From Iceland — Birth of a Notion

Birth of a Notion

Words by

Published August 22, 2003

Things have changed. Mostly for the worse, but occasionally for the better. An instance of the latter could be seen on Saturday the 9th of August, as gays marched down Reykjavik’s main street, preceded by a police escort more worried about traffic jams than angry crowds as people brought their families and celebrated. Among those in the parade was troubadour Hörður Torfa, who had to flee Iceland in the 70´s and move to Sweden after he came out of the closet. Now he marched with hundreds, cheered by thousands. It was a day for gays, but it was also a day to be celebrated by everyone who has ever felt himself shut out of society for being what he is. In some ways, we all need to come out of our closets and strive for acceptance. Let the brave lead the way.

The only damper was the rain, and it also rained on Culture Night. One wonders if there is some sort of meteorological phenomenon at work by which large crowds of people attract rain. The highlight of the celebrations was the multitudes staring into the air watching a fireworks display. There’s some highly ironic metaphor at work there. I spent part of the night talking to hardcore band Total Fucking Destruction. One of them told me he had been offended by the Erro exhibition in the Reykjavík Art museum, particularly the picture portraying Israeli militarism. If even young American radicals can’t see the difference between criticism of Israeli expansionism and anti-semitism, then the Palestinians are well and duly screwed. At midnight four young people protested outside the US embassy against the use of napalm in Iraq, lighting candles in coke bottles full of urine. Police reinforcements arrived on the scene to put out the insurrection, but no one was arrested.

And with the end of Culture Night the summer seems to be inevitable drawing to a close. The schools are opening again in order to make productive citizens of the young, vacationers are returning home, tourists and migrating birds are somewhat more sensibly heading south. Grapevine too is bidding farewell, for now that is, but promises to return next summer when the climate becomes more hospitable and sponsors more generous. It has all been passing so quickly, but then the summers get shorter with each passing year, or so at least it seems in my advanced age. In a few days I’ll be 27. If I were a rock star, I would stay in bed the whole year. Perhaps I will, just to make sure.

It was only last April, as I was stuffing myself at Nonni as is my want, that I noticed an ad asking for contributors to a new paper in English. I went and investigated, and found three men in a basement. On the walls were pictures of Che Guevara and John Lennon, and I knew I was in good company. Having spoken to them I returned to my then home in Belfast, giving little more thought to the men in the basement, who by then were hard at work nurturing Grapevine to manhood. Grapevine was apparently born, as are many good and not so good ideas, in a bar. This particular bar happened to be in the Czech Republic, and the two men sitting there might never have found their way there had it not been for The Prague Pill, an English language newspaper indispensable for this quest and most others. The beer in Prague being somewhat cheaper than the two strangers were used too, the ideas flowed freely. Before the night was through, the twosome, who happened to be called Hilmar and Jóndi, had decided to print an English language paper of their own, and, unlike most ideas conceived in bars, they set about bringing this to fruition after actually leaving the bar.

Once back on more familiar ground, among the bars of Reykjavík, a third man, Oddur, joined the team, a computer whiz retained at what has since become the standard Grapevine wage of a hug and a smile. They rented a basement, and set about making their debut in publishing. All they now needed was someone who could actually write. Failing this, they gave me a call and offered me a job seeing to it that pen would meet paper. I arrived home on the first day of June, for what was to be a series of sleepless nights in said basement, aided by the able help of photographer Aldís, graphic designer Höddi, proof reader and writer John Boyce, art critic Beata Rödlingnova, writers Alli, Raggi Robert Jackson and Caroline Ryan, among many others, whom we hereby send great big hug and a smile.

Since then I have invaded the American base in Keflavík, risked offending the old Gods by being drunk and obnoxious around their followers, seen and eaten many a whale in the interest of research, learnt about the ultimate futility of existence through a three hour discussion with Megas, and, of course, gone horseback riding with a group of Swedes. My life has almost become what some people might call interesting. Apart, of course, from the continued futility of existence. As autumn approaches, everyone returns to their prospective careers. Oddur goes back to study electrical and computer engineering, Hilmar begins his studies in business, Jóndi starts on his road to a doubtlessly less lucrative career in the history department, and as for me, well, I guess I’ll have a bite at Nonni. Something´s bound to turn up.

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