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Name Goes Here

November, last month, is the month where I write the least. Nothing intentional. It's just that my brooding character lends itself to contemplation in my month of nativity. All the big questions: who am I? Why are we here? Where is here? How will this end? At the end of my fourth decade, another question joined the cast, one I don't have a whole lot of answers to at the moment. What have I done?

This whole self-publication on the blog is also, well, getting boring. Not that I don't think the same kinds of ideas (though some of the threads in my blog make me want to barf). I don't know. Part of it is that my self-editor is on way high overdrive. He silences me. Sometimes I want to post a little stupid thing about a cute YouTube video I saw, or I want to quote a single sentence or phrase from a book I'm reading, unadorned, or I just want to plop in a picture and write an ungrammatical caption. Because this blog has virtually become my online identity (another issue I'm going to blather about in a second or so), I don't want to write those things up. The HTML lies dormant. The doorman snoozes.

My fix for the problem was to find the right domain name, one that would allow me to express myself with greater liberty, less restriction. I wouldn't need to have a point or coherence or even words. I might even cuss. So, I amassed domain after unused domain: obviousdecoy.net, woov.net, metonym.net, deathanddesire.net, wilcoxnet.net, luuv.net. All hideous domains, I know. Then I'd think what a tangle of topics this site is, the cloud of topics intricated like the ganglion of an ancient seadwelling creature, and I'd despair of fixing the problem. The site I want and have wanted since 1998 is glyph.net. A dictionary word, enigmatic, sign-bearing, evocative. Something about dreaming cast in the imperative mood comes to mind.

Oh, and I don't exactly like mistersquid. Not really. He was fun for maybe fifteen minutes on a T-shirt. I always have to tell phone tech support ". . . 'Mister' all spelled out, squid dot com." LIke a hand drill to the head. Self-applied.

I don't know how I recognized he was my totem animal, but the clearest and earliest memory has to do with a bunch of kids on a cul-de-sac in Marina, CA. Dark-haired, dark-skinned Filipino American and leader of the group, Jeff, was poking small fun at Josh, Euro-Japanese buzz cut Osh-Kosh wearing wannabe whom we liked even if he had a clunker bike. Jeff mirrored his hands at the wrist, curling and extending his fingers in sharp bursts and propelling his hands in jerks through the air as if the thing were swimming.

"Squid pak! You're a squid pak."

The literally manually produced model affected me for life. Squid. I liked squid. Eating them, anyhow. And in 1978 or whenever I saw the flying squid pak, I had never seen a photorealistic image of a squid swimming. The next thing I remember about squid is the 1987 Monterey Squid Festival. At the time, my mind was reeling because I'm cursed with a terribly sensitive nervous system, reality revealed itself as the tissue it was, so I replaced it with the fantasy of my own choosing without realizing I had done.2

Later that summer, I went to the Monterey Squid Festival convinced the present was a past future, and the delusion that the woman I was with (and with whom I thought I had been in love since I'd first seen her in my 9th grade English class) was in love with me allowed her to become an accessory of my apotheosis. Ten years later, I discovered a fuller meaning of squid which, by the way, is mostly tasteless.

Squid takes on the flavors of whatever you use to cook it. In nature, the squid is a chameleon. Most importantly, the squid is not me, just someone I sometimes like. He doesn't even accede to trickster figure. He just sort of is, partially formed, potentiated.

So the problem of naming is one that sticks with me. Even my given name (as opposed to my paternal ancestor's slave name) is a familiar, in addition to being too familiar for many people when they first meet me. They unwittingly make a diminutive out of my name by calling me "John" because my given name invites you to be my friend, even if I don't want you to be.

So, i'm still divesting myself of all those domains and have decided that soon I will choose a subdomain to take on the random bits. bits.mistersquid.com, glyph.numbskull.us, detritus.metonym.net. Keep an eye on "On the Side" if you're interested.

Yesterday, the flu I contracted after submitting the final revision for "Black Power: Minstrelsy and Electricity in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man" peaked. In those four fever-fueled days, my love for written expression (obsession really) came very clear. I've explored this topic endlessly in my journal, so I won't repeat the details here except to say that it has always been about words and naming those words correctly, creating the right names by conjuring the right words.

Like feeling too-cooped up and going to Borders with Kathee to browse physical print artifacts and finding in Part One of The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007 among the "Best American First Sentences of Novels Published in 2006"

Colson Whitehead, Aphex Hides the Hurt

He came up with the names. (6)

I, of course, tried to find the book in store but no go. I googled Barnes and Noble, and the woman who answered said that she would hold a copy of the book for me. When I picked up the book and opened it to the title page, Kathee noticed that it was Apex Hides the Hurt. I decided to purchase Whitehead's book anyway because it not only brought me back to the problem of naming through its narrative which is about a "nomenclature consultant" who comes up with names for products, brands, and places, but also because it contained the following paragraph.

Roger Tipple did not have a weak chin so much as a very aggressive neck. When he answered Roger's phone call, it was the first thing he remembered. He had always imagined it is a simple allocation problem from back in the womb. After the wide plain of Roger's forehead and his portobello nose, there wasn't much left for the lower half of his face. Even Roger's lips were deprived; they were thin little worms that wiggled around the hole of his mouth. He thought, Ridochin for the lantern-jawed. Easy enough, but at the moment he couldn't come up with what its opposite might be. He was concentrating on what Roger was saying. The assignment was strange. (5-6)

If it hadn't been for my deep familiarity with the name "Aphex" I would never have noted the title of Whitehead's book (which, technically speaking, I did not until K. brought it to my attention). Without my ongoing naming problem, I would not have identified with Whitehead's unnamed character which I'm thinking must be a near reference to another unnamed character in American literature.

What's (in) a name? end of article

1 Do not try this at home.
Works Cited
Eggers, Dave. The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007.
Whitehead, Colson. Apex Hides the Hurt: A Novel. New York: Anchor, 2007.
Wilcox, Johnnie. "Black Power: Minstrelsy and Electricity in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man." Callaloo. Forthcoming.



"Colson Whitehead, Aphex Hides the Hurt"

Durrrrrrrrrrn, thank goodness this post ended in the correct title of the book being revealed.

I was worried that
a) you were wrong (that would be weird if YOU got a book title wrong)
b) in all the NPR that I heard, when they said "Apex," the word was really "Aphex" - the "ph" being pronounced as "p" would have really made me question the whole concept of sound-symbol relation.

The 2007 Best Non-Requ. reading got it wrong??? How odd!