Name Droppers

Every year hundreds of Miami's titularly challenged discover that a new name can mean a new you

Four miles from the Flagler Street courthouse, Coco Ivonne Lindao opens the door of her midtown Miami Beach apartment and extends a hand. Discussing her own name change, she echoes Khalid: "A name is a very powerful thing. It's been there since you were born. Sometimes it's the only thing that's been with you since you were born." She allows she didn't mind the expense of the filing fee so much as the fact that name-change records are public documents. She suggests the court should think up some way to make the process a bit more private.

Lindao, a 23-year-old belly dancer and model, has long chestnut hair, cocoa-colored skin, and full lips. She has a voice like water on stones, and listening to it brings on the odd sensation of falling into her eyes, which are large caramel-color pools set slightly off center. A silver bellybutton ring glints from between her black halter top and her long flowing skirt. In short, Lindao is a woman of such distracting beauty that every quotidian ugliness around her -- the Hawaii Five-0 rerun on TV, the dance and karate trophies on a nearby shelf -- seems a sudden insult.

"It's funny," I remark, after sitting on the couch with Coco Ivonne Lindao, formerly Ivan Humberto Lindao, for about twenty minutes. "When I knocked on your door, I was almost expecting a man."

She smiles and pulls a long lock of hair behind one ear. "I thought you realized," she says. "I am a boy."

Now my mind's eye conjures the image of another cocoa-color beauty, Koko Kight. She's standing in her father's marijuana field on the hot July afternoon when the authorities show up to burn the crop. And ranging westward I see my old pal Billy Icenoggle, onetime saddle-bronc champ, playing bumper pool in the Blue Moon Saloon outside Ennis, Montana. There's Doggy Swarnes and Wuzzy Suggs, both residents of Willacoochee, Georgia, and the redoubtable Ruby Tart, a plump gas station vendeuse who sits forever on a folding chair in my memory, fanning herself like a geisha and, periodically and with great stoicism, crushing flies between her mammoth thighs. I see Mr. Pinky Person III standing in the hot parking lot of Metro Ford on NW Seventh Avenue in Miami, trying to sell me a truck, and Fred Garlick, a boyhood chum, and Conrad Lamm, the gentlest of all bartenders, quoting something in Latin behind the scarred counter at Tobacco Road. And the question is, Why don't more people change their names?

"No way," avers Scarlett Blizard. "I love my name. I didn't at first, but then I saw Gone with the Wind." Blizard, who puts the accent on the last syllable, explains that her family moved down from Canada before the Civil War and settled in Georgia. An uncle has given up trying to get people to pronounce the name properly, and now puts the accent on syllable one. "Sounds like I should be a trashy novelist, right?" asks Blizard, who works as a flight attendant. "At work they call me the Red Storm."

"It was very difficult for Jack as a child," confesses Dr. Ruth Frankenstein, a licensed clinical social worker here in Miami. She herself didn't grow up with the name but married Jack Frankenstein before she got her Ph.D. "I'm immune to it, I guess. We get a lot of crank calls." From kids? "Not necessarily. I'm hanging up now." Click.

When asked if it's ever a problem having two of the same name, Alfonso Alfonso replies: "Problem? Well, no. Why should it be a problem?" Why did his father name him that? "I don't have the faintest idea. I was very very little when he did it, way too little to remember."

"Yes," admits Jesus Christ, who lives on NW 68th Street. "That's really my name. I'm tryin' to get some sleep right now, okay? It's Sunday, man. Call me another time."

Jessie James says he never met his father and isn't sure the elder James knew what he was doing when he named his son. His own sons are named Gable and Gary. "I know the whole story on the James Boys," James volunteers. "They were in the [Civil War], and the government took their land. When they got home they were all bent out of shape and took to robbin' and stuff. Myself, I never robbed a bank, never even considered it."

"I am from Sweden," says Torgny Billskoog. "I am 50 years old. I will not tell you what I do. Skoog is pronounced 'SKOG.' It means 'forest.' Bill is just Bill. Yeah, a lot of people comment on this name. They can't pronounce it and they can't spell it. I am considering changing it. It is annoying."

"Every time I make an appointment with a new doctor, it raises some eyebrows," reports Bernice Quack. "But let me tell you, it was a lot harder for my husband, Donald. I eventually got used to the name. The family is very proud of it, though I don't think they know exactly where it came from."

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