|Gateway between the worlds: an underpass, in Reykjavik (Iceland, 2006)
|Corner of Frakkastigur and Njalsgata, in Reykjavik (Iceland, 2006)
Memories of this dream played through my mind as I readied the Paper Burning apparatus for action, a few months before my recent flight. I had found a choice snippet to burn, which was now printed out on a pristine leaf of white paper, and which read beguilingly: "Though I can say that if you are doing the pub crawl around Reykjavik after 1 am on a Friday or Saturday, you will end up with lots of new friends who are very talkative and outgoing." This read, in fact, like the perfect fodder for a Paper Burning spell: disposable, just an anonymous quote from the Internet, but the way it had been appropriated gave it an edge of sorcery, of the sort you might encounter in Bronisław Malinowski, or vintage Harry Potter. I installed the sheet of paper atop a vessel crusted from the detritus of previous fires, and ignited a cigarette lighter. The vessel was actually a mini altar bell given to me by Soka Gakkai (創価学会), that mad Buddhist order to which I belong (and doubtless they would accuse me of sacrilege if they knew how I was about to treat it!) I settled on to the floor in front of the bell in my bedroom, crouched seiza style, and lit the edge of the page. Flame crept around the perimeter of the page, browning it, bending it, and lifting it with a draft of warm air. For a moment I was worried the blazing leaf might lift itself out of the bell and drop on to the wooden floor of my room. As previously related, my sharehouse is made of tatami mats and paper walls and wood, and it would burn down in a flash if it was set alight. I have to be careful with this shit, so I poked the page back into the center of the bell with a pen, ready to extinguish the flame if things got out of hand. Peak flamage subsided shortly enough, however, and the sheet curled up onto itself, disintegrating into flakes of ash and puffs of gray smoke. I bowed towards my Soka Gakkai gohonzon (sacred scroll) hanging on the wall, and chanted through the smoke three times: "Nam myou hou ren ge kyou" ("南無妙法蓮華経"). I'm not really sure why I do this, since I don't really believe in Nichiren, the Lotus Sutra, and all that jazz associated with the gohonzon. Maybe you could call this "hedging your bets": if Paper Burning didn't work, then at least Nichiren might do the trick, and grant me my wishes. That was probably my motivation. My Soka Gakkai friends would probably be appalled, but this is the system I employ, and it works for me. Freestyling forever... that is the way I play! You can't pin me down to any one style... no way.
|The Sirkus, the "only bar in Reykjavik!" (Iceland, 2006)
Saturday was Midsummer's Day and I was back down in the Miðbær (midtown) at the Cafe Rosenburg, nursing a hangover from the previous night, and submitting it to my usual hair of the dog therapy (ie, I was drinking another beer!) The Cafe Rosenburg was decorated with model ships, an old piano, and jazz instruments hanging from the walls. Outside was a beautiful day: brilliant blue sky, sunshine and a hearty North Atlantic breeze. I was drinking my beer, and to pass the time (which often seems to expand so enormously here in Iceland, especially when I am wandering around) I flipped through a copy of the Reykjavik Mag which I had discovered on one of the tables. I paused to read an article about a young cartoonist and playwright named Hugleikur Dagsson. According to the article and other stuff I have seen on the Web since then, Hugleikur is famous for his stage play Forðist okkur ("Avoid Us") and his comic books Elskið okkur ("Love Us"), Drepið okkur ("Kill Us") and Ríðið okkur ("Fuck Us"). And he also wrote another work called Bjargið okkur ("Save Us"). There was a photo of the guy in the magazine with short hair and slacker T-shirt and horn-rimmed glasses, looking uncannily like my old mate Dave Harris from Palm Beach in Sydney. (Dave is also an artist and an activist, although I haven't heard from him in years. I wondered what he would think of Reykjavík if he ever made it here.)
I ordered another beer, stuffed the Reykjavik Mag into my slingbag as a souvenir, and picked up a copy of the ever informative Reykjavik Grapevine newspaper, which the Rosenberg was kind enough to stock. Leafing through it, I stumbled upon an article about Midsummer's Day, which was being marked today. It stoked my interest, so I started to read the report which follows, quietly, as I sipped my beer:
In pagan times, holidays were marked by the phases of the moon and the changing of the seasons. The longest day of the year, Midsummer (actually the first day of summer), was a celebratory holiday that revolved around the goddess Freyja, whose primary areas of expertise were sexuality and fertility. You can imagine the gusto with which this holiday was celebrated -- after the long, brutal winter, summer's finally here, and celebrations are in honor of the Goddess of Love? You bet it was a good time.
Not that things have changed very much since then. Even today, the arrival of summer is greeted with great enthusiasm, as you'll find that on the first remotely mild day of the year, Icelanders pour into the streets wearing skirts and t-shirts. But there are also a few superstitions surrounding Midsummer (due to begin on 21 June, 4:26AM) that have managed to survive.
One of the biggest ones is, you can roll around in the dew at dawn on Midsummer and any wish you make will come true. This is risky, particularly in an urban area like Reykjavik, but people still do this... Midsummer is also a great time to gather magical rocks and plants, as they're supposedly at the height of their power on this day. I'd suggest getting out of town that day, going for a walk down by the beach, or in a patch of woods, and looking around for small stones that look magical to you. Pick up this stone, put it in your pocket, and keep it -- you've got your new magic talisman.
|Boulders, anchor and crane, beneath a blue midsummer sky (Iceland, 2006)
I will drink to that.
I ordered myself a beer, and walked upstairs to the loft, where they were showing the soccer World Cup. When I entered the loft I thought to myself: Wow, this is the place from the dream, the dream set in the long interior room. This is where I am going to meet that guy, the guy that changes my life! I sat down, and this feeling of déjà vu intensified... the mood, lighting, dogeaten couches, carpet on the floor, and my own state of mind were all the same as they had been in the original dream. I thought: If that dream really was a premonition, I just have to sit back and let it happen! I don't have to force anything. So I reclined in my couch, and tried to concentrate on the game for a while, gripped in a rising excitement. From time to time I looked around, to see if anything truly luminous was going on. There wasn't, just guys slouched in couches all around me, some of them with trainershod feet sprawled on coffee tables, watching the World Cup. I was almost starting to lose hope, when finally this yellowhaired guy walked in from behind me and said. "Do you mind if I sit next to you?" I looked up and realized: Oh my God, that's the guy from the dream! Its really him! A yellowhaired guy in jeans and slacker T-shirt and bright trainers, flopping down into the seat next to me. He looked like he had just emerged out of my dreams, to grace real life.
We started talking and after some formalities, he announced that he was the guitarist from Kimono, a band I have been listening to since 2003. I'm not sure he told me his name but based on stuff I have read online since, I am pretty sure he is Alex. Been touring for years, now back in Iceland. I told him that their Japanese Policeman in Scandinavia was one of my favorite songs and he remarked, "Wow, I didn't know we had that much of a following." We talked about earthquakes and life on the road, the Berlin rock scene, the Reykjavik rock scene, and so on. I asked him if there were any other musicians in the room with us right now, anyone I might know. "Yeah, there are a few," he replied, tantalizingly.
The game ended, Alex made his leave, and not long after I bailed as well. I headed out on to the street thinking to myself: Man, this is one magical place. Everytime I come here, something extraordinary happens to me here! I wonder what will happen next?
|Walking the streets of Reykjavik under a blue midsummer sky, looking for some action (Iceland, 2006)