The other Bryan Waterman

The other Bryan Waterman didn’t return the email I sent him over the summer. We were staying in Boston for several weeks, revisiting scenes from our seven-year stay there in the 1990s. And according to the website of Waterman Studios it’s also where this fellow who shares my name — even the “y” in Bryan — lives and works. I thought it might be fun to meet him while we were in town.

I’ve known about him for a couple years, since my mom sent me a link to his site, where you can see his eponymous cartoons, including a title character who also shares my — well, our — name. Here’s the character description from the official website: “Waterman is just a very laid back, quick witted, and sarcastic guy. He does his best to make sure he has fun everyday and to try everything at least once. He is known for making pretty ridiculous decisions, but decisions nonetheless. His best bud is Pal who he has known since childhood. Waterman has a crush on the local Ice Cream Girl, which he does a very poor job of hiding.”

He doesn’t share my taste in facial hair, but otherwise might physically-speaking pass for a cartoon version of me; and the character’s creator has apparently transformed himself from time to time by experimenting with his beard, which I suppose is something we do share. Heaven knows I’ve made my share of pretty ridiculous facial hair decisions over the years.

title card

And though I have, in my life, gone through a ska phase and owned the first three Weezer albums, I’m not sure these guys and I share a taste in theme song music. But that just adds to the feeling, when you’re watching a cartoon character with your name go through a series of misadventures, that you’re peeking through a window into an alternate universe.

Here’s a link to episode 2, in which Waterman and gang enter a Ping Pong X tournament. And, as if finding a cartoon character who shares your name isn’t odd enough, consider an additional Waterman series, in which the original characters appear as cartoon sock puppets. (In this episode, sock-puppet Bryan narrates the story of the Easter Bunny, who sucks out children’s souls and transforms them into green plastic grass in his effort to build a time machine. Now that’s a plot line I can get behind.)

I wanted to get together for coffee and talk about what it’s like to find another Bryan Waterman. Maybe I could interview him for TGW, I thought. But if I don’t hear back soon, I might be forced to imitate his interview with Pierce Brosnan:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFFBPIXLcBk[/youtube]

Sharing a name, of course, also means we share google presence, which means he most likely knows I exist. Maybe he’s even wondered himself who this college professor in New York is who’s stolen his name. It also means some of his fans have probably clicked through to TGW wondering if I am him. (Currently, my official faculty listing and TGW “about” page angle out Waterman Studios for the top spot on a “Bryan Waterman” search, but it’s gone back and forth over the years.)

What’s it like having a cartoon version of yourself floating out there in cyberspace, you may wonder? It’s not that different than having other versions of yourself out there that you are, more or less, directly responsible for but no longer fully resemble. Odd things of mine on the web — things I never imagined would be permanently uploaded for people to browse — include poetry reviews I wrote as a grad student and a whole host of hits related to a book I started writing while I was an undergrad, about academic freedom and religious higher education. The author photo alone (taken in 1997; I’ll refrain from linking) makes me feel like I’m looking at an outdated cartoon version of myself. The other Bryan Waterman must go through this too, from time to time; as far as I can tell, his physical appearance has transformed as dramatically over time as mine has: on his MySpace page, which used to bear the heading “Not THAT Bryan Waterman” (was he talking about me?), you can watch a short called “The Road,” in which he looks more like my dad when I was a little kid than he does like his Pierce Brosnan-interviewing self or his cartoon alter ego.

I mean — who’s to say that he and his character and his character’s sock puppet character are any less viable as alternate existences for myself than my own past possibilities, lives I’ve chosen not to live? I’m sure that people I’ve known at other times in my life, if they were to encounter me now, might be more or less surprised at who I’ve become. What’s remained the same and what’s fallen away over the years? Religion’s gone — which may or may not surprise people from my past, depending on who they are and when they knew me. I no longer perform music on a regular basis, though I do continue to invest an enormous amount of time and money listening to it. I like fried eggs, and have since I was 20, but the idea of me liking eggs still somehow seems to take my mother off guard. Ten years ago, I couldn’t imagine attending my tenth high school class reunion. The thought made my stomach clench up. But I’m already looking forward to my twentieth next summer — genuinely looking forward to seeing some people I haven’t seen in over a decade. That in itself might surprise some of my old acquaintances.

If the other Bryan Waterman ever writes back, maybe we can correspond about the versions of ourselves we’ve shed over the years, in our various acts of ongoing self-creation. What prompted him to create a cartoon version of himself, I’d like to know, and does he ever wish the little guy would grow a full beard? Will his character remain 21 forever?

If we ever meet, I’ll push for a new theme song to accompany the event. I found it while YouTubing “Waterman” this morning. It’s a song called “Waterman” (rhymes with “Thomas Mann” in one verse), which won the Eurovision contest the year I was born. And I have my reticent buddy in Boston to thank for prompting me to make that search.

[youtube]http://youtube.com/watch?v=UlLnB429AH4[/youtube]

19 responses to “The other Bryan Waterman”

  1. WW says:

    I’m pretty sure there’s a tv series in all this dopplegangerwonderdom — who doesn’t fantasize about the roads not taken? Haven’t seen Samantha Who but love that she is trying to figure out who she used to be pre-amnesia. She gets two lifetimes for the price of one.

    great post, BW: NYC.

  2. Beth W says:

    Wandering the music aisles of Borders a few years ago, I discovered another Beth Wood sitting in the rack of featured cds. Beth Wood. I stood and stared for quite a while, unnable to separate the other’s name from my personal identity.

    The other Beth Wood is a Texas folk singer. The important question is “what does this mean for me?”. Just that when I decide to become a folk singer, I’m going to need a stage name.

  3. Tim Wager says:

    When I first moved to LA I got a phone call for Tim Wager from a young woman, probably in her 20s. She said, “Tim? Hi, how are you? It’s [name].” I said, “Sorry, but how do I know you?” “I’m your daughter?!!?” she said. I blurted out, “I have no daughter. . . . That I know of.” AWKWARD. Same name, same pronunciation even. My doppelganger is a deadbeat dad.

    Also, that Eurovision vid is outta sight, man. The hair, the dance moves by the back-up singers . . . too cool.

  4. cynthia says:

    very interesting post, I guess we all have a double somewhere. I have not met mine yet though.

  5. It may be you’re truly one of a kind.

  6. ks says:

    Crap. I don’t know what I’m doing. Sorry all! It was meant to amuse, not annoy.

  7. ks — i think this is the link you were trying to provide.

    i used to live near an office building that listed a “brian waterman” among its occupants. i thought that was kind of weird. but it’s the “y” that’s always made me feel like an individual among brians; the idea of this dude being out there with the same spelling was a little weird. i suppose all the john smiths of the world have to deal with this on a daily basis.

    another tim wager is kind of weird too. i wonder how he pronounces his last name.

  8. stephanie wells says:

    My doppelgangers (there are many) include a soul diva who sings “Planet of Love,” a pilot, a GLBT marriage activist who lives in my own town (!) so my relatives all do think she’s me (and I’m so ashamed when I have to admit I’m not her). Also, lots and lots of English and gender studies professors at small colleges across the country. Go figure. Perhaps naming is not arbitrary.

  9. cynthia says:

    Well stepahnie, what a privlede to have many and Briyan says I am unique but I am sure one day I will run in to any other Cynthia Jacobs out there.

  10. ks says:

    Bryan, thanks for completing my thought. Imagine having eighteen-year-olds working cash registers in Home Depot doing the Beavis and Butthead “heh heh heh” laugh while asking, “Is your name really Shrek?…heh heh heh.”

    Now, in addition to feeling like a complete turnip because I have no idea how to properly link other sites, I am very curious about the way Tim W. pronounces his surname. Is it “Wager” as in what one bets in poker, or “Wagger” as in what a happy dog might be nicknamed? Or, is it something else entirely? “Way-gur” with the “gur” sounding like “girl” or re-“GUR”-gitate? Before Shrek, my name was most often enunciated as “shriek.” Oh, to go back to those days! (Wrong, but without comment.)

  11. bryan says:

    I’ll let Tim answer for his own pronunciation (it’s not one of your first two!). As for the link, I think the only problem was a /jpg instead of a .jpg when you typed in the URL you were linking to. Did you type it by hand or cut and paste? It may be easiest just to cut and paste.

    Is doppelganger the right word here, or does that apply only to one’s looks? (Find Your Doppelganger is a game we like to play at large outdoor indie rock concerts.) Are we talking about something different here? Nominal Doppelgangers?

  12. ssw says:

    I don’t know about an official ssw doppelganger, but I do know that there is a smith-waterman math theory worth mentioning.

  13. Is there a way to find the number of hits a particular page has without putting an actual hit count at the bottom of the page?

  14. eric jones says:

    Nice post, Bryan.

    I’m not sure about visual vs. nominal doppelgangers, but if my recollections from many years ago of playing D&D aren’t leading me astray, aren’t dopplegangers evil and intentionally out to bring mischeif upon their other? Easy enough questions to answer, no doubt . . . but I’m glad your namesake doesn’t have it out for you.

    Several years ago, while living in my father’s home in Salt Lake City, I answered the phone at 3:00 a.m. A newspaper reporter from England was calling, asking if I knew Richard Jones. Yes, he’s my father. Would that be the same Richard Jones who is attempting to be the first to row across the Atlantic? No it isn’t I said, a bit miffed in my half-sleep state. Just as the reporter hung up, I tried to blurt out, But THAT Richard Jones happens to be a friend of mine who lives 300 miles south of here and I know how you can contact him!

    When I had to sign up for an Army email account, I was automatically assigned the name eric.jones13. Apparently, the Army could have it’s own Eric Jones platoon, and yet, in all my years, I’ve never met another. I’ve wondered how it would/will feel when that seemingly inevitable time comes.

    Anyway, thanks again Bryan and SSW for more lovely times!

  15. Mark says:

    Eric Jones seems like it would be similar to Mark Smith. When you google it you get about 11 million results. Even throwing in my middle name did little to narrow the field.

    I’ve never run across another one of me, though the lead singer of the Fall is Mark E. Smith (he has way worse teeth than me), and I once knew a guy who was my doppelganger in looks. Peter Green, where are you?

  16. Tim Wager says:

    WAY-grrr.

    That’s my pronunciation. I’ve heard of WAY-jurrs, but never met any. The other Tim Wager is a WAY-grr, just like me.

  17. As in “No way! Grrrr…”

  18. wwf divas photos…

    Man i love reading your blog, interesting posts !…