For all the good things someone can say about me, something good is not what you’ll hear.
First thing you’ll hear out of their mouths is that I’m an alcoholic. That I’m a lush, a wino, a guzzler, a souse, a rummy.
Guzzler maybe, when I accrue lots of money and get to buy myself a fine bottle of cognac, such as Louis XIII de Remi Martin, sure go ahead, call me that. But never call me a lush, I’ve never begged for anything. I only take what is given.
Wino, sometimes, but only when I’m doing linguistic field research with the American homeless under a bridge somewhere.
Call me souse. It’s fine, but it’s like calling me a pickle (one who gets pickled by booze). Be creative, use your language, fine by me.
Most of the time, they don’t know what they’re say anyway. Forgive them Father for they know not what they say.
Call me a rummy if you’re American, and if you’re British, you can call me the adjective rummy. I’m both meanings. But don’t go calling me a sot or a binger, I’m always on a steady flow. So you can call me a professional, in the slang sense, because I do not make money for my drinking.
Do not call me a pisshead, unless you’re British. It’s taboo for me (at least the first half of that compound word is), and upsets me. By all means say it but please don’t call me taboo words in Swedish, Polish, and especially English. When I get too upset, I cry. At the drop of a dime, I cry, like a little baby (or rather a little child that everyone picks on because they think he’s retarded because he can’t talk well). Have you ever seen a grown man cry so much? Probably not. It’s not a bad thing, because I don’t get angry. I’ll never drop a nuclear bomb on your country, heck, I won’t even give you a noogie or a wedgy. I could, if I wanted to (my father taught me well), but I never want to. Hurting things, hurts myself, and besides for the negative effects of drinking, I don’t like hurting myself.
What you can call me is an inebriate, though I prefer dipsomanic. And if you’re into clipping your words (don’t worry, it’s popular), you can call me dipso.
Second thing you’ll hear is that I’m a phony or a fake. This is entirely untrue. Half of Planet Earth, or the English speaking Christian part of Earth at least, was waiting for me to let them know what God’s language is and how to speak it. And I did just that, they just didn’t like my answer. No one likes Truth, and they call me a liar. I told them the truth from the beginning. It was their own choice that they heard something different. They chose what to believe and hear, even see. Not my fault, but I was to blame. The world needed a scapegoat, they found me, Baldur.
I started drinking heavily at the University. This isn’t uncommon (go to any American University and see for yourself). But when I say heavily, it doesn’t mean drinking a case of watery pilsner that has an alcohol content of %4.0 and a few shots of some popular anise-laced digestif dropped in a legal version of liquid crack-cocaine in a rocks glass which is called a bomb (in bars and in war, shots and bombs will waste or annihilate you). What I mean by heavily is that I was consuming more than what I was when living with my parents and my adopted brother. To the average college schmo, I could drink you under the table. Maybe it is true, but it never concerned me how much I could drink. I had my reasons for why I drink the way I do.
My parents allowed me to drink consistently when they found out it helped with my stuttering. For some magical reason (there’s science behind it, but it’s all magic until I understand things myself like gravity for example), drinking alcohol completely ceased my stutters.
But it wasn’t like I was drunk all of the time, my parents were good parents. In fact, I believe I had the best parents ever. They allowed me enough to hold a decent conversation. I didn’t always want more. And when I sneaked and took more, it would make me ill, and very temporarily did I learned my lesson.
I had been taught moderation at an early age. In Swedish, there is a term lagom. My father often stressed it. There isn’t a word to word translation in English, but the phrase “just enough” is close.
“Lagom.” Father Odin said. He raised his drinking horn full of mead and took a sip then passed it to me. “Drink, just enough.”
“Lagom.” I said. He wasn’t wearing his eye-patch and had started growing a beard. He was smiling at me, we were sitting around a fire. We had just moved to Our Island. He was happy, smiling and singing all the time, far more than before. Mother was happy too.
He told me in Swedish that the word came from a term the Vikings used to invoke moderation. (‘Laget om’-> /lagom/transl.->’around the team’).
He said that they would pass a horn of mead trusting each comrade to their own fair share. “Your comrades have to trust you. There is no trust in being greedy, having too much when someone has too little.” He said. “There’s no trust in someone who doesn’t share.”
When I was a grad student, I looked up the word origin. I never had the heart to tell him that the etymology of the word lagom was a folk etymology which meant that someone made the origin up. This happens often, in English there is a taboo word for feces that has a folk etymology. Some clever chap (or lass) made up the story of the abbreviation: Ship-High-In-Transit. Not likely. Lagom on the other hand is far more convincing than S.H.I.T. You don’t even want to know how many of these exist for the word that was folkishly abbreviated as Fornication-Under-Consent of the- King.
“Lagom.” He said and took another drink. He had been talking to me much more in Swedish at that time. It had been half a year after my motel frenectomy from my mother and I had been talking much better, or actually talking.
“Lagom.” I took another drink.
“Here.” He said, pointing around Our Island. “I’ll teach you everything I know. Some of it, I know you won’t like it. I know many violent things, and I want you to know some of them. A large part of me, in here…” He put his hand over his chest. “…wishes that you will never see what I’ve seen. But the cycle is ending. Ragnarok is coming. Not word for word in our ancestors beliefs, those are symbols, but in reality. These symbols of a never-ending cycle are showing themselves again. Instead of gods and giants, we will have leaders of nation and people who will obey and fight to the death for them. So Baldur, for as much as I wish for you to bring peace to this world, I wish you to be strong and able to face all hardships.” He said.
The sun had fallen long enough that there wasn’t a trace of it the sky save the sliver of moon. Our boat was anchored off shore, and he intended for us to stay the night. We had been working on a cottage for most of the summer and though it wasn’t ready for the winter, we had the preparations for a cold autumn night.
He reached across the fire and handed me a different horn full of mead, a smaller one (I was hoping it was grape wine, it took me a few years to appreciate mead). Orange and yellow flapped in front of his face, menacing but with a genuine smile.
“Tomorrow, we’ll build a forge.” He said.
“Forge?” I said.
“You’re grandfather taught me how to forge iron. He also taught me how to smelt it. To extract it from the land.” He said. He waved his hand around. “This place sits on an iron ore belt.”
My English was far better than my parents knew, and my word confusion with Swedish and Polish were easily remedied. My Swedish and Polish were lacking but not by much. And with the alcohol, I didn’t stutter like a broken record. I felt more normal than ever before, I didn’t feel ‘wetawded’. I still had problems with some phonics (and some phonological flaws but nothing that she thought couldn’t be fixed), but my mother was training me for hours a day with that stuff.
My mother confessed that she didn’t understand everything I was saying for those years. She knew what I was saying, but most of it was intuition. She felt God was helping her, and God would work it out.
“You know Bozhi, God will not do it for you. I realized that when I found out that the school thought you were retarded. I knew I had to do something. So we took it into our own hands. Some people I help at the parish think that God is there to help you and give you rewards for doing something nice. There are no rewards beside the action itself. And we as humans, must do for ourselves, that is what God wants.” She said. She was holding flashcards with symbols them. “Now let’s work on dental fricatives, starting with voiceless. TH-E-T-A.”
“Data.” I said.
“Do it again. You’ll get it.”