Saturday, April 30, 2011

What Did You Call Me?

In my neighborhood, nicknames were de rigueur. It was a mild form of acceptance. Just about every kid that I grew up with on that dead end street answered to a name other than the one they were given at birth. Most of them were less than flattering, but that didn't matter. You took your new label and wore it proudly, with the hopes that no one would come up with something worse. It's telling that the kid who was essentially in charge of handing out nicknames was called "Beak" in honor of his rather profound and pointy proboscis.
Doomsday, Bimmer, Stosh, Neeta, Dooley, Foo, Pollywog, were all pleased and happy to have the acceptance of their new epithets. I was given a few different names, but the one that stuck was Caviar. I was grateful that some of the more demeaning attempts slipped through the cracks. On those rare occasions that reunions occur amongst the urchins from Garland Lane, I would expect to be greeted as "Cav."
As a grownup, I got a new nickname: "Mister Caven." It was my first principal's insistence that everyone on the staff refer to one another, even in meetings with no children present, in this very formal fashion. We got so immersed in this habit that during parties at my own home at the end of the year I could expect to hear, "Mister Caven, where do you keep the Margarita Mix?" And so it went for years and years until this year, when I was suddenly being addressed as "Mister C." It was very flattering to have that sense of inclusion once again. It was doubly nice since I am only familiar with two other men with the same nickname: Howard Cunningham, Richie's father on "Happy Days," and my father. Just like that, I'm back in the old neighborhood. Looking for Dooley and Fooj.

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