laugardagur, desember 31, 2005

swimming in the gunsmoke

Last night E and I went to the Grafarvogur swimming pool after work. It's a ways out from central Reykjavík, but worth the drive when we have the time as it's my favorite unsung hero of the R-town Seven swimming pools. It's not as crowded/trendy/kid-infested as Árbæjarlaug, and it's clean and modern, with a well-lit 25-meter lap pool and the famed NYC-subway-straphanger massaging hot pot.

There are signs all over the city this past week advertising FLUGELDASALA, or flying-fire sales. Yep, it's fireworks season in Iceland. And right next to Grafarvogslaug there was apparently a fireworks shack, although we weren't able to find it. All we found were a gaggle of mischievous pre-teens lighting off bottle rockets.

As I swam laps in the main pool, though, the action in the surrounding neighborhood kicked up. People are anxious to try out their fireworks before the Big Night (tonight), and the Grafarvogur neighborhood was no exception. Every time I brought my head up for air, I would hear a bang or pop and sometimes see flashes of light out of the corner of my eye. It felt like I was swimming through a mini version of the Charles River on the 4th of July, albeit clean and well-lit. When I finished my laps, the air was thick with the smell of burned powder.

This morning in the darkness, I picked up my friend visiting from Virginia at the BSÍ bus terminal. Among the first things we did was to stop in at one of the many temporary neighborhood fireworks stores. I picked up a "family pack" and then another two large rockets. Later, I stopped in at another fireworks shop "just to see what they had" and found myself walking out with another two rockets. Each of these large rockets is a terrible warhead on the end of a wooden stick about 3 feet long. I can't wait for midnight, and judging by the amount of local friendly fire, many others can't either.

Because at midnight tonight, the whole country will erupt for close to an hour of fireworks. I believe the average family spends around what I did today, or maybe more: 15000 ISK, or around $250. Everybody goes to their backyard or street corner and fires 'em off simultaneously. It's chaotic and wild and happening everywhere around. The smell of gunsmoke hangs in the air well through the day tomorrow.

Gleðilegt nýtt ár!

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