What’s In A Name?

I ended up yesterday thinking about names, because Harley had a lot of names. What was his real name? What was his most secret and true name? It almost certainly wasn’t Harley.

I used to think his real name was John Davidson. I don’t know how I came to believe that. But I suspect it was yet another untrue name.

The plain fact of the matter is that I simply don’t know what his real name was. And I never will know. I’ve received several suggestions. But I see no obvious reason to believe that my correspondents are in possession of the true and real name of Harley.

For me Harley has become The Unknown Soldier (or perhaps the Unknown Sailor), known only unto God. He was someone fighting on our side in this crazy war that we’re all fighting.

People adopt pseudonyms. And when they do this, they multiply themselves. They become a cloud of names. And the more names they’ve got, the more tenuous their existence becomes. Real people have only ever got one name.

There are lots of reasons for people to adopt pseudonyms. Harley was a frequent commenter on various forums, and got regularly banned from them – whereupon he would acquire a new identity, a new name, and masquerade under that until he got banned yet again.

And some people just want to stay out of sight. They don’t want any prominence. So they use pseudonyms, and nobody ever knows who they really were.

I read last year that Barack Obama used a pseudonym in some of his emails. I think the idea behind that is that a casual reader would not discover that he was reading the words of the President of the United States. Only insiders, like Hillary Clinton, would know the true name buried under the pseudonym. And I suppose that Hillary Clinton probably used a pseudonym too. Maybe everybody had pseudonyms. And perhaps this was the secret and true email scandal. It wasn’t that she had an insecure email server in her bathroom: it was that she was moonlighting under multiple pseudonyms, all of which had been effortlessly uncovered by Russian intelligence agencies.

And what is anyone’s real name? Wasn’t Hillary Clinton once known as Hillary Rodham? Which is her real one? Married women usually change their name to that of their husband(s). They become more and more people, every time they marry. So Jackie Bouvier became Jackie Kennedy and then Jackie Onassis.

Marilyn Monroe was really Norma Jean Mortenson. Or was it that Norma Jean Mortenson was really Marilyn Monroe? After all, isn’t Marilyn Monroe much more well known?

Most people round here know me as Frank. But some people might say that my real name is Chris, because that’s.what they know me as. Christopher is my first or Christian name. Francis is merely my middle name. At school I was usually known by my surname, Davis. Occasionally I was even Davis2. It was my choice to shift to using my middle name, because it was the name of my Spitfire pilot uncle, and I felt I needed a bit of the spirit of The Few in the face of the massed bombers of Tobacco Control. And anyway Chris had been my own choice, at age 17, for what I wanted to be called.  And it served perfectly well for the next 40 or 50 years.

Whenever you change your name, you become a different person. Chris Davis is not quite the same person as Frank Davis. They refer to the same man, but to different people in the same man. Chris was a kindly, dreamy sort of guy. Frank’s much tougher.

I can never handle anyone changing their name. I had a friend once called Neil who declared one day that he was now called Leonard. But I couldn’t handle it. And so our friendship died, simply because I no longer knew what to call him.

And I knew Harley as, well,… Harley. I didn’t know him very well. I think other people knew him much better than I did. I valued him for the links he dug up. They were ammunition. Any number of posts of mine have started “H/T Harley”.

And now I’m told that he’s dead, and is buried six feet under Kentucky’s soil. And that that wasn’t his real name anyway.

Perhaps nobody ever dies. It’s just that everyone agrees that they’ve died. It’s the consensus opinion. My uncle Francis bailed out of his Spitfire over the Mediterranean sea, and was never seen again. He was posted missing, presumed dead. But I suspect that his family carried on hoping that he was still alive. They probably never got closure. They could never agree that he was dead. His mother never got over it.

And everyone seems to agree that Harley is dead. Who am I to dissent? After all, I never knew his true and secret name.

Perhaps I should inter him in the Smokers’ Graveyard? He’s another casualty, isn’t he? But what name do I put on the headstone?

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About Frank Davis

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17 Responses to What’s In A Name?

  1. Barry Homan says:

    To borrow a line from a film: “Lord, we give you Harley. Try not to piss him off.”

  2. nisakiman says:

    Harley did indeed post under several different pseudonyms, undoubtedly for the reason you’ve given, that he was forever getting banned from sites and comment sections.

    A couple of years ago I was very active in seeking out newspaper articles on smoking from all over the world, and commenting on them where possible. Invariably, I’d find that Harley had got there before me, sometimes using a name I was unfamiliar with. His scatter-gun style, however, was unmistakable, and I always knew it was him commenting, regardless of the name he was using. He had a huge archive of good links, and used them often. His message was unfortunately often lost in the depths of his somewhat truculent delivery, particularly if he was involved in a dispute with an anti who was trotting out the same old garbage.

    I’m going to miss his comments; a rather endearing mixture of sometimes very articulate condemnation of the injustice as he saw it, a veritable blizzard of useful links, and a large helping of braggadocio.

    If you include him in the Graveyard, Frank, I think he should go in as ‘Harley’. Everyone knew that particular pseudonym, and it was that name, or a variation of it, that he seemed to favour most.

  3. Rose says:

    Harleyrider is not a name and Harley is the short version of it, as far as I know, he never used any other name on this blog and so presumably would have been quite happy for us to keep using it.

    He doesn’t belong in the Smoker’s Graveyard because he was not laid low by Tobacco Control laws. Try looking something up on this blog as I did yesterday and he’s still there, talking and explaining and asking questions through the pages.
    Remember how he kept us informed about the impending tornadoes and took us for a ride in his car through the damage or how we helped with designing his bunker? I entered another world with Harley, his world was so very different to mine.

    The man who was Harley may have left the physical world, a place where we never met him, but he is still everywhere, on these pages and clearly, very much in our hearts and minds and likely to remain there.

    • smokingscot says:

      @ Rose

      I’ve spent quite some time today checking on the prognosis for people who have Lyme Disease. It is not something I’d recommend to anyone, thoroughly depressing.

      Seems Lyme is seldom THE cause of death, but those who have it badly can go with all sorts of other things, notably heart failure and – in extreme cases – it can lead to suicide (it can be unbelievably painful).

      So I agree with you that until we get notification of what took Harley that he does not belong in the Smokers Graveyard.

      However he, like Captain Ranty, will continue through their blogs.

  4. marieengling says:

    I also thought, that Harleys real name was John Davidson.

  5. garyk30 says:

    When I think of him, I picture him in my mind.
    Thankfully, he posted many pictures of him doing many different things.

    But then, I do that with most people.
    Even if the picture is just an imagined image.

  6. Pat Nurse says:

    If his death was not caused by antismoker policies or smokerphobia, then perhaps the smokers graveyard is not the place to write a tribute to him. Your post on his death and the comments in the last couple of posts, are greater warm testimonies to his fight and his character and how much he will be missed.

    • beobrigitte says:

      I would agree, The Smokers’ Graveyard is not the place for a tribute to Harley. We don’t know the cause of his death.

      I can only assume we all will remember Harley – and occasionally quote him. He left a wealth of interesting posts in numerous places. And he was quite a character.

  7. beobrigitte says:

    There are lots of reasons for people to adopt pseudonyms. Harley was a frequent commenter on various forums, and got regularly banned from them – whereupon he would acquire a new identity, a new name, and masquerade under that until he got banned yet again.
    He did get banned frequently from “discussions” – and soon after the same comment appeared under a different name. Had Harley’s comments not been deleted and he been banned, he would not have had reasons to re-post under a different name.
    Freedom of speech?

    However, today I encountered something sinister when somebody assumed someone else’s identity. I would not write about it if I thought I was the only one being called.
    It’s also the forcefulness and intimidation with which this guy operates. God help the ones who are easily scared!

    It all is a bit lengthy, so I apologize. Apparently it is yet another scam with only one difference to previous ones. The caller is demanding and threatening.

    At ca. 09:00 hrs my house phone rang with the usual English double ring. My phone does identify withheld calls by ring tone so I never answer these.
    On the phone was some foreign sounding gentlemen who informed me that he was a BT service engineer and that I had a problem with my internet.
    Me:
    “Nice try, mate. Don’t bother phoning me again.” And I hung up.

    At about 15:30 hrs my house phone rings again with the usual English double ring. When I answered it was the same guy again, telling me he would cut off my internet if I wasn’t going to give him access to my computer to fix the internet problem.
    So I decided to play a little game. I told the guy rather firmly that I would require a phone number as I need to verify that the call is legitimate. He was a little reluctant and began to get threatening. (Or maybe it was a guy who thinks he can treat women the way he wants.) When I told him rather firmly that I wasn’t giving him access to my computer without verification, he was actually dumb enough to give me an 0207 number. (You may check on google about this).
    I said: “Thank you” and put the phone down.
    On dialing another number straight after I was given the phone number of this caller. It started with 0061, which I believe is Australia. (No, I do not believe he is situated in Australia; you can disguise your number over the internet)

    I went in search for an official BT number and firstly encountered a voice recognition software which wanted to know the reason for my call. “Oh, for fuck’s sake” brought me the response that my reason for the call was not recognised. So I said “Scammer call”. Back came “Fraudulent activity?” “Yes”.
    I finally got to speak to a REAL person. HURRAY!!!!
    I explained the situation and the lady wanted to check the call log, so I gave her both numbers (the one the guy gave me and the one I found out), told her how I got them and she seemed ever so happy about it. She did mention that there were other callers about the same thing today.

    Hopefully at least the one who bought the 0207 number can be traced! Anybody else receiving similar calls, please do what I did.

    Naturally I texted all my friends and family about this scam. When a few time the reply was:
    “Threatening and intimidating you??? Hahahahaha he picked the right one for that hahahahahahah” I REALLY did not know what to make of it…. C’mon!!!

    • beobrigitte says:

      Sorry, I didn’t close the brackets…
      “Threatening and intimidating you??? Hahahahaha he picked the right one for that hahahahahahah”
      I REALLY did not know what to make of it…. C’mon!!!

  8. Dmitri says:

    A pity I’ve “joined the club” too late to appreciate Harley’s comments. Later on I might try to explore his heritage – there is such a thing, you know. And why doesn’t somebody else try it, too, like in “Harley was the one who said this and that”.
    Getting yourself a new name means wanting to start a new life. You may do it yourself, or it may happen to you, like with Harley. When I got myself a pseudonym for writing, I wanted a clean start, to write fairy tales instead of commenting on current politics. It works. Harley was lucky to get himself a new life among us, maybe after having several very different lives before that. Some people are lucky to live several lives. Others aren’t good even with a single one.

    • beobrigitte says:

      I dare say I joined the club rather late after receiving threats when voicing my opinion that I am against smoking bans. I spent quite some time researching at the time on the internet and I came across many of Harley’s posts.

      When I got myself a pseudonym for writing, I wanted a clean start, to write fairy tales instead of commenting on current politics.
      I don’t think that was the case with Harley. He was very active and the smoker haters often deleted his comments and banned him from the site. Harley wasn’t giving up. He signed up again with a different name and posted his comments again. It takes a little bit of time before comments are deleted and the commenter being banned; Harley probably figured out that repeated posting under a different name increases the number of people (like myself at the time) stumble across it and read it. I sure learned quickly to copy Harley’s links because they would soon disappear.

      I do recall finding Harley’s comments when I thought I was the only one being attacked for voicing my opinion in 2009. I was so grateful when I followed Harley’s links. I’m sure that is how I ended up here, becoming an avid reader of Frank’s blog. And here he was just ‘Harleyrider’; a member of a legally ostracized family that we have become, regardless where we live or what language we speak.

      Some people are lucky to live several lives. Others aren’t good even with a single one.
      Although I do not believe Harley lived several lives, it is a sentence worthwhile pondering about.
      Harley lived one life forced into several pseudonyms in order to be heard (read).

  9. Scott Ewing says:

    Usually after one of his multiple postings, all I would have to add is; John-Jack-Harley-Dennis may overstate his case, but he’s not wrong. Now I’m going to have to do a lot more work. Oh and BTW that is my real name. (Except when I’m known as Morpheus, and I am not afraid) ;)

  10. RdM says:

    I came across Daniel Hammond recently in the Oz version of The Conversation bully pulpit:
    https://theconversation.com/tobacco-tax-hikes-are-great-so-long-as-youre-not-a-poor-smoker-75211#comment_1261552
    24 days before the 11th April.
    Strangely, the next commentator thinks he’s identified him as

    Daniel Hammond – a little research shows that you are a tobacco grower living in the US south, so you have a financial stake in promoting tobacco.
    When you work in a cancer hospital like I do, you see people dying of lung cancer because of smoking and it changes your perspective.
    I’m sorry you’re so heavily invested in tobacco – both financially and in your identity – but do you really want to make a living from a product that kills people?

    The usual ignorance…

    Most of the comments are typically hate fueled, or ‘yes let’s tax the poor smokers for their own good’ or ‘I was addicted but I beat my addiction and I feel superior now’ & etc.
    But there are a few sympathetic ones. One gave a link to the effects of scarcity:
    http://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/02/scarcity.aspx

    The article itself is clearly in the anti-tobacco fix, despite proposing false sops to the poor.

    I don’t have the time or energy to start posting counter-posts at present, in survival mode, so indeed have to admire Harley’s persistence there.

    Although for me posting means I should expect a reply;- it’s more the energy to keep up with replies and counter thrusts that I fear I might not have the energy & time for, at the moment!

    Cheers!!! ~

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