Faster than a speeding bullet?
More powerful than a locomotive?
Nope. Guess again.
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?
Not even on my best days back when I was young and thin and full of energy – and even if I could, I'd most likely crash on the way back down. So, wrong again - but thanks for playing.
Who am I?
This is not a question which can be answered simply, for I have worn many hats within the space of what seems to have been a relatively short span of time. I mean, yeah, I passed the half-century mark a few years back, but it sure got here in a hurry.
Speaking strictly from a “professional” point of view I have been a journalist, commentator, critic, humorist, broadcaster, fiction writer, poet, playwright, historian… even a layman theologian. And that’s not counting my stint in the Air Force and all the various odd jobs - paperboy, dishwasher, security guard, soft drink distributor, custodian - I’d held when I was younger, before actually launching the career I’ve been laboring at all these years.
But all this barely scratches the surface. I have also been son, father, friend, lover, husband, student, teacher… the list goes on.
I have never believed in astrology, and yet it would appear that I do indeed possess the dual nature said to be a characteristic of those born under the imaginary sign of Gemini.
• I have always considered myself something of a loner; yet I revel in the fact that I have found someone willing join me on this path I walk, someone who helps me find heights we both can share, but does not desert me when I tumble into the depths.
• Moonlight and daydreams have always been my refuge, and there are few things I enjoy as much as a good imaginative story; yet I can be a stone cold realist, and I want to know why things are the way they are and don’t take kindly to those who would keep me from finding the answers I seek.
• I do not believe in playing games with other people’s emotions, and do not like having my own treated like they are something of no value – but that hasn’t kept me from being a smart-aleck extraordinaire if the situation warrants.
• I have always been a seeker of knowledge, but have been willing to play the fool on those occasions when I have felt it necessary.
So who am I?
My name is John Small. Truth to tell, I am the sixth or seventh (or maybe even eighth; I've lost count) in a line of consecutive John Smalls. To help cut down on the confusion we've all had different middle names – except for my father, a good and noble man named after his own father, who at times seemed to be anything but.
In any event, for the purposes of more accurate identification, I am in fact John A. Small - the “A” standing for “Allen,” lest anyone suggest otherwise.
The surname "Small" is believed to be descended originally from the Strathclyde Britons (themselves the result of Gaelic/Celt interbreeding, and we all know what THAT can lead to…), and is actually considered to be one of the most distinguished family names to have come from the old border regions of England and Scotland. In fact – and despite my grandfather's best efforts – the name "John Small" has actually been quite an honored moniker throughout history, dating back at least as far as the John Small who was appointed to serve as Burgess of Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1407.
Another John Small held one of the first licenses to trade Scottish merchandise with the English, way back in 1447; and yet another John Small brought the name to America when he settled in Massachusetts in 1635. (Look it up if you don't believe me; it's on the books.)
Those who tend to look down upon me because I'm not rich or a member of "proper society" (whatever that means) would probably be less than pleased to learn that my kind used to hang their kind as horse thieves. But I take a certain perverse pride in the fact.
As for the John Small in question (that would be me): I guess I am what you might most accurately label a Coca-Cola drinkin', Kingston Trio listenin', science fiction readin' journalist and occasional commentator/critic of this crazy world I have unwittingly found myself deposited upon. This last has thus far taken up a pretty fair amount of whatever time God has granted me, so I suppose it's a good thing I've been able to make a living (meager though it may be) in the process.
None of which answers the question: Who am I?
Some specifics: I was born in Oklahoma, reared in Illinois, and visited a number of places in the U.S. of A. and Canada before returning to my native state; I was even lucky enough to have briefly visited parts of Germany, Spain and Italy, and even resided in Athens, Greece for about nine months of my life while serving in the military. "Lucky" being a relative term, of course, as this was not exactly the happiest period of my existence; some good did come out of it, I suppose, but since that's a story we don't have time to get into just now…
I married my high school sweetheart eight years (almost to the day) after we started dating, and for reasons known only to her she has stayed with me ever since. The greatest gift she has ever given to me – other than our two sons – has been her love. Someday I hope I can finally figure out just what it was I did to deserve it.
I have no pet peeves; heck, I wouldn’t know what to feed them, but that's not important right now. I have never cared whether or not I ever become a rich and/or famous man, but it is very important to me that my work be read. Whether or not it's liked is up to the individual reader, but I reckon that as long as they've taken the time to read it in the first place I've got a fighting chance.
I have always loved the written word – reading it, writing it, at home or at school or at the office or sitting in the back seat of one of Mom and Dad's old Volkswagens – and it has been my great fortune to have been able to turn this love into something resembling an actual career. I have written a lot of things over the years – newspaper columns, essays, poems, stage plays, radio scripts, fiction – and each one has been my favorite. Why do you ask?
Somehow I've actually managed to make a few friends along the way. I'd like you to know that we've all had a good time and have so far managed not to hurt anybody in the process. That should count for something.
But - and forgive me if I have raised the question before - who am I?
I am that guy you flip off on the interstate because I insist on driving the speed limit…
The science fiction geek who still holds a grudge over the fact that Annie Hall got the Academy Award for Best Picture instead of Star Wars back in 1978…
The philosophy student whose pantheon of heroes includes Groucho Marx, Charles M. Schulz, Rod Serling and Bugs Bunny…
The music fan who prefers John Williams to Mozart, The Monkees to Metallica and The Kingston Trio to pretty much everybody…
The patriot of strong principles and convictions who believes to the very core of his being that you can have honest, heartfelt and even occasionally loud disagreements with someone and still remain friends with that person…
The pop culture romantic who says Betty, not Veronica and Mary Ann, not Ginger - but both Jeannie AND Samantha, because a fellow can never have too much magic in his life…
The father whose heart swelled with pride that day long ago when his six-year-old son sat down to watch a little bit of Citizen Kane with him and, less than 20 minutes into the movie, announced “I’ll bet that Rosebud is probably the sled…”
The lifelong Batman fan who, for all its faults, still likes George Clooney’s Batman And Robin over Christian Bale’s Dark Knight Trilogy…
The newspaper columnist who got hate mail from both Democratic and Republican governors (can’t get any more non-partisan than that).
But again - at the risk of sounding like a broken record - who am I?
Sometimes I know the answer to that question. Very often I do not, and occasionally fear I never will.
Maybe all that matters in the end is that I’ve tried to do what I thought was right – most of the time, anyway, though I readily plead guilty to more than a few lapses – and that I've actually managed to do accomplish something worthwhile a time or two along the way.
Although I once scored a 124 on an IQ test, I’ve never made any claims to ever being the smartest person in the room - even on those occasions when I was the only person in the room. Still, I do know this much:
I love my family and my friends.
I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced great adventures, personal and professional, well beyond anything I could have imagined when I was a little boy looking forward to the journey.
I’ve enjoyed having had the occasional opportunity to try and make a difference in this world, despite the almost certain fact that my failures have far outnumbered my successes.
I have endeavored to live my life with honor and intelligence and humor. How well I have succeeded is something probably best left for others to determine. But I will say that without the ability to grin, this life would just not be anywhere near as much fun.
Who am I?
I am but a frail human being, complete with all the grand hopes and miserable failings and hidden strengths and petty weaknesses that all humans possess. I have always wanted to be more than I am, yet have always fallen short of what I can be. I am nothing special – and yet I am unique in the way that all human beings are unique.
Because as a wiser man than I once proclaimed, “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.”
And when you get right down to it, that’s just about all that anyone - myself included - ever had the right to expect…
(Copyright 2017, by John Allen Small)
In : Life