Site Update

Hey there,

I went ahead and unfucked all of WordPress’s casual sabotage to my navigation. Did you know the Instagram widget straight up hasn’t been working for months? I sure didn’t!

Uncloaked some of the sidebars that were made invisible for no reason, too. Now you can experience the magic on social media, over on the left.

Feel free to start fights on any and all of these accounts. That’s pretty much what they’re for.




Reykjavik: On We Sweep With Threshing Oar

Saturday, September 21, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song

Fish and chips should fix this. We dropped into a fish and chippery and ordered the standard fare. They tried to upcharge us three American dollars for tartar sauce, so we ate them dry, with salt and vinegar.

“I am not a narcissist!” yelled a Swede at the other table to his bros. “I tell you why. You know why? 9/11. Worst day of my entire life. I still remember what I was wearing on 9/11! My blue shirt, and my white khakis pants.”

“Some would argue his believing that’s proof count as narcissism,” I whispered to Ladygirl. “But it’s not like I’m a professional.”

“We’re not saying you’re a narcissist,” said his French bro. “We’re just saying, we have things we don’t want to joke about, and you joke about them. So we joke about this.”

“2,977 people died!” the Swede yelled. “2,977! It was the worst day of my life! You tell me not to joke about it when the worst day of your life kills 2,977 people!”

He then started monologuing about the true heroism of the first responders, then stepped outside with one of the other bros for a smoke.

The remaining two were venomous.

“What a fucking asshole,” the French one said. “Absolute narcissist. Do you hear him? ‘The worst day of my life’? I can think of some people who had a worse day than you!”

“Yeah,” said the other one, whose accent I couldn’t place. “2,977 of them.”

“Idiot. He always does this. He just likes to yell.”

When the squad reconvened, they offered him 1000 krona to drink the entire bottle of vinegar.

“What is 1000 krona?” asked the Swede.

“I don’t know,” said the French guy. “I have bill that says 1000 on it. You want it or not?”

“How about half for 500?”

“Okay, yeah.”

The Swede took a sip of the vinegar and choked and sputtered all over his table, to riotous applause.

It was 5 o’clock somewhere. Brewdog had become a sort of base camp, but we were on the wrong side of town and wound up at the other resident craft brewery, Session.

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Westerbro IPA #beer #bastardtravel

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Most of their beers were named after Game of Thrones. Flaunt it if you got it.

Braxton joined the party and we did a quick lap around the city in the rental car. The previous day, we had ranged out to one of the hot springs, a place of scenic vistas and oppressive Silent Hill fogs, called Reykjadalur.

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shimmyin up #hiking #bastardtravel

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For you linguists out there, Reykja- means “smoky”. -Dalur is valley, -vik is bay.

“You know, it’s weird,” Braxton told us after this exposition as we made our way through the beers. “Almost all other languages name their places after defining characteristics. Only in English do you get things like “Scranton”. What the hell does that mean?”

“Town of Scran,” I said. “Scran is the feeling you get when you’re there.”

“What’s it mean?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “But it’s fitting on phonetics alone.”

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#hiking #reykjadalur #bastardtravel

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When we arrived at the trail, an American with an outlandish handlebar mustache was stretching his calves on the back of his car.

“If you guys are going up to soak, you might as well stop now,” he said, not even pausing in his calesthenics. “It’s been raining too much. It’s too cold to go in.”

We exchanged a look.

“I mean, it’s still a beautiful hike, if you like wind and rain in your face,” he said.

“We’ve been getting plenty of wind and rain in the face these past couple,” I said. “I think I’m immune now.”

“Welcome to Iceland,” he said with a shrug.

We decided we’d come too far and hiked up the hill, where it immediately began to downpour in earnest.

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Burble burble #hiking #geyser #bastardtravel

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“You know, in this past week,” Braxton said, “we’ve already hit the monthly average for rainfall in September? In five days.”

“It’s because of me,” Ladygirl said. “I’m cursed. It’s following me.”

“Global warming is a hoax,” I said with a wave of my hand. “These damn millennials should take a lil peep at a job application.”

Three miles uphill in the increasingly severe rain. The ground became quicksand, and at intervals both Ladygirl and I plummeted into the mud up to our thighs. The madness took hold and we splashed clean in the river that was, as promised, too cold to soak in.

But that had been yesterday. Today, we were wrapping up our viking adventure. We did a lap around Reykjavik, then returned the car and celebrated with more beer.

Braxton took us to a flea market where everything cost as much as it did in the shops, which means it wasn’t a flea market. It was just a market. It called itself a flea market, and outside we gathered more icelandic lamb hot dogs.

They also had this atrocity, masquerading under glass as cake.

We had nearly run the full gamut of Reykjavik. Iceland still had some volcanoes and glaciers to offer, as well as the dreaded Necropants, but none of those were accessible without buying another plane ticket, and I had places to be.

Still, there was one last stop to make.

The Lebowski Bar was conveniently located across the street from Kaffibrennslann, perhaps the finest cafe in Reykjavik. Since I’d spent nearly every morning of my stay  sucking down cappuccinos and tickatackin there, I couldn’t avoid the Lebowski bar. I could feel its pull like a neon, bowling-themed Charbydis.

I resisted until my final hours in Iceland. The burger (“the Lebowski burger”, innovatively) was decent. They seemed to really shine in the White Russian department.

“Listen!” screamed drunk white women at the waitress. “I got a question, and I need you to be honest with me.”


“Is this an American bar?”


“Cuz we don’t wanna go to an AMERICAN bar. Like, do locals come here, or did you make this for us?”

“It is bar based on American movie,” the waitress said, “but it is not an American bar. I don’t like American bars. I like this bar. If it were an American bar, I would not like it.”

Her logic seemed somehow flawed, but the fleet of American ladies bought it.

We bade our farewells to Braxton, thanking him for all the rainy hikes and smashed fish, then headed to the bus depot to get out to the airport.

“The next bus doesn’t come until 8,” she said apologetically.

“Our flight’s at 9,” Ladygirl said. Her eyes did the thing where they get real big.

“Maybe another bus company? I will look for you.”

Across town, another bus company would take us at 7. The drive is an hour, which would give us enough time to through security and on the plane. The problem was, the other bus company was a half hour away, over a bridge and across a superhighway.

We rolled them bones. It immediately began to rain.

I won’t leave you in suspense.

Or will I?

To be continued…



Reykjavik: The Dong Shrine

Saturday, September 21, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: Mickey Avalon – My Dick

The last installment might have been a little high-handed and self-indulgent. The subtitle of this blog is “barbarian travelogue”, and in light of the D&D renaissance, one could expect that would involve less artistic Frasierly pontification and more crushing enemies, seeing them driven before you, and hearing the lamentations of the women.

I hear you, beautiful reader. And let me just say: I do what I want. Eat a dick.

Now, if you’re having difficulty locating a dick to eat, this episode might provide you a solution. Reykjavik proudly and prominently sports the “Phallological Museum”, a ghoulish collection of severed mammalian members set up like a self-effacing cross between a curiosities shop and a Spencer’s gifts.

The little blonde clerk at the front desk is perpetually giggling, as if she’s in on a joke that you’re not, and the joke is the whole building is full of wieners. She sits next to the Viagra Scorn pole.

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Scorn pole #phallologicalmuseum #bastardtravel

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It wasn’t that scornful, though it was postmodern.

Beyond the Scorn Pole was a cabinet full of hand-carved penis-shaped accoutrements designed and painstakingly produced by the founder of the museum, Sigurður Hjartarson.

The plaque alongside Sigurður’s Freudian trophy cabinet explains the origin of his, if you’ll excuse the phrase, phallic fixation. When he was but a lad, he was a farmer out in the boonies of Iceland (Iceland is roughly 99% boonies by weight). They kept cattle, somehow, and young Sigurður was charged with driving them from field to field. To this purpose, he would use a dried, braided bull’s penis, fashioned into a whip, to scare the cows.

Don’t overthink it.

When his friends found out about his alarming serial killer origin story, they started bringing Sigurður severed penises from all kinds of animals, allegedly as a joke. Sigurður leaned hard into it and became “the penis guy”.

I stand now in a monument to this legacy.

When you stand facing the dolphin dong cabinet, the sperm whale wang looms behind you in its wet specimen tank like some kind of Lovecraftian monument.

On the other side of the room is the horse hog cabinet. I’m not going to say I felt threatened, but I was certainly given pause.

In addition to all the severed dicks, the walls were hung with inspirational poetry.

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poetry #poem #bastardtravel

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Here’s a fun little Jeopardy fact for you: the Icelandic handball team won silver in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and in celebration sent silver replicas of all their Johns Thomas to the phallological museum. Thanks, fellas.

In the mythical creature room, they attributed some chode to a native Icelandic troll, found preserved in a block of ice and thawed out like that Paulie Shore movie.

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Troll pole #troll #phallologicalmuseum #bastardtravel

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Iceland has a folklore creature called “hidden men”; they’re basically elves that can go invisible at will, and you’re not supposed to throw rocks in case you clock one of ’em.

Something terrible has happened to the Christmas Lad.

“Did you see how many people tried to donate their own junk to the museum?” Ladygirl asked, motioning toward all the signed waivers stating that, upon their death, Icelandic nobody randos would have their members added to Sigurdur’s collection. “What do you think that says about the male mind?”

“Nothing worth exploring,” I said. “At least not here in Priapus’s temple. Let’s get gone.”

On the way out, I said, “Have you ever seen The Cell? The horror movie from 2000 with J.Lo?”

Ladygirl looked at me blankly.

“Right, it’s a horror movie, so of course not. Well, the premise is somebody invents this Freddy Krueger-ass machine that lets you teleport into other people’s dreams. J.Lo is a psychologist who smokes mad weed, and she volunteers to be put into the nightmare subconscious of this comatose serial killer to try to extract the location of his victim, who’s being slowly drowned in this tank on a timer… it’s real contrived. Anyway, production brought in surrealist artists to design the dreamworld, and that’s the movie’s only redeeming quality. That’s what this place reminds me of.”

“Gross,” she said.

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I barely escaped #phallologicalmuseum #bastardtravel

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No shortage of volunteers.

We slipped out into the street. It was raining again. It’s always raining in Iceland.

“So, onward. Where next?” I said. “Maybe get lunch or something? Eat more fuckin’ smashed fish.”

“You know, weirdly enough?” Ladygirl said, “I’m even less hungry now.”

“Did you see the one letter from the guy with the 13-inch dingaling, though?” I asked.

“Yeah. They kept asking him to donate a cast or something, and he kept turning them down, for the same reason he never made a porn. He wants to be accepted on his merits as a writer instead of on something he had no control over.”

“Now that’s what I call BDE.”



Reykjavik: The Sculpture Garden

Friday, September 20, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: That Handsome Devil – Treefood

In the heart of downtown, at Reykjavik’s pinnacle, wedged firmly between Cafe Loki and the more practical landmark of Hallgrimskirkja, there’s a museum devoted to Einar Jonsson, Iceland’s first sculptor. Behind the museum is an elaborate sculpture garden, featuring some of the only trees available in Iceland and some truly bizarre metal sculptures.

Braxton set me straight on Icelandic soil composition. Apparently due to the severity of the weather, the soil depth sufficient for tree roots just kind of… runs off and gets ground away. In most of the country, the mountains and valleys are bare, or mossed a greyish green.

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Sculpture garden #sculpture #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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The majority of Einar Jonnson’s works explore his fascination with aging and mortality. The first one in the park came out swinging.

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Thor wrestling with age #Thor #sculpture #bastardtravel

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There’s an ubermensch vibe when Icelandic people talk about Thor. He’s not just a cultural hero, he’s an ideal in the same way Superman is, which is why he was the schmuck selected to grapple with Age’s weird, saggy cadaver.

The underbelly is filled with people, men and women, old and young, the faces and names that make up the bulk of a life, gathered over the course of Age’s body. He’s twisted in agony. His face is sallow and gaunt, a lifeless, expressionless mask on his broken neck.

And there’s Thor, supporting the weight on his shoulders, clasping the weathered hands, struggling to prop up the weight. There’s nothing antagonistic in this wrestling, aside from the stressful arm postures that define Jonsson’s work.

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The King of Atlantis #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The King of Atlantis, with his stupid pyramid hat, vibed like a shoutout to Aleister Crowley. The choice of cows, native neither to Iceland nor Egypt, might reflect Moloch. There was a strong Christian sentiment in a lot of the sculptures that didn’t move me sufficiently to photograph (what a weird coincidence), and this dude with that context might be a warning about barking up the wrong tree.

Unless I’m overthinking it, and it’s just a dude in a stupid pyramid hat.

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Spring #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Ladygirl’s favorite sculpture in the park, Spring. Unsurprising, since it’s the only one with even an echo of optimism. The dejected angel with the twisted wing strains to crack open a skull and release the enthusiastic little dryads inside. Everything that died in winter gives way for the coming new, beautiful growth, even in Iceland, possibly including the angel.

The angel’s youth shouldn’t be glossed over here, either.

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Grief #sculpture #bastardtravel

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I deal with grief a lot in my line of work, and this about sums it up. The little fate-ling holds up a hand. Hard stop on this particular lifeline. The subject of the painting emotes overdramatically, twisting up his body and hiding his face. The grief is authentic, but there’s no range of expression that allows for it, so the subject dips into comic and caricature. He reaches for the corpse of the deceased, but it’s lifeless, an outline shaped like the one he loved. A bare scratching on the wall.

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Earth #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Simple, and a little opaque, but it still has its power. The bald-headed giant is Earth, and it’s doing its damnedest to support us. We see that strenuous arm position again. Try to hold your arms out straight like that for a minute, see how well it goes. Earth is doing that nonstop, bearing our weight with mountaing discomfort as we catch a nap, oblivious. The take-home is recycle.

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Spirit and Matter #sculpture #bastardtravel

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More of the weird arm position, Spirit and Matter working together to push a squirming human being into human Being from between their shared legs.

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Sleep #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The otherworldly little nude of the woman is quietly reassuring the contorted giant. Sleep will make it better. The giant’s doing all he can to shut out the world, clenching up painfully, but here he still is. Insomniacs will feel this one.

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Wave of Ages #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Memorializing the suffering of those that came before, caught and struggling in the whirlpool of the past but necessary sacrifice for the beauty of the present, the realization of the wave.

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The End #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The End brings all these threads together. The pictures don’t do it justice. The first woman is young and attractive, sex distilled, her hands tangled up in her hair and her breasts thrust out, legs spread in invitation. The second is withered and aging, clenching her fists to either side of her failing body, eyes closed to what’s happening around her. The third woman is further into the decay, her face drawn and skeletal. No ignoring it now. She grasps at the chest of the big central figure in desperation, the way she might have two iterations ago, when she was young and hot and exploding with life.

The central figure, the largest, is stretched on a rack and writhing. He’s at the end of his line, as evidenced by the exposed skull, turned away from the pleading women, each pleading in her own way. The desperation of the last one tortures him, mars his flesh, but there’s nothing he can do about it. His hands are bound.

And on the other side of the statue, hidden from the women and the skull giant, there’s a young man. His upper body is positioned similarly to the giant’s, as though stretched on the rack, tortured, crucified. His head lolls, his eyes closed. Dead to the world, at a glance.

Look closer. In picture #3, we can see his feet are planted. He’s not dangling. He’s standing. He’s supporting the weight of the giant, and the time-lapse of womanhood that got dragged along for the ride. His feet are planted, and more than just euphemistically; one of his legs grows into the trunk of a twisting tree. He’s rooting them all there.

He is the dying giant, and this is his life. He is the architect of his own torment, and he plays the victim right until the end.

If I still smoked, I’d need a cigarette.





Reykjavik: The Golden Circle and Good Burger

Thursday, September 19, 2019. Reykjavik (and surrounding areas), Iceland.
Soundtrack: Less Than Jake (ft. Kel Mitchell) – We’re All Dudes

Forty-eight hours. Less than two days, and the second padlock shit the bed. Never buy a Stanley. I spent 1600 Reykjabucks (like $14 in real money) to insure I wouldn’t need to worry about a padlock for the rest of my life, and I had to use boltcutters to get into my locker.

I was careful, too! I locked it and opened it before I put it on so I could be certain this exact thing wouldn’t happen. Probably the spirits I pissed off by taking pictures of those Icelandic spellbooks.

Braxton gathered us at the crack of 9 to begin our journey around the Golden Circle, which is what Iceland calls its weirdly triangular configuration of tourist hotspots, each about a half hour drive from the last. We did not get breakfast. We did, however, get snacks.

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Corny Big #cornybig #bastardtravel

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The Corny Big is a rice krispie treat pumped full of Laffy Taffy perfume. It’s absolutely atrocious, but this will be my opinion on any candy. I deny the demon Grain and, according to a middle-aged wine mom who maintains a meadery in Jim Thorpe, I have a “savory palette”.

The first stop was þórufoss. It was gorgeous cluster of waterfalls, made more so by the lack of tourists. The most attractive geographical feature a location can have is no people in my way.

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Þórufoss waterfall #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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I ran around the soggy highlands, oohing and aahing until we got back in the car. The falls reminded me of Ireland. I think it’s because everything was rustic and green, and the weather sucked.

Next stop was Þingvellir national park, which has the honor of being the only UNESCO world heritage site on the mainland. It sits on the continental shelf between North America and Europe.

On the left, North America. On the right, Yurp. It’s like that Four Corners monument in the southwestern US, only there’s geological legitimacy to these boundaries.

This spot was like a giant legislative bazaar where various Icelandic chieftains would meet by the “Law Rock” and decide matters of state. This is the assembly site of the oldest extent government in the world.

I don’t care about that. Governments are a bunch of malarky. I refused to read the plaques on principle, except the one bit about how they had a special drowning creek for women and women alone. Men were beheaded. So spoke the assembly at the Law Rock.

All that quiet seething anti-establishment sentiment had left me with a hunger. Fortunately, at the next snack stop, a beacon of hope shone through the fog.

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cuz we're all dudes #goodburger #bastardtravel

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Braxton tried to ask what we were thinking in terms of food, but I was already sprinting full tilt toward the Goodburger. I needed to know it wasn’t a mirage.

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dam u rite #burger #bastardtravel

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“I do,” I told the sign. I fell to my knees and wept. “I truly do.”

The burger, as promised, was pretty good. It was not made of fish, which was a refreshing change of pace.

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borger #borger #bastardtravel

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The “Goodburger special sauce” was mayo. Innovative.

The Goodburger would tide me over, but I needed to plan for the future. We stopped into the Icelandic equivalent of Wawa, called N1, to resupply.

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health food #sportlunch #bastardtravel

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I got the Sportlunch. I had no choice. I’m so sporty. I picked up a few other nebulous candy bars too, stockpiling calories. Results were mixed.

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Sportlunch of champions #candy #bastardtravel

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Let me show you something. The one on the bottom, Draumur?

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gross #bastardtravel

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I’m pretty sure that’s Icelandic for “trauma”. See that black line? That’s licorice.

That’s fucking licorice.

After this discovery, I flew into an inarticulate rage and hurled the Draumur into one of Iceland’s many active volcanoes.

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better #bastardtravel

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The Sportlunch was a chocolate covered wafer bar with caramel in it. It had nothing to do with sports or lunch, but at least it was edible. The Prince Polo XXL was just a chocolate-covered wafer, no caramel. All right, if that’s what you’re into.

Our next stop was Geysir. You linguists and scholars in the audience may know that this is Icelandic for “geyser”.

I’m going to level with you: I could have taken a picture of either the main, inactive geyser, the eponymous Geysir, or the smaller new hotness that erupts every ten minutes, called Strokkur. I didn’t. There were over a hundred people there, and all of them had their phones chambered and ready to record Strokkur’s eruption. I, myself, erupted with contempt, and shuffled off up the mountain until I found other smaller, abandoned geyser pools.

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lil geysir #geysir #bastardtravel

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Isn’t it inviting? Don’t it just make you want to dive into the boiling geothermal egg-stink and disappear into the earth?

I didn’t, though. Not yet. I have seen the time, place, and manner of my death, and it is not here, and it is not now.

Still, there’s no harm in looking. I watched the cauldron and fantasized about sinking into the boiling mud and fulfilling the rest of my destiny as some kind of scalding sulfur golem. Sometimes, the best way to deal with intrusive thoughts are to let them out to dance around a little.

My magnificent meat vessel is unmarred by tattoos, and I’m relieved that my issues with commitment prevented me from ever making moves on that. I’d be covered in cringey philosophy quotes, the Gonzo symbol, probably a Parliament album cover. Christ, can you imagine? But there’s a music to “Nature does not care for your money”. That’s more insightful than the tourism board planned. I might cordon off a chunk of flesh for that particular momento.

We got gone from Geysir and hit another waterfall on our way to the legendary Gullfoss.

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more waterfalls #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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You haven’t heard the legend of Gullfoss? Impossible. It claims to be “the most voluminous waterfall in Europe”, as well as “outperforming Niagra Falls in the United States in liquid horsepower”.

By this point, it was raining in earnest. Getting close to the waterfall caused it to both mist and spray, meaning it was raining in three different directions simultaneously. That was, itself, an experience, but made the prospect of taking a video useless.

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but what could truly do justice to the legend of Gullfoss? It’s more voluminous in person.

The Golden Circle was complete, and we were all exhausted and waterlogged. We made our way back to Brewdog, had a couple beers, sneered at a bunch of noisy American frat boys, then returned to the hostel for a well-deserved coma.


The Bastard

Book Review: The War of Art

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative BattlesThe War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The dude who wrote Bagger Vance writes an immensely powerful and relatable bit of feel-good motivational speaking wherein he names our mutual demon. He calls it Resistance, and its sole purpose to keeping you from doing “your work”, the Aristotlean virtue you were put on this planet to do.

Resistance is highly seductive. It knows your work is hard. It knows things like “research” and “editing” are not your work, but peripheral to it, and thus, easy bait-and-switches. Resistance loves when you procrastinate. It wants you to clean the house, go to the gym, dick around on social media, because none of those things are your work and it hates you and doesn’t want you to do your work, by any means necessary.

Resistance is soma from Brave New World. It’s comfortable and widely available and it lets you not care about the thing you’re supposed to be doing. But you know you’re supposed to be doing it. It’s your work. Otherwise, you’re just taking up space, and you’re going to get depressed, and Resistance will gloat over all the time it managed to get you to sacrifice to it.

Resistance isn’t an abstract. It’s an actual physical demon, something actively possessing you, keeping you from finishing your book or painting or whatever you do, and it must be exorcised as such.

Pressfield says the key is deliberate daily practice. We’re all rarring to go when we get hit by the inspiration, and we bemoan its erratic schedule. We want to be inspired, but we want it on our schedule. Pressfield says that’s greedy because it’s not us doing the writing, it’s inspiration. We’re a channel for it. Whether you believe in metaphysics or not, we don’t know where thoughts come from; we don’t decide to think and then think. Thinking just happens, in whatever order it wants to, and the subconscious that it bubbles up from is as foreign and indistinct and mystical as God or the muses or the cosmos or whatever else you wanna call it.

Solution is simple: open the landing site for inspiration at the same time every day, and it’ll come by more frequently. Force yourself to write each morning. Eventually, mornings will be when you’re inspired. You won’t feel guilty all the time, and you’ll be conquering Resistance and doing your goddamned work.

This book is a masterpiece and I’m probably going to reread it soon; the audiobook is only like 3 hours long.

View all my reviews

Book Review: How the Irish Saved Civilization

How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe  by Thomas Cahill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Copying books.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the boiled beef of the issue: Early Irish literature was essentially Conan the Barbarian with more dick jokes.

Noisiu, Irish warrior and protagonist, is rattling over the bogs when he runs across Derdrui, a certified hottie who is promised to some old king. Even the king’s druid has commented on her thiccness:

“High queens will ache with envy to see those lips of Parthian-red opening on her pearly teeth, and see her pure perfect body”.

Noisiu knows she’s pledged, and cursed, but he can’t help himself, and hits her with the oldest pickup line in the book:

“That’s a fine heifer going by.”

Take note, fellas.
Dedriu, not a swooner, fires back:
“As well it might be. The heifers grow big where there are no bulls.”

You called her a cow and she’s still game! Better seal the deal, Noisiu.
“You have the bull of this province all to yourself — the King of Ulster.”

It’s a bold strategy Cotton, let’s see if it pays off for him.
“Of the two, I’d pick a game young bull like you.”

And then they bang it out, presumably in the middle of the road.

That was the flavor of the early literature. Here’s another go around, featuring Cuchalainn, alleged to be the Irish Achilles, and Emer, the girl he’s come a-courtin’:

“May your road be blessed!” cries Emer on his approach.
“May the apple of your eye see only good,” says Cuchulainn,
presumably reciting a wood graving his mom has hanging over the front door. Then, peering down her dress: “I see a sweet country. I could rest my weapon there.”

Z-z-ZAMN! Emer plays hard to get by rattling off a list of obscure, murderous deeds a man would have to perform before winning her sweet country.

“No man will travel this country until he has killed a hundred men at every ford from Scenmenn ford on the river Ailbine, to Banchuing… where the frothy Brea makes Fedelm leap.”

“In that sweet country, I’ll rest my weapon,” says Cuchulainn.

“No man will travel this country until he has done the feat of the salmon-leap carrying twice his weight in gold, and struck down three groups of nine men with a single stroke, leaving the middle man of each nine unharmed.”

“In that sweet country, I’ll rest my weapon.”

“No man will travel this country who hasn’t gone sleepless from Samain (Halloween), when summer goes to its rest, until Imbolc (Candlemass/Groundhog Day), when the ewes are ilked at spring’s beginning; from Imbolc to Beltaine (Mother’s day) at the summer’s beginning and from Beltaine to Bron Trogain, earth’s sorrowing autumn.”

“It is said and done.”

Remember that old “mayor of tiddy city” sketch? The whole of the Tain cycle can be summarized with: “Long story short — dong on tiddies.”

Fabulous. Now, the Irish were functionally still barbarians at the time of this writing — shocker, I know — but they had a fledgling culture developing, characterized mostly by these outrageous pre-adolescent campfire stories about celtic Hercules (and celtic Xena, considering how many brassy female leads wound up in their stories), along with the Iron Age moral code of “generous, handsome, and brave”. What set them apart from other Iron Age hero-worshipping civilizations from Mesopotamia right up through Greece was the casual brutality and monstrous metamorphosis they loved sticking to their protagonists. Berserkergang’s Irish cousin was called the “Warp-spasm”, and when the battle rage hit the Irish they would full-on mutate into demons. The descriptions played out like something out of Spawn. Let’s have a taste:

The first warp-spasm seized Cuchulainn, and made him into a monstrous thing, hideous and shapeless, unheard of. His shanks and his joints, every knuckle and angle and organ from heat to foot, shook like a tree in the flood or a reed in the stream. His body made a furious twist inside his skin, so that his feet and shins switched to the rear and his heels and calves switched to the front … On his head the temple-sinews stretched to the nape of his neck, each mighty, immense, measureless knob as big as the head of a month-old child… he sucked one eye so deep into his head than a wild crane couldn’t probe it onto his cheek out of the depths of his skull; the other eye fell out along his cheek. His mouth weirdly distorted: his cheek peeled back from his jaws until the gullet appeared, his longs and his liver flapped in his mouth and throat, his lower jaw struck the upper a lion-killing blow, and fiery flakes large as a ram’s fleece reached his mouth from his throat… The hair of his head twisted like the tangle of a red thornbush stuck in a gap; if a royal apple tree with all its kingly fruit were shaken above him, scarce an apple would reach the ground but each would be spiked on a bristle of his hair as it stood up on his scalp with rage.”

That’s the hero of the story. That’s Irish Batman.

From there, the book follows the trajectory of the Roman empire dealing with these and other barbarians, its eventual fall, and what became of classical learning from that point.

Up until the 4th century AD, books were academic third-person affairs, even fiction. Enter our boy Augustine, virtually inventing the concept of written self-disclosure and, functionally, psychotherapeutic journaling:

“I carried inside me a cut and bleeding soul, and how to get rid of it I just didn’t know. I sought every pleasure — the countryside, sports, fooling around, the peace of a garden, friends and good company, sex, reading. My soul floundered in the void — and came back upon me. For where could my heart flee from my heart? Where could I escape from myself?”

Not only did he introduce narrative stream-of-consciousness, he blazed a trail that would be travelled by goth and emo teenagers for millenia to come. His escape would eventually come in the form of God, surprise surprise, but not before he changed the whole landscape of literature.

Meanwhile, another saint, by the name of Patrick, was becoming a particularly prominent figure in the Catholic church. He was yoinked from Britain and enslaved by the Irish for ten years, then escaped, then decided he liked the Irish more and went proselytizing all over the Emerald Isle, adopting them as his people. The Irish went absolutely bananas for this. The BALLS on this guy! Everywhere Patty went, he left a cluster of churches in his wake, with the Irish trading their arbitrary clubfights and whatever for the hoo-rah tough guy mystique of hermitage. The druids transformed seamlessly into the Green Martyrs, since nothing really changed, aside from God being brought into it.

And like every good barbarian hero in fiction, once the Irish learned about books proper, they were hooked. Irish monks in particular could not and would not stop copying every scrap of paper they could find into increasingly complex codices, which they added embellishments to in classically overdramatic Irish fashion.

Meanwhile, the world burned. Rome fell, and with it classic literature. Anything Latin was systematically destroyed, pillaged, and burned. The world screeched to a halt, then tumbled into the Dark Ages, where it stayed until the renaissance. The renaissance, as made evident by its etymology, was “REbirth” because the initial birth had been the classical age. That knowledge had been rediscovered.

It was available for rediscovery because of all the compulsively meticulous Irish monks who copied thousands upon thousands of freehand codices and passed them down through their families. The book wraps up with a report of a farmer in Cork County in the mid 1800s who was reading his own familial codex on the train.

It was an excellent and thorough, if somewhat meandering book. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

View all my reviews

Reykjavik: Up the Pönx

Wednesday, September 18, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: The Utangarðsmenn – It’s Easy

I slept ten hours and woke feeling like a human, ready to face the constant, relentless torrent of rain.

Deep in the bowels of central Reykjavik, there was once a public restroom. It’s unknown how that chapter ended, but in the next, an Icelandic crust punk bought the whole big bastard and converted it into a museum that celebrated Iceland’s storied punk rock legacy.

Now, if you’re like me, you came of age during the punk revival of the early 2000s, and so paid due diligence to the bands that laid the foundation back before punk died in the 80s. For a punctuated history of this, check out the song Droppin’ Like Flies by the Real McKenzies.

The revival bands exhumed and reanimated aspects of classic punk rock, like fast drums, frenetic guitarwork, lackluster vocals, and body odor, but repackaged it for a kinder, gentler millennium. The anger had been bastardized into pop-punk, repackaged and sold by bands like Anti-Flag, The Casualties, and fucking Green Day.

Bands like Rancid, The Offspring, AFI, and other such classics from Tony Hawk/Crazy Taxi soundtracks helped shape the frog-march of misery and angst that was my adolescence, but they weren’t punk in the way the Sex Pistols or the Dead Kennedys were. These bands helped voice the incomprehensible rage and  hormonal onslaught of puberty in the decaying, carcinogenic boomtown ruin of Northeastern Pennsylvania. For an accurate snapshot of this particular barking at the moon, Sometimes I Feel Like by Bad Religion.

I did my research, listened to the old bands no matter how bad they sucked (don’t pretend the Sex Pistols didn’t suck, you fuckin poser), and had a Crimson Ghost patch on a thrift shop leather jacket. I put spikes into my boots by hand, punching the holes with a kitchen knife (what tf is an awl?), and I got suspended for it. Sometimes, late at night, when the city is asleep and there’s no risk of my being caught, I’ll draw the shades and listen to Horror Business. My credentials are unassailable. That said, I wasn’t aware of Iceland’s contribution to punk as a genre.

Dr. Gunni corrected that for me.

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Punk museum entrance #punk #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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“This is it,” I said. “There’s no other reason someone would print a Crass sign.”

We descended into the underworld, whereupon the door explained why people charge for things.

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enter #punk #bastardtravel

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“Oh!” said a stout, wizened man with a green mohawk and a sleeveless vest. “I didn’t see you there! Come in, I’ll do my little speech.”

Dr. Gunni looked and smelled punk, all right. He described this subterranean bathroom as “his little piece of Heaven” and explained that the walls tell a story in chronological order, so it’s best to start on the right and go counterclockwise, through each stall, until you return to the center room.

“That will chart the progression of Icelandic punk from antiquity to today. And it’s kind of funny, so make sure not to skip any. Is that for me?” he asked, pointing to the krona in my hand.


“Super. Someone is in there right now so you might wait a few minutes so you don’t get stuck in the same part, get all crowded. On the ceiling, you will see records with headphones hanging down. Each of those headphones are playing those records, so go ahead, familiarize yourself with Icelandic punk. When you’re done with the museum, we have a drum set, guitar, bass, feel free to make some music, smash it around, make noise, I don’t care.”

I liked Dr. Gunni a lot.

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It means "outsiders" #punk #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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Utangarðsmenn were by far my favorite. For your listening pleasure, the shockingly long punk song It’s Easy, clocking in at four minutes due to a beautiful dub breakdown. Since Op Ivy didn’t hit the scene until 1987, it’s fair to call the Outsiders proto-ska-punk.

And the lyrics!

“It’s easy to talk about anarchy when you got someplace to hide,
It’s easy to be a CAAAHmmunist when daddy’s paying for the ride”

The mark of truly great art is that it stands the test of time.

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Punk museum interior #punk #bastardtravel

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The museum itself looked like a good venue should, or like bad houses I’ve lived in did. The defunct urinals were stuffed with broken headphones and instrument cables. The writing on the wall charted the development of Iceland from the viking age to the present, ending each of the pithy little summaries with “No punk.” right up until 1974, at which point we received Pönk.

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Öp tha pönx #punk #bastardtravel

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Due to being a grotesque ogre, the museum delighted me. Ladygirl, on the other hand, is clean, polite, and an unironic fan of disco. She felt badly out of sorts in this particular destroyed men’s room.

After I’d absorbed as much counterculture as I could in a handicapped stall, I made my way back out to the main room and got my hands on the bass. The brand had been sanded off, but it played beautifully. I plopped down on a spray-painted tom that said “FOR SMALL PERSONS TO STAND ON” and ran through Journey to the End of East Bay like a showboating buffoon. A Reykjaviki local was dicking around on the guitar. He played powerchords and I ran a bassline through the progression. We got through eight measures before he got bashful and left, but that’s okay. Eight measures is the length of a punk song anyway.

I told Dr. Gunni this place was incredible and thanked him. He looked at me with a level of disinterest appropriate to his archetype and said, “Sure”.

“That was incredible!” I howled into the rain, once back out on the Reykjavik streets.

“Sure,” Ladygirl also said.

We found a place called Icelandic Street Food, distinct from Reykjavik Street Food in that you got unlimited free refills. I ate a boat’s worth of Plokkfiskur.

Plokkfiskur is smashed cod mixed into mashed potatoes and that’s it. Bone apple teeth. Phenomenal.

I’d been setting the pace these past few days, and Ladygirl was ready to do vacation things, like “sitting down” and “reading” or some such nonsense. We returned to the hostel and I finished a book about Ireland and a book about psychopaths. The reviews will be forthcoming next time I’m forced to sit down.


The Bastard

Reykjavik: Bones and Stones

Tuesday, September 17, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: The Sword – Cloak of Feathers

We were woken by the dulcet tones of a dude with a jackhammer outside of Kex, which is equal parts hostel and social event of the season. The downstairs bar/venue room is a huge, beautiful library full of fine leatherbound books in a language I can’t read. The chairs are leather as well, and it always smells like toast. Unfortunately, everything there costs a minimum of 2500 krona, which is like $22 in real money. I enjoy the ambiance, but not enough to pay that much for the Icelandic equivalent of Budwiser.

I brought a padlock from the states. I got it from Wal-Mart. It broke as soon as I strapped it onto the locker. I spent the first half hour of the morning googling WikiHows of how to crack combination locks and growling.

I succeeded, eventually. Eureka! We hit a cafe, from whence I tickatacka’d yesterday’s BT, then we made our way to a neighboring hostel where I foraged up something that contained meat and vegetables.

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Shakshouka #shakshouka #bastardtravel

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From there, we proceeded across downtown to soak up some culture.

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My mans lost 😦 #berlin #bear #bastardtravel

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I suspect this was the consulate building, if not the consulate himself. We’re both a long way from home, little fella.

A little beyond the expatriate bear, we found Tjornin Lake, a gorgeous shallow pond full of hateful waterfowl.

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sick lake

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Tourists were frigging around with the birds, trying to catch them on their hands like in Snow White. The difference is, the birds in Snow White are cute little cartoon bluebirds, whereas the birds of Lake Tjornin are colossal ex-dinosaurs, molded by evolution since the Mesazoic to become diseased airborne gang rapists.

I have it on good authority that the secret to defeating a goose is grabbing it by the neck, spinning it around like Mario 64 Bowser, and hurling it through the air. It’s important you scream the entire time. I was confident that I could do this, if it came down to it, but I didn’t want to. Instead, we retreated to the National Museum, to look at culture.

This was about the extent of the old god’s representation in the museum, unless it was also Jesus.

Grave goods were a big seller, though. The first half of the museum was recovered beads and rusted weapons once buried with long deceased Icelanders. Grave goods apparently included horses, whom, the Icelandair video had assured me, are known as “the true ambassadors of Iceland”.

Horrific ghoul King Olaf of Norway decided in 1000 AD that Iceland should spurn the old gods and embrace Christianity. Iceland was like “okay, I guess.” Their squat and deadlift totals immediately plummeted, despite their truly awesome fish protein intake.

Look at this messiah, though. Who needs Thor?

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Socialist scum #socialism #bastardtravel

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I would’ve preferred this to be an elaborate engraving of Ragnarok but I’m not going to turn down whatever the hell this is.

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Boat #boat

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In our time at the National Museum, we were followed around by a cadre of collegiate German tourists with no concept of volume control. They would not shut the fuck up. And it’s not even like they were conversational about it; they toddled along and inflected, shouting in German, presumably to appreciate the acoustics of the empty, silent god damn museum.

It was a dissonant experience for me, and here’s why. Firstly, I don’t speak German. Maybe what they’re saying is pertinent. Maybe this dude is explaining his treatise to his 22-year-old review board. Maybe he’s a tour guide with mild Asperger’s.

Secondly, I don’t know the cultural mores of this land, this Ice Land, as yet. Maybe shouting in the museum is encouraged! Maybe I’m the one making a faux pas by quietly reading the placards surrounding the artifacts.

Thirdly, I’m an American. We are the loud obnoxious tourists. That’s our whole purpose. Look up “loud American Japanese business”; it’s not even a stereotype, it’s a living wage.

It was on the third floor I noticed everyone else at the museum fleeing from the Germans whenever they entered a room. It’s not like you didn’t hear ’em coming.

“Let’s go back downstairs until they’re done,” Ladygirl suggested.

“Excuse me!” I called to them. “Can you guys keep it down?”

They gawped at me, presumably for addressing them at the same volume. Sort of like the frat boys back at college who would yell at pedestrians from their little beer pong porch bunkers, right up until you yelled something back, at which point they would go record-scratch silent.

“We’re just talking,” one of the girls said.

“I know,” I said. “We can all hear you. We’re in a museum.”

European politesse won out, and they entschuldigung`d and continued their heated exchange with their inside voices.

Ladygirl and I finished the circuit at a decibel level appropriate for a dimly lit museum, then suited up and made our way across town to the Culture House. The tickets were two for one, and you had no choice. Sodden with Icelandic culture as I already was, I’d be remiss to waste this other ticket that I apparently bought.

The Culture House was more to my tastes. A lot of the paintings were spooky, and trolls were well-represented.

I also happened onto a display of old Icelandic spellbooks from the pre-Christian days, and I took pictures of them in order to push my luck with the spirit world.

That was as much culture and eldritch knowledge as I could collect in one day. We proceeded to Brew Dog.

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Aqua mural in Brew Dog #mural #beer #bastardtravel

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Toilets with threatening auras #bastardtravel

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The beers were spectacular. The only thing stopping Reykjavik from being heaven is the fact everything costs twice as much as it does in the real world.

I cannot stress this enough: Iceland is preposterously expensive for no reason.

Well, okay, that’s intellectually dishonest. There’s a reason. It’s a huge cold socialist island, and everything has to be imported. While that has nothing to do with me, the cheapest meal surrogate I’ve been able to get my grubby little mitts on is a shwarma sandwich, which still cost $10.

$10! For shwarma! What?

I don’t hold it against them. It’s not their fault. I’d want some kind of recompense too, if I had to put up with this weather every day.


The Bastard

Reykjavik: The Seltjarnarnes Shuffle

Monday, September 16, 2019. Seltjarnarnes, Iceland.
Soundtrack: Steve Winwood – Higher Love

“Is he here?”


“Is he coming?”

“He said ‘omw’ twenty minutes ago.”

“Is he still?”

“I don’t know!”

The sudden paroxysm of rain drove us into another tourist trap corner shop trying to sell us reindeer pelts and metal puffin figurines. The owner kept telling us if we had any questions, let her know. We were waterlogged foreigners with forty pound backpacks. We obviously weren’t in the market for indigenous wool underwear, but we still smiled and nodded.

We told Braxton to rendezvous at 101 Reykjavik Street Food, which was not a street food stand but a whole-ass restaurant, specializing in soup. Strangers in a strange land. I ordered fish and chips.

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Oh hell yes #fish #chips #fishandchips #bastardtravel

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They were breathtaking.

We were getting by on stolen wifi, so each time we wanted to send a smoke signal to Braxton we had to brave the tempest and hover around outside a Danish bar, hunching to protect our phones from the wind.

This afforded us the opportunity to explore some of the local souvenir stores.

I don’t buy things at souvenir stores for many reasons. One, they’re obviously cheap garbage. Two, they’re impractical; I have everything I need already, like Diogenes except well-groomed and handsome. Three, research suggests clutter makes you insane. Four, I travel out of a backpack. Where the hell am I going to store a drinking horn for the next two weeks?

That said, it was a force of will at the Thor Store. The viking appropriation was strong. They had entire Norse pantheon chess sets, Mjollnir bottle openers, and runic man-jewelry of carved bone for every occasion. Not to mention Thor himself, rendered in wood.

After a half hour of scrambling in the rain and snatching handfuls of Wi-Fi like NeoTokyo techno-urchins, Braxton said, “I’m parked outside street food.”

We reconnoitered. He was not. No cars were on the street. However, in the reconnoiter, I discovered the Gay Road to Church.

“Tell him to meet us at the church. It’s like a block away.”

“That’s where you are?” he texted back. “Okay omw.”

It was not a block away. I miscalculated in equal parts to my crippling directional insanity and the absurd size of the Hallgrimskirkja. It wound up being a half mile away.

“I thought you said street food!” Braxton said.

“Reykjavik street food!” Ladygirl said.

“Oh. I was at Iceland Street Food. It’s two blocks away.”

The rain cleared because we were in a car now. Braxton took us to his place, a secret safehouse buried deep in the sprawling, idyllic backyards of an upper-class suburb. It was spartan, but cozy. The variety of dried fish snacks spread on the coffee table suggested he had acclimated to his new adopted home, but the panoply of liquor decorating the kitchenette windowsill suggested that though you could take the boy out of the skook, getting the skook out of the boy was another matter entirely.

“I’ve got two hours of work left,” he said. “You guys can rest up here, shower, help yourself to the fish jerky. I’ll be back and then we can check out some nature.”

We agreed, and off he went to keep the greens. I took a shower, laid down on the couch, and “rested my eyes” in a Dad-ly fashion, immediately losing consciousness until he came home.

Braxton took us through a sequence of winding back alleys that gave a punctuated tour of the neighborhood and led out to a scenic peninsula peppered with lighthouses.

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Secretive homunculi #homunculus #bastardtravel

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“What the hell are those?” I asked.

“This is Europe,” Braxton said. “They love weird nude modern art statues. Can’t get enough of them. They’re everywhere.”

“What are they doing?”

He shrugged.

Whatever it was, it seemed suspicious. We fled the homunculi and made our way out to the coastline.

Braxton couldn’t stop singing “Higher Love” during this excursion, but he didn’t know any words except “bring me a higher love” and a vocal rendition of the trumpet fill. I tried to displace it with a sea shanty, but it didn’t take.

The tide was rising and we weren’t technically allowed to approach the lighthouse, according to many signs that I couldn’t read. Fortunately, there are no cops in Iceland, and nothing to stop us except our own looming mortality.

We hurried down the peninsula across a hundred yards of rotten seaweed and fish guts, kicking up grotesque clouds of hardy sea flies that didn’t seem to mind the fact it was 40 degrees.

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Just this lighthouse #lighthouse #bastardtravel

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The lighthouse was locked, but it was still scenic enough, if you’re into that sort of thing.

“Oh nice,” I said. “Leprechauns. Or maybe elves, here? Huldufólk! I remember, they said they got elf dicks at the weiner museum. Braxton, you coming to the weiner museum with us?”

“That sounds… really great, but I’m gonna have to pass.”

“They have 230 different mammal phalluses,” I said. “Phallusees. Phalli? Dongs. 230, my dude, and they allege that some of them are from elves, and others from trolls. You don’t wanna look at a troll dong? How do you live here and you’ve never checked it out?”

“It costs money,” Braxton said.

I shook my head. “Unbelievable.”

Ladygirl took a creepshot of me while I was friggin’ around with my own camera up on the rocks.

“All this skipping through rancid fish guts has got my appetite worked up,” I said. “Where can we get food?”

“No more fish,” Ladygirl pleaded. “I haven’t built up a tolerance to this much fish yet. Give me like, one day.”

“Most of it’s fish,” Braxton said thoughtfully. “There’s a thai place that’s good. Or do you guys want burgers?”

“Burgers,” Ladygirl said.

“I always want burgers,” I told him. “Braxton, please. My people, they’re starving.”

And so, we returned to base, caught a bus to Reykjavik proper, and sought out borgar.

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bls #burger #borgar #bastardtravel

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The Bastard