4th of July, with harðfiskur
I can’t remember the last time my singing voice was clear, high, and pure, like Langjökull, which in Icelandic translates to “Long Glacier.” I once asked a sales girl in the gift shop if they had any T-shirts bearing that name, but no, apparently they only sell Vatnajökull T-shirts. Vatnajökull is the name of Iceland’s largest Glacier, with an area of 8,100 square kilometers.
I think my voice was already in rough shape when I went to Lake Winnipesaukee, NH to teach at the Miles of Music Camp, which I hope to do each and every year for a long time. From there I flew to Vero Beach, FL, to teach at the Mike Block String Camp. We stayed right on the beach and made up songs and played fiddles and swam in the warm ocean, until feeding time rolled around just after dusk. A German tourist lost his buttock to a shark the week before. My apologies to the Vero Beach chamber of commerce for sharing this information; it’s almost as funny as it is scary.
What really did my voice in was the all night move-out of my apartment the following Saturday. My roommate Paul graciously offered to help, and we were up until 8:30 AM packing and cleaning. I slept on the freshly polished floor for an hour before walking my landlord through the place, which took about 15 seconds front bedroom to back bedroom. I took the deposit check to the bank, bought a coffee, and drove the rental van to Massachusetts, where I hired a couple local boys to unload the van for me into my mom’s basement.
I was starting to get sick and I didn’t want to completely lose my voice, and I knew from a recent conversation with my Uncle Henri who is a health professional that sleep deprivation was probably the cause. I caught a good night’s rest at the big Brighton, MA music house, where I’m thinking about relocating to this fall. I bussed to Harvard Square, bought some traveling pants at Urban Outfitters and made my way to the airport. Icelandair gives you a selection of free movies and music. Sigur Ros has their own station. They must get some royalties from that. I watched an Icelandic film called Undercurrents about how a woman upsets the delicate balance of crew life on a fishing boat, drank a gin and tonic, and tried to sleep for a couple hours.
I thought a hot soak would be just the thing for my voice, and as my friend and host Phil says, Icelandic pools are the best. I swam in the outdoor heated lap pool and soaked in the saltwater tubs. After a lunch of salt lamb, pickled herring, cheese, butter, and sweet rye bread, I fell asleep- right through the rehearsal that I was supposed to have with the Illegresi boys. They’re an Icelandic bluegrass band whose name means “the weeds.” We’re playing a 4th of July gig tonight to celebrate the American holiday. I’m the singer, so it’s off to the only barbecue joint in Reykjavik for some ribs and brisket, and maybe that will put the right amount of lube on my voice so I can reach way back for those old, sweet, simple songs that I never seem to sing anymore back home, wherever that is. I just cracked my first Tuborg. It’s nice to be in Iceland, a paradise of lava rock and fresh water, piped up hot from the ground, clean and pure.