þriðjudagur, mars 07, 2006

the necks

"Hnakki" in Icelandic doesn't have a direct translation into English, as it referrs to the area of the back of the head and neck. But a "hnakki" is also a type of male Icelander, a kind of bridge-and-tunnel* species of 20- or early-30-something male who goes to the gym a lot, maintains a healthy tan through artificial means, bleaches or highlights his hair, probably has a tribal tattoo or two, and prizes shiny cars. You can see hnakkar (plural form) if you go to the swimming pool at Árbær on a Saturday afternoon, or on weekend nights at B&T clubs such as Rex and Oliver, where they show up in full hnakki evening dress: dark suits with big-collar shirts open to reveal hairless chests. I have no idea where to go to see hnakkar during the workdays, as I never cross paths with them. Perhaps they're home living with their moms or working in video stores. They seem to only come out on the weekends, when they are rarely seen in a group of fewer than three.

My New York correspondent, Johnny Damon, visited Iceland recently, where we tried to explain "the necks" to him, much to his early amusement and confusion. He writes in with this story:

At one point on Saturday we found ourselves in NASA after Andy (the lawyer-macker) flashed his MTV ID card at the doorperson, who let us in for free. A technically proficient but extremely cheesy Icelandic band was on the stage. Not my cup of tea but the sizeable and well-dressed Icelandic crowd seemed to love it, singing along to most of the songs and dancing with great abandon. At one point this band ripped into a note-for-note (albeit with a slightly Icelandic accent) version of "Proud Mary". The Tina Turner version, that is.

We didn't stick around too long after that. On the way out I stopped in the men's room where an Icelandic babe was hanging out. Amused, I chatted with her after taking care of business. She claimed to be waiting for her boyfriend and waved toward one of the stalls. No one seemed to mind her presence. I know I didn't.

When we saw Audi on Sunday she politely inquired about our Saturday evening. I mentioned the band, pretty much describing them as I have to you: technically proficient but not my cup of tea. I couldn't tell her their name so she grabbed a copy of the Grapevine, looked up the NASA advert, started to laugh, and told me she was glad they weren't my cup of tea.

It turns out they were Skítamórall. Audi says that Skítamórall (roughly "Bad Attiude") is the House Band of the "Neck" culture. I know you guys struggled to explain the "Necks" to me at Rex. After seeing these guys and their fans in action, I think I finally get it.


Mr. Damon and I are currently working on a sociology paper comparing the Icelandic hnakkar to the "American Jackass" bridge-and-tunnelers who fill the bars on Park Avenue South every weekend in New York.

*Manhattan residents use "bridge and tunnel" to describe anyone who must journey into the 212 via bridge or tunnel (e.g. from Jersey or the Outer Boroughs) for weekend amusement. The bridge and tunnel crowd also goes to special bars and restaurants set aside for it, places a regular resident wouldn't be caught dead. We used this term in Boston as well, where Vinny Testa's was the B&T restaurant, and all of the bars near Fanueil Hall filled the suburbanites' needs for a place to call their own in the big scary city. In Reykjavík, as Boston, there aren't literal bridges and tunnels but the hnakkar do tend to live in the Reykjavík suburbs and take taxis or drive in to the 101 on the weekends, so the metaphor is apt here also.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Johnny Damon said...

I hope a gang of offended Necks doesn't come looking for you this weekend, JB.

It's easy for me to weigh in on this issue from afar. Hats off to you for your daring and brave reportage.

7.3.06  
Anonymous carmen said...

You mean my MTV ID woulda gotten us into clubs for free? Damn it!

7.3.06  
Blogger JB said...

Johnny Damon: yeah I was thinking about that later today. If this post disappears, you'll know why.

Carmen: oh for sure, yo. Your NY drivers' license and a cute smile would probably have worked as well. An American girl saying "But I came all this way to see [insert band]!" seems to melt the heart of the stoic Icelandic bouncer. I've watched it happen.

7.3.06  
Anonymous Audi said...

The necks only use the internet to check the Dominos Pizza menu and when the closest solarium opens so don't worry about it!

I just love the fact Andy flashed the MTV card for Skítamórall... what a waste :)

8.3.06  
Anonymous Johnny Damon said...

It would have been more of a waste if we had spent our hard-earned dollars on Skitamorall.

8.3.06  

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