Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Foolio and the Big Red Stick



I’ve been called many things over my many years. Some are simple adaptations of my birth name, Ronald. People that knew me when I was just this (><) big call me one thing, friends call me another, and the IRS, another still. The nicknames though come fast and furious.

When I was a kid, it was all about my last name. Apparently it’s impossible to pronounce in English, since even a guy I’ve known for 45 years still says it wrong. And it also provides a platform on which to build bad puns, like “running board” and pretty much any silly or derogatory term that could be placed after the word “run”.

As I got older and much larger, taunting me seemed to lose its pleasure. Though I just shrugged and walked away from most aimed invective, I have to imagine my size weighed heavily (no pun intended) in clever people’s “tauntability cost benefit analysis”. My nicks became more boring and obvious. I got the name “dude” because I owned a horse and wore cowboy boots yet lived in the city for instance. Go figure.

Only one name bugged me a little; big guy. It’s not an overweight shame thing, I was called big guy when I was thin….ner (love handle thin if you must know) I just always thought it sounded stupid; ya know, like calling someone honeybear or sweetykins or punkin or peanut or “I can’t remember your name but you’re really big to me so I’m gonna call you… Big guy”. Yea, like them. I have a thing about stupid names. I don’t shop at stores with stupid names, I won’t buy food off a menu, even if that food sounds incredibly delicious, if it sports a stupid name, et-cetera, et-cetera, et-cetera (as Yul Brenner as the King of Siam would say).

Lannie called me “Stick”. In fact he called me “Stick” for 3 long years. Now he was just a coworker at what then was a part time job; it’s not like we were ever gonna be best buds, so if he wanted to call me Stick, well it was better than Douchebag so I just ignored it. Besides, Lannie was eccentric, like me; except he was the opposite sort of eccentric than I believe myself to be. I don’t hide my eccentricity, but I don’t wear it on my sleeve either. I just am, and if people notice, fine, and if people don’t, what do I care?

Lannie is the kind of guy who believes his eccentricity should be showcased, like he’s a great thespian playing Shakespeare’s greatest court jester “Foolio” in a once in a lifetime audition. I could MAKE him be sincere, but only by asking about his wife’s cancer in remission. Other than that, everything you asked him, no matter how important the information contained in his answer might turn out to be, became a joke. He was Alfred E. Newman, Pinky the mouse, Stimpy the… well whatever Stimpy is…. cat I guess.

So when a guy like that gets a nickname for you in his craw, unless it’s vulgar or insulting you really don’t want to bother yankin on it cuz it may be attached to a chain and then you’d be like effectively yankin on the eccentric guy’s chain and then who knows what the hell he’d bug you about for the rest of your life.

“Stick” had one good thing going for it. I’d not so long before been to a Louisiana city called Baton Rouge, which translates into “Red Stick”. Now we northern boys and girls who happened to be on a media staging road trip in Baton Rouge thought that was “kinda cute”, and took great 3rd grader pleasure in ceasing to call our location Baton Rouge and instead named it Red Stick for life. By the time Lannie started calling me stick I’d let go the childish grin of name game fun, but hearing “Stick” made me think of Red Stick, made me think of Baton Rouge made me think of “Baaahtone Rooooozh” (like a good Cajun might say it) so when he said “stick” I thought “bah tone” and I kinda grinned in an adult sorta way. (See: easily entertained)

Still, it got to be three years, like I said, and he’s still callin me Stick. “How ya doin Stick” he calls out. “Hey Stick, long time no see” he’d shout as he came through the warehouse door. Finally I got curious. Maybe I was bored that day, maybe I was just in search of trivial knowledge with which I could nudge aside some factoid I really kinda hated to have on instant recall but was takin up valuable space in my memory chip, and replace its sorry as(trisk) with the definition of Stick as it relates to me.

So I inquired one day after he’d used it in his greeting to me; “I gotta ask” I said, “why the hell do you call me stick?”

He kinda grimaced, like I’d just let all the air out of his unicycle tire. “Simple” he said, smiling that “Foolio” smile; “your name’s Rod, so I call you Stick. Ya know, Rod? Stick? Makes perfect sense to me!”

I said “Yea, makes sense to me too, but ya see…. my name’s actually RON, ya know, with an N!”

“Oh” he said with only the slightest hint of surprise in his voice. “Well I guess I’ll have to change your name then.”

Ten minutes later he called me “Big Guy”.

Sometimes ya just gotta know when to keep your big mouth shut.

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