I’ve never really liked my name. “Mark Cappis.” It’s just so…common. I came to this realization at a young age. My parents were talking one time, and I learned that I have a third cousin twice removed by the name of “Mark Cappis.” One time, out of curiosity, I opened up the Edmonton phone book and found three Mark Cappises. My latest tussle with the commonness of my name was in my guestbook. It was recently signed by a “Mark R. Cappis,” with the message, “We have the same name! We should be friends!” There are just two many Mark Cappises in the world. I’m just another mark in the crowd.
It’s times like this I delve into my personal history as to how I became a Mark. Apparently, the decision to call me Mark was eventually made by my mother. My father was really pushing for Lucas. On the outset, I kind of like the ring to it. Luke Cappis. But then, as I look at the pop culture from my formative years, it’s almost a blessing I didn’t get that name. Having grown up with Star Wars, who knows how much teasing I would have gotten? I’m sure people would have routinely said, “Luke! I am your father,” or something as witty as “Where’s R2-D2?” Plus, don’t forget The Dukes of Hazzard, with Luke Duke. I probably would have gotten, “Where’s Bo?” or, “Did you drive the General Lee to work today?” If I ever get back in touch with my college friend Lucas Warren, I should find out exactly how much trouble the name Lucas was for a child of the 80s.
For a while in junior high, I was infatuated with the name Zack. Zack Cappis. That sounds cool. As soon I was old enough, I was going to change my name to Zack. Zack was just cool. But then, Saved By The Bell came along, and Zack was forever connected with teen-age heartthrobs/pretty boys. Suddenly, it wasn’t very cool anymore. It looked like I was again stuck with Mark.
Or was I? I didn’t have to outright change my name in order to get something exotic. I was reading a trivia question about former prime minister Brian Mulroney. It turns out his full name is Martin Brian Mulroney. So, why don’t I just drop my first name, and go with my middle name? Sladen Cappis. Whenever I mention that my middle name is Sladen, eyebrows are raised, mouths open slightly in shock, and people utter, “That’s different.” And besides, if I did use it as my name, it would wind up getting shortened to that ultra-cool, surfer/skate punk/extreme sports athlete name, Slade. Slade Cappis. That would be cool. When I first resolved to start going by my middle name, I bounced the idea off of my mother. “That’s OK,” she said, “But you’ll always be Mark to me.” What was the fun in going by my middle name if Mom refused to acknowledge the change? And so, I stayed Mark.
The only time I ever really chose a new name and had it stick was in university. There I was, my freshman year, and I was going to be doing a radio show on the campus station. I looked at some of my favorite DJs on Power 92. There was Shotgun Sean, Chad the Pog, and Kira K. And let’s not forget one of the most famous DJs ever to sit behind a microphone, Wolfman Jack. I knew I was going to need a DJ name. What should I call myself? I flopped down on the couch in the floor lounge and started flipping through channels. Eventually, I found a rerun of Batman: The Animated Series. It was one of my favorite episodes, featuring my favorite villain. This villain always based his crimes around exploiting the fears of his enemies. I admired that. Unlike most other villains, who sought to defeat Batman through sheer physical force, this villain would let your own mind do you in. He wouldn’t beat you up. He’d make you curl up in the fetal position, screaming your head off as your darkest fears came to life. I liked that. So, I decided to name myself after that villain. I became Scarecrow. I was thrilled at how Scarecrow caught on with the campus. When Lucas Warren and Brad Goertz took over as editors of the school paper, the first thing that Lucas said to me was, “Wow. You’re the Scarecrow. I gotta say, I love your column! Oh, and just out of curiosity, what’s your real name?” And that’s when I started having problems with Scarecrow.
When I began my campaign for VP External in my senior year, the one question asked of me at the candidates forum was, “I just learned that you’re the Scarecrow. Why do you use a fake name? What are you hiding?” I tried to explain that it was just a DJ name, but she wasn’t buying. She felt I was hiding something. A few months later was the only time I was offended to be called Scarecrow. It was during my infamous “vote no” campaign against Brad Goertz. Whereas Lucas took the time to ask me what my true name was, Brad never did. As Brad and I were having a heated discussion about my vote no campaign, that’s when Brad’s enforcer Andre Goulet came in. Andre, in his way, just lost it on me. “Scarecrow, what you’re doing is full of shit! Scarecrow, you are being such an asshole!” It was all Scarecrow this and Scarecrow that. He was constantly accusing me of hiding behind a false name, and yet he’d never use my true name. When I had had enough, I let loose with the only time I ever raised my voice during the whole vote no campaign. I turned to Andre, and said, “MY NAME IS MARK!” He started calling me Mark, then, but he was uncomfortable in doing so. Out of my whole vote no campaign, that’s the only time I made Brad’s pit bull uneasy: I made him call me by my real name.
That’s when I started realizing that there’s nothing wrong with being a Mark. The last time before that happened when I was 7. I was just starting to really get into movies, and I was reading a book on the making of Star Wars. That’s where I learned the name of the guy who played Luke Skywalker: Mark Hamill. Wow! I have the same name as a Jedi! That made me quite proud for a few days. Suddenly, myself and Luke Skywalker shared a common bond. We were Marks.
A similar incident happened a few days ago. Civil elections are this fall, and after 15 years, my mother is stepping down as school board trustee. Just to get some gossip going, I’ve been circulating the rumor that I’m going to run for school board; “follow in her footsteps.” So, the other day, I stopped in at the school division office to pick up a nomination package. As I walked up to reception window, I looked in to see a normal, bustling office. When the clerk finally approached me, we made small talk, and then I asked for a nomination package. As she handed it to me, she asked for my name. I said it proudly. “Mark Cappis.” The office went dead quiet. All eyes were focused on me. “As in Monika’s son?” the clerk stammered. “Yup,” I said, “I want to follow in Mom’s footsteps.” “Those are some awfully big steps,” she said. I agreed, thanked her for the package, and left. I couldn’t help but smile. Never had the very mention of my name bring an office to a standstill.
Yes, the name Mark Cappis may be a common one. But the reputation behind it, that’s uncommon. Take heed, all you other Mark Cappises! There may be hundreds of us in the world, but we each bring our own twists to it.