15 September 2005

The Iceland Diaries III –– Day 3

Sunday, 14 August 2005

I'm an idiot.

I woke up at 10, thought for about three seconds, then blew off going to 22 to learn the full prep.
On the other hand, I was so fucking furious at Leo for pulling a disappearing act that I probably would've handed his head to him had I met him then. I turned over and went back to sleep on the couch, a sleep continually interrupted by the constant worry about where I'd stay tonight.

At noon Gulli was up and after he'd showered, we went outside to go back downtown. Gustavo picked us up in his van which was littered with the remnants of what appeared to be a pretty good party. He's working over at the Flags of our Fathers set, the film that Clint Eastwood is shooting. There were still a couple beers left over, something that could only happen where a Hollywood budget kept an almost endless supply of beer available. He gave me a ride to 22 and drove off with Gulli. Pink's still unreachable. My main laptop keeps blue screening on me. Fuck.

I wrote a bit and checked my mail. Both laptops now have keyboard problems so I need to buy an external one here, though I doubt I'll get anything for less than €40. On the other hand, I got that card reader back in January cheaper than at home.

Speaking of cheap, over at Bónus supermarket, Jónagold (Jonathan Gold) apples are only 14kr/kilo, flour is 68kr for a 1kg bag, and onions are 1kr/kg. No typos. Icelanders would probably welcome any of your recipes based on these three ingredients. Beef, on the other hand, is becoming prohibitively expensive despite Argentinian imports. There was something on the news about that but I couldn't quite make it out. I think it had something to do with BSE and the US or maybe trade embargoes.

At 4pm I rang Hótel AdaM and they have a room available for a couple days but it's one with a private bath: 8000kr/day. I took it for three days and got a discount: 21,000kr. I wasn't intending on bleeding this kind of cash. I am, however, even less prepared to sleep outside in the rain and 10°C.

I tried to ring Gulli before handing over the money but couldn't get through. I took the place and restocked the rollie case, then called BA to change my ticket from DC back to Munich from today to 02 September.

Attention British Airways infidels:

Provide direct, non-800 numbers! It costs a lot to call an 800 number from outside North America. And either stop fucking running ads and "helpful advice" recordings (especially the one telling me to look at your useless Web site which was the reason I had to resort to calling from a cell phone while seriously roaming), or stop running them once people start hitting the # key! Bastards. It cost me more than €6 to listen to that unnecessary shit.

I'm not referring to the annoying ads played during hold times but to a series of recordings one is forced to listen to before being transferred to the call centre queue. Ads shouldn't be played during hold times anyway. What's the purpose? The customers are already on the line! They also fuck up "hold-on-hold", a service which lets you put down your phone and do something useful while waiting and notifies you once a human voice comes on the line. Fuckers.

BA's service has become so poor and prices so high ($800 to take two cats from DC to MUC when I'm already paying for the "World Traveller" class rather than steerage) that I don't expect to be flying that airline much longer. If Lufthansa gets as bad I'm either going to have to wait for Air Singapore to seriously expand their system (Munich to Paris through Singapore?) or get used to tramp steamers.

At 5:30 Gulli called and I told him I had the room. His response sounded like he'd found something for me so I asked if he had indeed. He hadn't. Did I need my suitcase? He was still downtown and could open the shop for me. We met 10 minutes later. I stopped at 22 and played Ólsen Ólsen with Valdi the barkeeper I'd been talking with last night. He'd explained the game which is more a children's game but would easily support not-insignificant-stakes gambling.
Icelandic card games:

Ólsen Ólsen

It's a simple matching game. Each player is dealt five cards, the remaining deck is placed face-down, and one card turned over. Play is against that, either matching the number or the suit. If you can't do anything you have to draw. You can/must draw a maximum of three cards.

It's not all luck, though. You can strategically take more cards than necessary (up to three) each turn before throwing. Eights are wildcards and allow the player to call a change of suit. If you have two or more cards of the same value but different suit, you can play them at once, remembering to make sure the topmost one is the suit you want play to continue using.

When you have one play left in your hand (matching cards count as one play since they can be dropped at the same time), you must say "Ólsen". The battle cry when you play them is "Ólsen Ólsen", though screaming it is frowned upon. The favourite strategy is to hold onto an eight for the end.

Back at the hotel I saw a 1963 German documentary shot on 16mm about the Iceland. They've made some serious progress since then. Roads, automation, diversification of industry (90% of income was from fish back then). The only way around the island was with a Land Rover and the producers got caught up in a sandstorm made up of mostly volcanic ash. The film showed some fish preparation and whale butchery (not yet banned then) and ended with the eruption of the underwater volcano which became the island of Surtsey over the next four years.

I needed a shave. The bathroom is so small that the sink is a little corner thing and it's impossible to get your face anywhere near it if you have shoulders. The water was extra sulphurous that evening. I still don't believe you ever get used to it.

On my way out for some lazy Sunday evening gallivanting I stopped at Bókabúð and found two books, one, "Í Búðinni Mústafa" (In Mustafa's Store) which has some great artwork, and the other "Gæsamömmu" (Mother Goose). Now that was a find. I was learning new words right away from it. But it's the little differences. Like, you know what they call Little Miss Muffet in Iceland?

They don't call her Little Miss Muffet?
No man, they're Vikings. They don't know what the fuck a Muffet or tuffet is!
So what do they call Little Miss Muffet?
They call her "Litla Stína".
"Litla Stína". Hah-hah. What do they call Old King Cole?
King Cole's "King Cole", but they say it "Kóngurinn Kál".
"Kóngurinn Kál", huh?" What's Hickory Dickory Dock?
I don't know. I never saw that one in there.

From Litla Stína I learned that "kónguló" means "spider" but as he made me a gin and Coke, Valdi told me that most people say "kaunguló" though both are right. Also, the bitch eats soup, not curds and whey.

Litla Stína
með súpuna sína
sat í fridi og næði
Þá kom þar ein kónguló
og ruggaði sér í ró
en Stína fékk algert æði
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Nursery rhymes aren't meant to be literature; they're meant to entertain and teach. In this case, I have a broad but simple vocabulary, multiple declensions and lots of cases, It's also a lot easier to learn new words in rhyme than from a vocabulary list. The pictures help but there are some drastic changes to some of the originals. Hey Diddle Diddle, for one: while the cow does jump over the Moon, there is no mention of dinnerware.

It was a slow night; Valdi and I played Ólsen Ólsen for 10kr per card left in the other person's hand. At the end of it all I was up a whole 10kr.

Whenever he had to take care of customers, I checked the ex-pat's forum, allowed myself to get trolled into an Invisible Sky Giant thread, answered some questions about certain sexual acts, and also caught up with American HuSians whose diaries often disappear when I get on the site.

Around midnight it was empty and I helped Valti close up. We locked the doors and had a beer together. He talks to me in Icelandic until I don't understand, switches to English if necessary, and takes the cue from me to switch back to Icelandic.

I went back to the hotel and read. I'm supposed to be relaxing, right? Thoughts of the Estate and my irresponsibility in taking a holiday now were driven away with the assistance of some mini bottles of gin I luckily still had in my suitcase.


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