1

 

     I purchased my airfare so far in advance that it was easy not facing the fact that it would be me flying to an island that dangled under the Arctic Circle--Iceland. 

     Thoughtlessly, I went through the formal steps of preparing for a trip:  I told friends, I bought a backpack, a tent, and a sleeping bag.  Now, as I sat at the airport, I was slowly realizing, OH SHIT, I really have no idea what I am doing!

    

*****

 

 

     I slept fine on the flight from Austin to Dallas.   While sleeping, some how I injured my shoulder on the flight from Dallas to Baltimore. 

     Some time during the flight, I awoke to find the marrow in my shoulder pulsating.  The pain extended down my arms, into my fingers, and down in to my ribs.  I had this sick feeling that I was having a heart attack.  I was scared that my trip was already ruined.  I wanted to sleep the pain off so bad.

     When the in-flight meal came, I was quite hungry but sleepy too.  So, I involuntarily compromised.  I would begin to munch on a cracker.  I would get the cracker to a nice pulpy state, only to fall asleep before swallowing.  A little later, the pain in my arm would wake me up and I would discover the chewed crackers in my mouth.  I would chew a little bit more to correctly identify that the cracker pulp was ready to swallow.  Mmmmm, that was good.  I think that I would like another cracker…but no sooner would I fall asleep…

     This cycle went on like this all the way until the final decent into Baltimore.  In Baltimore, I discovered I had a 5-hour lay over.  Damn!  So what did I do first?  I laid down on the marble floor and slept.  Without pulpy crackers in my mouth and the pesky pain in my shoulder, I slept uninterrupted for 2 hours.  After waking and eating, I had nothing to do but wait the remaining three hours for my flight.

 

*****

    

     I should mention at this time that I had received some information about Iceland from a friend, Hans.  He informed me that Icelanders were horny for foreigners.

     As I remembered this hard fact, I realized that I was approaching the Iceland Air ticket counter.  Furthermore, I noticed the agents looked very Icelandic.  I wondered if I was going to get laid before I even arrived in Iceland. 

 

*****

 

     Ironically, as I unsuccessfully tried to have a heterosexual experience with the female Icelandic ticket agent, I became more aware of the light mannerisms of those around me who were also waiting to board my same flight.  The more I listened and observed, the more I realized that those also waiting for the Icelandic flight were part of a gay singing group.  Some of their T-shirts gave it away:

 

          Oregon lesbian choir

          We sing out!!!

    

     Whoa!  Did Hans pull one over me? Was Hans laughing somewhere at the silly ideas he had planted into my horny brain?  Was Iceland in no way horny for foreigners, but rather a huge gay colony?

     Now, I have no problems with homosexuality, but they weren’t going to hamper my humping spree in Iceland.

     What could I expect on the plane, on the island?  Did the Iceland Air clerk think that I was part of the “blue heart” gay choir?  Was that why she and I didn’t get it on?

     Soon it was time to board the plane.  Surely, I would find others of my minority orientation group.

 

                   ***** 

    

     I am at this very moment, folks, about to board the plane that will leave the country.  I am now in line to board…20 more people, then me.  I am about to give my boarding pass...and…ooo…eee...and closer, YES!  I just did it.  I just gave the flight attendant my ticket and am now a helpless foreigner! 

     Folks, I am now aboard the plane.  Stepping into the plane was like stepping into Iceland.  The flight attendants were all classic blondes with thick European black glasses and pilot caps.  Here look:

 

 

 

    

     Great, the people next to me just asked me if I was part of the touring choir group. Damn it, and there I was trying to ooze raw sexuality.  I thought I screamed heterosexuality.  I was always convinced that cooperative women could smell my prowess.

                            

                  

     Yes, yes, my name is CRAIG DOWNING and I would like to make an official statement: I am not in the choir.  First, innately by definition--choir--I must be able to sing.  And, can I sing?  No, and don’t make me show you that I can’t sing—it would be damaging for all parties involved.  Second, even if god did correct my out of tune and knotted vocal cords, I am very, very heterosexual.  I’d love to show your wife how heterosexual I am.  Thank you for your time…

 

2

 

          I awoke to bright sunlight and an ocean of clouds.  I saw navy blue water and…land!  It was black and there were no trees.  I was landing in Iceland.

      After landing, I successfully retrieved my luggage, slipped through customs and bought a bus ticket into the city.

     Before getting on the bus, I went directly outside.  I went past the buses.  I went past all the cars and people.  I found a parking median with grass--Icelandic grass.  I grabbed a tuft and stuck it in my mouth, mmm, cold moist Icelandic grass.  I then returned and hopped on the bus.  Soon I would infiltrate deeper into the island.

     The airport bus transported me to the closest major city, actually, the only major city in Iceland, Reykjavik.

     Okay, hiccup #1: The youth hostel in Reykjavik had no rooms available. 

     I guess this is where I should have had a contingency plan.  So, I called Hans to update him on what was happening.

      Hans had arrived in Iceland about 4 days earlier.  Hans and I had bought our tickets to Iceland on the same whim.  It just ended up that he arrived before me.  Lucky for him, Hans had some how arranged to stay with some Icelandic girl that he had only recently met over the Internet.  So, here we were, two bored Texan fellas in the middle of Iceland.  Did I mention that I had no idea what I was doing?

 

                             *****

    

     Well, I was going to try to stay at another hostel in a neighboring town.  I tagged along with these two middle-aged fellas from Minneapolis.

     “Yeah, my great grandfather came from Iceland.  Why are you here?” one of my new partners asked me.

     Damn good question Jimmy, because I really don’t know why I'm here. As a kid, I remembered reading about Iceland in National Geographic.

     “I liked the pictures?” I offered.

     So we all ended up at another youth hostel together.  No sooner did we get to the youth hostel, than our friend, Optimistic Jimmy, asked the clerk,

     “Hey, do you know my great grandfather Bjorn Magnusson?”

     Jesus Jimmy, shut up!

     “See, my great grandfather came from…”

     I was seriously smirking to myself as Jimmy goes on about his Grandpa, but damn all, it ended up that these proud Icelanders keep records of everyone.  Iceland has some kind of genealogical society.  So, the clerk and Jimmy dive into a serious conversation and I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t find themselves to be cousins.

                            

                             *****

 

     I called up Hans again and set up a rendezvous at point alpha: Town center.  I returned to the city on the same bus route that took me out of the city.  At first I was feeling very lost and confused, but now I was starting to feel a little better.  It is silly how just knowing a bus route can make you feel as if you know what you are doing. 

     After riding that “known bus route” for an hour wondering where the damn “city center” was, and after multiple friendly Icelanders kept saying “next stop, soon,” I had made at least one complete route on the bus.  I was just going to get off where it looked metropolitan enough to me.

     Now an hour after I was supposed to have already met Hans, I was only just arriving.  I figured it was too late and I would just meet Hans back in our hometown of Austin. 

     Then, in the middle of Iceland, oops, I bumped into the bastard.  This was definitely odd.  5,000 miles away from home, in a completely foreign place, I was physically seeing someone I knew only from Texas.  With the sudden appearance of Han's familiar face in such a strange surrounding, it was like Hans was some spiritual guide.

     Hans said, “Hello, Craig.”

     This triggered a case of the willies up down my spine.

    

                             *****

    

     So we walked aimlessly around shooting off pictures.  There were pictures of me standing next to a boat, Hans standing next to a boat, now next to an Icelandic sign, and then in front of a store.  Hans chose to be a part of the cheesy lean-out-and-smile-from-the-stationary-train picture.  I abstained.

 

 

 

     After a while, Hans and I decided to meet the girl that he was hanging out with here in Iceland--Linda, 18.9 year old Linda.  

     We, 23 year old males, made a deal about Linda, “I won’t tell anyone back home if you don’t tell anyone, deal?”  Deal.

 

                             *****

     Linda mentioned to Hans that she wished he would speak with more of an American accent and, even better, with all the Texan flavor he could muster.  So, we intellectuals decided that I should oblige and surprise our Linda, our Icelandic Hostess.

     After hopping around on buses, Hans and I arrived where Linda worked.  We approached Linda.  And, with the thickest Texan drawl humanly possible, I introduced myself.  It went something like this,

     “Howdy partner, any lassie that’s a friend of Hans is a friend of mine. 

     About right there, as I was looking at poor Linda’s soft, young, blank Icelandic face, Hans erupted laughter through his nose.  He effectively snotted all over himself.  Of course, I am an easily impressed American whose sinus cavity is no stronger than Hans’.   So, I too, erupted out all over my lip.  Still blank, young Linda was starring at two recently met Americans and trying to make sense of this American behavior.  Quickly we debriefed the situation and immediately ran away.

*****

 

     Later we were waiting for Linda at her house.  We stuffed ourselves with Icelandic chocolate.  We ended up collapsing on her couches and taking a nap.  I was sure my body had no idea what time it was.

 

 

3

 

     Linda was back.  I awoke fully rested and charged up.  We decided to go out and find something to eat.  There was this American-themed pizza joint that had all these crazy pizza names like: The Woodstock, The Rolling Stones, and, dear god, one was called The Pearl Harbor!  I imagined this Pearl Harbor pizza outfitted with sparklers and covered in red ketchup.  Well, ends up that, ironically, the Pearl Harbor was the only tasty sounding pizza.  All the other pizzas were just back home regular options, pepperoni, woo wee—who cares! So, get this, the Pear Harbor pizza had mussels, shrimp, salmon and scampi!  After getting over how salty the pizza was, it was not that bad. 

     While we were all sitting by the window just eating our pizza, I started to get this odd feeling.  People walking by were more than just glancing into the restaurant.  No, they were shamelessly staring, wide-eyed and astonished.  The pedestrians were not staring with disgust, but rather with general interest.  It was as if I had a broken arm, a black eye, or an obvious scar.  Whatever it was, it would catch and mesmerize the pedestrians walking by our window.

     We left the restaurant.  As I walked around, people continued to gawk.  It was like an old western movie; some new kid walking into town.  As the new kid is approaching downtown, people are whispering while someone runs ahead to tell others.  But, now as I was walking, I saw people run in to stores to get the attention of the store’s occupants.  Then the messenger would proceed to point out the window at innocent little old me.  I would catch the whole group laughing in a wide mouth chorus.

     It was now approaching evening.  Linda decided to let us see the Icelandic nightlife by ourselves.  This nightlife lasted a half-hour as I realized that my key to my hostel was missing.  We ended up needing to go back to Linda’s place on a bus to look for my key.  We had to run to get my keys and then run back in time to catch the last bus back to my youth hostel.

*****

 

     Wouldn’t everyone want to sleep now?  I mean, it had only been my first day in Iceland and god knows it had been hard on us, you and me, reader, up since 6am.  Not to mention, the exhaustion of cultural shock.  Well, of course my readers surely know that I am showing facetious concern.  Surely I am leading to an unfortunate twist in our path. 

     Arriving at the youth hostel lobby, I found our recently discovered cousins still talking, Jesus!!!!  I head upstairs. 

No one else was asleep.  So, I took this time to prepare a very restful and comfortable bed.  I pulled out my down sleeping bag.  For this great night of slumber, I even put all the down in the down sleeping bag at the bottom to make it extra comfy for my back.  Mmmm, sleep...sleep... 

     Of course, as you can guess, I was not the most excited of travelers in regards to our friend Optimistic Jimmy.  Well, as much as I would be glad for anyone to sleep as comfortably as me, I would not make sure that everyone else knew it by snoring as ungodly loud as possible.  Jesus Jimmy!  He rattled my bed, my brain, and my deep sleep.  Yet, even though he woke me, I couldn’t just go and shut him up by jamming my fists up his nasal passages. 

     Jimmy’s snores shook me as he lay deep in sleep. Jimmy was even sleeping in a fetal position.  Jimmy's snoring was as if he were trying to make as much noise as possible.  I then started to wonder if he was choking.  His snoring was just that bad!  Thank god that eventually his companion, frustrated as I, balled up a sock and threw it at him.

     I awoke many times during the night not knowing what time it was.  The sunlight was no longer a reliable indication of the time.  At this latitude, in the summer, there was sun light pretty much all the time.

     I awoke to find it 10:00am.  Both of my roommates were already shoveling down some oatmeal.  So, I, being the conversationalist that I sometimes can be, started their morning off with a generic-tourist-on-vacation-morning greeting.  I really didn’t want to bring up anything about the noise quake last night.

     “Ah, what a great night’s rest,” I announced. 

     Wouldn’t you know it?  My loving friend, Optimistic Jimmy responded, “Really, I couldn’t fall asleep at all last night.”

     Oh yeah, right Jimmy.  You were the only one who got any damn sleep.        

*****

 

     Icelandic water smells like poop.  The tap water in Iceland has lots of sulfur in it.  Therefore it smells just like basement fart.  While in the shower, I kept trying to remind myself that, minus the gallons of poop-smelling water gushing over me, I was actually cleaning myself.

     Clean and ready, I departed.  I was going back to Linda’s house.  We had all decided to head out to the famous Blue Lagoon.  Of course, I had forgotten a pair of swimming trunks, so I was forced into a more sexy option--my boxers.  Adding to the sexy element was the fact that my pee flap did not, and I repeat, did not have a button to keep it closed.  To add even more excitement to this embarrassment, Hans and Linda had decided to bring along another girl to witness my potential exposure.  Of all the boxers I had, which one did I get stuck sporting for this adventure?  The most all-American boxers I could find.  All they read was, “This buds for you.”  Woo wee.  Hey, hello all you Icelanders!  Guess who the dumb-ass American is?

 

*****

    

     The Blue Lagoon, to me, was the epitome of Iceland.  It is a geothermal plant.  It has lava rocks all around it and there is a hot spring in the middle of huge green mountains. 

     What a surreal experience this was.  I mean I’d seen pictures of the Blue Lagoon and yet, there I was in the middle of a 3-D experience at the Blue Lagoon.  It was like those old cheesy children’s stories where a kid falls into a picture book to find themselves experiencing each picture. 

     There I was at a geothermal plant seeing Hans’ head bobbing up and down in this phosphorus blue water against chunky green mountains.

     Wow, the water really was hot.  Supposedly, it gets so hot that people die.  At least one person dies there every summer.  And, I thought the shower water was stinky.  The water at the lagoon was the smelliest.

      After this swimming treat, we went back to Linda’s House.  Tonight we were really going to experience the Icelandic nightlife.


4

 

 

     Before going out, I had moved to the attic of a Guesthouse in the center of Reykjavik. 

     This was an odd situation because now would be a good time for me to introduce hiccup #2.  It was now Saturday night, tomorrow was Sunday, and Monday was a national holiday.  This would mean that the banks, one’s lifeline for money, would be closed for two days.  This, too, could only be a problem if one had no foreign currency.  One might need foreign currency to maybe feed oneself, or to pay for a roof over one’s head.  Yes, I had no money and no access to a bank for 2 days.  Thank the great credit card God.  I could only guess how much my credit card company would charge me for these foreign exchange of goods.  I would charge $10 here, $15 there, and $20 there for Icelandic pastries.  Mmm good.  I was having pastries for pre-breakfast, breakfast, post-breakfast, lunch, dinner, and post-dinner...pastries, mmmm. 

     So, I had no hard currency to pay for my rent at the Guesthouse.  Needless to say, I was avoiding my Guesthouse.  I totally felt like some crack-head with no money to pay my landlady.

     This explained why I had chosen these nights to explore the Icelandic nightlife.  Also, the eternal sunlight made it easy to accomplish this feat. 

     Icelandic nightlife, what should I expect?  Same answer applies for what I should expect going to Iceland in the first place--no idea.

 

***** 

 

     It was 12am.  Hans and I were ready to get laid.  Very quickly we realized that this was not going to happen. 

     Everyone was attractive, even the hefty ones.  I had stepped into beautiful world.  It was like some kind of GQ set.  Everyone, yes, everyone was in expensive and very stylish clothes.  Well, except for me, who was in his casual wear--jeans and a T-shirt. 

     It ends up looking like this:  The 13-18 year olds wear jeans and T-shirts.  Whereas, the 19-30 year-olds wear fancy and expensive clothes.

     So what did I look like?  Basically, I looked like an overgrown 23-year-old kid. 

     Well, as the night went on, it got worse.  Hefty drunken girls kept hitting on me.  Of course, no one I was looking at had their eyes even 180 degrees in my direction.  Yet, hefty drunk girls came a running. 

     I was the hefty-drunk-girl love magnet.  Wow, that magnet was strong.  Once the thick ladies swung past the electromagnetic waves, in the hefty drunk girls would come and in they would unfortunately stay.  When one hefty drunk girl would leave, another, a team plot I tell you, would shuffle in trying her luck.

     Oh yeah, by the way, it was 5am.  It was light out and no one was going home.  We were in no hurry because Hans had no idea how to get home and the buses didn’t start running until 7am.  Okay, 5:30am the crowd was thinning.

 

*****

 

     “Icelanders are very lax with sex,”  I remembered Hans telling me.  Okay, I was feeling the time crunch.  It was time to act.  I had to act quickly.

     I saw a target.  She was mine.  I had ammunition for conversation,      

     “When do the buses start?” 

     Check, ready, okay, here we go…

     As she briskly walked by, I had just enough time to tap her shoulder and lay it on her,

     “Excuse me, but what time do the buses start?” 

     A genuine question, and here comes her answer,

              

     Here is her answer one more time, folks,

                

     Yep, she was deaf and mute.  Of all girls I hit on, I ended up picking the damn Helen Keller of Iceland.  Because, God knows, if she weren’t deaf and mute, then she would have immediately taken me home and had hot Scandinavian sex with me.

 

     ***** 

 

     Okay, it sucked and now I was done.  I wanted to go home-- no, not just to the hotel room, not even back to Austin.  No, I wanted to curl back up, warm, fetal, snoring blissfully in my mother’s safe secure womb.  Instead, I was feeling totally hollow in the tail wind of someone who couldn’t have possible ignored me anymore, ouch. 

    

*****

 

 

     Slipping into the guesthouse at 6am I was glad that no one was awake wondering where their money was.  Slumber was good --so good that I slept in until 3pm.

 

5

 

     Now, I was up and off with Hans and Linda on our first hiking trip in Iceland.  We went to the closest Icelandic Park. Which was weird, Iceland designates a specific area as protected due to unique land spectacles?  As if all of Iceland wasn’t one big spectacle. 

     At the park, we observed a waterfall.  We arrive at some wishing pool where witches were once drowned.  We made some profound wishes like:

     I wished Hans would buy me a suit.

     I wished I were a Ninja.

     Blah, blah, blah.

     I was still recovering from the eventful and uneventful previous night.  We were still tired, so, when we got back I was off to sleep again.

 

*****

     The next day, we were ready for more outdoor activities.  We decided to pick a mountain--any mountain and climb it.  Thank god I was wearing my mountain gripping sneakers.  So, without water, a plan or good shoes, we were heading up the mountain. 

      I was introduced to an old Icelandic tradition of trickery.  Every time I asked if we were close to the top, other hikers responded as genuinely as all possible,

     "Oh yes, very soon." 

     The view was nice.  We took pictures.  In Three and half-hours, we were up and then back down at the car.  I am getting old so I was off to bed again.

 

6

 

     Waking up the next day, I knew the banks were open, yes, and that meant cash.  On the way to the bank, I thought about situations where I was prevented from exchanging my traveler’s checks.  I saw automatic sliding doors going haywire and mashing my hands leaving me then unable to sign for my traveler’s checks.  And then, how the bank would not accept my signature made with my pen in my mouth.  I saw myself in the middle of nowhere without any money.  Trying to earn money, I saw myself going to the Icelandic plasma stations.  I saw myself in a factory shoveling fish innards.

     Fortunately, the bank transaction was a success.

     “Money, please...thanks,” I said and left the bank.

     I paid the lady at the guesthouse.  Now, I was off to try the local Youth hostel that didn’t have any vacancies when I had first arrived. 

     “Yes we have rooms.  You can put your bags in the room, but we clean them from 11-4.” 

     Guess what time it was.  Good, right, you are catching on; it was 10:55am.  Woo wee.  So I dropped off my bags and went back into town to meet Hans.

 

*****

 

     We had an agenda.  Today was museum day.  First we were off to the Reykjavik Museum of Photography. 

     Damn, and what an impressive museum it was.  I am surprised it was not internationally recognized.  I mean, they had selected not on quantity but on quality.  They selected the best damn 15 pictures I had ever seen.  What an efficient idea this was.  There was no need to build a new separate building for the photography museum either.  No, best to save space in this over crowded island and put this prolific museum as the lobby to a business.  Thank god they put a complete coffee table full of photography books of other museums so visitor’s time wasn’t wasted.  I think people were quite surprised that not only one, but two, tourists had actually visited this colossal museum.  We stayed a good two minutes.

     We were now off to the Living Art Museum.  This museum was actually very interesting.  In the basement of this museum, they had this huge aquarium stuffed with what I assumed was animal and hopefully not human innards.  This art piece had gizzards, livers, lower intestines, upper intestines, kidneys, pancreas, spleens, tendons, muscles, and in general just fat squishy tissue all jammed into this aquarium.  And to boot, one could stick their hands in these gloves that could then be inserted into the soup of innards.  Mmm, dear god, do not leak, please, ah…ah.  Watching my muscle movement move 40 pounds of innards was interesting.  I then headed back to the Youth hostel.     

*****

 

     In my room at the Youth hostel, I met a Danish guy.  This Danish guy had just finished working on an Icelandic farm for three months.  He went on to tell me that he had learned to communicate with the cows by emulating their snout twitches and snorting.  As impressed as I was, I could not partake in communicating in this manner. 

 

*****

 

     Here is a circular argument:

     “Why did you come to Iceland?” someone asked me.

     “I don’t know,” I responded.

     “Do you know any Icelandic?”

     “No.”

     “So why did you come to Iceland?”

     “I don’t know.”

     “Do you know any Icelandic?”

     "No."      

 

*****

 

     I napped for a little while.  Well, as much as one can nap with three other people loading and unloading their gear.  Forger it, no sleep now.

     Later, Hans wanted to treat Linda and I to Mexican food. When we arrived at the restaurant, Hans was having second doubts about treating everyone when each meal cost $17.

     So we ordered.  My food arrived and poof $17 worth of food gone in 2 minutes flat.  Actually, Hans and Linda could not finish their food, so I ate $25 worth of food in less than three minutes, mmm. 

     Hans and I left Linda as we went for coffee.  Coffee, that was stupid.  I didn’t need anything else to help disrupt my sleep schedule.

     Heading back to the Hostel at 1am I discovered Optimistic Jimmy and his buddy.  Good for Optimistic Jimmy, he had found his old farm and some third or fourth cousins.  We exchanged stories.  I warned them about the overload of excitement at the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, and recommended that they stop by the Living Art Museum instead.  Okay, then I went off to sleep, and discovered that my windows had curtains with a density of:

 

 

(Not magnified)

 

 

 

     These curtains were to block out something—obviously not sunlight.  So, my room was as white as:

 

 

 

     Add to this, that next door, through acoustically transparent cinder blocks, were 8 Asians having some kind of mafia meeting laughing and chuckling.  Oh, and in the morning it seemed as if some young kid had a nightmare and wanted to let everyone know.

 

 

     That was an acoustic graph of the scream.  So, I had no real option by then but to get up.  I left for a grocery store and bought some granola cereal.  At least, I assumed it was some kind of granola cereal.  After tasting it, I seriously considered that the label said in Icelandic, BIRD FOOD, not for human consumption.  Danger: Tastes like shit.  I gagged it down anyway.  Off I went to meet Hans.

 

 

7

 

     Today was a special day for Hans.  Today we were going to hook up with a member from the old band The Sugarcubes.  No, it wasn’t Bjork. 

     We were walking down the main drag.  It was 2 hours before we were supposed to meet up with this member of the Sugarcubes.  We heard someone calling Han’s name from a traffic stop.  Of course, it was the previously mentioned band member.  Our host said hello, and we confirmed our appointment.  Later, I was asking Hans where he met this guy.  Hans replied,

     “Over the Internet.”

     “So, this sugarcubes guy has never actually seen you?”

     “Never.”

     “Wow, it must be so obvious that we are foreigners that, from his car, he could identify us on a crowded street.”

     So, I responded by purchasing a hat.

     It looked a little like a Viking hat, but it was made of knitted wool.  The hat was very Scandinavian. 

*****

 

 

     We just ended strolling around until it was time to meet our guest from the Sugarcubes.  He had brought his kid, whose name was cactus, yes, like the plant:

 

      I don’t know if that is typical in Iceland to find names for their kids that are the furthest from anyone else’s idea for a kid’s name.  Cactus, Jesus!  So we hung out, tried unsuccessfully to obtain some free passes to an Icelandic music fest and then departed.  After all this walking, it was time for a nap again. 

      

*****

 

     Boy, did I sleep!  Thanks to Hans, later that night, a cute receptionist came to wake me up and to inform me that I had a phone call.  No time for dinner, but thank goodness I had that gourmet bird-food cereal.

     So I meet Hans downtown.  It was nothing real exciting.  We went and got coffee at a place called Café Frank.  I do not know if this was in honor of Ann Frank or what.  Anyway, we got to talking and drinking coffee and as it got closer to the time for the last bus I did not want to go.  I actually was looking forward to walking home--relaxation and tranquillity.  In sunlight, at 1am, we started walking home.  I guess this sounds stupid, but, it seemed a lot shorter from the bus--it took damn forever.  Worst of all, I had to take the biggest poop ever.  The poop was like some kind of Thor driven boulder pressing for day light between each stride I made.  Thirty minutes like this.  It was not good.

     Well, at least when I finally got back to the Hostel things were finally quiet so that I could rest easier.  Though, when I lay down, it triggered the sign for everyone to find ways to prevent me from sleeping.  Someone, I didn’t know who, was snoring with such low frequencies that it could have been coming from anywhere.  Walls, brick, wood, earplugs, lead walls, nothing would have stopped those snoring sounds.  Eventually, I learned how to breath in as the snore started, in effect, slightly muffling the ferocious snore. 

     Unfortunately, soon my new bunk buddies joined in with the nightly snoring ensemble.  This one guy in my room must have been dreaming he was running; he kept panting excessively.  Then he would stop.  Is that good?  No.  He would actually stop breathing all together.  So, there I would listen, hoping ironically that he would start breathing again so I wouldn’t have to go over there and provide CPR.  Did he start breathing again?  Did he ever!  He would start even faster, in the manner of a drowning victim finally brought out of the water and to the shore.  Somehow I slept.

 

8

 

     “Hallo, Kreg, telefon…”

     “Ah, yes, thanks.”

     So Hans was waiting on the phone. I splashed my face with water and stumbled down stairs.

     We were going off to see another sculpture museum and a church.  We snapped off a stream of photographs.  We definitely showed our tourist side today.  Oh, and by the way, yesterday my strap for my backpack broke.         

     We were hanging out at the bus stop and I noticed some Icelandic cutie.  With a lame tourist excuse, I asked her where I could get a pin or some glue to fix my bag. 

     Laugh, giggle, and that was it. 

     Was she nervous?  Did she not understand me?  Either way, I was no closer to fixing my backpack or getting laid.

     Whoa hold on, a hardware shop.  Yes, ingenious, a screw, a nut, 2 washers and my backpack was fixed. 

 

 

    

     We were heading to a café to celebrate the work on my bag when we saw the most amazing thing.  What more could I ask for?  Could I be reading it correctly? Why was this not in my Icelandic guide? 

 

          THE ICELANDIC PHALLOGICAL MUSEUM

 

     A penis museum!  It was as if my subconscious had asked itself what I would most like to see while alive in this reality.  Then, somehow my subconscious created this museum just for me!  My god, how could so much good karma all come to just one point?  This was not anything like the photograph museum where there were only 15 pictures and 1,000 books about pictures.  No, they had all but one specie native to Iceland—a human penis.  They had penis organs from blue whales, dolphins, seals, everything!  I took my picture next to as many penises as possible. 

     The owner was still waiting on the human penis.  He had the invisible man’s penis.  Yeah, yeah, ha, ha, real funny, that was what I thought, too.  The human penis he was waiting on was of this renowned Icelandic womanizer.  This womanizer, supposedly, had a big schlong.  The owner of the penis museum even had a certificate with a signature from the big schlong guy and signatures from two of his doctors.

     I must have shot 20 pictures there at that god-blessed museum.  I wanted to talk with the owner, trying to get him to realize that surely we were cousins.  Eventually, after two hours, we left and headed to the café to further celebrate our day. 

 

 

9

 

     Yes!  The girl from earlier that day was at the café.  I showed her my handy work that I did on my bag.

     Giggle, giggle. 

     I was thinking of something to say to her.      

     “Did you know there is a penis museum here?”

     She giggled and laughed.

     After getting that intellectual topic rolling, I went on to tell her about all the penises that were there. 

     Giggle, giggle, laugh.

     I was beginning to doubt how much English she spoke.

     Giggle, giggle, laugh.

     So, Hans I went and found our own table. 

     I had already drank too much coffee, and now I needed to piss a storm.  So, I was off to the bathroom.  I closed the bathroom door.  Click the door shut and locked.  I now noticed that there was no doorknob on the inside of this bathroom.  Shit, I pissed knowing that I was locked in the bathroom.  Damn it.  I attempted the tried-and-not-so-true-Magnum-P.I.-credit-card trick.  Negative, it didn’t work.  I was still stuck inside the bathroom.

     Okay, 10 minutes later, I had jimmy rigged a door handle and broke out of the holding cell.  I celebrated my escape by eating Hans’ fries. 

     We didn’t stay at the Café that long.  That day we were going to some music fest, so off we went. 

 

10

 

     Previously we had tried to get some back stage passes for this fest from the Sugarcubes guy, but it didn’t work out.  So, we checked out the prices for the fest.  Each day was broken up into two parts.  From 6pm - 9pm, there were experimental acts on a small stage.  Later, from 9pm - 12pm there was a large stage for bigger bands. 

     Of course, there was a price for each part, $7 and $12 respectably.  Did I mention that those prices were for each night--three nights in a row?  This gave us a grand total of too much money for bands I had never heard of and couldn’t even pronounce.  Standing there, being told the price, and how they did not sell a 3-day discount pass, I realized I was not going to pay for any tickets.

Click, I don’t really know what happened next. 

With some weird Mentos inspired moment and Hans’ impromptu idea, I ran up to two people working at the fest. 

     I started talking in the most assertive American I could,

     “Hi, Craig Downing, from Austin, Texas.  I am looking for where media is suppose to go…thanks a lot guys, I appreciate it.”

     I was directed upstairs to talk to Baldur, the event manager.  I was still watching myself walk upstairs, talking, moving, and "getting things done”.

     I burst into a room.  In the room, there were some computers and people working and shuffling papers.

     Here we go again.  I watched myself spurt off,

     “Media?  I am looking for Baldur.”

     Baldur stepped forward.  I approached, stern, American, and confident with hand out,

     “Hi, Craig Downing, Austin, Texas.  I just arrived and was wondering where media and press are suppose to go?”

     Baldur was very supportive.  He asked exactly who we represented.  I just rattled off some local ‘zines I knew of back in Austin.  He went on to ask what the population was for my ‘zine,

     “College?” he inquired.

     I informed him that it was an underground culture magazine.  Zing, zang, kabang. 

     The next thing I knew Baldur handed us two “All Area Access” passes.  Woo wee!  He also informed us that blah, blah…  I was lost in “All Area Access” heaven.  I stopped hearing anything Baldur said soon after I touched the passes.

     Blah, blah, went Baldur.

     Yes, right, uh, huh, we responded. 

     Then, Hans and I were walking through the gates for free.  Hans and I immediately ran to the bathroom for a secret success meeting with high-fives all around. 

 

11

 

     At the music fest, the small stage had some interesting acts.  We watched in the dark, nervous and shy about our “All Area Access” passes.  We were wondering how much did “All Area Access” mean?  Did it mean entrance to the backstage, special exclusive parties, free gourmet food, and art orgies? 

     The small stage show was over.  We followed the crowd out.  Some of the festival’s crew spotted our passes and invited us away from the crowd to have first pick for seats at the big stage show, which started in half an hour.

     Some bands played on the main stage but nothing exciting except one band, Vinyll, who was quite good.  I was feeling a little press-like.  We observed how the “All Area Access” pass did include backstage.  So, I went to try out our press persona back stage.  Swoosh, I was sucked into media world.  Somehow people really thought I was a journalist from America.  I was invited to interview bands, asked if I wanted a photo opportunity and told of press conference times.

 

 

     I looked for and found Vinyll.  I was trying to get some free albums from the band for my “article”.  Oh, they were so helpful.  They informed me of the time for their press conference.  I finished making contacts and walked out of the green room. 

     Oh yeah, I had pulled out this note pad to add to my journalist look.  I took notes here, notes there, all for my chief editor who was still stateside.

      Outside, in the common area, I joined up with Hans.  We bumped into a guy named Curver who had played some experimental guitar stuff on the small stage early that day. Curver started up a conversation with the U.S. press members.  Actually, I had liked his material.  He was very excited to hear this and offered his CD.  Free music that I liked?  Sure I’ll take it.  Mission accomplished and Curver retreated. 

     I was bored.  I went returned to the backstage room.  I had my notepad ready--ready to make someone a star. 

     There was no one that I wanted to talk to.  Noticing all the computers backstage, I started asking questions.  I discovered that the festival was being broadcast live over the Internet.

     “Maybe 5,000 people by Saturday,” the technician informed me.

     Then, out of no where, came this 35-year-old, hot, sporty lady toting a very fancy Canon camera.  She asked me some questions about who I was.

     “Oh, yes, my name? I am Craig Downing from Austin, Texas.  I represent a cooperative of underground ‘zines in Austin.  In addition, I also represent many local record labels...”

     After I answered her questions, out of journalism camaraderie, I asked her some questions. 

     It ended up that her fancy camera was actually a fancy digital camera.  A roaming digital camera to complement the 35mm film cameras I had seen set up for the show.  These film cameras were being used for the full feature documentary film they were making of the festival.  She let me know that she was in charge of getting roaming shots and statements from behind the festival scene. 

    

    

*****

 

     Later that night at Linda’s house, Hans and I were sitting around still not quite believing that we had pulled off this big ol’ lie.  Now realizing the seriousness of what we had gotten ourselves into, I checked the notes from Baldur.  Ah…did I mention that we were in over our heads?

     “Hans, we’re in over are heads.”

     In that “All Area Access” bliss, Baldur was setting up interviews, times, contacts, etc.  It ended up that Hans and I had an interview with the big headlining band of the whole fest, some international band called Gus Gus.

 

 

*****

 

     The first night was over and everyone was going to a café to unwind.  As “press”, we were obligated to go.  The café was packed.  There was a line.  Eventually, we were allowed in.  Unfortunately, the only seats available were jammed in a corner behind an obstructing pillar, hence their availability.           

     Ah, and Curver, the market-his-own-music slickster, recognized us and came over to speak with us.  In conversation, it was discovered that his band name was the same name of the Icelandic national refuse company.  Did he worry of lawsuit here?  No, ironically instead of potential suit, the refuse company gave him company stickers, banners, buttons and even a card that allowed him 20% off their products.

     Somehow my conversation with Curver moved to groupies.  Curver joked how few girls there were for an experimental music artist.  With my experiences concerning Icelandic women, I told him to try being a foreigner.  Here comes some Icelandic sarcasm for you.

     Curver stated, “No, no you could get any girl here because you are a foreigner.”

     He went on to tell me that to help himself get laid he puts on a sailor suit when ships come into port and walks around town.  Together, we kept on complaining about the difficulties in getting laid. 

     Curver stated, “Seriously, you could get any girl here because you are a foreigner.  Here I’ll show you, my friend, how easy it is for you to get laid.”

     Curver proceeded to invite over the ugliest Icelandic girl yet.  Whoa, shit, abort, sailor, abort.  I quickly told Curver I’d meet him at another café later, and I left before my gift arrived.  I high tailed it to another café, Café Barrin. 

     At this other cafe, there easily could have been a line, but instead, there was a mob.  Of course, hips and tits were immune to waiting, and females were invited to just walk right in.  I noticed while standing in the mob, that the waiting mob was composed entirely of guys squirming and pushing to get into the entertainment.  After trying my “All Area Access” pass, I had visions of sperms fighting for an egg; all squirming and pushing to get in and score.  I left.

 

12

 

     Waking up, I realized that tomorrow we had an interview with the biggest band in Iceland.  Linda got wind of this and became real excited.  Had Hans or I ever heard of this band?  No.  Hans passed the word on the Internet, and fortunately kind fans gave Hans some questions.  I was on a mission to find their album at the local record store so I could hear what they sounded like. 

 

*****

 

     Later we went back to the fest.  I had now added my camera to my journalist costume.  I was ready for the second night of our facade.  There were some interesting bands on the small stage and then a hot girl on the main stage.  I was obligated to interview her. 

     I ran backstage after the show.  I darted between hopeful Icelandic musicians and found hot girl.  By the way, her show sucked.  It was her and some dorky retired, dungeons-and-dragons, geeky-looking guy.  They had these pagan guys spitting fire and other stuff to cover up the fact that their music sucked. 

     So, I was about to highlight this hot girl when geek guy stepped in and started answering all my probing questions.  I was acting interested as all hell.  Finally, I stroked this guy’s ego enough that he finally stepped down, and I got to talk to hot girl.  You were great, blah, blah.  What a presence you had, blah, blah.  Best show yet, blah, blah, great use of fire to complement the awesome music, blah, blah. 

     We talked, but the “All Area Access” pass was not as granting as I would have fantasized.  Of course, while I was talking to that hot girl, her record label manager came nosing around asking me questions.  I had to go.  I left telling her how great the band was…blah, blah. 

     I was trying to get away from this record label guy when out of nowhere I heard,

     “Say something to the world!”

     What?

     Remember that live Internet feed?  Well, the Internet crew acquired a cable hook up to a camera and went mobile to interview people.  Guess who was first?

     I turned around.  There was the media crew, wide-eyed and smiling, looking at me as if I were about to pull a rabbit out of my flat American ass or something.

     “Ah…hey,” I was stunned.

     “Tell the world where you are from.”

     Shit.

     Austin, Texas, USA.”

     “And, why are you here?”

     I rattled off my press package, Jesus.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t over yet!  There was another tap on my shoulder.  There were more paparazzi.

     “An official statement about the festival for the film!”

     Now film cameras were pointing at me!  Jesus, this facade was getting a little out of hand.  There I was, a cheap-ass dork, in the middle of a circle of record label managers, a live international Internet feed, and a 35mm film crew.

 

13

 

     Back at Linda’s, later that night, I was thinking of more questions to ask a band that we had never heard of.  We decided to bring Linda to the interview just in case they started talking in Icelandic.

     The next morning, we prepared for the big interview with a gut full of French fries, cool sunglasses, a note pad, an old ‘70’s canon camera, and a big fucking smile.  We were off to the interview of the century.

     We arrived.  There was a change of plans.  Baldur didn’t introduce us to Gus Gus.  No, instead, we were introduced to the 4AD record label representative for Gus Gus.  Not that our questions for Gus Gus were the only questions we had!  Shit, what the hell are we going to do?  Here we go.  Just think stern handshakes, smile, scribble, and snap pictures--think convincing, just be convincing.

     “Hey, I am Craig Downing, Austin, Texas.  This is my associate Hans and this is Linda our,” get this, “contact.” 

     Yes, knock out professionalism, baby!  Well, that was about the extent of this “knock-out professionalism”, too.  Baldur and the 4AD guy, Rich, decided to go somewhere for lunch.  I was glad that we were staying in public areas.  I just kept on thinking that our facade was wearing more and more thin.  I was afraid they were just going to jump us. 

     The interview sucked.  It was so obvious that we had no idea what we were talking about concerning Gus Gus.  I kept wanting to talk to the 4AD guy about the Pixies.

    

*****

 

     It was the last night of the festival and Gus Gus was headlining.  After the show, Hans and I were suppose to interview the band.  We had been hanging out with Curver who had ended up being a really great guy.  So great that we had even let him in on our secret.  He didn’t care.  He thought it was funny. 

     My god, Gus Gus was popular!  At the show, it seemed like all of Reykjavik, which was damn near 90% of the country, was there.

     Okay, the show was big, but Gus Gus sucked!  Curver told us that Linda was there and soon after that, she found us.  She had brought her friend Lilja.  Did I mention we had an interview with Gus Gus after the show?  Of course, we just took off as fast as we could before the show ended.

     We sped off in Lilja’s car.  Hans and I ripped off our “All Area Access” passes and revealed to Linda and Lilja that we were not really rock-star-celebrity journalists from Rolling Stones Magazine.  In fact, we were really just Hans and Craig all along.  Linda and Lilja were both glad to have the regular Craig and Hans back. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14

 

     Late after the music fest, we had decided to go downtown. First, we were off to pick up Lilja’s boyfriend, some sailor guy.  He was one up on us all--half-drunk!  He furthers the tourist’s myth with this famous Icelandic joke.

     “How does a foreign male get laid in Iceland?  Just stand there...ha, ha.”

     Ha, ha.  Icelandic sarcasm, I tell you.  Great he, too, was in on the tourist myth. 

     We parked.  We were off for downtown.  Sailor boy was quite randy, loud and drunk.  He was bringing a lot of unwanted attention.  Implement operation: Ditch the rowdy sailor.

     “Hey Hans and I are going to get some coffee, if you guys (no, not you sailor boy) get bored then meet us at café Frank.”

     Success!  Hans and I left.  Now, all Lilja and Linda had to do was catch on to our genius, dump the sailor boy and meet us at café Frank for some good 2-males-2-females fun. 

     Café Frank was without one single spare chair.  Shit, shit, the plan, the plan!  The plan was falling apart.  The sailor was winning.  Implement emergency get-girls-back plan. 

     We went out combing the area looking for the rest of our team.  No luck and then we saw Linda getting into Lilja’s car about to leave.  There was no time to assess the environment.  We had to act in haste.  In fact, there was no time to notice that sailor boy was being dropped off curbside.  Here comes operation: Slick. 

     This next part happened so very fast.  Sailor boy was being dropped off from one side of the car.  Hans and Craig jumped into the car from the other side.  Lilja hit the gas.  All passengers tumbled and rolled around squealing with laughter. 

     This all could not have been accomplished in any more Ninja style--complete perfection.  Now it was two girls and two guys in a car.  It was early night…yes!  We decided to get a movie.

 

*****

 

     All was great until at the last minute, as we pulled up to Linda’s house with the movie, Lilja bailed out, damn, damn, damn.  Well, it ended up that both females were real exciting.  Linda liked the movie so much she was snoring 10 minutes into it.

 

15

 

     The next day I was off to purchase supplies for the big haphazard trip around the island that we planned to take.  I had started my search looking for a gas cooker.  I was told to get on this certain bus and to tell the bus driver that I needed to go to a camping store.  So, I did.

     On the bus, driving around, it started to look a little familiar, actually.  Oh wow, I was at the good old Youth hostel.  Wow, the camping store was next to the Youth hostel.  The bus driver called me up and points to the Youth hostel,

     “Camping there,” he said. 

     No, damn it!  I try again,

     “No, no, camping shop--store.”

     “Ah, yeah, yeah,” he understood me now and we were off.

     Okay this bus driver had this great sense of humor; he pulled along side the only mall on the island,

     “Store, shops here.”

     Shit, this was the end of his bus line.  I just had to get off this fella’s bus.  So, I jumped off the bus to find my camp burner by myself.  I ended up walking all around town.  I eventually found a camping store.  Ah, I found a nice simple gas cooker.  Slip went the credit card and the camping burner was mine.  Mission accomplished.

 

*****

 

     “Hans, how much is 9,200 kronur in dollars?”

     “About $140”

     $140 for a gas cooker, no way!  I could not sleep at all that night.  Did the store clerk know I was leaving soon?  Was that his last day at work? Was he pocketing some large cut of my $140 for a “simple” gas cooker?  Oh, what a cooker it was!  The cooker looked as if someone had unbent a coat hanger and put a burner in the middle, as a matter fact, I grabbed it because it looked to be the simplest and cheapest burner displayed.  So, you can believe I was back at that store at 8am the next morning ready to exchange.

 

*****

    

     After the exchange that morning, I had been invited by Linda’s grandpa to come over and taste some famous Icelandic rotten shark meat.  Rotten, yep, that is what I wrote, a national delicatessen, you know.  Before we left Lilja showed up for the entertainment.  Vroom, vroom, and off to grandpa’s we all went.

 

16

 

     “Hey Lilja would you pay 9,200 kronur for a gas camping cooker?”

     Giggle, giggle.

     Linda’s grandpa was excited to see us.  He had hand picked some of the finest rotten shark meat in the country.  To my understanding, normally they let the shark meat rot, not for a couple of days.  No, no, where is the flavor there?  Try three months.  Well ends up, as a special treat, gramps had found festering shark meat that had been left to rot for 6 months. Thanks gramps.

     As I waited in grandpa's living room, I knew when he had retrieved the shark meat--I could smell the rotten treat as he appeared from the kitchen.  I guess the crowd could sense my instinctual hesitation, but Gramps assured me,

     “Look at me, I am old and strong, shark meat--shark meat I tell you.”

     Linda pulled me aside,

     “You do not have to eat it.  They would understand.” 

     Chicken out now?  No way, I swore that I would try it, damn it. 

     Okay, Gramps ate his piece first.  He did not keel over and die.  He was actually smiling.  He then announced,

     “Big and strong, mmm, shark meat.”

     Of course, he was also spurting out flakes of shark meat as he spoke.  Maybe it was actually good.  I mean, rotten berry juice is wine and that is quite popular.  This shark stuff might actually be good.  Pass that over gramps!

 

 

*****

    

     Okay, you know when you burn yourself, how your hand pulls itself away from the heat source involuntarily before you sense the pain?  My whole body did just that as it sensed, before I did, how strong and pungent the shark meat actually was.  Out of some insane politeness, I kept my body from jerking back.  What was I thinking?  This “delicatessen” was strong.  All my neurons and nerve endings were trying to override my decision of putting this decaying shark flesh in my mouth.  The same thing your body would do if you were to try and put, say something like, poop in your mouth. 

     Soda?  Ready.  Camera?  Check.  I brought the shark corpse closer to my mouth.  My soul had left my body. 

     Even before it was in my mouth, my eyes had glazed over with fluid.  Linda, Hans, Lilja, grandma, gramps and two cameras were all watching.  Why gramps, he was even leaning in with my bite, watching wide-eyed, as if I were about to taste some new recipe of his.  Against all survival messages in my brain, slap, I shoved the rancid shark nugget into my mouth.

      How was the taste?  The shark meat did not classify as a taste, more of a sense.  In high school, if you have ever dissected pigs, rats, fish or even shark, then you know the sense.  It was straight formaldehyde with a chase of ammonia.  So, there the decomposing shark meat sat burning through my tongue and my throat.  My throat muscles were rippling to launch back the shark meat back to the sea where it belonged--not in my mouth! 

     I had seen pictures of protesting Buddhist monks that pour gas over themselves and then ignite it.  The Buddhist monks did not budge a single follicle as their flesh melts away.  Not that I am a Zen master, but some how I managed to look at gramps, while chewing mind you, and actually say,

     “Ah, not bad…” 

     There, right there at that point in time folks, I should have earned some international “good guy” award from my U.S./Iceland ambassador.  Okay, now, I was wondering how long I had to live; an hour, two hours, 24 hours?

     Here comes the part where, looking back now, I know for a fact that I went momentarily insane.  Instead of saying thank you, please visit me sometime in the states and leaving, I put my toothpick back in the serving bowl and skewered another piece.  Yes, I skewered another piece of the delicacy.  To look at it? You ask.  No, not to look at, no.  I…put another piece in my mouth.  Yes, cabin fever, lost marbles, seasonal affliction, under the weather, call it what you will, but I was for that instant, INSANE.  Why?  I just don’t know.

     Gramps was so happy.  He was so proud that he even said that I was now half Icelandic.  Yeah, that is right buddy, you better believe it!   

     Linda was eager to leave.  So, soon after that trauma, we left.  God, all I wanted to do was brush my teeth with Drano, but instead I chewed ten Certs breath mints to combat the shark taste in my mouth.  I was afraid to move my tongue, lest I stir up remnants of shark residue.  Now off to get supplies for a week of camping.

 

 

17

 

     After purchasing pasta, ramen, and Snickers bars, I was packed and ready for camping.

     Here are my comments on the camping phase of the trip.  Was I prepared?  Mmm, I was kind of prepared.  Here is my philosophy on camping.  If you don't almost die, it is no fun.  This was coming from me, the camping genius, who went down into the Grand Canyon when it was 120-degrees with only a jar of peanut butter.  So, leaving to circle around this desolate island, our theme: Possible death. 

     The bus left.  We were on it.  Check, good.  Beautiful landscape and I felt as if I had a hang-over from the two hours of sleep from the night before.  I tried to get some sleep on the bus.  Because of the sunlight, I had placed my jacket over me to form a tee pee.  Hans said the bus driver kept wondering if I had paid or sneaked on using my tee pee to hide.  Yeah, with the teepee jacket over my eyes I was thinking I can not see you, therefore you can not see me. 

     Finally, I woke up still under my tee pee.  I looked over to find Hans mourning over his walkman.

 

 

     Without having to say this every time my eyes were open, here is the perpetual comment for Icelandic scenery: It is absolutely beautiful.  There, now I don’t have to say it every time and bore you.

*****

 

     Our first stay was at National Park with a huge glacier.  I had some kind of national geographic bug or something.  I was feeling rather rash.  I was trying to convince Hans that we should step off the bus, walk up that damn glacier, find some snow and pitch our tent.  Oh yeah, what a picture: Two young lads nestled in mummy bags, a burner, a tent, and white gleaming snow, all framing your everyday urban eagle scouts.

     Hans snapped me out of my national geographic fantasy and lured me to set up tent at the regular campsite so we could see how cold it really was before challenging the glacier.  So we set up the tent.  As all the other tents are taut and tight across their poles, ours was loose and flapping in the wind.

 

*****

 

     After our amateur tent was set up, we were rearing to go on a hike.  So, off we went.  No sooner did we leave did it start to drizzle.  Drizzle is not bad as long as you have extra clothes or hiking boots.  You guessed it; I had no back up attire.  I only had sneakers and one pair of Levi’s corduroy pants to my name.  Did I turn around?  Now the theme was high adventure.  Soaked, we trudged on. 

     Hans had prepared a little bit better than I had.  Hans had some $170 Gore-Tex all-weather jacket.  So, he was sporting that against the rain.  What did I have on for a jacket?  Folks, I had a thrift store found employee issued American Airline's jacket.

     We eventually reached the highlight of the trail, a water fall, mmm, and now back to camp.  I had now pulled my arms out of the sleeves for warmth.  Back at camp, the wind had picked up.  By the way, wetness + wind = extreme cold.  So I took refuge under the hand warmers in the bathroom.

     Okay, that night I was lying in the tent all night wondering if it were safe being able to see my breath in the tent.  Furthermore, I was wondering, do damp clothes dry when it is cold?

 

     After a cold night, there is nothing like waking up to put on damp clothes and eating a Snickers bar for breakfast.  My clothes were damp as all get-out!  And where did we decide to go?  The glacier.  

     This was actually fun, but way up on the glacier, we were wondering why we were hearing running water.  After finding holes in the surface of the glacier, Hans and I realized the water was running through the glacier.  So, half a mile up on the glacier, we were realizing we should defiantly consider getting off the glacier.  High adventure. 

 

 

 

 

18

 

     We survived the glacier, packed up and hopped on the bus.  We were off to a place that though spelt Hofn was pronounced like a genuine hiccup.

     Okay a little geography for you.  Iceland has 250,000 inhabitants.  220,000 of Iceland’s inhabitants live in Reykjavik, so that leaves 30,000 people to hang out around the island.  With a place called Akuryi taking up 15,000 of that remaining 30,000, that leaves 15,000 to live across an area half the size of England.  So here at hiccup, yeah there are 800 contemporary people.  Hiccup is a fishing town.               We tried to go to other locations but they were all closed until summer.  After seeing families snickering behind our backs, young kids following us and cars circling around to look at us, we ran off to hide in our tents.

 

*****

 

     The next day we were up and off to a small remote town that we read had a W.W.II museum and a hot spring at the top of some hill.  For some reason, no one else got off at this town and the bus driver kept checking to make sure we had the right stop.  We set up at our free campsite and were off to find the W.W.II museum and the hot springs.  We were thankful for these attractions for otherwise there was absolutely nothing else to do here. 

     Well, ends up the museum did not open until July and,

Hot springs?  There are no hot springs here.” responded the gas attendant.

 

*****

    

     Okay, this town had to be the shyest town we had ever been to in Iceland.  People were too shy to look us in the eye.  We would see them--catch them peeping through curtains and cracked doors only to recede away as we came close.  Ostracized?  Maybe one could use that word here.  I was starting to wonder if this was one of those towns my father warned me about, where foreigners were not allowed, let alone welcomed.  Cook and off to bed, quick! 

     Bed is normally when one falls asleep.  Me, a natural veteran of nighttime, meaning dark, well I was having trouble sleeping in the midnight sun.  At this point, I was still not really sure how much I had slept.  So, like a town’s resident madman, I just started wondering around the town.  This was quite surreal; everything was still.  There was no one around.  I could see cars and boats, factories and tractors, but, in the light and long shadows, not a soul.  I kept imagining I was in a town wiped out by a virus and I was the lone survivor.  Walking eventually made me sleepy.  I dragged myself back to the tent and finally slept. 

     The bus would not come for another day and being as we did not quite enjoy the first day I would be damned if we were going to stay for another day.  So, we started hitchhiking.  We hitched hiked with a teacher into the next town. 


 

19

 

     In this next town we had made the acquaintance of  Seth, from North Carolina.

     “So, Seth, why are you here?”

     “I don’t know.”

     We accepted him.  We were all off to Lake Myvatn.  Lake Myvatn was a lake where many Icelanders go on vacation.  Thus it was also popular with the tourists, hence a full bus.

 

*****

 

     The bus driver was definitely a personality.  He was this really great happy guy who loved talking over the bus' P.A.  He continued to yap for the whole trip.

     The bus was so stuffed that Hans’ backpack and my backpack were in the aisle.  The absence of space had made the bus quite personal.  I smelt Germans, I saw Asians, and I heard Australians. 

     The road, or what ever we were driving on, was some kind of unpaved gravel path that led us through the wilderness.  It was a horizon of just lava-gravel, not one piece of vegetation, just rock piles.  It looked so much like the moon that Neil Armstrong and his crew actually had trained there. 

     Now the windows were dust covered and one could barely see out of the bus.  Here in the middle of all this dreary desolation, in a crowded bus, on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere, our bus driver had just finished telling us about the moon training when he decided that it was not fair that our view was “not so good”.  He felt bad.  The bus diver thought that to better the situation he would sing an old traditional Icelandic song to the passengers. 

     At first, I thought I would start laughing.  I mean, some guy, who couldn’t stop talking who just liked to hear himself talk, wanted to sing over the bus intercom--please, come on.  When he started singing, it happened.  Something that might have serendipitously been the greatest reason for me going to Iceland. 

     One could have recorded the bus driver’s singing.  One could have even sung the song again.  But, out there in the middle of “moon land”, in a bus barreling through desolation, it was the most amazing thing ever.  The driver was using an old-school principal’s microphone and was singing his heart out in native Icelandic.  No one else was there but us.  It was the most amazing thing.  The singing was so amazing that I, out of happiness, started crying; I didn’t see it coming and couldn’t help it.  It was such a great moment.

     I was not the only one who felt it.  When the bus driver stopped, the whole bus, like a huge auditorium, just exploded with applause and general hoopla.  Nothing could have touched that experience.  It was the most natural and authentic traveling experience ever and no one was there on that gravel road in the middle of that bleak landscape but us.

     After such an event, I felt like if I had gone home right then that I still would have felt like I had experienced all of Iceland.  Everything after that point was just a bonus. < -- I don’t think this description comes close to getting the reader to feel moved by my experience…more details? -- >

 

 

     One stop on our bus route was a crossroads of other buses.  It was amusing to see all us back packers in one room eating cheap fries and all diligently reading the same Lonely Planet Iceland guide book. 

     Later on the bus, our stop came and our star bus driver dropped us off at Lake Myvatan. 

     Lake Myvatan.  We set up camp and then went off to some lagoon.  My guidebook said only tourists and drunk Icelanders would go into this lagoon, which made sense for it was not the greatest lagoon.  At the bottom of this lagoon there was an old rusted bike and some soiled briefs.  I did not want tetanus nor hepatitis C. 

     Talking to Seth was sexually very therapeutic.  Seth was also not getting the true “Icelandic experience”.  It was good to hear that I wasn't the only one not getting laid.  He, too, was getting nowhere.  Good, it was not just me.  We came to a consensus that there must have been a group of Americans that went through this island making complete asses of themselves and basically ruining it for us. 

     The next morning we all were off to this huge black crater.  We discovered steam spots on the way to the crater but otherwise it was just a long walk.  The crater in itself was great though.  The crater was a huge rise with a hole in the center.

     The crater was great acoustically because you could scream in it and it would echo most indefinitely.  The only unfortunate part was that some real intelligent people had, with light colored rocks, put wise words on the crater’s floor bottom like:

     Iceland 89

     Peace and love

     John and Mary

     USA

 

     So, back to the camp.  On the way back we found another lagoon.  This lagoon definitely was more credible.  There was water down in this spooky cave, but 50 degrees Celsius said we were not going in it. 

     Back at the camp site, we bumped into some Swiss guys, who informed us that the next big city was where the girls were at and chicks were more receptive (wink, wink).  Seth would meet up with us in Akuryi, this next big town, but the next stop for Hans and I was a crater garden.

 

20

 

     On the way to this stop, the bus was crowded again, but this sharp bus driver decided to stop and pick up two people hitchhiking.  He put their bags on the bus.  The hitchhikers sat down and then this clever bus driver told the hitchhikers how much their ride would cost them.  Upon telling the bus driver that they were hitchhiking, hence the thumb out (the international sign, mind you), the bus driver promptly removed their bags and then the hitchhikers.  A good chuckle was had by all the passengers—but wait, the real chuckle was on Hans and I. 

     We got off at the next stop.  No one else got off the bus.  8 people came running up to the bus as if it were some UN relief bus.

     The bus left.  One blink and everything was fine.  The next blink and there were 10 flies in my eye, four in my ears and a herd just waiting for me to open my mouth.  It was a damn epidemic I tell you.  We ran.  Buzzzzzzzzzz.  They followed.  We tried evasive action, faking left, going right, back pedal, juke, balk...

     We knew that refuge could only be our tent. 

     In record time, we set up our tent, jumped in and sealed the air-bug-lock.  We read that these flies were attracted to the carbon dioxide that we were emitting from our lungs.  Buzzzzzz, went the bugs all around the perimeter of our tent.  We were trapped. Yet, we still had to go to the warden and  pay for our campsite.      

     We had to get to the campsite warden and back with the least amount of orifice irritation. 

     Plan: We got our wool Icelandic hats.  We put the head part over our mouths and used the straps to tie them on around our heads—basically wearing the hats upside down.  This technique effectively sealed our mouths, eyes and ears.  We also had decided to hold our breath.  Go! 

     We burst out of the tent in Olympic style, go, go, go! Bzz, bzz, bzzz.  We spun, leapt, and twisted, with our lungs full of precious carbon dioxide.  Run, run!  Off we ran.  Like the peanuts characters, Pigpen, we were followed by what looked to be a huge gray cloud of dirt. 

     We made it to the warden’s house.  The campsite warden opened the door to find two American kids with native wool caps tied to their faces.  There we stood decked in flies.

     “Two people (swat), one (swat) tent,” we stated.

     I couldn’t just stand there any more.  Now I was leaping up doing karate kicks.  I just couldn’t take all these flies.  She went on to rattle off a very expensive price for our evening.  I guess with us being her only two guests for the whole season she found it necessary to cover some costs and take us for as much as she possible could.

     “Ahhhh, (swat) ah, my seal, my seal is broken,” I announced as one fly somehow breached the barrier and made it into my ear.  I spun out of formation leaving Hans to pay the lady.

     “How, (swat) do you (swat)… survive with all these flies (swat)…?” I stammered out.

     She answered in surprise, “Oh, there are not so many flies…” 

     There it was again, that Icelandic sarcasm!  Jesus lady!  Not so many flies?  Say that again with your mouth open just a little bit wider!  Not so many flies!

     We ran off to the tent. 

     Of course, we had found a little trick for dealing with the bugs.  The procedure was as follows.  We ran around in circles.  We darted off to a spot farthest from where we really needed to go.  We blew out as much CO2 as possible.  When the flies all caught up to us, we ran straight for the tent, dove in and sealed away the enemy before they caught up with us. 

     This spot was so unpleasant that we were considering hitching out to another town right away, but any more exposure to the flies, even to pack up and get the hell out, was just too much.  We decided to wait off the flies.  We napped.

    

21

 

     We executed a reconnaissance mission and discovered that as the sun went down towards that horizon the flies took the opportunity to retire for the day.  Yeah!  We were free.  It was 11:30pm and we still had not yet seen the tourist spot--crater garden.  Hiking at 11:30pm?, you question.  Yes folks, Iceland’s summer--forever light! We can go see the crater garden at anytime.  And now in broad daylight at 11:30pm we are gleefully off to see the crater garden.      

    

*****

     This crater garden basically looked like someone tossed around some grenades--just a bunch of holes.  Boring?  Mmm, not if you are two dorky American tourists.  These craters are just like yesterdays mother of all craters; they are mad lava piles.  So we climbed up to the top and then with a running start, and an insane leap we would leap 15ft down these 50ft piles.  The great thing was that the lava rocks would absorb any impact and send us off on another leap.  So with great bounds we leapt like those goats documented jumping down shear cliff sides.  For the record, ah, we did, ah, no damage to these 200,000 year old natural land features.  We did not leave any foot prints on the faces of these craters--no way.  Ah, rock avalanches caused by our feet impacting the sides, surely not.  Signs prohibiting hikers were visible, yes, sure, but the signs weren’t exactly specific about leaping.   I’m sure, almost a guarantee, that we weren’t the only ones to leap like ninjas down the crater faces, and I’m sure the locals do it all the time.  Still I was afraid there was a “crater-cam” documenting all of our stupidity.

     Dear Icelandic Consulate:

    I am sorry-very sorry.

    Sincerely,

    Craig Downing

     Anyway, beyond the craters we came upon some sheep.  Did I mention that my forefathers were sheep herders?

     Woo, wee, yee haw, git, move on, giddy up, and boy did those sheep move!  I was a damn natural I tell you.  I have been told that sheep are as dumb as they come.  Boo and off they ran.  Would the sheep  run in an organized herd?  I guess; the sheep kept running directly into each other and stumbling down hillsides.

     It was great: Hans would hide in the grass and I would direct (“boo”) the sheep in his direction.  The sheep would tear off with thundering hooves and wild eyes.  Hans would then pop up like a prairie dog.  The sheep would all try as hard as they could to turn around.  The leaders of the herd would U-turn to avoid Hans.  Not able to see Hans yet, the other sheep in the back of the herd would try to keep going forward not observing the fact their leaders were trying to turn around.  Hooves, hard heads, dust and chaos, in general, this was a very entertaining spectacle of commotion.  This provided much entertainment and is highly recommended.

     We eventually stopped.  With all the running, laughing and howling, we had rendered ourselves exhausted and collapsed on a hillside as experienced herdsmen.

 

 

 

22

 

     Exhausted, we retreated to a well-deserved herdsmen sleep.  The next morning, I awoke early to the sound of sprinkling rain.  Hearing the rain I was not too interested in getting up.  I decided to try to sleep off the rain.

     “Let’s get up” my brother of the herdsman grumbled from underneath his Sears sleeping bag that was so old and without life that it was more like a nylon blanket. 

     “It is raining.  Let’s wait a bit.”  I responded.

     I was then informed, to my utter disbelief that the sounds that I heard were not rain droplets, but instead were flies.  Hundreds of flies colliding into the tent. So many flies, in fact, that I was mislead to genuinely believe that it was rain.  Now of course, I did not want to get up at all.

 

 

     Our bus left in 6 hours.  We could not wait for the bus so we decided to pack up and try hitchhiking out of this hellhole.  We employed firefighter-like speed and that tent was packed in a super jiffy.  We were off running to the street to thumb our way to sanity. 

     Did the flies stay at the campsite?  NO!  There we were, roadside, in a cloud of flies.  I had now gone so far as to make a personal bubble suit out of my shirt.  As a last resort against the flies, I had pulled my shirt over my head.  I was well covered except for a tiny peephole that was just large enough for me to see all the cars going by us.  The cars did not stop to give us sanctuary. 

     We decided that it would be better to wait the next four hours in the local restaurant for the bus than standing out in this pestilence.

     Protected from the bugs and with an appetite from hell, we ate French fries for four hours straight.  The bus finally arrived and we were off to Akureyri, where, again, it was rumored that the girls were a little bit more “friendly”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

23

 

 

     We rolled into town.  It was Saturday night in Akuryi.  We set up camp and bumped into our friendly Swiss friends and Seth.  Here, the Swiss informed all of us that we were in for the “fuck ride of our life.”  Every night was, as the Swiss put it, “goal!”  They said it was simple to "score" because hot girls completely recruited foreigners for sex.  About time!

     Okay, there had been some sexual disappointment so far, but supposedly my wait had come to an end.  After one week in a foreign country, and one week in a tent, I was very ready for the warmth of a lady.

     I brushed my teeth like a madman.  Preparing for a potential hygienic experience with a female, I almost brushed the enamel off my teeth.  Here the events took a twist.

     “WE ARE READY TO FUCK!" came out from the Swiss tent.

     I was starting to question the techniques of my fellow Swiss camping brothers.

     The Swiss went on,  “WHO…WHO IS READY TO FUCK?!!!!”

     Hans, Seth and I were now very scared.  We acknowledged that there might not be a consensus with the sexual tactics of some of our group’s more active members.

     We decided that we would meet them at this “sex-hub club” rather than going there with them.  The Swiss agreed.  We tactful Americans decided to go and get some soda before going to the fuck-ride-of-our-life club.

     Soda?  Guess who else had the idea of getting something to drink?  The Swiss.  That was some plan we had there.  We were now stuck with the Swiss for the rest of the evening.  Well, of course, only up to the time when we all got, you know, laid.

 

*****

 

     The Swiss guys were on a one-month pass from the Army.  They were both 22 year-old officers.  As they described what they did everyday, somewhere in my brain, something told me that something was just not right.

     “Isn’t Switzerland a neutral country?” I inquired.

     The Swiss gentlemen looked at each other in an almost affectionate manner, smiled, looked back at us and then giggled an answer,

     “Yes.”

     Actually, to me, Switzerland is the most neutral country.  Switzerland is the classic neutral country.  So why an Army?  This was very odd to me.  A Swiss army, it seemed like such an oxymoron.

     “Then what the fuck do you do?” I inquired now a little bitter.

     They went on to explain the surveying, fieldwork, mapping exercises and forestry patrol that they had executed.  To rub it all in, they were paid extremely well.  They were paid to be in a damn army that would not ever go to war, kill anyone, or even hear a bullet anywhere near them.  All that dangerous forestry work, Jesus!   

     “Let’s go find the girls that we are going to fuck!”  announced the hard working Swiss soldiers.

     “Swiss Soldier,” just writing that seems silly enough.

 

*****

 

 

     We departed for the club.  This club was a very efficient club.  The club remained open only from 1am to 3am.  The club charged $17 for these compact and generous hours.  Two hours was our window to be recruited for sex.  Our Swiss members didn’t even wait to get in the club.  No, these sluggers went right to it.  One Swiss associate tapped the foot of an Icelandic girl in line, close in line mind you.  The Swiss bachelor informed me and others in our crowded area that she was the girl he was going to fuck tonight.

     At the club, there were beautiful women everywhere.  Could it be true?  Could I expect satisfying experiences from these beautiful, beautiful women?       

     T-minus one hour and thirty minutes before my getting-laid window was closed.  Everything revolved around the dance floor.  One had to mingle on the dance floor.  After observing what seemed to be the protocol, I ventured to try.  Can I dance?  Do I like to dance?  No.  What was I doing? 

      I was actually dancing to the likes of Bon Jovi, ABBA, Europe's “The Final Countdown” and other late, urban classics. 

     Something wrong happened.  I started to enjoy myself.  With the comforting thought that no one knew me, and that everyone else was drunk, I loosened my hips. 

     Brothers and sisters a young star was born!  A star so bright that neither the people nor the dance floor could hold me.  So, with my ever-demanding moves, the floor began to clear--give me space! 

     As I felt my wings spread open, well, I noticed that no one else was trying any other risky dance moves but me.  Everyone was only swinging to the left and then to the right.  The natives didn’t use their hips; they didn’t use their arms--just left swing and right swing. 

     There I was in my own little “Fame” movie, realizing that the space given to me on the dance floor didn’t feel so grand anymore.  Unfortunately, only then, in the center of my own marked circle, did I consider that in a land as styled as Iceland, where the citizens all wore the same stylish shoes, pants, shirts, and haircuts, originality was not as revered as I had become accustomed to back home.

     Now the circle that I had created on the dance floor felt like a big huge case of boils, pimples, and warts spreading slowly over my now very self-conscious gesticulating body. 

     Was it time to sit down away from the dance floor?  Oh hell yeah it was time to sit down away from the dance floor!  First, I had to make a not so obvious get away.  So I reversed the dance function that I had started.  I tamed my hips.  Slowly the dancing area closed in around me.  I was again accepted.  I then immediately sat down and considered drinking like a sailor.

     Okay, T minus 45 minutes until the romping window closed.  Desperation started to set in.  If not in the middle of Iceland, if not in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, then where?  I knew if it were going to happen, I had to make it happen right then.  So, back out to the dance floor I went like a big dumb horny idiot.

     They played more Eurotrash, more Bon Jovi, and even the old Dallas TV show theme song!  I was driven by succulent fantasies of me waking up in a heart shaped bed with two blonde Icelandic beauties.

 

*****

     At 3am our sex window closed and alone Hans and I scurried and sulked away back to our tent.  Hans told me that he saw the Swiss soldiers without women.  He said that they were flat out asking to sleep with girls.  Hans went on to say that the Swiss even had another girl helping them.  No wonder they were getting laid.  Everyone eventually gets laid that way.  As much as the story was comforting for my dignity, it did nothing for my penis.  My penis was swollen with two weeks of bright, sleepless and womanless nights.  I was so horny and so frustrated. 

*****

    

     Later that same night, I was awoken by hollers three blocks away from the camping sight.

     “Arg, woo wee, let’s FUCK!” the Swiss, I assumed, were coming home. 

     The Swiss, still without women, decided to honor us before retiring to their own tent.  They came up and greeted us by shaking the shit out of our tent providing us an instant “El Nino” hurricane moment.  The Swiss then went running off howling.  At least they aren’t getting laid either, I thought.

     Still later that night, one of the Swiss guys somehow managed to lure a girl into his tent.  What torture this was.  I could not sleep.  I was horny and listening to pre-make-out tickling. 

     I tortured myself by fantasizing about a threesome.  The fantasy of some horny Icelandic girl doing a threesome just for kicks was very arousing to me.

     There are times when what we envision is so irrational that actually following through with it is so impossible and so far from reality that you find yourself getting out of your tent.  You find yourself putting on your shoes, walking yourself right over to a giggling tent, knocking on the flap and greeting a Swiss occupant with,

     “You wanna do a threesome?”

 

*****

 

     Of course, the obvious fact that it should have stayed a fantasy comes crashing down with the answer,

     “No,” as the tent flap closes.

     You are still standing there.  You are wondering what you are doing.  You are wondering what you have done.  You are still horny.  You know you are going to lie on your back and listen to someone else get laid all night. You have two weeks left in this foreign place and you are not getting laid.

 

24

 

     In order to fly out the next day, Hans had to catch the early bus back to Reykjavik and I did not want to be anywhere near the experience from last night.  So, we left first thing the next morning before anyone was awake.

 

*****

 

     For the past few days, I had seen a lot of farms.  I rode Hans' bus for a while and then decided that I would just stop in the middle of no where and just work on a farm. I thought I’d give it a try, you know, man, land, and work.  I ended up getting off at the first stop on the bus route leaving Hans to finish the route.  So long Hans.

    

*****

 

     After getting off at the stop, I walked right into the tourist shack.

     “So what is there to do here?” I asked.

     The female attendant went on to say that they had closed the camping site but she thought there was a trail behind the Esso station.  This stop was not that popular for travelers.  She seemed embarrassed, but this stop was perfect.

     “I do not need a place to stay, money, food, nor water.  I just want to work for free on a farm," I said.

     She went to the phone and after four “no” responses the phone was handed to me.

     Somewhere in the hills, at an undisclosed location, came a lady's voice across the phone line, “I have a couple of cows and some sheep.  I can be there in thirty minutes.”

    

25

 

     I was picked up in an old Russian car and whipped out to the hills.  The lady driver was the owner of the farm.  She had her grandson with her.  We were all bouncing around in her car going 80 mph down gravel roads towards the farm.  It was interview time.

     “You're from Texas?” surprised, my passengers answered in unison.

    

*****

 

     At the farm, we were greeted by a dog that pissed on the car.  I was amused.

     After unloading from the car, I declined their nice offer for me to sleep inside.  I went on to unload my pack on the hillside.  I asked the family where I should set up my tent.

     I turned around just in time to catch the dog draining his entire industrial farm-bladder on my backpack, consequently on my down sleeping bag.  Here I realized that no matter where I set up my innocent tent it would undoubtedly be a victim of this friendly dog.  I proceeded to set up the tent for his urinary pleasures. 

 

*****

 

     Inside they insisted I eat some lunch.  Should I tell them now that I don’t eat meat?  Too late, slap and there it was--a leg of lamb.  It was like a turkey drumstick, just 10 times bigger.  It was like some classic caveman serving.  I was stuck.  She stabbed a whopper of a knife into the limb and told me to get to it.  I tried cutting off just a small piece.

     “No need to be modest here on the farm,” said the Grandma.

     With that, Grandma slapped about half of that damn stub on my plate, gristle, fat, tissue and all.  My mom would have loved it.  My mom, a petite lady, who used to smile showing her pearly whites, as she crunched chicken gristle with ease.  My mom would then go on to snap the bones and suck the marrow out, all with great pride and pleasure.  I downed the lamb with as much water as I could drink.  Then, I was off to work. 

    

*****

    

     Of course, on the way out to the barn my friendly farm dog was writing his name on my tent. Every corner of my hexagon tent seemed to have been hit.

     I was shown a barn for sheep.  Leaving sheep in a barn for long periods of time will accumulate layer upon of sheep poop.  Rainey, and I had the lovely job of removing all the shit out of the barn. 

     The strongest ammonia lift I had ever smelt.  Rainey went on to tell me how people had actually died from shoveling shit.  Sometimes, that much ammonia from the sheep shit can reach poisonous and toxic levels.

     I amused myself with a riddle while working.  It went something like this:

    

     What does one think about while shoveling sheep    shit?

    

     The answer is:

    

     What does one think about while shoveling sheep    shit?

 

     I know, oh, so highly amusing.  Well, it was amusing to me on my ammonia-sheep-shit high.  Three hours of shoveling sheep shit, I do not know which was worse, the shit or the small talk with someone who had never left the hills.

      Unfortunately, Rainey had learned about America through tourism and television.

       “Did you ever meet Bruce Springsteen?”

    

*****

 

     I tried to make the best of my time while shoveling sheep shit, "Rainey, how do you say 'I shovel sheep shit' in Icelandic?"

     “Ich mochta tay Kea Skeet.”

     "Okay, okay, how about cow shit?"

     “Ich mochta tay Koowa Skeet.”

     While I was shoveling all that fecal matter, I was wearing these huge rubber boots.  Sometimes, as I was diligently shoveling my fair tonnage of sheep shit, some morsel of shit would break loose and drop all the way down into my boot.  Of course, I would be in mid-stride with my heel up allowing the poop to slip under my foot.  I would then discover the poop while bringing my heel back down in the boot. 

     As the time went, I started to become more and more concerned about my tolerance to high concentrations to ammonia.  Fortunately, the grandma called for us, freeing me from the burgeoning ammonia cloud.  It was break time.  We were off for lunch.

    

     Remember that leg of lamb?  Well, it hadn’t shrunk that much.  My poor stomach.

     On my lunch break, I decided to call my parents.  The following is a close transcription of the conversation.

     “Hey, Mom and Dad,” I chimed.

     “Where are you?” they asked in a cheery chorus.

     Iceland..." I answered.

     Of course, my answer coming from someone with a lifetime of pranks, jokes and numerous other activities to torture my parents’ souls, what does “Iceland” mean?  So, my parents thought this “Iceland” thing was another joke.  A joke like when I said I was actually going to graduate from college.  Or, like when I got a teaching job--not Craig.

     “No, where are you really,” they giggled.

     “Mom, Dad, I really am in Iceland.”

                                               was their collective stumped reply.

     I was sure they were just looking at each other, wondering which parent was to blame for my activity. 

     I then heard the heavy muffle sound as a hand fumbled to cover the mouthpiece.  Eventually, I heard the peeling sound as the hand came off the mouthpiece.

     “Are you having fun, son?”

     “Oh yeah, it is great,” I offered.  I then added, “I’ve been shoveling sheep shit!”

         

                             *****

 

     I went on to tell my parents the necessities.  I told them that I was fine, I was eating well and that I had enough money to get back home.

     After the phone call, I got to sit and watch Icelandic TV all night.  There was some show in French that was translated into Icelandic and then dubbed in Dutch.  God I was feeling dumb.

 

******

 

     Whoa, hard work makes you sleepy, so, at, god, this is embarrassing, 9pm I headed to my tent.  Great, I was fucking farmer-sleepy but no sleep—damn sunlight.  Add to all this a little dash of homesickness and you better strap yourself in for an emotional ride.

 

*****

 

     Was I homesick?  I’d been putting it off for a while.  How could I be homesick in the middle of the coolest place?  I mean, it seemed very exciting to be here.  Here I was, 5 degrees from the Arctic Circle and eating French fries for every meal.  Slowly, I was feeling as if I was totally lost.  There I was in Iceland, an island in the middle of nowhere.  Furthermore, I didn’t really know where I was on this lonely island.  I drifted off to sleep feeling sorry for myself.

    

26

 

     I awoke after a rough night of sleep.  Today we were building fences with a neighbor.  I was at breakfast.  The bastard dog started barking ferociously.  Barking at what?  I had no idea; the hills were still and the cows were looking at each other.  The dog continued to bark as if a huge juicy steak were walking up the property to attack us. 

     Twenty minutes later, the neighbor’s car was seen over the crest of a hill.  I watched the neighbor get out of his car and immediately lie on the hillside of the property.  He plucked a long piece of grass and planted it in his mouth.  He was wearing some too-small jacket that you might expect to find at the bottom of a lost and found bin at an elementary school.  This farmer didn’t speak a word of English, which was just fine. 

     So up the hill we went to build fences.  This consisted of taking a large rock and slamming it down on a fence post until it stayed a foot or so in the ground and then pinning barbed wire to this post. 

     Okay, let’s get this straight real quick.  This work was not easy.  Yeah farm work was not supposed to be easy.  I know that, but damn, does it ever stop?  Up went the rock, and SLAM came down the rock, up, down,...up down, ahhhh.

     So the old rugged farmer would stand behind us, following us slowly as we moved along the fence.  Busting my back with Flintstone rocks, I wondered if I should feel pissed that Ol’ Rugged was just watching. 

     Clank, only 4 inches into the ground, and the fence post would not budge.  Fuck it.  I had already king-konged the hell out of that fence pole.  The poll wasn’t moving.  The fence poll was stuck.  It was the stuck fence post.  It was defined as the fence pole that was stuck.  The boy and I gave up on the fence post.

     Ol’ Rugged, grabbed the rock, and I witnessed the most amazing strength of a farmer--his arms of Hercules hidden under his jacket.  He brought that rock down as if it had been dropped from the moon and had been gaining velocity all the way down to earth.  WHAM, did he pack just one punch?  Hell no!  WHAM, WHAM, WHAM, the strength of titanium suddenly seemed like a joke to me.  WHAM, WHAM, he was going to strike oil with that fence pole, WHAM.  I was waiting for sparks, smoke and flames to come off the rock, WALLOP, WALLOP.  He drove that pole like a Viking--like a Mammoth.  When he finished, he turned, lit a cigarette and walked to the next pole.  What a damn joke I was.  And all along, there I was, tink, tink, hitting on the pole.  How embarrassing.

     All day, WHAM, tink, WALLOP, tink, until I no longer had shoulder sockets, but rather fused joint.  I was done.  Please let me sleep.

    

27

 

     After making the damn Great Wall of Iceland across the hillside, it was time to head back to the farm.  Our next task was the farm-iest.  We had to bring the cows home.  Yes, we were bringing the cows in, how cool!  Rainey was in the barn as I got to try out some cow calls.  I was so excited--how dairy!

     “Aaaah,” Rainey called from the barn.

     The cows didn’t give a shit about my call.  Rainey yells and the cows immediately turn their big fat heads.

     “Aah, come quick!” yelled Rainey.

     I was being summoned.  Ol’ Rugged came drifting behind me.

     Now, I had shoveled shit, roamed the farm hillside, ridden a tractor, and tried calling the cows home.  As far as a farm experience goes, I had had quite a tour.  Now, like some bad family-goes-to-the-farm movie, I was staring down at a lamb, which was, at that very moment, having birth.  It is the truth, I swear.  I could not have paid PBS for a better farm experience.  Yes, I was going to watch a farm animal give birth for free!

     As Rainey looked a little overwhelmed, Ol’ Rugged came in and went to work.  Ol’ Rugged grunted at my city-boy astonishment.  Ol’ Rugged went on to grab the mommy lamb by its legs and without any emotion, presto, he flipped the lamb on its back.  Okay, all the romantic magic in regards to birth was lost when I saw the lamb’s stretched crotch--“meat shot”!

     There was a baby lamb’s head and one leg poking out of the lamb’s genitalia.  All the mucous was like congealed Vermont maple syrup.  There we were, all three of us, staring at this poor lamb’s privates.

     “Hmmmph,” was the last thing Ol’ Rugged said as he simply stuck his hand up into the lamb.

     “Arryeeek,” went the lamb. 

     Did Ol’ Rugged stick just his fingers up into the lamb?  Did he stick just his hand in to the lamb?  Try his whole forearm!  I could see the shape of his hand against the lamb’s stomach wall.

     “Grackarrrk” went the lamb as its entrails were twisted and knotted. 

     Sloop, out came Ol’ Rugged’s hand, along with a mucous flush.  Ol’ Rugged couldn’t quite get a good grip on the other limbs of this baby lamb.  Ol’ Rugged nodded and Rainey, obediently, dropped to his knees and dove his hand into the lamb's uterus.

     Slosh went the lips as Rainey’s lubricated arm went into the vulva.  Rainey wasn’t enjoying himself.  He dug deeper into the cavity.  Rainey was moving and twisting to get a better angle.  As Ol’ Rugged was wiping his arm off, he was directing his intern, Rainey.  Rainey was becoming frustrated.  Though, surely know no one was as frustrated as the poor mama who was still making it clear with her death cries that she wasn’t having any fun.  Then something happened. 

     “Can I help?”

     Out of surprise, we all turned around.  Rainey and Ol’ Rugged turned around.  I turned around.  I didn't see anyone one behind me.  I didn’t need to turn back around to know whom Rainey and Ol’ Rugged were looking at.  They were looking at me.

     Damn you mouth, yeah, damn you.  Rainey withdrew from the hot spot.  Ol’ Rugged stepped back.  They were both behind me now. 

     Defeated, I approached the lamb and dropped to my knees.  I realized that my body, especially my mouth, was set on destroying me. 

     At this point, you know, it was just the vagina and me.  I stared right at the vagina.  The baby lamb’s head was somehow wiggling.  Each wiggle would allow for more vaginal mucous deposits to come squirting out.  What was I doing? 

     Somewhere else, I wasn’t really there in that barn.  No,  I was somewhere else.  I was up in the mountains.  I was surrounded by redwoods.  I was walking around with some beautiful hippie girl.  We were gathering berries for our post-snuggling snack.  Somewhere else, I wasn’t in a barn about to violate a sheep with my city-boy hand. 

     I made my hand into some pointed, hand puppet shape and inserted my hand between the baby lamb and the vaginal wall.

     Maybe I had created a vacuum.  Maybe some muscles contracted, but the lamb’s cavity instantaneously swallowed my arm up to my elbow.  My lower arm was caught for a minute.  I sat there forgetting what my task was.  I had flash backs to the art museum with the aquarium filled with 40 lbs. of innards, all moving around.

     “Arrrhk,”  shrieked the Mother Lamb.

     “Gak,” started the baby Lamb.

     “Aaah,” cried the city boy. 

     All Creatures, great and small, my ass! 

     I felt things that no man should ever feel.  I felt the baby Lamb moving inside.  I felt a rippling uterus, a ribbed cervix and a whole bucket of mucous.  It was hot, it was tight and it wasn’t good.

     Blackberries, raspberries, currants, and blueberries, what a nice snack my beautiful hippie girlfriend and I were going to have.

     “Ah,” I let out as I pulled on the baby lamb. 

     I had succeeded in pulling out the baby lamb an inch more.  Ol’ Rugged sized up the new status.  Ol’ Rugged grabbed the baby lamb by the skull and just pulled.  The baby lamb came slowly, like a cork slowly being pulled out of a wine bottle, until finally everything cascaded out: Baby lamb, mucus, and after birth.

     I was noticing the webbed effect the mucus was giving my hands when I spread my fingers.  I also noticed exactly how deep I had ventured to wedge my arm into the Lamb--it was right where the mucus ring on my arm was.

     You really don’t slap a newborn on a farm.  To get the baby lamb breathing, Ol’ Rugged grabbed the lamb by its hind legs and then, like snapping freshly washed sheets in the mountain air, he whip-lashed the baby which effectively dislodged the plug in its mouth.  After much snorting, the baby was breathing.

     We stood around watching the mom licking all the molasses off its kid.  Ol’ Rugged looked at me and, out of character, made a rather funny looking face.  He mumbled something and started chuckling.  Rainey translated for me and said that Ol’ Rugged was making fun of the face I had made when I stuck my hand up into the lamb.  Yes, I had earned more Icelandic brownie points.

     I spent the rest of the evening trying to wash the smell of lamb mucous off my arm and hands.   

 

 

 

 

28

 

     Over a couple of days, I had completed a crash course in farm life.  It was now time for me to go.  I learned that the next day there would be a bus that could take me back to Reykjavik. 

     So, the next day, Grandma dropped me off at the bus stop.  I thanked her for taking in a city boy.

     I got on the bus, and damn this small island, “Ah, Craig, brother man,” chorused my Swiss friends.

     Damn it.  As the reader might remember, the last time I saw our Swiss friends I was trying to initiate a threesome.  These Swiss travelers were the last people I wanted to see.

     “Hey, American boy, come sit with us.”

     We caught up.  I didn’t sense any weird you-asked-me-to-have-a-threesome sexual awkwardness.  So, all was okay.

 

*****

 

     “Excuse me, are you American?” asked a forty year old professor fellow who was wearing a tweed sports jacket. 

     I answered acknowledging my nationality.  Off this fellow went to say how great it was that I was visiting Iceland, on he charmed me,

     “It is so great that you are visiting a country of true Viking blood, not like your Indian-raping country.”

     With that, his tone took a dramatic turn.

     “We took this country from no one.  You raped and murdered your country from Indians,” he professed.

     Ah, sir.  Now I saw that he had been drinking out of a bottle in a brown paper bag.  I obviously didn't want any trouble, so, I tried to be as civil as possible.  The louder he became, the more attention he was getting.  He continued to verbally attack America.

     Now he had begun to sing.  He had really become involved in his singing; he had stood up, swinging back and forth raining bourbon on all of us in the back of the bus.  The rest of the people on the bus started yelling at him letting him know that he was a loud and annoying drunk.  We were amused. 

     The bus driver’s assistant confronted him.  He sang even louder in her face, spraying bourbon all over her.  I was told that now he was singing about buggering young lads.  Whoa. 

     The bus came to an abrupt stop.  An unscheduled stop.  A stop in this no man’s land.  Now the bus driver had stood up to approach the drunk.  The bus driver was storming down the aisle of his bus.  The bus driver and the drunk spat words at each other.  Then, in a very unfriendly manner, our singing host was told to get off the bus.  Get off where?  I just left a farm in the middle of nowhere 20 minutes ago.  This man would be left out to die.  Surely this was just a threat.  I hadn't seen any other cars or animals since leaving the farm.  The bus driver barked again.  Our talented guest then gathered up his belongings and walked to the door of the bus. 

     In the door well of the bus, our entertaining drunk turned around, waved to us and then just let himself fall backwards out of the bus.  Slosh, he fell right into some Icelandic swamp mud.  The bus driver threw out the drunk’s brief case, sending papers sailing up like some kind of bad snow scene.  As the bus drove off, I looked out the rear window at our departed guest.  With papers falling around him, I could still hear the drunk singing as he was smearing snow angels in the swamp mud.

 

29

 

     I was circling into Reykjavik.  I had six days left before my flight.  I planned on taking it easy.  I wanted to do some writing and maybe go out for Iceland’s Independence Day.

    

*****

 

     I arrived at the campsite in Reykjavik.  I had learned that Iceland's independence day was actually that night.

     At the campsite, I was glad to see Seth’s tent.  I set up my tent close to his, conveniently farthest away from where the Swiss had set up their tent.

     After setting up my tent, I was visited by the Swiss,

     “Hey we’re going swimming next door.  Ya wanna come, bro’?” 

     I declined.  I had previously planned to spend this Independence Day with Linda and her friend, Lilja. 

     “Hey bro,' we will go downtown together before we leave, right?” the Swiss inquired.

     “Oh yeah,” I convinced them.

     “You know one last rowdy night together--we’ll get laid!” they announced.

     “I’ll be there,” I replied as they left.

 

*****

 

     Later that afternoon, Seth showed up.  We caught up on our travels over a bowl of Ramen.  I warned Seth that the Swiss were on the grounds.  We promised to watch out for each other so as not to be left stuck with them.   Furthermore, we made plans to look for each other later that night downtown at the Independence Day festival.  Seth gave me a go-lay-an-Icelandic-girl pat on the back.  I was off to meet with Linda and Lilja.

 

*****

    

     Linda picked me up at the campsite in her Mom’s new Honda. Linda almost crashed laughing as I impressed her with my new Icelandic,

     “Ich mochta tay Kea Skeet.”

     "You shovel sheep shit.  Yes, very good, Craig..."

 

*****

    

     We arrived at her parents' place.  All of Linda's relatives were there for the independence day celebration.

     “Craig, show them your Icelandic,” insisted Linda.

     Please, Linda, isn’t this getting a little silly? I thought. 

Linda was persistent.  So, there I stood in front of a whole generation of Icelanders.  I was introduced and then in their native tongue I massacred out the phrase, I shovel sheep shit.  I went on to show off by adding the variations I had learned: Cow shit, goat shit, and horse shit. 

     Lilja and her sister showed up and I wished the Icelandic family a good evening and excused myself. 

 

*****

    

     Where was the sailor boy?  Nowhere to be seen.  It was just three hot Icelandic girls and me, yes!  What I thought was only a mere fantasy while back in Texas, was happening.  Three hot Icelandic girls and me; it was like a bad Budweiser commercial. 

     For the independence celebration, we ended up downtown on a hillside with 30,000 people all watching the Icelandic bands.

     “Craig, isn’t that Baldur down there?”  Linda asked me.

     Sure enough, about 10 yards down was the Music fest producer, Baldur.  I was afraid that Baldur would recognize me as the crack "journalist".  I didn’t want him to see me.  I stood behind the girls.  Over the next twenty minutes, out of coincidence or some sick sense of humor, he somehow was moving closer.  Before I realized it, he was directly on our right flank.  I had the girls in between Baldur and I, but I was still so nervous.  Was he playing games?  Did he know I was there?  Did he care?  Was he loving every minute of it?        Well, my Budweiser fantasy was definitely wearing off as the girls kept updating me on Baldur’s coordinates,

     “To your left, and closer,” they would giggle.

     I couldn’t take it anymore, “Baldur,” I announced, trying to act surprised to see him. 

     Small talk ensued.  He asked about my "article".  I asked him about band contracts.  I was so glad that I had confronted Balder instead of letting his presence linger.  It was all so very torturous.

     Linda had seen Curver so off I went to talk to him.  Ended up that Curver was helping with sound at the show, but he wanted to catch up later before I left for Texas.  We arranged to meet at the record store where he worked.          Two hours of standing watching bands and now our knees were locked.  We left.  We dropped off Linda and Lilja’s sister, but conveniently Lilja and I decided that it was too early to call it a night.  We headed off to a bar.

     This bar was a screaming fire hazard; it was the size of a living room but it had more people than a stadium could legally hold.  This was kind of nice because it was so loud that we had to get real close and talk moistly into each other’s ear. Of course, guess who showed up at the bar?  Her X-boyfriend.  He was plastered.

     “Quick put you arm around me,” Lilja requested.

     Ah, well, I don’t know, I… Hell yeah!!

     Okay I felt kind of stupid.  But, then again, there I was in a bar in Iceland with my arm around some hot blonde, Icelandic girl.  Damn, I am so international.

     After a while, we left.  Lilja and I went back to my place--my tent.  We parked and talked.  I was half-talking, half-listening and half-trying to figure out how I was going to make my move.

     So, with American slickness and arrogance, I undid my seatbelt buckle with one hand while I reached over and undid her seatbelt buckle.  Smack.  Mmmm.  Mmmmmmm.

     Okay, not that I don’t like first base, but I like second and third and, of course, who doesn’t like home base?  So, we ended up just kissing, nothing more than straight kissing.  Not that Lilja was required to do anything else, but I had blue-balls the size of Texas.  It had been so long.  Surely she could have at least seen my predicament from a medical perspective.

 

30

 

     The next morning, I swore to myself that it wasn’t even worth it; kissing alone was more damaging and teasing than anything else.  So, I decided to eat breakfast, spend the rest of the day forgetting about girls, and to just do some writing.

     So while chewing on some mushy oatmeal in the commons cooking area at the campsite, I was completely ignoring the girl sitting all by herself.  I wasn’t even thinking about her most perfect breasts.  Nope, I had made a resolution.  I was just going to keep to myself and attend to my mushy oatmeal.  Craig sit down now!  What the hell are you doing, haven’t you learned by now?

     I found myself walking over to her.  By now, I was just plain pathetic.  What did it matter?  She was packing to leave anyway.     

     Sue was Canadian.  Great, another half-ass country.  She was keeping a conversation and damn she was funny.  Of course, she was packing her stuff to leave.  Then, suddenly, she was all packed.  She informed me that she had to catch a bus around the island.

     I walked her towards the city bus which then would take her to the cross-country bus terminal.  I sent her off reminding her to visit the great penis museum when she got back. 

     Well, I went back to my tent. I found a note from Seth.  He had left for the airport terminal and was nice enough to leave all his extra food.  I nibbled on some of his crackers and remembered that I had planned to go in to town and write more in this here journal.  So I grabbed my stuff and headed off to the inner city bus.

     Well, what did you know?  The city bus had circled around and had picked up Sue.  I only got to talk to her until I arrived at my stop downtown where I departed.

 

*****

    

     All the way to the coffee shop I was thinking how unfortunate it was that she wasn’t just unloading her supplies instead off packing up her supplies.  I knew I would be at the café for a while so I ordered a tumbler of coffee and started writing.

     What if she wasn’t going around the island, what if she was staying in town for a while?  Whoa Craig, you finally get to really talk to a girl and you just start getting plain stupid.  What are you going to do?  Are you going to leave right now and chase her down at the island bus stop?  Please, how cheesy.  Craig, just sit down and drink your coffee, you can masturbate all about her back at your tent later tonight.  Hell, if it makes you feel better, go into the tourist trap bathroom right now and masturbate.  Go on, buddy.

     Was I lonely?  Was I pathetic? 

     I grabbed my stuff and took off for the city bus stop.  What are you going to say Craig?  Hey, wise guy, you are just going to look like an idiot.  I was now heading for the island bus terminal.  This is dumb, Craig.  Stop! 

     I arrived at the island bus terminal.  I got off the bus.  I had arrived at about the same time that her bus was scheduled to depart.  I walked into the huge bus terminal lobby.  Ha, Craig, she isn’t here.  Don’t you feel STUPID, ha, ha.  Man, oh Man, everyone in the high heavens are getting a big kick out you.  You stupid mortal.

     Okay, she wasn’t in the terminal, but for the better or the worse I saw her already on her island bus.  Okay, now what?  She hadn’t seen me, so I could technically just turn around and avoid any embarrassment. I could also go and desperately try to convince her to use her bus pass later.

     Let's see, first, it was pathetic that I had chased her down to the bus terminal.  Okay.  It would be just as pathetic if I turned around after running all the way to this terminal.  So, all options resulted in me being pathetic.  I was just as pathetic if I turned around with no chance of getting any action, as I was by getting on the bus and convincing her to stay with the small chance of getting some action.  Craig, you just being there is pathetic.  You might as well try to get some action.

     I walked towards her bus and got on.  I simply sat down next to her, leaving open the chance for her to mace the hell out of me.  I don’t remember exactly what this Canadian said.

     I pleaded my case to her, “I guess I couldn’t convince you to stay a couple of days if I promise to set up your tent?”

     So the bus driver unloaded Sue’s gear and we were left to walk back.  We headed to the city bus stop.  I had no idea that she’d actually do it.  Now what? 

 

*****

 

     We ended up back at my campsite.  She held me to my offer; She sat and watched me with glee as I set up her tent.

     It eventually got late.  Out of some camping protocol, she invited me to bring my sleeping bag into her tent.

     “Is that jism?” Sue inquired.  To which I was instantly embarrassed and in love. 

     So, there I was in her tent making out.  It was about time that I got some action.  As things progressed towards sex, I realized that at this moment I should consider retrieving the condom back in my tent.  If I went to my tent for my condom that meant 5 unsexy minutes digging for it at the bottom of my multi-layer backpack.  Even if the condom itself could have convinced me to utilize its effectiveness, I couldn’t have heard its muffled wisdom from under the wads of thermal underwear and wool socks.  Furthermore, knowing my luck, I might step out to retrieve the condom only to return to Sue's tent and find that the randy Swiss fellas had taken my place.  I chose to proceed without the condom.

                             *****

 

     “I hope you don’t think I’m a slut,” commented my new Canadian “partner”.

     “Well, I hope you don’t think I’m a slut, either,” I responded.

     “I know you are a slut, I was just concerned about me.”

     “If it means anything, I know I’m clean.  But, later, if you want, I could get the condom that’s in my tent.”

     “You had a condom?” Sue responded with surprise.

     “Yeah, but it was at the bottom of my pack and I thought it would be kind of…”

     “I have always wanted to do it with a condom on,” exclaimed Sue with excitement.

     Sue goes on, “I have never gotten to have sex with a condom, what’s it like?”  Sue asked me as if I had been to mars.

     Sue went on, “Yeah, I’ve seen ‘em but that’s about it.  Like once, I was driving up the California coast and I picked up this hitchhiker—horny little fuck he was.  Anyway, he said he had one, but that was the closest I have ever been.”

     I told Sue I needed go to the restroom.  I rushed into a stall and immediately started scrubbing and pouring mouthwash over my member.  In my head, I kept hearing Sue,“ I have always wanted to use a condom.”

     I realized how stupid this was.  I figured that it was too late and I had already exposed myself to every disease on the sex circuit.  I concluded that I might as well not worry about it and just get laid again.

         

31

 

     The next morning when I was heading to the camp bathrooms,

     “Hey Texan boy…”

     Guess who? Yep, it was the Swiss.

     They went on, “Tonight is our last night.  Tonight we go party?”

     Wow, this was going to feel so good, “Oh, I don’t know if I can fellas.  See, I met this girl and well…”

     “Ah, no way.  Way to go.  What is she like?”

     “She’s got these huge dreads and…”

     “Ah yeah, the girl with the hair.  I saw her at the campsite yesterday.  She is good looking.  You--you and her?  You dog.”

     Of course, then there were hi-fives all around. 

     The Swiss go on, “Ah well, we understand.  We’ll stop by when we leave…”

         

32

 

     Sue and I had stayed up late talking and fucking.  The next morning we woke up and went on a day trip to some waterfalls and a geyser.  I was so worn out that I just kind of staggered through all the scenery.  All in all, I was proud that we had actually left our sinful little den.

 

*****

    

     “Craig…”

     Later that afternoon, I was woken from my slumber.

     “Craig…”

     Someone was calling for me at my tent.

     “Craig…” Hans’ friend Linda was calling my name. 

     I had started to wonder about her.  I was too tired to put on any clothes on.  So on my back, I just unzipped a flap of Sue’s tent and stuck out my exposed naked torso.  I came out from the tent like some mechanic coming out on a creeper from under a car.   

     Oops.  My new guests, Linda, Linda’s boyfriend, and (you guessed it) Lilja were standing at my own tent looking for me to come out.  They were still standing in front of my tent, tapping on it, when I came out of Sue's tent. 

     “Craig, who is it?” asked Sue from inside our tent, of course, with great timing.     

     With surprise, the Icelandic search crew immediately turned their heads from my tent to find me, half-naked, sticking out of Sue’s tent.

     I was so fucked.  I knew I was fucked.  I think I even slipped out a little laughter as I started my pathetic damage control,

     “Ah, hey, I was going to call you guys...”

     Shit.

     Sue knew all about Lilja, but, well, no one knew about Sue.  Big surprise, conversation was short and Icelandic search crew made haste to leave.  I really felt bad.  I was so busted. 

    

*****

 

     The next day we got up with the idea of going swimming. Off Sue and I pranced to swim.  Needless to say, the Swiss never came by. 

     So we went into the swimming facility's lobby, Sue went into her changing area.  A ways down, I entered the Men’s locker room.  I went into the changing area.  At first, I saw some ladies changing.  Did I realize that I went in the second door to the changing area for the ladies?  No.  Actually, smarty-pants me, literally started thinking, wow, Europeans are so liberal, no hang ups about nudity here.  Excuse me, naked lady.  Don’t mind me.  I am from another country.  Oh, sure I feel a little weird changing in front of you, but I can respect your country's liberal approaches towards nudity.

     I mean, I was well into the locker room.  I was really thinking Icelanders were the coolest.  Of course, not knowing that every good and naked lady that I passed, went waddling and flapping for a towel to cover herself.  Man, no hang-ups with nudity, such a mature country, I went on thinking.

     Sue spotted me, “CRAIG!!!  What the hell are you doing in here?”

     At that immediate moment, my brain released all the information it was withholding from me.  My brain was holding back information like: How there was not a single male, how all the ladies, and I repeat, all the ladies were looking at me with a lot of disgust and surprise.  Oops, damn you brain, damn you.

     Sorry ladies, ah, don’t mind me.  I totally felt as if I were Chevy Chase in some could-have-been scene in a National Lampoon’s European Vacation.

     I immediately turned around and kind of tried covering my eyes while walking out of the disrupted locker room.

     Later after I changed in the appropriate locker room and I was in the pool, Sue was not letting the Chevy Chase incident go, “You should have seen how you sent those old ladies running.”

     Sue went on bludgeoning me, “‘A liberal country,’ you’re such a dumb-ass, Craig…”

 

33

 

     So we splashed around some and then quickly returned to the tent.

     Later on, after our nap, I awoke with some pesky pool water in my ear.  I started poking around in my ear with a Q-tip.  Of course, I didn’t realize this at the time, but I was effectively sealing my left ear away from reality with a wax and water combo plug.  Later, I discovered that I was losing the hearing in my left ear.  So, not only did Sue have to not sleep and walk on my left side, I had also discovered that now I had begun to lean more to the right.           

     Realizing that the usefulness of my ear had been compromised, I tried to perform some primitive idiotic surgeries.  I tried sleeping on my lame left ear, hoping the water and wax would slowly slip out of my ear.  I tried spinning very fast, hoping the centripetal force would guide the seal out of my canal.  I dipped my head in hot water.  I even tried using a plastic fork, gasp, to retrieve the foreign material.

     I continuously asked Sue to peer into my ear in order to investigate my condition.  The longer the plug remained, the worse my hearing became.  Due to transduction up my jaw, I could hear myself, but, slowly Sue’s voice was becoming more and more distant.  Her voice slowly began to sound more as if I were eaves dropping on her through an apartment wall in an adjacent room. 

     I assumed that there was some water or wax in my ear but, my very supportive imagination kept playing this movie in my head: A rare Icelandic beetle discovers me sleeping, the beetle checking its surroundings and then slowly crawls into my ear.

     “Frmph, framph, mmf, urph,” Sue went on, becoming more and more undecipherable. 

     Yes, I had my right ear, but my plugged left ear was somehow making everything hard to hear.  Maybe it was hard to hear because now my ear and its surrounding area was throbbing.  It was as if the plug had caused some blood vessel to become blocked and now was swollen and distended from the pressure. 

     “Thump, thump,” went my ear.

     “Merf, frumph, umf, derfem,” went Sue.

     My imagination updated me on the status of what was going on in my ear canal.  The beetle was laying eggs.

     Later, I was very uneasy as I tried falling asleep.  Somehow I must have fallen asleep.  I had a dream that I was on my flight for home.  The plane was taking off from Iceland.  As the plane rose, the pressure in the cabin increased as did the pressure in my ear.  Everyone on the plane was passing around chewing gum and smiling.  My ear was still building up pressure.  I was trying to stay calm.  In my dream, the pressure had expanded into my left eye.  I felt as if I had some advanced stage of glaucoma.

     “Smack, smack,” went all the passengers with their gum. 

     I saw Moms reminding their kids to yawn.  I tried yawning.  I had my mouth as wide as I could make it, nothing.  I tried harder.

     “Thud, thud,” went the pressure in my ear.

     Okay the dream went on and on, each level with more pain and more medical side effects with the increasing cabin pressure.  I think eventually the ear ruptured and blood was draining out my ear.  I awoke very worried. 

     Ironically, now I remembered a memory that I had of when I was a kid on vacation at my grandparents.

     At my grandparents, I had some weird boil in my ear.  There was concern about how my ear might behave on our return flight.  I had to get a doctor to, get this, LANCE the boil!  Oh yeah, that is what a 13-year-old boy wants to hear.  “LANCE”, as a kid, I immediately had visions of knights with these long 30-foot lances charging 100 mph at each other and someone then getting “LANCED”.

     “Oh yeah, we can lance it in a jiffy, no problem.  We don’t want you going up on a plane with a full boil in your ear,” the doctor declared.

     The doctor was going to lance the boil. I was quivering. My brother was totally loving it. 

     The doctor, for some sick reason, thought I wanted to see him lance the boil.  He had put some fiber optic camera in my ear.  On a larger TV monitor, the camera displayed my ear, my boil and this saber poking around in my ear.  My Mom had released my sweaty hand and had moved to join my brother and grandma in observing the “entertainment” on the monitor.  The doctor was trying to hold me still as he was making blind jabs at my bulge.  He was becoming politely frustrated.

     “Ahhh, whoa!” let out my brother. 

     The doctor had made his move.  Everyone was commenting on the drainage.  The doctor was glad that it was over so he could get me out of his office.  So, very quickly he wiped my neck and ear.  Soon after that, we all were back in my Grandma’s Cadillac.

 

*****

 

     There I was back in Iceland, remembering all of these background emotional experiences.  I was wondering if this wax-water (beetle) plug in my ear would prevent my ear from releasing pressure when my plane took off and I’d rupture my ear cavity.  Now I was really nervous.  My imagination had capitalized on my fear and had now created a film loop of me on my returning flight grabbing my bleeding ear.

     “Sue, can you look in my ear again?”

     She joked about seeing some black insect legs.  I tried to be amused. 

 

*****

    

     My flight would leave in two days.  I was very worried.  We decided that Sue should go on with her trip around the island.  This would leave me a day to do some souvenir shopping and an afternoon to do some public relations damage control with Linda and company.  

      I know I would miss all the pleasurable details of our debauchery in her tent.  We very rarely left that tent--not even for cooking.  We would just inch our hands out of the front of her tent to cook and then dive back into our activities.  So, after five days, Sue and I exchanged addresses.

 

34

 

     With Sue gone, I immediately looked up a clinic in Reykjavik.  I was frantic to get this thing out of my ear. 

     I had health coverage in America.  What could I expect in Iceland?  I knew that Iceland had universal health care but how would this plan handle a stranded tourist like me.

     What were they going to charge me?  I just had to have this ear dilemma resolved.  They could have charged me anything and I would have paid it.

 

*****

 

     “Hi, I am an American.  I need someone to take a look at my ear.  I think I have something (water/wax/beetle) stuck in my ear,” I announced to the receptionist.

     They told me I would need to make an appointment with an ear specialist.  Of course, the specialist was not available.  I convinced the receptionist that it was not that my situation wasn’t that special and I just needed someone to remove whatever was in my ear.

     A general practitioner agreed to see me.  I told him the whole story.  I told the doctor about the pool, the wax, the water, and the Q-tip.  When I mentioned the part about the Q-tip, strange enough, the doctor cringed and shamed me.  I acknowledged my poor decision to use the Q-tip and followed him into the surgical room.  The doctor pulled out his otoscope and very quickly informed me of the prognosis.  I had some heavy wax build up that had been forced on to my eardrum.  The wax had dried to the eardrum,

     “…like cement,” added the doctor.

     The doctor went on to say that I would need to see a specialist if a good flushing failed to release my ear drum from the grip of this wax “cement” build-up.

     He called in a nurse for assistance.  She, too, took a look in my ear.  I couldn’t understand her, but from her expression I am sure she was a little astonished at what she saw.

     The nurse pulled down this cherry wood box.  She lifted the lid and in plush red velvet, lay this huge horse’s syringe.  Now, I know the nurse couldn’t understand me, but I know she saw my expression of astonishment.  Shit, shit, shit…         At that moment, my imagination was trying to blur my critical decision making process.  My imagination was helping me to second guess the necessity of this surely painful ear procedure.  My imagination was showing me a movie of me on my flight pleasantly sleeping, undisturbed and without a concern. 

     With the intimidating size of this horse’s syringe, I did not notice that in the lid there were different adjustable heads nestled in velvet slots.  Thank the mighty Lord.  The nurse replaced the two-foot amniotic needle with a fat two-inch nipple thing.

     The doctor-nurse team cloaked my shoulder, filled the syringe with some soapy water, put a metal tin under my ear, and held my head in place.  SWOOSH.

     Whoa, it felt as if the Hoover Dam had broke and was now being channeled through my head via my ear canal.  SWOOSH.

     Nothing came out of my ear.  They changed the head and again…SWOOSH.  The shear pressure of this intense water jet was pushing my head.

     Then, somewhere in the middle of the tidal swoosh, there was a break.  Like light coming into a deep mine shaft, like earthquake victims being discovered in an air pocket under rubble, something broke from my eardrum.

     The water stopped.  Everything stopped.  There was a very long medical silence in that room.

     “What…what is it?...”  I inquired.

     Without words, the metal tin, which was under my ear, was slowly lowered for my viewing.

     “Whoa,” I was staring down at this walnut-sized hairy earwax abortion slowly sailing around the metal pond. 

     In some way I was proud of it, and in another way, I was internationally embarrassed.  Of course, as I was considering asking if I could keep this sweet nugget in a zip lock bag, the nurse very briskly disposed of the wax vessel.  This, for sure, avoided any awkward explanation to the customs officer as I would have tried to escort my new wax buddy back home for much bragging and victorious bets.

     I looked up at my medical crew, smiled and let out,  “Wow.”

     This kind of broke their concerned disbelief and we all kind of admitted that we were amused.  They flushed out my ear again to make sure it was all cleaned out before I left.  Of course, there were some little pieces of drift wax that came out, but nothing the size of the mother wax battle ship that had just come out from my harboring ear canal. 

     The nurse toweled me dry.  I kept turning my head, alternating my ears to hear the doctor debrief the surgery.  I could hear again, yes!

     Money?  Yikes, I was so nervous to ask about the bill.

     “So doctor, ah, how much do I owe you?” I inquired.

     I felt totally bonded to him.  He was the doctor--the doctor that delivered “it” from my ear.  The doctor and I, we, had a relationship. 

     I told the doctor that I had Icelandic currency.

     “How about $10?” he nervously asked.

     I slapped the doc $10 with a sturdy handshake.  I leaned into the “surgery room” to see the nurse.  I mimed a “thank you”.  She nodded and smiled.  The nurse went back to polishing her prized horse’s syringe, preparing to gently put it back in the cherry wood plush velvet lined box.

 

*****

    

     “Hello, hello…” I kept talking and turning my head.  I was pleased with my rediscovered hearing.  I had left the clinic and I was skipping back to the campsite.

 

35

 

     It was still just noon and I was cured.  I was relieved.  I now had 24 hours left in Iceland.  I decided to get the souvenir shopping out of the way first.

     I caroused around the Icelandic tourist shops but it was so demeaning.  I thought maybe I’d buy a sticker or something.  Unfortunately, cute honeymooners buying matching Icelandic wool sweater, some with matching hats, scarves and even booties surrounded me.  I was going to do this trinket shopping as quickly as possible. 

     I would try to look through windows to scout things out so as to minimize my time inside the tourist zones.  I would spot something through the window, get my money ready, run in, buy it, get out, and then finally breath.  It was a good plan.  I was having minimal exposure to Icelandic troll key chains, puffin necklaces, Iceland-shaped wood block clocks and other tourist atrocities.  Everything was very efficient.  Everything was working out as planned until I became caught in a lock-on glare with the mother of all tourist vulgarities. 

     What lay before me was the most epitomized Scandinavian cultural symbol ever.  I was slowly pulled in by this epiphany.  In the original plan, I would have been out of the store by then, but by some kind of religious magnetism I was slowly being pulled closer.  I knew I had to have it.

     Without words, in my hands I was holding a Viking helmet.  It wasn’t even close to being historical, authentic or respectable.  The helmet was made of a gray plastic to make it look metallic.  The helmet had full plastic horns rising out from its sides.  Along the rim of the helmet, it had fake molded rivets.  This helmet was a complete cultural insult.

     Did it fit?  It had to, for out of the towers of these artifacts, there was only one size.  At one moment, I was a tourist, and then in the next moment I was Hagar, mighty Hagar.  My presence and demeanor changed.  I demanded attention. 

     The helmet was so large and awkward that I had no idea how I was going to get these elongated horns in my pack while traveling home.  If I had to wear this holy trophy all the 13 hours home, then I would do it.  For 37 cents each, I almost wanted to buy the whole tower of these war helmets.  I could have had my own Army battalion. 

     Now, across the store, I sensed the clerk's astonishment--the new electricity in the air.  I slowly approached the counter.

     At the counter I commanded, “I would like to purchase this item.”

     I removed my crown and guided my prize across the counter top.  A manager was called to assist.  A special bag was requested from the back.  The bag arrived.  My  treasure, my 37-cent plastic Viking helmet, horns and all, was put in a protective plastic bag.  I was the proudest tourist of all.  Proud even when I had rested the war helmet on my head and, behind my back, all the couples, while trying on matching mittens, were snickering at me.  Still then, I was the most proud tourist of all. 

     I imagined my arrival in Texas.  I would step out of my plane to greet waiting friends, family members, a media crew, lovers (lost and new), and co-workers.  They would all be wondering how my trip was.  Among their gasps, whispers and rumors, they would all see me step out of my plane.  I would don the Icelandic symbol.  Wearing the Viking helmet, all of their questions would be answered.  At that very moment, I would put my followers at ease.

 

*****

 

     I walked out of the store promising myself not to unleash the cultural artifact until I was back in Texas.  I quickly returned to camp to hide my new and most prized purchase.

 

36

 

     It was late afternoon.  I promised Curver I would stop by his store before I left.

     I went to the store where Curver worked.  The clerk yelled out some Icelandic.  Curver came over.  We debriefed each other on the last couple of days.  He invited me over to his parents’ place so I could see his home studio.         Curver informed me that he had called ahead to his parent's house and there was no option; I was to have dinner at their house.  Here was the bonus: his dad was a gourmet chef for the premier chancellor of Iceland.  Was I really the one that should have all these ambassador responsibilities?

     Well, like bringing home the third grade classroom hamster, there was quite a bit of commotion and excitement at the house when I arrived.  I was immediately whisked around the house and the tour ended with us all standing in a communion fashion around a picture of Curver’s Dad with President Clinton.  Then, very quickly, I was led to the banquet room.  Good God.  The dinner was like a classic medieval dinner celebration; a pig roasted with an apple jammed in its mouth would not have been out of place.  This was a rather large change from my week of oatmeal and ramen.  The table was a sampler of all the food groups, representing many different cultures.  I learned this was how every evening was like at the house of Curver.

     At dinner, Curver's parents kept bringing platter after platter from this magical gourmet oven.  I must have sampled over ten international dishes.  I finally had to decline any more food.  I was afraid that any more food pressure on my digestive system would unfortunately cause uncontrollable leakage from the other end.  I hung out a bit and then Curver drove me home.

     Driving home, I realized that in twelve hours I would need to get up and take a bus to the airport to depart this adventure. 

     Curver dropped me off.  I was left at my tent with my supplies and a handful of Icelandic change.  I was not ready to pack, but, I was very much ready to go home.  I had experienced so much stimulation in the last three and half weeks that I was physically very exhausted.  I tried to imagine home, my bed and now the one thing I missed most--night.  I had not seen darkness since I had left Texas. 

     I tried to imagine darkness as if it were some tourist site that I had visited before.  I imagined what night was like with streetlights, car headlights, the moon, my pitch-black room, and me in my bed.  Night was something rustic to me now.  Night seemed almost obsolete.

     My thoughts moved to what I would tell my friends when I got back.  I was nervous about what I would have to tell everyone.  How would I explain and describe three and a half weeks of pure nonstop excitement?  Where would I start?  Could I even get across to them what it was like?  I now imagined how I would avoid this problem. 

     I imagined myself arriving back home in the middle of the night while everyone was sleeping.  I would sneak up in to the attic.  I would stay up there for weeks avoiding the intimidation of telling all my friends what had happened.  I would continue to stay up there in the attic.

     I was surprised how nervous I was about going home.  I wanted so badly to go home.  Yet, I didn’t want to insult my experience and have to compress Iceland into quick interesting sound bites just to appease my curious and expecting friends.  I didn’t want say,

     “Oh yeah, god, it was so much fun!”

     I wasn’t quite ready yet to accept that I was leaving.  So, I took my Icelandic change to the local grocery store.  I was looking for novelty gifts for others back home.  I wanted to buy pieces of Iceland for me too. 

     I strolled the aisles looking for typical Icelandic items.  I wasn’t about to put rotten shark meat in my backpack all the way back across international boundaries.  So, I opted for the more practical choice.  I bought vacuum-sealed dried fish jerky--an Icelandic popular snack.

     I followed up this purchase with some fancy Icelandic chocolate.  I bought enough treats for each of my close pals back home.  For one close pal, I bought a can of Icelandic generic green beans.  A generic can with a plain yellow label that simply read:

 

     Graenar baunir          400g

 

     As I was going on a souvenir spree through the small grocery store, I wondered if I would wake up in time the next morning.  My flight was at 12pm, but I would need to catch the airport bus at 10:00am. 

     Lately, I never knew when I was actually “falling asleep”.  So, sometimes I had been getting up at 6am, other times 3pm.  I was nervous.

     If I did oversleep, how much would it cost to reschedule the flight home?  What if they only had one flight a week that left Iceland for the east coast of America?  Could I go to the U.S. embassy?  I strolled home and like many times on this trip, I started to cry.

      I wasn’t sad.  I was happy--I think.  I had suspicion being this close to the north pole was causing these emotional side effects.

 

*****

 

     Back at the campsite, where I was eating the last of my Ramen, I knew all I had to do was pack all the intermittent socks and shirts that were tossed around in my tent. 

     I rolled up everything except my sleeping bag, my tent and my camera.  I wanted to go to bed early so I would hopefully get up early enough.

     It was less bright outside so it was “night time”.  I decided to sign off for the evening with an informative phone message to a friend back home.  There was a map of Iceland by the pay phone. The answer machine in Austin picked up.  I found my location on the map and, across the vast Atlantic, I whispered,  “63.5,..24.” and hung up.

37

 

     I had gone to bed.  I blindfolded myself to help get some sleep.  Sometimes this worked.  Typically though, I would just lay there with sweaty eyelids and light sneaking in from underneath the blind fold at the bridge of my nose.

     As I laid there, I knew it was time to go.  There was nothing else left that I could possibly do.  I was preparing myself for the grueling three-lay-over-36-hour trip that lay ahead of me.  I was especially preparing myself for the Baltimore leg of my trip.  I would arrive at 6pm and then leave the next day at 9am.  I had planned to just sleep in the terminal to save some money instead of getting a $60 hotel for 12 hours.  Somewhere in this worrying I forgot about being awake.  Though, I am not sure that I actually fell asleep.

     Randomly throughout the “night” I remembered being awake.  I saw the sunlight and got nervous that I had over slept.  I proceeded to spring out of the tent.  I then ran up to the campsite information booth and inquired about the time.

     “It is 5:00am.”

     I headed back to my tent.  I laid there with my sweaty knit cap tied even tighter trying not to think about being awake--forget--and then remember again.

     “...6:30am, sir.”

     I was afraid that if I went back to forgetting about being awake I might miss my bus departure time.  I ate some more gushy oatmeal and began packing up my site.  Throughout my tent and in my sleeping bag, I discovered dirt from all around the island.  While rolling up my tent, I was most pleased to find numerous pressed Myvatan flies.

     For a last souvenir for my friends, I grabbed a handful of lush Icelandic green grass.  I took a picture of my hand pulling up the grass so as to authenticate the grass for my friends back home.  I was sure that taking native grass across international lines wasn’t the most acceptable thing for the bureau.  I sealed the grass in a zip lock bag.

 

38

 

     It was 7am.  I now sat at the bus stop while my 500lb pack was leaning against a pole.  The weight was so unprofessionally distributed that my pack kept sliding off the pole.

     I was still kind of thinking of what I was going to do while in Baltimore waiting 14 hours for the last leg of my flight back home.  I had decided I would try to get held up at customs in order to pass some time.

    

*****

 

     After sitting my cold and weathered ass on a curb for three hours waiting for a bus, you would think that I would have earned the right for my bus to arrive on time--maybe even a little early.  My ass counted every ass-numbing second after 10:00am, all the way until 10:30am.

     The bus was really a hallway with wheels.  It was huge--enough seating for a small Scandinavian island.  I found a seat.  My bag found one next to me.  My bag was tall enough to be my companion.  I leaned it away from me.  I leaned it hard against the window.  I wanted to avoid the misfortunate accident of being utterly crushed into powder under my backpack’s weight.  The hallway rolled away from the campsite.

     We made a few stops and the auditorium bus now had three occupants.  We, of course, took full advantage of the length of the bus and found seats mathematically farthest away from each other.  We effectively had divided the mobile home into three equal parts.  The bus rolled out of town.  As soon as one rolls out of town, one is immediately in moon-lava-rock desolation.  Chugging along towards the airport, I stared out the window and just started thinking.

     I imagined myself as a lounge-chair old man telling young grandkids about my experience of eating rotten shark meat.  I would compliment this performance with a face showing how the shark meat tasted.  I would dramatically swing this animated face across my young crowd for squeals.  A performance that, not doubt, only a grandpa could get away with doing.

     I imagined myself not ever getting married.  I imagined having relatives and sister-in-laws that would whisper about the real reason I never married,

     “...because of those adventures...”

     They would follow it up with hearsay about the brothels I was visiting on my trips.  Some would whisper about jungle girls that I had had access to in undisclosed locations.  There would be murmurs about rare incurable sexually transmittable jungle diseases that I had contracted. 

     They would whisper about cult items I had been rumored to have acquired deep in some Sahara desert from witch doctors.  How I controlled an international sex slave ring, how I would sometimes be required to go over and check on my businesses.

     I imagined myself as being older and getting audited a lot.

     I imagined that later in life, somehow I had lost all my pictures of me in Iceland.  But, after my death, my surviving family members would discover one last dusty picture in the attic.  It would be a picture of me somewhere chasing after sheep, giving evidence to the unspoken and forbidden rumors about ol’ “randy gramps”.

     My thoughts kept rambling of me growing old and going completely senile.

 

 


 

39

 

     The bus stopped.  I went to check in at ticket terminal.  I gave my hernia-causing backpack to one of the Icelandic Air sisters.  I was told to pick up my backpack at customs in Baltimore.  In Baltimore, I would have to lug my pack around for 14 hours until my flight the next morning.

     I had nothing left to do but go to my gate.  At my gate, I pulled out a postcard that was addressed for my house.  I dropped the post card in a postbox.  The postcard read: Go!!!

     Before boarding the plane, I remembered that back in Texas I had imagined what would happen at this very point in my story.  I would be saying my cold good-byes to an orgy of sad and crying Icelandic princesses.  In addition, I would be stuffing their European designer underwear in my backpack.  Before boarding the plane, I would dip one lucky Icelandic girl and plant a big arrogant American kiss on her lips.  I would then drop the girl, letting her crumble into a pile of sobs as I left to board my plane.    

     I woke up from my naive dream and stepped on to the plane.  I found my window seat.  Soon I would be lifted away from Iceland.

 

*****

 

     There would be no drama here.  As I am always amazed that 40 tons of metal can fly, the plane gained momentum and took off.  I watched the black lava coast.  At that moment, I imagined college juniors laughing their parents’ money away on a Euro rail pass “finding themselves”.  

 

40

 

     By the way I had no money left.  I had no food in my travel pack.  So after dinner, thinking ahead, I inquired about any left over in-flight meals.  I stashed four meals away in my travel pack.

     Trying to sleep, I was hoping that we would get some darkness on the flight.  Unfortunately, I think we followed the sun west the entire way. 

     We were given customs slips before landing.  I opted to not disclose the true contents of my travel pack.  So, against all warnings, I decided I would sneak in my Icelandic grass and fish jerky without officially declaring them.

     When the plane landed, I knew I had 15 or so hours until departure time for the Lone Star State.  Fifteen hours sitting in Iceland, fine, but it is the business traveler’s nightmare to sit around and wait for 15 hours for your next flight in an airport terminal. 

     I knew I could eat up some time sleeping in a terminal and then lose some more time snacking on my stashed in-flight meals.  That still left me six to eight hours of me sitting on my ass and watching all the other lucky travelers catching their timely flights home.

     Now, how did I end up with this extended lay over on my flight agenda?  The #1 reason being, I am a cheap-ass.  It was $70 more to fly home on that Sunday instead of flying out the next morning on a weekday.  So, I relished in the fact that after spending $1200 on this trip, I saved a big whopping $70.  I treasured the idea that I knew, that at this very point, I would probably be very beat, run down, stinky and sleeping in the international terminal watching the 3:37am Pakistan flight arrive.

     Would I be proud of my predicament?  Yes.  Bored?  Without a doubt.  What was I going to do with all that time?  I had it all planned out from the start.  If I looked suspicious enough, which would not be too much more of an effort, then customs would grab me and, to my delight, the drama would make time fly by so fast.

     In the custody of customs, I would be grilled about the Colombian Kilo up my ass.  How they were just going to sit and “wait it out”.  Customs would tie me to a chair.  My sweating and bleeding face would rest, exhausted, on my shoulder.  There would be a wooden table and one single swinging light.  There would be two agents.

     “Where’s your mommy now, Mr. Bjorky Bjork,” they would say pushing me for info.

     Randomly they would untie me, though.  They would drag me out of the dungeon room, bend me over and x-ray my ass, looking for evidence.  They would have German shepherds smelling my ass for the first sign that the “delivery” was coming.  The agents would, of course, offer me clemency if I would reveal the cocaine drug lord that was helping me mule the load.  They would dislocate my pinkie.  I would squeal that I didn’t declare the Icelandic fish jerky that I had transported across international boundaries.  The custom agents would kick me out leaving me to buckle up my pants, just in time for me to catch my flight home. 

     SHA-BAAM.  All those hours would just zip by like that.  Oh, what a plan this was going to be!  First I had to be picked up by customs, though. 

     After the plane landed in Baltimore, I went to emigration.  I dramatically stuttered that I was on vacation.  I fumbled my passport.  I think I even dropped it.  I kept thinking, Please, please, grab me.  I have narcotics, narcotics I tell you.  Look at me, alert, alert!   

     I was determined to make them think I was smuggling drugs.  I tried to be the exact composite of a rookie drug dealer.

     On the way to customs, I tried to bring as much suspicious attention to myself as possible.  I stared into their Wal-Mart security domes and then very dramatically covered my face.  I knew they had undercover “travelers” in the hallway looking for people just like me.  So, I helped them find me.  I pretended to look for alternate exits before arriving at customs.  I looked behind myself a whole lot.  Randomly, I would shift my seat.  I developed a very obvious blink.  I kept putting my hand through my greasy and sweaty hair.  Here, here I am!  Nab me!  Question me!  Press me for names!

     I went through a maze of corridors.  My movements triggered an arsenal of cameras.  I imagined the surveillance control room having me on every monitor.  I would leave the frame of one black and white monitor only to be picked up by the next monitor.  I imagined the agent in the control room taking his propped-up feet off the console and paying direct attention to all my flags: The twitches, the blinks and my paranoia.  With eyes never leaving the monitors, I imagined the agent reaching for a black phone.  Other agents were deployed.

     The hallways eventually opened up to a huge baggage claim area.  The baggage claim area was one entire floor with only one carousel for all the international flights.  We were all somewhere in this empire of an airport.  At the other end of the baggage claim area, agents waited at the customs terminals.  The agents were my hopeful connection to a time-consuming drama.  By now, I was sure that agents were waiting at the customs terminal to politely escort me deeper into a sterile, isolated, international pocket inside this airport fortress.

     I chewed my nails.  I kept tying my shoes.  I was not about to sit for 15 hours waiting for my next flight.  I tried to catch the eye of some of my deployed agents.  Every once in a while, I would catch one of my escorts looking back at me.  I would, of course, abruptly turn away. 

     I began to pace.  I would pretend to notice that I was pacing and stop, only to look around to check to see if anyone “noticed” me pacing.  I would pull my fingers out of my mouth.  I would obviously avoid security domes. 

     While hiding behind a group of other passengers, I would peek around at the customs agents.  I would wait for them to see me and then I would bob back behind the passengers.  I hid behind pillars.  I rubbed my brow, slid my hand across my face and rubbed my stubble in a nervous Indiana Jones manner.  Again, I would “catch” myself fidgeting with my hands and then very rigidly put my arms at my side and stay very still--only to start taping with my feet.

     My bag rolled from the conveyor belt on to the carousel.  I stepped forward to grab my bag, but checked myself and then very nonchalantly stepped back, ignoring my bag.  I was throwing the agents off my scent.  I let my backpack go around the carousel a couple of times.  I was acting as if my bag were so unimportant.

     All this was quite a performance, I must say.  This was a sure shot.  I was surprised that they had not become tired of waiting for me and just nabbed me.  I was the poster boy smuggler: Backpack, heroin-greasy hair and facial stubble.  Please, my presentation screamed smuggler.  I was the perfect candidate for a six hour run through the ol’ customs regime.

     It was time.  I picked up my backpack.  I smiled at the other passengers as if nothing was wrong.  I strolled cocky, then stoic, fast and then slow.  I started to whistle and then looked at a camera only to immediately stop whistling.

     Getting an interview with the customs officials wouldn’t be that hard.  It wouldn’t be the first time that I had a conversation with a customs officer.  On many other flights, I would have my bag searched and those times I wasn’t even trying.  This time was a guarantee.

     I approached customs.  I turned around.  I changed lines.  I dropped my ticket and kept scratching my arm.  I would stop scratching and then resume scratching.

     “Where are you coming from, sir?” asked my deployed agent.

     “Ah...Iceland.” blink, blink, blink.

     “Purpose?”

     “To visit a...friend.” An inadvertent look.

     “Length of stay?”

     “Three or so weeks.” Scratch, scratch.

     “Is this your bag?”

     “This bag?”  Brilliant, A+, keep going Mr. Agent.  You got me now.      

     “Yes, that bag,” validated the agent.

     “Oh...yes, that’s my bag.”  And, there is a big brick of hash in it, but, don’t look.  I am so scared.  Nab me!

     “Could you open it up please,” invited the agent.

     For good dramatics I froze and, then real friendly like, replied,

     “Oh, sure, sure...sure, buddy.”

     I then approached my bag very slowly.  Yes, my plan was working.  I took one item out at a time: A post card, a pen, and a roll of film…

     “Let me help you with that, sir,” offered the agent.

     The agent ransacked my sack.  He checked the soles of my shoes, smelt the airline sandwiches and fingered my Icelandic chocolate.  And, then,

     “John, can you come here,” called the agent to another agent.

     Yes, yes, quick grab me!  I am a criminal.  Me--bad.  You--good.  Protect the nation’s youth.  Nab me, nab me!

     The original agent had found one of my rocks from the bottom of the blue lagoon (sorry Iceland).  The rock was coated white with sulfur.  Oh, yes, definitely a rock of coke that I forgot to hide.  Oh, no, you got me.  Yeah, John, come over here quick.  Drag me out of here, John.

     John came over and rolled the rock in his palm.

     It’s PCP I tell you.  It’s coke.  It's a derivative of heroin and I have a whole boulder of that shit jammed up my ass.  Red alert!  I am your big bust.  Call the dogs.  Call the helicopters.  I am a criminal!!!!

      I tried not to look agent John in the eye.  Cuff me, you fucker!

     “It’s just a rock.  It’s okay, let him through,” declared agent John.

     What?  No, no, it is anthrax.  It is incased uranium.  It’s crack--crack with plutonium.  I am the Jackal--a terrorist.  Grab me!

     The agents scooted my bag over and my stellar performance was over.  I dragged my bag past customs and was let out into a huge foyer that I knew would be my $70 hotel room for the night.

 

 

 

41

    

     Now I had to wait 14 hours for my flight.  I was pissed.  I sat dejected.  I stuffed an Icelandic Air sandwich in my mouth. 

     I tried reading but I was too tired to read, but of course, not tired enough to fall asleep.  There in the foyer, I was stuck trying to sleep under 5,000 lumen airport lights.

     The terminal seats were at least comfy, but they all had arm rests so I couldn't lie across them.  I tried to sleep sitting up, but that never works for me.  Eventually, I just rolled under the seats and feel asleep.

     It seems that at 3am the airport deemed it a safe time to send out their maintenance crews to replace marble tiles.  Replacing the tiles consisted of jack hammering the tiles loose and then scrapping them out.  The horrid dentist sounds echoed through the whole airport.  The jackhammers sung to me.  They said, "Go to a hotel, you cheap bastard!"  I was at the point of just paying a taxi to just drive around in circles as I slept in the back of the taxi.  Somehow, I beat the drills and fell asleep.

      I awoke up with enough time to grab some french fries before boarding my flight.  I was heading home.

     As soon as the plane landed in Austin, I was ready for my debut--my homecoming.  I had my Icelandic viking helmet ready.  I stepped out of the plane--a warrior!  Walking down the terminal passage ways, people parted to let me past.  There in the sea of business travelers, my horns glided through the crowd.  I was beaming with the fact that I was extremely out of place.  I took great effort to ignore the Texan paintings of bluebonnets, ranches and steers.  I was boldly striding along with a viking helmet on.  I couldn't have been more proud.  Yet, I was determined to act as normal as possible.  I think that I even tipped my helmet to other travelers.  I grabbed my luggage and headed to the taxi port.  Driver, take me home!