What Happened in Scandinavia

Apotek Hotel, Reykjavik

What Happened in Scandinavia

Holy Mackerel
Part One: People of Iceland

Dear Friends,

So much happened on this thirty-day trip that I can’t possibly share it in one newsletter. Plus, I’m self-conscious about writing about my trips. First, as you know, I’m not a travel writer, and second, what interests me might not interest you: people who inspire characters.

I’m always interested in what a person will say or what choices he/she makes. Now, I don’t go around hijacking personalities or stories for my books, but sometimes a person will capture my fancy, and I’ll store away a small detail about them. If a characteristic or person keeps coming back to me, I’ll eventually use something. Sometimes I’ll ask myself, how do they want to matter?

We’ve all heard the sayings, the truth is better than fiction, and you can’t make this stuff up. On this note, I can only imagine some of the snap judgments people make about me, especially since I tend to be shy or withdrawn in groups. But here I go!

On June 28th, we flew from the capital of America to the capital of Iceland. Reykjavik is a twenty-minute taxi ride (though there are buses you can take) from the Keflavik Airport. We were there for two full days. We had twenty-one hours of daylight each day, so it felt more like four full days.

Taxi Driver 1

Within two minutes of our ride from the airport, I learned my driver played the trumpet. Years before he’d gone to school in Boston on a full-ride scholarship to study and perform music. He invited us to his show the next night. It would take place in a church (“Within walking distance,” he promised). Beside him would be a singer and a pianist. The three-person show would play Disney songs all night, starting with “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from The Lion King. He mattered by bringing joy and music to others, “For free. Everyone is welcome.”

By the way, he also said it isn’t safe to drive alone in Iceland, but I’m still unclear if he meant because of people, drunk driving, or because it is easy to get lost. With the time difference and a red-eye flight, I was confused, but later, his comment would inspire me to research motorcycle clubs–my greatest bias, and not always justifiable fear, of some of the worst sorts of people. If you consider that the population of Iceland is about 300,000, such gangs can make a big impact. (If you’ve read Tiger Drive, you know I’ve explored what might encourage someone to join a gang.)

Motorcycle Gangs

My search for gangs in Iceland revealed two I knew and one I’d never heard about: Hells Angel(s), Outlaws, and Bad Breed. Their names confirm my convictions. Of the lot, the two most feared members are two brothers from Poland known as, wait for it, The Two Polish Brothers. This made me laugh for the next two days. If you ever need a good laugh, try to find a list of gang member names. Here are a few: Coconut Dan and Mooch. I also get that some people join gangs to matter and belong to someone or something. Such nicknames are a sign they belong.

But seriously, Iceland is safe to explore, and it’s a beautiful country. There are numerous hiking groups and bus tours. Millions of tourists arrive each year. There is a scenic route that is highly recommended by almost everyone. And of course, the Northern Lights are “a must” during the right time of year. We only ever intended to visit Reykjavik to adjust to the time difference and long days before heading to Norway for our hike.

Taxi Driver 2

This man had stories and opinions to share. My least favorite was that he thinks America’s POTUS is great. We agreed to disagree. On our trip to the airport, he told us about his uncle who had a mansion in the Bahamas and after growing close to his neighbor, confided in him about his life as a spy. The said neighbor, Ian Fleming, then stole all his uncle’s stories and created James Bond. “He never shared a penny!” the driver cried. His other uncle was killed in 911. Oh, and his third uncle was on the top of Mount St. Helens when it exploded, but he survived. I suspect these stories, and perhaps some version of the truth, give him something to talk about to thousands of tourists, and they help him matter.

Next time, some people I met in Norway.

Steps Taken

During our two days in Reykjavik, I kicked-off thirty days of eating mackerel, salmon, or both, and we walked 33,000 steps. On one of our walks, I spotted a Skip look-alike:

Skip from In the Doghouse Spotted in Iceland

What I Read

A wonderful treat about vacation is not writing but reading. On my flight over, I read Persimmon Takes On Humanity by Christopher Locke. I couldn’t resist because it’s narrated by a raccoon! I couldn’t resist. Click here if you’d like to read my review.

Until next time, thanks for being you.


*If you dive into the meaning behind the nicknames, they aren’t so laughable. For example, Coconut Dan was given his name after supposedly crushing a man’s skull like a coconut.

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