Gudni Bragason is the only person from Iceland I know well.
We were graduate students in the same Advanced Television class at New York University's School of Journalism. Not only that, when the class broke up into work groups to go around town on shooting assignments, Gudni and I ended up in the same foursome.At the risk of being called all sorts of names suggesting a vulgar preoccupation with racial differences, I will say that GUDNI LOOKED NORDIC: he was very blond, very white. He spoke softly - thoughtfully, really - and had a permanent twinkle in his eyes. He may have been in his late 20s or early 30s.
I liked him. We talked often. I told him that when I thought of his country - I was one of those who took the cheap flights to Europe in the 1970s via Reykjavik - I felt cold.
He smiled at that, said nothing. I felt foolish.
With Iceland so much in the news as the location for this weekend's Reagan-Gorbachev summit (which I won't be covering), I thought about Gudni. I haven't seen or spoken to him since I finished that TV class in spring '84 - or was it fall '83?
Anyway, Gudni's not in the United States. I tried his old number and got a recording of a female voice that bore no resemblance to Gudni's accent.
I tried NYU-journalism. They told me it isn't their policy to give out information on students. The woman on the phone must have felt sorry for me
because she suggested - after a long pause - I try NYU's Alumni Information office.
The alumni office told me to send us something in writing." I said something about newspaper deadlines. They were not impressed.
I finally tried Iceland's consulate general in New York. They told me Gudni's back home. They even gave me his telephone number there. I thought quickly of my salary, but took the number anyway.
The whole futile search (I don't know why I expected Gudni to be in New York) made me think how fickle human interests can be. I felt a little ashamed.
The last time Iceland was hot news was in the early '70s when it hosted former President Richard M. Nixon's meeting with late French President Georges Pompidou and the Boris Spassky/ Bobby Fischer world chess championship.
Then there was a serious "cod war" with Britain in 1976. Fighting broke out between fishermen from the two countries over Iceland's decision to extend its exclusive fishing zone to a 200-mile limit from 12 miles. There were casualties, and for a time the two nations broke off diplomatic relations - the only time that has happened between NATO allies.
Fishing, you see, accounts for some 70 percent of Iceland's export earnings. Icelanders worry about excessive exploitation by foreign fleets of the fishing grounds near the country.
As for the Nixon visit, he talked about Iceland as a 'God-forsaken country.' And you know what happened to him," an Icelander who works at the World Bank told me with a chuckle.
It was Gudni's "where ignorance is bliss it's folly to be wise so why get upset" attitude all over again.
At the request of the Icelandic government, my World Bank friend's father has been trying to acquaint foreign journalists in Iceland about the country's culture. My friend said the government asked his father to do this because he had written about the house where the summit is being held.
He also told me his father called him Tuesday morning to laugh about how the journalists keep telling him they don't want to hear about the culture, they only want to hear ghost stories.
The choice of Iceland as the summit site is good for Iceland's tourism," my World Bank friend said.
The only thing I'm afraid of in the organization is the fact that all these people will be eating Icelandic lamb and fish for a week. They may come to hate those meats," he added.