Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Label Reads...

Sitting at a kitchen table in Texas, gathered for the wake of a man universally acknowledged to be quite the curmudgeon, the bomb was dropped.

"Tell me one thing about your dad he wouldn't want us to know," David prompted his nine-year-old nephew.

There wasn't any air conditioning, everyone had long since run out of things to say about David's deceased father, who had lived a long life and gone on to the hereafter without much tragedy being involved in the event. Everyone was at loose ends, sitting around talking over cups of coffee and beers that were rapidly becoming either too cool, or too warm to be enjoyable.

The young boy looked around, and with a decidedly delighted grin announced at such a volume it went booming out to the living room, "My dad has a pimple on his butt that won't go away!"

This is probably why whenever I think of Carl (whose name I am changing for extremely obvious reasons), I can't help but remember him as the unfortunate butt-pimple man. I don't know him well, to me he is one of my husband's Texas cousins, there's a passel of them, after all.

"Carl's been transferred to Phoenix," my husband told me.

"Carl..." I said vaguely, trying to search my memory banks, "which one is Carl, again?"

"You know, the guy with the..."

"Oh! Yes, him." And we went on to talk about Carl's promotion, as I wondered whether his backside was still blemished. What an association to have for a human being. If I ever see Carl again I'm going to have to stop myself from inquiring about the hindquarters in question, but you know I'll be wondering, wouldn't you?

As an aside, Carl's likely a wonderful human being. He was in that kitchen to witness his son's over-share and didn't promptly ship his son off for medical experiments. In fact, at the present time he's paying to put that same child through college. Parents are, generally speaking, a forgiving lot.

But we all know someone who exists in our memory with that sort of tag. So-and-sos niece, "You know, the one who used to be a stripper..." That woman's husband who had the unfortunate habit of writing bad checks. The neighbor who suffered from Lyme's disease, and in the grips of a delusion attacked his mailbox with a hammer at three o'clock in the morning.

You know you've got someone in your memory like that. Someone who is known by whatever ill-fated thing happened to them, whatever misfortune has befallen them, whatever weird tag is the thing that pulls them up in your memory. Their most easily identifying characteristic.

"You know, the one who lives in Seattle? Not the lawyer, the son who was going to make a fortune raising turtles? Him, anyway, turns out..."

Those identifying labels. Some of them are good, of course, and we all hope we're known to someone by a good label, a positive tag.

"Carolyn's son, the guy who married that beautiful Swedish girl? Yeah, that one. Anyway...."

"Larry, you remember him, don't you? He has that big house in Tahoe..."

For the most part we don't know how other people label us, remember us. Sometimes we do. Like my friend Tilly who found out she is known by the tag, "Oh, you did the raw food diet! Yes, of course, how are you?" and when she heard that, she had to flinch. Mainly what Tilly found out about the raw food diet was that it was only suitable for people living a hermetic existence, as it had certain side effects, you see. Luckily this did not seem to be the association being made. At least she hopes, better to be known as a Health-Nut than as being Self-Propelled. I changed her name, too just in case you were wondering. If it has to do with an individual's posterior, or the workings thereof, I tend to do that, funnily enough. No one wants to be known by anything relating to buttocks, that's my motto.

Yesterday, I found out one of my labels. Whereas I might like to think that people remember me with some sort of wonderful tag, some highly flattering means of identifying me, chances are good someone, somewhere associates me with something I'd just as soon they didn't. I'll spare you what the majority of those might be, as I'd just as soon not promote the idea of remembering me as, "Oh! That woman who set Marta's stove on fire at New Years?" Yippee, like it's my fault the flambe went that far wrong? Clean your drip pans, woman or "Oh yeah, she split her skirt on the subway, didn't she?" and then half of NYC got to see what I was wearing underneath for the hour it took me to troop back to my hotel. What a spiffy walk of shame that was. Thanks for burning it into the recesses of your brain for all time. I know that's what happened to me with that one, too.

I was taking a walk around the neighborhood, enjoying the beautiful day when I encountered my neighbor from across the street, Miranda, out for a stroll of her own. A lovely person, I might add. She had her mother with her, and took the trouble of introducing me.

"From across the street." Miranda indicated me.

"Hello, are you having a nice visit?" I asked, as Miranda's mother squinted at me.

" You're from Florida, aren't you?" She asked, and I allowed as how I wasn't. Miranda pointed out that I lived in the beige house. No, not the smaller beige house, the big one. The one with the pool. I am evidently not particularly memorable. Then a look of recognition crossed her face, "Oh, you're the one with the spiky things, aren't you?"

I managed to muster a laugh, as I nodded. I am indeed the one with the spiky things that I keep sticking up in the eaves, that kept falling out because the temperature had been too low for the epoxy to set properly.

"Yes, that's me. Winning the war, at last." I admitted, and began forming the sentence that would bid them both a good day.

"You're the one with the thing about birds, you're The Pigeon Lady."

Ah c'mon! Couldn't I at least be known by something that sounds imposing, intimidating? Something that would send a warning out into the avian world that I am not a woman with whom to trifle? Something featuring The Impaler? The Conquerer?

The Plucker, maybe?

Oh well, at least it doesn't involve my butt. I hope and pray.

Here, by the way, are the Spiky Things. That at least sounds vaguely imposing, right?


JeannetteLS said...

One of my identifiers about fifteen years ago? This is Jeannette--you know, the one I told you about who stuck the fondu fork through her hand and had to go to the ER? Another one referred to me as the "forking incident" girl. I LOVED your entry. Just loved it. I'm also sometimes referred to as the one with the big teeth... Mostly, though, I find that these little identifiers for all of us crack me up--even when I'm the butt... as it were.

Becky the Design Lady said...

This is too funny. I'm afraid I'll be identified as "that crazy woman with the dogs". You know... the one who lives in the house that's half blue and half yellow...

Thanks so much for stopping my blog and offering your support and wisdom. I enjoy your writing very much.

She Writes said...

Oh well, at least it doesn't involve my butt. I hope and pray.


Tabor said...

Oh my goodness, I do not think that I could reveal what people would remember me for. I always did stupid and embarrassing things! How is the spiky thing working out for you?

Teri said...

How I enjoyed your blog today! Thanks for the smiles!

Katy said...

Ha! Great post. This week I was reminded a couple of times of all the different identifers I carry. Some of them are fun, some I would rather people just forget.

Leah J. Utas said...

Thanks for the visit to my blog. Your post made me smile. I'm not sure how I'm labeled as there's waaaay to much to chose from.

Kathryn said...

You always make me laugh! I do so enjoy when you post.

I don't know that i've a single title, but . . . my hubby (then fiance) & i were visiting some old friends of mine the Christmas after we got engaged. I'd given him the gist of my background - trying to scare him off at first.

But dear friend C went into multiple details of what he remembered & what i had largely forgotten. Mostly bizarre behaviors when i was at a critical time in trying to manage my mental health.

I had to admit that i was a little bitter as we left, remarking to my sweetie that i wished C didn't have such a good memory!

(He married me anyway!)

Fab, feisty and fifty... said...

what a great new l cant help wondering, quite intensley....which woman am l!!!

Cloudia said...

Psychologists call it the "fundamental attribution error" the tendency you point out to remember people base on ONE thing that struck us as memorable instead of as whole people just like us. diagnosis: we are human :)

Aloha from Hawaii new Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Hilary said...

You're the one who left a very funny comment on another blog which begged to be followed to see what your blog was all about. You are the one who makes me laugh. You are the one with lengthy, thoughtful comments which always make me think.. often laugh. You are the one new blogger who makes me feel so pleased to have found you. Yup, you're that one. :)

Dave said...

Hi "Shimp"....? Interesting blog. I guess we all are known by something it is best we don't know.
Thanks for calling in on mine and your comment. Nice to meet you! - Dave

järnebrand said...

Great post! :) Now you got me thinking again... I wonder how I am being tagged by people who know me, or know of me... I hope I get associated with positive things... I hope I never get associated with anything that has to do with my butt...!
Thanks for visiting my blog the other day, and for leaving such nice comments. Love/ Jo.

Pauline said...

You can make me laugh out loud, though I have to confess, if someone in blogland inquired about you I might have said (but not now, of course), "Oh! The pigeon lady!" ;)

I'm known as "you know her, the who used to write those newspaper columns."

Cricket said...

Very funny, my dear. Of course, now you have me wondering. What labels have I picked up? I don't know, as I do live a pretty reclusive life. Maybe I should try the raw diet.

Well, I do have a wife and children. Perhaps they wouldn't thank me, health benefits or no.

I am reminded of one incident. I was in my hometown, a place I generally avoid, and ran into a high school acquaintance in a 7-Eleven who said: "Wow. I heard you were dead!"

I assured him this wasn't the case.

I do wonder though. how did that one get started, and who was interested enough in me and my whereabouts to keep it in circulation?

Land of shimp said...

Jeanette, oh dear, the forking incident woman! In instances like that, it truly helps to have a well developed sense of humor about yourself...and whoa...that must have hurt! Glad your okay now but I bet that wasn't a fall-over-funny-moment at the time. Being skewered is only ever amusing in retrospect, if then.

I'm glad you enjoyed the entry, and thanks for the comment :-) I think it's fun (for the most part) for people to mull over what their own tags might be.

Becky, perhaps you're known as the artistic lady with the dogs :-) Good luck with your walking project, Becky, you can do it!

She writes, I'm pretty sure that sentence applies to every woman (in particular) I know, "On the upside, at least this isn't about my butt."

Tabor, yeah, thinking back there are some labels I'd just as soon forget (wince) but thankfully, in recent years, they are more likely to be about what a dork I am. "Oh...with the tape gun thing? Yeah, I remember her."

The spikes are now holding on, thanks to being reapplied in warmer weather. I'd love to be a friend to all things avian and say, "Well, they are just trying to find shelter! Poor creatures..."

But the upshot of this is that the eave in question is directly outside of my office, where I spend a not insubstantial amount of time. There were two creatures nesting up there, and a) I'm pretty sure I've been listening to pigeons pitching woo, which is something I need to scrub from my brain b) if we didn't act now, we were going to run into the problem we had when we first moved in.

We were both willing to kick two adult pigeons out into the cold, cruel world but last year, they'd hatched their clutch ...and I didn't want an infant pigeon soul on my conscience.

They worked, the faux-hawk that was my banner picture for a bit really, really did NOT work. I actually spotted a frakking pigeon perched atop that things head.

Thank you for asking :-) I would recommend the spikes, and by the way? They only look gruesome, no pigeons are harmed by them, just dissuaded.

Thank you for stopping by, Teri :-)

You see, this is fun, Katy. I get to find out that everyone else has a regrettable identifier or two following them around...which is something I share! As much as I'd like to be remembered as...I don't know...The Smoking Babe in a Red Dress, or something, I'm far more likely to be "The woman in the red dress who almost choked to death on a softshell crab." because that's how fate rolls at times.

Land of shimp said...

Hello Leah, I had fun touring blogs yesterday, and visiting yours. I'm glad I made you smile because I enjoyed your post.

Haha, Kathryn! Yes, I had guessed that Duane was not so easily put off and I say, Good! Means he stands a chance of being worthy of you :-) Fortune favors the brave! I'm so glad I made you laugh, by the way, we all need a few more laughs in life, don't we?

Saz, I saw you in that pink dress, and I guarantee someone now remembers you as "That gorgeous woman in the pink dress, where did she get that bolero?"

Oh cool, Cloudia! I think that's absolutely fascinating that it has actual terminology attached to it. That makes perfect sense, doesn't it? After all, we all do it...and are identified in our own turn. For instance, you're the "lucky woman in Hawaii!" in my head :-)

Awww, Hilary! Thank you so much, sincerely. Inevitably there is going to come a day where I'm feeling just a little low, and I'm going to remember what you said, and feel better. For real.

To me you're the "Great photographer!" among other equally positive tags in my head :-) Thank you again.

Hi Dave, I'm Alane, by the way. You're welcome to call me that. Annnnnnd it occurs to me, you're the fellow with the blog in which you wrote about hospice volunteering and rescuing SPCA kittens!

So I'll jet over to your blog to explain this, but I'd better leave it here too, just in case anyone else who doesn't really know me is here:

The entire situation with the pigeons exists because I won't allow them to actually be harmed. That's why it's been a nearly year-long saga...and why news of Pigeons has even people here thinking, "Pigeon Lady is fitting!"

But the joke basically is that I could have gotten rid of them ages ago if I'd just cowboy up and allow them to be ...errr....sent to the next incarnation.

Hence my long battle with the pigeons, who I keep trying to get to see reason and leave. Yes, I'm doomed to a world with cooing.

Just realized that anyone new here could think I was being literal about the violent pigeon terms, and...nope. They're ironic.

Jo, I really enjoyed your lighthouse and water park posts :-) It was my pleasure, and thanks for stopping by in your own turn.

Pauline, I think it's very fitting that you'd think of me in terms of Pigeons. I think of you as having a way with words, actually.

Oh dear, Cricket!!! "Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated" in action! By the way, the person saying that to you wasn't exactly overly blessed with social graces. Good heavens.

You reminded me of something I heard on the radio a few years back. Essentially the bit was, "Why is it that we can eventually forget almost everything we learn in school, but that everyone, absolutely everyone remembers the full name of that kid who threw up in class?"

And...they were right. Immediately two names, but first and last popped into my head. I don't even remember the names of most of my teachers, but those two, poor barfing souls? On my deathbed I'll likely be able to name them.

Suldog said...

True. We don't know how we're remembered until someone tells us. I hope, when people talk about me - if they do, at all - it's not something too distasteful :-)

Land of shimp said...

Sol, when I think of you, I either think, "That hilarious man from Boston." or as a gifted writer.

Although I generally think about the unwillingness to kill insects too, and throw in a rather ironic Gandhi tag, too :-)

Protege said...

Hello and thnak you for stopping by my blog.;) Again.;)
Of course I remember you; who can forget such an interesting nick name.
I thought it was *shrimp* at first.;)
I sure would love to know the story behind the name.;)
You have a lovely place with beautifully narrated posts.

Jo said...

Like Protege, I always thought of you as Alane from "The Land of Shrimp". It took me a long time to get used to "Shimp". I would love to hear the story behind that one.

Most of all I think of you as the best writer on the blogs. Bar none.

Shrinky said...

Oh, such a fun post, and oh so true! I shudder to think what I may be known best for.. methinks there are some times when ignorance truly is bliss! Thanks for making me chuckle - and those spikes are SERIOUSLY scary - I wouldn't mess with you!

Land of shimp said...

Protege, hello! Yes, I've been to your blog before. It's always fun to tour around, see into the world of others.

Actually, the way I got this nickname is a little bit dull, but I'll be happy to tell you how it happened. Fair warning, you aren't the first to ask, or the first to hear the story...and the reaction is, "Oh, I thought it would be more fun to know...and it isn't."

Long ago I used to help run a discussion board, and my username started with "sh". The group of people who ran the board all got together one afternoon to run a beta test on some chat software that was being installed. I've been on the internet for...oh...fifteen years, actually, so this was back in the day when live chat was newish.

So all eight of us were in this virtual chat room, and we were all known by our moderator names. People would see the new chat room, click into it, see the gathering of every mod name available, and beat it the hell out of Dodge without so much as a "Hi, what's up?", assuming they were interrupting a staff meeting.

We decided, "We all need different names to run this test because we're scaring the bejesus out of anyone who comes in here." but we also needed to be able to easily recognize each other.

One of the mods who was good at coding started assigning everyone new, undercover names. As a joke I posted, "Well, make mine something impish, I feel very impish today."

Username starting with SH and my joke about feeling like an imp resulted in "shimp". It sounds like the fourth stooge!" which was ...if you know me...a bit ironic.

I always feel sorry for people when they ask "How did that happen?" I think they are expecting a great story involving a bottle of bourbon, a road trip to Vegas, and three incidental waffles...but nope. Everyone but seven other people will see the name "shimp" and see "shrimp" ...and that's actually part of the point. When the other mod tagged me with that, I said, "Haha, very funny. Pick something else" and everyone else said, "Why are you calling Alane shrimpy? She's not short. Wait, are you short?"

Because all we were doing was running a test, and trying to get people to participate -- they'd leave too quickly for us to say, "Help us test this, if you would." we'd tell the users who we were...and every single last person asked, "But why are you calling Alane shrimpy??? Alane, are you short? Are you tiny? Can you see over the keyboard?"

Eventually I said to the mod who had come up with the nickname, "Jeez, thanks a lot Marcee. Change me to something else, we're confusing the hell out of people." and she opted not to, because it was fun :-) So I went along with it, "What? WHAT? I can't read the monitor all the way up there. Are you people talking to me?" "Yes, I'm three foot six, it's hell at your average amusement park, let me tell you."

And it stuck like epoxy. I guess I was in a really weird mood that day, and kept coming up with stuff that was absurdly funny...and after the test, the nickname remained. But that's all there is to it.

Thank you so much, Jo. You will always be the person who made me realize, "Wait! This is what goes on the blogs? People talk about art, and music, films, politics? It's not just a bunch of people writing journals about the suck that is their life??" So I think of you as being "THE blog lady" and that is a huge compliment, by the way.

You opened a new door for me.

Land of shimp said...

Shrinky, exactly! When you call to mind some of the ways you could be known? Oh my. Like that trip to the grocery store we've all taken, looking like a complete fright...and run into a casual acquaintance? To someone, that's how we're remember, entirely. "That woman who doesn't comb her hair, and wears paint stained jeans. Ugh."

Aren't those spikes the most horrifying things to look at? When my husband ordered them I told him, "Jeez, people will expect us to dig a moat around the place next. Those are seriously threatening to look at."

Most people have a version of them up in their eaves here, actually (want to guess why?) and I'm assuming they were actually put up by the builder because they are all the same. They look like goofy little popsicle sticks. Far fewer spikes than the ones available now. Sort of like a wagon wheel without the rim.

Ours look downright menacing. I live close to one of the Home Owner Association bigwigs (I actually live close to about four of street) and he came running over here as soon as they went up. Frowning up a storm about not having them approved first.

I kindly pointed out that they were all that is available now, and would he prefer a gigantic pile of disease riddled pigeon shit, because those were the two options.

It took him three days to decide that he'd take a pass on the diseased shit.

Also, they look lethal, but are actually harmless. When they first went up I sat here in my office and listened to this:

*fwup fwup fwup* (pigeon trying to return to the area that was her/his nest)


*me wincing, but thinking, "Well at least that's over with"*

*fwup fwup fwup*


Roughly thirty seven times in the course of a day. Clearly the pigeons weren't being harmed, but they were having a hard time figuring out that they needed to rent a Uhaul and go way.

It's very disheartening when you realize your nemesis is a complete and utter moron ;-)

Miss OverThinker said...

I haven't been around the blog world lately, worked has taken up so much of my time.. but I had some free time today so was trying to catch up on blogs I missed..

You know the label I have for you when I talk to my mom: It's the lady who helped me via a nice long email when I was massively depressed back in November and who continues to do so even now when I reach out to her.. I would of course tell her your name, but she remembers you better by the label. :)

Anonymous said...

This is all very interesting -- but, I'm most interested in "the spikey things"! We have a little corner just like that. We may just have to find ourselves some "spikey things" of our own! Thanks for the hot tip. And I solemnly promise never to think of you as the self-propelled pigeon lady! Promise. :)

Joanna Jenkins said...

What a hoot! The poor guy with the pimple-- That willnever be forgotten.

Now you've got me thinking what my label is... hmmm. I'm going to ask around about that :-)

Thanks for stopping by my blog via Hilary's POTW and for your nice cmment aboutmy Dad. I really appreciate it.

I'll be back again soon to visit. Thanks again,

Dianne said...

all of my labels are rushing back to me and many are making me blush or cringe

what a brilliant post

thanks for the comment on my post about my granddaughter
and double thanks for liking the captions, I have a thing for that so you made me happy

Jennifer D said...

Ha! so funny.

When I want to tell my hubby the latest "Shimp" story I say,"remember Shimp from Colorado?" however I did add "with the stinky bed" recently. Now we both think of you every time we see a Temper-pedic commercial.
He He ;-)

Land of shimp said...

MOT, my goodness, if that isn't the very best label anyone could ever have, I don't know what would be. I'm so glad, by the way. You're a lovely person, and if I helped, it was both my privilege, and honor.

addhumorandfaith, oh dear, you too? Listen, I'm in no way connected to the company (other than as a customer) but those came from a company called Absolute Bird Control, if you're in need.

Don't buy that stupid hawk though. Jeepers was that ever a waste of money. Thanks for stopping by :-)

Joanna, thank you. I adored the story about your dad, by the way. I'm so sorry you lost him too soon, but so glad you had him :-)

Dianne, what I failed to say about your granddaughter was that she's gorgeous. I'm glad the caption comment pleased you, you were cracking me up. You have real flair there.

Hahahaha! Oh my goodness, Jennifer! What a moniker! "You know, stinky bed lady!"

Again at least it doesn't involve my...let's drop that thought, shall we?

Hilary said...

Shimp, can you please drop me an email at thesmittenimage at the gmail address? I can't see your addie associated with either your blog or your comment and I'd like to explain further regarding your comment on my recent post. Besides I've looked for your addie on a few occasions and I guess I'd just like to have it if that's ok with you.

The short of it is, not to worry about what's going down your sink drain. That's not what happened to our lake. The guy tossed his cooking oil (repeatedly) down the storm drains in the street. They empty directly into the lake. That's what's polluting it. So stop feeling badly, and worrying. You've done nothing wrong by flushing or spilling your cooking oil down the household drainage. That does indeed get treated and does not go into the lakes, ponds or creeks. At least not around here. :)

Land of shimp said...

Absolutely, done, done and doner. Let me know if you don't get it, but my email addy is

I did generate one, but in case I am diverted to your spam folder (where I will read all of your spam, but of course) ...that's the address :-)

Hilary said...

Thank you muchly. My spam is your spam. I did get it. I'll have to reply a tad later on in the weekend. Mucho appreciated. :)

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