Al Lamanda here. When I was a kid in school in New York, in The Bronx, especially grades six through eight, every kid in my class had a really cool nickname except one. Me. My friends were called Ack-Ack, Muskie, Coop, Big C, Little C and (yeah, I never figured it out, either) Chicken Boy. Around the neighborhood, there was Yoo Hoo, (because he drank a lot of it) Knuckles, (not because he was tough, but because he constantly cracked them) Tulip, (because his last name was Flowers) Boo-Boo, (he really did look like Yogi’s sidekick) Mr. Magoo, (the guy was blind as a bat and refused to wear his glasses. You could play hide and seek with him and never even have to hide) Worms, (you don’t want to know why) Nose, (seriously, the honker on the kid was amazing) Snots, (enough said about that) Spokes, (he got his pants caught in his bike wheel on Gun Hill Road and caused a six-car pile-up) Hair Ball, (to this day I swear he coughed one up) and my personal favorite, my Uncle Sal (his real name was Sam and one time I asked him why he was called Sal. He said, “For short.”)
So that’s the way it was back in The Bronx, when I was a kid. A rough and tumble neighborhood full of rough and tumble kids with some very odd names that reflected some very odd times. As for my lack of a nickname, I was born a nice Italian kid and my parents hung Alphonso on me as a moniker. (go ahead, try to make something cool out of that, I dare you) Snots tried to hang Alpo on me and got a black eye for his trouble. (I would have hit him in the nose, but there was that snot thing to consider) I’m thankful that my youth was spent prior to Happy Days hitting the air because I would have entered high school as the Fonz, and that would have been very un-cool indeed.
So my life has been spent as Al, and cool nickname aside, it hasn’t been so bad. It’s easy to spell and I was usually picked first in schoolyard games. (that ABC thing) Then, a few years ago, nickname disaster struck. Let me back that up for a moment. I’ve written several screen plays and (to my amazement) actually sold a few of them. The producer who bought one of them flew me down to the Florida Keys to help scout locations. Mostly what I did was stand around and gorge myself on Key Line pie, sweat and drink iced-water. I think this is called being an associate producer. Anyway, while there, I came across this street sign.
And as much as I would have liked to think the Keys had rolled out the red carpet for me, they hadn’t. The Allamanda is a cute little flower that grows all over the place in the Keys and hence the street name. Anyway, when I left the Keys, where it was eighty-seven degrees and returned home to snow on the ground Maine, I forgot about the cute little flower that bore a resemblance to my name and got to shoveling.
Spring rolled around and I was invited to speak in my old hometown of New York City at the book event Day of Dialogue. I had just been nominated for the Edgar Award and things were going pretty well. The day of the event arrived and I flew into New York and so far so good. Until after the event when the host and I were chatting in a hallway. The host informed me that every time she tried to Google my name for some additional bio material she kept getting this cute little flower that seems to grow just about everywhere. So, I googled myself, something I never do and found that dozens of pages are dedicated to the cute little Allamanda plant. (yes, I’ll wait while you Google me and see for yourself) Still no big deal. So far.
After the event, I was invited to dinner with some people from the biggest publishers in the business, including those that took a chance on my Edgar nominee Sunset. During the chit-chat that took place during dinner, someone asked for my bio and someone else said to Google it.
Disaster. The Googling took place and after a while I was asked why Googling Al Lamanda brings up nothing but this cute little plant known as the buttercup. And there it was, the nickname I had lacked my entire life. Buttercup. By the time dinner was over and the laughter died down, (took way longer than it should have) I knew this one wasn’t going away easy.
So the kid from a tough Bronx neighborhood, a former US Marine and amateur boxer of forty fights with the mug and knuckles to prove it, writer of tough guy mysteries had a nickname at last. Buttercup. And yes, years later I do receive emails that begin with Dear Buttercup, or Hey BC, (like my Uncle Sal, BC for short) and I’ve even been asked to autograph a book or two with my less than desirable nom de plume.
Not exactly cool nickname material for the old gang back in The Bronx for sure. So if ever you find yourself in the company of a guy called Ack-Ack, Muskie, Knuckles or Snots, please keep this to yourself.
And remember to keep a safe distance of at least six feet from Snots for the obvious reasons.
Al Lamanda is the author of the Edgar Award nominated mystery novel Sunset. The sequel, Sunrise, was voted best crime fiction novel of 2013 by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. His latest work titled First Light was released in July 2014.