*Turns head, looks the other way.*
Sorry. I didn't see you there, Reykjavík. I mean, I did, but I was ignoring you. You know what I mean. It's not because I don't want to talk to you. (Of course I want to talk to you! For one, we need to discuss Brennivín. Honestly, do you really drink that or is it just a cruel joke to strip stomach-lining from foreigners? Potato and caraway seeds shouldn't be the main ingredients in a tasty beverage. If anything, they're the starting point of a Moroccan soup.) The truth is, I have a lot of feelings about you. I'm just pretending to be indifferent, Reykjavík.
See, last year when I was in Iceland, I discovered that's the way you do things. You're cool. You're aloof. You exude a kind of casual disregard for someone's existence. Don't get me wrong, I found Icelanders to be very friendly and interesting people...once you get to know them. But until that crucial point, the general vibe an Icelander gives off is anywhere on the spectrum from "Eh" to "Fuck you."
I suppose in a land that makes its own geothermal heating, it makes sense that the inhabitants give off a self-sufficient vibe. "I don't need you," the Icelandic attitude says. "That puddle in my backyard also doubles as a hot tub." Do you know how many people it takes to make a hot tub happen in Canada? Neither do I, but I'm sure it's at least a few. The point is, Canadians need each other. That's why they have a reputation for being so friendly and polite. Minus a few key pieces of infastructure, the country could turn into an apocalyptic frozen wasteland and they'd have to work together to survive. Iceland already is an apocalyptic frozen wasteland, and Icelanders know that it really ain't so bad. Especially if you have a few sips of Brennivín in ya.
It's in my nature to want to connect. Some call it friendliness, some call it co-dependence. Let's not worry about the details. When I first arrived in Reykjavík, every time I passed someone on the street, I'd smile and mumble an agreeable little "Hallo." "Hallo" is my default greeting when traveling. Somehow, I think softening my vowels makes me sound more chic and intercontinental. I could be wrong about this, though. It may just make me sound like a mentally challenged Dutch person. A chic and intercontinental mentally challenged Dutch person.
The point is, when I walk down the street, I tend to greet other people. For me, this tendency is exaggerated when I'm battling the biting wind in Iceland. As much as I love it, there's something about the place that makes me feel a little lonely. I see another warm human and I reach out. Behind that tentative "hallo" is a silent world of "Hey! Hey! How are you? Are you good? I'm good! How awesome is Reykjavík? Pretty awesome, huh? Um, so, if this wind picks up, do you think maybe we could huddle together for warmth? Would you be into that? I'm getting pretty cold. I'd be into that. Hey, do you have any Brennivín? Let's drink Brennivín. Let's find Björk and drink Brennivín! ...Hold me."
It didn't take too many averted eyes and non-responses to my "hallo" for me to get the idea that greeting strangers (or even familiars, for that matter) is not what people in Reykjavík, or Icelanders in general, do. As far as I can tell, the Icelandic default seems to be benign neglect for each other. I like it.
And I like you, Reykjavík, which is why I've come back again, to do a stand up comedy show at Sodoma. (I clarify that it's a stand up comedy show, because I don't know—or really want to know—what type of "shows" a place called Sodoma usually puts on [NOTE: The venue is now called “Gamli Gaukurinn”]. I suspect I didn't pack enough lube for that on this trip.) Of course I'd like to see you there, but I know I can't just come right out and say that. I want to be cool like you guys. I want you to like me and I want you to like to like me and I want you to come to the show and laugh and say hello afterwards and make eye contact and drink with me and invite me over to your geothermal hot tub tell me anecdotes about Björk. But I won't say that.
DeAnne Smith will perform Thursday September 13 at Gamli Gaukurinn. Doors at 21:00. Get yer tickets here at midi.is