IDENTITY

 who dat man

IDENTITY

 

“But are you really a real Reverend?” the annoying girl kept asking.

“Madam, I am a fully ordained Minister of two Independent Churches,” I replied with quiet dignity.

But is that really your name?” she persisted.

Here I hesitated. To be honest, I reflected, that was a bit of a grey area. I’ve always had a problem with my identity. New layers grow over the old without completely obscuring them.

It goes right back to my birth certificate in fact, where my doting parents, though apparently in full possession of their faculties, thoughtlessly named me

BARRINGTON GAIUS OWLTREMBLER.

I mean really! What sort of name is that to give to a child? Barrington? It would inevitably be shortened to the common “Barry” and even worse, living in Australia it could even become, (shudder), “Bazza“!

Fortunately my parents had a change of heart shortly thereafter. They discovered a boy on the same street had been born around the same time, and had also been named Barrington. Now my father always maintained I’d been named for a horse that had won at Flemington that week, so perhaps young Barry-down-the-road’s Dad bet on the same horse. Or perhaps it was just a coincidence. Whatever the reason, my parents decided to swap the order of my given names to avoid local confusion.

So far so good. I had had a narrow escape. Gaius, noble Caesar’s praenomen, I can live with, even the inevitable diminuation to “Guy” retains a ring of nobility to it. (Guy of Gisbourne for example, the criminal renegade Robin Hood‘s old enemy springs to mind) Barrington meanwhile, would be relegated to the merciful obscurity of an initial.

But alas, for whatever reason, my parents neglected to inform the Registry Office of the change. Perhaps they didn’t think it would matter. Maybe they didn’t want to pay the £12 to get it altered, whatever, it caused problems for years whenever I needed to prove my identity by birth certificate. There would always be an argument with a bureaucrat as to what my name really was. The more rigid the bureaucrat the bigger the arhg!ument. Sometimes I won and I’d still be the familiar Gaius B. Owltrembler. Sometimes the bureaucrat would win and I would become the loathed stranger Barrington G. Owltrembler. Thus, for example, while my school and library and one bank recognised good old Gaius, a different bank and my drivers license would acknowledge only Barrington G.

This of course led to years of pointless conversations with suspicious cops when I was younger, who couldn’t imagine anything but a criminal purpose behind an identity discrepancy. Picture it, I am pulled over for a standard road-side breath-testing;

“Had anything to drink then Barry?” they ask, with oily and unwarranted familiarity.

You know you should say nothing but you can’t help it, you have to deny the wretched name is yours and so you say something stupid like “Well, it’s Gaius actually.”

And then you have to try and explain about the birth-certificate to an increasingly suspicious cop who now decides to radio back and see if there’s a warrant out for either name while he searches the car for weapons and drugs to pass the time. And maybe a strip-search by the side of the road to complete your humiliation.

Ah QLD in the good old days! (and they’re coming back) Later when I got involved in Anarchism and street marches and so forth, Queensland’s secret police, the Special Branch used to follow me around like love-lorn stalkers. I used to idly wonder sometimes what name they had my file under.

Because by that stage anyway I had developed my first “public personae”. My mother and my elderly aunt Constanzia, were concerned that my creative and political activities were bringing the fine name of Owltrembler into disrepute. So to ease their concern I recreated myself as Guy Katz. Why Katz? Well, I liked cats. Oh and we Anarchists used the black cat a lot as a symbol of resistance at the time. Our brands logo I guess you’d say today .

??

Guy Katz started as poet’s pen-name and morphed into a musician & performer, founder of the experimental “art-punk” band The Tapeloops, which itself later morphed into the Brisbane Anarchist-scene’s house band, “Trash of All Nations“. Later Mr Katz formed the Performance Art Group Feral Transmissions Syndicate, Brisbane’s answer to the Living Theatre.

I don’t know how technically “legal’ my name was but I signed plenty of receipts as Mr Katz in those days. I think maybe Australia was more casual about identity twenty/thirty years ago. Lots of people, for example, had second jobs under another name at the time, and no-one thought anything of it.

My second job under another name was merely moonlighting from musicianship as a writer.

Thru the pages of such erstwhile street press publications as the Valley Viper, Treason and Prague Spring, I developed a diversity of penno de plumes, but it was the personality of Unckle Rat that fully flowered. Yes through the process of creating and contributing to the street press of the cultural scene, I slowly evolved the Personality of Unckle Rat.

Kindly, avuncular, somewhat seedy Unckle Rat was always full of caustic satire and dubious advice for the rising generation X, becoming a popular figure in some quarters. Unckle Rat had an Art column called “CHEESE“, which reviewed local art openings and focused as much on the quality of the nibblies served at these events as the Art itself, to the distress of many serious young artistes.

Still,even today there are those who  fondly refer to me as “Ratty“, making me feel like a character from The Wind in the Willows.

??

Things became even more complicated one day near the turn of the century when I was sitting quietly in a coffeshop pondering my future. Some friends came in and convinced me to change my name to Guy FreeMarijuana and run as a H.E.M.P candidate for the Senate in next months election. It seemed like a good idea at the time, so we wandered into town and for $58 I became one of the infamous FreeMarijuana brothers. It was so easy I wondered why I hadn’t sorted out the whole “Barrington-Gaius” thing years ago.

Anyhoo we had a lot of fun that election. I treated it as Performance Art and wore a ski-mask everywhere I went, even for radio interviews or when I was sharing a platform with Anna Bligh at the “Community Debate”, and people got me stoned continually out of admiration for my Performance.

Now as I said it was fun but I probably would have changed my name back again if the Electoral Commission hadn’t been a hissy little bitch and tried to disqualify me from running again on the grounds that Freemarijuana wasn’t a “real name”. Bureaucratic scum! How dare they question my Reality!

So naturally I launched a legal challenge and a sympathetic QC argued my case in the High Court and damn me if the Electoral Commission didn’t get their butt kicked. Ho ho. They took it badly and swore revenge, promising to drag me back into court and disqualify me legally somehow, but cooler heads back at the Commission were tallying up the costs and came to the conclusion it was best to leave me alone. So Guy Freemarijuana thereafter ran in several elections unhindered, partly, I must admit, just to annoy the Electoral Commission.

But I was weary with politics and drugs and idiot pot-smokers, so one day I just dropped the MARIJUANA and became merely GUY FREE.

Free at last“, I thought, “Free At Last..Thank God almighty, Free At Last!” But my People would not let me go. Stoned strangers still stumbled up to me on the streets like a long lost friend. H.E.M.P kept asking me to do just one more election. There seemed a general reluctance even amongst my associates to accept that I had moved on.

Fortunately I found religion.. 

??

A friend with nostalgia for the Sixties was organising a series of public “Happenings” in West End and asked me to perform. I’d happened to find a clerical shirt in an Op shop, so experimentally I put a piece of cardboard thru the collar and peered in the looking-glass. The Reverend Hellfire, fully formed, leered back at me and smiled knowingly.. It was like that scene at the end of Twin Peaks where the angelic Agent Cooper sees the evil “Bob” has taken the place of his own reflection in the mirror.

So I cranked up on caffeine and self-righteous fury and stood on a milk crate and harangued yuppies strolling by with fire and brimstone tirades while the disjointed madness of the Happening erupted around me. From somewhere deep in the genetic archives the Reverend spontaneously developed a thick Irish accent.(Incidently, an unintended bonus of the Happenings was that we always ended up taking stray backpacker girls of varying nationalities home afterwards. Poor little lost lambs.)

Well the Happenings were fun, but when they were over I put the Reverend back in the box for a couple of years and thought no more about him.

Then one day on a whim I took the Reverend out for a poetry slam and damn me but that pious fraud won a prize and an invitation for further appearances.

Clearly it was Destiny calling.I was feeling Holier by the minute. Still I thought it best to legitimize my claim so I joined up with a couple of established outfits whose stated aims and beliefs were not so different from my own. (One believes in the Power of REASON, the other believes in the Power of Cannabis. I saw no conflict of interest there)

The Ordination was simple but moving. As my finger hovered over the mouse preparing to click the box marked “Click here to be ordained” I felt the Spirit of the Lord moving thru me, shaping my Destiny in that moment. I was now a man of God, or possibly Goddess, but either way clearly someone with a Spiritual Mission.

*

But old identities trail after me like ghosts. I never nailed the coffin-lid properly shut, filled out all the paperwork, sprinkled holy water and licensed them to depart. Now they haunt me like shucked off Tulpas. Strangers lumber up to me on the streets and hail me by long forgotten names. Credit card companies continue to send brochures in the mail to shadowy personalities, who never properly existed in the first place. Who am I really? It was the ultimate existential question, and there was no answer I could put into words.

*

“So,” the annoying girl persisted in her quest for legitimacy, “are you a real Reverend? Is that really your name?”

But I’d had enough of her doubting ways.

“Listen Lady,” I snarled, “Whatever name you call me by, I am still a goddamn Rose .”

??

“Man is least himself when he speaks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.” –Oscar Wilde

***

Young Squarey Pt 1

***

!!!

The Reverend Hellfire is a recovering Performance Poet and an Ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanism AND the Church of the Universe.

There will be no refunds.

***

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~ by reverendhellfire on February 24, 2013.

13 Responses to “IDENTITY”

  1. Fascinating bio! I feel my life has been so staid. I never took a backpacker girl home…. sob.

  2. Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any issues with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing several weeks of
    hard work due to no data backup. Do you have any methods to protect against hackers?

  3. Hi there would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m planning
    to start my own blog soon but I’m having a difficult time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.

    P.S Apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

    • I’m fairly happy with wordpress. They offer a range of “themes” or formatsThat you can play with to a fair degree. I just took one and tinkered with it and added stuff till I liked the look. Its me. Find something thats you.

  4. 119 vulture?

  5. ’tis a beautiful peaceful place to this day, perhaps a malingering aroma of freemarijuana?

    • Yes they ripped up the carpet after I left but it didn’t help. The backyard independantly sprouted ‘volunteers’ for years each Spring.
      Actually I walked past the other day and when I saw the old shed-out the back was still being lovingly used I felt positively nostalgic.
      Next door had a fine vibe too. Many’s the time we sat round the fire beneath the mango tree and watched the moon rise over West End. Watched an Eclipse once even.

  6. yes that part of the world has a great vibe. Pity about all the asbestos

  7. Reverend, I admire your spiritual and philosophical stand. I myself am a dissident Anglican who believes that intimacy in man/woman relationships can exist outside the bonds of marriage. As a result of this belief and personal practice, I no longer attend formal Church Services because I refuse to be a fraudulent hypocrite. Your chosen belief-system of Spiritual Humanism is based on logic, reason and respect for individual personal feelings. “The Prince of Humanists”, Erasmus of Rotterdam [1466-1536], laid a foundation for religious toleration. An opponent of the death penalty for “heretics”, he argued for moderation, saying “It is better to cure a sick man than to kill him.” You yourself have a remarkable personal history with your odyssey of identity taking you through some six personas – Barrington Gaius Owltrembler, Gaius Barrington Owltrembler, Guy Katz, Guy FreeMarijuana, Guy Free and The Reverend Hellfire. Your odyssey has culminated in your Ordination into two reason-based Churches which have 100,000 members from 146 countries. As Erasmus wrote, “It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is.” My thanks to you for making me welcome at the monthly Kurilpa Poets Meetings.

    • Why thank you Michael. I am truly humbled by your kind and considered words.
      Your presence at Kurilpa has been most welcome, you’re clearly a well-read man and I look forward to furthering our acquaintance and to hearing more of your concise, curiously compacted poetry.
      Indeed I like to play the Jester, it puts people at ease and laughter helps them deal with uncomfortable truths. The Reverend Hellfire may have started as a joke, and yet, in a strange way I’m totally sincere. The basic tenet of both my Churches to “Do no harm” (or as I like to put it, in a slightly more proactive way, an injunction to; “Be Kind”)I do my best to live by and is also I believe the philosophical bedrock of my poetry.
      “There will soon be no more priests. Their work is done..the new breed of Poets shall be the interpreters of men and women and of all events and things”-Walt Whitman.
      PS. The Owltremblers are of ancient, though not particularly distinguished lineage. Indeed, an Owltrembler ran a Laundry Service in Pompeii shortly before that unfortunate eruption, though what an Irish Owltrembler was doing in Roman Pompeii is a bit of a mystery.(I suspect Claudius’s annexation of Southern England might have something to do with it.)

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