Wednesday, February 03, 2016

'suspended' animation

I love how candidates who quit their campaigns for the presidency like to say they are "suspending" the campaign. Suspending. Really? True to the political norm, they like to sugarcoat the reality. I got a secret for you: they are quitting. Imagine if "suspend" gained a wider usage like that employed by these candidates.

"We have decided to suspend our marriage."

"As of Friday, we are suspending your position at this company."

"Kids, we are suspending the use of your electronic devices."

"This is your captain. Due to engine malfunction, we are suspending in-flight operations."

Saturday, January 30, 2016


I went to Destiny USA today not to shop but merely for human intercourse, meaning not that but the sounds of footsteps, blather, shrieks, cries, laughs, arguments, mumbles, interjections, interruptions, sulks, swerves, objections, enthusiasms, profanities, sneezes, coughs, and the incessant undercurrent of fingers brushing across or up and down the screens of "devices." The new town square is neither in downtown nor square. I sat on a bench in front of the Apple store and wrote about Iceland. I exchanged texts as my unsmartphone chimed owing to its Outdoor setting. Some texts I ignored in deference to finishing a thought as I composed my Icelandic travelogue. I bought nothing. I sought to "create coincidence." As I was leaving, I ran into three people I know. We spoke. By then, the blare of the place was getting on my nerves. Had to go. And did.

Monday, January 25, 2016

last day in Iceland

[This is old news, but I felt obliged to finish the chronicle of my journey, in some form, fact or fiction.]

Just before going through security at Keflavik, I asked two guards if I could go through with the Icelandic Glacial water that Icelandair had given me upon entering the plane in Newark. I was told I would have to empty it or drink it. “Will I be getting another one for my flight home?”
“Yes, you will. Once you pass security, you can fill up your empty container from tap water and take that with you. It’s just as good.”
”I believe that. I just may.” (I did not but carried the empty homeward.)

At the Icelandair check-in counter, I could not resist one farewell flirtation with the native Nordic beauties. But I added a twist.

“Where’s all the women my age? Where’s your moms?” I asked the two associates checking my bag and issuing a boarding pass.

They looked a bit puzzled and annoyed. (Tiredness must be a factor in my social tone-deafness.) After a pause, one of them replied, “They’re all taken.” She added a shrewd marketing promotion, “Come back this summer”  — which evoked my unspoken rejoinder, “Because they’ll be divorced by then? Their husbands are hunting or fishing?”

As we flew into the sun (“running blind...running into the sun,” as the Jackson Browne song goes,) I was neither blind nor running on empty. Flying above crenellated clouds that looked like a sea or a sky under sky, I wondered if we would beat the sunset and land in brightness (we would not). To bookend my landing on Tuesday, which seemed ages ago, I listened to Of Monsters and Men (OMAM) again. The title of their “Beneath the Skin” LP suited me. I went to Iceland seeking skin and what lay beneath. I received one, the latter. “Hunger” was one of the tracks of this journey, and of this album. Did I satiate my hungers? It turns out to be the wrong question. I looked at my hungers and my self and the wider beyond. Did I need to go anywhere to accomplish that? Perhaps not. But I sorely needed a retreat. Caregiving and grieving were taking a toll on me. I paid that toll and walked through the gate. And Iceland was the perfect choice: a glacial oasis of gray and blaze, geysers and lagoons, new tongues and ancient sagas. As I noted in my book Seeing the Signs, the world is adorned with signs for us to decipher. On a construction plywood fence on Hafnerstraeti in Reykjavik, I saw this graffito sprinkled with symbols that looked like ancient runes and the word “Berlin,” where my older daughter once lived and where I have journeyed:

you have to be who you are now . . .

you can’t wait until later

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Iceland, day 3: threads of meaning

Just seeing traditional Icelandic sweaters in shops, and worn by tourists and locals alike, I knew I was going to get one. I was determined to allow myself this indulgence. I am not a person who buys many clothes, I live simply, and I have to resist feelings of guilt just for purchasing something for myself. 
I walked a few blocks into the main shopping district and stopped at Te & Kaffi. Perfect. Hot black tea, a toasted bagel with Smjör butter and as is customary in Iceland some cheese or meat or fish (cheese for me). I chatted with Alexandra and Jeremiah behind the counter. Jeremiah, wearing a Harry Potter-inspired medallion on a necklace and what looked to be premature gray hair, spoke in American-inflected English. He related having lived in Minnesota and Tennessee. He did a humorous Minnesota accent in English after I tried my own version. His was better, with an exaggerated American-Scandinavian lilt. I browsed through a local newspaper, not succeeding in parsing the meaning of the front-page story.

“Where’s a good place to shop for a real Icelandic sweater with good prices, not too touristy?”

“The Nordic Store, right across the plaza,” Alexandra and Jeremiah suggested.

I walked the twenty yards there. It’s a splendid display of sweaters, gloves, scarves. I walked to the men’s section and a very helpful sales clerk let me try on a few pullovers. I avoided looking at price tags. I decided I would not get the zippered cardigan. I liked the sweaters she showed me and let me try on, but I am a fussy buyer capable of an impulsive move. I wanted more color, I said. There was a green design I liked but she did not have it in my size. She was not pushy, and I greatly appreciated that. She was so cordial, I had to buy something. I bought a skein (is that what they are?) of hunterish green authentic wool for knitter/quilter Beth, from whom I've been cordially separated for more than two years, for her to knit or to have as a souvenir. The customer can choose from a robust palette of colors, demarcated on a chart reminiscent of a Pantone Matching Scale. This wool is authentic, the double-ply fiber used in the sweaters. (Beth later enthused it was the best gift I’d ever given her.) Locals proudly boast of how warm the sweaters are, wet or dry. And they are right. It’s all in the wool of their sheep, we are told. (Sheep outnumber people on the island. Speaking of “island,” two things: the Icelandic word for Iceland is Ísland, and domain names there end in .is. This invites wordplay and silly conjecture. Well, it is an island, but not the only one in the world that is a nation. More tantalizing, for my little philosophical musings, is the notion that I have found my being, my “is,” in the land whose websites end in “is.” It must’ve been preordained. Or not.)

I had to do more exploring. Up the street, on Laugavegur, the Icewear store had gorgeous selections. I can’t articulate why I did not buy one there. Size? Style? I just was not psychologically ready. The fellow there was also gracious and patient. Both Nordic Store and Icewear were curiously empty of customers around noon. The guy at Icewear told me to try their store down the hill, closer to my apartment. Before that I stopped at 66º North. A decent but limited assortment of blacks, blues, grays. I went to the Icewear store, downstairs to the Vault. A few folks from Maryland were there, a couple. The woman seemed to be on the same sort of mission and knew sweaters. Then the fellow there mentioned The Handknitters Association of Iceland store. That was it. I would have to go there. Trond had mentioned it to us as he dropped off tourists at the end of the day the night before. I had to see what it offered.

I was hungry. Time for lunch. I was arrested by a sign at Prikid, on Bankastraeti, that declared it was the “oldest restaurant / cafe in Iceland.” (What does that even mean and how would one prove it?) It was inviting, giving off a simple 1950s American diner vibe. And looking at the menu sold me on it. I was up for a breakfast meal in the afternoon. I sat at a table by the window, able to view the streams of tourists. I had the Breakfast of Champions, the title of a Kurt Vonnegut work: scrambled eggs, tea, toast, oranges, bacon, and skyr. I had been urged to try skyr. I am glad I did. It is the original “Greek” yogurt that Icelanders have been eating a thousand years. Some crunchy granola or nuts on top was a literal crowning achievement. Prikid had the weird feel of a bar and a diner. It wasn’t rowdy, and was akin to an Irish pub in that it served as a haven for regulars, including an ostensible writer or two (counting myself). Old black and white photos of writers adorned the walls. I thought one was Henry Miller, but Geoffrey, one of the managers, informed me it was not.

While on Bankastraeti, I saw the lady who had waited on me at Nordic Store. We exchanged smiles. I nearly blurted out to her that I had yet to buy a sweater.

Even for one who is not a knitter (owing to clumsy hands and a restive nature), The Handknitting Association of Iceland store was dazzling: shelves lining the walls with cardigans, pullovers in several colors and styles, though not dozens of styles. I suspect they go through cycles as to what varieties of color and design are offered. Just as I love the smells of a hardware store in America, I loved the playful kaleidoscope of colors here (not that I could specify a smell or fragrance; more a woolishness in the air). You would have to work at feeling gloomy. I tried on three sweaters, all pullovers: a white one with gray and black subsidiary designs; a red one with blue and green; a charcoal one with white and gray. I was torn. I’d try one on and then waltz up to the front room and ask the clerk at the desk what she thought, seeking validation per usual in my life. (Is it a writer thing?) On the white one: “Sure, it looks very attractive. It’s good.” Me: “I don’t know. I look washed out.” Then the red one. Again, positive reviews by two clerks, and a Chinese young woman trying on more sweaters than I was. “Get that one. Red is a lucky color in China.” Me: “But I’ll look like a Christmas ornament. It’s too flamboyant.” “All the women in the room will like it. The design pattern stands for the church,” she said referring to the spire of Hallgrímskirkja, which dominates the city’s viewshed. That would be the tiebreaker. The sanctified endorsement would seal the deal. Hold on. Not quite. I eliminated the white one. Down to two. I tried on the red one and the charcoal sweater again. I concluded the red one was too special, as if reserved for Christmas or special occasions. It had too much of “lookie here!” The young clerk at the front desk agreed. I finally went with the charcoal, with a design signifying waves. It picks up my gray hair and gray goatee as well as the remnants of black hair I have (or persist in believing I have). 

I am glad with the choice I made. If my buying process paints me as as a fop or a dandy, so be it. It was an investment coupled with a statement. I knew it would be a remembrance, iconic of a journey. “Waves”? Sure. I’ll take that as a framework for this journey. I’ve even slept in this sweater. It is cozily warm and a work of art. I view it as a wise move, and unabashedly a conversation starter.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Iceland, day 2.5: not all is as it appears

I was tired but hungry after a Golden Circle Wednesday teeming with sights, sounds, and other Icelandic stimuli, so I went for the second evening in a row to Icelandic Fish & Chips in the Volcano House building, across the street from Katla, which is how my apartment 405 is termed in the Ice Apartments. 

Let me digress for a second to illustrate the scene from my bedroom window: a view of the Old Harbor; Volcano House to the left; a mountain or mountain range in the background that looks close enough to walk to but is, I am told, more than an hour's drive away; the modernist Harpa concert hall to the right (suitably attractive but I never did walk over to there and go in it); some ships, including work on one or two in dry dock; the library across the street closer to the right; and directly in front a construction site with ostensibly fewer than a dozen workers for a structure slated to take up half a block. They worked on concrete forms and seemed unhurried. Who operated the crane? was a big mystery to me until I tentatively concluded the crane operator was up near the top. The workers were my alarm clock, with their radio blaring pop music and their hands hammering forms securely in place, though I suppose getting up past nine was inevitable anyway. Do workers around the planet require the blare of distracting theme music while they pound, saw, cut, weld, or rivet? 

The night before I tried white hake, and loved it. I found it light and not very fishy, over roasted potatoes with a side tin cup provided for tartar sauce (it was some other zesty concoction; it changed every night). My server said she believed hake is the fish depicted on the 10 kronur coin. The place is not pretentious, very inexpensive comparatively, and low-key, friendly. I liked it. And it was less than a hundred steps from my apartment. The second night I had cod, spread over a salad with mango sauce to spread over the fish. Again, I liked it a lot, even though I am not that much of a fish eater (mostly salmon and haddock). At the table next to me, to my right, a couple spoke more quietly than Americans do. They spoke French, from what I could discern. She started weeping. He touched her elbow. I, an old stranger, wanted to comfort them though I was curious about the emotion. He seemed detached but not uncaring, leading me to conclude her tears were not about "them" but some outside upset. It passed, as they were able to eat calmly, and find smiles and laughter.

Being awake, a tad restless though tired, I strolled in my downtown Reykjavik neighborhood. I stopped at the Stofan Cafe, where I had gone for breakfast (tea, bagel, cheese, salad greens). I ordered asked for decaf tea but ended up getting Earl Grey (not decaf) and engaged in friendly conversation with my server, asking if she was the owner (no). I was promoting this book, already in its early stages. Just as I was sitting down amid the cozy and comfortable couches and warmly inviting wooden antique furniture, I spied Gordon and his wife across the street, the Irish folks from the tour today. I walked out to the doorway and called out (you have to think of downtown, at least on Wednesday, as a quiet village): "Hey, Gordon and wife! Hello!" They came in and joined me. I was wrong in my assumptions (one of the temes before, during, and after this journey). It was not his wife, but his sister, Denise. We managed to secure a table (it was fairly crowded), and chatted amiably. She's a doctor, in Newfoundland; he's an entrepreneur and consultant, who lives near Dublin. Shortly before 11 p.m., we were told upstairs was closing; we'd have to go downstairs, which would stay open for an hour. We repaired down there, where it was harder yet to find a table amidst mostly twenty-somethings conversing, playing chess, drinking, laughing. And it was louder.

This was my first inkling of Reykjavik's fabled club life: in this instance civil, orderly, gregarious, a weeknight vibe.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Iceland, day 2.4: Geysir, onward upward

The sun was setting and dusk falling as we approached Geysir, just before 1700 hours. The area is a bubbling cauldron of fire and ice, just what Iceland is known for and marketed as. As one first approaches, there is a small steaming hole atop a small rise, surrounded by ice. Little signs throughout warn that the water is hot: 100 degrees Celsius or more. That means: boiling hot. Still, I wanted to reach in and just touch the water quickly, the way a WET PAINT sign counterintuitively beckons one to touch. But I did not. Some of these hot springs, which abound in Iceland, are always percolating and are not active as geysers. Our word in English borrows from the Icelandic place name of Geysir and the Icelandic word, which borrows from Old Norse: to gush, gusher, to pour. As a wordsmith, I had reverence for the place for this reason alone. How often does one experience such etymological originalism, or word-birtherism? Icelanders bake bread in the hot ground near here and other places, for 24 hours, but I neither saw nor bought any. I saw one or two other bubbling craters before seeing the large, active one, Strokkur, as in "churn," which had people shrieking and jostling some twenty yards away. The experience is oddly lunar, here and elsewhere, though how would I know, never having traversed the lunar landscape. (And there's no water shooting into the air there.) I walked up to THE geyser. It had just "gone off." some little kids were laughing; perhaps they were a tad too close and got doused with mist. Up on a slight incline, I was not worried about that. From the prior bursts, you could see which way the wind was carrying the steamy plumes. A low, chained fence kept people at a safe distance. We were told this active geysir goes off approximately, but unpredictably, every 2 to 8 minutes. A pool of water, perhaps 20 to 30 feet in diameter, percolated and rippled. Then it would start to heave, as if it were breathing, or as if it were a creature getting ready to cough. without exact warning, BOOM it bursts upward vigorously like a rocket launch with an iridescent blue at the bottom hurling skyward and turning steam white and exploding into the air. It pauses as a column, some 75 feet high, and starts dispersing downwind. I stayed to witness two or three eruptions close at hand. Having been warned about the difficulty of timing, I did not attempt to photograph or video record it. My battery was low anyway. More than that, I knew it'd be a futile attempt and I wanted to take this in and let it surprise me. Of course, that was in line with the explicit purpose of the whole trip: to reset my true north bearings by taking in new surprises, to see what would be revealed -- around me, in front of me, in me. The eruption was cleansing. And innocent fun. Erupt, release, spray, spout off, churn, release pressure, recharge: it was all there as the perfect natural metaphor machine. And onward and upward, too. As is said of the wind itself (as well as spiritual matters), one never knows exactly where it comes from or where it goes, or when. Same here. This seemingly endless geyser gives the appearance of everlastingness, though it merely happens to be "alive" now. It has not always been active and, like Geysir itself, can become dormant or more quiet.

We headed into the sunset, darkness enveloping us. Trond played some Icelandic music. It was a long and wondrous day in the Golden Circle. I drifted off to half-sleep on the way back to Reykjavik. We stopped in the cold dark to view the Northern Lights, off the highway, taking advantage of the absence of light pollution. If it were not for Trond pointing out the subtle greenish-blue wave above the horizon, which became two fairly distinct waves, I would not have discerned it as aurora borealis. I would not known where to look and would have expected (there's that word again) shimmering, Technicolor flamboyance. So, it was not postcard-dramatic, but observable and a fitting cap to the day. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Iceland, day 2.3: Apres le lagon

After the pleasingly languid lagoon, I resisted the allurement of napping on the bus, even though the post-lagoon experience was conducive to torpor. I didn't trek to Iceland to nap on a mini-bus while splendid scenery rolled by. Next was lunch and a tour of Gullfoss waterfall. I obeyed Trond's suggestion and had the lamb soup, apparently a national favorite. Very tasty; reminded me of the beef-stock-soup-bone homemade "red soup" my mom often made for Saturday supper, with paprika to spice things up. In the dining area, which looked out onto a white expanse with the falls sending up spray, I sat next to a man and a woman from Ireland. Gordon was the name I caught for the gentleman. The three of us walked together for a while outside and they snapped a rare Iceland photo of me. For whatever reason, it was wicked cold here. It was later in the day, not especially windy, but cold. The sun was going down behind the waterfalls, completing the "picture" in "picturesque." Trond, who was now being extremely explicit and repetitious in his meet-up instructions, would wait for us down by the falls overlook, below a boardwalk that was slippery in spots. It was so cold, I decided to occupy some of the time until 4:30 by marching up to the gift shop just to be in a warm place, since the bus had yet to arrive. I milled around the gift shop and took a bathroom break for five or ten minutes, and then went down the wooden steps again to the bus, which was idling in an attempt to keep us warm. The waterfalls? Impressive, with the ice chunks and natural sculptures. Not unlike Niagara Falls in the winter, if it is sufficiently cold to create the ice tableau. The landscape context of white quasi-tundra added to the scenic quality. It was odd how this was the coldest spot all day, several tourists agreed.

Next was Geysir.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Iceland, day 2.2

Thingvellir is the historical and cultural epicenter of Iceland. An assembly of chieftains met there shortly before the year 930, so Iceland had the world's first parliament. Around the year 1000, Iceland chose to adopt Christianity at this spot, even though the head guy was not a Christian. A number of stipulations were made, including a married priesthood and the permitted continuance of ancient ways (that's a vague euphemism, since I do not know which forms of Viking debauchery and mayhem were allowed). As our guide put it, the Icelandic compromise meant agree to certain compromises and conditions, but in reality things peacefully stay the same. As for my take on the place, I gladly absorbed the broad view, shall we say, and the pristine air and the pure water rushing through the rift we were in that straddles North America and Eurasia. I loved the idea of engaging this rift valley of seismic movement. Indulge in metaphor mania! I meditatively looked out as far as my eyes could see, perched like a sentinel on the viewing boardwalk. I walked the footpath lower into the valley, figured I had had enough and walked back up to the visitor center. It was about 1150 hours. A discomfiting site greeted me. The mini-bus was go. I double-checked the parking lot. Gone. I had the fellow at the gift shop call the tour company. The tour folks called back and instructed me to go back from whence I came, all 800 yards, give or take. So I jogged and fast-walked back down the rifty-looking pathway, almost brushing into clutches of other tourist groups. I calmed myself by knowing they would wait for me; they would have to. I pictured my being a laughingstock. When I reached the lower parking lot, the one I was supposed to have originally gone to, our bus was just arriving. I greeted it and our driver, relieved. Trond said all was fine and assured me I was not holding things up. Our folks were in the cafe, gift shop, rest rooms, or outside. Whew. That was a workout. But I was not mocked or derided.

Then it was on to the Secret Lagoon, which is a natural hot springs in the village of Fludir. All this is part of what is termed the Golden Circle. I should note that the famous, everyone-says-you-must-visit Blue Lagoon was closed for "repairs" consisting of maintenance, cleaning, and dredging. So if anyone castigates me for missing the Blue Lagoon, I've got this "secret." Walking into the visitor center, I heard one of those leaving the place, a man with what sounded like a British accent, yell to us, "Don't believe it. It's freezing in there." Great. I figured I was going to hate this. I'm neither a swimmer nor a lounger of hot tubs. I would give this a few minutes with my teeth chattering in the cold and my lips turning blue, as they did when I went swimming in my childhood.

We were required to take a shower before entering the hot-springs lagoon. Signs instructed us to take a naked shower, sans swimsuits, but I can report that the male participants showered with bathing trunks. I sure as hell was not going to be the lone exception. Leaving the dressing room and shower, I stepped onto the deck. . . the deck with ice on it! Right then and there, I almost turned back and shelved the whole thing. I would have been the only one to do so, from all the evidence. I walked over the icy deck into the stinging cold air and into the luxuriously steaming, welcoming, inviting, relaxing, comforting hot-springs (in some places very-hot-springs) lagoon. It was immediately soothing. And surprisingly social. (Maybe that's why people like hot tubs.) I was so gracious as to not only talk to bikini-clad lagooneers. There was a gal from Australia who was a lifeguard traveling through Canada, New York City, and Iceland; a retired couple from near Manchester, England; several others from Australia (which is a long, long ways away, isn't it?); a small handful of Americans.

I didn't want to leave. Who ever wants to emerge from the decadent languor of a perfectly warm bath -- into the cold?

(Incidentally, I took no photos. Cameras do not record the warmth enveloping mind and spirit, not even the waterproof cameras a few of the Aussies had.)

Iceland, day 2.1

Our driver and guide, Trond Eiksund, a kindly bear with a reddish beard, was witty, entertaining, and informative. He succeeded in making his audience comfortable and communal. Since it was sunny, he reordered our itinerary for maximum viewing effect. We first stopped at Pingvellir, or Thingvellir in English, national park. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Trond told us to look around, go straight on the path some 800 yards, and meet back at the mini-bus at three minutes before noon. The morning sun in back and to the right, did not provide much warmth (it was around 30 degrees, no worse than Syracuse and not windy) but silvered the snow and distant mountains. In front of the guest center, I saw what did not surprise me: somebody wearing a San Francisco Giants hat; he was emerging from a tour bus. I walked up to him, pointing to my own 2012 World Series watch cap. "Excuse me. I just knew this would happen. Giants." We shook hands. It was Dustin and his female fellow traveler, Jenna. From Saskatchewan. "I have to ask: why the Giants?" He said he really likes baseball, and a couple guys he runs with got him into the Giants. Naturally, he is also a Blue Jays fan, and I reminded him that Syracuse was their Triple A team for many years. He knew that. Jenna took a photo of us. As I said, I knew this would happen. Lord knows what this fellow made of all this; he seemed slightly taken aback. Why wouldn't he be, with a stranger gregariously putting an arm around him and posing for a photo as if both were ol' war buddies? It was a brief encounter. I didn't tarry. But it was a given this would happen. 

It turns out this scene is nearly a national icon, common on postcards.

Iceland, day 2.0

Ten minutes out of Reykjavik, I knew this trip was right for me, the right thing to do, my self-conjugation of verb and declension of noun, guided by personal pronoun. Despite the quiet, cozy small-town feel of this "bay of smokes," and the grayness I had encountered on the day of arrival, I yearned for more, if for no other reason than to be in slight accord with the lights and shadows and escarpments I had pre-visioned. So, now the sun was rising and blazing shortly after Gateway to Iceland's Hot Golden Circle Tour had begun. Well before 1100, our little bus was basking in unequivocal northern daylight. With snow-bedecked mountains and glaciers to the left and right (mostly left), the scenic vistas of postcard-riddled imagination became incarnate. The trip now felt right because it presented on a silver metaphysical platter the natural wonders so dearly hoped for. My tired and tiresome joke from back home, which barely yielded a chuckle if I were lucky, that I'd return with two Nordic goddesses, twins, Helga and Inga, blond and raven, was now officially irrelevant. I had threatened myself with not taking a camera, and the view from the bus endorsed that notion. No camera captures the majesty of the everlasting hills, the eternal expanse. But I snapped away all day, until the battery ran down. Nevertheless, these majestic and rugged views of grandeur lifted me, though I was tired from the day before. Just this, just this: was this one of the "meanings" for which I had traveled and arrived? Remember, I came alone. I doubt anyone else on the bus had done the same. I suppose I entertained slight pangs of envy or self-pity, but not for long and not deeply. Solo was the way to go. (Yesterday, no traveling companion would have put up with my endless traipsing and trudging onward and onward, ploughing forth. Today, by the way, I discovered the FREE shuttle to the Kringlan mall from around the corner of Ice Apartments! I resisted the slap to the forehead. It wasn't meant to be. Plus, I would have missed the intimate step-by-step experiential first-hand knowledge of the village-like [mostly] streets of the world's northernmost capital.) So traveling as one's own companion frees one of conflict, at least outer conflict, and liberates one from negotiation with respect to plans and their execution.