Hey, fellas. Let me clear up a few things from the
last message. First, when I said Minke whales surface
like circular saws, what I really meant was table
saws. There“s nothing like a bad simile to eat away
at your conscious for a week.
Second, when I said snorkelling in kelp is like
being in a forest, I was a bit off. It“s more like
flying in a fantastic queen“s flower garden, such as
the Queen of Hearts might have in Wonderland. Much of
the algae is shaped like pedals on a brown flower.
You“d feel like a bee, but bees only live in the
summer. Thus, I doubt their brains ever get so cold
they can“t remember the one turn they have to make to
return to their hive (Iceland is the wrong country to
be wandering in for fifteen minutes, while dripping
and in a towel).
Believe it or not, I was able to find a
snorkelling buddy. She“s an older Dutch traveller.
She once swam in Sweden in December and her feet
turned white...hmmm, maybe she“s not the right crowd
to be hanging with.
Wednesday, I returned to the mountain I“d failed
climbing weeks ago. Mt. Esja. The mountain“s face
leaned towards me, at it“s thickest where the eyebrows
would be. It seemed to be saying, "Fool! You“ve come
back for more?" In the crooked streams, trickled the
wicked, incessant laughter...of Esja!
My companion for the climb was Haukur, a
(straight) co-worker with short, blond hair.
Actually, the day“s climb was uneventful because - get
this! - there“s a PATH up the mountain.
I told Haukur about my last climb, as well as my
all-ice cream-diet. He“s convinced I“m in Iceland
because I escaped from an American insane asylum.
But the most fun time I“ve had in Iceland was
when we reached the top of the mountain (Haukur“s a
much better yodeller than I am, by the way) and
decided to take the quick way down. We slid down on a
very steep, very long slide of snow. On our backs, we
reached about twenty miles an hour. Snow flew into
our pockets and mouths and eyes, and you could barely
brake or see the rocks ahead. Whew, it was a blast.
This weekend had the longest days of the year, and I
decided I couldn“t be bothered to work it. I made up
my mind to hitchhike north to the midnight sun of the
Arctic Circle, before learning the Arctic Circle only
passes through Iceland at a tiny island called Grķmsey.
I decided I“d still try to make it there, even if
it meant hitching a ride on a plane. I reached the
Akureyri airport, thanks in large part to a 20-year
old who works 84 hours a week on a farm. But that“s
as far as I got. Despite my brilliant logical
persuasion of pumping my fist and saying, "C“mon!",
the captain told me I couldn“t get a free ride on a
I would have to stay the night in Iceland“s
booming "Capital of the North", Akureyri, pop. 15,000.
It lies on a Crayola-blue fjord between mile-high mountains.
I made up my mind to not give the Akureyri hostel
any business when the owner came off as a real jerk.
I reasoned that if I spent $15 on a big dinner, then
the energy from that would keep me awake and warm all
night and I could save $10 from staying in the hostel.
Well, things took a strange turn at the
restaurant. Two guys, Valdi (Icelandic for "power")
and Gilsi, invited me to join their table. Gilsi even
gave me a place to stay for the weekend.
Power looked like a sea-turtle on heavy
sedatives. He said little, mostly just rolling his
eyes at Gilsi“s comments.
Gilsi likes drinking until he pukes and going
home with women so drunk that when they wake up they
don“t know who the puke had belonged to. He says
sentences you“d never expect to hear. He kept saying,
over and over, "We come from the land of fire and
ice!" One morning, he said, "Don“t you love the smell
of socks you“ve puked in?" Another time, he looked at
me and said, "You know I never realized this, but
you“re very, very ugly."
He“s the kind of guy you hang out with only when
he“s giving you a free place to stay (just kidding).
The only thing Power and Gilsi had in common was
that they wanted to get me really drunk, and they
succeeded. (Imagine me walking sideways down the
road, holding a map upside-down, and trying to
remember street names like Žórhingstręti and
The next day, I visited Gošafoss, a half-hour from
Akureyri. This is a 30-foot high waterfall, next to a
10-foot waterfall, where the pagan chieftain of
Iceland though his idols into the water after the
country adopted christianity 1000 years ago.
Gošafoss is surrounded by rocks and small caves.
While exploring, I jumped down a large hole in the
rock before realizing how I“d get back up. I was
thirty feet below where I wanted to be, and my only
way to get there was by climbing the flat cliff. I
found the best spot with a few good holds and headed
As I climbed, I got farther and farther away from
the big, pointy rocks I“d be falling on if I lost my
hold. Halfway up, I tried throwing my backpack to the
top. But when it landed, it only caused a bunch of
stones to loosen and come falling onto my head,
followed by the backpack. So, I had to climb down,
get the backpack, and start again.
I remembered being told that you want to have
atleast three good holds on the rock at a time, when
climbing. That“s a good thing to know. Once, my foot
slipped out completely from under me. Another time,
at the very top, only five speedy seconds from some
broken bones, I simultaneously felt all three of the
holds I had on the rock shift under my weight. But
luckily they held, and I made it to the top.
Relieved, I listened to Pearl Jam“s "Alive" on my
"Ohhh, I“m still alive..."
I next set to the task of finding a piece of wood
I could use to float on while riding the river“s
rapids. While poking around a messy barn, I spotted
something that would work even better: an old, dirty
mattress! I asked the owner of the Gošafoss
guesthouse if she needed the beat-up mattress, and
unfortunately she did.
It“s too bad, because I think I could“ve went
down the 10-foot falls on that mattress. People just
don“t understand these great ideas I have...
At night, I watched a baseball movie, "The Natural",
set in America in the fifties, I think. I love the
good ol“ days: people ate in cozy diners, guys wore
suits and bowler hats, and romance and dating were
Iceland is as far from those days as possible.
People eat in fancy French cafes, fashion changes
every week and is expensive to keep up with, and, as
Gilsi said, "You only take a girl on a date AFTER you
sleep with her."
To emphasize the point of how bad the times are
now, I was rejected by a girl at the club in Akureyri
that night. Can you believe that!!!
Her name was Rebekka, the third prettiest girl
I“ve ever seen. Her face was Kelly Capowski-like
(from Saved By The Bell). Her eyes sparkled, and her
happy cheeks gave her face the shape of a heart. She
had blond hair, in a pony tail that frizzed up at the
back. She wore a tight leather dress, and the muscles
on her bare arms were clearly outlined.
It went something like this:
"So, can I take you out some time?"
"Okay, I“ll tell you what. We“ll play a game,
and if I win I get to take you out. Do you like
"But it“ll be a game I have no chance at.
"I“ll...let“s see, I“ll try to guess your
favorite flavor of ice cream. If I get it right, do I
get a date?"
"Alright, then. I need to ask you some questions
first. Question one." I counted with my fingers.
"What kind of music do you listen to?"
"All kinds of music."
"Question two. Would you prefer to be at a snowy
mountain or on a sandy beach?"
"Question three. Would you describe your childhood
"Question four. How many pairs of shoes do you
I processed all this information in the ice
creamulomometer (my head). It was a tough case, but
her read wristband made it a dead give away.
Dejected, I started to leave the club. But, then
I came to a realization. Strawberry IS Hverjaberri!
I rushed back and convinced Rebekka I was right.
(The ice creambobulomatrix is seldom wrong) She
consented defeat, and as with the agreement of the
game, I will not be taking her out on a date.
My ride back to Reykjavik was an American who“d
been playing in the Arctic Open. He told me of a
friend who putted horribly in the tournament, so he
sacrificed his $150 putter to Gošafoss. We agreed
that the near all-night sun (Akureyri lies just
outside the Arctic circle) was a pretty incredible
thing to see.
As I got out of the car, I realized how much my
weekend trip had cost me: remarkably, I hadn“t spent a
single kronur. That“s a good price. Especially when
you only work two nights a week, and you took two of
those two off this week.
Man, I hate my job.