I found Aqualung in Reykjavik

At the Lucky Record Store, perusing their displays of pricey collector grade LPs, I saw three copies of Jethro Tull’s Aqualung (selling, left to right, for the equivalent of $100, $100, and $125). I snapped this photo to share with my Tull Skull pals.

From hanging out in downtown Reykjavik for the Iceland Airwaves 2017 festival, I had been struck by the absence of panhandlers. There seemed to be no folks camped out on the streets as they do in virtually all US cities. Everyone seemed clean and well-dressed, even the few punks I saw.

On my third day in the city, I spotted a few gentlemen who began to change my impression. There were, it became clear, a few folks wandering around in well-worn clothes and shoes. After the Saturday night concert, I was trekking out to my hotel, nearly a mile for the downtown area, looking for a good spot to try to photograph the Imagine Peace Tower, when I passed the only other pedestrian as far from downtown as me. He was all bundled up, walking slowly with the cane that he obviously depended on, a bushy beard falling out from his hooded parka, carrying a heavy pack on his back. Like the other well-worn gents I had seen that day, he avoided eye contact with me, not responding to my presence in any way, though I did say “Evening” to him as we passed each other.

On my fourth day, after seeing a great young band at the record store, I went up the street to a grocery I had discovered to pick up breakfast supplies for my last two mornings in Reykjavik. Three check-out lines were open. Two had rather long lines, but at the third, no one had queued up behind an elderly gent who appeared to be near the end of making his purchase, so I headed for that lane.

My nose stopped me from approaching closer than a couple of meters. I was close enough to see that he was carefully counting out coins to pay his bill. He was wearing a long coat and had long hair and a beard so it took me only a moment to recognize Aqualung personified. When he turned and leaned over to pick up his bags, I could see the back side of his canvas trousers, soiled and wet.

I did not make eye contact with him nor offer any greeting. I skedaddled out into the rain and headed to the bus stop where I would find dry transportation back to my hotel. But I am acknowledging him for disillusioning me of the notion that everyone in Reykjavik is healthy and rich enough to move through the city, like me, with no need for cash and coins because my plastic is good everywhere. Lucky.


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