TJ…Taylor Jamieson…making up names, it’s just a name, right? To recreate yourself in anonymity is an ironically defining challenge for a writer. Yes, defining. How backward is that? In the truest sense of self discovery and intention it is somehow immensely important to me, pre-eminent even, to get my anonymous name right…that is, if I were to assume some anonymous literary alter ego. The idea makes me laugh, question, revise, re-write, search for reason…whatever. Whatever the cause or motivation I am inspired, perhaps humbled, by the greater good enveloped in the whole concept.
Sarah Baron (the fictionally named creator and driving force behind www.Anonymous8.com ) whoever she really is (just kidding Sarah) has asked me to write as a guest author and I am torn between my future and my past and my family and myself. I am a writer first, but I share her wish and need to keep my life, my wife, my love and my family safe from all the ‘stuff’ out there that comes with going public. So the obvious answer is to be anonymous…right? Well that is one side of my brain. So here I am.
Meanwhile, on the other side of my brain the epic battle of Achilles and J. Alfred Prufrock and A.E. Housman, and pale blue eyes and all the Greeks and Romans and men like Milton who write for the ever enduring rages on. The battle to become immortal. No, not like a superhero or with ever lasting youth…just to be remembered. ‘In time…’, Achilles mother the goddess nymph Thetis said, ‘You may have a wife and children, a good life, love, and in time their children’s children will forget you.’ OR (this is the cool part men…so pay attention between the battle scenes and the sex we never see in the movie ‘TROY’), OR you can go off and fight this battle with the Trojans, get the girl, but then die alone and be remembered by kings and countrymen…blah, blah, blah…for all time. Immortality through death is a dish served cold. Like Harold Jamieson said to his best friend and alter ego Taylor Brooks in ‘K2’, “I got everything I ever wanted but I had to give up everything to get it.”
“Don’t you want more than this Dex?” TJ Burke’s immortality has never been questioned in the ski world (TJ…you know, hero of ‘Aspen Extreme’…writer AND best skier on the mountain, get’s the hot sugar mama AND the girl next door) but 13 chapters into White Planet, 40+ years of soul-searching on two planks on snow, I wonder if the author, Leslie Anthony, is content to be immortal in his genre? Maybe I’ll ask him…or maybe you’re reading this? Or maybe I’ll buy his other book, The Boy In The Moon, not that I have any idea what it is about. Does it matter? Does it matter if it is what he considers to be his best work, his Troy? (Pure conjecture here people.) Does it matter or is it more important to be immortal among peers? Somehow in the end I think the test of time for any writer is not to be categorized in anything but greatness…but getting published is something, isn’t it?
Back to the name…there is so much to consider. The TJ idea came to me as my daughter (almost 2) bonked me with one foot laying sideways on our bed tonight, aka ‘the big bed’. She has a pretty heavy cold and sleeping hasn’t been easy for her this week. Tonight she clings to Mama like, well, like a little girl who has no idea her Mama is going away to a conference for 3 days this weekend. Do I need to make up names for them too? Or are they just subject to adjectivity; my little girl, my beautiful wife, my son has my pale blue eyes and his hair is as curly as mine when I was 6…?? So many questions, so many names. They’re just words right?
Taylor…TJ…I don’t know? Billy the Kid said, ‘I’ll make you famous’, and all those poor suckers had to do was get shot (not that I know any of their names…damn). Not much room there for contributing to the creative or the greater good either. My grandfather had an original hand written Wells Fargo journal in a box of books (yes, THE Wells Fargo) which was pretty cool other than the fact that it was sold at auction as ‘box of books’. But far more intriguing and potentially immortalizing is the WWII Naval Journal my grandpa scribbled in, sometimes illegibly after a few too many ‘wets’ on shore leave on England’s West Coast circa 1940 something and the one name and 5 digit phone number he wrote in it…’Shirley’…my grandmother. Shirley, ‘Greetings to the new brunette’, the album by Billy Bragg always reminded me of her in his twangy socialist, ‘I don’t care if you like how I sound or what I have to say’ way. He was here in Canada last year and I saw him on the Kids CBC morning show and wondered if anyone else but me knew who he was…and smiled.
“Oh love is strange”, Billy said, “Then she ran off with Mr Potato Head.” Words and stories, movies, love songs and loves lost and the indelible inequity of man in a world of chance and corruption. Strolling down Bloor Street, 1987, 18 years old with my Sony Walkman 4000 miles from home (really km’s but miles is so much cooler to say) looking for the “Shirley” song on cassette tape after seeing Billy Bragg on Much Music (Canada’s version of MTV for you America’s) before embarking on a bike trip to Ottawa to meet a girl…a red haired girl who forgot to tell me she had a boyfriend when we kissed back at the beach when she came out west with her sister and their family to visit Beautiful British Columbia post Expo 86. “Oh love is strange.” Blew my knee doing three century rides in three days, slept it off on the couch in their basement, took the bike in a box on the bus back to T.O. and never saw that redhead again.
So what is it that demands all the anonymity? Is it the material? the content? the latent buyers remorse artists share post creative? (I knew an actor in college who played the lead role in Equus who grew a beard after performing the nude sex scene fully erect…at least he was the night I saw the play. That performance begged for anonymity.) Or is it the inner ego that demands writers’ aspirations to truth? When I was young and naive I believed there was only one truth…no, I still believe that.
I hear the West Coast winter rain outside dripping from the rooftops and awnings down to my concrete patio…and I know, I don’t need to open the blinds, I know exactly how it looks. The light filters in from the kitchen from the little bulb in the hood fan above the stove and my beautiful wife has her bag neatly packed beside the door, beside the laptop where I tripped over the power cord searching for this book and the monogrammed pencil she gave me. Her coffee cup is lined up with spoons and filters, the Star Wars Lego clone army is ready for battle beside Darth Vader’s Lego TIE Fighter on the kitchen table right where my son left them and Cecil the cat – not a real cat – aka ‘Meow’, is on the table next to the sofa next to me. How is that for anonymous?
Whatever the name, when I look in the mirror…I see pale blue reminders…