mánudagur, apríl 30, 2007

little fridays

The Icelandic spring calendar is a smattering of holidays. You have the five-day Easter smackdown, yes, but then a whole sprinkling of one-offs besides: Sumardagurinn fyrsti (the first day of summer, a Thursday in mid-April), Verkalýðsdagurinn (Labor Day), Uppstingingardagur (Ascension Day), Annar í hvítasunnu (the Monday after Whitsun), and Lýðveldisdagurinn (better known as 17. júní, the Day of the Republic). Since these "red days" just fall when they fall (17. júní is a Sunday this year, so bad luck for us) the weeks are broken up in odd ways. And no two years are alike.

These odd breakups of weeks create a series of "little Fridays". Take this week, for example. Tomorrow we have a holiday in honor of Workers of the World Uniting, but today is a working day. However, today is also a "little Friday" because it's the last day of this mini one-day work week. What comes along with a little Friday is what you might expect on a Big Friday, and that is a standard weekend party scene. Just one that is shifted to the middle of the week.

My friends and I discussed this yesterday at Vegamót: whether or not today was a little Friday, and how much we thought tonight might be a good night to go out. The consensus was, "Of course!" So I fully expect the normal complement of slow-crawling traffic on Laugavegur, dudes looking tough on street corners, tipsy girls in leggings and high heels weaving down the sidewalk towards me, and a packed line under the awning at Oliver on this spring Monday evening.

miðvikudagur, apríl 25, 2007

morning swim

For a whole pack of reasons relating to my new joerb, my swimming routine has moved from after work to before work. And it's a whole new world out there. On my first 6:30 a.m. trip out to the pool at Laugardalur, just past the predawn "roll 'em out boys" unveiling of the yellow Strætó buses from their big, sad bus yard, I pulled into the parking lot to find a whole new crowd of old men, too. They were lined up that first morning in a big pack, mobbing the glass doors of the pool. I was there a shade before 6:30, too, so I joined in the crowd just as the pool lady finished her prep work and walked over to unlock the door. The mob shuffled past her with determination, making a bumble-beeline for the locker room. Nobody showed an Árskort. These men belonged there. The locker room was a mad rush of old dudes claiming their favorite lockers and getting changed amidst old-dude conversations. By the time I got out to the lap lanes they were already well stocked with slow-moving elderly swimmers.

It's the same at one of my neighborhood pools, Vesturbær. When I first got there, there were maybe 20 men crammed up at the doors, getting rained on. It was like Macy's on the morning after Thanksgiving, or Filene's Basement on bridal sale day. And V-bær is even worse in the lap lane department. There are so many men swimming in each lane that it can look from above like a conveyor belt. I am thinking about adding my other neighborhood pool, Seltjarnarnes, into the early mix, forming a sort of Holy Trinity of morning swimming. I'll let you know if that has a similar gate-storming crowd. I'm hoping it has less old sailors in the lanes.

And this morning I witnessed my first argument in the pottasamfélagi. I was sitting there minding my own business, soaking in the hot water, when an old, weary-looking mustachioed man entered and immediately struck up a heated exchange with a younger, darker man. I didn't catch the beginning, but the rough exchange following the kickoff was something like, "I know what I said, and I didn't say that!" "You're lying. You're a lying man." "I know what I said." "You're always lying." "I never lie!" It was Hot Tub Smackdown 2K7!

When I came back from the steam room, the mustachioed man had been forced out and two of the remaining men were discussing his character. This kind of exchange was something I have never witnessed at the pool, or really anywhere else here. (Or maybe I just wasn't savvy enough to pick up on it before.) I guess all the old men in Iceland can't be friends.

föstudagur, apríl 20, 2007

call to the readership

...if you're still there, that is.

Well, here it is: the Peeps are demanding a continuation to the IR, but I find myself at a crossroads. Much of what I thought was fresh and new when I came to Iceland has now become just part of my daily life here. So the perspective of the outsider has shifted as I've become more and more an insider. Things that used to strike me as 100% Wacko-Jacko (like paying $30 for a $6 bottle of wine or a national obsession with song contests at every societal level) now just seem completely normal to me. In some ways I have lost the ability to see things with fresh eyes as Iceland has become my home and my society. Traveling to the United States is now the thing that shocks me, and when the plane touches back down in Keflavík it's always with a sense of relief.

I mean, I have a few ideas floating around in my head, but what do you want to hear about? All you Iceland dreamers, all you Icelandic locals, all you "long-time-readah, no-time-commentah" lurkers from faraway lands: what is it that you want to know about life in the Land? Maybe that'll get the muses singing again.