A little bit of nature.

Tomorrow I have a full day of reporting, complete with five hours in the car, and I have a couple decks of PowerPoint slides to get through beforehand, and… oh yeah — I have to leave at 6 a.m.

To reward myself in advance, I went on a kayaking jaunt Monday afternoon, to watch the sun set and the moon rise. The supermoon, in fact. It did not disappoint, but didn’t last long — we got maybe five or 10 minutes of a huge orange grapefruit before it slipped behind cloud cover and we paddled home. It’s difficult to photograph the moon with an iPhone, so here’s the sunset:


And that’s it for me, today. The week will unclench after Wednesday, I hope. I could use a break. We all could.

Posted at 8:40 pm in Uncategorized | 42 Comments


…I felt less sad and upset after 9/11. Everything gets more difficult for us (meaning me and mine) from here on out — work, finances, everything. I hope this isn’t going-on-2 a.m. drama, but we’re now in uncharted waters, and there be many, many monsters about.

I HAVE to get some sleep, because it’ll be battle stations at work tomorrow and god knows what thereafter. Talk amongst yourselves, and I’ll be back when the well refills.

Posted at 1:25 am in Uncategorized | 137 Comments

Saturday morning market.

My fruit guy sold me half a dozen Mutsu apples, and threw this in, gratis. #customersatisfaction

Posted at 11:30 am in Uncategorized | 50 Comments

Saturday morning market. 

Well, doesn’t that say fall. 

Posted at 9:32 am in Uncategorized | 25 Comments

Can’t trust that day.

On weekends, our Detroit NPR affiliate teases us all with what could be, by playing decent music for hours at a time. One of the afternoon hosts, acknowledging the events of last week, made the theme of his show protest songs, and played this Richie Havens cover of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” I’d never heard it before, and it was a revelation — what a voice, what an interpreter. Havens isn’t with us anymore, but this wasn’t recorded all that long ago.

Maybe the coming darkness won’t be all bad. A lot of good music was made in 1968.

It was a Monday. That’s the best I can say about it. Swift commute in, pleasant atmosphere in Co-working space, a brown-bag lunch consisting of tri-tip leftovers between bread. But otherwise, the first steps in the five-day trudge to next weekend.

I like my job, I really do. But today, I watched a crew digging channels for some new utility lines or something. The backhoe dipped and scooped, the workers calling instruction to the operator, the dirt going from one place to another scoop by scoop. And thought: Now there’s a job. Beginning, middle, end, two beers on the way home.

Like I said, it was a Monday.

Just one bit of bloggage, then: Our own Heather interviews another Heather — Heather Havrilesky, essayist and advice columnist. It’s well-done, and I recommend it.

Let’s see if Tuesday goes any better. It’ll be 93, so I’m not getting my hopes up.

Posted at 12:15 am in Uncategorized | 41 Comments

Saturday morning market. 

Now we’re talking. 

Hope your weekend includes cherry pie…

Posted at 8:33 am in Uncategorized | 101 Comments

The luv cave.

I said we weren’t going there, and then we went there: the cave where Jon Snow lost his virginity. Like losing one’s virginity itself, it was wildly overrated by its TV appearance. Pretty, sure, but very cramped, and the only surfaces for virginity-losin’ were rocks. The “Game of Thrones” wizards CGI’d a waterfall into the thing, and apparently added about 1,000 square feet to the place. But I got a snap, just the same.

It’s a natural grotto with a warm spring feeding into it. The signage said it was once quite moderate but volcanic activity in the 1970s pushed the temperature to blistering ranges. Bathing is currently forbidden, and with few other surfaces to display an actual human, this is the best I can do:

Jon Snow may know nothing, but I know Alan bonked his head on that sharp triangle of rock hanging down. That would take the wind out of your romantic sails p.d.q. (And unless I’m mistaken, that graffiti reads “Thor.”)

On the way there, Hverfell, which looks like a “Star Trek” alien planet set (on the other camera, sorry), and Godafoss, another waterfall that makes Niagara look like a cheap ho’:

This is Iceland around every corner. Just one OMG sight after another. 

Tomorrow is the final day — driving back south and that milky-blue tourist trap, the Blue Lagoon. 
Try not to shoot each other before I get back.

Posted at 6:13 pm in Uncategorized | 88 Comments

The swimmer, revisited.

You John Cheever fans who have read his great short story “The Swimmer,” or seen the pretty fair adaptation with Burt Lancaster in the title role, will know what I’m talking about when I tell you my new bucket-list vacation is this: 

Swimming across Iceland. A leisurely trip around the ring road, with detours into the interior, sampling the wonders of the country’s great municipal swimming pools. 

Akureyi, where we are now, is a town of about 22,000. Roughly…what? Defiance, Ohio? Auburn, Indiana? Whatever. Here’s their pool:

That’s just the outside, of course. Phones and cameras seem to be frowned upon in the pool area, so you can google it if you like. But like the one I visited in Reykjavik, it just seems to me to be the ultimate in municipal recreation — turn a few laps, then pop into the steam or one of the several hot pots, watch the towheaded toddlers squealing down the water slides, then a leisurely final shower and on with your day. 

Any anxiety over the fearsome hygiene requirements — nude shower, with soap, before entering  the water — melt away before the la-de-da attitudes of the natives. The showers are full of old women, tattooed women, tan women, pale women, Scandinavian goddesses and their great-great grannies, all washin’ up before they go into the beautiful, clean pools outside. A goddess took her shower next to me this morning, plopping her white-blonde toddler into a tub next to her. Later, I saw her outside with her husband and two other kids. The picture of healthy living under a blazing blue subarctic sky.

Yesterday was whale-watching. I feared we’d be skunked, but it was anything but — after a loop around a puffin nesting ground, we headed for an area where recent reports had been good. We were steering toward a place where a thar-she-blows puff of spray had just been sighted when a humpback suddenly leapt from the water, turning in midair to land in a great splash. And for about the next 40 minutes, that’s how it went,  just whale after whale after whale, mostly humpbacks but also minkes. I was using my other camera, so no pix from me, but Kate captured this with her phone:

[for those with browsers that don’t support the video:

And then we came back, shucked off our overall/PDFs and checked the news of the day. Ugh. 

“I don’t even want to hear about it,” said sensible Alan. But of course I’ve been reading about it for hours now. And I don’t know what to say. For whoever wondered how this was being covered overseas? Can’t say. We haven’t seen an English-language paper since Reykjavik, and that was the alt-weekly. But I’ll keep my eyes open. 

Meanwhile, have a great day, all. Mine is off to a good start. 

Posted at 7:05 am in Uncategorized | 99 Comments

Water. Falling.

Today at Gullfoss, the Niagara Falls of Iceland. And frankly, more impressive, as it’s not used for hydroelectric power, there are no casinos rising on its shores and no Maid of the Mist taking honeymooners up close, although there are scores and scores of tourists.

This is a beautiful country. On our drive today we went past farms nestled into folds of felted green that climbed hundreds of feet up volcanic mountain faces, their sweeping flatlands dotted with sheep and horses. Not a fast-food interchange to be seen (although Subway and KFC have a foothold here,  and there’s a Dunkin Donuts a block or two away from our apartment in Reykjavik). Hardly any billboards. Hardly a scrap of litter. 

Coming back to the car, Kate overshot our Toyota in the lot. “Oh,” she said when I called her back. “I didn’t know our car was missing a hubcap.” 

“It isn’t,” I said. It was. 

We figured the item was lost on a piece of rough road we’d traveled en routed, doubled back and re-traveled it at a crawl. No hubcap. We made one final pass, what the hell. FOUND IT. That was a relief, so we celebrated with pizza lunch. Mine had Parma ham, arugula and peanuts on top. Filed under: Things That Are the Same, But Different. 

Tomorrow, up to Akureyi we go, on the north coast. Hours of sunlight there: 23.5. This is disorienting, to say the least. Getting to sleep is tough enough, but can be done with an eye mask. But Iceland generally works regular hours, so after sleeping late you find yourself breakfasting at 11 am, lunching at 3:30 pm and then, at 10 p.m., saying, “Hey, anyone hungry? Let’s eat!” But everything is closed at that hour other than bars, and most bars don’t serve food. How have these socialists figured it out? Genetics, I guess. 

7:55 p.m. Here. Time to consider whether dinner will even be in the picture tonight. Have a great weekend, all. 

Posted at 3:53 pm in Uncategorized | 48 Comments

Indoors and out.

We went back to the pool today, or rather, all of us went to the pool today. We had to, because the shower in our Airbnb has fatally malfunctioned, and that was the only way we could all start the day nice and clean. Afterward, we had hot dogs, sold at a stand outside. I had the Elvis Hot Dog, seen here:

Yes, those are those little matchstick fried potatoes you buy in a can when you’re too cheap to spring for chips. (I love them; they were a preferred snack of my childhood.) What they have to do with Elvis I can’t say, as I thought he preferred fried PB&banana sandwiches, but I’m by no means an expert. However, as an American, I thought I needed to underline this little bit of overseas interpretation of US culture with an endorsement. And it was fine, although Icelanders have a strange idea of what constitutes mustard.

I think I’m done with Reykjavik, and today we picked up a car that will allow us to venture farther afield. It was cloudy today, so after the pool, we did the museums, one featuring incomprehensible modern art — my rule for these is, the longer the explanatory text on the wall placard, the worse the artistic failure — and the penis museum. Of this, I have to say: Eh. Penises, penises and more penises, and with a few exceptions, the whole thing seemed to boil down to this:

1) Penises in preservative solution inevitably end up looking like a meat accident;

2) The bigger the animal? The bigger the penis! Who knew?

Along those lines, Alan, right, with a whale dick – blue, I believe:

But of course the real action was in the gift shop, where I passed on everything, including the “It’s not for pussies” T-shirt and dick-shaped bottle opener. And these cuddly toys:

Yesterday was this modernist masterpiece:

Lutherans at their most majestic. I spotted these chairs on the altar and thought, now that’s what you call Scandinavian design at its best:

But mostly I tried to sit quietly and respectfully, because I may not be a Lutheran, but I know how to behave in a church, which is more than I can say for half the tourists there.
Time to wrap and plan for tomorrow. Keep the United States warm for me, because I’m chilling at 64 degrees N. 

Posted at 5:34 pm in Uncategorized | 78 Comments