Especially that Coco


coco.jpgIt still happens from time to time. I’ll be out in public, and someone will recognize me.

Usually, it’s for columns I wrote in the alternative paper more than a decade ago.

Fame runs in the family.

My dad, a professor of physics and mathematics at a small liberal arts college, endured the notoriety of fame throughout his career. When I was a young’un, we’d be out to dinner, and a student of his from several years back would introduce himself.

I have no idea if he remembered all of his students, but they sure remembered him. He was reputed to be tough but fair. By God, those kids would learn something by the time the semester was over. (I suspect he treated them better than he treated us.)

This phenomenon was by no means limited to our town. We would be in Atlanta, or in Niagara Falls, and it never failed. “Dr. Kwon!” exclaims a stranger.

And we would pause while another former student would catch him up on the last 10 years of his or her life.

But he was most gracious about it, as teachers usually are.

And so, I will encounter people from time to time who are familiar with my work. That, dear reader, is already an accomplishment.

They will squint and me and try to figure out why I seem somewhat familiar. Fortunately, I’ve had the same boyish face, more or less, for two decades, so if they’ve ever seen me in the paper or on the teevee, they have a fighting chance.

“You’re Wade!” or “Are you Wade?” comes the initial query. Cautiously, I answer affirmatively. Some read me in the monthly paper. Some read me in the daily paper. Some just know me as a funny writer who can be abusive and/or absurd and/or a dick.

These encounters never faze me, though I should be rather unsettled at the prospect of knowing absolutely nothing about the person with whom I’m about to exchange pleasantries.

My modesty is disarming. My friends enduring this exchange are infinitely patient. A few have danced around the fact they would sooner see me burst into flames than ever scribble another sentence — but none have told me I’m a total and complete jerk to my face.

Such is the power of poise.

In fact, 99 percent of the encounters are me catching them up on the last 10 years of my life. Being at the underdog daily was like being in the witness protection program apparently.

I always thank them for reading. It’s their free time — if they’re kind enough to indulge me for a few minutes, that’s worth simple acknowledgment.

I am probably nothing like they imagined from their reading my humble prose. That is quite fortunate for them and me.

It’s OK to say hello. I won’t bite. Hard.


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