My name is Duane (by J.D. Hager)

Duane Reade NOT Coming Soon (by John Morton)

There is something liberating in the process of leaving home for college or any other exotic, far off locale, especially if you are going to a remote enough location that nobody will know you at all. This gives you the chance to reinvent yourself, to come up with a new persona, a new set of friends and hobbies, and a new secret identity if you are into that type of thing. Cut your hair or grow dreadlocks, get a dye job from some forgotten corner of the color spectrum, grow a bad mustache or a Grizzly Adams beard. The potentials are endless. And apart from changes of habit and appearance, sometimes coming up with a new name for yourself can provide  just the kind of perspective change you need. It is kind of crazy how a different name can cause people to react to you differently and see you in an entirely new light.

I have always gone by many names, and most not by my choosing. Jeffrey was what my mom called me when I had engaged in questionable decision making, and if I was really in trouble she would just use my full name like one long profanity, JeffreyDuaneHager! 

When I was in elementary school I went by plain old Jeff, but my nickname became Slacks, garnered by the advertising campaign of the Haggar Slacks brand of pantalones. Since there were about 10 other Jeffs at my school I didn’t mind the name Slacks. Most of us spelled it conventionally with the J-E-F-F, though a couple spelled it with a G, and one even spelled it with a whole bunch of unneeded letters – J-E-O-H-F-F.  I liked to spell mine without the extra F, just to simplify the whole process, shorten the shortened version if you will, but stopped when one of my teachers started marking my name as misspelled because I forgot an F. Meanwhile the guy who spelled it Jeohff was not chastised. Talk about confusing.

In middle school and high school I got the nicknames of Hagar the Horrible after the viking comic strip, and also Sammy due to my last name and similar haircut to Sammy Hagar – the red rocker. In college I actually started calling him my uncle Sammy, and more than a few people believed this little fiction. I made up stories of drinking tequila with uncle Sammy in Cabo, parties on the tour bus, clingy groupies, and tried to give off the general air of being a rock star through imaginary genetics.

After I graduated college I spent a few years traveling around and playing Ultimate Frisbee with an Open Division team from San Fran called Double Happiness, and everyone knew me simply as Hagar, like I was some sort of Brazilian soccer star. Many people who were not my teammates didn’t even know I had a first name, and to this day many of my old ultimate accomplices think my last name is spelled with an -ar rather than an -er, and have a look of confusion if they ever figure out the truth. When they find me on Facebook they wonder if I have misspelled or changed my last name for some reason.


Soy el Jefe!

During my years working in restaurants the Spanish speaking cooks used to call me Jefe, because obviously I was in charge. I think this was probably because they had so much trouble pronouncing the English J sound. I remember one cook named Javier that used to call me Yefferson with a Y. Now of course my teacher nickname is Mister Hager. Whenever a student asks my first name I tell them it is Mister. They smile and I don’t. I tell them my parents had played a horrible joke on me for naming me that. If they read my ID card and try to tell me my name is Jeffrey, I quickly correct them and let them know my first name is indeed Mister. I tell them my mail is addressed to Mr. Mister Hager.


lord of my own domain

The thing all of these monikers have in common is that I didn’t choose them myself. They were all given to me by others. So at some point I decided it was time to find a new name for myself, and decided to go by my middle name of Duane rather than Jeff. Even though they are both rather uninspired, people are much more perplexed by the name Duane than the name Jeff. When I introduce myself as Duane almost everyone asks Duane? as if they may have heard it wrong. Not Dave, Wayne, or Dane? Duane? Really?

My problem is that I decided to change my name when everybody already knew me as Jeff, so only the people I have met recently call me Duane, and much confusion ensues if someone who knows me as Jeff and someone who knows me as Duane happen to meet. So how long have you known Jeff? Who is Jeff? You mean Duane? Suddenly it feels like I have been caught in some sort of lie, my secret life revealed. I guess the real reason I tell people my name is Duane is to feel like I’m pretending to be somebody else for a moment, using a pseudonym that is not actually a pseudonym because it is actually me after all. He is me and I am him. We are one in the same.

When I started to submit my short stories and various other amalgamations of words for publication back in the 20th century I decided on the pen name of J.D. Hager. It’s not that I want to be known as J.D. As already discussed you can call me Duane, or Mister, or Slacks, or anything you want really. The reason I like having initials as my pen name is due to the fact that someone just reading the name won’t immediately identify me as a male or a female, because knowing someone’s gender will immediately cause someone to peg you into some sort of category even if it is unintentional. I want my words to stand alone without my white maleness to cast a shadow or doubt upon their worth. As a writer I guess that’s all we can hope for–for our words to be taken at face value without any extra baggage attached. Also it is a sort of homage to some of my favorite authors, such as T.C. Boyle, F.X. Toole, E.A. Proulx, and of course J.D. Salinger. I just like the mystery of initials, because they can stand for anything.

My pen name is J.D. Hager, but you can call me Duane.

Duane’s Toyland box truck – processed in HDR (by chuckthewriter)

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Names

Fearless Youth

We had been sitting there watching the waves for a while. The swell was enormous, way too big to be surfing Willow Creek in my opinion, which was why we were in the van drinking coffee. Each set of waves seemed bigger than the next, and watching the waves unleash their fury on the shore helped us realize how large and powerful the ocean really was, and how tenuous our position on the land. The van shook in the parking lot.

We saw a group of twenty-somethings drive up and get ready to paddle out without looking at the surf for more than a minute, and we got to watch their attempt at taming the angry ocean. They made it out to the lineup okay, and actually caught a couple, but then one of the giant ten wave close-out sets came through, and it basically swept them all down the coast and into the sketchy rocks on the shoreline. One guy’s leash broke and his surfboard (what looked like a brand new Al Merrick –the expensive sports car of surfboards) was battered painfully on the mossy stones. They all made it back to shore safe but shaken, and hobbled back to their car through the cobbles at the water’s edge, carrying their surfboards along with whatever was left of their pride. They then loaded up their stuff and drove back to wherever they had come from, defeated but still alive. One can only hope the experience taught them something.

Then these two old timers rolled up in an classic ragtop sedan. They saw a wave come through and immediately decided to suit up and paddle out without watching it for more than a couple minutes. But by the time they got down to the waterline to launch in the frothing sea, they had witnessed one of those enormous close out sets come through, and wisely decided against paddling out. I thought for sure we would be observing a repeat of the previous beat down, but these wise old carps knew enough to stay out of the water.

So was it wisdom or fear, and are those really the same thing? Maybe it just takes us many trips around the sun to figure out what we should be afraid of. Despite the physical weathering of the body, apparently there are some advantages to aging after all.

And, of course, let us not mention the rushed, nearsighted, and brazen shortcomings of youth.

Willow Creek, Big Sur – old photo, old car, old timer suiting up (by flora-file)

Willow Creek from Highway 1 (by flora-file)

Willow Creek Picnic Ground (by Frank Kehren)

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Golden Years


My girlfriend was perfect. Her hair, her skin, her smile, her grade point average, her charitable acts. She left the bathroom smelling better than when she entered. Her shit literally smelt like lilacs.

Her entire effing family was perfect. Doctors, superheroes, and philanthropists all. They liked rescuing abused animals and volunteering free medical advise on the weekends. Her grandfather had won both a Nobel prize and a Pulitzer. Her brother was on the front page of the paper after he pulled a homeless man off the subway tracks moments before he was pulverized by train. I don’t know why I had such a hang up about it, but I just did.

When I first met her I was so happy, so stoked to have found someone so perfect. I wasn’t sure what she saw in me, but that didn’t matter at the time. Eventually she began to seem too perfect, and I got worried. I started digging for the dirt because I just couldn’t believe that anyone could be so clean, so free of scratches or dings, so sparkly in the sunlight and so glowing in the dark. Just so damned perfect it made you want to puke if you sat down and really thought about it for a minute. I was looking for a fault, any fault at all. Was it truly possible that her only fault was that she had no faults? Then it came to me so all of a sudden that I actually fell off the toilet.

I was her only fault.

Fault zone Watch for cracks in road (by cyanocorax)

Sad Jokes

They would joke about it all the time, hoping it might make the situation somehow less unfortunate, less overwhelming. But it wasn’t the kind of joke that anybody laughed at. Sometimes jokes are funny because they ring so true.

This wasn’t one of those. The punchline always ended the same way.


Sad Eor and laughing Rabbit (by bearexposed)

The Convenience of Paradise

You had come to Mexico to find paradise, but that was before you couldn’t make it home. Now you realize that paradise is a convenient place. In paradise there are flushing toilets with toilet seats. In paradise the coffee is hot and the beer is cold. In paradise there is electricity on demand and remote controls. In paradise there is cell phone reception and free wifi. In paradise there are familiar faces and hot showers. In paradise things come easier than they really should.

At some point the novelty of it begins to fade and the pining for convenience begins. Things that should be easy grow daily harder, and a hundred pesos suddenly feels like so much more than ten dollars. When it rains your stuff gets wet and never dries out again, ever. Perspiration and dirt cover all surfaces. Piles of rusty corona bottle caps are reproducing faster than the cockroaches. The humid breeze is the opposite of refreshing and actually makes it harder to breathe. Men with guns seem to be studying you closely despite your attempts to retain anonymity. The mosquitos swarm. The bathroom stinks. The sad excuse for a bed is a puddle of sweat. The tacos make your digestive system self destruct. All you want to do is go home and remember the easy convenience.

But every day home feels further and further away.

viva mexico

Daily Prompt: Let’s Go Crazy

(Not really impulse, but definitely going crazy)


Something was fleeting into the distance, a dust cloud on the horizon. You realized it was you, your life as you knew it, fading away into the darkest crevices of nowhere. But you stood solemnly watching it, detached, unaffected. You were standing with others, and wanted to know if they saw it as well. They looked off in the same direction as you, but did they see the same thing? What did they see see fading into nothingness on the horizon?

It felt surreal, like receiving an invitation to your own funeral in the mail. Please RSVP it says. Snacks will be served. What can you make of this? Do you call the number and reserve a seat in the front row? Do you toss it in the garbage with the pre-approved credit card offers? Do you hang it on the fridge with your Dominoes delivery magnet? Do you try to forget about the fade into the ether, or do you use it motivate the process of life. Do you want to remember or forget?

What is your response?

rsvp (by papermonkey)

Tangan Tangan Invasion

A DP Weekly Photo Challenge – Abandoned

Tangan Tangan overtaking the abandoned (taken on Guam, by flora-file)

The Marianas Islands saw a lot of action during WW II. Guam and many other islands in the Pacific were also attacked and conquered on the same day Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. For the U.S., winning back Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands (especially Tinian and Saipan) was of the utmost importance during the fighting in the Pacific theatre, and the liberation of these islands eventually led to the notorious voyage of the Enola Gay.

The extensive bombing and fighting that happened on the islands left much of the natural forested areas bare, especially since Allied forces had defoliated many jungle areas in an attempt to flush out Japanese soldiers hiding in the thickets. After the war the US Military began air strikes of a different kind, but instead of dropping bombs they were dropping seeds. Tangan-tangan (Leucaena leucocephala) seeds to be exact. These trees grew quickly and flourished in disturbed soils. They are in the the pea family and have the ability to build up soil fertility through the nitrogen fixing nodes on their roots (like many members of Fabaceae). Now vast tracts of the islands are covered by tangan-tangan tees, often times forming nearly impenetrable thickets. It is surprising where they sometimes decide to grow.

In the 1970’s and 80’s the tree became known as the miracle-tree because of its worldwide success as a long lived and highly nutritious forage tree, as well as it’s many other uses. Besides forage, Leucaena can be used for firewood, timber, human food, green manure, shade, and erosion control.

Sources (iii)