One of the many reasons why I hate California is that everyone there has only half a name.
And it ain't the second half, sweetheart. In Golden Bear Land, first names are the only way to fly.
Introduce yourself out there as JohnSmith, rather than just plain John, and they'll think you're overly formal.
Leave a two-names telephone message, and they'll think you're weird
Ask someone you meet for his last name, and he'll think you're a CIA agent, or at least a newspaper reporter.
Even business, California-style, is a journey through the Land of Oz for those who cut their consumer eyeteeth in the East.
A freind tells me he once tried to order a pizza over the phone in Berkeley. Asked for his name, he proudly gave the one with which his father and grandfather ordered pizzas before him.
"No, man," the pizza person said. "I mean your name . Like, John, or Joe, you know what I mean?"
In similar wide-eyed innocence, I once tried to rent a beach cottage in California, via long-distance.
I called a real estate agency. One listing sounded just right. I asked where to send the deposit.
"Just send it here, care of Sis," the voice said.
"Sis who?" my voice said, almost by reflex.
"What do you mean, 'Sis who?"' the voice replied, in total noncomprehension. "We've only got one Sis here."
"I'm sure you do, "I said. "I just, well, I mean, I've never sent a business letter to just Sis."
Now, of course, i have. It's enough to make you wonder how soon every McDonald's in California is going to become a Ronald's.
Of course, Washington is not wholly immune to this disease.
Clearly, to say Teddy here is not to risk being misunderstood.
Ditto, Jimmy, Tip and Cy. Ditto for Henry and Dick and Barry and Nelson in campaigns and administrations of the recent past.
And in Washington, as elsewhere, the context will almost always bail you out of trouble.
Can Joe in a football discussion here mean anyone but Theismann?
Does Gordon in connection with news connote anyone but Peterson?
Ask someone what rosalynn is planning to do after next November, and there will not be the slightest doubt which Rosalynn you mean.
Besides, Washington is blessed with prominent people whose first names happen to be distinctive.
Elvin in a basket ball discussion can't mean anyone but Hayes.
Drop "J. Willard" in a local board room, and "Marroitt" would be assumed.
As for scounderels, we didnt't come up with a Charlie or a Sam. We did it up right, with Tongsun.
But perhaps this is healthy. Perhaps Washington needs a lot more of first-names-only. Peerhaps we need to go all the way over and become, in this respect at least, "Washingfornia."
Wouldn't it be better if members of the House would yield the floor to colleagues by saying, "You got it, John, baby," rather than serving up all nonsense about distinguished gentlemen?
Wouldn't local cocktail parties be better if everyone quit trying to figure out whether the person to whom they were just introduced is Important?
Wouldn't it be better if we had to find more genuine ways to show respect than by calling people "Senator" or "Coach" or "Mr. President?"
I can see the wave cresting:
Zeibert gives up Zeibert, deciding that he really is a Duke.
Justice Marshall figures that Thurgood sounds pretty good after all.
Williams becomes the only famous Washington attorney to reduce from three names to just-plain-Ed.
And a new advice-to-the-lifelorn column appears in the paper. It's called, simply, "Ann."
Don't dismiss this. There's a governor about 3,000 miles away who would love nothing better than to become the next president.
If he gets here, I'm sure he won't mind if we skip the Brown.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever tried to pursue "The World's Cruelest Profession." But new evidence shows that very few Americans make a living from writing.
According to a survey of the members of PEN American Center, a writers' group based in New York, the median annual income for American writers in 1978 was $4,700.
Sixty-eight percent of PEN's members earned less than $10,000 from their 1978 writing, the study found.
Nine percent earned nothing.
Remedies proposed by PEN members included guaranteed minimum fees for articles, unionization, a new royalty scheme and more easily obtainable grant funds.
But writers will be writers. One survey respondent wrote that he planed to escape poverty by "dying young in a tragic manner."