09 February 2006

Famous in Iceland

The other day I was watching a Eurovision semifinal pre-show gameshow, and I caught a glimpse of one of the judges that looked familiar. I called J over and when he was on screen again we realized we knew him- he'd been another guest at a dinner party we'd been to a few weeks ago. Now, there he was on the national TV station of Iceland as a Eurovision trivia expert. I am so used to things on TV being distant faraway places (even NYC seems distant if you live in Boston) and faraway unknowable people that I didn't trust it really was him. When I asked another guy who'd been at the same party he said, "oh yeah, the guy is a HUGE Eurovision fan- that was him."

I should, of course, mention that the reason I was even watching the semifinal of Europe's biggest pop-cheese contest on a Saturday night was because I knew someone singing in it. He's a co-worker of mine and I had no idea he was so well-known by the rest of Iceland until last month. J and I had even been referring to one of his group's songs for months without knowing that I sat across from one of the singers every day at work (the immigrant shyness takes a while to break through).

I'm getting used to this though- when I read one of the two Icelandic tabloid magazines, I flip through to see who I know in them, not what the famous people are wearing. This same co-worker of mine was on the cover of one last week,looking dapper in a jaunty fedora, and I spotted him again inside, as well as a guy I was in Icelandic class with, who is also the editor of a newspaper here. I'm starting to wonder if the magazine sells because it's gossippy or because everyone likes to see their friends in print. If I've only been here for 5 months and I can recognize people on TV and tabloids on a weekly basis, it must be almost daily for someone who grew up here.

Living in the main city of this tiny country also means that chances are I will recognized the filming location of locally-produced commercials and tv shows. For example, over the summer there was a Coke ad with lots of footage downtown Reykjavík, some car commercials that show neighborhood streets, and the Icelandic Idol competition is filmed down the hill at the Smáralind mall. When there are recaps of "hot" events that happened over the weekend, it's also often been concerts I was at. Yeah, it's a case of big-fish-small-pond, but it's nice to have someone you know to root for in TV shows, to see your local 'hood all slicked up with professional camera lenses and tv commercial editing.

Ship sighting: Sóley is out of the shipyard and back to the sand-dredging duties somewhere in the harbor. I also spotted some spectacular cargo ship departure action two days ago. After weeks of gray soggy weather we had a glowing clear day after a fresh dusting of snow, and as this boat sailed just after sunset, the huge dark shape of the boat with the dual cranes anchored down was silhouetted against the blues of Arctic mountains and the sea that caught the glimmers of early moonlight. I didn't get a chance to check the harbor website so I don't know which ship it was, but the way it was blackly perched on the horizon contrasted dramatically with the frigid colors of the harbor. I think Iceland knew I was getting a little sick of the never-ending fog and threw me a spectacular evening like that so I'd fall in love with the harbor all over again. It worked!

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