Physical Education

Eighties movies were all about stereotypes. The gym teacher was always a brain dead meathead, or a butch lesbian. My own gym teacher didn’t fit the stereotype (morbidly obese, she sat in the shade while we played volleyball or kickball and only interfered by blowing a whistle when things got violent) but was equally useless.

I also grew up steeped in the Christian mind-body split that pitted brains against brawn. My loyalties were strongly with the former.

So maybe I can be forgiven for arriving so late at the conclusion that gym teachers are educators, and like most educators, could be interesting, intelligent, artistic people. The man above is a gym teacher, presenting here in the persona of DJ Tofri, host to Iceland’s largest and most storied heavy metal festival. He is also a musician, and has played in a series of underground bands.

Earlier this year I discovered that “Mr. D,” the P.E. teacher at my daughters’ elementary school, is also a playwright. I found out because I chaperoned a field trip to see a play at Seattle Children’s Theatre (which I have often touted as one of the best theater companies in our theater-strong city) and his name was on the cover of the brochure.

I don’t know if this realization would have made much of a difference in my life – I am and always have been a klutz, so my preference for books over sports was probably a given regardless of world view. But I wonder how many people I might have been friends with had I not made assumptions based on their jerseys?


Past Factories

There was a movie in the 80s, sort of Romancing the Stone crossed with Indiana Jones, but less memorable than that mix should have been, in which the bad guy was always taking photographs of his crimes. In a deep, heavily accented voice, he would say, “A moment, captured in time,” and then leave the heroes to die.

Earlier this summer I read a book called “Time Travel,” by James Gleick. It’s an interesting mix of history, physics, and philosophy that draws from H.G. Wells and Einstein equally to examine the concept of time travel. He talks about “old light,” and the fact that when we look at the sky and see stars, we are seeing light that has traveled millennia. The stars themselves may no longer exist by the time we see them.

I’ve been thinking about that idea lately. The building in this picture was once a fish factory. For years it stood empty, except for a few days each summer when underground musicians tracked extension cords across the puddles on the floor and set up their equipment for a series of off-venue concerts in the middle of the Eistnaflug festival. The rest of the year, the building sat unused, gradually decaying in the wet and cold of Eastern Icelandic weather.

In the year after I stood inside this building watching hooded violinists play black metal, this building was torn down. Some of the bands that played in that building the year I took this picture are world famous now. The building itself is gone, though. I can look at it right now in my picture, but it is long gone, like the music scene it once housed.

Young Blood

I don’t normally put pictures of other people’s kids on the internet, but these pictures are three years old and these boys are probably big enough to beat you up by now. At Eistnaflug in 2014, this group of kids was always hanging around the venue – sometimes sneaking inside it, too, since the festival was still 18+ back then.

In the documentary Eistnaflug DVD, they talk about how the festival has introduced a generation of small-town kids to heavy music, and I remember people talking about some local boys who had formed a band called Blodstafir in tribute to Iceland’s famous export band Solstafir. At the time, I wondered if it was the same group I’d seen recklessly skating in front of the venue, looking like they’d ride straight into the water of the fjord at the bottom of the hill.

I imagine that if I go back to the festival in Neskaupstadur in a couple of years, I’ll look up at the stage and find out.

Look Where You’re Going

Whether it makes all the difference or none, the path you’ve chosen is better than the path passively followed.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Spice of Life

At my first Eistnaflug (2014) REYKJAVÍKURDÆTUR was a stand-out act for me. They were one of the only bands I interviewed (unfortunately I never found an outlet for that interview – I should probably post it here one of these days). I probably would have been taken with the band regardless of the circumstances of discovery, because they are doing something quite new and original. But I think their feminist hip-hop, rapped in Icelandic, stood out all the more for being surrounded by the testosterone-laden atmosphere of a metal and punk festival.

I’ve noticed that my favorite shows at festivals are often the ones that don’t conform to the format. I like the rock bands at folksy Doe Bay Fest, the metal bands at Bumbershoot. Maybe the other acts blend together in the memory while the misfits stand out.

I once interviewed Gudny, the woman who booked Eistnaflug for many years, and she commented on how important it was to add stylistic variety to the line-up, even for a festival with as specific a focus as Eistnaflug. She said the oddball acts serve as a palate cleanser. Like smelling coffee beans when sampling perfume, or sorbet at a tasting menu, electronica between metal bands or metal between pop sets clear the head. “No matter how you love it,” she said, “You can’t just listen to one thing for three solid days.”

You Never Know


{I actually took this picture while camping at Cama Beach several years ago, because I wasn’t carrying a camera on the day of this story.}

One of the reasons I insisted on buying a tiny house in the city instead of a big one in the ‘burbs is that I don’t want to spend my life in a car. I’d rather experience life up close, at a walking pace, and living in the city put’s most things within range of my own two feet – at least theoretically. Last winter an endless sinus infection paired with record-low temperatures led to some bad car-centric habits.

After months of driving my daughter to her school 1/4 mile from our house, I shook off my winter lethargy one sunny spring afternoon and walked to pick her up. A block from my house I saw two people standing on the corner, staring at the sky. A trio of eagles was circling over the neighborhood. One of the ladies standing on the corner commented how unusual it was that there were three of them, since they usually hang out in pairs. I believed her because was obviously a serious birder. She had binoculars – she said she never leaves the house without them because you never know what you’ll see.

I would not have seen the eagles that day if I drove. You never know what you’ll see, but you do have to be looking.