Monday, September 16, 2019. Seltjarnarnes, Iceland.
Soundtrack: Steve Winwood – Higher Love
“Is he here?”
“Is he coming?”
“He said ‘omw’ twenty minutes ago.”
“Is he still?”
“I don’t know!”
The sudden paroxysm of rain drove us into another tourist trap corner shop trying to sell us reindeer pelts and metal puffin figurines. The owner kept telling us if we had any questions, let her know. We were waterlogged foreigners with forty pound backpacks. We obviously weren’t in the market for indigenous wool underwear, but we still smiled and nodded.
We told Braxton to rendezvous at 101 Reykjavik Street Food, which was not a street food stand but a whole-ass restaurant, specializing in soup. Strangers in a strange land. I ordered fish and chips.
They were breathtaking.
We were getting by on stolen wifi, so each time we wanted to send a smoke signal to Braxton we had to brave the tempest and hover around outside a Danish bar, hunching to protect our phones from the wind.
This afforded us the opportunity to explore some of the local souvenir stores.
I don’t buy things at souvenir stores for many reasons. One, they’re obviously cheap garbage. Two, they’re impractical; I have everything I need already, like Diogenes except well-groomed and handsome. Three, research suggests clutter makes you insane. Four, I travel out of a backpack. Where the hell am I going to store a drinking horn for the next two weeks?
That said, it was a force of will at the Thor Store. The viking appropriation was strong. They had entire Norse pantheon chess sets, Mjollnir bottle openers, and runic man-jewelry of carved bone for every occasion. Not to mention Thor himself, rendered in wood.
After a half hour of scrambling in the rain and snatching handfuls of Wi-Fi like NeoTokyo techno-urchins, Braxton said, “I’m parked outside street food.”
We reconnoitered. He was not. No cars were on the street. However, in the reconnoiter, I discovered the Gay Road to Church.
“Tell him to meet us at the church. It’s like a block away.”
“That’s where you are?” he texted back. “Okay omw.”
It was not a block away. I miscalculated in equal parts to my crippling directional insanity and the absurd size of the Hallgrimskirkja. It wound up being a half mile away.
“I thought you said street food!” Braxton said.
“Reykjavik street food!” Ladygirl said.
“Oh. I was at Iceland Street Food. It’s two blocks away.”
The rain cleared because we were in a car now. Braxton took us to his place, a secret safehouse buried deep in the sprawling, idyllic backyards of an upper-class suburb. It was spartan, but cozy. The variety of dried fish snacks spread on the coffee table suggested he had acclimated to his new adopted home, but the panoply of liquor decorating the kitchenette windowsill suggested that though you could take the boy out of the skook, getting the skook out of the boy was another matter entirely.
“I’ve got two hours of work left,” he said. “You guys can rest up here, shower, help yourself to the fish jerky. I’ll be back and then we can check out some nature.”
We agreed, and off he went to keep the greens. I took a shower, laid down on the couch, and “rested my eyes” in a Dad-ly fashion, immediately losing consciousness until he came home.
Braxton took us through a sequence of winding back alleys that gave a punctuated tour of the neighborhood and led out to a scenic peninsula peppered with lighthouses.
“What the hell are those?” I asked.
“This is Europe,” Braxton said. “They love weird nude modern art statues. Can’t get enough of them. They’re everywhere.”
“What are they doing?”
Whatever it was, it seemed suspicious. We fled the homunculi and made our way out to the coastline.
Braxton couldn’t stop singing “Higher Love” during this excursion, but he didn’t know any words except “bring me a higher love” and a vocal rendition of the trumpet fill. I tried to displace it with a sea shanty, but it didn’t take.
The tide was rising and we weren’t technically allowed to approach the lighthouse, according to many signs that I couldn’t read. Fortunately, there are no cops in Iceland, and nothing to stop us except our own looming mortality.
We hurried down the peninsula across a hundred yards of rotten seaweed and fish guts, kicking up grotesque clouds of hardy sea flies that didn’t seem to mind the fact it was 40 degrees.
The lighthouse was locked, but it was still scenic enough, if you’re into that sort of thing.
“Oh nice,” I said. “Leprechauns. Or maybe elves, here? Huldufólk! I remember, they said they got elf dicks at the weiner museum. Braxton, you coming to the weiner museum with us?”
“That sounds… really great, but I’m gonna have to pass.”
“They have 230 different mammal phalluses,” I said. “Phallusees. Phalli? Dongs. 230, my dude, and they allege that some of them are from elves, and others from trolls. You don’t wanna look at a troll dong? How do you live here and you’ve never checked it out?”
“It costs money,” Braxton said.
I shook my head. “Unbelievable.”
Ladygirl took a creepshot of me while I was friggin’ around with my own camera up on the rocks.
“All this skipping through rancid fish guts has got my appetite worked up,” I said. “Where can we get food?”
“No more fish,” Ladygirl pleaded. “I haven’t built up a tolerance to this much fish yet. Give me like, one day.”
“Most of it’s fish,” Braxton said thoughtfully. “There’s a thai place that’s good. Or do you guys want burgers?”
“Burgers,” Ladygirl said.
“I always want burgers,” I told him. “Braxton, please. My people, they’re starving.”
And so, we returned to base, caught a bus to Reykjavik proper, and sought out borgar.