Graveyard antics

Today was one of those “this is what it’s all about” touring days, even though I had to put in six hours of work.

Actually it started on a strange note. I woke up to weird animal sounds, coming in through the screened window of my room. The window was over a central plaza, and as I scooted around in the bed I thought “This is a very urban place to be hearing animals. Actually… What kind of animals are these? There are no coyotes in Iceland. What else would be large enough?”

Eventually I realized I was hearing words, mixed in with the gibberish sounds, echoing around the walls of the plaza. What the heck? … And then the sound resolved to two middle-aged people having sex, in a room somewhere else high up with the windows open. It was a mixture of grunting and words, but I could only parse some of the words – which were all curse words in English – because the rest was in Icelandic and sounded like the babbling of a semi-human animal.

“That is hilarious,” I thought. “Also, dang, Icelanders are surprisingly kinky. I thought this was a more conservative realm, but perhaps I’m using a definition that doesn’t fit…”

I laughed for a while, then debated whether to make them aware they were being overheard. It would certainly embarrass them, but it would also be quite funny to the other people who could hear them too. I couldn’t be the only one. I wanted to lean out the window and shout, “THAT’S THE WAY TO DO IT, LAD! PUT YOUR BACK INTO IT! GET ‘ER WHERE SHE WANTS TO GO!”

But I changed my mind, and decided to roll out and start the day instead of spoiling theirs.

Some company's representation of how the city plumbing looks. I think it's pretty cool!

I’d done plenty of riding around the capital city before, and even with all my wanderlust I am a creature of habit, so I ended up going to the same coffee shop as yesterday. In fact I went there for almost an entire week, to work and write or just get a nice coffee to start the day.

This map is how I know I’m in a good place:

And this became one of my go-to meals. Swiss mocha, fresh bread, and a kind of tuna salad to spread on it. This got me through a lot of meetings and a lot of lines of code.

Tasty coffee shop fare.

Nice decorations here too. Not too loud, but still a bit playful.

This guy is everywhere.

After working into the afternoon, I shut the laptop and rode the bike over to a hardware store, where I purchased some velcro straps to do a minor bike repair. Then I took off, taking streets randomly for a while.

How tall does a building need to get before Vikings stop trying to raid it?

I wonder how many times that viking has tried to kill that spider...

Strangely, this statue has no explanatory plaque saying who is being depicted. Perhaps it's just J. Random Vikingson.

I found myself out on a spit of land bearing an art installation, known as Þúfa:

The word means “tussock” in Icelandic, but it can also mean “small mountain” or “hummock.” At the top of the mound is a shed used for drying fish.

There was plenty of other stuff to photograph around the marina as well:

If this isn't a company logo, it should be.

I dont know what this is supposed to represent, with the duck and all, but it sure looks tragic on the side of a half-demolished building.

What does this local art mean?

I went to a fish and chips shop I’d spotted earlier.  Ate fish and chips and did some code review, then got some soup to go. I also found a chocolatier, and made a memo to check it out the next day.

Around 5:30pm it started to rain lightly, so I put on my raincoat and waterproof socks and kept right on biking.

Two hours later, most of the way around the peninsula of Reykjavik, I blundered across the city cemetery.

The gate was open, so I walked in and started taking pictures.

My first glimpse of the shadowy graveyard cat.

Just around midnight I looked up from the camera and saw a black cat picking its way between the gravestones.

The classic Halloween cat pose!
Lookin' spooky!
Why not take a nap on a grave?
Perhaps the ghost of a mouse will wander by. Or perhaps a mouse that will soon be a ghost.
Posing for me on a grave.
Flash photography: Cats don't like it.

It walked right up to me as though it was keeping an appointment. I imagined it saying, “Hello, I’ve been stationed at this cemetery to complete the spooky picture for you tourists. Sorry I’m late. Where are we sitting?”

I pet it and sang it the “graveyard cat song”, making it up as I went:

Graveyard cat.
Grave Yaard  Cat!
Spooky at midnight, how about that!

Bein’ all fuzzy,
Pokin’ at the graves,
Lookin’ for a mouse to chomp today.

Cat cat, cat cat
Catcat cat!

Graveyard graveyard
Graveyard cat!

Does this picture just scream "Halloween" or what??

The cat sat down nearby, so I took the lid off my fish soup and set it next to the cat, and it licked the lid clean while I drank from the cup. A nice little shared meal.

I praised it for being spooky and photogenic, and did a round of language practice on my phone, and sent several people back home some cat photos.  It watched me patiently while I made weird human noises at it, blinked for a bit, then got up and wandered away.

I learned a while ago that the instinct to hunt is not tied very strongly to the desire for food in cats. That is, they’ll hunt for the heck of it even when they’re not hungry. That makes perfect sense because if cats only tried to hunt when they were hungry, they’d starve before they got good enough to catch anything.

It also explains why a cat who’s recently been fed will still pounce on a small creature and maul it. I assumed my cat friend was heading out to find some cemetery mice and ruin their evening.

20 minutes later while I was on the other side of the cemetery the cat walked up again, and jumped onto a gravestone and posed for me.  I give it a small piece of fish which it licked and then abandoned.

I tell ya: I don’t know where else in the world you would be able to get lighting this weird without some very expensive hardware and a few long extension cords.

The cathedral is visible from almost anywhere in the city. You can navigate by it.

Such wonderful textures in a cemetery.

I don’t fully understand my own contrarian nature sometimes. I really feel relaxed and comfortable when I’m sitting around in a place full of old bones and stone markers, commemorating death. If it’s midnight and I’m alone, all the better.

I didn’t used to be like this. When I was a kid I was scared very easily. I also had a stubborn desire to not be controlled, even by my own fear, so I’d go outside at night into the forest and stand there, letting myself freak out, then letting the fear ebb down to a flicker, then taking a few more steps until it flared up again, and so on. It got to the point where I was actively wishing for a ghost or demon to materialize before me, because the fact of it would open up a whole new universe of possibilities, and upend all kinds of things I’d learned about science and nature, which would be terribly exciting.

But it never happened, even once, and it still hasn’t happened, even with plenty of opportunity. Instead the practice of standing around in cemeteries and calming myself has conditioned me to relax in these places, perhaps too much, and I start thinking deep thoughts about nature and spirituality.

Also I think those cartoons about Halloween and “grim grinning ghosts” and the association of scares with candy may have contributed.

So deliciously spooky.
The "candles" are all LED-driven these days.

Eventually I left the cemetery, and went riding quietly around the city as the misty rain coated everything.

All creatures that weren’t asleep were hunkered down.

In the cold winter months Icelanders get an extra energy boost by chewing on infants. Fact!

Not a tribute to the diversity movement, but to Bilröst. It's a burning rainbow bridge that reaches between Earth and Asgard.

But let's just say it's a tribute to the diversity movement anyway.

It was way after midnight when I finally returned the bike to the basement of the AirBnB, and walked upstairs to my room. It had been a fine day.

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