At our exclusive back booth at the Harvard Gardens one night, the empties were piling up in front of the Tea head of the August Moon, Captain Zero ( my friend Bill), Dutchie, English Joe, Mike the Vike, and me. I was the only one not replete with a handle, alias, or nickname. I had joined the Grove street tribe about three months ago. I had so far avoided committing any blunder that landed me with an embarrassing name, nor performed some feat that gave a great descriptor like Captain Zero. It was a puzzle that my tribal seniors decided to address that very night.
While they were debating my naming, I wandered over to visit my friend Judy. Judy’s roommate Elaine was an airline stewardess, and the two usually showed up with five or six friends who worked with Elaine. Judy was like an older sister. I had to be on my best behavior around her, and with any of her guests. That night I struck up a long and involved conversation one of Elaine’s friends about how the folk music industry was changing. To be heard above the crowd at the Gardens that night, you had to talk loudly. But it became clear that although I had introduced myself to Sarah as Lou, she had not heard me. Eventually, her not knowing my name morphed into my being called Les. As we continued to drink, Sarah altered this to Wes. I was frankly too enchanted to correct her. At about eleven, Judy and Elaine gathered their brood and left for home. Sarah grabbed me for a hug and a kiss and proclaimed loudly, ” Wes! You’re so sweet.” Ah, sweet wasn’t what I was aiming for, but I saw them to their apartment on West Cedar Street before wandering back to the Gardens.
As I walked towards my friend’s table ( now buried under empties and remains of bar snacks), I saw them snickering. I knew my fate was determined. As I sat down, the Tea Head smiled and said to Captain Zero,” the envelope, please.” Bill handed him a soiled cocktail napkin. ” and the choices are Sweetie and Wes.”
He then handed me a beer and exclaimed that “lucky for you; we determined that Sweetie would demean the tribe. So we now baptize you, Wes. They then poured their remaining beer over my head. We were then asked to leave the establishment, and not return until something more outrageous dimmed the memory of my baptism. A week I think.
The next morning everyone in the household started calling me Wes. Eventually, I began to think of myself as Wes. When I enlisted in the Navy, Wes went onto my record as my alias, and the name has followed me ever since. Names have consequences.