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Back Roads Beat

Reykjavik Jazz Festival 2004

By Published: September 29, 2004
Finally, if there's enough interested participants and space available (their city hall seems ideal), it makes sense to have some sort of central "anchor" place for the festival where attendees can find tickets, information and CDs by the musicians, get questions answered and just in general have a place where they can mingle and feel like festival goers. Right now it feels more like a continuous string of events, or even just a night of bar hopping in a city with a good jazz scene, than an actual festival. Organizers no doubt may have some explanations why the above suggestions won't work, but, hey, it's a wish list...



Coda: Under suspicion of terrorism after going on a puffin hunt



Author's note: This is a very brief and incomplete log of my minimal opportunity to see a few sites, with no real music stuff included. It's included as a "hey, what's the harm" supplement without any expectation people might actually want to read it.



Monday was my day to explore, followed by a pack-and-fly-out day Tuesday. Both days were somewhat less than a total success, thanks in large part to stormy weather with gale-force winds. A drive around the famous "Golden Triangle" set of attractions (geysers, waterfall, something else I missed) resulted mostly in carsickness as my tiny rented compact car was tossed all over the roads, which varied from modern freeways to unmarked gravel surfaces that had me convinced I was lost. The only real site of note was the geysers - and even then I found it rather ironic they had to label them as such since there wasn't much other a small whiff of steam coming from most of them.



Evening was devoted to finding the one Icelandic meal I knew I couldn't get elsewhere: puffin (you know, the old travel joke about going to strange lands, seeing exotic animals and then eating them...). As as former worker in Antarctica who's read endlessly about the likes of Shackleton living off penguins - and described them as horrible - curiosity has me wanting to try one or its nearest equivalent. This seemed like a promising opportunity, but all the places advertising it turn out to be fine dining establishments charging $80 a plate. Even for Europe's most expensive country this is too much to swallow. I wind up in the student section of town ordering a pizza with snails instead - highly recommended over anything Domino's has to offer.



Ideally, departure days are uneventful - pack, fly, be glad you're home - but the weather literally blew that plan away. Gale winds blew me over in the airport parking lot, resulting in severe bleeding/ bruising/cracks to the knee/rib/forehead areas. In the way that minor stuff often occupies your brain at such times, I was mostly irritated about bleeding all over clean clothes I had to wear for my 40 hours of flights and airport waits to Alaska. The fact that a disheaveled-looking guy covered with blood and holding a one-way ticket might have a problem with security never occurred to me until I got there....



So my trip to Iceland didn't exactly end on a complimentary note, unless you count all the sweet things I said to security about them/their country/anything I could think of. I spent much of the flights home with newspapers on my lap to keep the blood stains out of sight.



So now I'm back home with a few dozen new CDs (look for a lengthy set of mini-reviews of them in the near future) and some insight into a new country's music scene. Was it worth it and will I return? Let's just say the best headline I saw upon returning - with the possible exception of the new Batman movie being filmed there ("It's [expletive] cold in Iceland. And they eat whales — they eat anything - puffins!" lead actor Christian Bale exclaimed.) - was Icelandair will begin flights there from San Francisco next spring, so I can bypass New York and all the other stopovers. My next trip (probably with my significant other in tow) will no doubt include volcanos, hot springs, lobsters and plenty of other things I missed that the country is famous for. Also, Greenland is only a short hop away by plane. Hmmm...wonder if they have jazz fests there....



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