Soaking With The Vikings

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Out of the blue, I brought my ass to Reykjavik last November for the Air Waves Festival to catch up with H, but as her fiancé cat fell sick, she cancelled and I had to improvise making friends every day.

It was my third visit to Mother Iceland in a year. I knew She would give me the hug I needed, and as usual it went far beyond my expectations.

Air Waves is gigs night and day in every single building of the Capital, bumping into the same people all the time although the population of Iceland probably triples over the week of the festival. Listening to awesome music, listening to awful music. Reading in the newspapers that Björk was in the crowd of that gig where you were too. Finding yourself in hot tub with the band that you saw playing the day before and not knowing how to tell them that you really thought they suck.

After a couple of days in town, I got the call for the wild.

I woke up super early to confront the natural elements with a bunch of Vikings I didn’t know: 3 Icelandic guides, 1 Icelandic singer, 9 Norwegian dudes and 1 Swedish girl.

We drove out of town and were thrown in the middle of the snow. White as far as you can see, but the colours of Iceland are way more vivid than on any other continent. The sky is more blue and the sun is brighter. Even the snow is more white. It is overwhelming for the senses and forces you to focus on the here & now. The sense of survival gets triggered every moment because you feel that Nature can take over you when She wants.

After an extreme walk (very well equipped of course, I was dressed like Jennifer Beals in Flash Dance and did the “What a Feeling” joke all along the way), we arrived at the ideal hot river spot. Getting in your bikini on the snow is not the easiest thing but I was excited like a kid and gave it a couple of snow cartwheels.

There I was, soaking in a circle of Vikings in burning water with flowing shots of vodka and beer and a private guitar player singing for us under an insolent sun.

For the first time of my life, I was feeling dark-skinned (or kinda orange). Vikings have a skin that you can almost see through and their blondeness is something else. It was cracking me up that the guys were finding me so exotic. I really was feeling like Marilyn in the cult scene of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”, although I was the least blonde of the gang.

I walked all the way back tipsy, which made the landscape look even more breathtaking and I was focusing on the beating of my heart not to fall. Heartbeat & nature in sync. We stopped to look at weird natural phenomenons, like muddy holes in the earth with bubbles and weird gases. Typical Iceland wonders.

I worship Mother Iceland. She bombards you with violent sensations of aliveness with no mercy, and you don’t even have to hunt for it.

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Pictures taken and gracefully sent to me by one of the lovely Vikings, edited by my groundbreaking Photoshop skills

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The God Bless You Dunkin’Donuts

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After a long failed day and 3 and a half hours of sofa sleep, I jumped on the F train at 5am with α, direction Coney Island.

We wanted to reiterate the Sunday morning sunrise experience, but actually seeing the sunrise from the beach and not from the highway this time.

It was still dark when we arrived in Coney Island, the fun fair was deadly silent apart from an odd pop music spitting from speakers somewhere. Fun fairs are often scary and depressing but empty fun fairs are scary and exciting. We wanted to jump the fence and sneak in the Ghost House.

We first went in search for coffee to salute the sun with our caffeine intake in the blood. We miraculously found a 24 hour Dunkin’ Donuts. α pushed the door saying “God bless 24 hour!”. The man at the counter was very sweet and slow and we had to explain several times “one everything bagel with cream cheese and one with butter”. He served us and instead of saying thank you or you’re welcome, he was saying “God bless you” in each sentence: “That’s your regular coffee, God bless you”, “One cream cheese bagel, God bless you”, “Here’s your change, God bless you”, “Have a nice day, God bless you”. We named this branch the ‘God bless you Dunkin’ Donuts’.

We walked to the beach and we weren’t sure in which direction to look at to see dawn breaking. I told α : “It is so random where the sun rises”. She looked at me very politely and replied: “Well, technically, it is always east.” I pulled myself together and explained that I have some very specific kind of genius.

While we were waiting for the show with the seagulls, α told me a very good bird story from the time she was living in Delaware in a beach house. After having an argument, she ran to the beach to find some peace of mind. The ocean and the scenery calmed her down, and to enhance this moment of bliss, 2 beautiful white doves flew over and landed close to her. She took it like a sign from the gods and closed her eyes to embrace this instant of plenitude. When she opened her eyes again, the doves had vanished and were replaced, exactly at the same spot, by 2 ugly sick-looking brown seagulls. I peed myself at the anecdote because I thought it sounded like a zen allegory or some wise metaphors from a fortune cookie: ‘You may think you saw a dove but in the blink of an eye a seagull appears.’ How can I ever be depressed with friends like that?

The sun finally rose and we danced and hip-hopped at it, then we walked along the ocean and we talked about having children or not, love patterns, and the Ministry of Silly Walks by the Monty Python.

The ocean was throwing yellow carnations at us. α and I love carnations because of the dance theatre masterpiece ‘Nelken‘ by German choreographer Pina Bausch, our spiritual Mother. It is the first of her pieces that we both ever saw, even before we met each other and before we knew we’d adopt dance theatre as a life style. Pina Bausch is one of the cements of our friendship because we took a very random journey to Wuppertal together to see ‘Kontakthof‘. We were 22 and didn’t know each other very well yet.

So we sat our butt on a rock and I finally showed her the pictures of my pilgrim to Wuppertal last January, when I left a postcard on Pina’s grave signed with our two names.

When our butt was frozen, we took the F train again. α stopped in Brooklyn, I continued to Manhattan to have coffee with β² who was in town only for a day and a half. I haven’t seen him since our Air Waves experience in Reykjavik last year. We met each other in LA last September, then we met again in Iceland a few weeks later, now we have a brief coffee in NYC.

He walked me to the door of the Joffrey Ballet School for my ultimate 5 Rhythms dance class of this chunk of time, and we hugged each other saying: “So, where next?”

I love catching up with people in different places every time.