I Can’t Believe it’s Tuesday July 8th, 2014
Yesterday, the realities of living here set in. We needed food. We set out in search of a way to survive, getting up earlier than we wanted to catch the breakfast buffet that ended at 11 am. We made it at 1020 and they told us that it ended at 1030. It was disappointing anyway. The menu consisted of mostly toast and jam and coffee, all for $20. Everywhere else we looked, the price was the same, for the cheapest meal, $20. We realized that the only way to eat at a somewhat reasonable rate was to buy food from the grocery store. We did treat ourselves to one subway sandwhich to hold us over (at 6 dollars it was the cheapest thing in town), then we went shopping and stalked up on eggs (about 60 cents a piece), oatmeal, broccoli, bagels, yogurt, milk. It should last a few days. The bill was $20 (did everything in this place cost $20?
The day was getting on by the time we got back. I went to explore the geo- thermal beach, about a 30 minute walk from our room. It’s behind the Pearl which is a magnificent half globe that sits on the 4 geo-thermal hot water tanks for the city. It’s in a fjord which looks like a lake but is really like a small bay, I think. The bay is cold about 60 degrees. There is a circular pool they have damned off from the bay that they pump hot water into, then there is a long hot tub at about 100 degrees, and a steam room, all free to the public. I vowed I would work out in the chilly waters then jump in the tub to warm up.
when I got back we went to a local pool which also includes geo-thermal hot water and some hot tubs, one at 42 degrees C. and the other at 39 degrees C. The cost was $6 an absolute bargain for this place. By the time we finished there it was time to go to play street music. I was hurrying because our flat mate, a German tour guide, told us she would meet us at 9. By the time I got there it was 945. I played alone until HY came at about 1030. The response was good. Some interesting people stopping to listen and chat. one super cool and funky guy stopped for about a minute and danced the coolest and funkiest moves I had ever seen then , without a word moved on. It’s always a tough call whether to live the moment only completely or interrupt the moment and talk and connect. It happened a few other times as well.
Things were going along nicely when an Asian guy came up and without any preliminaries started doing beat box ( making rhythms with his mouth). He was pretty good mostly because of his goofy sounds and gestures. We gave him our stage and he was off. When he stopped and started talking was when the real fun began. He would say something and then act it out with funny sounds and gestures. It was like watching some crazy cartoon because most of his creations ended up with something blowing up. If you had to say, I guess his influences were Sponge Bob and Johnathon Winters. His rapid fire English with an Icelandic accent was hard to follow, as was his constant comments and comments on his comments, etc. in a word, we loved him. He was one of us. We did some things with him, played around,,even let him use our microphone, and played some 2 or 3 experimental jams when Solvi, the sax player from the night before came by. We asked him to join us and he took out his sax and began to play. It seemed a bit hard for him, after all jazz musicians, although creating constantly, were playing against a constant chord structure, here we had discarded even that, and we’re playing completely free, which was almost impossible, which was why we loved it. After trying one song, the young and respectful Solvi, said he had to go. He was going to a house jam. I had never heard of a house jam before so we tagged along with his consent. The city center was small. In no time we were in a fair- sized bar that was absolutely packed with excited young people. They were jammed in, about 200 in a space that would comfortably fit 100. On stage were about 10 musicians playing a wild brew of jazz but somehow it seemed looser, less precise, more raucous then any other jazz I had ever heard. Solvi said it was a funk jazz mixture. I couldn’t put my finger on it but it was wild, pulsating with energy, like New Orleans voodoo had somehow gotten stirred in. We strained to see in the back. The audience mostly in their mid- twenties, was completely crazy, they were clapping, yelling, hanging on every note, cheering as each performer played his solo. I had never sen anything like it. I had to decide what I would do, just listen or go on up there and man up. Of course it was scary for me. What would happen if I went up and bombed, ouch that could be devastating. “Frank, get up there. You are supposed to be a musician, and that is what musicians do, they play.” it took all my nerve, but soon we made our way to the stage and to the space behind the stage (which was also the entrance to the bathroom). Solvi was also there and he told me to just go up to the mic when I wanted to play. It was like peaking out behind a curtain and seeing a packed house, but they didn’t see me. I could just stay there and not play, but that would look really bad to HY, Solvi, and the other musicians who were there from the night before, a guitarist and a trumpeter. I stood there in limbo, just taking in all that energy. The song ended to uproarious ridiculous applause. They started up the next song, one I knew and liked, “Black Orpheus” after a few people played, I walked over to Solvi and said I wanted to try it. Politely he let me go in front, and the other musicians kindly did too. I was worried about my volume. The trumpet player who went before me stuck the bell of his horn right in the mic and his volume was just about right. I walked up, being really careful to locate the hot spot on the mic. As soon as I started to play, the audience became quiet. They were listening, openly and wouldn’t applaud for nothing. My sound came through, and I played the familiar song easily. The first phrase I played was nice,the audience roared. It hit me like a shovel. The effect was electrifying, but I had to keep my focus. Luckily another idea came, it sounded cool and different from the other players, like an Indian snack charmer. I heard people yell out, where was I? I lost my thread, my mind wandered, I played a bad note,but the audience was with me, they wouldnt let me go. i recovered and played on. I was slashing my way through a bamboo forest, with a machete, cheers erupting along the way. I took 2 chorus. I could have taken more but I was happy with what I had. As I ended, a great cheer went up. I turned around away from the audience, into the face of the bass player, who looks at me with 100% enthusiasm and surprise, like a 10 year old who just got the best present ever in life. I made my way back to HY, really excited. I was completely pumped up. I had hit a home run. She looked happy, but not as much as I thought. In fact, my performance was just normal. The next soloist was getting the same reception. This was just, the most intense, best audience in the world. I had never seen anything like it. We usually think of jazz as somewhat intellectual, but this, this was just pure energy. I hung around for the next number. It was another wild raucous number. There was really no beginning to the song. It just kind of formed like a gathering cloud. First the bass was fooling around, noodling, then a drummer joined in, and one by one the other musicians piled on until the song was in full force. I walked up to Solvi and yelled out, ” What’s this song? Is it a standard? I never heard it before.” the 3 or 4 musicians around just stopped and turned to look at me, staring incredulously. “”What? You don’t know this song?” was communicated on every face. ” it’s Miles Davis” Solvi spit out, speaking to me like a first grader. Suddenly I felt naked. There was nowhere to hide. I had just blown any creds I had earned. Oh well, it’s true that in different places, different songs were popular. I had been on the other end of that look too. Once in a jam session in Santa Cruz, some new faces from Texas called “The Girl from Ipanema”. As soon as they did, everyone turned and stared. Who would ever call a song that was so overplayed, so cliche, that jazz musicians hated it. I decided to retreat and rest on my laurels of one good solo. I listened to the next song which was also it turned out thankfully to be the last one.
The musicians all retreated to a back room to put their instruments away. It gave me a chance to say hi to them and make connections. Everyone was very nice, but somewhat reserved. They all spoke English well. A few of them were very friendly. I found the bass player, and thanked him for his energy. Very soon, the place started to empty, and I found out why, all bars had to close at 1 am. It seemed strange, because it was still very light out. As we walked home, we came to big crowds of people, maybe 60-70 standing outside bars. “what’s going on?” I asked one of the more sober looking people. “Nothing”, he said. “the bar closed, but we don’t want to go home yet”. And so there were these spontaneous street parties ever few blocks, and people even had their drinks with them. It was strange, like the daylight at 1:30 in the morning. What a weird and wonderful place. We thought later, it would be fun to play a song or two for these 1am crowds. Maybe tomorrow or the next day.
As we started trudging the long way home, we reflected on what a fun night it had been. We cut through the park to our house. It was strange too. There were fog banks moving ominously above the grounds. Beautiful buttercup flowers that we had noticed before we’re closed shut tight. how did they know to close, it was still bright outside? Maybe by temperature? We couldn’t actually see the sun at the moment, it might have just dipped below the horizon, and maybe those few degrees were enough. I guess they needed to sleep to.
As we stood there contemplating the buttercups, a yellow frisbee shattered the calm and dropped out of the sky not 10 meters from where we were standing. We looked around and saw nothing. Bizarre. What was going on? Fear and strangeness welled up. UFO? We looked all around, nothing. Then another one dropped in even closer. We were about to run away when we looked up, and away off in the distance and saw three men, about 150 meters in the distance waving. What? We’re we under attack? We waved back. I guess they were friendly. What kind of game was this. I walked over and picked up the frisbee and heaved it back as far as I could, just to show them I was friendly too. It went about 1/4th the distance and not at all straight another frisbee came whizzing at us, and we ducked and waited because the men were hurriedly walking towards us. When they arrived we found out what was going on. it was a game called, frisbee golf. It was played like golf but with a frisbee. Now that we looked, we noticed that there were this structures that were about 8 feet high and looked like a giant candle holders. Attached to the ring that went around, were a bunch of chains. That was the hole. The men were very friendly especially considering the fact that I had ruined their game by throwing the frisbee back away from the hole. I can just imagine the outrage of a golfer if I would pick up a ball and throw it back the other way. Probably get clubbed to death. They patiently explained to us the game and even demonstrated to us the different ways to throw the frisbee so it would hook away. From a distance of 150 meters, they were amazingly accurate and they told us a “hole-in-one” was not uncommon. The one man had a satchel in which he carried about 30 of these frisbees which he called driver frisbees. They were much harder, flatter and smaller than a normal one. “But why play at 2 am?” “it’s easy, it’s light out here and no one else is here at that time”. Somehow it made perfect sense in this land of the strange. This place they called Iceland, so that people wouldn’t come and see how (N)ice it is. We finally got to sleep at about 3 am, completely bright outside and not at all tired, It was just another thing to do, on this endless endless day.