Edward Weinman looks back on the Icelandic inspiration for his character Jon Kari, a morally corrupt entrepreneur who forever changes the life of Hobson, the American protagonist in Weinman’s The Ring Road, a Nordic thriller set in Iceland after a glacial volcano erupts with a vengeance.
I met my first pimp when I was in middle school.
As a sixth grader, my friends and I would sit outside Superette, a convenience store located on Monroe Street, across from Oregon State’s campus, and drink 32 oz. cups of Mt. Dew.
Amped on caffeine and sugar, we watched an amazing world pass us by: beefy football players walking with their petite girlfriends; hippies slurping coffee while riding bikes; and Frat guys buying cases of beer for parties that I would, years later, sneak into in order to meet girls.
But nothing sparked my imagination as much as the man who looked like the zoot-suit and hat-wearing pimp Huggy Bear from the ’70’s American cop drama “Starsky and Hutch.”
Our pimp drove a pink Cadillac up and down Monroe, day after day. He always had two pretty women riding shotgun. When he stepped out of his car to pick up some road snacks at Superette, my friends and I would pester him with all sorts of questions about what he was doing.
“Who are the girls?” and “Can we ride along?” and “How much does it cost?”
He’d casually respond with a cool smile and a wink. Sometimes, he’d even buy us chocolate bars.
Flash forward to my life in Iceland where I worked as a journalist for Iceland Review and Atlantica magazine. Out on the razzle one night, I ran into a friend of mine at Kaffibarinn. My friend used to work sales for a publishing company. Like myself, he was on a pub-crawl, although he was, unlike me, sitting next to two drop-dead, sexy blonde women, along with two American tourists with wide smiles plastered to their faces and bloodshot eyes, a sure sign of either jetlag or intoxication.
My friend began telling me all about his new business, “Reykjavik Nightlife.”
“For a small fee I show tourists around Reykjavik,” he told me.
My friend was dressed in a sharp suit. His “clients” also wore suits, too smart for Kaffibarinn, the popular drinking hole frequented by the “it” people who live in 101 Reykjavik: artists, filmmakers, musicians—those who normally wear jeans, T-shirts and ratty jackets to prove to everyone that they are hip enough not to care about appearances.
I told my friend that his business model would fail, because the bars with the highest cool-quotient were pretty much all located in a cluster, like a herd of sheep walking down the main shopping street.
“Why would anyone pay you to take them on a pub-crawl? All the pubs are right here,” I said, gesturing with my hands to indicate the close proximity of Reykjavik’s nightspots.
He looked at the drop-dead gorgeous women next to him, women who belonged on the cover of a glossy magazine, women who are ubiquitous in Reykjavik. He then glanced over at the two tourists, who at this point were buying rounds of hot shots (2 parts Galliano, 2 parts coffee, 1 part whip cream and 1 pinch nutmeg) for their “dates.” Turning back to me, my friend smiled. Then he winked.
I understood. My friend had metamorphosed into that man who drove a pink Cadillac through Corvallis, into the Icelandic version of Huggy Bear.
Before leaving, I said “Góða skemmtun” to the ladies of the evening, only to notice they didn’t understand my simple Icelandic, which meant nothing more than “have fun.”
The women, I figured, were from Eastern Europe and probably moonlighting from their job at Odal, what was then one of Reykjavik’s posh gentleman clubs.
(Iceland’s lesbian prime minister has since outlawed these gentlemen clubs.)
Later that night, as I was drinking beer with friends in a crowded bar, and over the live music trying to chat up an extremely attractive woman who, too, belonged on the cover of a glossy magazine, I thought to myself:
Why the hell spend money on Reykjavik Nightlife when you can hit up just about any bar, café or disco in Iceland’s capital and roll the dice with a simple twist of fate.
Edward Weinman is a former staff writer for Iceland Review. He now writes for Whitman College, and occasionally blogs for huffingtonpost. His debut novel The Ring Road is available now.