Did anyone ever give you a nickname that upset you?
When I was little, there was a kid who lived up the street from me. His name was Donald Barrett. Donald and his little brother, Nick, were good friends of mine. It’s weird, but I can’t recall much of anything that we did TOGETHER, except for football or wiffle-ball in the front yard. I spent time with Nick, pretending to be a DJ as we listened to rock n roll records, swimming at the Cincinnati Recreation Commission’s pool in Oakley, or shooting pool in his basement. I spent time with Donald playing with Star Wars figures, playing on the same baseball team (go Tom-E-Hawks) or pretending we were the band and singing along with the albums The Monkees and More of the Monkees.
I can’t remember the circumstances that led up to it but, one day, Donald called me a “baby chocolate cake.” And I swear you could hear the scratching sound of a record needle as the entire world came to a sudden and abrupt halt. There was about 3 seconds of complete and utter silence. And then I started crying. Somehow, this was so much worse than “dork” or “idiot” or “dumb bell.” Me? A baby chocolate cake? Really? Oh no! No no no NO!!!!!!!!
I don’t remember Donald leaving, although I’m sure he hightailed it outta there. I don’t remember how long I cried, but it felt like hours. I do remember that I was inconsolable as I sat in my mom’s lap and cried into her shoulder. It took some time for me to be able to explain what had happened because I would completely fall apart before I could get the words “baby chocolate cake” out of my mouth.
“And then he…::sniff::…and the he called…::deep breath::…and then he called me a babbbbbbwwaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
Eventually I calmed down. Eventually I told her what happened. And eventually I got over it because, after all, it was just an isolated incident. But that’s not how kids are. Despite how good friendships are, kids know how to push other kids’ buttons and they’ll do it with or without any reason.
Over time, Donald’s insult graduated into something more than a simple name-calling. It became a taunt, whose sole purpose was to get a rise out of me. The singsong lilt of “Kevin is a baby chocolate caaaake” never once failed to make me cry my eyes out.
In 1980, when I was 10 years old and in the fourth grade, the movie The Empire Strikes Back was released. I spilled the beans to Donald that (SPOILER ALERT!) Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father. He hadn’t seen the movie yet and he was mad at me. And rightly so! After all, that revelation eventually landed on Premiere magazine’s list of the 25 Most Shocking Moments in Movie History.
I don’t know if that what was caused it but, after that, Donald and I didn’t hang around much anymore. “Kevin is a baby chocolate caaaake” it seemed, had simply disappeared. A couple years later, Donald graduated from 6th grade and moved on to 7th at Walnut Hills Jr. /Sr. High School. I moved onto 6th grade and, upon graduation, went to St. Mary for Junior High.
After completing 8th grade at St. Mary, I attended Purcell-Marian High School. It was there, in my freshman year, that I first met Dave VanBenschoten. A fellow freshman, we became acquainted through a mutual friend that I knew from St. Mary. I initially found him to be a bit odd due to his intelligence, but a sense of humor and a shared appreciation for Star Trek helped us become friends.
During my sophomore year and by way of my girlfriend at the time, I met Paul Findsen. He was a junior and quite possibly the tallest person I’d ever met who was also within my peer group. Possessed with creativity that I’m still somewhat envious of to this day, Paul had a sense of humor unlike any I’d experienced before. And he looked like David Bowie.
Paul, Dave, and I spent many a day discussing a variety of topics ranging anywhere and everywhere from Monty Python to Japanese swordplay to Star Trek. One particular day during my junior year, we were at Paul’s house when Paul told us of a computer game that he was having some trouble with. He couldn’t get past a certain point in the text-based adventure game Star Trek: The Promethean Prophecy and suggested we work together to try to figure it out.
We gathered around the computer and took turns being the captain, meaning the one in control of the keyboard and actually entering any commands. Paul was first, since it was his game and he had to familiarize us with the game. He got to The Troublesome Point in which the Enterprise is being attacked by a Romulan vessel. No matter what we tried, the enemy got the best of us and the Enterprise was destroyed. Game over.
Dave was next. Again, everything was fine and dandy up until The Troublesome Point where, despite several more suggestions from Paul and me, the Romulan enemy was victorious (again).
Finally, it was my turn. We wasted no time in getting to the Troublesome Point. The three of us reviewed past actions taken and didn’t thoughtlessly react to the events on the screen. During the battle, Spock reports the presence of a “data image” moving in conjunction with the enemy vessel. Paul suggested we fire torpedoes at the mysterious image. I typed the command into the computer and Lo! And Behold…the Romulan enemy was destroyed. From our excitement, you would have thought we had just cured cancer.
About a month or so later, Dave and I were sitting next to each other at work passing funny notes and drawings back and forth. The movie Spaceballs had recently been released and had us in the mindset of creating parodies of Star Wars and Star Trek. I liked the Eagle 5 (Winnebago spacecraft) from Spaceballs and I asked Dave, who was artistically inclined, to draw a picture of my car, a Volkswagen Beetle, with Star Trek warp engines attached to it. He did and gave it the following caption: Commanded by B.C. Cakes, the USS Entropy boldly goes where no man has gone before.
I don’t ever remember telling Dave about “baby chocolate cake” but, clearly, I must have. At first I was all, “Dude! What the fuck, man? Baby Chocolate Cakes?” but he thought it was fun and that I should get over it.
“Why not? Make it something other than some sort of dirty label.”
So that’s what I did. Paul and Dave and I created an entire Star Trek parody universe, complete with 15 short stories, another 5 that are unfinished, several illustrations, and even a soundtrack, revolving around the crew of the USS Entropy under the command of B.C. Cakes.
The name has branched out into other areas as well. B.C. Cakes is my login name on certain website forums and blogs. It’s also my I.D. in the multiplayer online game Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Twenty years ago, Dave was right in re-saddling me with that name. With the help of some good friends, I was able to take ownership of it and define it instead of it defining me. It’s funny how a name that once made me cry has become a name that I’m rather proud of.