Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Chameleon: Guest Post by Earl Javorsky

Earl Javorsky (www.earljavorsky.com) is the author of Down to No Good and Down Solo. He also works as a copy editor and proofreader in San Diego.

Earl Javorsky:

I came of age at the cusp of two defining eras. The mid-sixties was a hell of a time to be a teenager, and a hell of a confusing one. Cognitive dissonance would have required objectivity unavailable to a privileged white boy from Brentwood, California. How else to reconcile a love for all things James Bond—bespoke suits and a silenced Beretta—with Woody Guthrie and Jack Kerouac? My upbringing in a family of classical musicians and my love for Jimmy Reed and Freddy McDowell? My step-father’s Republicanism and my draft-card burning? And yet this cultural disconnect was a repeat performance for me.

My parents brought me to Queens from Berlin in 1952, when I was two. The family mythology includes the story of my entering preschool at three and returning home refusing to talk. After several months of shaking or nodding my head and pointing at things I wanted, I suddenly—with no particular prompting—started speaking unaccented English. When the family talked to me in German, I declined, saying, “That’s baby talk.” I never spoke it again.

When I was five, my mother left me with her parents, also in Queens, and sometime later my grandmother took me to Las Vegas, where we camped in a motel. One day my mom arrived in a brand new Cadillac driven by John, a Hollywood actor, and off we went to Los Angeles.

Strangely, my new dad had been a lieutenant on a US destroyer off the coast of Italy during World War II. My birth father had been an aerial photographer in North Africa under Rommel.

Just when I had settled into my new life on the West Side, we moved to Bermuda so my stepfather could film a TV series, and I was put in a snooty prep school where we had to wear flannel shorts and a blazer and tie and take Religious Instruction along with our academic classes. Naturally, the kids made fun of my American accent. Naturally, I adapted.

Somewhere along the line, my stepfather legally changed his name from John Cox to John Howard, the name Paramount Studios had given him. This gave me a third last name: I was born Daniel Earl Javorsky, became Daniel Cox, and, finally, landed on Dan Howard, which I stuck with until it was time to publish a book. I chose Earl Javorsky, partly to honor my father and partly for its eccentricity. An unexpected bonus was that it was unique in Google searches.

I write all this because it interests me to reflect on some unintended themes that, looking back, I recognize in my novels. All three books have characters who have alternate identities, though in my first, Down Solo, the name change is forced upon my protagonist. And two of my books are about characters who are not what they appear to be; beyond simply using aliases, they are pretenders.

Some years back, a movie was made about my dad, Heinz Javorsky, who after the war continued his career as a cinematographer. Oddly, it was called “Chameleon Cameraman.”


Unknown said...

Twice married ( with subsequent name changes) and born with a non biological fathers name listed on my birth certificate, im no stranger to a sirname/identity mismatch. Sometimes when people ask what my maiden name was I say Javorsky. Camelian indeed!

Mekratrig said...

Have always adopted alternate names & identities. Many years ago, whilst employed as a low level techie, would sometimes sign a form at work with just the first letter of my first name, R. Morehouse. One day, I looked at it, and said "R Morehouse...", aha! Armorhouse! And a new surname was birthed that I use to this day. As a nascent paranoid 'prepper', seems much more appropriate...