This is not my brother Mantel Man.
Neither is this.
But this was, a few years ago.
And so was this.
But not this, shudder.
Do you see where I'm going with this? Although it's only occasionally visible, my brother Mantel Man looked an awful lot like Tom Cruise: the Military Years. Part of that is because Mantel Man was in the Navy, and part of that is because God has a sense of humor and has given me THREE things to tease Mantel Man about -- this being one of them. Ahem -- maybe when I know you better.
You should know that Mantel Man wasn't always Mantel Man -- oh, no. (I'll skip the childhood nicknames.) When he first got his Navy commission after college, and had achieved the Navy's starting officer rank, we called him Ensign Butthead. You'll be happy to know that he didn't stay Ensign Butthead for long, however. After a respectable interval he moved up to 2nd Lieutenant Butthead, and then to Lieutenant Butthead. I could be wrong about that last one, but frankly, I don't care.* Here's a picture from his commissioning.
Yeah, the fugly paparazzo stalking him was his big sister, queen of the Big Hair Don't. I've grown.
To continue. On a train hurtling deep into the Hong Kong province about 15 years ago, my weird family and my uncle were not only the only Caucasians on the train, we were the only Caucasians within memory of the locals. My dad struck up a conversation with the young Chinese girl sitting alone, across from us, reading a book as she traveled. This is my dad's idea of a conversation with a disinterested non-English-speaking teenager in a country in which we are interlopers:
"See this guy?" [here he indicates Mantel Man, who's in street clothes but who is rocking his Navy flier hair cut]
"Navy officer. You know American Nay-vee? Airplane. Jet." [Yes, you guessed it, Dad stuck his arms straight out and did his best kindergarten airplane imitation. I can't remember if he did the motor sound with his mouth -- sorry.]
All this wild waving of arms and gesticulating toward the stoic-yet-annoyed Officer Butthead didn't faze this girl one bit. Her gaze was like a laser as it shifted from Dad to Butthead, Dad to Butthead. An internal truth had been reached. She pointed at Officer Butthead and, without cracking so much as a smile, pronounced, "Tom Cruise." This was probably the only English this Chinese girl knew, and somehow it sounded like the heaviest Russian accent I had ever heard.
Dad, who'd heard this before, of course, said, "No! It's Peewee Herman!" to our great delight, to her utter lack of comprehension, and to Butthead's complete and total annoyance. He'd heard THAT before, too.
So now you know. My brother Mantel Man looks a little like
the craziest man in America since Charles Manson a couch jumper Tom Cruise, but maybe not quite so crazy Dig-Me Dig-Me.
The funny thing is, I prefer Peewee Herman.
Or, Mantle Man himself. Yeah, that's it.
Love you, man.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
*EDIT: Just received a message from Mantel Man. It seems I screwed up the whole Navy rank system: "You got my rank mixed up, though: after Ensign, I became a Lieutenant
Junior Grade - abbreviated, if you like, to Lieutenant J.G. or just LTJG
in Navy acronym parlance." Kinda thought I took care of that with the "I don't care" caveat, Mantel Man, but thanks for the specificity, which is number two on the list of Things I Tease Mantel Man About, wink wink.