I ate a horse. Or at least, part of a horse. I think I saw the jockey on the menu as well, as an appetiser, but I may have been mistaken. My grasp on Icelandic is not good. The horse was delicious. When questioned, Icelandic girls will tell you that the baby horses taste the best. Then they let out a shocked and guilty giggle, blush red in the face and start talking about Barack Obama. It is delightful to watch.
I have tried other Icelandic specialties. Fermented shark and Brennivin, for instance. The waiter described it like this: “It is something terrible followed by something else terrible. People seem to like it.” My time is running out here – I’m leaving Iceland in three days – so last night at Faktory I sampled one more specialty: Neftópak. It’s the Icelandic tobacco you wad into your upper lip with a plastic syringe. I have been trying to take up smoking as a hobby for some time, but it’s very difficult. It takes enormous strength and willpower. A friend of mine suggested I start with patches, but I’ve been unsuccessful. I’m a nicotine lightweight.
After 10 minutes of this stuff in my lip I tried to stand. The music was throbbing upstairs. The room started to spin and I staggered, somehow, through the crowd and out the door. Outside I was waving my arms around and grabbing at things to hold me up. That’s how I met Leroy. I fell into him and held on tight. He was a sturdy guy and a good listener. We discussed politics. When I looked closer he turned out to be a lamp post, but at least he didn’t move around much.
I’ve seen guys like me before. The days are getting shorter and I’ve noticed a growing darkness in the Icelandic people. I saw an Icelandic guy punch a street sign on the nose because it was telling him what to do. The summer days are over and winter is on its way. The Icelandic people seem to me, like soldiers on a month’s leave from war. They’ve spent the last few weeks lying in
the sun, drinking mojitos and making sweet love to their lady. And now there’s a few days left before they’re shipped back to the front-line. In the quiet moments their eyes cloud over and they become solemn. It starts to spread inside of them, the anticipation of war, or in this case, the dark and gloomy months of a Northern winter.
Maybe I’m exaggerating, but Airwaves seems like a last hurrah. The last rays of a dying sun. I saw tUnE yArDs play at Nasa, and I saw the crowd cut loose. tUnE yArDs made my willy tingle, and they made me confused, in the best of ways. Watching them was like falling in love with a hot cousin. And the crowd watching them with me, seemed to unburden themselves of all their
Later that night I was sitting outside Faktory with my head spinning in my hands, trying to pick out the last bits of tobacco from my mouth. A guy sat down next me and asked:
“What do you think of Iceland?”
“I like it. I just wish it would stop moving around so much.”
He gave me a CD. I followed it home.
By Robert Skinner