Tuesday, March 25, 2008

RS: The Tangled Web

Ok, I did it. I googled myself. (Equally disturbing, I just used the word google as a verb.) So, it didn't seem so bizarre and arrogant at the time; but typing out the offense, it seems, well, offensive. Or at the very least, self-centered. I have friends who self google, but they've actually got things to search. One friend is an author and checks on book sales and rankings. That seems perfectly legitimate.

But what makes me think that I might be interesting enough to warrant any significance on the world wide web? To be fair, I've done shit--good shit--impressive shit. And with all the frickin minutiae on the web, surely a few of my little achievements are worthy of permanent record, right? Truth be told, I've looked before and I got a couple of mentions. At the time I remember thinking, "Ain't I the poo!"I don't go looking every day. It's been years. Honestly, most of the time I bore myself to tears so static trips down memory lane are far less interesting than myriad options just a click away.

I'm not sure what I expected to find, I haven't really accomplished much since my last perusal. But it would be nice to be reminded what the powers that post think of me. Turns out, the web doesn't think that much of me. Or more accurately, it turns out that the web doesn't think of me that much.

I always hated my name growing up. Never ran into a lot of Rodneys. Never met another white Rodney Leon in my life. And while the Sexton part has always proved memorable and titillating (although I never need to be called Rodney Sexy or Rod Ton-of-Sex or be asked if I've ever done porn again), once Mark Gann called me Rhonda Sexchange in 5th grade, any love for the name was permanently compromised.

Apparently, more parents than I imagined named their sons Rodney Sexton. Dumbasses. There were 90 different Rodney Sexton's on peoplefinder.com--and none of them were me. Two of them were my same age. There was pretty good coverage across the US, and we do seem to be a fairly religious lot. There was a minister, a facilities manager at the Rock Family Worship Center, and a Rodney who posted a prayer request for his father in the Marion Baptist Church bulletin. Were my 1980 Bible Quizzing season at the Highway Church of the Nazarene and subsequent district contest performance (not to mention the vocal group performance of "He's Still Working on Me") to have made the web, I would have appeared in good company here. We are also accomplished. There was a nationally recognized American Sign Language instructor at a deaf college, a professional race car fuel runner (whatever that is), and a Rodney Sexton named the "New Face in Coal". Against those, I cannot compete. I speak no foreign language other than four phrases of German--two of which would get my face slapped, just figured out about three months ago how to determine where the gas tank on a car is without getting out and circling like a fool--generally having gotten it wrong and having to turn the car around, and don't have a damn clue what title I could achieve (or what contest to enter) to compare to "New Face in Coal".

Five years ago around Christmastime, about an hour from my parents' house, a Rodney Sexton died. He was about my age so the number of condolences my parents received was heartwarming, if a little disturbing in a couple of cases given that I was standing in the room and the people huggin and kissin up on my mama had no idea her little Rodney was alive and kickin and standing 3 feet away. Finally, my search uncovered a Rodney Sexton who had committed a Class D Felony whose arrest record was posted. Whatever my legacy so far, I have that Rodney Sexton beat. My moving violation for careless and imprudent driving in 12th grade pales in comparison? Eventually, the charge was dismissed.

I didn't make it through all the pages. Within the first 5, I appeared twice. Once on a website called namyz.com. A profile appeared that I never posted. There was no picture but it was clearly me. (New York City, Group Product Director, it was me--4 years ago). The strange thing was 9 people had read the profile but I couldn't get it open to see who I had been portrayed to be. The second was a listing on the American Legion website listing my name as the 1983 winner of the Missouri State Oratorical Contest. I had wowed the state with my original commentary, "The US Constitution, Our Beacon of Freedom". They won't let me join the Army, but those vets will celebrate my sophomore ramblings, preferring sagacity to fagacity. I'll be honest, every single vet I met during the time I was competing was a genuinely kind, accepting, and wonderful person--and I'd rather scrub a cat's ass with my tooth brush than join the Army, so I feel completely at peace with the good men and women of the Missouri State American Legion.

There was no mention of our precious blog associated with my name--I guess I can stop worrying about stepping over the line with my gentle opinions.

So, this whole exercise got me to thinking about what I have accomplished. Like a tree falling in the woods, have I accomplished anything if it doesn't appear on the web? Well, it doesn't matter so much to me what my e-biography might reveal. I don't expect anyone to think that my life is as fascinating as I do--though I do keep repeating the same fucking stories as if I am the living incarnation of Aesop and that the words will alter the substance of the listener's very being.

But for my own sake, I did start thinking about the things I've done, things I've accomplished that matter most to me. There were some surprises. First, there were far more than I'd have guessed. Second, many of my proudest moments aren't actually about me. Third, even as I reflected on the moments least proud-making, by and large, I wouldn't change a thing.

So, whether compelled by arrogance or curiosity, I am pleased I went looking for myself. There are a lot of interesting namesakes out there in the world. They've probably accomplished far more than the www portends. And it isn't such a surprise my proudest moments didn't make the Intel inside. Doesn't matter, I was there.

There were moments as recently as this week that probably won't be HTML'd that made me very proud. Greatest among them was the New York City debut of my good friend Sheila at Cleopatra's Needle. We sat there for four hours and didn't have any idea that there was a real chance time might run out before she could perform. She made it just under the wire--the penultimate performance. She rocked. Actually, she jazzed. More importantly, I was there, like the father celebrating the return of the prodigal son, when she came home. I was there, right in the front row. A little jealous, a little nervous, proud to busting. A tree fell in the forest, and by web standards, there was no one there to hear it. I heard it, backed up by a jazz trio, punctuated by applause. Did it make a noise? No, it made music.

And now there is a permanent record on the world wide web.


The Write Bunch said...

HC: Rodney Leon you will always be tops on the search engine in my heart. A delightful post! Thanks!

Congrats to Sheila, too!


Matthew C. Bronson said...

Rodney: your posting came up when I googled your name. I think this must be the one I know because how many gay Rodney Leon Sextons are there from MO? Remember me, Matthew Bronson? My namesakes sell real estate in FL, research advanced metallurgical problems and farm in Humboldt County. You will remember me as the guy who taught linguistics and sold software. Now I am a professor living in Sonoma County. Drop me a note and let's re-connect à la Google. Glad your life is going well!