“Identity Crisis Brewing in Author’s Mind”
Yesterday morning I was peering into the bathroom mirror and as usual, my accurate reflection was predictably staring back at me. That simple everyday 7 a.m. act gave me adequate time to reflect. “I’m much better off than you are,” I chuckled to my always loyal mirror image, “because I’m three dimensional and you’re just a flat 2-D surface impression of the real me,” I emphatically said as my eyes noticed my lackluster likeness’s mouth stating the exact same inane jargon back to my unshaven face. I didn’t realize it at the time but that bathroom situation was actually the start of a very vexing identity crisis.
I carefully stepped downstairs (for I had once fallen and double-sprained my left ankle), sauntered through the kitchen and den and then entered my two-story colonial home’s laundry room. “Where are you going?” my wife inquired. ‘You seem like a determined stubborn swallow looking for Capistrano.”
“Over to my mom’s place for breakfast,” I half-guiltily replied as my mind contemplated my objective. “I’ll stop at Dunkin Donuts and get something palatable to bring along with me. Maybe I’ll buy a half-dozen double chocolates.”
“Don’t stop at that doughnut place,” my spouse commanded in almost a military tone of voice. “You’re getting too fat and old looking. You’re a prime candidate for either diabetes or a cardiac arrest. And watch out for the black ice!” Joanne authoritatively commented. “February driving in South Jersey can be very hazardous!”
“I’ll see ya’ later,” I defiantly answered my interrogator as I entered the laundry room door leading to the garage. I forcefully pressed the garage wall button in disgust and the electronic door opened. I was glad to escape my wife’s criticism. My trusty car would be my perfect getaway vehicle from what I un-affectionately considered ‘matriarchal tyranny.’ I suddenly identified with why Rip Van Winkle habitually went squirrel hunting up in the Catskill Mountains.
I carefully pulled out of my U-shaped asphalt driveway onto the White Horse Pike and soon my characteristic rebellious nature rose from my subconscious. “I can’t wait to buy those half-dozen high-calorie doughnuts,” I said to my 2-D image in the flat rearview mirror. ‘Instead of double-chocolate I might even buy the Boston cream kind without the holes in the center so that I get more delicious doughnut to munch on,’ I thought and laughed while thoroughly enjoying my general naughtiness. ‘Or maybe I’ll purchase three and three.’
I flicked on my car stereo and heard The British rock group The Who singing and playing the catchy tune “Who Are You? Who-who, who-who!” The familiar music reminded me of my 2-D bathroom mirror reflection so I hurriedly switched stations, even though The Who are of “My Generation” and quite personally I really like most of the songs of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon.
I then realized something rather significant as I stopped for the traffic signal at the Route 30 and Route 206 intersection. That particular musical activity I was listening to was the continuation of a once more subtle identity crisis, which had originated a month before when I had spilled some Coor’s Light onto my new shirt at a restaurant and my wife proceeded to criticize my ineptness (in her classic soprano voice) in the car on the way home, “You smell like a brewery! Take that shirt off when we get home so I can throw it into the washing machine and get rid of that ugly stain. You really know how to increase my daily workload! And be careful of the 206 intersection!”
My Walter Mitty mind exited its unpleasant recollection and I gingerly switched the radio station from Philadelphia’s Oldies’ WOGL-FM playing the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” back to Trenton’s WNJO’s spinning of the equally rhythmic “Who Are You?” Then my in-progress reality check hit me like a crumbling concrete wall. “You smell like a brewery!”
My family name originally was Wiesnieski. But then the three-syllable Polish name was Germanized around 1900 into Wiessner. That transition (according to omniscient family historians) was done because during the turn of the twentieth century Germans were generally regarded as highly skilled workers and thus commanded higher paying salaries in Baltimore, Maryland than the newly arrived Polish immigrants did.
On the last leg of the drive to the local franchised doughnut outlet I recalled that my father’s oldest sister Aunt Marie Mayor once told me that a prominent business had existed on Gay Street in downtown Baltimore appropriately named the John F. Wiessner Brewery. I remembered Aunt Marie showing me in her club basement several empty brown-bottle souvenirs that were officially labeled “The John F. Wiessner Brewery.” ‘I WAS named after a brewery,’ I recollected with enlightenment as I approached Dunkin Donuts, ‘and the strange irony is that my wife had just incidentally said I smelled like one!’
At that moment I needed to rationalize my most recent comprehension in a hurry. Remarkably there were only two cars ahead of me in the doughnut establishment’s quick service lane. My frail ego had to defend its latest fracture and convince my mind that the coincidence was some type of weird anomaly.
“Ha ha!” I chuckled to my image in the rearview mirror while recollecting my wife’s Saturday morning prattling about how especially dangerous it was devouring high-fat-content snacks. ‘When I type in John Wiessner on Google or on Yahoo Internet search engines, my name usually comes up listed before and ahead of the famous John F. Wiessner Brewery. At last I’m more notorious than the brewery I had been named after. I have a higher Internet ranking than that defunct out-of-business brewery does!’ I proudly concluded. ‘Aunt Marie Mayor would definitely be proud of my accomplishment!’
It doesn’t matter if my last name is spelled Wiessner or Weissner (my real last name follows the utilitarian spelling rule I had memorized in third grade, I before E except after C). My last name is sometimes misspelled Weissner because one of my credit cards spells it that way and when I had originally purchased my first computer, I had used that particular credit card. So, because of an accidental clerical error at the credit card company, my three e-mail addresses are also misspelled Weissner and consequently my last name appears on the Internet with two different spellings.
Despite the remembrance of that annoying difficulty my often maligned family name (either Wiessner or Weissner) still commands more respect and patronage on Google and on Yahoo than does the brick and mortar John Frederick Wiessner Brewery that (according to Aunt Marie) my father and I had been named after. My Saturday morning existence was finally enjoying a moment of triumph.
“Did you know that I’m finally out of the shadow of the John F. Wiessner Brewery in Baltimore?” I told the suddenly startled and bewildered doughnut employee at the carry-out-window. The encumbered in-a-rush woman gave me a very peculiar look as she robotically handed me my white bag and my change through the opened drive-up window. The befuddled lady didn’t even give me the courtesy of a perfunctory “Thank you!”
As I slowly drove to my mother’s Marlyn Avenue residence an additional thought hit me like a ton of bricks and mortar. My author pseudonym Jay Dubya when typed on Google or Yahoo commanded much more respect than John Wiessner, John Weissner and the John F. Wiessner Brewery does all added together, but the really perplexing dilemma my brain was struggling with was this. ‘I now have more identity as a “pen name” than I do as a real person, or as a real person named after an eighteenth century brewery.’ I reckoned. That grim realization only added misery to my already depressing identity quandary. ‘The appellation Jay Dubya does not appear on my birth certificate!’ I concluded.
As I steered my metallic blue Buick LeSabre from Bellevue Avenue onto Marlyn other bothersome-but-relevant ideas haunted my vulnerable psyche. My former high school (Bishop Egan) on the Levittown (Pennsylvania) Parkway has recently been demolished and no longer exists at its former location. The high school has merged and is now Conwell-Egan High in Fairless Hills, Pa. I had graduated in 1960 from Edgewood Regional High School but that institution is now called Winslow Township High School. In 1965 John Wiessner had graduated from Glassboro State Teachers College, which now possesses the designation Rowan University. Ironically much of my past both in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey has been erased.
I sat in my warm car in my mother’s driveway and seriously evaluated the total puzzle. ‘Nothing is easy in this world!’ I decided. ‘Sometimes I believe I should be living on a more favorable planet that accommodates dreamers.’ Then my imagination adroitly put all of the pieces together.
I had been named after my father who had been named after a brewery once located on Gay Street in downtown Baltimore, Maryland. ‘That’s an undeniable fact!’ my mind assessed. ‘My pen name is more famous than my real name, which has two distinct Internet spellings. One of my high schools no longer physically or functionally exists and my other high school and my former college both have acquired different names,’ I reminded myself. ‘A good deal of my memorable past has been almost systematically eradicated from history.’ I flicked the ignition into the “Off” position and grabbed my small bag of doughnuts.
Now you fully know and can amply appreciate precisely what has been “aleing” me and I hereby humbly solicit your sympathy. An identity crisis had been brewing deep inside my mind, inside my heart and inside my restive soul. I recklessly exited my Buick automobile and slipped and fell on the black ice that covered my mother’s driveway.
“Oh well,” I mumbled to my somewhat defeated spirit as I rose from the hard cold driveway to my feet and gingerly reached for my white Dunkin Donuts’ bag, “I’m still going to enjoy my delectable chocolate-covered Boston cream doughnuts and a few double-chocolate treats to boot regardless of who I might happen to be! Maybe I should have listened to my wife about icy February obstacles! Gee, I can already smell the aroma of Mom’s coffee brewing from inside her home!”
Jay Dubya (author of 41 books)