Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's in the Cards

This is chapter 22 of Window Weather, a serial fiction novel on FITK

“When are you leaving?” Þora said calmly. She wasn’t nearly so upset as she had been when she first sat down.

“Tomorrow,” said Sean, “The Embassy has some paperwork I have to complete in order to leave the country on short notice. Nothing is simple anymore.”

“What about your clothes?”

“My clothes?” Sean was wondering where Billy had kept his things.

“I’m not going to have them wasting space in my apartment.”

“We could get them now, if you like,” said Sean.

“Yá, but we’ll need to do it right away, I have to be at work at 12.”

Sean still needed to get the ‘Evidence’ file out of Billy’s computer. He needed it for his own protection as much as Billy had. Sean figured that without something to hold over the Senator he would become expendable after the election. He needed some insurance.

“Þora, do you know where I could get an SD card?”

“Memory card? I’ve got a spare for my camera, somewhere here in my purse.”

As she rummaged through her bag Sean thought of a way to save the file and get a message to Mrs. Robinson without blowing his cover. He went over to the next table and picked up a copy of the morning paper. Þora produced her camera and the card.

“Would you take my picture with this newspaper? On the spare card? I want to send it to my Aunt Mary in Seattle. She says I never send her anything from my trips abroad. She doesn’t believe me when I tell about my trips. I’ve got some files on the computer in the hangover shack to send to her too.”

“Why don’t you just e-mail them?”

“She doesn’t own a computer, she thinks it would spy on her,” said Sean,  “But she can bring the card to the library and view the files there.” Lying was becoming easier and easier.

“Já,” Þora put the card in her camera, “Smile.”

Sean held the paper close to his face with the date clearly visible.

“Satisfied?” she said, showing Sean the review.

“That’s great. Is there a place nearby where I can get a greeting card and a stamp?”

“Eymundssons, in Austurstraeti, it has cards in the basement,” Þora said, “The post office is across the street,” handing him the memory card.

“Let’s go back to the hangover shack. It will only take a minute to download the files, I’ll mail this to my aunt Mary, then pick up my clothes and you’ll be able to get to to work on time,” Sean said, although he didn’t have any idea where she lived.

“We’ll have to hurry,” Þora acted calm but Sean could see that she was still angry with him. Sean could see how Billy would have been attracted to her. “Mon petit Vulcan,” he thought as he watched her put her things in her purse.

They left the restaurant and went back to the storeroom. Sean copied the evidence file and then erased it, using a line command to make sure the computer was clean. He knew the Senator’s people would be going through it and Sean didn’t want them to think that  the file ever existed. He grabbed the duffel he had gotten from the embassy and the couple left, Þora leading him toward the center of town.

When they got to the Post Office Þora pointed Sean in the direction of Eymundsson’s and said “The cards are downstairs. I’ll get the stamp.  Make it quick.” Sean grabbed the goofiest Icelandic card he could find, paid for it, then wrote on the inside: Not dead yet. It’s in the card. Your eyes only. Wait for instructions. The greeting had a double layer cover printed in gold foil. Sean wedged the SD card between the cover’s layers and addressed the envelope to Mrs. Robinson at ADR in Seattle. She would be able to figure it out. Back on the street, he gave Þora the envelope. She stamped and mailed it.

“Come on, let’s go. I haven’t got all day,” Þora said.

Then she was off—walking so fast that Sean almost had to jog to keep up with her. They walked in silence along the edge of the pond. Swans and ducks gracefully swam in random patterns. Patches of blue sky and moments of sunshine erased all traces of the previous night’s wretched weather. Þora’s apartment was in the basement of a large stuccoed cube of a house near the south end of Tjarnargata. A living room, kitchen, three bedrooms with a shared bath. It had the appearance of a college dorm. Her flatmates were out.

“Don’t get any ideas about a repeat performance,” said Þora as they entered the flat. “I’ve put all your things there, on the floor, in the back of the closet,” she continued, waving at a pile of socks and shirts and pants. There were no shoes. As Sean put the clothes in the duffle bag, he felt them carefully, seeing if they held any clues—things which Billy might have forgotten. He hadn’t found anything until he picked up the last sock. It held a roll of at least thirty one-hundred-dollar bills. Sean doubted that would cause problems in customs, but it would be gauche to give it to Þora—turning his ‘fuck and run’ into something much worse.

“Þora, I’ve got this money,” Sean said,  “The embassy won’t let me keep it. Would you… hold it, hold it for my daughter? Don’t let on it’s from me. Get her a book or a dress once in a while. Take her out for an ice cream or a movie, I don’t know. Do something with it that you’d think would make her happy.”

Þora looked at Sean sadly and simply said: “Já,” then turned away and said, “Go now.” Sean reached out to embrace her but she shook her head and moved away.

Sean picked up the bag and went back to the hangover shack. He went in and stretched out on the pile of tarps. Then he crashed.

Next Chapter: Dream Lover

By Professor Batty

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pipe Dream

Sure, I could cash in my 401k and rent this place in the center of Rekjavík, right across the street from Fríkirkjan. Fill it with friends, live the expat lifestyle, and...

...and it really is quite a mad idea. But what dreamer hasn't thought of pulling up stakes and starting over in some exotic locale? And if you aren't still dreaming, what does the future hold?

By Professor Batty

Comments: 6 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Silent Movie

City Hall, Reykjavík, 2012

Night in the city.

A stranger in a strange land.

Each new vista encountered in my nocturnal ramble akin to to watching a silent play from another culture.

On the surface, everything is self-evident.

Underneath are hidden contexts and meanings.

An event, no doubt, perhaps an anniversary celebration.

The mannequin dressers were working late- it was nearly midnight.

They moved with grace, purposefully.

Ballerinas in a mimed ballet.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


"When the peace of Autumn has become poetic instead of being taken for granted...the last day of the plover become a matter of personal regret...the horse become associated with the history of art and mythology...the evening ice-film on the farm stream become reminiscent of crystal...and the smoke from the chimney become a message to us from those who discovered fire - then the time has come to say goodbye. The world-bacterium has overcome you, the countryside has turned into literature, poetry and art; and you no longer belong there."

~Halldór Laxness, The Atom Station,1948

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sunday in the City


Bæjarins beztu pylsa


Aurora Borealis

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Culture Night

I took coffee with one of the Laxness in Translation contributors, Silja Aðalsteinsdóttir, a most illuminating afternoon. Our conversation started with Salka Valka and went numerous places from there. Silja writes theatre reviews for TMM (Timarít Mals og Menníngar) and she suggested I see John Logan's play Rautt (Red) which was about the painter Mark Rothko. So it was that I found myself Saturday evening outside the Borgarleihusið (the City Theatre of Reykjavík):

It is a large complex with two theatres and a vast, airy lobby area, quite the contrast to the intimate Þjóðleikhúsið Kassinn venue I went to last night:

The play was quite wordy, although the context (late fifties New York art scene) and numerous instances of name-dropping in the script helped me follow the gist of the story. Rothko (Jóhann Sigurðarson) and his fictional assistant (Hilmar Gudjonsson) have heated conversations about the meaning of modern art:

Image: Vísir

Silja mentioned the quality of the acting, and she was right—Jóhann Sigurðarson was outstanding, his physical presence defined the character as much as his speech.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Brief Impressions of a Frantic Friday

Another beautiful day, warmish with no rain, I pedaled out to Grotta, an out of service lighthouse on the west end of town, desolate and picturesque:

Spent much of the day taking pictures around town. Tonight I went to Þjóðleikhúsið (The National Theatre) where I saw another exemplary performance. This time it was Jónsmessunótt, an original dark comedy. Afterwards I took a stroll through the downtown:

The downtown really comes to life after 2300. The clubs are full of beautiful people, even Harpa "dresses up" for the evening:

I caught a glimpse of this little afterparty outside city hall:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nótt og dag og nótt

Wednesday: rain. All day. Not exactly a deluge, but one could get quite wet with no trouble at all. There was a show at Faktorý (formerly Grand Rokk) in the evening, so I wandered out in my raincoat. As I strolled to the club I was tempted by the sight of this tableaux to get my own  Icelandic "souvenir:"

Reykjavík Ink, Tattoo Parlor

I have been in this club many times, but never when it felt so "tropical" (heat and humidity) as it did last night. I've been meaning to catch the techno/goth trio Samaris for some time (they don't tour much, being in high school) and was duly impressed by their spooky vibe:

It did rain off and on throughout the night but by Thursday morning the weather broke clear over the "hood":

I was out and about: the pool, Friða Frænka antiques, Nautholsvík, and, when it started to sprinkle again, I headed for the safety of Kríngland, the big shopping center. I was tempted by some sushi, but knew I would be going out to eat later tonight:

My destination—Dill! Not the herb (although there was plenty of that) but the Restaurant in the Alvar Aalto designed Nordic House in Reykjavík:

Seven courses of food and six courses of wine (plus a little Icelandic IPA thrown in.) This "warm potato salad" was nothing like my mother used to make:

Finally, two courses of dessert, including this delight "made with blueberries from Þingvellir":

Of course.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Breakfast Club

This is chapter 21 of Window Weather, a serial fiction novel on FITK

There was a café across the street from #11. Þora went into the restroom while Sean picked up a couple of coffees and sat down at a table by the window. His body felt on the verge of breaking down but he knew had to stay awake—there were some things which needed to be addressed.

First: His all too easy betrayal of Molly. Was he becoming just like Billy? Reverting to his own college days? Meaningless couplings that were always followed by feelings of self-loathing. The situation had been different with Molly. Somehow, everything just ‘worked’ between them. But now Sean had broken that bond—a bond which they had nurtured for months—in a moment.

Second: It now was obvious that there had been more going on between Þora and Billy than just flirtation. How would the “new” Billy measure up? Could Sean keep up the deception until he left Iceland or would Þora see through his charade? Their lovemaking had been good, perhaps too good, but it would have certainly been different than what had gone on before between her and Billy. As Sean stared into his coffee his reflection seemed to be that of a different person—not Billy, not Sean—it was someone else. Someone Sean didn’t like the looks of.

In the restaurant four older men, obviously regulars, sat amidst newspapers and coffee cups at a couple of tables that had been pushed together. They were talking in deep guttural tones, the conversation punctuated by the occasional “Já, Já, Já,” followed by a minute of silence before the murmur would begin again. It may have been the speed, but from time to time Sean would catch them looking in his direction. When Þora came and sat down, the men were definitely staring. Smiles crossed their faces. It was then that Sean realized how he had placed Þora in a situation beyond her understanding or control. “Her heart is going to be broken,” thought Sean, “but it isn’t my fault.” He knew that what he was thinking was wrong: it was a liar’s morality.

Þora sat down and looked at Sean for a long time before speaking.

“Who the fokking fokk are you?” she hissed.

What would Billy have done in this situation? Sean ran through a few scenarios in the silence that followed Þora’s outburst. Stonewall her? Laugh it off? Act dumb? Billy had gone through this scene, in one form or another, numerous times. What were the tricks that Billy used to use? Sean knew that no matter how bad the scene, Billy would never get mad and would never cause a scene. Then Sean began to remember the “advice” Billy had given him for handling a bad scene with a woman:
“Let her talk her way through it. There is no point in starting a fight about love and sex. She’ll cover all sides of the situation—if you keep your mouth shut. Let her flow on and on like a river. She’ll eventually reach a point where the wild rapids will empty into a calm lake.”
“Lately, I don’t know,” Sean said. He looked deeply into Þora’s eyes—as if he could find the answer there, “Help me,” he said. Sean was feeling even more disgusted with himself—were such a thing possible.

“Help you?” said Þora,  “How can I help such a man? You treat me like a stykki af skít, you don’t call, then tell me you were out all night ‘thinking’ and then you show up at the hangover shack with new clothes and fokking wingtip shoes? Wingtip shoes! What kind of fool do you take me for? What’s her name? Someone I know? Don’t tell me it was some fokking ferðamaður stelpu!”

The men at the other table were quiet. They weren’t looking at Sean and Þora, but Sean knew they were taking in every word. He swallowed hard. This scene wasn’t going to get any better unless Billy’s theory was right. Þora resumed her tirade:

“Pretty smooth lovemaking Billy,” Þora said under her breath, “Did you really think I couldn’t tell that something is wrong? Never were you so quiet before.”

They sat in silence.

The quiet of the restaurant was broken by the sounds of the ‘breakfast club’  getting up. The last man to leave looked at Sean before giving him a sly smile followed by a wink.  Þora glared back. The counter person came over and picked up the cups left by the men.

“Billy,” said Þora.


“You are trying to live in two worlds. It can’t be done. You must choose. An you must choose now.”

“I must go back. My father, for good or ill, is at the climax of his career. When this election is over I’ll be free to return. If I don’t support him now, it will tear our family apart. Give me a few months. I’m not proud of what I’m going to do. But I will come back. I’ll come back and then you will have my undivided attention.”

Þora was quiet again.

“Okay, Billy,” said Þora,  “Six months. Come back and we can start over.”

She bought it,” thought Sean.

Next Chapter: It’s in the Cards

By Professor Batty

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Yoko Ono and Lady Gaga were in town, Yoko gave Lady G an award in a private ceremony in the new Harpa hall on the waterfront (I was not invited):

I explored the inside of the hall- the construction of the windows is a thing to behold:

I spent some time on the Seltjarnarnes peninsula, and went to the salt-water pool there. My swimming pass wouldn't work, the attendant laughed and said "That's for the city pools, you're in the country now!" The pool was very nice indeed, although I'm not big on the way salt water feels on my skin.

The evening, of course, was Yoko's. She lights the Imagine Peace Tower every year on this date, the date of John Lennon's birth, and it remains lit until the anniversary of his death in December. It was somewhat controversial when it opened in 2007, but the city residents seemed to enjoy its presence and it is now also lit at Christmas and New Years. The only complication for me was that I had to take a dreaded ferry to Viðey island, where the light is and the ceremony took place. There was a nice big tour boat at the ferry, but it left just before I got in line. I ended up on a tiny ferry, about the same size as the boat which sank in Djupið. I shared a seat with some freelance photographers, I sensed the trip wasn't as big a thrill for them as it was for me:

There were thousands of people on the island and Yoko did appear, undaunted by the light rain, with sincere greetings to the crowd and the world at large:

The tower was lit a section at a time, while John's Imagine played. It was very nice:

Afterwards we all stood around waiting for the ferries, on the trip back (on the big ferry) I did meet some scouts from Georgia (not the US state.) A nice end to a memorable night.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Mondays in Iceland - #24

Took my bike to the Old Harbour part of Reykjavík.

It has undergone dramatic changes in the last 12 years. It is now full of very nice places to eat. The changes have been done for the most part by using existing buildings and keeping the new ones in proper scale, while still keeping the boatworks and other industrial uses. In a warehouse building I found the shop Farmers Market, a place featuring Icelandic garments:

After a swim I headed up the hill to a coffeehouse near Hallgrímskirkja to meet with Maria of the Iceland Eyes blog. We both were struck with the strange feeling of meeting someone for the first time, yet knowing an awful lot about each other - our blog interactions go back to 2004! Conversation ranged from blogging (past and present), Robert Graves, writing, music, relationships and life in general:

It was a rainy night, but my new DSLR is weather proofed, so it was a good night for seeing what it could do: As I was setting up for a shot this young couple "happened" to get in the picture:
Tomorrow Yoko Ono and Lady Gaga will be in town, Yoko will be giving Lady G an award.

I'm going to try to sneak in to the ceremony.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Lazy Sunday

More time spent at Kolaportið. People watching at its finest:

From Iceland 2012

The Weaver told me to send more pictures of yummy Icelandic food:

Went to the pool, where I was treated to sun, sleet and rain. In other words: regular Icelandic weather. Afterwards, I hung out in a small bar, a thing which I almost never do. Very low key, no neon beer signs, and a very quiet crowd, it could become a bad habit:

Took more pictures after dinner. It was fairly chilly tonight, but should warm up a bit for the rest of the week.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 8 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Kolaportið, Kaffi, and Kormákur

After yesterday's adventures, I decided to take it a little easier today, sticking close to my apartment. I did go to Kolaportið, a combination flea market/grocery with a wide variety of seafood, meats, pastries and even a few vegetables:

I spent the afternoon in the company of an old blog-pal, her husband and their absolutely charming toddler:

In the evening I went to see Baltasar Kormakur's newest film Djupið, (The Deep), a true story of a fisherman who swam seven miles in the frigid sea after his ship sank. Brutally realistic: they filmed in the ship as it was sinking!

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Paradise Regained and Lost Again

Friday was an absolutely perfect day for a bike ride. Warm in the sun, cool in the shade, very little wind. I'd thought I'd take the 30km ride to Gljúfrasteinn, the preserved home of Nobel Prize winning writer, Halldór Laxness. Getting out of town is a bit tricky on a bicycle, but it did contain  some spectacular views from the bike path:

Hamrahlið, Near Reykjavík

The Laxness home was modest and very Scandinavian, almost to the point of being severe:


The guide was familiar with the Laxness in Translation Site and we talked a great deal about Laxness and his work. The inside is exactly as it was when Laxness lived there; I was even given a special glimpse of the kitchen. I managed to sneak this pic of the master's study:

HKL's study, Gljúfrasteinn

The trip back held many photogenic vistas:

Near Gljúfrasteinn

I did manage to get hopelessly confused as to which path I should take (I took a different route on my return trip) but was finally straightened out with the help of this Viking compass:

Somewhere near Mosfellbaer

After I finally managed to drag myself back to the apartment, I ate dinner then went to the pool.

For some reason, the hot tub felt especially good tonight.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Back on the Rock

Landed without incident at 06:35 at Keflavik International Airport. Got to town on the Flybus and checked in at my apartment. I went for a morning stroll and caught Mount Esja in all its glory:

Mount Esja, Iceland 2012

I ran into one of the directors at the Reykjavík International Film Festival, she struck up a conversation and I showed her I already had her film written down in my book:

Andrea Sisson and friend, Reykjavik, 2012

I managed to squeeze in a little brekkie:

Breakfast of Champions, Prikið, Reykjavik, 2012

I picked up some groceries and my bike, and then soaked in the hot pots, and had a nap. I woke to the dulcet tones of a sound check from Biggi Hilmars—he was giving a CD release party at Fríkirkjan, the church just a few steps away from my front door. I went to the concert, which was very well done, and got these shots:

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Monday, October 01, 2012

Re: thingsssssssssss

Whaling ships, Reykjavík, 2006

September 15, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Hiya Batty!

Your trip isn't too far off, is it? So exciting! I bet you have lot's of plans for pictures you're going to take for your serial novel; what fun.

I had been trying hard to remember where I had put your panoramic photo of Reykjavik, as I am ready to put it on one of our log cabin walls that isn't log. Well, I went over to the old house today to retrieve some things from the attic (including a crib!), and there it was, hanging in Peter's bedroom. I said, "I'm ready for that back, Now!" Peter looked crestfallen, and then said, "Could you ask Professor Batty if he could print one for me too? I would like to pay him for it." Would you consider that? Or, maybe you'd like to take another, different panoramic this next trip? Either would be great, but only if you let me pay.

Tell me how your travel plans are shaping up! Oh, did I tell you that I got a perfect edition of Barbara from Bookmooch, sent from Australia! Planning to read it soon.

Your pal,

September 15, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Hi Darien!

Hi, greetings from the Flippist pre-travel anxiety center. Actually, I've got less trepidation this time—I have virtually nothing scheduled (except a meeting with old blog-pal Kristín). I have a rental bike reserved for the whole duration, hopefully it won't snow like it did last Monday! I have other copies of that pano, but I will make many new panos this trip- best to wait and see. I'd love to catch a performance by Pascal Pinon, but I think they'll be too busy with their homework! I'll be scouring the bookstores and Kolaportið for Þórbergur Þórðarson. I think you will be knocked out by Barbara, it is truly a book to be savored. Kathryn loved it.

Your slightly nervous blog-pal,


September 28, 2012 at 9:54

So Professor! I am really surprised. You used the words "anxiety" "trepidation" and "nervous" in one (1) email! I had no idea. What is the cause of these feelings? Do you not like flying? Meeting new people? Situations that are unpredictable? Divulge. Bare your soul. Not meaning to sound quite so sarcastic, just surprised at this unexpected view.

What are your dates? Might you do a major bike trek, on out to Gljúfrasteinn? And, have you ever been horseback riding in Iceland? You should do that! Maybe you'll have enough time to take the ferry out to the Westman Islands, that's a wonderful trip. My thoughts fly with you ...

yr. pal Darien

September 29, at 8:35

Hi again, Darien!

Your reading between the lines of my email has unearthed my deepest secret—I AM A NERVOUS NELLIE! If there is anything which can go wrong, I will imagine it. Actually, I've never had a fear of flying and this time I'll be flying direct so the actual travel will be nearly painless (spending the night in Boston's Logan Airport is like being in one of Dante's circles of hell!) Meeting people is easy for me- and Icelanders have always been werrry werrry nice to me. Unpredictable situations? This is possibly the first major trip I've taken that I won't have any concerns about that—I'm even staying in the same room I did last time. The weather is a concern, of course, and Lordy am I ever overdue for some of the wild stuff. In four trips I've spent over a month in Iceland and in that entire time I have only experienced one light shower in Reykjavík and an hour of rain in Reykjanesfolkvangur. 2006 was glorious- sunny and warmish every day and calm at night with northern lights. Time will tell.

I'm leaving the on the 3rd, and will return the 16th. Gljúfrasteinn is on the agenda, FINALLY! Actually, the distance there is about the same as my bike commute to work, although definitely not so flat. I've got a new camera outfit which fits on the back of my bike so I will be taking lots of pictures, including panoramas. I will be there in time to catch the end of the Reykjavík International Film Festival, and there are a couple of CD release concerts at Iðno as well. But my daily routine will include swimming and soaking at the pools every day, hardfiskur og smjör, skyrr and pylsur. Horses? I might eat some. Ferry? Now that is definitely one of my phobias, although I will take the ferry to Viðey (all of 1000 meters) for the lighting of Yoko's Peace Tower.

So there you have it.
Batty's secret fears exposed.
Whenever I have been in Iceland,
I always feel relaxed,
As if I really belong there.
I don't know exactly why that is,
But it's why I keep going back.
This time will be lower key, I'm sure.

And that's alright.


By Professor Batty

Comments: 7 

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