Pet Peeves: Citizen Fathom

By Mark Crantz

By Mark Crantz

I now feel like a kid on Christmas Eve.  Up until now, I was on the naughty list. Then ‘lo and behold,’ my wife presented me with two tickets to the Sunday performance of “Citizen Twain,” presented by the Laguna Playhouse. Now I have no choice this year, “Every kiss begins with Kay.” My wife is sneaky like that.

The actor, Val Kilmer, is doing a solo performance as Mark Twain. Val Kilmer loves Mark Twain and his performance is said to reflect these feelings extraordinaire.  I can’t wait until Sunday. Mark Twain is a hero of mine, as well. I’ve always wanted to be Mark Twain, but haven’t had the guts to wear white suits, parade around with bed head, grow a mustache that can hide three square meals, smoke cigars and swig whiskey in every happy hour of the world’s 40 time zones, oh and write, the great American novel.  But I’ve come very, very close.  I only have the great American novel to go.

It’s important to look the part. Or in my Twain love letter impersonation to have no part, but instead, a nest of hair that screams to wife, Olivia, “I’m too busy writing the great American novel, to comb my hair, bathe, or brush my teeth, but let’s snuggle right after I finish Huckleberry Finn. Should be seven years, give or take the inch. You’ll recognize me when I finish because I’ll be wearing the same white suit that I wore on our wedding day in Elmira, NY.  However, it will be likely more gray than white in that I will have no time to go to the cleaners.  Be not dismayed my love, because the gray wears better after Labor Day as you have so steadfastly pointed out to me before my Huckleberry Finn adventures.  Also, don’t be surprised when we meet that I’ll be sporting a caterpillar large mustache or maybe it’s more like the caterpillar will be sporting me.  Either way, both of us will be counting the pages to we see you again.  Take care of yourself, dear Olivia. I will take good care of myself, too.  In your absence, I will take no absence from drink and smoke in order to fill the emptiness until I see you again.  Love Mark Twain.”

Mark Twain is a ‘nom de guerre.’  That means pen name to everybody who isn’t French and rude. His real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens.  His mother’s father was Foghorn Leghorn. Immigration officials at Ellis Island couldn’t read his chicken scratch and changed the name to Langhorne. Fortunately, the Langhorne funny bone passed through unchanged to America and was passed down to Mark Twain, who many consider to be America’s greatest humorist.  Mark Twain is a riverboat expression that means to mark two fathoms or 12 feet to be sure the river is deep enough for safe passage.

Okay, I’ll leave the serious character analysis and portrayal to the expert, Val Kilmer.  But I think I need a pen name. It should be something that reflects my work.  Oops, I have writer’s block. I explained my predicament to my wife.  She said, “What? You need a pen name that reflects your work? Ummm.  Got it.  I christen you Kent Fathom,” she exclaimed, while muttering under her breath that nobody fathoms your work.  It’s the readers’ greatest pet peeve.


Mark is a transplant to Laguna from Chicago.  He occasionally writes the guest column “Pet Peeves.”  His recently deceased border collie, Pokey, is his muse and ghostwriter.

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  1. Albert Kaplan

    Mark Twain is the subject. When he was around 26-27-28 years of age he had two ambrotype portraits made. Those two plates, in one housing, can be seen at http://www.kaplancollection.com. He was with his brother whom President Lincoln appointed the head federal man in Nevada.

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