What’s in a name? Lots, I think. Especially if you live with a moniker all or most of your life. I’ve had a few over my lifetime. I won’t put most of them in print. My best friend calls me Lazbo. I don’t mind that one. Friends I’ve had and have, have had and have monikers. Can’t remember them for the most part. There was a guy called Mouse I seem to recall. One of my favourite films is The Sandlot. I love the monikers the young lads who play baseball in their local park give each other. Everyone has to have one.
Every culture has them. Some characteristic of a person screams out a name, complimentary or derogatory, that depicts the person’s personality. It may also be a name an individual takes on for him or herself, usually after a fictitious character or a hero of the past. “I am Sparticus” comes to mind as one. But that’s more a joke than anything.
People change their names for all sorts of reasons. I had a friend in Canada whose last name was Greedy. He had it changed to Grady. Showbiz folk are notorious for taking on different names. John Wayne’s first name is really Marion. I would have changed that too. Michael Keaton was born Michael Douglas. That change makes sense too. Michael Caine is really Maurice Micklewhite, which would probably work today. Elton John is Reginald Kenneth Dwight. Ben Kingsley is Krishna Pandit Bhanji. Woody Allen was born Allen Konigsburg and Bruno Mars was born Peter Gene Hernandez. My favourite is the one taken by one of my music heroes, Elvis Costello. He was born Declan Patrick McManus.
Monikers are something else entirely….nicknames given to friends and family members. When Madonna was younger, she was known as Little Nonnie. Brad Pitt is Pitt Bull to his friends. Al Capone was known as Scarface, but never to his face. His friends called him Snorky. I wouldn’t have. When I went to high school in Canada, I had two friends who were known as Vic The Wop and Steve The Greek. You can guess why and they never minded.
Another old high school mate was visiting England recently. He came to see his daughter who lives over here. Then he visited our boat. Wanted to see what made this lifestyle of mine so attractive. He was born Jim Pitkin. But I have always known him as Virgil Scott. We distinguish ourselves from the herd by giving ourselves the moniker of 2 Village Idiots. We met up in London last year for the 1st Annual Village Idiots Convention. This was the second annual event.
The convention involves drinkng beer and making frequent visits to the loo. We are old Village Idiots you see. A village from our own warped imaginations. We have both seen and experienced enough in our lives to know that only true idiots can survive the nonsense going on around us. And we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Well, I don’t anyway.
Virgil came by his name from a band he fronted back in our high school days, ‘The Innocence of Virgil Scott’. I think he, or one of the other members of the band, told me long ago that the band name came from a book or a poem. The closest reference I can find is Scott’s long poem about Virgil called ‘The Innocence’. Who knows? The band later shortened the name to ‘The Innocence’ because, I suppose, Jimbo had taken on the name Virgil Scott.
Since high school, Virgil has had a long and mad adventure in the music industry in Canada, working with some of the top people in the business. After high school, he improved his singing voice by taking vocal lessons from a professional voice coach and going to college in a music program noted for putting out some of the best in Canada. Virgil has written songs, jingles and the like and is known for his love of the old Motown music. I once played sax in a band that was the Toronto equivelent to the Dublin Commitments story. I love Motown too. We share that love, Virgil and me.
We took different paths after high school. Virgil did some theatre, studied music and then went into the music business. I went into business, then became a missionary and then a preacher. When I woke up from that nightmare at age 53, I went back into music (and writing). Now I am about to busk and he says he’s retiring. “Tired of lugging everything from gig to gig,” he says. He’ll continue to play small venues now and again, but that’s it. And he is always looking out for that next great act to promote.
Virgil was one of the cool guys in high school who hung around with the cool crowd. I hung around with the jocks even though I wasn’t one. I did play a season of football (the American type Canadian style) but I was rubbish. I studied music in high school too and that was my connection with Virgil. We’ve kept in touch in recnt years on Facebook and at a couple of high school reunions we’ve attended.
I’m not sure how we got going with the village idiot stuff. It began at a funeral we attended for another high school mate a few years ago. And it stuck. Others have tried to join but it is an exclusive club, if you can call it that. During this visit, Virgil regaled my best friend and me with tales old and new, all with the aplomb and colour of a sports commentator and always entertaining.
I think Virgil was impressed with my living conditions. He even said as much. He was very comfortable on our sofa and stayed quite a while longer than he had first expected. He’ll be back next October to visit his daughter and preside over the 3rd Annual Village Idiots Convention. Not sure where we’ll be with the boat by then, but we’ll meet up somewhere, have a brew or two and reminisce. And, while I’m on the subject, here’s to village idiots everywhere.