Here's something very weird. My bud Lefty does a Friday Three Questions almost every week. One week, he asked, among other things:
Do you have a nickname people call you? If so, what is it? Is there a story behind it you'd like to share?
I warned him I was going to steal that question, so here it is.
I always liked the name Roger. It doesn't easily lend itself to nicknames, as do names such as William (Bill, Billy, Willy, Will) or Robert (Bob, Bobby, Rob, Robby). I think that was part of my father's motivation in naming me. I mean people call me Rog, and that's fine, but other people have tried to inflict nicknames on me, and often, I have actively rejected them.
Just last week, my mother said that people used to call me Mr. Encyclopedia when I was a kid, because, over a number of years, I pretty much read the entire Encyclopedia Americana, PLUS the yearbooks, that were in our house. People asked me questions, and either I had the answer or would seek it out. (And yet it took me until I was 37 before I decided to go to library school; what was up with THAT?)
My grandmother used to call me Roggie, and I refused to answer that, because it sounded so juvenile. Yet later, when one of my co-workers called me Raji, it didn't bother me so much, maybe because it sounded slightly Asian Indian, and therefore exotic.
Or maybe it was because it reminded me of the bookish Raj on "What's Happening". I RELATED to Raj. The eldest, responsible, bookish, glasses, the eldest child, pesky little sister (actually I had two - love you both).
When I was in junior high, we were really into using our middle names as our monikers. I was Owen, Baby, dubbed by Sid, which was not his middle name, but a truncation of his last name, but that was a short-lived period.
The summer of 1975, when I worked in Binghamton City Hall as a janitor, I cleaned the cells, picked up the trash in the detectives' offices, washed windows, and buffed the floor. (Note: if you ever turn on a 1975 vintage buffer, be sure to start it in the middle of the floor, lest you poke a hole in the baseboard. I know this because...I heard about it?)
Well, I worked with two guys who were impressed that I could finish my work in five or six hours in an eight-hour day. Generally, I ended up either speaking to the police captain, who was a great guy (unlike some of his subordinates), or go hide somewhere and read a book. These two guys started calling me Flash, because they thought I was so fast. I wasn't that fast; it was that they had the wonderful ability of taking a six-hour job and stretching into eight. I patently rejected this nickname, and act as though I had not even heard them if they called me by that name. (One of these guys was more "flashy" - the first man I ever met with two children by two different women, neither of whom he was married to.)
Oh, there have been other nicknames in matters of the heart, but I'll pass on those here, thank you.
So here's the weird part; Lefty's piece was July 7, 2006. I must have started working on it, saved it with a 2007 date somehow, and only discovered it recently. Or I did publish it before, but can't find it, which would make it a summer rerun.
And here's a year-old cryptic Note to Lefty: Don't succumb. Do what Mr. T would do: pity the fool. And hope for the best.
Music, August 1971: Concert for Bangladesh
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