The club was larger than it appeared on the outside, with mirrored columns and an arched roof that gave it a cavernous appearance. The pulsing bass beat was evidently emanating from a young man on the stage who was gazing intently at a pair of laptop computers. From time to time he would interact with this gear; I assumed he was actually doing something and not just playing a recording. The music was loud and boring. It was quite dark away from the stage so I couldn't really make out anyone from where I was standing at the back of the room. I worked my way around to the side of the hall toward the front, where there would be a better view.
I ended up in a corner and was able to see the whole crowd, undulating in an approximate synchronization with the heavy techno. As I scanned their young faces I sensed that someone was looking me over as well. I didn't see Billy, but the corner of my eye caught the gaze from a pair of tough-looking men, men who were moving through the crowd to where I stood. They weren't dancing. My danger sense was going ballistic, and I headed for the door. They changed trajectory; I began to walk faster and by the time I reached the lobby I was almost running.
Once outside I went around the corner to a side street. Just when I thought I had lost my pursuers, I was stunned to find them directly ahead of me. A rear exit, of course. Sizing up the situation, I knew that each of the men were bigger than me and were certainly much stronger. I turned and began running back, back toward the square. There was a big Hotel on the square's far side, somehow I felt that if I could make it there I could at least have a chance. As I rounded the corner of the hotel I ran into a woman.
"Sean! My lucky night! Hahaha!" It was Sally, the wild woman from the plane. Of course- the Hotel Borg, she mentioned that she was staying there. We were just outside the main entrance, the thugs were walking quickly in our direction.
"Sally! Am I glad to see you!" I took her arm as nonchalantly as I could then whispered in her ear "I seem to have attracted some undesirables back at the club, would you be so kind as to offer me sanctuary until they lose interest?"
"But of course- you do realize that you'll be in my clutches now, don't you?" She smiled broadly as we were buzzed in to the lobby. The desk clerk, a young woman who had been reading an e-book, nodded to Sally as we entered the elevator.
"You'll see the spider's parlor now, fly-man." Sally's smile was tighter now; the look in her eye was strangely piercing. I was still holding on to her arm, which she took as an invitation to move closer. Her scent was expensive, with a top note of fruity wine. She had been drinking. We got off on the fourth floor and walked down the hall to her room.
"Well. I'm most impressed with your taste." Sally's room had been exquisitely decorated, with original art and expensive furnishings. My Ikea apartment seemed shabby now. The windows faced the square where my adversaries were now loitering, one of them was talking on a cell phone.
"Let me take your jacket, Sean. Sit down, oh! Take off that silly sweater, too, don't worry, I won't molest you… Much. Hah! Excuse me a moment." She winked as she went into the bathroom.
I guess if I had to chose between Sally's charms and a beating by a couple of goons, I'd take my chances with her. I thought it unlikely that she'd fight me, but she just might want to wrestle.
The Student as a Nigger
Metropolitan Junior College, Minneapolis, 1970
In 1967 the LA Free Press published an essay in The Los Angeles Free Press by Jerry Farber titled The Student As a Nigger. It spread like wildfire, first through underground newspapers, then as handouts in College English and Communications classes. It has since been reprinted many times. The tone of the essay is more than a little polemic, but the idea that students are "slaves" of the powers that be is getting more attention these days. The recent case of the 17 year girl in Texas shows exactly what kind of master-slave relationship still exists. Even in "progressive" Minnesota, where a 12 year old girl was allegedly forced to give up her Facebook™ password to school authorities.
Sure, she's only a kid, but more employers are asking to see would-be employees FB accounts as part of their employment interview; I would suggest it is all part of the same continuum. This issue, along with many other problems inherent in social networks, will keep me out. I believe the operating phrase is "Anything you say will be held against you."
Summer Reading - I
In my part of the world summer "officially" starts on Memorial day. A day which, in Minnesota, is often pretty cold and miserable. Especially if one is camping or at a lake cabin. Be that as it may, the coming of summer offers the prospect of languid days, long sunsets and warm nights. Perfect for curling up with "summer reading." Whatever that means. Light fiction to match light clothes? Breezy escapism to help escape the heat? With the rise of electronic books and the deluge of other e-media, one's options are broader than ever. After burning out on Faroese authors last winter I'm on a hiatus from weighty novels. I will, however, still be checking my internet favorites— short form writing that is a perfect companion for one's morning coffee or a no-calorie bedtime "snack." So here are four of my favorites, all of which brighten my world:
First up is I Heart Reykjavík, a one person guide to Reykjavík and its surrounding areas, by "Auður". Much more informative than the usual travel blog or guide-book fare, Auður's intimate approach (each post is about her personal experience) coupled with occasional glimpses of her own life makes this a must for anyone interested in a trip to Iceland. Her latest post, about a fascinating museum that I'd never heard of, is a good example of her insider information.
Auður is not just another enthusiastic blogger- she has years of experience in the travel industry and possesses an engaging writing style as well.
New material about twice a week.
Cafe Selavy bills itself as "An eclectic reflection about life in the present. Photography. Brief writings."
Created by a somewhat enigmatic professional photographer, this definitely NSFW site contains consistently excellent writing about the personal conflicts of an artist's life.
The pictures of masked models (often wearing little else) are pretty good as well.
Daily posts, with several years of writing and photography to peruse.
The Kasper Stromman Design Blog is, without a doubt, the most hilarious "Design" site in the history of the internet.
This Finnish designer is unafraid to poke fun at Finland, Finnish design ("without the birch veneer bits") and himself.
Wildly eclectic, sometimes just plain silly, Kasper's view of the world of design is definitely off-kilter .
Published several times a week.
A more serious site is wdvalgardson's kaffihus. Its author, "Bill" Valgardson is a professional writer and published author who specializes in the history of Icelandic immigrants in Canada.
This blog may be a bit esoteric for many readers, but the excellence of the writing and the humanity of the stories transcends genre.
New posts about twice a week.
Sharon exists in a universe of her own creation. Glimpse it, Fridays at FITK
Nótt með Undralandi
Running out of my apartment, I dashed across the street to where I saw the figure dash into the Embassy grounds.
"Billy... Billy... It's me, Sean..."
No response. The wind was picking up, and I had left my jacket behind.
"Billy... Billy I know you're there. Come out and talk. You know that I'm here for you? Just like it used to be in school- I'm there when you need me."
I thought about jumping the fence, but getting caught on Russian territory would not only blow my cover, but possibly cause an international incident.
"Billy, listen to me. I want to talk to you. Whatever is going on, I don't care. If you aren't ready now, email me—use the old address, it's still good."
No response from the shrubs. As the wind began to really howl a light came on in a window in the embassy. I reluctantly turned and went back to my apartment.
Back inside I turned off all the lights and looked out across the street at the Embassy. After a few minutes the light in the embassy window was switched off; after a few minutes more I saw the man who thought was Billy jump back over the fence. He took off running, past the Embassy, then turning the corner. I grabbed my jacket and left the apartment.
As I got to the corner, I crouched down and slowly peered around a fence. I could see Billy, or who ever he was, walking a block ahead where street led to the square. I let him get just out of sight and began to run. Man, was I out of shape. Breathless, I got to where the street opened up- the big square was on my left with the somber Alþing on my right. Just beyond was a church— Dómkirkjan, strangely glowing under the night sky. Looking to my left I saw a group of people huddled around a doorway on the far side of the square. Perhaps my quarry had taken refuge there.
When I got closer to the small crowd I could see that it was the entrance to a hall where a faint throb emerged from its open door. The doorman stared hard at me when I entered, perhaps he thought he was seeing double?
I paid the cover and went in.
Big in Japan...
... or, the one that got away. My cherished Japanese "Bizarre Guitar", a 1965 Guyatone LG-200T, is rare in its native Japan, and extremely so in the U.S. It was never imported here (no 'Made in Japan' markings) and its somewhat outré appearance has kept it from being iconic. Imagine my surprise when I found one for sale on Seattle's Craigslist (pictured at right.)
I was tempted to buy it (if owning one is good, having two must be great, right?) but the steep price ($600) for a fairly beat-up novelty was just too much.
Hats and purses for everyone.
Sharon's very own charitable goodness at work.
These rodents have never been happier.
Gather nuts while ye may, with Sharon at FITK
As I walked down to the old harbor, I was trying to figure out my next move. The city was obviously too small for two Billy Clarksons, I'd have to change my appearance enough so I could go unnoticed, but still be able to impersonate him if I needed to. I could wear glasses and a hide my hair under a hat. Not the best solution but perhaps I could find a costume shop in the morning.
The buzz from my phone broke my reverie, it was a text from Seattle, they were monitoring activity from Billy's laptop. They weren't able to read the data, but the device was being used in a wifi hot spot in The Hotel Holt- it was just a few blocks away- according to my GPS. I made my way past the pond and up the hill to the Hotel. I turned down Bergstadastræti and the Hotel loomed above me in the darkness, its architecture "severely Scandinavian." What now? Just barge in a make a scene? If he was still wearing his Lopi sweater people would think we were brothers—a family reunion of sorts! I checked my phone, he was still here, somewhere.
The lobby was infinitely more inviting, with large paintings and leather chairs. Except for a clerk at the counter, it was empty. A quick scan of the restaurant and the lounge revealed a few more people, but not Billy. I couldn't search all the rooms, but perhaps he was nearby, outside perhaps, borrowing some bandwidth. I went back out, to the service entrance and the neighboring lots, was just about to check the lobby again when a buzz from my phone signaled a text saying that he had terminated his access.
I headed back to my apartment, I needed more information than my phone could deliver. I walked down the hill, going the other way, walking on a road which bisected the pond and then up past the cemetery and finally jogging over to Garðestræti, back to my apartment. The Russian Embassy across the street was lit up as if they were expecting company. I went in to my apartment and opened up my laptop. After plugging in my security dongle, I logged into the ADR file on Billy. There was a bunch of new stuff; they were trying to establish a data base for his movements for the last two weeks and had plotted his connection points over a map of the city. There were even thumbnails of the photos he appeared in, they hadn't yet linked them to many places, although my trip to Karamba was already noted. I went out on my small balcony, looking again at the Embassy. A solitary pedestrian was walking past, when he reached the Embassy property he looked around quickly, then vaulted over the wrought-iron fence and disappeared in the shrubbery.
He looked a lot like Billy...
Memories in 3-D
Anoka, Minnesota, 1989, Photo by C.C.
Just a snapshot from a Nimslo camera. You could get your pictures made with the lenticular grid designed for the camera but I would just print them, cross my eyes, and then focus on middle image to create a 3-D effect.
That's me in the back, with one of my sons and his friend in front. I was a cold, rainy day in March, the Rum River is behind us and is still covered in ice. It was just a Saturday spent exploring the town, nothing really special, just ordinary special.
3-D doesn't make the memory of that day any more real. The relationships that constitute those memories are not spatial, but they are multidimensional. Will technology advance to the point where nearly any event deemed worthy of capture will be preserved in HD 3-D video, stereo surround sound and "smellovision?" And if it happens, will the recreation of the event supplant any human memories we may hold dear?
What would be the point?
A Life Together
I am strong in his hands, I am beyond me
On my own I'm human and I do faults
I do confess I feel you tricklings
Down my shoulders from above
I turn myself in, I give myself up
I volunteer, you own me, I'm yours
You have to trust it, I'm eternally yours
All that I gave them, I gave to you
So needy of comfort but too raw to be embraced
Undo this privacy and put me in my place
Generous palmstroke, the hugest of hugs
Undo this privacy, embrace embrace me
I am strong in his hands I am above me
On my own I am human and I do faults
She is strong in his hands, she is beyond her
On her own she is human and she does faults
She is strong in his hands
She is strong in his hands
She is strong in his hands
She is strong in his hands
~Generous Palmstroke, Björk
Posin' with Sharon at FITK, Fridays
I woke to the sound of a brilliant church bell. I had been sleeping for nearly ten hours. I was starving, fortunately Mrs. Robinson had seen to it that my kitchenette was loaded with food: fruit, bread, various sliced meats, dairy products, some dried soup mixes and a six pack of Pepsi Max. As I ate, I pulled up the images of Billy that the crew back in Seattle had found. It was Billy all right, but wearing a traditional Icelandic sweater. He was in some kind of cafe or coffee house, the sign on the wall was written in Icelandic. The picture had been posted the week before. A woman with a severe blond hairdo was looking straight into the camera. The picture was captioned Helgi, Billy, Þora og Moi. French? Or just an affectation? I loaded the image into my iPhone and headed out.
Christ, it was colder that it looked. Mrs. Robinson was right again, I should have brought a sweater. My windbreaker helped, but I needed something more substantial. Across the street from a small square inhabited by skateboarders I found a tourist shop selling sweaters. Perhaps Billy bought his here- I saw the same pattern, or maybe they were the same all over the country? When in Iceland, do as the Icelanders do? I bought one, just before the shop closed.
Wandering the streets, looking for a funky bistro. Just like being back in college. A lot of the places I walked by were swank, but as I went up the main drag the place at No. 22 looked funky enough and when I got inside I realized it was the same place as that which was in the photo. It was still early, the pace was nearly deserted as I walked up to the bar where the bartender nodded when he saw me.
It was what Billy always drank. Then it dawned on me. He thought I was Billy. The sweater must have cinched it.
"Yeah, Thanks." I slipped into the Billy impersonator role.
"You looking for Silu, já? She's mad at you."
"Yes, she's mad." I was acting like I knew what it was all about.
"She doesn't like it when you leave with another girl."
"Sometimes that happens." That was one of Billy's lines. He always said it with a broad smile. "Do you think she'll be back tonight?"
"Time will tell. Silu does what she wants. Listen to these words I say. You may be a big shot in the states but here, here you are just another tourist. Everyday, all year long, they come and they always go. Every Icelander knows this. Some of the women, they think you might be a ticket for them off the rock, but not Silu. Silu doesn't need you. Þora, Þora she thinks she needs you."
"Thanks for the warning."
I sat down in a corner, pulled out my phone and studied the picture of Billy, Silu and Þora. It had been shot on a phone and put through some cheesy app to make it look blurry. My hair was long enough. I'd have to comb it down and over my forehead a little more and pull the back over my shoulders, but I could still pass as Billy. At least he hadn't put on much weight. As I finished the beer a DJ was setting up in the corner.
I headed out into the night.
The old band would sometimes rent out a small ballroom above a Northside bar. A half-dozen kegs of cheap beer would be enough to make the crowd of teens happy; the drinking age was 18 then.
One time the floor shook so much that the bar owner told the band to stop. He thought the floor would cave in from the wild dancing.
After one gig, as we were loading the equipment, we heard a crash.
Then we heard sirens.
That was the last kegger the band threw.
Seeburg Stereomatic 100
You know she wiggles like a glow worm
Dances like a spinnin' top
She got a crazy partner
Ya oughta see 'em reel and rock
Long as she got a dime
The music won't never stop
~Roll Over Beethoven, Chuck Berry
The direct descendant of the 19th music boxes, the "Juke" boxes of the twentieth century replaced the mechanical discs (actually a form of multiple-track digital recording) with analog 78rpm disks, later replaced by the familiar "45's". Amplified to overcome noisy barrooms, the Juke boxes were an entertainment staple for years, still showing up in "retro" themed establishments. Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys had a personal Juke box with every record a copy of The Ronettes "Be my Baby". The most visually appealing juke boxes even let you see the mechanism, to see the actual artifact producing the music.
Now most public music is stored digitally, there no need for a large mechanism to store records, tens of thousands of tunes can be stored in a pocket-able device, or even completely disembodied in "the cloud."
So where is the focal point? Where does the music come from? Is it just "there", disembodied, no friendly beast in the corner, no fireplace glow from the push-button selectors, having been replaced by... nothing?
Swat not can your country do for you
but swat you can do for your country.
Sharon's just a little too fly, FITK Fridays
I found my apartment after a few wrong turns, it was on a quiet street a little above the pond and old part of town. My place was neat, if a bit sterile in the usual Ikean way. It had a proper ethernet connection- reassuring that I could plug in and not broadcast my activities to the whole neighborhood- especially when the Russian embassy was just across the street! Now I understood the remark by the customs official. Well, if I was going to play the spy, Mrs. Robinson certainly picked the right neighborhood. I logged into the network and opened my email.
May 2 (2 hours ago)
Hi, remember me? The bed is too lonely already. Mom's cat came downstairs for a while, but left when I wouldn't share my Chinese. Hope your flight was OK, and I'm sorry if you were hurt by what I said the other night. It's only a week or so, right?
I found the "Open only in case of emergency" letter you left. I didn't open it, it's nice of you to leave me a lifesaver.
It's nearly 1 A.M. Time for bed.
Mrs. Robinson had left me a half-dozen messages (didn't that woman ever sleep? , mostly GPS coordinates that I could check out. The most intriguing one was a link to a photo-hosting site:
May 2 (1 hour ago)
Sean: We've found Silu's photo-hosting site. Billy is in some of the pictures from 2004. But he's also in the new albums, starting about two-weeks ago, about the time he went missing:
Get some sleep, Billy is a nite-owl anyway.
I let Molly and Mrs. Robinson know that I had arrived safely and then slept.
Almost from the time they can talk, girls engage in life-lessons.
No teacher needed.
Endless hours of constructive play.
Dress up, child care, socialization.
Boys are years behind.
Some never catch up.