Sunday, June 16, 2002

Reykjavik, Iceland I

Imagine the Norwegian military conquest of Patagonia and you start to get the idea of this place. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much what happened one thousand years ago. The same glaciers and fjords, the same sheep and green hills. The same bloody cold, relentless winds whipping in off an ice-clotted sea.

But it’s the fair-haired sons of Oslo here, not some scruffy band of lisping Castilians. And the lads have grown strong and tall on all the fresh air and herring. Lacking an indigenous population of natives to slaughter, they had to settle on bashing the odd Irish monk. And each other, of course.

But the market for pillage and rape is not what it once was. And the sons of Vikings are now reduced to bashing around in Toyota Land Cruisers tarted up in monster truck drag, with a couple of baby seats in the back.

The presidential motorcade speeds past, consisting of two cops on Harleys and a Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham left over from the Nixon Administration. El Supremo is touring downtown Reykjavik in honor of Icelandic Independence Day. The sidewalk caf├ęs are jammed with patrons affecting a studied nonchalance in the face of twenty-knot winds keening in off the North Atlantic.

Onstage it’s battle of the bands here, with white boy rappers taking on with the death metal band next door and some imported Jesus acapella group getting drowned out by the Akuryeri Hillbillies, twanging with all their considerable might.

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