very good shirts and a lot of penises [or, penes, as some pluralize it]. Then we left, and made it to the arena about 40 minutes after the Kirkja [even though the IA site CLAIMED that it was only a 20 minute walk from the city center]. The line started to move, but then stopped, then we got inside, stopped at the doors, went in, and then waited. 

And waited.


Sigur Ros was supposed to start at 7, but they were an hour late. But then they started playing and all was forgiven. It was such a fantastic show. Utterly transcendent. There was a screen with projections in front of the band for the first three or four songs, then it dropped and we could see the whole band. They played lots of favorites [plenty from Heima], and even one that I'd never heard before. They played for an hour and forty minutes, then did a twenty minute encore. It was so great. Check instagram for a photo or two.

Afterwards, we bought IA posters, and walked back home. We got a little lost, but it was fun to see some side streets. This town is very quaint. When we got back home, we had some flatbread with smjor and skyr for a late snack, watched the snorkeling video from Elisa's gopro, listened to some Echo Vamper and 1860, and then started typing this up.

Tomorrow we'll be up early - we're doing the South Coast tour [I think? Maybe Golden Circle?]. Plus probably a visit to a public bath? And maybe the cemetery, another pylsa, and WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE.

Sweet dreams.

Saturday, November 3, 2012



Today staying up until four in the morning caught up with us. We slept in 'til 9, ate breakfast, and then fell back asleep until 1.

After we finally dragged ourselves out of bed, we went to the Icelandic Flea Market. It was so great. We found a nice little postcard booth, run by a kind man with grey eyes and a big silver hoop in his right ear. I paid for my cards and said "Takk," which is one of the very few words I know. The nice man thought I spoke Icelandic because my pronunciation was good. That was flattering.

We also found many used book booths, and many booths selling Lopapeysas. I bought a lovely grey one, and E got a nice brown one with horses. We are almost real Icelanders.

Post-flea market, we came back to the hotel to drop things off, ate some bread and butter, napped for an hour, then headed back out. We went to a Pylsa stand - the one that Bill Clinton visited when he came here! We got a hotdog, and it was SO GOOD. I don't even like hotdogs. But the sauces and the crispy onions made it so great.

We continued on to Harpa, which is easily the most beautiful of the venues. The steel on the outside is shaped like the patterns in lava rock, and the outside shimmers green and purple in an imitation of the northern lights. It's gorgeous.

Tonight's shows were almost all in Northurljos, which was the one hall we hadn't been to. We started out with Rokkuro. The lead singer had the most beautiful voice. I am not partial to female singers - female anythings, if I'm honest - but she was really great.

Next was the Barr Brothers - experimental blues? Something like that. We skipped out and went down to Kaldalon to see 1860 [again! We've seen them in some capacity every day]. Their set was very nice. Gunnar, the bassist, was very funny. I loved them.

We made it back up to Northurljos in time for the last song from the Barr Brothers, and they were much darker than I expected. Agent Fresco was next, and they were easily the hardest-core band we've seen. But they're also fairly experimental, which meant that about 1/3 of each song was rock-n-roll-y, and then they broke down into headbanging metal. After the concert, a girl - maybe named Sinna? - came over and asked me to draw a picture on her jeans. I was confused and taken aback, so I drew a skull, because I know how. I wonder what sort of character statement it is that skulls are my go-to image? Hopefully the other people she asked drew better things.

Finally, Asgeir Trausti played. I've been looking forward to his show. I listened to him a little bit on the plane ride over, and was very impressed. He sounds a little bit like Bon Iver, but not like a complete copy. He's distinct enough, and also sings exclusively in Icelandic. His stage presence was not big - he only said "Takk," and the name of the next song. But he seemed sweet. I bought his album.

Now we're back at the hotel. Today was much less busy. We slept a lot. Tomorrow will be more full - we are going for a walk down the coast, I'll probably visit the cemetery at some point, plus we're snorkeling at Silfra [assuming the weather holds - it has been much nicer today], and then stopping at the Museum of Phallology on our way to see Sigur Ros.

Takk takk.

Friday, November 2, 2012



It's 3 am and I just danced for an hour and a half, so it's the same deal as yesterday.

We woke up really early this morning to take a tour of the South Coast [black sand beaches, something, blah blah blah Iceland]. Early means 7:00. We made it downstairs by 7:40 and had a really great breakfast. I tried [and hated] pickled halibut. Then we waited for our tour-bus in the lobby. There were several other groups around us and we watched as they got cancelled one by one. Ours was last. We called the company when they were an hour late, and they told us that all tours were cancelled because of weather. Woof.

A side note: the weather here is unreal. I'm not kidding. I have nearly been blown off my feet several times. The actual temperature today was 30 degrees, but with the wind chill [and gusts of up to 66 mph] it felt like 8. Everyone we have spoken to - Icelandic or not - has said that this weather is the worst they've ever seen. It's especially bad walking right along the coast because the wind whips up a salt-water mist that stings when it hits you.

ANYWAY. So we went back up to the room to go back to sleep because we were so tired. We meant to only sleep 'til 11, but ended up crashing until noon [actually, I slept 'til 12:30]. Then we woke up and prepared to start our day. Hah.

We got dressed in so many layers and headed out to the National Museum of Iceland. We got to walk by the pond, which had frozen almost entirely in the last 12 hours [this weather is no joke]. Once we reached the museum, we got a condensed version of Iceland's entire history in two hours. It was wonderful. I particularly loved the section dealing with the transition from Paganism to Christianity. It was fun and educational.

After the museum we headed over to Eymundsson [a book store] to see a set by 1860 [the band we gave our seats to yesterday, remember?]. On the way we stopped at a little bakery and I ate a pretzel. The show was good - short and sweet. The sound was off, so they decided to do the whole thing acoustic, which I actually enjoyed more. 

After 1860, we swung back to the hotel to drop off/pick up a few things, and then we headed out to dinner. We went to Kryddlegin Hjörtu and I had some really delicious mushroom soup and a salad. Food in Iceland is EXPENSIVE by the way. Then we backtracked and found KEX Hostel to see Sin Fang [headed by the lead singer of Seabear, if you were wondering]. The venue was great, but it was packed and hard to see the band. Sound was great, though, and the band was really together. I sometimes have a temper about show-etiquette, and this was a challenge because two girls planted themselves where there was NOT enough space, but I made it through alright. There was a middle-aged man standing just in front of us who was a major fan of Sin Fang, and I loved watching him get very excited about every song they did.

Next, we hoofed it over to Gamli Gaukurinn - the great venue from yesterday. We saw this girl duo called Kool Thing. Their music was a little louder, and their beats were fantastic. One of the girls - the Irish one who did all of the talking - had beautiful butterfly tattoos up and down her arms.

We hopped over to the Deutsche Bar when they'd finished, just in time for Tilbury. They were described online as synth-folk, but this was misleading. They did have synths, and the main synth-player was adorable, but a few songs in, I was bored. So we jumped across the street to Amsterdam - the metal venue for the night. We listened to a song or two from Angist. It was novel. In addition to being a metal band [a genre I don't usually listen to], the lead singer was a lady. That was surprising. 

Bored again, and sore from standing, we headed back to Gamli Gaukurinn, hoping to find a place to sit. But to no avail. Moss was playing, though, and they were a lot of fun. They play electronic pop, and they do it well. We only saw the tail end of their performance, which was a little dismaying. I would have liked to see a bit more of them than just 3 songs. 

When Moss finished we went back to the Deutsche Bar and saw Blouse - our first [and only?] American band of the night. They were good. Ethereal synthy stuff. A little Beach House-y. We stayed for most of their set, but bailed a song or two before the end because it was so hot and also because we'd gotten a little bored [again!]. In the words of Hoessi [our guide yesterday], "It was not my teacup." 

It was fine that we jumped early, though, because we needed to head over to Harpa [Silfurberg] to get in for FM Belfast at 1 am. It was nearly midnight, and we got in without a problem. Silfurberg doesn't have seats like Kaldalon did, so there was a lot more space and a lot more leniency with who got in. Since we were there an hour early, we got to see the band before FMB - Hjalmar & Jimi Tenor. Their music style was "doom reggae." I didn't know what that meant either. They started out mostly reggae, but got darker as the set progressed. Then, after finishing their song "Route 666," they shouted "EXPELLIARMUS!" and then dove into a reggae/ska version of the Harry Potter theme song. I know.

That was their last song, and then FM Belfast came on. Ohmigash. It was such a fantastic show. So much dancing. They ended within an hour, but then came back on and did a half-an-hour long encore, finishing with "I don't want to go to sleep either." Which is my favorite of theirs. It was really hot - I still had on my thermals. But I danced anyway, and it was transcendent. 

We got out of FM Belfast at around 2:10, and then started heading to The Factory. We ran into a couple of guys. They approached us a little awkwardly and I was sort of nervous, but all they wanted was to know where The Factory was. We found it together - thanks to my iPhone. The fellows were really nice. One was from Sweden [his name was Gustav] and the other from Canada. Gustav was a blogger who'd gotten to come to AI for free. Canada was along for the ride. Anyway, we got to The Factory and the line was out the door. We decided to wait for a while, and it seemed to be moving pretty well. Canada almost got into a fight with some Icelandic kids who were trying to cut, but the crisis was averted. We made it to the door and the guys got through, but the bouncer dropped the chain right in front of us. We looked from him to the guys inside, and he reluctantly let us follow them in. 

It was so smoky and packed. We danced around the whole bottom floor and ended up in a back room. A couple was pressed hard against the wall, making-out like nobody's business. The guys went over to the bar, and we headed upstairs to see if the Gluteus Maximus dance party was still happening. Upstairs was even more crowded than downstairs, so we turned right back around and left for good. I do feel a bit bad for ditching those kind men after they got us in, but it was nearly 3, and I felt in over my head. There's a line I didn't feel like crossing. If either of you are reading this: sorry. 

So, after we ducked out of that, we came right back to the hotel. Now, as I write, I can hear some techno drifting in from the bar down the street mingled with the sounds of tipsy concert-goers. 

What is this life, you guys?

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I'm just gonna get some thoughts and events down so as not to forget. Maybe I'll clean them up later.

I have been living in a dream for the last 24 hours. Partially because I am jet-lagged and seriously sleep-deprived, but mostly because I'm writing this from Reykjavik, Iceland.

Elisa and I flew to Denver first, and then straight to Iceland. The second leg was 7 hours and we flew over Greenland and were low enough to see the coast and glaciers. I tried to take a picture with my iPhone, but it's just black; I'll probably instagram it anyway.

We were unlucky in that the seat between us didn't stay empty, like we'd hoped, but we were lucky in that a very kind Icelandic man was its occupant. He chewed pungent tobacco, studied singing at a music school in Reykjavik, and invited us to an Opera. He was kind and well-informed about music and the night-life. I asked him his name, but alas, cannot remember it.

When we got off the plane, we descended straight onto the tarmac. This was my first impression of Iceland: There is no warmth left on earth. A blast of icy wind hit me in the face, and we made a mad dash for the airport. Customs was fine, and we struggled a little to find our bus [which was less of a bus and more of a mini-bus, or less of a mini-bus and more of a mini-van], but we made our way eventually. The driver was quiet but courteous. His white-blond hair stuck up in different places, and he had a habit of running his aged hand back and forth along the top right side of his head. His wedding ring was shiny gold. Barack Obama was on the radio for a few minutes, but mostly it was just Icelandic.

We got to the hotel at 8 am Iceland time. Our room wasn't yet available, but we were able to stow our luggage and get our thermals on. We ran to the grocery store and picked up some supplies for breakfast and lunch. Again, I was shocked at how much colder it was with the wind blowing. We then returned to the hotel lobby to await the tour-bus taking us to Silfra to snorkel in the continental rift. They were very late. We ate breakfast [rice pudding!] and got more and more tired. Finally, our guide Hoessi showed up in a van and we were underway [only 40 minutes behind schedule!].

Hoessi was a gem. He was also attending Iceland Airwaves, and gave us some great advice on which bands to see. See, he [being an Icelander - or, rather, a Dane raised in Iceland] made it a point to see primarily Icelandic bands because that is who he knows. This was fortuitous because neither Elisa nor I know very many Icelandic bands at all. He also told us about the elves in Iceland, about the rocks that people cannot move and the contracts made with the hidden people. Halfway to Thingvellir, he got a phone call informing him [and us] that we'd have to cancel our snorkeling trip because the weather was very bad. So, no snorkeling [though we may be able to reschedule for the weekend if this incredible storm blows over].

Back in Reykjavik four hours early, then, we decided to go get our Airwaves wristbands, pick up our Sigur Ros tickets, and then to explore the city. Reykjavik is so wonderful because everything is within walking distance. We went to the harbor, saw a statue of Iceland's founding father, and were nearly blown away by the ever-increasing wind [seriously; it's the most insane wind I've ever experienced]. There was a great second-hand shop, and lots of places to buy Lopapeysurs. We took tons of pictures.

We returned to the hotel an hour before check-in, but our room was ready anyway. Everything about this hotel is chic and modern. The lights are a little dim, and the shower is made of some concrete-looking materials. Maybe pictures later. Anyway, we got in, ate our lunch [koko mjoelk, an egg and veggie sandwich, and a delicious chocolate bar], planned our concert lineup, and then took a great 4 hour nap.

At 6 pm we woke up, showered, and felt a million times better. We went to a great fish-and-chips place for dinner. By the time we'd finished, though, the line for Purity Ring [a band I was really looking forward to seeing] was down the block and around the corner. And all outside. In the freezing cold and wind [SERIOUSLY THE WIND]. So we decided to ditch the PR show in favor of a warmer alternative. Gamli Gaukurinn was right across the street. The Echo Vamper was about to go on, so we decided to see what that was about. The club was dark and beautiful, filled with dirty, angel-headed hipsters who smelled of smoke and cold. I fell in love with every one of them.

The Echo Vamper came out on stage - a Danish woman and her British lover. She was wearing panty-hose and a pair of hairy black arm-warmers with electrical tape x's on her chest. I was skeptical. But wow what a show. The lyrics and beats were reminiscent of LCD, but instead of James Murphy, the lead singer was a bad-ass screamer who played theremin.

We hopped clubs a few more times and then ended up at the Harpa Kaldalon hall by the ocean. The weather was getting steadily worse. I was nearly blown off my feet. There we saw Biggi Hilmars, who was charming and adorable. He played swelling music and had a sweet cellist. Then, we moved seats so that the band 1860 could sit together [they didn't know we recognized them, BUT WE DID]. Then Ewert and the Two Dragons played. It was so great. More on that later.

By the time we got out, it was 1 am. We could see the northern lights, and the wind carried us home.