Category Archives: Abridged blog
I changed my name about a dozen years ago. I didn’t change it to anything as spiffy as, say, Mark Twain, or offbeat as Kate Winslet’s husband Mr Rocknroll, but it met the main criteria of being different from that which I’d spent 20 years vaguely dissatisfied with. (If the math doesn’t add up to my age, that’s because I wasn’t always bothered.) I did it because I could, and it was easy. Except for the explaining part.
How do you tell your father you’re discarding the family name, apparently dissing him and the line of fathers which begat ungrateful you? If you’re a girl getting hitched, it’s not an issue even in these days of fewer nées; patriarchy has its silver lining. Boys are expected to display the marque. That’s one reason for the extra enthusiasm with which cigars are handed out, at least in the movies.
“Eeny, meeny, miny, Moe. OK, you’re Moe. Don’t cry, your brother got stuck with Sue.”
I didn’t tell him at first, even going so far as to carefully remove all luggage tags when my parents would meet me at the airport for my annual visit to the homestead. But eventually it seemed prudent to gingerly let the cat out of the bag and hope for the realistic best, i.e., a shrug and a sad smile of acceptance. I honestly still don’t know how he took it; I don’t remember if his body language was mute with shock or I averted my eyes at the crucial moment. Other than a steady stream of perhaps-not-always offhand remarks which suggests it remains a sore spot, we’ve never discussed it in any depth. It helps to have cultivated a reputation for being [pick an adjective] odd/‘creative’/difficult.
It’s hard to gauge the importance of the name that’s been stuck on the birth certificate. On one hand it’s—sorry, papas everywhere—meaningless. On the other, it’s your bloody name, innit. Tends to crop up on a daily basis. Gets called over the loudspeaker, machine-printed in junk mail, chiselled onto your gravestone. In my case, constantly misspelled or at least mispronounced.
If I’d been born Native American and followed traditional conventions, my parents would’ve called me boy-who-cries-a-lot, thanks to colic. In my teens this might’ve then become hogs-mirror-with-comb, perhaps finally culminating in adulthood with naps-on-couch.
As it was, I went from something howmanyofme.com informs me only 28 other Americans shared, to a meeting hall of closer to 300.
The transition wasn’t too great of a lurch in the small family unit of me and my wife. She’d known me as my now official first name since the 80s, the initials my parents had bestowed having formed a perfectly serviceable moniker that happened to appeal.
I retained my middle name as a kind of keepsake. My new surname came more or less out of a hat, like my father’s, at least from the point of view of a zygote swimming in a universe of possibilities. (I know, a zygote doesn’t do much paddling. It’s more a wallflower waiting to blossom.)
My wife didn’t follow suit. There’s no reason she should have. She chose it; I didn’t. Who could have guessed she’d be landing on what was to be my maiden name.
Not long ago I started visiting my hometown on a regular basis via the local newspaper, which has been giving me space to write about life as an expat. Call it boy-who-crossed-pond. As a byline I chose my old name. It made sense; my parents and their friends would be reading. I wanted them to be able to say “Yeah, he’s ours” should they be pleased with the result, without resorting to tedious explanations. (On the flip side, should they feel the need to cringe, well, tough luck. Heh.) Though pen names are common enough, it’s an unnecessary obstacle in a conversation.
I’ve also reverted to my given name on Facebook. Not only is it easier for relatives who haven’t been kept apprised of my idiosyncrasies to process, it’s pleasing to feed data-hungry Zuckerbeasts white lies.
Ironically, as I have a bit of a lisp, my self-chosen name appears to be difficult to convey to anyone needing to take it down. “Fam?” I’m frequently asked over the phone. <Sigh>
This is a club for content creators who work in the pristine vacuum of public indifference. It’s for those of us who do our bit to fill the web with stuff that someday someone special may stumble across and think: “cool”. Or words to that effect.
It’s for those who have no choice in the matter. We write or otherwise concoct whatever comes tumbling unbidden out of our brains, work it till it’s just right or as right as we can make it, then let it go. Then it goes nowhere. Which can be discouraging despite the awesome freedom that comes with always flying under the radar. We can say whatever we want! It will have absolutely no effect on the observable universe.
How do you know you belong in this club? It’s easy. All you have to do is post something somewhere and wait for nothing to happen. What do you expect is going to happen anyway? Are you waiting for applause? Kudos? Validation of the wonder that is you? I would say “grow up” but chances are you’re already grown up enough to know the world has placed a value on your efforts, and that value is nil.
Zero Club costs nothing to join. You don’t have to officially register or anything. We have no bylaws, other than this: Keep on keepin’ on.
What home library would complete without the Bible? I’ve even read it, if speed reading counts. This is what I remember.
God clapped his hands and there was light. A few more claps took care of everything else under the sun. Man was given dominion over all the animals except cats. A snake got into the garden and tricksied Eve, the first scapegoat. Everybody moved away because you can’t go home again.
The birds and the bees begat. There were giants in those days, and X-men. Also prophets like Nostradamus, who predicted Hitler before spellcheck.
The world quickly became overpopulated with ne’er-do-wells so there was a flood. Only Noah had bought flood insurance.
Joseph got a nice coat for Christmas; too nice. This angered his brothers, as did the fact that he never had dreams about falling like normal people.
Baby Moses was set adrift in a model boat then grew up to part the waters. Unfortunately he later missed the boat to the Promised Land. First he passed along the X Commandments as chiseled by God, who was pretty high on himself even though things never seemed to go according to plan.
Abraham nearly killed his prodigal son because of voices in his head, but relented and turned him into a pillar of salt instead.
God made Job suffer terribly. The devil made him do it. Job’s response was to say “Thank you Sir may I have another,” so God gave him 14000 sheep and more asses than one man can covet in a lifetime as a kind of apology for being a good sport.
David killed Goliath to show he wasn’t going to be anybody’s bitch.
Moby Dick swallowed Jonah but spat him out again because he preferred plankton.
Angels dance on pins. Because they can. They also leave messages.
Joseph believed Mary, bless.
All you need is love, loaves and fishes.
Matthew Mark Luke and John weren’t always on the same page.
The committee of three is making a list and checking it twice.
Hell is other people going around in circles. If you’re going there you probably haven’t been bad enough to meet Hister, but you might be bumping into a few peeps from work.
There are no original sins because they’ve all been done before.
I had what educators call a teachable moment yesterday whilst interviewing a gardener (which makes me sound posher than I am, but if the Hunters fit…). “I see you around on your bike,” he said after we’d discussed how much Monsanto Roundup should be sprayed to stun but not kill bunnies. After we’d established that yes I am the village cyclist, he launched into a mini diatribe against cyclists who wear “those ear things” and weave all over the road. Needless to say I cleared my throat.
Had a bit of fun watching his eyes slightly bulge at the thought he may have just insulted a potential client, but I’m not cruel enough to enjoy the squirming of even tradesmen, so I let him off the hook by agreeing that yes, it looks like a crazy thing to do, before explaining why it isn’t any madder than spraying glyphosate around and hoping the local hoppers regard it as nectar.
Anyway, it turns out his anecdotal ire was based on an apparently misbehaving pedestrian, who in the interests of comity I agreed should also be sprayed with Roundup much like unruly weeds.