I called my buddy KP. That’s short for Kingpin, a nickname he was given three decades ago.
And as we golfed virtually, ate burgers and drank drafts, KP called me Beels. That’s a nickname that’s stood through decades, too.
But it certainly wasn’t my first nickname.
When I was of soft-cereal age, there used to be a TV commercial for the breakfast glop Maypo. The little kid spooning the mix was called Markie. And so, the very first name-related nickname I remember is my parents, aunts and uncles calling me Markie Maypo.
But not my Pop Pop Bialczak. He always called me Chum.
But with a last name like Bialczak …
The cruel kids in elementary school quickly bastardized that to a nickname I despised so thoroughly, then and still, that I can’t even bring myself to type it a half-century later. Suffice it to say that it had to do with a dull pain in a male body part. Yeah, my father told his elementary school-aged son, you’ll be hearing that one from the mean and stupid kids.
Others thought it clever to call me Beelzebub. Only I didn’t think I ever acted very devilish.
My cousin Peter, a full decade older than I, came up with a another twist on my first name. Peter liked to call me Marcus Aurelius. When in Rome, I could be Emperor. But we lived on Long Island.
When I went upstate to begin college, my quick journalism pal Greg Ten Eyck began to call me Bialz. It sounded like Bee-Alls. I liked it, even though back home we pronounced our last name Bee-Al-Zack. (Greg’s roommate, Elias, gave him the nickname Twenty, and that stuck, too.)
After getting our associate’s degree at SUNY Morrisville, Twenty, Aggo and Bee-Alls transferred to the University of Maryland. Aggo was Mike Agostino, whom I’d known for what seemed like forever, because we came from the same hometown and went to junior high, high school, junior college and college college together. When I got the job as sports editor at the big daily in Syracuse in the 1980s, I hired Aggo for my staff as a copy editor. Around that time, Aggo decided that he wanted people to call him Homer. But I do digress.
While in College Park, Maryland Terrapins soccer goalie Larry Howell started to call me Zack. I thought it was pretty cool that the goalie thought enough of the campus newspaper sports reporter to give him a zippy nickname. Nobody else in my life has ever called me Zack.
Two other Morrisville grads moved to Maryland a couple years after Twenty and I. Shaudy and Mattadeo — Steve Michaud and Matt Amodeo — moved into the same house as us, and they started calling me Beelsie. They still do.
When I moved to Syracuse, I quickly discovered the newspaper bar. Plenty of my co-workers at the big daily were also in their 20s. We’d leave the office after midnight and congregate at a family-owned bar and restaurant one block away. Tommy Hrim was alway behind the bar at the N&H. The wise man pinned KP with Kingpin. Tommy called me Wojo. “Barney Miller” was popular on TV during those days, but only Tommy was allowed to call me the name of the Polish detective from the show.
Some of the newspaper/N&H crowd started calling me Big Dog. I was 25 and exuberant about life. Yes, I could get a bit loud when I got going.
After I calmed down some, Beels was coined.
And after I calmed down even more, I got married, and we had our daughter.
Still I focused very much on my work with the big daily.
My ex started to call me Joe Post-Standard.
That job is gone now, too.
My daughter Elisabeth calls me Dad.
My sisters call me Bro. Sometimes, Bro-ski.
My dear wife Karen calls me Mark.
I’ll answer to all. I like my wealth of nicknames.
Have you had more than one nickname in your life? What’s your favorite nickname? What do you think my nickname should be?