Thursday, December 15, 2011


My friend's daughter is doing a high school project on Iceland, and when she told a group of folks about it the other day, we all stammered off our "facts" about the island nation in the Atlantic Ocean whose capital is Reyka-something-vek-spelled-who-knows-how. All of us made fun of our lack of Iceland-knowledge by spouting off about pretend national heroes, fake imports, fantastical international skirmishes, the Icelandic space program, Bjork.

And then I blurted, with exaggerated pompousness, "You know, Iceland has a population of 343,000." Everyone stared. I stared at myself. What had I just done?

"How--Wait, do you know that?" they asked.



I'd derailed the "we know nothing" joke to make the "I know ridiculous things" joke.

I like that joke better, and I think I made fun of myself sufficiently afterward, but I see where I might have curtailed the fun.

Here now could follow an essay on my slight discomfort with group-joking, my obsession with population figures, my desire to journey to Iceland, which--like Wisconsin, Oregon, New Zealand, Mauritius, and Belgium--is pleasantly under the radar. There'd also be a place in that lengthy composition to discuss the untraceability of what's eventually gotten trapped in our brains like so many Icelandic prisoners (there are about 104 of them). About how and from where we've gleaned our mental dust.

But I don't really know anything about that stuff.

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