A Name by Any Other Name
I have been blessed, if that is the best word, with a number of nick-names during my life. These names generally reflect what people see in me. My earliest monikers were derived from my perky (pesky?) personality, and included that of Babe. I do not think there was any connection to my baseball prowess, so much as my tendency to behave in a manner more congruent with an immature, annoying kid.
Next came Clown, Clownie, or Bozo, of course all subtle indications that my manner may have been a little less serious than what might otherwise have been desired. Eric was the one who had the least tolerance for my behavior, and I am sure that it was because, as the oldest, he was ultimately the one who was dragged onto the carpet when the stuff hit the fan. “Go ahead; laugh, Clown, laugh,” he’d say, as I danced out of the way of any errant fists coming my way.
On the other hand, I used to go work with him on neighborhood projects like cutting grass and clipping the hedges for Mrs Farrel, or pouring a cement sidewalk for Mrs. Ousterhowt. She was elderly and her home had existed since the twenties, without anything but grass or dirt between her front door and the street. So we hooked her up.
I was forever Marky Maypo, Mark Oatmeal, or OH-Neill, and of course, Mark the Park. I was Wallamorado, or Wally for short, and I later became “Park-N-Tak-it.”
As I hit the high school scene, my mouth again got in the way, with me being very vocal about the process of the annexation of our chunk of La Puente by Valinda. I made it seem as though we were being overtaken by the Visigoths, thus incurring the derision of my classmates, who envisioned Spanky and Our Gang against the might of the establishment. The result is thatI I became Alfalfa until I finally figured out that what would make it all go away, was for me to once and for all shut my mouth.
I remember a conversation with my peers in high school, in which we talked about whether or not we liked our names. I heard myself saying that I disliked my first name, but loved my last name. I don’t remember anyone being perfectly contented with the name given him at birth.
At Cal Poly, prior to going into the service, I was Smokey or Shark, or Sharky, whichever applied. I did occasionally indulge in that which produced smoke, and I did play a mean hand of Hearts, in the Cal Poly cafeteria, where we regularly convened to socialize, and avoid going to class.
When I arrived in Korea, I was instantly dubbed Rookie, or Newbie, and whereas others seem to grow out of their introductory nick-ames, Rookie stayed with me until the red-necks in the hooch finally exited the building. After that I was mostly just Oh.
When I went to work at United Auto Stores, after getting out of the service, I was a hotbed of nomenclature, the most socially acceptable of which was Markington Poopie. Of course it was bestowed on me by Andy (Booker Anderson) though it could have been Ziggy, (Steve Zigan) Pescalone (John Molinari) or Doog-Bois (Doug Young). We were big into nick-names. Jaime Saldivar was the biggest culprit, instilling all of the following and selecting a different one every time he ever addressed me, for the three years we worked together: Hippie, Dirty Hippie, Dirty Stinking Hippie, and Dirty Commie Hippie. He never got tired of asking me when I was going to get a haircut. He never got tired of commenting on my fiery red beard. Jaimie's goal in life was to become a police officer, which he did. I still shudder.
My brother Noel always calls me Marcus Aurelius, and I can only guess what my students called me, besides Dragon-breath the first year, a result I am sure of the fact that I drank more coffee than any man alive those early years. I then developed a career-long habit of carrying sugar-free breath mints, so as to make close encounters of a teacher/student nature, as comfortable as possible.
Now I am Papa-san, Papa, or just plain Pops. As I have said many times in the past, call me what you want, just call me in time for dinner.