That smell was also present in a place called Geysir, another tourist attraction we went to. Geysir is about two hours north east of Reykjavik, in a rather bleak, barren landscape that made you feel as if you’re on another planet. If it wasn’t for the restaurant and other tour buses that stood out like sore thumbs next to the main road, the place would look absolutely uninhabitable. The Geysirs, equivalent of the geysers of Yellowstone Park, went off at naturally specified times, shooting their hot watery acid into the air for all to see. It was quite a spectacle.
Sulfur stains of yellow were piled up in and around the vents of the geysers. Steam slowly drifting out of them, the geysers sat exposed on the ground like festering sores. Occasional plopping noises would excrete from them as well, causing the curious to get close to the chain barriers to examine the deadly hot minerals. Of course I was one of those people. Smelling like really bad feet, the geysers would then shock the crap out of me (along with anyone else nearby), as they would break their silence with big slushy booms, their water shooting some 50 to 60 feet into the air. I eventually got some good photos of it, but at a cost of getting dunked by some pretty damn hot water.
But it was at the restaurant in Geysir where I had the real shock of my life. And not by putting my finger in an electric socket, oh no, people. But by being reminded of my own racial past within the history in the United States.
I had just ordered a hot dog and fries from a young, big-bosomed Icelandic woman. I was sitting there eating at the table with the others, chatting about what we had seen in Geysir, whose explosions could still be heard through the windows of the place. That’s when I saw a dark figure standing off into the distance. It was facing my way.
It was a little smaller than me; not moving either. But it stood in-between the restrooms, and people seemed to occasionally put their change in the box it was holding with one hand. I figured it must’ve been there for donations. The statue wore a bright suit, of some type, wore a hat, but its “skin color” was a deep, purple black. Overall it looked like it was straight out of the 1920s or something. Oh geez. This COULDN’T be a statue of who I thought it was. I slowly stopped chewing.
“Can you hold on a minute?” I said to Glenn, right in the middle of one of his amped-up stories about his time living in Ibiza, handing out flyers. I walked over to where the statue stood, and sure enough, this statue was of a Black servant asking for change!
I was shocked! My mind did cartwheels. But why here? In the middle of nowhere in Iceland? At a tourist attraction? Who the hell found this statue to bring it all the way over here? While I thought that, an old guy came out of the bathroom and plunked some more change into the statue, without even thinking. I just had to get a picture of this, to show to the others back home. I clicked away.
I walked back to our table, quite amazed.
“Wow, of all things.” I said, interrupting their conversation. “Goddamn! I cannot believe it. That statue over there… is of Black servant asking for change! Unbelievable. I would never expect to see something like that over here.”
Everyone turned around to look at the statue. “Hey mate,” Glenn said seriously. “Maybe you should go over to the counter and tell them they shouldn’t have that there. It’s offensive to you, isn’t it?”
I couldn’t keep my eyes off the damn thing. “Well… it is in a way.” Then I started giggling. “But I find it more amusing than anything else. I mean, how the hell did this statue end up here? Damn… maybe the owner found it in the States and moved it here? I won’t bother telling them to move it, that’s crazy. Besides, this is Iceland, not the USA. I can’t throw my weight around like that. But I can tell you, you’d NEVER see a statue like that in the United States though. It would cause riots!”
“Are Black Americans still sensitive about slavery and it’s issues, Mo?” one of the girls asked.
“Yeah, we are. But the statue is fascinating. I mean, where the hell did they get it? I guess the equivalent would be seeing a statue of Ned Kelly in the middle of the South Bronx, ya know what I’m saying? Or maybe a statue of Leif Eriksson, at Yankee Stadium. Those people have nothing to do with the Bronx. And the statue has nothing to do with Iceland, but it’s here. Someone obviously liked it. I’m just mystified as to how the hell it got there.”
I never bothered asking who found the statue, and why it was brought to Geysir, to sit in-between the men’s and women’s bathrooms asking for loose change. But I guess it will remain one of my own little backpacking mysteries, and proof that sometimes way out in the middle of nowhere, you just cannot escape your own past and heritage.