Monday, October 7, 2013

What's in a Name?

Fans of this blog (well, any blog!) know that self-promotion is central to an effective online presence.  Folks that promote themselves effectively have an audience, a fan base, a following.  And, if they provide good content, that following is loyal.  Or maybe it’s just like slowing down to see an accident on the freeway—you just gotta watch the horror unfold.  I’m giving you an out here, people.

Either way, writers often try to make a name for themselves, even if that name is difficult to remember or is uncommon.  Like the name, “Herb.”  Just sayin’.  Sorry, Mom & Dad, it turns out “Herb” wasn’t the “Brittany” of the 60’s.

In today’s day and age, my name is uncommon.  Mostly because the people named, “Herb” are very, very old or very, very dead.  Or, they may be a self-aware, mischievous Volkswagen, but that’s another story.

Nevertheless, our name—whatever our name—is inextricably linked to our identity.  I remember as a kid, wishing my name was David.  That was silly.  David Dalgart?  Yawn.  I don’t think David Dalgart would have had a blog, suffered from cartoon-brain, or been nearly as annoying as I am.  You may have liked him.  Probably shouldn’t have mentioned that.

But, now that I’m an adult (or a passable facsimile of one, governed by that cartoon brain), I’ve grown attached to my name.  It was my grandfather’s name, and he died before I knew him.  So, I owe it to him to carry the name forward with some dignity (okay, I messed that one up).  Do I get a do-over?

Still, it’s my name, too (John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt?  Was he Jewish?).  But I digress.

When I go into a Starbucks, I sometimes play a name game with the barista without realizing I’m playing it.  Note to those of us over 30:  Remember before Starbucks took over our language, before we called cashiers, “baristas” or referred to our medium cup as a “grande”?  Don’t get me started!

The Starbucks game I play goes like this:  I order my drink (venti iced coffee with easy soy) and they ask my name.  I answer, “Herb” and the game begins.

The barista furrows his or her pierced brow and considers their move:

BARISTA THOUGHT:  “Do I pretend I know what that little man just said and write it on his cup with my sharpie or do I ask him to repeat himself?”

I watch this play out over the barista’s face and then cross my fingers.  I hope they don’t ask my name again.

The reason I hope this is that, nine times out of ten, I am rewarded with a funny name on my cup, usually phonetically similar to “Herb” but not usually my name…or for that matter, not usually a name at all.  This makes me laugh because somewhere between their furrowed brow and their sharpie scribble, the barista decided that “Kurb” or “Burb” was my name.

It’s as though the barista said, “Your name, sir, is as nonsensical to me as calling you, ‘Burb.’"

Now, I grant you the barista is often someone with a facial piercing, or droopy ear lobes with doorknobs in them, or geometric hair, or some other outward example of their lack of good judgment.  And, I’m often left with a nagging desire to say, “Your face is more nonsensical to me than the ridiculous name you wrote on my cup."

You’ll be pleased to know I’ve never said that to a barista.  Sometimes my filter does work, but don’t get used to it.  I haven’t.

Nevertheless, this little game is enough to make me pause and wonder how antiquated and irrelevant I am becoming (or at least my name is becoming) in this new Starbucks world.  When the geriatric Herbs are all gone, and the soon-to-be-geriatric Herbs like me are less common than “Burbs” and “Kurbs,” who will be left?  How soon before they come for your name and create a bizarre facsimile on your cup?

I should’ve seen it coming when they replaced the Small, Medium, and Large with the Tall, Grande, and Venti.  They start with your name, and then take your soul.  Of course, you get a hot cup of mediocre coffee in return, but your soul is worth it.

Maybe I should start a new game like this:

ME:  “I’d like a venti iced coffee with easy soy.”

BARISTA:  “What’s your name?”

ME: “Large.”

Then, the barista would be forced to write LARGE on my venti cup—GOTCHA!  A small victory for cups everywhere.  But we could all do it!  Or maybe we can offer other names that will mess up their little system.  Try offering the following names and see what happens.

[“I have a venti latte for you…”  Mass confusion in the shop.  Who?  You?  No, you!  No, him!]

[“I have a double espresso for me…”  Hello, Starbucks customer service?  Yes, you have a barista here that just keeps making coffee for himself.]

Diabetic Children
[I have a caramel macchiato for diabetic children…”  What are they doing?  Somebody stop them!]

[“I have a tall espresso for free… Oh yes, I am the bringer of chaos.]

“Causing diarrhea”
[Never mind.  You can do this one in your head!]

My point—is there a point?—is that we don’t have to wait for Starbucks or anyone else to take our names or feed us new language.  We can take it back for ourselves.  Or, we can try to make our names count for something.

One piece of advice:  Before you start your blog, get yourself a cup of coffee.

© 2013, Herb Williams-Dalgart

Sunday, May 5, 2013

"The French Girl's War" -- Coming Soon!

Hey there, friends and supporters!  Just wanted to let you know that my recently completed novel, “The French Girl’s War,” was not one of the five general fiction submissions to proceed past the quarter-finals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.  Still, I’m thrilled to have had such great feedback from Amazon’s editors and to have made it all the way to the quarter-finals with my first attempt in such a competitive contest.  I remain excited to see the book published in the coming months and seeing it both in hard copy and digital download.  I wanted to let you all know how much I appreciate your tremendous support, your downloads, and your positive reviews.   I’ll be sure to keep you posted once the entire book is available.  Thanks again!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The French Girl's War - Quarter-finalist on Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest

Friends and blog followers -- exciting news!  The first 5,000 words of my soon-to-be-published novel, "The French Girl's War" are now available for Kindle download as part of Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest, in which I am currently a Quarter-Finalist.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Retirement Planning

The Vatican called – there’s a job opening that sounds pretty good.  You can work from home, wear slippers and funny hats, and have throngs of people to help.
The last guy in the job actually quit, but we don’t know why.  Maybe the gal that runs Yahoo told him he couldn’t work at home anymore.  She’s like Lucy with the football.

Still, if you’re the lucky job holder, you get as much Italian food as you like.  Housing is covered and you’ll have access to paintings, treasures, and jewels from all over the world.  Just don’t ask how they came to have these things in the first place.

You get a car and driver, security detail for life, and the city you’ll live in will actually be its own country with YOU in charge.  It’s like winning the lottery! 

New law – Lollipop Friday!

The job sounds fun, but seems to be held mostly by really old men.  Maybe it’s a second career or one of those “retirement jobs.”  I think the guy that just quit is gonna become a Wal-mart greeter now.  Very friendly from what I hear.

Last week, when discussing retirement with my wife, she said, “After you retire, don’t you want to work the land?”


“Work the land?”

“You know, maybe get a cow, a goat, a sheep…”

This is where I apparently get my “judgey” face that starts arguments.  “What would I do with a cow, a goat, and a sheep?”

“I don’t know.  Make artisanal cheeses?  Hasn’t the idea of working the land always appealed to you?”

“Who do think you married?  No, I can honestly say I’ve never dreamed of working the land.”

“Well I want to work the land.”  Now she gets that frowny face that ends arguments.


Friends, I don’t think my retirement will go well.  My soon-to-be-revealed spectacular mid-life crisis is brewing in the distance like the hordes of orcs from Lord of the Rings, preparing to invade.  I have no imminent plans to retire, but I’ve been fingering the one ring and wondering if I should just put it on and disappear or make the trek to Mordor like a good Hobbit.

Still, I have plenty of work left to do.  There’s the little matter of my meandering manifesto—still have to write that.  I have to complete my screenplay masterpiece, the long anticipated, “Supermodel Astronaut”—though I’m afraid some fifteen year-old studio executive will want to add smooching vampires or zombies and ruin the whole thing.  Shot across the bow:  it ain’t gonna happen, kid. 

Of course, I will simply take my revenge when I inevitably win the Oscar for my original screenplay, “Ninja Leprechauns” or wave around my Pulitzer (in my mind it’s a flag that reads, “Pulitzer") for my hard-hitting novel, “Munchkins Cry, Too,” following the painful abuse and struggles of Hollywood’s mistreated little people.  Spoiler: Glinda was NOT a good witch.

Simply put, I still have too much to do to consider retirement or those go nowhere Vatican job openings.  Though, I’m reminded of the old saying, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper.  The closer you get to the end, the faster it seems to go.”  I think that was either Nietzsche or Shakespeare.  Not sure how much of my roll remains, but I’m determined to use it wisely…. And slowly. 

Then again, maybe I’ll work the land.


© 2013, Herb Williams-Dalgart