Dillon, Reykjavik, Iceland

7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.


Notable Matter:  Books crammed on a makeshift shelf between wall panels. This is common here. Most bars and cafes have loads of paperbacks.

Score for Iceland. Iceland is the first country since Argentina that I would actually live in if…it weren’t so goddamn cold. I hate the cold and it is freaking burr here. Less than 24 hours in and I already own a wool reindeer beanie. Because of the weather Argentina remains at the top of my ex-pat list but Reykjavik is a must visit.

When we arrived, I thought, “shit, why would anyone live in this hellhole and why am I here?” The area around Keflavik International Airport is brown and barren. It looks like Colorado’s Western slope, something Cormac McCarthy might imagine.

After a 45 minute bus trip we got to Reykjavik, which is an awesome city. Structurally German/Dutch, culturally Parisian. The landscape reminds me a bit of Vancouver – mountains, water, city, glaciers – but it’s not as modernistic or structurally intimidating as Vancouver, which I also love.

For those of you who are looking, Iceland is a great place to mate shop. It’s not like some cultures where the women are attractive and the men are small and wimpy looking. Both genders get high marks. Luckily for Icelanders, the Vikings only raped and pillaged the most attractive. Everyone speaks English which is a major plus since I don’t even understand the letters here.

We walk up the steps to Dillon. It’s on the second floor of a building. I love second floor bars, second floor anything. I like watching people without the risk of eye contact. Three attractive Icelanders stand outside, smoking. The woman follows us in, long blonde hair pulled back into a side pony tail. Icelandic pony tails hang low, directly down the back or to the side. Pony tails are a fashion piece. When women want their hair out of their face, they swirl it into a high sitting bun rather than throwing it on top of their heads in a sloppy pony tail like us lazy Americans.

The bartendress is very enthusiastic, eager to help. Most people here are. We sell our souls ($8 a beer) for pints of Viking. We sit, stare at the bookshelf jammed between two wall panels. It seems that everywhere we go we’re surrounded by books. It’s wonderful. Some of the bookshelves are organized by author, genre or color. Others, such as this one, are a complete mess. These books are arranged like British teeth, like someone closed their eyes, threw the books at the shelf and some magical gravitational force interfered, hooking them to it by spine, cover or flap.

Two tables of men gamble. One with cards one with die. Everyone wears wool sweaters. It’s May but cold as hell. The shops have darling clothes but I imagine women wear leggings even in the summer. Females with cankles shouldn’t live in Iceland as the only body part weather allows for exposure are the legs.

A foursome of men sits next to us. They too wear knitted wool sweaters. One looks like he stepped out of a 1980s ski bum movie. His name should be Soren or Sven or something like that but I don’t think those are Icelandic names and I have no interest in talking to him. Instead, my traveling buddy and I talk about attraction; how I may want a kid so I don’t have to worry about staying in shape for nine months; and how we disappoint ourselves by worrying about disappointing other people.

I go to the WC (water closet). I like the bathrooms here. They’re androgynous as all inanimate objects and locations should be. You can learn a lot about a country based on its bathroom culture. I like Iceland.

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15 Minutes of Fame

July 28, 2010

I’m noticing that as my peer group ages, particularly if diminishing time includes reproduction, it trends toward organized religion. People state various reasons for the return — renewed faith, trauma, fear of death — but I believe the overarching reason is tucked in the subconscious and can only be defined as an overwhelming desire for fame, an eternal recognition by the masses that yes, they are SOMEONE SPECIAL.

People don’t like to use the word famous as it relates to their desired legacy. They prefer to be “remembered” yet for most, finite remembrance by a universally insignificant amount of people (nuclear family for most, extended for a few), is almost tragic.

We don’t know what the afterlife — if there is such a thing — will bring, but fame is a possibility. Let’s say you’re 60 and decide you’ve got about 20 years left to “make a mark.” Let’s say that so far your only “mark” is a one-sentence quote in an archived local paper. Wouldn’t the very idea of having an unlimited amount of time to become “known” among many be very compelling? What if even after all that time, your legacy was whittled down to a paragraph? Would you still do it?

The First Book of Kings discusses the life and conquests of Israel’s most influential kings including Solomon, who is known for being “richer and wiser than any other king” one “the whole world wanted to come and listen to.” I suppose he was sort of like Oprah. Even though he was considered a “great,” when he dies only a small paragraph is devoted to his life. The same goes for the other kings mentioned in this section including those rarely recognized, such as Zimri.

This pattern continues today. The 2010 TIME 100 list of  the people who have most affected our world includes some household names — Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Ben Stiller (he is listed as a “hero”), Oprah, Lady Gaga, Conan O’Brien and Prince — but how long will their fame last? Certainly longer than Louise Brooks and Gustav Mahler, but not by much. If they’re lucky, their lives will collapse to a paragraph in a mass-produced high school history book. But everyone wants a paragraph and many will look to a fantastical afterlife to get it.

Many times people say they don’t want to be famous. They’d rather “influence” others. I believe many do, but influence is often a smokescreen for fame. Influence in its true sense, which I see as an altruistic means to help others, isn’t flashy, not even when it touches fame.

How many of these people could you talk about (intelligently) for more than five minutes?

Zaha Hadid, Elizabeth Warren, Douglas Schwartzentruber and Larry Kwak, Michael Pollan, Atul Gawande, Jaron Lanier, Victor Pinchuk, Lee Kuan Yew, Deborah Gist, Kathleen Merrigan, Steve Jobs, Tim White, Lisa Jackson, Elon Musk, Edna Foa, Jaime Lerner, Paul Volcker, Amy Smith, Matt Berg, Amartya Sen, Michael Sherraden, Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, Tim Westergren, David Boies and Theodore Olson and Sonia Sotomayor.

These people happen to be the 25 “thinkers” on the 2010 TIME 100 list, which gives them more exposure than most other 21st Century “thinkers.” But they’re still not household names because influence isn’t sexy, fame is.

Perhaps if we let go of fame and focused on influence purely as a means to improve the lives of others, the number of people returning to church as a means to get one last shot at fame, would vastly diminish. If you’re goal really is to influence, there’s no need to cling to eternity. If you’re goal is fame, and you’re not Lady Gaga, hold on tight and don’t miss Sunday mass.

FYI. This video explains how they made the TIME 100 list.

Note: I will be publishing again this Friday, July 30. To keep on track I need to get through the Second Book of Kings this week. Next week I’ll be back on the Monday/Wednesday track.

Stopping Point: Second Book of Kings


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