miðvikudagur, nóvember 15, 2006

vestmannaeyjar 3

It was 6 and definitely dark when we were done. Stebbi Skór drove three of us to his comfortable house out on the west side of the island. We drank beers and watched TV and my friend the bus driver stopped by and I offered him a (Polish) beer and that seemed to finally make the peace. At 8, we got dressed in warm clothes (I was in a lopapeysa, following instructions to the letter and the spirit) and headed back to the harbor. In the places where trendier (and non-functional) harbor towns would have microbreweries, cafes, and souvenier shops, Heimaey has larger warehouses and smaller supply sheds for the fishing boats. It was in one of these old stone buildings that we had the post-concert feast. The ownership of the shed and the cooking of the dinner were all wrapped up with brothers, fathers, and uncles, but some combination of those three owned this place and renovated it and someone else was responsible for cooking up probably the best lamb I've had.

The building's interior was narrow, with enough room down one side for several picnic tables and then a sitting area with couches and armchairs directly along the other side. We came in with our plastic bags of booze and there was already a small crowd, hanging around at the chairs, a beer or two into friendly. After these "apertifs" the chef came out of the kitchen on the other side and announced that dinner was ready. He was slicing off thick slabs of lamb at a makeshift table up front. At another table was an enormous aluminum pot full of gravy and a bin of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes, paper plates, a mix of plastic and beat-to-hell metal utensils, and paper Pepsi cups for the wine.

We grabbed big sagging plates of lamb and sat down around the big picnic tables and talked and ate and drank wine. There were a few "skál!" moments and then seconds on the lamb and then as we finished eating we migrated back to the adjoining couches and talked some more. After everyone was done with the food, the entertainment started. A couple guys with guitars singing Icelandic folksong classics took the stage at the end of the picnic tables. They were followed by a young guy (whose day job is as a priest on the mainland) telling seamy jokes, and then me telling a fairly clean one in English. The night went on like that, conversations starting and pausing and little groups of us mingling and re-forming, listening to the pouring rain outside the open door and enjoying the bright and the good times inside the old place.

After some hours there, the Alvinesque antsiness hit me and I made off on my own to Lundinn (The Puffin) where some of the crew had reportedly already gone. It was a longer walk than I thought and by the time I got there my wool sweater was soaked almost through. And there was only one guy there I recognized, and he also seemed kind of lost. But there were a few who recognized me, standing there at the bar, fresh beer in hand.

"You're that bass clarinet fellow," remarked one older lady as she came up next to me. Then an older local-businessman-looking dude came up and talked to me for a long time, having also recognized me from the concert. (The most amazing thing to me isn't that they recognized me. It's that they were both in their 60s and out drinking beer and carousing at what was probably 2 in the morning.) After I had talked to all the local elders who would have me, I went on down the hill to The Other Bar and found some of the crew. This place was far more crowded than Lundinn and had more of an epic feel to it. I ended up gettin' busy on the dancefloor like apparently Icelandic men can't or don't want to. The place was full of good vibes and smiles and steamy with wet clothes. It was 5 or so and raining like a Hollywood soundstage by the time I got a taxi and got home. Stebbi Skór was just arriving, himself.


As the ferry glided out again on a grey Sunday afternoon, I felt the same twinge of melancholy I've felt before when leaving that place. It's been hard before for me to leave: to glide out past the town, watching the streets and houses and twinkling streetlights, to see the cars parked along the shore watching the boat, to pass the vast high plug of new 1973 lava-land, to round the end of the lava-and-cliffs harbor, and then watch the sheer cliffs and their millions of flocking birds recede back into the fog. Getting whipped by the winter wind on the topdeck and then thrown around by the first waves, I finally went down into my cabin and dozed off, listening to the sharp clang of the massive waves shuddering the steel hull and letting the easy rocking of the boat under me put me to sleep.


Blogger Rowena said...

Moving, sometimes breathtaking imagery. Takk!

Anonymous Nafnlaus said...

Your blog about life in Iceland is quite enjoyable. I'm curious as to what motivated you to move from Boston to Iceland.

Blogger JB said...

Rowena and J, thanks! I plan to write about what motivated me to come here. It's a complex question, but it's definitely on the list of future IR material.

Blogger Pamm said...



You are missed. Have you decided to make it back to Boston for Bird Day?

Are you still trapped out in the out islands?

Are you holed up at home with your holiday tree and Advend preparations?

Are you on a party binge with Magni or the Sugarcubes?

I totally miss your blog. Is all OK?


Blogger JB said...

Hi Pamm, Sometimes life just gets in the way of keeping up a blog regularly. But I'm back today with a new Top 10 format and a whole new bag o' stories. Now we'll just see if I have time to write them all down.


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