Fangirl

“I didn’t get into them until high school,” the girl said, shrinking herself deeper into her faux fur coat so that her eyes were the only visible part of her face, as we reached the exit of Terminal 5.

“Are you kidding me? I didn’t get into them until college. And I’m OLD.” Her male companion, wearing only a suit and thin wool scarf, wrapped his arm around her. “I’m THIRTY,” he said.

All around me, I heard conversations like these, people comparing notes on the first time they heard Sleater-Kinney, the point at which they became fans, how many shows they had seen and what number this one was for them. A man who looked like he hadn’t showered since the 90s told a group of men who looked like different cartoon versions of him that this was the sixth show he’d seen on this tour alone. As I listened to the group share their personal records for numbers of shows attended during past tours, I wondered how it felt to be that big of a fan. I wondered what they would say to me if I told them the particulars of my Sleater-Kinney fandom:

I got into them in college, a few months into their hiatus. Dig Me Out got me through one really rough time and then a few other minor rough times and depending on the day, I’d say it’s in my top five favorite or most important albums. They were the only music I listed in my Facebook interests, back when that was a thing. I get back into at least one of their albums at least once a year. That show we just saw? It was my first.

I’ve always had this sense that I’ve never been a real fan of a lot of the bands I love. If I wasn’t there at the beginning, to experience a band’s greatness during their early years of recording or touring, then what claim do I have on them?

I never felt this more than when I saw Pavement during their 2010 reunion tour. I was twelve when they released their final album in 1999. And while the possibility exists that I had heard “Cut Your Hair” on MTV as a child, I think it’s safe to say that I never really listened to Pavement until I was well into my teenage years. But I became a fan nonetheless, their music partially soundtracking my college years. Eventually, I came to count them among my “all-time favorites.”

But when I saw Pavement live, I felt self-conscious. I felt young. I felt like I was not as big of a fan as many of the other people there. Looking back on it, I was young compared to a lot of the crowd. I was twenty-three. And I wasn’t as big of a fan as many of the other people there. I didn’t know the words to every song. In fact, I think there were a few I didn’t really recognize. But I also had a lot of fun at that show. I knew most of the songs. I sang-screamed along to some of them alongside one of my best friends, who at the time was also a twenty-three-year-old girl. Afterward, I told people that it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen in my life. That was probably the truth.

sleater-kinney at terminal 5 (or, probably the worst concert photo taken for the purpose of instagramming in the history of the practice)

sleater-kinney at terminal 5 (or, probably the worst concert photo taken for the purpose of instagramming in the history of the practice)

Last night, I watched Sleater-Kinney perform a lot of songs that I knew well, some that I didn’t, and a few that are so important to me that I smiled the whole time they were happening. More than once I thought back to earlier that day, when I had considered not going to the show at all. I was on my way to a meeting, exhausted and unable to concentrate on the presentation I was to give shortly. I didn’t see how I was going to make it through the morning, let alone the afternoon and evening. I told myself that going didn’t matter, that I really wasn’t that big of a fan, that I wouldn’t be missing anything life changing. But I reasoned that I’d spent fifty bucks on the ticket and that alone was a reason to go. So I went. And it was good. (Even if I had to stand in the back against a wall behind a girl who kept whipping her pigtails my face while performing what seemed to be premeditated dance moves.)

I almost ended with that last paragraph, but I’m not sure I made the point I set out to make when I started writing this or if I even remember what the point is. I think it is: I have sometimes felt that my music fandom or knowledge is insignificant compared to that of other people. I wish I didn’t feel that way. It’s definitely OK to be into something exactly as much as I’m into it. Also, who cares?

Selection

It’s 8:30 in the morning on a freezing day in February when you report to the Brooklyn Supreme Court for jury duty. Your summons tells you to enter through the court house’s front entrance on Court Street, but you see an entrance at the back and decide to take a chance and enter there, not before ascending and then descending the stairs twice in uncertainty. Finally you say to yourself, You’re not going to get arrested if you go in the wrong way, you idiot. So you go in and get on a short security line, hurriedly stuffing your bagel in your already overstuffed backpack, as someone walks down the line to check your summons, making sure you’re in the right place. When it’s your turn, you put your coffee on the table in case the security officer needs to inspect it for small weapons, place your backpack on the conveyor belt, unzip your coat, and walk through the metal detector. No beep, you’re free to go.

The security officer hands you your backpack and says, You don’t travel light. What do you have in there, rocks?

No, you say, just books. This is not entirely true. You also have a bagel, your computer, a power cord, a phone charger, the special kind of marker pens that you like, and a fruit cup you impulse-bought at the deli in case you need a snack later. You smile at the officer, pick your coffee up from the table, and read the sign that tells you to go upstairs to Room 205.

***

You enter the enormous room and find a seat that looks non-threatening: close to an outlet but not right next to it, near some people who look like they might watch your bag and not steal your wallet if you need to go to the bathroom. You pull out one of the two graphic novels you brought with you but don’t open it. Instead, you text your friends with whom you were out last night. You use your book as a sort of plate for your bagel, which you eat quickly even though it’s under-toasted and has too much cream cheese.

***

This is a busy court house, a sort of authority figure in a dapper suit says from a dais. He talks for a long time and says, during the course of his speech, some approximation of the following things:

Most of you will end up being chosen for a trial.

You will be dismissed at 5 o’clock. Now, don’t YOU tell ME that you gotta leave at 2 o’clock cause you gotta be home to cook dinner. Unless you’re chosen for a trial, you will stay here until 5 O’CLOCK.

No tweeting, Facebooking, saying anything on social media about the details of any case. If you do any of that, we can tell. I know you think it’s impossible, but we have our ways. [Looks down at screen, presumably.] SEVENTEEN of you have posted something on Twitter or Facebook since I started talking. Let’s see. Oh, here’s a good one. Hell no hell no hell no I ain’t stayin here till 5 o’clock they be trippin. #juryduty #hellno

***

At least 100 people who have reported to jury duty believe that they do not have a basic understanding of the English language. What happens to those people, you never find out. At least 40 believe that they have reported on the wrong day, though each of them in turn are humiliated by the dapper presider over the central jury room, who examines their summons documents and, into the microphone, announces that they have indeed reported on the correct day.

***

Last night, your friend told you about how he reported for jury duty a few months ago and his name was never called so he just got to go home and got credit for reporting and won’t be called in Brooklyn for another eight years. You hope so badly that this happens to you. But they’ve started calling groups of people to be interviewed and you’re worried. You’re so, so worried that your name will be next.

***

At 11 o’clock, you hear your name read over the loudspeaker. You’re actually surprised that you hear it because one of your biggest fears up until this point this morning was that you wouldn’t hear it called and that you would get in trouble. Trouble, to you, is an undefined term, but perhaps involves getting arrested, or at least getting a stern talking-to by someone in uniform. Getting a stern talking-to by someone in uniform is, by the way, how one of your favorite sexual fantasies begins. Anyway, you report to Room 7, along with about twenty other people, all of whom look like they believe they are about to be executed.

***

You’re sitting next to the wall in one of the hard plastic chairs trying not to touch the person sitting next to you, who is uncomfortably close. It’s not their fault, though. There are too many chairs and too many people for this small room. You’re already sweating when the lawyers enter the room, armed with legal pads. One of them is lean, with dark, graying hair and a long face adorned with a crooked nose. He shuffles sideways behind the table at the front of the room and sits down. The other lawyer is pink-faced and silver-haired with the look of a former high school football player who spends his early mornings at the gym. His suit is tailored to accentuate his upper body. He addresses the group first.

He is the plaintiff’s lawyer and first, he shares information about the nature of the case, which will be brought to trial a week from today. His client was injured in a construction accident. It had been decided at an earlier date that the fault lies with the defendant. This upcoming trial is damages only, meaning that the jury will decide how much money to award the plaintiff for his injuries and medical costs, his pain and suffering and his loss of income. He tells you that they estimate the trial to last between ten and fifteen business days, though it could be shorter or longer. They will pick six jurors and three alternate jurors.

Then the other lawyer, the defendant’s counsel, speaks. He tells you that he understands that no one wants to be chosen for a jury, but that our justice system wouldn’t work if citizens didn’t perform their civic duty. If you are chosen, he says, you may find that you get satisfaction out of serving on a jury. You may even form lifelong friendships with your fellow jurors. He’s seen it happen before. He thanks you on behalf of his client and tells you that he and Plaintiff’s Counsel will review the questionnaires that all of the prospective jurors have filled out and will return in a moment to begin jury selection.

***

Yours is the third name called and so you briefly become Juror #3. You are asked to sit in the first row along with five others. They question each of you in succession. The first prospective juror is about your age, in his mid-twenties. He is a TV production coordinator. You find that he is extremely opinionated and refuses to answer questions because of some, in your opinion, very confusing convictions, such as his having a moral quandary with personal injury lawsuits even though he stated on his questionnaire that he doesn’t know anyone who has been involved in a lawsuit. The lawyers ask to speak with him outside and when he returns, he looks smug and you think, Great, my chances of getting picked just got a little bit higher.

The second person questioned is seated next to you and you find that she’s also around your age, a former public servant who now works for a corporation, and she really wants to be on the jury. Like, she’s trying to get chosen. She tells the lawyers several times that she doesn’t have any issues because being a juror is her civic duty. OK, you think, keep talking like this. She has no personal issues, no bias, no personal history that relates this case. When they’re done with her, you feel better, though you are also very nervous because you suddenly remember that you’re a terrible liar.

***

“I see here that you studied history,” Plaintiff’s Counsel says to you, pointing with his pen at the spot on your questionnaire where you wrote down what you studied in college. “What kind of history?”

“Mostly European,” you say, as European history was indeed your concentration, though if you thought it appropriate you might have told him that your specific interest lies in the British Isles, particularly the decline of the British aristocracy, which you think is what you would have studied if you had gone to grad school. But you didn’t go to grad school. You got a job that led to a series of other jobs, which added up to a career. A career that you don’t give a shit about, you’ve lately been realizing. But it allows you to live. In Brooklyn. And suddenly you’re starting to see how every choice you’ve ever made has led you to this jury selection panel.

“Did you ever study American history?” Plaintiff’s counsel asks. You tell him that you did but with kind of a bitchy tone because you think the way he asked the question was condescending.

“Well, did you know that our great president Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer?”

“I did,” you say, giving him your best tight-lipped smile to make sure that he knows how fucking annoyed you are. He goes on with some bullshit about the institution of the law in our country and you just zone out because this guy is trying to make you like him and make you think he’s smart but you find him to be blatantly manipulative and smarmy.

As you’re questioned about real things that relate to the case over the next half hour or so, you reveal that your father is a litigator who represents large insurance companies, that you do in fact know a little bit about at least one type of surgery that will be discussed in the case, that you’re starting a brand new job next week and your first day is Monday, and that you guess you’re pretty sure that you don’t have any significant biases that would relate to this case. You think your chances of being chosen out of this group are good, but not too good. There’s a chance that they won’t want you and will pick one of these other people in your demographic.

The lawyers step out to discuss the six people they’ve questioned. When they return you feel the beginning of an anxiety-related headache, like everything you’ve been worried about has become material and is pressing down on your brain. One of them states briefly that you shouldn’t be offended if you’re not chosen, it’s just that you’re not right for this particular jury and you might be chosen for another. Jesus Christ, you think, who would be offended except for the perky girl next to me who will probably kill herself if she’s not selected for a jury today?

“Miss Flannery,” one of the lawyers says. “And Miss Jones. You have been selected for this jury. Please follow the court officer to the empaneling area, where you will be sworn in.”

Your heart is beating quickly and you’re shaking your head and you think you say something like “Ugh I fucking knew it” out loud and with trembling hands you open up your backpack and shove the book you’ve been reading inside before throwing it over your shoulder and following a person in a uniform to an office window, where a clerk sits, talking and laughing with someone seated at a desk behind him.

The lawyers are there and they hand your juror information card to the clerk and one of them says, “Miss Flannery will be Juror #3 and Miss Jones will be Juror #6.” You look behind you at the other juror, an elderly woman wearing a round felt hat that perfectly accentuates the roundness of her face and body.

“You know that they move up, right?” the court officer asks. “Miss Flannery is the first chosen so she’s Juror #1. Miss Jones is Juror #2.”

And with that, you’re sworn in by the clerk and told to report back to the courthouse a little over a week later, three days after you start your new job. When you walk outside, you feel your eyes well up with tears. You think you’re probably crying, though you can’t be sure because it’s been so cold and windy that you cry anytime you’re outside anyway. You take your phone from your pocket and dial your father’s office number. When he picks up you say, “Dad, I was picked.” And he says, “I knew you would be.”

view of volcanoes from the shore in the morning

48 Hours (Alone) in Iceland

I arrived at the Keflavik airport on a Wednesday, in the late afternoon. After collecting my suitcase, I purchased a ticket for the Flybus, which would take me the 45 minutes to Reykjavik. The sun had started to set as we boarded the bus. I already started worrying that I wouldn’t be able to get my bearings once we got to the city. I hate my arriving anywhere unfamiliar in the dark.

I was hungry, so I ate one of the British candy bars I bought at Heathrow on the bus. I stashed the wrapper inside of a plastic bag inside of my backpack, sat back, and tried to  catch some scenery through the bus window. I was in an aisle seat, so this proved difficult. We drove down a long road flanked by large street lamps for what seemed like forever. By the time we reached Reykjavik’s bus station, the sky had gone from purple to black. There, I boarded a van that would take me directly to the hostel where I would stay for two nights.

The van dropped me off in front of a fast food drive-in, which was directly across the street from the hostel though I didn’t realize it at the time. I walked up and down the block, past a Dominos and an apartment building, looking for the entrance. Finally, I saw the modern wooden rectangle of the door. The sign posted next to it directed me upstairs.

I checked in at Kex Hostel easily. I was sure I had fucked up my reservation somehow, or that I would get there and the hostel would have no record of it. But it turned out that I did, in fact, have a room and that was a huge relief. I hadn’t stayed in a hostel since I studied abroad in 2007. My experiences were varied. (Berlin was wonderful, Amsterdam and Strasbourg were pretty OK, Rome was abysmal, Geneva was such a fever dream of a trip that I honestly have no memory of where we stayed.) Kex was a delight. My private room – I thought this best since I was traveling alone and also, I’m no longer a poor student – was comfortable and adorable. The bar-restaurant on the main floor was convenient and actually very good. It was also centrally located, which I would realize once I left to explore.

the bar at kex hostel

the bar at kex hostel

I ate an early dinner downstairs. The whole time I felt uneasy at the thought of leaving the hostel to explore Reykjavik in the dark, but I only had two days and two nights to do everything I wanted to do. I eavesdropped on the group at the table next to me, two young American men who had approached three young Australian women. They were trying to get them to go on a car trip around the Golden Circle the following day. Even though the guys seemed annoying – one of them spent at least five minutes pompously explaining the research he did on white blood cells – I was jealous of them, having people to do things with.

It was only 7 o’clock when I left the hostel, but it felt a lot later because it had been dark for so long. I’d mapped out a few bars that I wanted to try on my phone, though first I thought I would find a power adaptor so that I could charge my phone when I got back. After two or three blocks, I found myself on a sort of main street, which all of the bars were on or near. One of the larger tourist shops was open, so I popped in to look around for an adaptor. I came out empty-handed and figured I might have better luck in the morning.

Though I walked into the highly recommended Lebowski Bar, I couldn’t find a seat and it seemed a little too rowdy for my situation, a woman out for a drink on her first night in a foreign country, with only her book for company. Instead, I headed to Kaffibarinn, a quiet bar in an old house, just down the way. I ordered a beer from the very attractive bartender and parked myself at a candlelit table nearby, where I opened my book.

I read very little at the bar, mostly because I couldn’t help but people-watch while I was there.

kaffibarinn

kaffibarinn

The patrons around me were mostly Americans. I learned that they were all a) married, b) in their thirties, c) in Iceland because they found really cheap flights, and d) completely unable to control the volume of their voices. I didn’t dislike listening to them talk about what they had done so far in Iceland and what they “did” with the “lives” back home. I did dislike how a few of them spoke about Iceland like it was some kind of all-inclusive resort, nothing more than a playground for tourists.

So while I was listening to all of these Americans blather on about their jobs back in Colorado and how they met their wives junior year at Texas A&M, I noticed a really rad thing, which was a communal cheeseboard in the middle of the room. Anyone at the bar could just get up and grab some free cheese and fruit. For free! I wasn’t hungry, so I didn’t try anything, but I still thought it pretty noteworthy. And then, I got pulled back into listening to the Americans, but only because one particularly loud woman had started talking to the hot bartender, asking him all sorts of questions about his life.

Before I went to Iceland, I’d heard more than a few Americans comment on the friendliness of the Icelandic people. While I was there, I found the people I encountered to be polite, responsive, and tolerant of tourists. I think this tolerance is often mistaken for friendliness. When I saw Americans act “friendly” in that sort of stereotypically open, overbearing, and sometimes prying manner some of us possess, they weren’t treated with disdain as they might be in other European countries. I think a lot of Americans project “friendliness” onto Icelanders when it’s really that Iceland has a culture of decency. Icelanders aren’t popping up like magical elves every time you get lost to give you directions, but from what I observed and experienced, if you approach someone with a question, they’ll probably try to give you a good answer. But who really knows, I was only there for two days and I also am so unfriendly that roughly fifty percent of my friends have said that they were “scared” of me before we became friends.

Anyway, this woman was talking to the bartender and eventually I heard her say, “Wait, are you American?” And it turned out that he was from Seattle. She asked him how long he’d been in Reykjavik, how he liked working at the bar, and finally, why he was there in first place. “I have a child here,” he said. That was the first of three times I heard him tell his story to American women that night. Before she went back to her table, the woman told him he had “kind of an Icelandic accent.”

***

view of volcanoes from the shore in the morning

view of volcanoes from the shore in the morning

I woke up at 7 o’clock the following morning. I’d gotten back to my room at 10 previous night and stayed up to finish that book I wasn’t really reading at the bar. (It was The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters and I highly recommend it.) I wanted to get an early start because I had a lot of sightseeing to do and also needed to charge my phone before going on a bus tour of the Golden Circle that afternoon. However, when I woke up, it was pitch black outside and my entire body still felt tired. I went back to sleep until after 9 and was outside by 10, just as the sun was rising, on the hunt for a power adaptor. One of the hostel employees had directed me to a camping supply store just down the street, which she said would have power adaptors.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the camping supply store. Also, nothing was really open? Like, things were starting to open, but nowhere that looked like it might sell power adaptors. I ate breakfast at the first café I could find. I had a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino and a wonderful view of the only other patrons, a Spanish-speaking couple, canoodling across the room.

I went back to the same tourist shop I had gone to the night before, because it was one of the only things open, to see if I had possibly just missed the power adaptors. I looked all over the store and finally approached the counter to speak to a clerk.

“You don’t have power adaptors, do you?” I said, stuttering. She told me they did and pointed off to the side. I turned around. “Wait, where?” She pointed again. “Here,” she said. And then I saw them, in a large display, literally six inches in front of me, slightly to my left. I thanked her, assured her that I was a huge idiot, purchased a power adaptor, and left.

Then I had to find a place to actually charge my phone. I ended up in a bar that smelled like

inside harpa

inside harpa

stale beer and espresso. I ordered an Americano, parked myself in a booth with cracked vinyl seats, and plugged my phone in under the table. It was taking forever to charge and I was nervous about time. I had wanted to do at least one activity that morning before my bus tour. I ended up waiting until it got to 50% before unplugging and heading to the Harpa concert hall. I just hoped that the bus would have outlets.

Harpa opened only a few years ago. It’s a gorgeous building and stands out from the rest of the city’s architecture. Once inside, I couldn’t stop taking photos of the glass panels. The views from the upper floors were worth the trip alone, but I also enjoyed the small shops on the main floor, especially the small outpost of the record store 12 Tonar. With not much time to spare, I headed back toward the hostel where my bus would pick me up, stopping on the way to grab a few snacks for the road.

***

The bus was more of a van and I quickly found that it did not have any electrical outlets. I was the first person to board. The driver who would lead our tour checked my name off of his list. “Flannery,” he said. “Is that Irish?” I told him it was an Irish name, but that I was American. He smiled at me approvingly. I later learned that many Icelanders believe they are descended from people of Irish origin who intermarried with Norse conquerors.

Þingvellir

Þingvellir

We drove around Reykjavik, picking other tourists up, before getting on the road. I was the only person who was not part of a male-female couple. As we drove out of the city, our driver-guide told us about the history of Iceland and the city of Reykjavik, as well as basic facts about the island’s geography. We drove for a long time before reaching Þingvellir, the site of Iceland’s first parliament, founded in 930. There, we were given about 45 minutes to explore. I walked on a path between some huge rocks, eventually finding a spot where I could view the whole valley. The wind was really strong – our guide had noted that Iceland really should have been called “Windland” – and I worried about falling rocks. I felt, not for the last time, like I was on another planet.

Once our party was back on the bus, we drove a much shorter distance toGeysir, to view the

geysir hot spring area

geysir hot spring area

geysers. I had never seen a geyser before. I was just as impressed with the atmosphere of the park area, the red dirt and the steam rising off the ground, as I was by the actual geyser eruptions. I spent a lot of time trying to capture a geyser eruption on my iPhone camera, with very little luck. And then my phone died before my battery was really drained because the cold wind zapped all of the power. I walked around the park, watching other people get dangerously close the geysers, even though there were signs everywhere with warnings about the extremely high temperatures of the water and statements about how far the closest hospitals were from the park.

The sky turned a darker gray as we drove to our final destination, the Gullfoss waterfall. The couple in the seat in front of me – a man wearing Willy Nelson braids and a bandana tied around his head and a woman with frizzy, graying hair who looked very cold – started chatting to me. I found out that they were from Oregon and had already been in Iceland for a few days and that it had been much colder when they had arrived, in the mid-twenties. (It was in the mid-forties, though the wind made it feel colder outside the city.) They weren’t sure how they would spend the rest of their time. I suggested horseback riding, which I’d heard was a thing to do but wouldn’t be able to get around to it myself. The woman shook her head. “It’s way too cold for that,” she said.

trying to take a selfie at gullfoss

trying to take a selfie at gullfoss

The Gullfoss waterfall was by far the largest waterfall I’d ever seen. Since I’d been able to charge my phone in the rest area at Geysir, I was ready to mark this occasion by taking some selfies. But I guess Willy Nelson Braids saw this and felt bad for me, so he offered to take my picture for me. I handed my phone to him, he took two photos, and handed it back to me. I was hoping they came out well so that I could post them on Instagram, maybe get a new profile photo out of this experience. However, when I looked at my camera roll, I found two photos where I’m smack in the middle of the frame, obscuring the waterfall. Also, my eyes were closed.

***

I was back at the hostel by 6 pm. I changed quickly and decided to hang out at the bar downstairs for a while. I figured I could have a beer while I charged my phone and did some more journaling. My plan was thwarted by one of the young American guys I had seen the night before, chatting up the Australian girls at the table next to me. He asked if he could join me and I didn’t really see the point in turning down a potentially interesting experience, so I said yes. It turned out that he was a professional surfer on his way to Bali. He was training to be a firefighter in some beach town in California, but in the meantime, was traveling around the world surfing wherever he could get sponsored. I figured he was in his very early twenties. To me, he seemed young and carefree in a way that I had never been and will never have the opportunity to be again.

His friend joined us a little while later. They had only met the previous night, at the same bar, and had ended up driving around the Golden Circle with the Australian girls they’d chatted up. The second guy was a little bit older and a little bit more square. He was a medical researcher who lived in Queens and got excited when I said I also lived in New York. But our conversation about New York fizzled quickly once I realized we had literally nothing in common other than the city we lived in.

They asked me what I was doing for dinner and I told them that I was planning to go to a restaurant that had been recommended to me called Grillmarkadurinn. They invited themselves along. I didn’t say no but I wasn’t necessarily enthusiastic about them joining me. We all went upstairs to get our coats, but when we met again, they had changed their minds. I assumed they had looked up the restaurant, which was on the pricier side. They decided to get hot dogs from a stand instead. We walked to the harbor area together and parted ways there.

***

I hadn’t made a reservation at Grillmarkadurinn but was seated right away, at the bar in front of the open kitchen. I’d never eaten a full meal alone in a nice restaurant before. I tried not to look at my phone and I thought it would be inappropriate if I took out my book, so I just watched the chefs in the kitchen and thought about my trip. I was sad that it was almost over – it was my last night – but felt ready to be back at home.

I ordered a glass of wine and was served rustic white bread with fresh butter and lava salt. For

mini burgers of lobster, whale, and puffin

mini burgers of lobster, whale, and puffin

my main course, I got three mini burgers of lobster, whale, and puffin. I had never tried whale or puffin before and figured it was the perfect time to do so. I didn’t love the whale; the texture, to me, was similar to tuna, which I’m not a huge fan of. The puffin, however, was absolutely delicious. (And so was the lobster.) I decided to get dessert, since I was feeling celebratory about having almost completed my trip, and ordered a plate of homemade ice creams, which were all wonderful. I was so full when I left the restaurant, I felt sick.

***

I got up around 8 the next morning to check out. I’d gone to bed fairly early again because I had quite a few things to do around Reykjavik before I left, but also because I literally could not have gone out even if wanted to after dinner, that’s how disgustingly full I felt. I ended up reading three New Yorker articles on my phone before finally falling asleep around 11.

I was able to store my bags at Kex and was out and about well before the sun was up. I ate

hallgrimskirkja

hallgrimskirkja

breakfast at Mokka-Kaffi, which I had discovered thanks to the New York Times’s ‘36 Hours in Reykjavik.’ (Between you and me, I modeled my whole trip on ‘36 Hours in Reykjavik.’) I ate exactly what they suggested: a waffle with fresh whipped cream. It was the best waffle I’ve had in a long time, though I should add that I’m not much of a waffle eater these days.

From there, I headed to the Hallgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland which is also notable for its Expressionist architecture and its views of Reykjavik. I paid a small fee to take an elevator to the top of the church, where I took photos of the city, the water, and the volcanoes in the distance. The wind in the tower was incredible. I felt like I could have blown out one of the windows if they hadn’t had iron bars over them.

12 Tonar

12 tonar

Afterward, I stopped in a few shops in that part of the city, including Geysir, famous for its Iceland-inspired clothing and home goods. I was almost relieved to not have any room in my suitcase, otherwise I could have splurged and bought everything in the store. I also found the main location of the record store 12 Tonar, which was totally empty that morning. I had some fun looking through used vinyl in the basement, but was again stopped from purchasing anything by my lack of luggage space.

After that, I headed to Hafnarhus, which houses the Reykjavik Art Museum’s contemporary collections. There were only about five or six exhibits. The collection of controversial Erro works – which are displayed there permanently – were the most interesting to me. (Erro, an Icelandic painter and collage artist who works in Paris, has been accused of plagiarism many times.) I was alone almost the entire time I walked through the museum, which felt much different from my recent experiences in London museums, where I’d been pushed through every exhibit by other tourists.

in line for pylsur

in line for pylsur

I grabbed lunch at nearby Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, a famous hot dog stand. Since I’m sort of a huge hot dog fan, I’d been looking forward to this moment. I ordered one hot dog with everything (raw onions, crispy onions, ketchup, sweet mustard, and a mayonnaise-type sauce) and a soda, using up the last of my Icelandic krona. I ate it while walking through a light rain on my way back to the hostel, where the Flybus would pick me up to go back to Keflavik airport.

***

Back at the airport – my third time there in ten days – I struggled to find a seat to wait for my flight. I’d picked up an English-language novel set in Iceland, Burial Rites, at the bookstore and started to read it while I drank some Kokomjolk, a brand of Icelandic chocolate milk. Though I was anxious to get home, I wished I could have stayed in Iceland just a little bit longer. In my head, I was already making a list of the things I would do on my next visit.

London, Part VI (The End)

I’ve been putting off wrapping this thing up because every time I start writing this last part, I don’t have my journal, where I kept a list of everything I did. Also, it’s hard to write about something that happened months ago at this point. Maybe next time I go on a trip, I’ll write about it right after I get back? We’ll see.

I started my second-to-last day, a Monday, by visiting Westminster Abbey, which I’d visited when I was 12. I barely remember specifics of that visit, other than being impressed by the tombs of Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, both of whom I was very interested in at that time. I figured it wouldn’t be a bad place to revisit, so I took the Tube there and stopped to take some selfies in front of Big Ben and the London Eye before getting on a rather intimidating line.

I waited in line for probably twenty minutes and listened to other people’s conversations. Once inside, I took my time walking around, reading the memorials to people who lived, for the most part, centuries ago. The overall experience was not as exciting as I’d remembered it being when I was younger. This time, I felt annoyed at being jostled by other tourists, all of whom had their ears glued to the handheld audio tours they hand out at the entrance. Out of guilt and some sense of obligation, probably because I’d paid an entrance fee, I made sure I saw every bit of Westminster Abbey that I could see, except for the gift shop and cafe, which I think are kind of tasteless things to have in a church, even if that church is a tourist attraction.

on my walk to the british museum

on my walk to the british museum

From Westminster Abbey, I walked to the British Museum, which was not exactly nearby. My route took me to the edge of St. James’s Park and behind 10 Downing Street. I thought briefly about going to see Buckingham Palace but I felt like that was something I only needed to do once in my lifetime. I ended up in Trafalgar Square, which was an interesting coincidence. A scene in the book I’d been reading the night before took place there. While I was figuring out which direction to walk in from Trafalgar Square, I realized I was hungry, so I stopped into the 800th Pret a Manger I’d seen that day and bought a cheddar and pickle sandwich. I ate it on my walk to the museum. I knew I looked gross, but it’s not like I was going to run into anyone familiar.

***

the british museum's display for germany: memories of a nation

the british museum’s display for germany: memories of a nation

At the British Museum, it took me a really long time to figure out how to access the exhibit I wanted to see – Germany: memories of a nation – and that made me grumpy. But once I got it all sorted, I had a really great time. The exhibit told the history of Germany through art and artifacts in a really manageable yet thorough manner. It wasn’t super crowded. And I felt pretty at home with the mostly elderly crowd, especially once my fatigue and sciatica kicked in. At one point, I sat on a bench for a while next to two older men and listened to them talk about Hitler.

I wandered around the permanent collections for a very long time. By that point in my trip, I was museum-ed out. I can barely remember what else I saw. I know that I walked through some rooms with stuff from Roman Britain. I saw the Sutton Hoo hoard, which was a must for me while I was there. And I remember at least a room – or two – full of clocks. I also twice visited the bathrooms, which were podlike and an awful shade of orange, clearly someone’s idea of what the future would look like decades ago.

When I left the museum, it was raining. I bought a a shitty umbrella at a shop full of touristy knickknacks and walked to the closest Tube station. I got in a car with a bunch of uniformed schoolgirls chaperoned by their teachers. They were probably around twelve-years-old, all chatty and earnest and still trying to get attention and approval from one teacher in particular, who was clearly exhausted. The girl across from me was eating a bag of prawn cocktail-flavored potato chips, which intrigued me, though I never remembered to buy a bag before I left the UK.

***

afternoon in notting hill

afternoon in notting hill

I had no idea what I was doing in Notting Hill. At least it had stopped raining. I followed Google Maps, walking along beautiful residential streets, until I found Portobello Road. I remembered someone had told me to go to Portobello Road Market. I thought it was like…fine? I don’t know. I bought some silly souvenirs for my roommates and myself from one of the stalls. I walked into a few random, cutesy looking shops and ended up spending a stupid amount of time at a Cath Kidston without buying anything.

It was almost sundown and I’d thought I might try to walk by Kensington Palace, so I started heading toward Kensington. I promptly got lost. It got dark and for a while, I was the only person walking along a street lined with really, really nice furniture stores. I ended up hopping on a train at the first station I saw, which was High Street Kensington station, which I later realized is like four blocks from Kensington Palace.

That evening, Katie and I went to see a Jane Austen-themed improv group called Austentatious. (At a pub in Islington called The Old Queens Head.) They describe their performance as “an entirely improvised comedy play in the style of the wondrous & witty Jane Austen, based on nothing more than a title from the audience.” That is exactly what it was like! (It was really good.)

***

remembrance day poppies at the tower of london

The next day – my last full day in London – I did a bunch of stuff. At this point, I’m bored writing about this trip, so I’ll give you a quick rundown of how I spent my remaining time.

at the tower of london

at the tower of london

I went to the Tower of London. However, I forgot that it was Remembrance Day, so I had to watch an official Remembrance Day ceremony taking place on a big screen while standing in a crowd of thousands before I could get my ticket for the tour. Then I did the tour and it was great.

I walked along the Thames to St. Paul’s Cathedral. And then didn’t go inside. Just like, walked around it.

at liberty of london

at liberty of london

I spent my afternoon shopping. I went to Selfridge’s Food Hall for lunch and picked up a few little gift-y things for people back home. Then I walked around Liberty of London literally for hours. It was really maybe one of the most fun things I’ve ever done by myself. And then I checked out Sister Ray Records, which was close by.

I took the Tube to Whitechapel, where I was meeting Katie and Chris for dinner. I was super early, so I stopped into a little crepe shop for a coffee. I did some writing and charged my phone until it was time to go to Tayyab’s. Dinner there was definitely an experience for me. I hadn’t eaten Indian food since probably 2009 and have a really hard time handling anything spicy, so I was kind of nervous for our meal in general. (Note: I was the one who’d suggested we get Indian food in the first place, as I had put it on my London to-do list.) I think I maybe had a mild allergic reaction to something, but I liked most of what I ate!

I said goodbye to Katie that night. And in the morning, I said goodbye to Chris.

And then I was off to Iceland!

P.S. I’ll write about the two days I spent alone in Iceland soon, I think.

l.o.v.e. is strange to me

l.o.v.e. is strange to me_cover

Here’s a mix for February with some (happy and sad) love songs.

L.o.v.e. is strange to me by Haley Flannery on Mixcloud

Tracklist:

1. Annette Funicello: ‘That’s Amore’
2. Barbara Lynn: ‘Only You Know How to Love Me’
3. Orange Juice: ‘L.O.V.E. Love’
4. Moe Tucker: ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’
5. Honey Ltd.: ‘Tomorrow Your Heart’
6. Roy Orbison: ‘Crying’
7. Helene Smith: ‘Pain In My Heart’
8. Dressy Bessy: ‘Makeup’
9. The Breeders: ‘Do You Love Me Now?’
10. Neil Young: ‘I Believe In You’
11. Harry Nilsson: ‘You Made Me Love You’
12. Simon & Garfunkel: ‘For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her’
13. The Beach Boys: ‘Disney Girls (1957)’
14. Beverly Kenny: ‘A Sunday Kind of Love’
15. Shelley Duvall: ‘He Needs Me’
16. Gary Portnoy: ‘Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Cheers Theme)’

You can download the whole mixtape here. I also made a Spotify playlist, if you prefer listening that way. <3