Sunday, April 18, 2010

Iceland, Please Come Back

Iceland, it wasn’t bad enough your banks fell apart the last couple of years and you wreaked financial havoc on yourselves and Europe (complicated economics stuff—you’ll have to look it up for the rundown), but now you’re back, with that recent volcanic ash spewing from your alien landscape (and those big black clouds look like an alien invasion). This ash has been heading south/southeast, blanketing England and parts of other European countries, grounding flights from and to the continent, posing a health hazard, and turning day into night. The experts are saying that there’s no sign of it letting up and the jetstream looks to continue in the same direction for at least a few more days. Up until now, we’ve all been comforted knowing there’s this little rock way up there called Iceland and there’s people living there and that we hear from you every now and then in commercials with blue-eyed kids standing in misty fog beckoning us to come visit. But now you’re all out there and we’re not liking it.

The name of this belching volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, sounds like you’ve just decided to go nonsensical or else to fling obscenities at the rest of us (all apologies if this name has some special meaning). Thanks, Iceland, thanks. Look, thanks to National Geographic and public television, we know your country is beautiful, the geography otherworldly. Who wouldn’t want to visit? We know that you guys offered to take Bobby Fischer off the rest of the world’s hands before he passed away. An off-his-rocker chess grandmaster would love the cozy far-off confines of your land, and we’d have been happy for his exile. We know that you gave us singer Björk and that ridiculous swan gown/costume thing she wore at the Oscars that one year, which gave us something to talk about every year when it’s Oscar season and Oscar fashion miscues must be discussed. She’s made some intriguing music over the years and I think the rest of us assume that most of you are just as delightfully a tad off-kilter like she is.

Charming stuff all of this, sure, but the rest of us down below need something more. Or less. In North America, we have Canada. A large part of it is cold and covered in ice, much like your land, and they’ve inflicted Doug Henning, Howie Mandel, and Celine Dion upon the rest of us, and their love of hockey and curling makes no sense, but they haven’t been responsible for tossing a wrench in world commerce or shutting down a continent’s air flights. You might be thinking, well, they just haven’t tried hard enough, but that’s not what I’m getting at.

In case you haven’t noticed, your country was created as geographically isolated in a severe sense. Looking on a map, we can see that you’re way up there, beyond where anyone could reasonably think anybody could live and live productively. You might be thinking, that’s exactly why we’re here, you urban-dwelling, pollutant breathing sardine whose lifestyle and culture is doing more to destroy the world than we ever have. Perhaps you’re right in some sense, but, what I’m really getting at here is, you’re too far away from the rest of us. Come back to us. It makes the most sense for you to move to Norway, but I’m sure Ireland would be happy to have you come too and besides, you’d only have to change one letter in your country name. Also, could a few of you find your way to Portugal? They’re a bit homogenized there and frankly we haven’t heard much from them since the 16th century.

Whether you stay or leave, we realize there’s nothing you guys can do about volcanoes (at least we think that’s the case). But you have power over other things, such as your names. Maybe they make sense to you guys and Norwegians, but I think the rest of us are confounded. Your best known writer is named Halldor. Two of your most famous artists were named Einar and Ásgrímur. You have a movie director named Baltasar. I propose that prospective Icelandic parents be required to put down the J.R.R. Tolkien tomes and pick up a copy of The Baby Name Bible. You can pick up a copy from Amazon for about 1,389 kronur (though no one's going to deliver it anytime soon because of your volcano issue). Do us all a solid, and before you crack open that book, know that no one’s naming their kids Gladys, Edna, Earl, or Floyd anymore.

Look, I realize you’re all relatively decent world citizens. We’ll never forget how you all did us a big one hosting the Reykjavik Summit. That meeting between the U.S. and the Soviet Union represented a big breakthrough in relations between the two countries and was the likely impetus toward halting nuclear proliferation. Thanks, dudes, but that’s been more than 23 years ago now. It’s time to throw us a bone again.

There’s an old Icelandic proverb that says Kálið er ekki sopið þó í ausuna sé komið, which translates as, the cabbage has not yet been sipped even though it is in the ladle. I don’t even know what that means, which just furthers my point here. Come back to us, in all ways. We’re not asking you to eat at McDonald’s or name your sons Ethan. You can still be as delightfully kooky as we already think you are. Just come back to us. We need you here, even if it’s just so you can explain that awful Björk swan outfit to us.


  1. Nice non-fic article. And holy cow the name of that volcano. O.o

  2. they are doomed, must be bad karma..the way they treated bobby fisher or something