Monday, April 27, 2009

Prong Buddies

[Pictured in 1981, from l. to r., Paul Joey, Paul Johnny (seated), Jim Charlie, Jim Styro (seated)]

I believe in keeping commitments. And I did promise in my very first post that, over time, I would explain the different monikers I have acquired over the years. Since the only one I have explained so far is Captain Dick, I thought it was about time to do some more divulging.

So today, I will tell you about the origins of that name by which I am most widely known - Styro (or, Jim Styro "if you're not into the whole brevity thing"*). Of course, it's impossible to tell that story without talking about my Prong Buddies - and it's appropriate that I speak of them today, since it's my BFF Jim Charlie's birthday today.**

Before high school, I did not have many friends.*** (I'm not looking for sympathy.) I wasn't a complete outcast - but I was...unpopular amongst my peers. I was tall and uncoordinated and smart and a loner - and I don't think I found other kids my age that interesting anyway. This situation persisted well into my sophomore year of high school****, when I tried out and got a part in the chorus for Bishop Borgess High School's spring musical.

Involvement with the theater crowd at my high school quickly transitioned into involvement with the competitive speech team - and soon I had friends. The core of these friendships was built around the aforementioned Prong Buddies, four guys named Jim and Jim and Paul and Paul. In retrospect, the things that we had in common were few. We were smart, we weren't afraid of public speaking, and we weren't on any sports teams. But if you had tried to find four young guys at BBHS (which, at that time, was the largest Catholic high school in the state of Michigan - with about 3,000 students) with more definite and distinctive personalities, it would have been difficult.

I haven't told you much about the Prong Buddies - but you know enough for me to finish the story. (Don't worry - if I keep this gig, you'll hear more about them. If you're interested...) The practical difficulty presented by four guys hanging out all the time with only two names to share between them is: what to call one another. Just "Jim" and "Paul" aren't enough. But we were smart boys. We decided right away to use first and middle names to provide the desired level of specificity. So...

James Charles... became Jim Charlie, and
Paul John.......... became Paul Johnny, and
Paul Joseph....... became Paul Joey, and
James Stewart... became Jim...Stueyy?

Whether you've never heard this story before - or you've known it for years - isn't it just obvious that something is wrong there? Oh, we tried to make the whole Jim Stueyy thing work. Jim Charlie concocted the whole screwy "EYY" spelling thing (Hey, "Stewie" is just as bad - if not worse) to try to make the whole thing palatable. But I think we all knew that my name was not quite right.

Then one day, we were lunching in the cafeteria when some food service supplies were being delivered - plates, cups, plastic utensils and the like. On the side of a big box of styrofoam cups, Jim Charlie saw the word STYRO emblazoned in huge red letters.

"Hey, you're Jim Styro", he said. And he was right.
I feel very lucky that Jim and Paul and Paul are still among the best friends I have. Or ever expect to have. And that I still get to see them and talk to them frequently (although I really have to stay on Groucho's ass sometimes. Sorry, that's another nickname, another story, and another post.) Not everyone gets to hang on to their friends for so long.

That makes me a lucky Styro. Hope you had a great birthday, Jim Charlie.

Take care.

*in the words of Jeffrey Lebowski.

**First off, I can hardly believe I used the abbreviation BFF (nothing says "I talk like a 15-year-old girl" quite like BFF); second, by the time you read this his birthday will be over - but you can hardly blame me for that.
***Doesn't everyone seem to say that? Aren't there any writers or artists who were extremely popular in their youth?
****By junior year, Mom was concerned enough with my seeming lack of social success to ask me if I was gay. Of course, she was unaware that I had already lost my virginity at the hands of...Damn - no wonder I haven't tried to tell this story yet. It gets complicated. I've got enough material for about 57 posts. (This is my last footnote - the rest I'm just leaving out.)


historymike said...

Egads - great picture. If I am not mistaken, that was in the 1981 Labyrinth?

Jim Styro said...

Right you are, sir!
I'd be more than happy to post a photo of you (in your prime) from that same source.
In fact, I might have to insist on it...

Jim Styro said...

For ten extra points: Can you guess who I skillfully edited out of that photo?

historymike said...

I can't remember his name (not without cheating by trying to find the yearbook), but he was a dude with blond hair, kind of scrawny, and I also recall he had a sweater with a dress shirt.

Sort of an Anthony Michael Hall-type.