Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween



   “Emily, do you know anything about some paintings of yours that Regelind had?” asked Sean, looking up from his laptop.

   Sean, Emily, and Mary were having breakfast in Sean and Mary’s apartment.

   “My paintings?” said Emily, “What do you want to know?”

   “It’s part of the estate,” said Sean, as he turned the screen toward Emily, “The executors sent me some pictures.”

   “My paintings! They still exist!” Emily said, “John Regelind Senior bought them, back in the 20s. He told me he was going to stage an exhibition; I’d be the toast of New York, he'd get even richer. When the crash came the market for fine art collapsed, and that was that. I got pregnant, I went back to Iowa and had Tina. Later, when I went back to New York, he never spoke of them again. His money was good, though. I used most of it to save the farm. I did more paintings later—in the thirties—I don’t know what happened to them, they were in my apartment when I became ‘frozen’ in the Chamber Hose. Does it say how many there are?"

   “The email said there are a dozen framed, and twenty-one unframed,” Sean said, “Perhaps you’ll have that exhibition yet.”

   “That seems about right, the framed ones were for the show. The unframed ones must be the ones I did later,” Emily said,  frowning, “Too bad I won’t live to see any show,” she said, “I met my guide last night.”

   “What do you mean, ‘your guide’?” asked Sean.

   “The Norn, the spirit being who will take me through to the other realm. When my time here on earth is over.”

   “How did you meet, w… where…?” Sean stammered, “I don’t understand.”

   Mary, who had been quiet throughout breakfast, spoke:

   “That explains my dream last night. The woman in the hat. I thought she had come for me at first. But she turned away.”

   “I met her through the spirit painting I was working on last night. The Haitian, John de Conqueroo, he had told me all about spirit guides. It won’t be long now.”

   There was a prolonged silence. Finally, Sean spoke:

   “Is there anything you’d like to do before you leave?”

   “I’d just like to be where there are people and children,” Emily said, “People, for all their faults, are what human life is all about. And I want to hear the sound of children laughing.”

   “There is a Halloween party tomorrow night, at Carkeek Park. There will be a lot of people—there is a playground—there should be kids,” said Mary, “We can dress up.”

   “I’d like that,” Emily said, “I’d really like that.”

   “I’ll see if any of the crew from ADR is up for it,” said Sean, “I can go as Rich Uncle Pennybags—you know, the guy from the Monopoly game.”

   “Don’t let your new-found wealth go to your head,” said Mary, “With my current body I’m looking more and more like a pumpkin. Or maybe I’ll be a snow-woman. In whiteface.”

   “I’ll go as what I really am… ” said Emily, “… a witch.”



      The crowd at Carkeek was already sizable by the time Sean, Mary, and Emily arrived. There was a bonfire. In the west the sky still retained a streak of light even though the sun had set. Emily walked over to a bench next to the playground and sat down.

   “Are you going to be OK here?” asked Mary, who had decided against an elaborate costume. She was in gypsy garb; with a flowing dress and a colorful scarf around her head. Sean had a top hat and a three-piece suit. “There’s a blanket in the car if you get cold.”

   “I’ll be fine. You kids go for a walk. Just let me sit here a while by myself.”

   The harvest moon shone brightly over the fields. Only an occasional cornstalk rose above the stubbled field. 

   “Emily, come on in, you’ll trip and fall, running around in the dark like that.”

   “In a little while Ma, the moon is bright, I won’t fall.”

   “You’re almost thirteen, you’re too old to be playing in the dark.”

   “I’ll be careful, Ma.”

   The barn cats ran along the fence, their eyes glowing as they looked back at Emily and the house behind her. Emily went out into the field, farther and farther, until the house lights were just a tiny spec. The smell of the soil had an essence of decay, but also contained a more subtle odor: a scent of new life, of life emerging out of death. Emily looked up at the moon. It was playing hide and seek behind the scudding clouds. In the distance, at the edge of the corn field, was the meadow, with the limbs of its naked trees stretching upward as if they were entreating the moon to descend and join them. Emily reached up to the moon, as if she were going to hold it to her breast and cuddle it like a baby.  She felt a warm wetness in her crotch. She touched her leg and when she brought her fingers up to her face she smelled blood. Emily knew that she was no longer a child.  
   The shrieks of the children broke Emily’s reverie. They were in costume, chasing each other in the near-darkness.  A sudden chill swept over Emily as she rose and went over to the bonfire. The flickering flames created silhouettes of those between her and the flame while the faces of those on the other side of the fire seemed to be aflame. Emily shivered; she walked up to where Sean and Mary were standing and put her body next to Mary’s.

   “Oh Mary, I’m so cold.”

   “Sean, go get the blanket,” said Mary.

   “No. Don’t go, stay with me.” said Emily, shaking.

   Emily got a sudden whiff of freshly turned earth. She turned away from Mary and Sean and saw a woman standing beside her. The woman was wearing a hat with a turned down brim. Her face was in shadow. Emily nodded, and then turned back to Sean and Mary.

   “I’ve never been any good at goodbyes… ” Emily began, “But this is one. It’s time.”

   “Grandmother… ” said Sean.

   “Oh, Emily… ” said Mary, choking back a sob, “What will I do without you?”

   “Listen. My time here is over, but this is what you should do: Love each other. Love your child. Love life. Love humanity, as broken and torn as it is; heal it.”

   The woman in the hat took Emily’s hand.

   “Don’t try to follow me,” Emily said.

   The two women left the bonfire and walked down to the bridge over the railroad tracks that lead to the ocean. It was quite dark now, the only things visible were the distant lights of the city and the faint reflection of those lights in the clouds above. Sean and Mary didn’t move. They watched Emily and the Norn walk over the bridge. From their viewpoint, it was impossible to see them once they began their descent to the shore.








Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Night Parade



My city’s Halloween Festival starts a week early, with the night parade. Floats, a marching band (only 1!) and the Fire Department vehicles make up this innocuous event. They turn off the street lights when the parade starts, the kids like to dress up and wear glow-rings, most folk have a good time.

But not all folk. The hell and damnation Christians were there, scowling, handing out pamphlets, and scaring the children. Their homophobic message was clear enough.

It isn't enough that the various Christian sects have numerous holidays: in their view the heathen aren't entitled to have any. No one paid them much mind. Their crazed mien reminded me of terrorists.

No bombs, though. Not this year anyway.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Monday, October 26, 2015

Screenshots

Every once in a while I'll take a screenshot of something on the internet that I find intriguing. The first one is the sign-in page for one of my eMail accounts, taken when I was in Iceland recently. It seems that when you are accessing a Google account in another country, the country's native language is used by default. It makes sense, although Google has more than enough information about me to know that I'm not, in this case, Icelandic:



I've been getting hits from this next address on the Laxness in Translation sitemeter for several weeks now. I think someone there is working the night shift, monitoring space probes perhaps, and has a lot of free time:



The last example is also from my Laxness in Translation sitemeter. Considering the fact that it references Hallór's "commie" novel The Atom Station, I find the URL of the visitor more than a little intimidating:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 7 




Friday, October 23, 2015

After Midnight

         


   “You’re still awake? Usually, lovemaking knocks you out,” Mary said, slipping back into bed, “Not that I’m not complaining. What’s on your mind?”

   “I’m not comfortable with the idea of being obscenely wealthy,” said Sean, “I’m afraid that it has a very real potential to ruin everything.”

   “So give it all away. You’ll still have me and the baby. I won’t love you any less if you do. We’ve been through enough weird shit already. The baby will love you as well—if you’ll let her.”

   “I don’t want to wreck her life, too,” said Sean, “She’ll have enough of a struggle with The Matriarchy. She shouldn’t have the albatross of unearned wealth as well. As far as giving the money away, that would bring us a lot of unwanted attention. What have I turned into? I came out to Seattle to become invisible, and now I’m Mr. 0.01%, a wealthy cyber-celeb.”

   “Don’t let fear and self-loathing destroy you,” said Mary, “Put the money in a blind trust if you have to—you can deal with it all later. Our daughter will still have to grow up. She’ll need a strong father to help her lead a normal life, at least until she comes into her maturity.  It’s pretty obvious that I’m not going to be a ‘regular’ mother; things for me are only going to get stranger. But you, you can be the one to provide her with some sense of a regular childhood. She’ll grow into her knowledge and understanding gradually, but she still needs to be a girl with a dad,” Mary paused, then said, in a determined voice: “Sean, listen to me. Each of us has a destiny. Embrace it. There is no escape, never has been, never will be.”

   “You’re right, of course,” said Sean, “But don’t you ever have second thoughts about bringing another child into this world, into this set of circumstances?”

   Mary waited a full minute before answering.

   “Having children is an affirmation, an affirmation which says: ‘This child is born for the future, to make the world a better place.’ It is what The Matriarchy is all about. Our beginning is a given. Our ending is as well. The middle part—humanity’s messy struggle for existence, all the joy and despair, the love and the hate—that part is amenable, in an infinite variety of ways. The old way of eternal war between nations, between tribes, between men and women; it can change. That change has already begun. The challenge for us now is to avoid being swept up in the mælstrom of events which will come with these changes. Don’t falter now, Sean. You’ve gotten this far, take the chance—you just might succeed—and if you give up you will certainly have failed, failed just as much as if you never tried.”

   Now it was Sean’s turn to be silent. Finally, he spoke:

   “I won’t let you down. It’s just that I feel like sometimes I’m in over my head.”

   “Who wouldn’t feel that way? I’m not exactly comfortable with my role in all this. But what has made the difference for me is that I’ve got Emily's support and instruction. It is the way of The Matriarchy: support and understanding. It is the opposite of the power struggles of The Brotherhood.”

   “There will always be a gap between us, won’t there?” said Sean.

   “No, not always. The barriers between the sexes with come down when The Matriarchy’s ultimate fulfillment comes to its fruition,” said Mary, “And that day will come.”



   Down in her apartment, Emily was wide awake, as usual. Since her re-animation, she hadn’t really slept, not in the way she did before. “I’ve been asleep for seventy years.” she mused, “That should be enough for three lifetimes.” She would rest, even closing her eyes at times, but her mind was always racing. Since she discovered that she was aging rapidly, the most pressing issue was her own mortality. She had had premonitions of her demise before, but now, when she directed her inward gaze at her own future, all she could see was a murky blackness, inhabited by amorphous forms.

   Emily had picked up some art supplies, augmenting the vintage pigments that Sean had shipped back from Iowa. Emily had never given up her habit of drawing or painting. It was a compulsive, almost automatic act. She would often work on an image for hours. She felt that this activity allowed her to take a look at her own sub-consciousness.  By using brushes and thin washes on water color paper, Emily's monochrome palette matched her inner vision. This night was no exception. It was near dawn when she put down her brush and stepped back to look at the result.

   It wasn’t much to look at at first glance but, after she had stared at it for a while, an image seemed to coalesce out of the vague strokes on the paper. A woman with long hair, smiling and wearing a broad-brimmed hat. Most of her face was obscured in shadow. Emily instinctively knew who the woman was: a Norn, who would be her guide to the after-life.

   “Pleased to meet you,” Emily said, putting down her brushes.




Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ufouma and Vigtýr and Me


Original image: DV

   The hot tub conversation I was having with Ufouma was interrupted when we were joined by Vigtýr, 'The Banjo Player', as Ufouma called him. He was in his mid 30s, tall and handsome, with long blonde hair—a regular Viking. Ufouma, who had been out of the country for the last few weeks, had to catch up on things and asked him how he had been doing lately. His answer was quick in coming and surprised me with its bluntness.

   "I've been feeling kind of… I guess you could say I've been lonely."

   Ufouma, expressing genuine concern, started asking questions. Vigtýr said he had always been self-reliant, but lately it had started to catch up with him. Ufuoma knew that he had some health issues as well, including surgery to relieve nerve damage in one leg, a condition which caused him to have phantom pain in his foot. Ufouma nonchalantly picked up his leg and began to massage the offending foot.

   "I know someone in London, he can help you, no surgery, you should go see him." she said. She then lifted her leg above the swirling water and showed us the scars on her leg. She had gotten them from the exhaust of a motor scooter. They were interesting, two round spots, had her healer friend helper her recover? I didn't have any interesting stories to offer about either of my legs.

   The instant rapport we shared (based mostly on Ufuoma's extremely engaging personality), was like a meeting between old friends. It would be hard to image in any other circumstance, but the leveling nature of the hot-pot made it seem natural.  It was with great deal of reluctance that I finally took my leave to catch the flight back home.


By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Monday, October 19, 2015

12 Tónar Treasure



Quite possibly the hippest record store in the universe. Located in an old house at Skólavörðustígur 15 in "downtown" Reykjavík, this humble establishment has been at the forefront of Icelandic music for years. I had previously stopped in in 2009 with Wim of I Heart Icelandic Music and Heiða of the Icelandic band Hellvar. Last week I returned and Johannes was still there, greeting me with hot coffee and all the latest in Icelandic music. One display had a group of hand-painted CD boxes with a home-made CD nestled on a bed of grass inside:



Needless to say, when I discovered that it was an EXTREMELY LIMITED* edition of the music for the National Theatre's adaptation of Sjálfstætt fólk (Halldór Laxness' Independent People) I snatched up the one with the most 'artistic' cover. The music is melancholy and spare; I found it to be most enjoyable (althogh the Weaver thought it to be almost unbearably sad), and was more than a little surprised (although I shouldn't have been) when I discovered that the composers were Högni Egilsson and Guðmundur Óskar Guðmundsson, of the group Hjaltalín. I last saw them playing with Páll Óskar at the 2009 Iceland Airwaves festival:


         Högni Egilsson                                                               Guðmundur Guðmundsson

*18 copies!

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Friday, October 16, 2015

Family Tree



   Mary slipped the stack of documents out of the envelope and spread them out on the kitchen table. The top-most were legal in nature, pertaining to the adoption service and the U.S. Department of Naturalization. Mary scanned the documents and stopped at the line that was labeled ‘country of birth.’

   Haiti.

   “Look at this,” Mary said to Emily, handing her the form, “I should have guessed.”

   “More than one of the spells in my book was from Haiti,” said Emily, “From the voodoo priest John de Conqueroo. Now there was a man!”

   “Is that a real name?”

   “It’s an old name, the name of a legend—John de Conqueroo was more than just one  person,” answered Emily, “But it fit him. He was quite a presence in the East Village, just before the crash. I’d go to parties with the artistés and bohemians, John de Conqueroo would be there, he would dance. Lordy. He would dance and chant poetry:  ‘spells of power’ he called them.”

   “Those are the ones at the end of the book, the incomplete ones?” asked Mary.

   “I wrote down what I could understand,” said Emily.

   “A notebook, handwritten…” Mary said as she took it out of the pile. “… um…”

   Nestled within the pages of the notebook was a folded sheet of onionskin paper. Mary unfolded the thin sheet with care. The text on it was written in the Haitian patois.  Its structure was unmistakable: a genealogy. At the bottom was a name, Mareka, next to the word bébé. The date was Mary’s birthday. Going on up the tree there was a list of mothers—all with the word mort after the name.  There were also places for fathers.  Many of those slots had the word inconnu, but a name on one of the branches leading to Mareka caught Emily’s eye.

   “J. de Conqueroo, mort 1933. My old friend,” said Emily, “You are les petite tuit-tuit, Mary.”

   “Wha…?” said Mary.

   “John always would sing of a little girl, a descendant, who would someday be born to save the world.”

   “How can that be true?” said Mary.

   “Every little girl is born to save the world,” said Emily, in a soft voice.

   “Would that be so,” answered Mary.

   They heard the latch of the apartment door opening.

   “We’re in the kitchen,” said Mary, “How did your secret meeting with the lawyers go?”

   “Good. You’re both here. And both sitting down,” said Sean. He looked troubled. “I guess you could say I’ve got a new career ahead of me.”

   “Meaning… ?” said Mary.

   “Along with my Aunt Tina, I’ve inherited the estate of John Regelind III.”

   “Everything for you and Tina?” said Mary, “Emily didn’t rate a cut?”

   “The mistress never gets a slice of the pie,” Emily said, “I am surprised that John III didn’t try to cut you out of the deal.”

   “He had evidently experienced a change of heart. The will was changed a few days before the explosion at the Chamber House. Absolutely on the up and up. The lawyers thought the estate could run into the high eight figures. Now what will I do? I’ve become a rich man; I am the camel trying to get through the eye of a needle.”

   “You could always give it away,” said Emily, “Or take up an expensive hobby, like crashing airplanes. I’m not eligible—now that the brotherhood is gone, nobody knows of my existence.”

   “Except for us,” said Sean.

   “Marcel du Page, lord of the dance, knows Emily,” said Mary, “In the biblical sense.”

   “He knows me as ‘C-a-r-o-l’,” said Emily, “Which isn’t a lie. And we were ‘consenting adults’, in any sense of either word.”

   “And my stepmother, Harriet—she stopped in today.  I told her that Emily is our neighbor,” said Mary, “Also not a lie.”

   “Your stepmother was here? Didn’t she want to stay and meet me?” asked Sean.

   “Things are difficult between me and that woman,” said Mary, “When she saw that I was pregnant she was disturbed, not so much that I was expecting a baby, I think that the thought of me being involved with a man, much less married to one, bothered her more. She always disapproved of my seeing boys. But she did bring me my adoption papers, finally.”

   “The contents of the locked drawer, opened at last?” said Sean, motioning to the papers on the table, “These are all of them? Why did she bring them to you now?”

   “They are all of them as far as I know. Harriet is moving to a retirement community in Florida. Maybe she needed the drawer space,” said Mary, “Some of these papers are extremely interesting. There is a branch of Voodoo in my family tree—and one of Emily’s old flames is Mary’s great-grandfather.

   “He wasn’t an old flame, he was a kindred spirit,” said Emily.

   “I was adopted from Haiti,” said Mary, “My birth name is Mareka.”

   “Really?” asked Sean. “Mareka?”

   “As in MAREKA! THE GREAT GODDESS!” said Mary.

   While Sean and Mary continued talking, Emily was examining a notebook that was among the papers Harriet had left.

   “Here it is—” Emily said, “—the final key to the spells of power. Now you are truly Mareka, the all powerful.”

   “Now what?” Mary said grimly, “You have all the money and I have all the power. We’ve become our own worst enemies.”

   "This too shall pass,” said Emily.

   Later that night, after Emily had left, Sean and Mary were getting ready for bed. Mary impulsively grabbed Sean by the short hairs.

   “Let’s see if this camel can pass through the eye of Mareka’s needle to enter the Kingdom of God” she purred.




Fiction

By Professor Batty




Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Fimm Konur


Tjörnin, Rekjavik, 2015

It would be disingenuous of me not to acknowledge the women who enriched my recent trip to Reykjavík. As it has always been, even from before the beginning of FITK, it seems that it is the women who have always made the biggest impression on me in my restless wanderings in the wilds of the 'blogosphere' (how quaint that term seems now), and in my real world sojourns as well. 



M—, writer and erstwhile blogger, met me at her favorite local coffeehouse, we wasted no time in catching up. Not so much in listing our recent activities but, rather, where we were in the arc of our respective lives. She had experienced some stormy weather; it had tested her and caused her to do much soul-searching as well as no little amount of real anguish. Our conversation came to a peak in a moment of shared non-verbal emotion—only a second or two—when the gap between us seemed to disappear and our facades crumbled in the shared awareness of our humanity.
I waited 'til I saw the sun
I don't know why I didn't come
I left you by the house of fun
I don't know why I didn't come


Y—, artist, musician, advocate. Resolute in the face of adversity, this survivor has never given up in her eight decades of striving for the expansion of consciousness and the greater good of humanity. Standing in a freezing drizzle, she addressed the faithful who, like her, had come to this windswept island in the bay to honor the legacy of her long since departed soul-mate.
Out across the endless sea
I would die in ecstasy
But I'll be a bag of bones
Driving down the road alone


?—, an accidental dinner companion, who had come to Iceland from Japan to see the auroras, geysers, and to steep herself in a foreign culture. Our words were few but our shared laughter and the brief flickers of connection were genuine. The restaurant's background music was Norah Jones—a fitting, if somewhat oblique, soundtrack to our current situation.
Something has to make you run
I don't know why I didn't come
I feel as empty as a drum
I don't know why I didn't come


U—, with whom I shared water and philosophy. From Africa, via England, she had found a new home and a spouse in Iceland, as well as becoming assimilated into the culture. She enjoyed a close relationship with her new-found community. She spoke of overcoming 'the fear' which can isolate us and which brings us only misery. She radiated life, and as she interacted with the patrons of the pool they reciprocated the feeling.
When I saw the break of day
I wished that I could fly away
Instead of kneeling in the sand
Catching teardrops in my hand


And finally there was A—, my long-time Icelandic inspiration, who has transformed herself from a callow youth into a minor institution—as well as becoming an un-official "greeter"; the first Icelander many people interact with. She has given and given for so long, to so many people around the world, that she has outgrown me—outgrown in the best sense of the word. I only had a few seconds to say hello and goodbye.
My heart is drenched in wine
But you'll be on my mind
Forever…

Don't Know Why lyrics by Jesse Harris.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Monday, October 12, 2015

Cats of Reykjavík


Hugo

Cats have the run of the city. The fine specimen above thought it was great sport to hide behind tombstones and box my legs as I walked by (no claws were used.) Most cats have collars: in exchange for an affectionate rub they allow you discover their name.

Sunday opened with heavy clouds, although the rain held off. I spent the morning drinking coffee with an animated group of about thirty Icelandic men. Sufficiently caffeinated, I strolled about the old harbour which is undergoing a massive overhaul. There are still plenty of ships though:



The sun broke through just about the time I got to the pool and it would become the most glorious day yet:



When I got back from the pool there were a cluster of people in the churchyard. One of the Cats of Reykjavík had evidently just spent his ninth life. It had a collar but no tag. A woman was posting a picture of the creature to Facebook in hopes of finding its owner.



When I came back from dinner, the cat was gone.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 4 




Sunday, October 11, 2015

Laugardagur nótt rúntur

The Sushi food truck gets ready for another Saturday night in Reykjavík's old town:



Open bottles aren't really legal on the street, but the police are on strike anyway:



Couples are common. Some are excited, some are blasé:



The twenty-somethings seem to be having the most fun:



The greeter at the Men's club checks her email, it's still early:



Early enough for a fair number of children to be out:



The teens are too young to drink, but they can still be stylin':



No Rúntur would be complete without a stop at Bæjarnins beztu pylsur:

By Professor Batty


Comments: 2 




Saturday, October 10, 2015

Imagine… Viðey



















Yoko Ono's annual lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower, Viðey, Iceland.

John Lennon would have been 75 today.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Friday, October 09, 2015

Awkward Moments



   Mary’s stepmother Harriet said she would be there in about half-an-hour and hung up.

   “Should I leave?” asked Emily, “I don’t think your stepmother would understand my being here.”

   “No, No, I want a witness. She said she had some things for me, it’s probably some more unwanted baggage that she wants to dump on me,” replied Mary, “I’ll just tell her that you live in the building—that’s not even a lie.”

   “It isn’t exactly the whole truth either, but this isn’t a court of law,” replied Emily. “That will work.”

   “Sooo… tell me more about your night of passion with the lord of the dance,” said Mary, with a twinkle in her eye, “Details.”

   “Oh, you’ll make me blush,” said Emily, laughing, “A lady must have some secrets.”

   “Okay. Are you going to see him again?”

   “Mmm, maybe. Maybe not.”

   “Coquette!” hissed Mary.

   “He asked for my number. I told him I didn’t have one. He didn’t believe me. Call me old-fashioned, but I wouldn’t dream of giving out a phone number on the first date.”

   More laughter, from both women.

   “How about the clothes?” said Mary, pointing to the sweatpants and top that Marcel had lent Emily. “Or are you just going to keep them as souvenirs?”

   Emily pulled a card out of her jacket pocket.

   “I’ll have them delivered.” she said, “Seriously, I didn’t tell him anything about me.”

   “Not even your name?” asked Mary.

   “I told him my name was Carroll, but I didn’t spell it, so that’s not a lie either.”

   “How did you get home?” asked Mary.

   “He lent me money for a cab.”

   “What destination did you give when you ordered it?” Mary continued.

   “Pike Place Market. Close enough to walk home from, big enough to hide in.”

   The intercom buzzed and Harriet appeared on the CCTV, standing in the lobby.

   “It’s your mother,” came the voice from the speaker.

   “Com’on up, 10th floor, #1012,” said Mary as she pressed the button. She turned back to Emily and said, “Here we go.”

   After a couple of minutes, there was a rap at the door and Mary got up and opened it.

   “Hello, Harriet,” said Mary, “Harriet, this is Emily. She’s a neighbor, she lives on the 9th floor. Emily, this is my stepmother.”

   “I’m her adoptive parent. Mary, you know I don’t like it when you call me stepmother,” said Harriet.

   Harriet was a small woman in her mid-sixties. Her hair was blonde with frosted accents, it appeared to be expensively styled, as were her clothes. She was holding a large manila folder. Emily, with a closed expression, eyed her closely.

   “How have you been Harriet?” said Mary, “How are things in Santa Fe?”

   “I am well. I am leaving New Mexico, the property values there have gone up so much that I received an offer that I literally could not refuse. I’m moving to a retirement community in Florida. I came up here to take care of a few matters with George. I also brought you some papers, papers related to your adoption, I thought that you should have them.”

   “The locked drawer,” said Mary.

   “Why yes, how is it that you remember that drawer?” said Harriet. “The lock was broken. It hadn’t been opened in years… I had to have the dresser taken apart to get these out.”

   “Now I know why I couldn’t pick the lock,” said Mary.

   When Harriet handed Mary the envelope she noticed Mary’s belly.

   “You’re pregnant,” Harriet said. Emily detected disapproval in Harriet’s voice, “I didn’t think that you liked men.”

   “I’m married now,” Mary said. She had learned not get into even the slightest disagreement with her stepmother. Mary always tried to be short and non-committal when answering Harriet’s provocations, “My husband, Sean, will be here shortly.”

   Mary then realized that Harriet was unaware of the events of the past few years, it had been eight years since they had been in communication. Harriet had strongly disapproved of Mary’s on-line gaming empire, thinking it illegal. Mary had ‘written her off’ then, and had made no further efforts to contact her. Mary talked with George, her adoptive father, from time to time, more as a courtesy—they had never been close—but he had been supportive of her interest in computer games. He must have given Harriet her phone number.  Mary didn’t think that George would talk to Harriet about her. He had never understood Harriet’s attitude toward Mary, or even why Harriet had insisted on her adoption in the first place.

   “The papers are private,” said Harriet, looking at Emily.

   “Emily is a close friend,” said Mary, “I’ll look at these later, or is there some reason I should open this now?”

   “Do what you will, you always do,” said Harriet, testily.

   “Thank you, Harriet,” said Mary calmly, “Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?”

   Harriet fished a piece of paper out of her purse.

   “Here, this is my number at my new place. You could call me once in a while,” Harriet said, her voice shaking with emotion, “It wouldn’t kill you—to call—would it?”

   “Thank you, Harriet,” said Mary, “Do you need a ride?”

   “A cab is waiting for me downstairs,” Harriet said sharply, “I’m going.”

   “Thank you for taking the time to give me these,” said Mary, coldly.

   After Harriet had left, Emily and Mary sat looking at the unopened envelope for several minutes. Finally, Mary picked it up.

   “It is time to find out who I really am," she said.



Fiction

By Professor Batty




Thursday, October 08, 2015

Heimkoman at the Pjóðleikhúsið



Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson… hilarious… on a scooter!

Need I say more? The Homecoming by Harold Pinter, is a strange two-act play which explores the dynamics of sexual power in a family when Teddy, the eldest son, brings his 'wife' Ruth home from America to the seedy North London house where his father, an uncle and two other brothers live. In this version (which I saw in preview at the Icelandic National Theatre Thursday evening), the house had morphed into a service garage (complete with operating plumbing!) The psychodrama unfolds in this hyper-realistic, yet somehow surreal set. I could understand few of the words, but the emotional language of the actors was quite clear. Some full male nudity added to the mix. In a short conversation with the woman sitting next to me (who goes to ALL the plays), I mentioned some of the more memorable plays I had seen there and her appraisals matched mine.


Earlier in the day, at the pool, the Icelandic author Þórbergur Þórðarson came up in conversation. My companion mentioned another book by this author which I will have to pick it up when I return home. In the book the protagonist pines for a young girl who "still had a bit of God in her." When he returns from fishing, the girl had grown up and the main character becomes disillusioned with the result. As we were talking, in the shallow wading pool near us, there were numerous young children getting rudimentary swimming instruction. Their shrieks and cries were, to my ears, akin to birds singing.

"Those children still have that little bit of God in them, don't they?" said my companion.


By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Vesturbæjarlaug and more…


Vesturbæjarlaug Image: visitreykjavík.is

When I've been in Reykjavík the one place (outside of my apartment) where I've spent the most time is the 'hot pot' pictured above. This afternoon (Wednesday) I spent close to three hours there—enjoying the sun, the 38-40° C. (100-104° F) warm water as well as interacting with an interesting mix of people from various backgrounds. The conversation was lively, the first half-hour was dominated by an older gentleman whose non-stop banter kept the pool laughing. It was all Icelandic, I could understand the laughter and when he referenced numerous vacation sites (Costa del Sol, Sardinia, Crete, San Francisco) but otherwise I could understand little. When he left a woman took up the slack for another half-hour, also in Icelandic. The crowd turned over, and several of the new arrivals started talking to me (in English) about a wide variety of subjects: the destruction of the Reykjavík city center, Vikings in the new world, Snorri Sturluson, the Kensington Rune Stone (they brought it up!), Shakespeare's visit to Iceland (?!), the spread of Icelandic pop culture, and music education in Iceland (one of the men in the pool had been a music teacher of the Ákadóttir twins!!)

As the crowd thinned out, two men (a nephew and uncle) remained and the talk turned to Halldór Laxness. We talked about the problems of translation, various books, and the subtle ironies in Laxness' writing. Then it was only the nephew who remained, he spoke to me about his life in Denmark, how he wanted to return to Iceland permanently, and about the water. "God made the cold water, and the Devil made the hot water, and the mixing of them is what makes Iceland such a special place." He also introduced me to the pleasure/torture of the 'cold pot'—with water in the 8-10° C. range (45-50° F.) and the importance of drinking lots of water when in the hot pots.

I reluctantly left the pool to get ready for an evening at Harpa.

UPDATE:


Úlfur Eldjárn - Blikktromman at Harpa

This most agreeable concert gave nourishment to both mind and spirit. Billed as The Aristókrasía Project, it was "an other-worldy musical journey through a utopian world of space travel." Electronic, strings and percussion combined with video from the space station and, in the final segment, Yuri Gagarin's first orbit of the earth. Úlfur's vocoded vocalizations added a melancholy warmth to the piece.

FINAL UPDATE: On my way back home I took this picture:



Now do you believe in the "hidden folk"?

By Professor Batty


Comments: 3 




Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Batty has Landed


Auður's comrade Ásta conducted the tour.

I'm now safely ensconced in my 101 Reykjavík apartment. I've already been on the I Heart Reykjavík Tour, got my rental bike and I am now heading out to the pool.

UPDATE: The pool was, as it always is, sublime. It was sunny, with a light breeze, airtemp was 8° c. (about 46° f.) There are two new GIANT 'hot-pots', better for extended lounging, but not as intense as the old ones (which are still there.)
Got into an extended conversation with a woman of 'indeterminate' age, the first topic always seems to be "why Iceland?"

Maybe a concert tonight?

UPDATE: I gave up and was in bed by 19:30 hours.

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Monday, October 05, 2015

Sic Transit Gloria Batty Redux



   If you are reading this on the night of 10-5-15, there is a good chance that I am currently 38,000 feet above Hudson Bay, on my way to a hermitage in Flippist Spiritual Headquarters, i.e., my apartment in downtown Reykjavík  (more on that trip TOMORROW!)

By Professor Batty


Comments: 1 




Friday, October 02, 2015

Briefings



   “Have you heard from Emily yet?” asked Sean, as he was putting on his shoes.

   “No, she told me that she’d let us know when she got back,” said Mary, “She said ‘nice girls don’t stay for breakfast.’ She is a grown up, after all.”

   “She’s the only grandmother I have,” said Sean, rising, “I’d feel terrible if something bad happened to her.”

   “She knows what she’s doing. She’s old enough to take care of herself. By the way, did the lawyers say why they wanted to meet with you this morning? Did they give you a reason why they didn’t need me?”

   “All they would say is that it concerned my family relationships. Tina will be notified as well,” Sean turned and looked back at Mary from the bedroom doorway, “They did say that they had extremely sensitive information. When Emily arrives, would you text me?”

   “Will do, o man of mystery.”

   Mary was more concerned about Emily than she let on. Mary, through the time spent with Emily in deep trances, had learned a lot about Sean’s grandmother. There was a darker side to Emily—a ruthlessness which even surpassed Mary’s not inconsiderable drive. Although Mary hadn’t talked to Sean about Emily’s inevitable death, if she continued aging at her accelerated rate it would be coming soon.  Emily had no identity in the modern world, were she to be exposed no one would believe that she was 113 years old. Her death or, more precisely, the reality of her corpse, could also complicate the birth of Mary and Sean’s baby.  The birth was yet another thing. The clinic offered what they termed ‘birthing options’ but Mary was leery of an institutional setting for what might prove to be a most unusual event. She had begun to explore midwives, some of whom were adjuncts of the clinic, and others who had a reputation of being on the ‘fringe’ of respectability. Seattle had no shortage of ‘alternative’ practitioners.



   The lawyers that Mary and Sean had employed had done a good job throughout the ‘Billygate’ affair, the sale of ADR, and their various dealings with the FBI and The Brotherhood. They were normally very serious but when Sean faced them he thought they were almost giddy, as much as could happen in such a serious group.

   “What’s this about then, gentlemen?” asked Sean.

   “We’ve been in contact with the agents for the estate of the late John Regelind III. After his fragmentary remains were determined to be him, a death certificated was issued and his will was read,” said the lead lawyer, “His will had been amended shortly before his death. In the will, as well as in accompanying documentary proof, you and your aunt Tina are named as the only living relatives of the Regelind fortune, Tina is the daughter of John Regelind I and the presumed deceased Emily Carroll, you are the grandson of John Regelind II and the aforementioned Emily Carroll, through your late mother, Marilyn. The estate, although quite large, is a relatively simple one. It consists of certain properties in Virginia and a portfolio of well-managed mutual funds.”

   “And this means?” asked Sean.

   “Well, after the property has been sold and, depending on the actual value of the funds on any given day, I would say that you and your aunt would share an amount in the range of the mid to upper eight figures.”

   Sean’s phone buzzed. He glanced at it; it was Mary. Emily had returned.



   “Tell me everything,” said Mary, who had just poured Emily a cup of tea.

   “Well, I’m not one to kiss and tell, but I will say this: M. DuPage was an attentive and unselfish lover," Emily said. She was wearing a sweatshirt and running pants, courtesy of Marcel. Her Schiaparelli was in a garment bag, also courtesy of ‘M.’

   “I really can’t imagine experiencing intimacy on a first date, much less with someone I just picked up,” said Mary. “Wasn’t there even some awkwardness, some… friction?”

   “Nothing a little coconut oil couldn’t overcome,” laughed Emily, “He must have been a boy scout—he was very prepared.”

   “Erica Jong’s zipless fuck,” said Mary, shaking her head.

   “Who?”

   “I’m sorry, she was an author from the 1970s. I read her when I was a teenager. I was totally aghast at her libertine ways,” said Mary, “I didn’t date when I was younger. I didn’t date when I was older either.”

   “Well, it was hardly a ‘date.’ By the third dance, the outcome of the evening was quite well known—to both of us,” said Emily.

   At that moment, Mary’s phone rang. Mary looked at the caller’s ID on the screen and she made an involuntary look of disgust. “It’s my stepmother,” she said as she pressed ‘talk.’

   “Hello, Harriet,” Mary said, using a non-committal tone of voice, “You’re in town?” Mary paused and listened, then said, “Yes, you can come over,” Mary gave her the address and said, “See you soon,” and then hung up.

    “Shit,” she said.




Fiction

By Professor Batty