“I have been stoned for three days,” a bearded, fat, and sort of dirty man wheeled up from behind me at the campsite in Reykjavik. He was in a wheel chair, he was smiling, smoking tobacco out of a brier pipe.
I compliment him on this pipe, being known to enjoy and collect tobacco smoking pipes myself. “Is it Italian?” I asked, not noticing a dicernable maker’s mark.
The bearded man down in the chair looked at his pipe, seeming slightly puzzled, and, not finding a maker’s mark himself, shrugged off my question. Conversationally recovering, I asked him what his name was.
“You couldn’t pronounce it,” he replied, knowing damn well that it is near impossible for foreigners to even come close to pronouncing Icelandic words.
“Try me,” I answered like the confident polyglot that I wish I was.
I couldn’t pronounce it. He drove the lesson in though, prompting me to repeat it terribly over and over again until he had satisfactorily finished laughing at me.
“It means,” he began, and then made a flexed muscle motion with his arm but could not find the English words. “And my first name is Thor. It is a vikikng name, god of thunderbolt.”
He then he began telling me how he lived on the streets in a wheel chair, but how he had been camping at the site for the past few nights. He said that he was a master chef, that he cooked for the king of Norway, the king of Sweden, for the Icelandic government. Stories of grandeur — to be believed or not believed is a point of irrelevance. Then he imparted some advice:
“Always stay positive, you have to always stay positive. No matter what happens you have to always stay positive.” He was waving his pipe holding hand in the air now.
I smiled, nodded, he continued: “Always keep your things with you, always have your stuff right next to you. The weather changes quickly here. Always keep your things with you at all times.”
I found his advice right on, said I would follow it. He then invited me to smoke up with him. I declined. He asked if I would like to buy some. I declined again, and, not being the type of person who enjoys paying for the service of being rendered stupid, took this as my cue to end the conversation. “Very good stuff,” he called as I began walking away.
“No, I don’t want any,” I said politely though firm. I shook his hand and turned to leave. He called after me.
“One more thing,” he began, “if you meet with adversity, think positive, love everything around you.”
I stopped short, turned back around and faced him.
He repeated this statement: “Always be positive, no matter what, love everything that is around you,” then he shrugged quickly before concluding, “otherwise you will end up in the hospital.” He then pantomimed a saline bag being connected to his arm.
Ominous warnings, good advice, the sage’s words will be heeded.