Saturday, January 23, 2010

when is a cigar not a cigar?

i've never liked my name. a sad fact, but true. my mother gave us names that could not be turned into nicknames (her reasoning). even my sister couldn't stand being called cherry and asked us to call her cheryl.

what's in a name? wouldn't a rose by any other...? i remember hiking alone in the sierras, age 20 or so, thinking, 'ah, let these mountains remain unidentified. after all, the native americans called them something else.' the pristine lakes felt like puddles before time, when lightning flashed and caused the first amoebas.

it shall remain nameless. if only it were possible, but that's quickly disappearing. a couple of articles in wired magazine trace this sad fact. the author first recounted the story of a man who tried to abandon his identity while his wife collected the insurance. he got caught. then the author himself attempted to stay hidden for a month, he too ultimately betrayed.

ah, for the old frontier, where one could vanish, put on six-guns, grow a mustache, and have a new life. or, say, leave lithuania for ellis island. assume an american name, and erase the past, reborn. why don't people do this more often?

as we all know too well, if we walk through a room, the police can pick up traces of our dna. you can find old girlfriends from fifty years ago by tracking them down through the net (i've done it.) despite books like how to disappear and never be caught other books like find anybody, anywhere, anytime belie the premise of the first.

theoretically, you could go to a distant country and begin again. yet, as the poet cavafy wrote, 'destroy your life in one corner of the world and you destroy it everywhere.' other famous sayings like 'wherever you go, there you are' seem to be true. on the other hand, brain-damage can totally change a person, like the brother of a college-friend who skidded on the ice in montana. his IQ dropped from 166 to 72. his family had to adjust to living with a temperamental stranger. and if that can happen...

truly, drugs, madness, brain operations, they could make us someone else, however the fun would be gone cause we wouldn't know who we once were. the magic of changing your name remains in your awareness that you've done so. what good is it to live in tahiti if you can't remember living in cleveland. the world's full of ironies.

samuel clemens changed his name to mark twain, and got away with it. rock hudson (roy harold scherer jr.) was not what he pretended to be in more ways than one. only actors can become someone else without escaping to the desert or erasing their fingerprints. how strange, the most visible become the intangible. replace yourself with an image and maybe you'll be saved from yourself.

i encourage you once again to see the inside story of the munchkins: you'll never dance with the tin woodman again. the actors knocked them dead last nite.

and you might check out the disguises of yours truly at