Shorty get down. I like the way you work it. Fuzzy with the varying spins, going hard or fast or deep, or in or out. Ha. Land smack in the corner, catching the baseline. Yellow. Taking a beating from the racket, dutiful. Maybe you like bondage? Freak. Some of them can’t handle you, don’t know what to do. If the player treats you right, you do amazing things. All eyes on you. All heads turn for you. You with the curves. In Flushing. Game set match. I’m watching.
I dig those sensory experiences that contain enough specificity and random happenstance to transport you so instantly to another place and time. It could be a certain scent of freshly cut grass on a chilly morning, or the impact of a particular sweetness upon the taste buds after a puff of something righteous, or the sound of house with a whiff of fog machine—the moment dictates that you are both here and there. And sometimes that one triggered memory cannot be fully recomposed, but there is an intrigue that resonates inside of you. The experience is familiar because you feel something you know you’ve felt before, and for a second, nothing else matters.
She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place…at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory…
—Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past: Swann’s Way
On a daily basis, I have the opportunity to come in contact with many people, all with their own unique(?) names.
What’s in a name?
It’s gotten me to consider: what are the repercussions of a name? I’m not even talking about those inexplicable, obscure ones, like the ones celebrities choose for their offspring (ahem…). I write this with Everyman in mind: he/she who is dealt with the subtle, unintentional blow of a perfectly standard, yet sometimes old-fashioned, and possibly unfortunate moniker (see Gayman).
A baby named, say, Gertrude or Mildred, in these times, is potentially in for a rough upbringing. How can you hear about little 2010 Mildred, without first imagining….I don’t know….a tight perm and a string of pearls, and a British accent? Her name may go over better than “Audio Science” but she’ll still need all the “gentle strength" she can muster.
The implications of a surname particularly fascinate, because these will never die out; generations upon generations get screwed over. My own surname is neither common nor unfortunate…I think. Or at least I’m not aware of any plays on the word that I should be insecure about…
But then there are those names, less ethnic, more “Anglo”-sounding. Smith and Jones—these are the most common. But then what of Little, for instance? Who wants to be the Asian guy named Little? Or the black guy, at that? Who wants to be any boy named Big or Long? Unless it suits him reasonably, it’s a lot for his accoutrements to live up to (see Penis).
And then there’s a surname like Nice—I’ve encountered this one a few times. It raises certain expectations that may or may not end in disappointment. I would undoubtedly dislike the mean lady named Nice, more than I would any other mean lady. Just being honest. Hypothetical Ms. Nice probably knows this too, and while she normally is hypothetically really nice, the pressure to maintain that must be too much at times, I’d imagine, and she would lose her nice marbles. Hypothetically.
Finally there are those celebrity namesakes, sprung from parents who set their children up to fail by annointing their newborn “Martha Stewart” or “Michael Jordan.” Or “Samuel L. Jackson.” Really? The ‘L’ too?
Of course, none of this speculation matters, if these children can somehow escape the implications of their name and grow into self-assured, undeterred citizens. But really, how annoyed is, let’s say, 37-year-old bartender Justin Bieber of Seattle?
There’s a particular place (plus 5-10 more) that I have in mind, that I want to visit, because I’m excited/intrigued/afraid of what I might find when I get there, and until I see go, I can’t escape it.
I pine for the day when they finally invent teleportation. It’s 2010…sheesh. I’ve waited long enough, Science.
I saw David Sedaris at a reading two years ago, following the release of When You Are Engulfed in Flames.
Afterward he signed my copy of Naked, his personalized dedication (below) being a cartoon owl and an accompanying speech bubble: “I like black people.”
My cousin and I scored some brief banter with him and I later half-regretted that my repartee had not made enough of an impact to make it into one of his future essays. I thought to myself, I should have talked to him about dingleberries.
There’s a context to that thought, I’m sure of it.
Little Billy and his mother’s boyfriend Dirk sit on opposite ends of an apparently not-long-enough sofa, with only the TV ahead lighting their faces in an otherwise dark room.
"She’s almost ready?" Dirk quietly asks. His sweaty hands are folded neatly in his lap, his thumbs tapping anxiously. Billy remains silent as the cartoon bird eludes his wily predator with prolific ease.
Both sets of eyes unglue from the TV, as Carol hollers from upstairs: “Down in a minute, honey! You boys behave!”
"We will!" Dirk replies in sing-song bravado, a Capella. He looks to Billy and grins, but this delight too goes ignored and both sets of eyes re-glue to the TV.
Dirk loosens the grip of his Windsor knot as he feebly admires the wallpapered room, stealing glances at little Billy, whose own steely gaze at the cartoon ahead won’t budge.
Dirk tries again. “Billy, tell me about school. Got yourself a little girlfriend?”
Despite his youth, Billy quite masterfully reveals a subtle annoyance at Dirk’s interruption of his regularly scheduled programming. The quiet sigh, the rolled eyes, the raised brow—all conspire to form a satisfying, passive-agressive punch to Dirk’s stomach. “School is fine. And I’m seven; girls have cooties. Excellent questions, though.”
"Oh. I—uhm, hmm."
And yet, still brave, he adds, “Billy, I should tell you…I care for your mother, and she and I have gotten really close. So I want you to know th…”
Dirk pauses as he must now watch Billy run out of the room.
He stands at the line. A tug of the wedgie, some measured primping, a few bounces of the ball, and he’s finally ready. Each time, the same meticulous routine threatens to drive his opponent to madness, except the opponent (already gutted from the previous point, and from the point before that) often requires this short reprieve to gather the strength…to persevere, to play on.
But not for long. The toss goes up, the lefty serve slices in, and it’s game on—game friggin’ on. This soft-spoken, meticulous man becomes a beast, a freak of nature (in a good way), dictating the point as much with his legs and monstrous southpaw as with his will. He amazes, yes, but by now, should not surprise. While the other guy thought he might have had a chance, the freak is doing his thing, and it’s almost hopeless. And so, with a “Vamos!”, and a somersault (a new move), he wins Wimbledon. Again.
While they all speculate whether he’s unseated The Greatest for good, apparently the sport may have begun a new era of domination. And who knows? He may be on his way to becoming The Greatest himself.