>>> Bang for Your Buck
By staff writer David Nelson

September 10, 2006

Essential New Word of the Week: meatbeer (definition hint: punishment drink)

When was the last time you sat and really thought about your own name? Names are funny things; they’re an inextricable component of your identity, and yet unless you’re a singer, a convert to Islam, or a porn star, you probably didn’t have much input into yours. And I think Ringo Starr, Muhammed Ali, and Bolivia Samsonite would agree, choosing your own just isn’t as good as being born with a cool one.

As far as names go, I’ve got one that’s not too flashy. It doesn’t really stand out in a list, and this is both a blessing and a curse. It’s great when authority figures like teachers or supervisors need volunteers for crappy jobs. I can almost guarantee that I’ll be passed over in favor of Herbert Donglicker, Jr.

On the other hand, there are certain times when you want to stand out. Take a look around PIC for example. I don’t have the pun-ability of a Court, the musical reference of an Opp, or even the vaguely sexual aesthetic of a DeGraaf.

“I got saddled with Dave ‘Half' Nelson, a wrestling hold with one hand. Must everything in life remind me of this cruel masturbation addiction?”

I guess what I’m saying is, it ain’t always easy being Dave Nelson. I’m just going to go ahead and trademark that last sentence for when I write my autobiography, which will be subtitled, “Thanks for all the food and booze, and sorry about what I did to your toilet.”

For one thing, I’ve always wanted a cool nickname, but this hasn’t happened for me. Some of history’s best nicknames are permutations of a real name, like The Hoff, B.A. Baracus, and Marky Mark. Unfortunately, you can’t give yourself a nickname because a) it’s kind of weird and sad, and b) it doesn’t count. So, I’ve waited patiently for my friends to find inspiration, but so far, I’ve been let down.

In high school I wrote for a publication that gave every contributing writer a nickname. This was a good idea, but the editors were more like Chris Burke than Chris Berman when it came to nickname creativity. I got saddled with Dave “Half” Nelson, which is apparently a wrestling hold performed with one hand. Must everything in life remind me of this cruel masturbation addiction?

Now, even though my name made it appropriate, this was still a pretty sad moniker. If it had to be a wrestling hold, I would have preferred something like Dave “Atomic Groin Punch” Nelson. And now, Half Nelson is also a feature film, in which Ryan Gosling stars as a junior-high teacher who forms an unlikely friendship with a drug-using student. Truly, this is a lot closer to my real life—except when I taught junior high, my students were mostly addicted to Pokemon.

In university, some friends took to calling me “The Admiral,” presumably after Admiral Horatio Nelson, British naval hero and $400 answer on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I liked this nickname, even when it mutated into “The Dreaded Rear Admiral,” a throwaway Simpsons reference that took on new meaning: “The act of engaging in intercourse with a woman from behind and using the momentum of your movement to propel you across a room.” This is now my signature move. I make all my girls wear football helmets for their own protection… and also because it’s kinda sexy.

The age of the cell phone brought about a renaissance in the field of nicknames. If someone’s finger slips one lousy time, you might forever be known as something totally nonsensical. For example: A buddy of mine met his girl at a bar, and was too wasted to spell out “Lindsey” on his cell phone properly. To this very day, we still all call her “Lmdn.” I once did the same thing, inputting “Rducca” for “Rebecca.” But that’s okay, Rducca had mono anyway. Meanwhile, friends have mistyped my name as “Nelso” and “Nello,” and if either of them takes hold, I’m going to slit my wrists.

I’ve been quite vocal about my desire for fame and fortune, but it bothers me that I won’t be the first David Nelson to achieve them. Unless you make it a habit to eavesdrop on your grandmother’s conversations, you probably won’t have heard of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. Nevertheless, they were famous for some reason, and they had a kid named David. He guest-starred on their show, and scored a few movie roles, including Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke. I realize that I would have been two years old when that classic was released, but I still feel that role somehow should have gone to me. Other namesakes of note include a musician, a WWI soldier, and HOLY SHIT!, an American Gladiator!!! Check and mate, bitches. Where are my monogrammed pugil sticks?

I actually had the good fortune to meet a famous namesake once, albeit a fictional one. Fans of the show NewsRadio might remember that the main character, played by fellow Torontonian Dave Foley, was named Dave Nelson. That’s not very important unless you happen to be me, or own the NewsRadio home trivia game featuring the voice of Jon Lovitz. But I knew it would come in handy some day.

And that day came about 5 years ago. I was working at a museum, when Dave Foley himself approached me, probably to ask about dinosaurs or something. I think I mumbled something incoherent about trilobites and then pointed to my nametag, grinning like a mongoloid, waiting for comprehension to dawn on this poor quasi-celebrity. I’m not exactly sure what I expected to happen. Perhaps I thought Dave Foley would laugh hysterically at the great coincidence, then buy me a drink. Maybe he would even get me a role on his show. But none of that happened. Instead, he just looked confused. His face said, “Why is this guy acting like such a retard?” Trust me, it’s a look I know all too well.

It was weeks later before I realized actors don’t always know their characters’ full name. Actors are idiots. Bruce Willis probably thinks he was portraying Senator John McCain in the Die Hard series. Come to think of it, that would have been pretty sweet. “Ho ho ho. Now I have a tax reform initiative.”

But gay nicknames and uncomfortable celebrity encounters are the least of your problems when you’re me. Because of my name, I am an actual, bona fide suspected terrorist. Don’t believe me? Check out this article from the Washington Post. Or this one from the LA Daily News. Or this statement from the ACLU. Go on, check them out. I’ll be waiting right here, probably under surveillance by some hardened cigar-chomping FBI agent and his naive, but good-hearted partner.

Back? Good. When this story broke, people I hadn’t spoken to in years came out of the woodwork to have a good laugh at my newfound inability to travel. Seriously, you all can see my picture at the top of the page, right? I might look like a drunken aardvark with Down Syndrome, but there’s no way I resemble a terrorist.

Sure enough, the last time I got on a plane, I was taken aside and thoroughly grilled. Now, I have only one problem with airport security: It’s predicated on a “better safe than stupid” ideology. Nabbing a slightly drunk Jewish kid from the line and asking if he hates America isn’t going to foil any nefarious schemes, even if that kid has the same name as the MVP of the National Terrorism League. Moreover, the airport security guard and I both had to pretend to be dumb enough to think we were keeping the world safe by going through these motions. He knew I wasn’t a terrorist. And he knew that I knew that he knew. It was embarrassing, not to mention a little confusing.

Listen, if I’m trying to board your plane with a deadly pair of nail clippers or something, then by all means, pull me aside. I like to think that I project the kind of ninja mystique that convinces people that I actually could take over a plane with tweezers. But don’t harass me on account of my name. If Twitchy McShoebomb can just stroll onto a plane, I shouldn’t have any problem either.

But the simple fact remains: you’re going to be stuck with a name for the rest of your life. And unless you’re a flamboyant musician, you can’t really get away with using a symbol. I should know; three years ago, I tried to change my name to the Ghostbusters logo, and it didn’t work out. You wouldn’t believe how much it would have cost to reprint my business cards.

So, I hope you embrace your name as I have learned to embrace mine. It may not be perfect, but what else do you have that’s uniquely your own? I’m going to try and make my name mean something, much like Lord Sandwich, Henry J. Heimlich, and Roy Jacuzzi did. And unless I die choking on a Monte Cristo in the hot tub, don’t be surprised if one day you hear someone exclaim, “Hey man! Don’t nelson that joint!”

Essential New Word of the Week:
meatbeer [‘mitbir] n: Last weekend, a bunch of my friends got tired of drinking for its own sake, and decided to play an impromptu drinking game. (I love drinking games because they’re often hilarious and they allow me to showcase my capacity for crappy drinks.) On this occasion, someone brought a positively horrifying brew for the punishment drink. No word of a lie, this “beer” tasted like liquid salami. It was all smoky and greasy, and as I recall, even a little chewy. I don’t know if it’s actually possible to extract liquor from cured meat, but the evidence was right before our eyes. Henceforth, we decided that meatbeer would be the punishment drink of choice for all drinking games. With this in mind, I’m practicing everygame I know, twice a day.