What’s in a name? A lot.
I’m in Nashville, staying with my friends, Ashley & Josh. I have three sets of friends here, actually, but one is out of town and the other is busy, so I am with Ashley & Josh for the entire three nights, which is pretty swell, since I have not seen Ashley in nine years and had not met her husband, Josh, before this past Sunday. They were both working today, though, which gave me a lovely morning to catch up on writing and after about four and a half hours of that, I took their dog, Lincoln, out for a walk to clear my head. We ended up at this gorgeous green space in the ritzy Belle Meade neighborhood and we tromped around the woods for about an hour and a half, which gave me plenty of time to think— namely about names.
Take Lincoln, for example. When Josh was growing up, his family had a dog named Gorbachev and Ashley thought that was very cool, so when she and Josh adopted a dog together three years ago, Ashley suggested they name him after another world leader, which is how a goofy, black dog came to inherit the surname of our 16th president. But if you ask me, it suits him. Did you see his regal stare in the photo above?
The whole thing got me thinking about my quest for a title for my new vehicle. I suggested Jeffrey in my last post and despite my friend Chad’s protest at the handle, it received something of a Yes from the rest of you guys, which is too sweet; thank you for your unwavering support. But maybe you noticed that my friend, Steve, suggested somewhat crankily that Jeffrey was not macho enough? Well, he did. And it gave me pause. And here’s what I concluded: “Poor Roxanne. She never had a chance with that stupid name.”
Thinking this as I walked along the trails with Lincoln, I started brainstorming what to call my new vehicle, realizing that maybe I could, indeed, do better than Jeffrey. I briefly pondered the head-honcho theme, thinking that maybe Washington would be a good option. After all, he was quite the brave man during the American Revolution, particularly when he crossed the Delaware River and surprised the British troops. And it happened not too far from where I was born. But this isn’t a war, what I’m doing, so maybe something a little bit less commander-in-chief, I concluded.
I returned to thinking up generic names, like Jake, which was my favorite of all time when I was little. I used it in short story after short story, all of them featuring some strapping, young lad, who did heroic things, like paddling a kayak through giant, formidable waves. Or what about James, my late grandfather? A great man, for sure. Or Jack, his brother? Also a good man. But none of those seemed quite right and I was suddenly opposed to going from one J name to another.
Then I thought, “Aha! Steinbeck!” First name, yes: John. However, by using his iconic last name, there would be no confusing him with anyone but one of the best writers of all time, who also happened to have traveled the country in a camper with his dog. Except I had a hard time imagining myself saying something like, “Steinbeck needs an oil change.” It just wasn’t right.
By this time in my ruminations, I was halfway through the four-and-a-half-mile hike and I was back at the drawing board. But Steve’s comment came back to me again. “Mexican Machismo,” he had advised, so I ran through a few quintessentially Latin names: Juan, Carlos, Jorge. No, no and no. Alejandro? No. Dismayed as I am to say it, this is not a Lady Gaga video.
But maybe I was getting warmer … warmer … warmer. And then, I had it: Marco, after the great explorer, Marco Polo.
I mean, I’m certainly no missionary. But there are a number of other parts of his story to which I can relate, like the fact that his journey lasted 24 years and covered about 24,000 miles, and that he spoke of finding jasper, and that his expedition was filled with all the unexpected obstacles and detours of any good road trip, including getting stranded at one point for three years. Sounds kinda familiar, give or take several months; right? But he persevered and he made it back home again and then went on to publish a best-selling book, albeit some people thought it was a bit, er, exaggerated. Still, it inspired other travelers, including Christopher Columbus. Plus, he set off at age 17 and he stayed in China for 17 years and well, I happen to be quite fond of the number 17, which reminds me: today is Rennie‘s birthday. No one knows for sure when he was born but the general consensus is that it happened in the month of May, and so I made it the 17th, which means he is 2 years-old today. Say Happy Birthday to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’d love to hear from you, especially since I am in Tennessee and he is in Texas, waiting for me to come get him.
Anyhow, Marco it is for the new set of wheels. What do you think?