816 North

What’s on the menu? Ask Dave

I was showering this morning and thinking I might run out of humor.

Then I said to myself, “Dave, you’re just 68. You’ve got years and years of silliness left.”

A product of my optimistic self, I owe that thought to the Norman Vincent Peale Church of Self-Confidence, Positive Thinking and Unlimited Wealth.

Basic tenet: Build up your confidence and everything else will fall into place, including answers to deep, deep questions.

You might wonder why I’d refer to myself as Dave in that context. It’s simple, and I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s how I sometimes refer to myself when we’re alone. I do it silently, largely because if you do it out loud you’ll be alone on Thanksgiving, Christmas and your birthday.

This isn’t one of those multiple personalities you hear so much about. It’s more like a splinter group, a variation on a theme, an angel’s advocate – I suppose that’s what you call someone who argues the side opposite the devil’s – or a chip off the old block.

In this case, the old block is me … and Dave … and Davy.

I’m assuming this third-person thing started with the disfavor my mother attached to the word Dave.

“Dave,” she said, “is what you call a delicatessen clerk, someone with mustard on his apron, a person whose job it is to trim fat from corned beef; in other words, a real schlubb, someone who gambles on vacation.”

In Mom’s view, Dave wasn’t a name fit for her son, one who would surely become a first-chair clarinetist or a writer of serious novels in the Dostoyevsky mode, a descendant of the biblical king who slayed Goliath, the biggie-sized philistine.

I haven’t seen it written anywhere, not even on Wikipedia, but wouldn’t David and Goliath be where our fascination with underdogs began? There’d be no “Rocky,” no “Rudy,” no “Hoosiers” without David the giant smiter.

My mother would never utter these words, but can you imagine if it had been “Dave and Goliath” in biblical lore? We’d all imagine a plump man in a stained apron who suddenly stops trimming corned beef to pick up a slingshot.

I’m lucky my mother’s preference for “David” didn’t extend to my favorite TV shows. If it had, the theme song for one of my heroes would’ve gone “David, David Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.”

Davy was a king in the frontier sense – kind of rough-hewn royalty, I suppose – but with his Tennessee ways, buckskin jacket and coonskin cap, David would’ve seemed a bit formal.

When I refer to myself as Dave – as in “Dave, you’re just 68. You’ve got years of silliness left” – I’m not sneaking around behind my mother’s back. She’s been gone 17 years, but I have no doubt she’s still listening in and evaluating my behavior.

What I’m doing by using the word Dave is objectifying myself for the sake of argument.

It’s as if my better self – let’s call him David – is taking my lesser self, i.e. Dave, to task for some shortcoming. As Mom and Norman Vincent Peale would’ve said, “Don’t belittle yourself. There are plenty of others who’ll do it for you.”

I don’t think Davy, King of the Wild Frontier, would’ve cared one way or the other. He was a man of action who killed bear with his hands and fought and died at the Alamo. Who knows, he might have even met John Wayne.

A funny thing about this hair-splitting is that Dave isn’t really a bad version of my name; it’s just one my mother didn’t care for. She must’ve thought we were special or something, or at least destined for greatness, and would be degraded by a familiar name.

In her view, a Bob should always be a Robert, a Bill always a William, a Sue always a Susan. But I’m not sure we’d like the Mark Twain characters as much if they were called Thomas Sawyer, Huckleston P. Finn III or James.

Familiarized names are simply terms of affection, or at least expressions of friendliness. When someone calls me Dave they’re just being friendly or at least informal, which I wouldn’t mind at all but for the seed Mom planted.

After 68 years of toeing the line, I expect to be called David, but not to the extent that I’d correct someone who goes with Dave. If they ask to see a menu or order a sandwich, that’s where I draw the line.

Feel free to write me about name peculiarities at davidknopf48@gmail.com.