Friday, February 09, 2007

Post from the Past

From, the website of Timothy McSweeney's Journal:

From: Peter M. Wallace, a.k.a. Walt Candela
Re: Blown cover
November 18, 1999

Dear friends at McSweeneys,

I apologize profusely for confusing you and your many faithful readers. The other day you ran my letter regarding your mention in US NEWS along with various comments about David Gergen, their editor at large. (How tall is he anyway?)

My email was marked "From: Walt Candela", whereas I signed it with my true name, Peter M. Wallace. This may have perplexed some folks, which was not my intent.

Allow me to explain.

Earlier this year, in email conversations with Michael Chabon (the novelist, author of MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH, WONDER BOYS, soon to be a major motion picture, and a couple of damn fine short story collections, as well as a new novel coming next year that is going to be incredibly good), he revealed his predilection for anagrammatic versions of his name. In fact, he uses a couple of names, created from letters M I C H A E L C H A B O and N, for various purposes--genre writing, Kaleidoscope schemes, and so forth. What else he does with these names, I honestly don't know.

What an interesting concept! I thought So I found an anagram site on the world wide web and typed in my own name, PETER MARSDEN WALLACE. Out of hundreds of word strings I spied a name: WALTER SEMPER CANDELA. Hmmm... Walt Candela. That has a real-life ring to it, I mused. So now what do I do with it?

I have been a member of an ongoing email list called The Off-Topic List. This list started when a bunch of us on another list, one dedicated to the life and work of the brilliant comic book artist and writer Jack Kirby, got into various discussions about religion. These were clearly "off-topic," which made us all feel guilty (several of us were lapsed Catholics). So one of our number started a separate mail list, called "Off-Topic," on which everything is, um, On Topic, and invited all who so wished to join in the fun. Naturally, we discuss everything amongst ourselves (nearly four dozen of us at last count), including philosophy, religion, comic books, music, politics, funny stories, bowel movements, psychotic episodes, oh and I almost forgot, sex. Not in that order.

Well, I thought it would be great fun to inflict my new secret identity, Walter S. Candela, on this fun-loving group. So, ol' Walt opened a Hotmail account and joined the list, and I made him up as I went along. Turns out he was a retired porn star with a prodigious member who had pulled himself out of the industry. Perhaps I should rephrase that but I won't. Walt got in numerous discussions about what it's like to star in porn films (of course I made it all up), what it's like to be independently wealthy as a result (he didn't blow it all on blow), his philosophy of life, and so forth.

Walt was roundly welcomed to the group discussion. As Peter Wallace, I often responded to Walt's emails and would ask him new questions. At least one member, however, smelled a rat from the get go, and never gave poor Walt a chance. He was merciless with his doubt. Walt felt badly that this member didn't believe in his existence.

After a couple of weeks of interaction (and this list is extremely active), I, Peter Wallace I mean, had to leave for a brief vacation. But what would Walt do? Clearly, he had to be absent as well, so I manufactured some lame excuse for Walt of having to work an extra job. But when I came back from my relaxing vacation, I realized I simply couldn't keep up the ruse. I try to be an authentic person, and I didn't like fooling my internet friends. So I came clean with them. Several of them expressed shock and dismay. The doubter had been right all along. Various issues regarding one's internet identity and trust were discussed at some length. And then we moved on to other issues regarding philosophy, religion, life, and sex.

So, while Walt left that mail list group, I still adopt the Walt Candela identity at times to post to various usenet groups in order to protect myself. But now, having forgotten to reset my "identity" in my browser, I have blown my cover for the whole world to see.

This whole experience has taught me several important life lessons, which I have subsequently forgotten.

Peter M. Wallace


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