Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Salome's Dance

Kaffí Nauthóll

UPDATE: The bistro in this post has been replaced by an upscale restaurant. It is in the same location, now named "Nauthóll".

   If you were to be on Öskjuhlíðar, the hill in Reykjavík with Perlan on its top, and proceed in a southerly direction, you would end up at the beach at Nauthólsvík. In the summer this is a lively place with a geothermally heated lagoon for swimmers, in late winter it can be somewhat desolate. This is where I found myself last April, after having eaten a light dinner at the Kaffi Nauthóll, a delighful turf-covered hideaway in this forlorn landscape. I was headed to the beach, to enjoy a vista of city lights across the bay, when I came upon a small boathouse. As I strode past a short fence, I saw three women leaving the building, and as they exited, one was in contortions, possibly adjusting her bra. My appearance must have struck them as somewhat amusing, for as soon as they saw me they burst into laughter.

   "Er-excuse me..." I stammered.

   The fact hat this timid stranger on a deserted beach was an American tourist was a situation they found hilarious. Smiling, they fearlessly strode over and I found myself surrounded!

   There is something about the initial moments of contact with strangers, when you realize that you will speak and interact with these people you don't know. I suppose the subconscious "flight or fight" instinct is there, but this was a little different. Lots of eyeing each other, with the women glancing at each other as if saying to each other, "Is this guy OK, or not, or just a waste of time?"

   "Hvar are you from?"

   "Minnesota" I couldn't bring myself to say "America" or "The U.S.A.".

   "Have you been in Ísland long?"

   "Since Monday..."

   "You come with us to the Kaffee, we will talk there."

   "Um, OK, I would like that a lot."

   "You can have a drink with three weird Icelandic women." They all laughed.

   "Yes, I will, with three beautiful Icelandic women". They redoubled their laughter.

   I had passed the first test...

   Settling in at the kaffee, the women ordered while sat and wondered; "What have I gotten myself into?" I had heard that Icelanders were a fiercely independent people, and that the women especially did not tolerate fools. As they chatted with me and amongst themselves in English and Icelandic, I started to feel woefully under-educated. Suddenly, the woman who had done most of the talking, and who I thought was the leader, reached over and grasped my forearm. "What do you think about the situation in Iraq?" see asked, with a piercing stare. I thought for a second, and said, "It makes me ashamed to be an American"...

   Talk turned to Icelandic film (101 Reykjavík, The Seagull's Laughter) and Literature. Being a big fan of Halldór Laxness, I found a topic that we could share. Íslandsklukkan (Iceland's Bell) had recently been translated into English and I had read it just before my trip. It was a heady moment for me, discussing Sn&#230fri&#240ur's speech to the Danish authority, making my case that it was a universal plea for human dignity for all oppressed people. I had made contact, and I felt the ice was broken as our awareness of each each other grew along with our smiles...

   We talked into the night; about children, grandparents, social customs, even card games! By now it was quite dark, we went outside, the wind had died down, a fine mist filled the air. While we waited for their ride, one of the women, the one who I caught "dancing" earlier, had walked a few feet away and, spreading her jacket wide, did a little dance to the night sky. Salome in all her glory could not surpass the joy she expressed. Their driver pulled up, the spell was broken, and when I returned to my guesthouse, my head was reeling. If only in a small way, if only for a few minutes, the world was made a little bit better place...


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Monday, June 28, 2004

The Silence

A woman sits in a room.
It is night. The light is off.
The silence.
Her son has left, gone to live with a woman.
She wonders how long that will last.
Lost. Lost the struggle to make him a man to be proud of.
Lost to another woman.
The silence.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Sunday, June 27, 2004

The Manual®

Flippist Archives proudly announces its latest publication- The Manual®. If you are in the singles scene, this is the book you've been waiting for, explaining all the Rules of the Game. If you have felt left out, misunderstood, or are just plain clueless when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex, this is THE BOOK for you.

Check out these chapter titles:

Hello! Is anybody home?
Well what was it you thought I wanted?
What's that smell?
Toilet seat etiquette.
What's your sign?
Gee, You're just like my ex.
Gee, You're just like my Ma/Pa
I thought you said ten o'clock.
Well I don't care for your friends either!
Oh Yeah, well F*** you, youF***er.
Wait! I didn't mean that.
I guess I'll just watch Friends, instead of going out.


All this and a lot more! Get your copy today!
(this offer not valid in Hawaii, Alaska or Iceland)


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Friday, June 25, 2004

Let's Eat!

It's on the table!

Come and get it!

Mmmm good...

Chow down!

If you don't eat I'm throwin' it to the hogs!

Sit right down.

Lick 'em good Sal.

Everybody eats when they come to my house!


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Christmas Room

   In our neighborhood a house exists, and in this house is a room. The room, judging from the outside, is about 16 feet square, with a large picture window facing the street. This window is bordered with white stencils in a Christmas motif. In the center of the window is a large Santa Claus face, printed on tagboard. When the light is right, or occasionally at night, you can see a fully decorated, flocked Christmas tree in the center of the room.

   It has always been there, as long as we've lived here. The people who live there, while quiet, seem to be ordinary. Perhaps there is a special needs person, or an invalid who enjoys the theme, living in that room. For whatever the reason the room exists, I can only say Merry Christmas! Today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow...


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Love Or Biology

   Take your pick. Or choose not to choose. It really won't matter. Are we slaves to our base desires, or are they created by our "higher" intellect? Are the "sainted" few who are redeemed by their "purity" any better off for it? There is no denying that some people have been made miserable by the "needs of the flesh", but most people fall somewhere in the middle. If we had no strong biological drives would we "forget" to reproduce? If that did happen (and it may have happened to some species) extinction would be quick and certain.

   All we can do is form an uneasy alliance, body and soul, and try not to get too weird about it.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Monday, June 21, 2004

The Little Box

   I was helping a dear friend and her sister with their late father's mementos the other day, going through photos, tapes and scrapbooks, looking for items that I could make copies of for them. It was a bittersweet party, each of us has good memories of him, and seeing pictures of him as he changed through the years was, by turns, funny, poignant, and sad.

   There was a small box in with these mementos, perhaps it held a set of earrings or a tie tack at one time. His name was scrawled on the bottom of it, along with that of this boyhood hometown. As I opened it I saw a tiny velvet bag inside. I overturned the bag into my palm and a small glass marble rolled out. I was struck with the realization that this was the distilled essence of his childhood, one marble, in a velvet bag, in a little box.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 3



Sunday, June 20, 2004

The Swan

   Tooling down the Rum River Trail on my trusty one-speed Ranger bicycle, I saw an inline-skater a few hundred yards ahead. She was young, maybe a teen, and was grooving to music on her headphones. We entered the forested part of the path, a shaft of sunlight piercing the canopy and spotlighting her as she began to gracefully spread her arms, a beautiful bird-like swooping as she hurtled between the white pines. As I began to near her, she turned her head and saw my approach.

   I felt bad that I had ruined her reverie, I quickly passed so that she could resume her solo flight.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Saturday, June 19, 2004

Watch Dog


I saw his picture in the paper, he is about sixty and looks about ninety. But still playing that poly-rhythmic piano, with Monk and Professor Longhair threads interwoven into his own unique style. The occasion was a premiere of a documentary about him, and he was to play beforehand. I went, and as it was, so it remained. A lot of long nights in smoke-filled rooms were etched into his craggy visage, and an atlas of musical back roads was outlined in his playing. And the voice. A wail from the prehistoric past, with all the cares of the modern world overlaid upon it. As I left, One of his older songs crept into my consciousness, and it seemed to be a warning, not of a tragic love affair, but of a difficult but rewarding life as a troubadour with a keyboard:

...I thought I was the king of thieves,
but you touched me so softly
you picked my pockets clean
I need a watch dog
to keep you from
stealing my heart
-

~John Beach
, Watchdog


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Friday, June 18, 2004

Good 'N' Tasty

People often taste some morsel, smack their lips, and say "M-m-m-that's good!" Now, if one were to use the theological meaning of GOOD, as opposed to EVIL, perhaps one might choose a different word - "tasty".  Some examples:

Crispy, greasy pork rinds...tasty, but hardly good.

Oatmeal...good, but not very tasty.

Salted pretzels...tasty, yes! Good,no.

Communion wafers...Good with a capital G. Tasty - no, nowhere near.

Coca-Cola...tasty, tasty, tasty.

Cod liver oil...need I say more?

Perhaps you have a favorite (or loathsome) food that fits either definition.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Thursday, June 17, 2004

Up Was Given

   For some reason, the main source of peer to peer sex ed when I was in high school were the jocks in the apparatus gym. Every day, sort of a creepy Socratic dialog took place there, with various conquests and tactics discussed. There wasn't much romance, and certainly no love discussed. But plenty of technique.

It seem that the consensus best plan of attack was a relentless pursuit, until "up was given". Not a lot of joy there, the aim was not union, not even conquest. The aim was abandonment.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Tupelo Calling

 So the call was for me. It was Shay, from Tupelo, with a problem. I'd been there last fall, helping a lab get started, and lent my expertise to the installation of an arcane piece of Italian technology. Ever since, about once a month, I get a cry for help, with a question about some (dis)function of the equipment. Shea has a beautiful "Southern Belle" speaking voice, soft, accented, but without a drawl...her speech is like singing. She is always apologetic, always afraid of wasting my time. It is never a chore for me; for a few brief moments I am back in the Old South, with the sweet scent of the flowers and the hedges, and my day brightens.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Tuesday, June 15, 2004

"The Internet Is Gay"

   I found this quote while randomly searching recently updated blogs. It was from a teenage boy, a single post. This made me think. Does the internet have a sexual orientation? (Lord knows it has plenty of sex!) Did the internet hit on this impressionable lad, or did he misinterpret a harmless friendly gesture? Did he see some hidden HTML engaged in "the crime that has no name"? Or was this just a diss made out of habit, to anything not understood? "The Internet Is Gay" - who knew?


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Monday, June 14, 2004

Dogs and Cats

Losing a dog is like losing a child. The grief is real, sometimes inconsolable. All the unconditional love between you and your dog has come to an end. But usually we can get over it. There will be other dogs, and they will love you in much the same way.

Losing a cat is like losing a lover. The cat is not your kin, but it has chosen to live with you. It will love you, but on its terms, in its own way, and at its own time. People who have never been close to a cat don't understand what a deep, weird relationship it is between human and feline. Sometimes a cat will understand when a person is inwardly troubled, even when other humans are unaware. Having a cat pet YOU in consolation is a moving experience. And then the cat will resume its own life - with you a part of it, but not all of it. So when we lose a cat, we lose a special relationship with a creature who had chosen to share its life with us, to play with us, to touch and be touched by us, even sleep with us.

To all the cats I've known, thank you.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Sunday, June 13, 2004

Flatland



I picked up Jimmy the Scotsman in the Keflavík terminal in April of 2000. We had seen him at Geysir and Gullfoss, but only met him on the way out. He was headed my way, to Minnesota, "on the trail of the Vikings", to see the Kensington Rune Stone and the Hjemkomst, a recreated Viking ship. He really didn't have a clue as to how to get there, so I brought him home and the next day we went out on the inland sea, the great plains of the upper Midwest. We stopped in Alexandria and checked out the runes, then continued NNW to Moorhead, to see the ship. He had been pretty chatty the whole trip, but when we entered the Red River valley (the lake bed of prehistoric Lake Agassiz) he became quiet and tense. Finally he spoke: "This is some flat land."

We finished our trip, he returned to Scotland. Later he wrote several times, writing down his impressions of the trip. He never mentioned flatland.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Thursday, June 10, 2004

Reunion

Sometimes you just get lucky.

When the little girl with leg braces you loved in kindergarten left mid-year, you would kiss her locker every day.

When the most beautiful girl in your junior high joins stage crew and works with you doing sound. You end up with the German measles for the big show, and she carries the day.

When the most beautiful girl in your high school poses for a portrait taken by you in your drama class.

When you have a class reunion 30 years later and she seeks you out and tells you that she remembers you, and values these memories...

Sometimes you just get lucky.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Wednesday, June 09, 2004

The Merchant Prince

While on a recent sabbatical in Iceland, I was headed back to my guesthouse when I was approached by a group of small children on a corner. My language skills in Icelandic are wanting, but I could sense they had some message of great import to convey. As I apologized for my lack of communication, the bravest of the tykes, perhaps a little older (five instead of four) ever so gently grasped my hand and said "Hér, hér." He led me to a motley array of broken toys, knick-knacks and other humble cast-offs. With a broad sweep of his little hand he proudly showed me the "goods". "Nei, nei" I croaked as he held up a small picture frame.

The downcast look on his face was enough to melt Hofsjôkull and I knew I was a goner. "How much?" I asked, as I picked up an empty Pez dispenser. "Hundrað", he beamed. I gave him the coin and he clutched it tight. The other children crowded around, trying for a glimpse of the prize. "Good bye" I said as walked away, "and good luck".

If you are ever in Reykjavík, walking along Flókagata and a flaxen-haired child takes your hand, go with him. His shop is humble, his wares are few, but his sales pitch is irresistible.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Weather Report

It stayed warm and humid last night, I took my morning coffee in the screen porch. A lilting, indistinct melody wafted through the windows, followed by the appearance of a pony-tailed teenage girl wearing a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops and headphones.

Summertime in Minnesota has its charms.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 1



Friday, June 04, 2004

The Ugly Girl

It was about forty years ago.

She was the ugly girl - the scourge of junior high. Hatchet faced, zitty and snaggletoothed. Mercilessly teased, with names like skag, skank, witch. Dressed in her homemade clothes, with their irregular darts, she was hopeless.

One day she wasn't there. After school, back in the neighborhood, Johnny came riding up to the gang on his paper-route bike. "Hey did ya see this?" It was the ugly girl, on the front page of the paper.

There had been in a house fire. Her bedroom was in the attic, the stairs were filled with trash. Everybody got out but her. Later, stories circulated about her. An abusive father, a drunken mother. Nothing going for her. And no friends. I can't remember any of the "cool" kids from school very well, but I can remember her.

Jackie… I miss you, and I am sorry.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0



Thursday, June 03, 2004

Everybody Got Wet

It was the first sort-of-warm day in the spring and we were all down by the creek.

Eighth grade was flying by, and the hormones, they were a-changing. A big squirt-gun fight, boys against the girls, with the girls using their secret weapon- plastic squeeze lemons filled with stinky cologne. Andy's new windbreaker got a direct hit, we going to retaliate with massed ranks when the girls brought out their SUPER SECRET weapon- the Ninth Grade boys. I was tossed in the creek, and all the rules of combat went out the window. Everybody got wet, and that was that.

Andy never did get the stink out of his windbreaker, though.


By Professor Batty




Comments: 2



Wednesday, June 02, 2004

I Ain't Blue

What is the opposite of passion? Dispassion? When affairs of the heart are raging, aren't the highs and lows in opposition? Or is it that the middle state, calm, is actually the flip slide. Maybe some peace and quiet is just as important as emotional fireworks. Perhaps it is the shifts between the states that make life whole. Still, the promise of passion is a driving force. Serenity is a state of grace to be accepted, not to be striven for.
"I ain't blue...
I'm just a little bit lonesome
for some lover gal...
Everything is fine...
I just don't want to be
All by my self...
" - John Koerner


By Professor Batty




Comments: 0