Kex, Reykjavik

Ginsberg was intoning to me as I urinated. That’s the kind of sentence I wish finished with the word ‘again’, but alas. He was broadcast to me through a speaker secured above the toilet door. It looked like it may have formed part of the Titanic’s emergency equipment; the speaker, not the door.

Kex Bar IcelandKex is an old cookie factory. Its bar area is huge and folksy. I opened my tablet to work on my novel. I am gunning for the world.

The novel was not there.

Two chapters were, but other chapters, chapters I had been working on in Iceland, were not. This was worrying. I hoped they would be returned to me as soon as I next got online.

So I decided to not think about it and read a chapter of The World According to Garp over a pot of coffee. The tip jar, a money box pig, was overflowing; I left a couple of hundred króna at his trotters. The coffee was strong and therefore good.

Early Friday afternoon is not busy in Kex on the second day of Iceland’s Summer. We sat listening to Bob Dylan and Elliott Smith under the eyes of anatomically correct paintings of birds and the pockmarked industrial-cum-artistic-space concrete ceiling.

I decided to put off worrying about the book a little more by ordering a bowl of Potato and Smoked Haddock Soup and a Pilsner. One barman had a big beard and looked calm. The other was shaven and busy. Having the time to notice these changes makes me realise I am travelling differently with age.

Kex Magnetic Poetry Wall IcelandWhen you travel in your 30s you do not partake of the magnetic poetry lift shaft or the interestingly arranged books on the bookshelves. You drink beer and read the thing you brought with you; write the thing you hope exists online somewhere still. That’s the nature of experience. Constantly starting new things results in nothing being done. Nothing good at least .

In a new country new things are happening to your brain without you asking for them. You no longer feel the need to bring something back to define a new you.

I won’t be hooking ancient speakers up in my bathroom and piping in beat poetry. I will, however, be trying my hand at that mackerel and potato soup.

Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik

“Do you want salt on the rim?” she said.

I jumped. She shouted it across the bar at me just as Joaquin Phoenix saw the green man in Signs. Then there was a man standing next to John Goodman putting bullets in teenagers in Red State. The gunshots were so loud they could have been real. At that point, I didn’t know that those were the names of the films. I had only just realised I had walked in to the Lebowski Bar‘s Thursday night film quiz. I did want salt on the rim.

Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik - bowling on the wall

Bowling at 90 degrees in the Lebowski Bar, Reykjavik.

The drink menu was filled with milk-based cocktails, the bar’s hat tipped to The Dude‘s booze of choice; the White Russian. Ruth wanted to go off menu, so I ordered her a margarita, and picked for myself a caprahinia from the smattering of non-milk cocktails on the menu. The caprahinia was A grade, but Ruth described the margarita as “a martini with tequila and cointreau, no lemon, no syrup”. Not a margarita at all then, but still good in Ruth’s opinion.

“But I think if you had a few it might burn a hole in your throat,” she said.

The film quiz continued at its incredible volume. Entry was free, but we decided to let the quiz unfold for us as entertainment and shirked the urge to find a competitive element in the evening.

On the next round we decided to embrace the chaos and order White Russians. The result made me question what I had been doing with my life so far. It wasn’t milk, it was cream. And dude, it was amazing. So amazing that I ordered a second as the answers to the film quiz were delivered and the pixie hair cut friends of the quiz master retreated to the back room to dance to Otis Redding and Cliff Richard.

The cream overdose spilled us out onto Laugavegur, where we hunted down a taxi driver who spends some time as a chef. He bemoaned the current digging up of Reykjavik Roads, but got us back to the hotel for under 2,000 ISK and admitted to “like talking”, so it seemed we were all winners that evening.