Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Name And Number

Is my "real" name Gunther? No. Do I come from a long line of 8544s? Nah, I'm the first one with the attachment. The 40-year-old ink on my birth certificate means less to me than a cold plate of scrambled eggs and ketchup from Denny's. Perhaps it carries weight for a displaced drunk who peddles used clunkers somewhere in the Quaker State, but I've tipped the scales in favor of the "fake" handle since 1992 or so. What follows is a brief account of its origin.

Charged with the brain-dead task of verifying magazine orders, my friend David Beasley and I enjoyed the many lulls between dial-ups. We used the idle time to discuss music, surfing, tennis and female co-workers who struck our fancy. During an extended stretch of staring bug-eyed at our computer screens, I told Bease to come up with a cool alter-ego for me. After squaring the deal with a Discover magazine customer ("36 issues, right?"), my bud took note of the subscriber's first name and the last four digits of his phone number. Sandwiching the two, Bease arrived at my new identity ("Gunther 8544") and orated it for the first time inside the upstairs office at Touch Tone Marketing in Virginia Beach, VA. Within two weeks, I unveiled the fresh pseudonym for a tagged submission in the company's now-and-again newsletter. "Popcorn" was a pointed poem whose subtle verses concerned an unkempt woman with an 1800s fashion sense who lorded over the microwave with bags (Yes, plural!) of unpopped kernels. Presenting herself like a two-second extra from "Little House On The Prarie" who fell off a stagecoach, it was startling that "Pearlene" had advanced past Jiffy Pop preparations. I'd like to quote a couple lines, but the work has been lost to a BFI trash truck and history. Perhaps "Pearlene" still has a copy of said TTM issue, but it's doubtful the Okie-from-Norfolkie resides in Tidewater these days. Too bad, because I'd send her ten bags of Pop Secret in trade for the poem. Maybe a Mumford And Sons CD, too. It would remind "Pearlene" of the Top 40 songs from her youth that folks like Lewis and Clark hyped to death on podcasts.

Much thanks, Bease, for gifting me with a pen name I've used countless times in composition and conversation. Also, a special salute to longtime friends who've accepted me as "Gunther" without further inquiry.

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