I didn’t used to be Vago Damitio – and truth to tell – I’m probably not any more. It’s strange, but that’s the way it goes.
Vago was an invention I created. True story, back in about 2003 I’d written a book called Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagobond. The book was interesting because there wasn’t really anything else like it and I lucked out and made a cover for it that resonated with a lot of people.
The book never did very well. Agents and publishers turned me down over and over. They always gave the same reason roughly “It’s interesting and well written, but there’s no market for it. You’ve written a guide book for homeless people and they don’t buy books.” The other part of the book was a collection of stories heavily focused on being generally fucked up on drugs or booze. My heroes of the time Hunter S. Thompson, Jack Kerouac, and Charles Bukowski shine through pretty clearly. Too clearly.
I used to play music with some friends and I wanted to sing. I have a good voice and at the time, I was deeply enamored with Jim Morrison and they gave a line that the polite publishers probably could have “You sound like Jim Morrison, but you sound too much like Jim Morrison.” The publishers could have said “We see your influences too clearly”
I self published and the book sold hundreds of copies – which wasn’t bad for 2003. I paid my bar bill by selling copies to drunk patrons at my favorite Bellingham, Washing ton bar, Le Chat Noir or as we called it The Shitty Kitty. The bartender there, who was actually named Random started calling me “The Vagabond” and then once or twice he said “Hey Vago” – I liked it and it stuck with me. Nobody else used it. I wanted to use it but I remembered seeing the Seinfeld where George Costanza tries to give himself a nickname – I’ve always been particularly sensitive to comparisons to George Costanza – I used to wear glasses, I’m 5 and a half feet tall, and I tend towards baby faced. Yeah, avoid Costanza comparisons like the plague because I was a serious dumbshit drunk with a short man complex trying to prove he was cool to the world – which I should have understood from George Costanza – is totally pointless.
To be honest, I never minded my given name very much – Christopher, shortened to Chris by most people, but it bothered me that it was a name shared by so many. It was a name that was easily forgotten. People used to forget my name frequently. I was always offended by that.
Fast forward to 2008. Nobody had called me Vago since Random. I was living in Hawaii and then as almost always – everyone called me Chris. I had a blog called ChrisDamitio.com – it was doing surprisingly well – not with money, mind you (never my strong point) but with readers, engagement, and traffic. I’d been through a really painful breakup over the previous year and I was on the verge of graduating from University. A whole slew of inferiority complexes had led me to pursue a University degree and to want to travel all over the world and be a backpacker. I was set on proving that I was as good or good enough or equal to or something – in any event I wanted to prove something and the girl I’d been involved with had said something about how when our relationship ended she thought I would just forget about her and reinvent myself – I couldn’t do the one so I decided to do the other and to leave everyone who had ever known me behind.
When I left Hawaii – I would tell everyone my name was Vago the world traveling anthropologist from Hawaii and then I would become Vago the world traveling anthropologist from Hawaii. And that’s what I did. It started on the plane from Hawaii, went across the USA by train, stayed on couches and in hostels, and then crossed the Atlantic to Spain. By the time I went to Morocco, I was comfortable introducing myself as Vago. I started a blog called VAGObond.com and I sold ChrisDamitio.com for $1200 and registered VagoDamitio.com.
To everyone I met, I was Vago. I asked friends and family to call me Vago. Some did, some refused, and some were resentful – I’ve never understood that – why should anyone care? Everyone new I met, knew me as Vago. Vago the world traveling anthropologist from Hawaii, Vago the travel blogger, Vago the traveller, Vago of the mad drunk adventures.
Of course, paperwork never cooperates. I’m still Christopher David Damitio to my mom, on my passport, and to the government. My wife calls me Vago. Friends from Hawaii and before call me Chris except for those extraordinary souls who made the effort to change their perception, and those I’ve met since leaving Hawaii (including my wife) call me Vago.
And there’s the rub – I’m not sure how to reconcile my two identities. I’m not sure I have to, actually, but I feel like Vago is quietly slipping into his grave. Vago was a construct of a guy who had something to prove, a guy who was desperately trying to get over a painful relationship, a guy who felt like he wanted to be someone else. That’s just not me anymore.
I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I’m a husband, a dad, a guy who has written several books and traveled to a lot of places. I’ve failed at making a bunch of money or having a big impact on the world and —here it is — I don’t care. I don’t care what the internet thinks of me. I don’t care what the world thinks of me. I care about the people I love and I imagine that means they think good things about me.
Here’s something funny – people never forget the name Vago but they sometimes mispronounce it Vargo – but you know what – I could care less if anyone forgets my name now. So, while Vago slips quietly into the night – and I try to figure out who the heck I am and what lights me up these days – feel free to call me whatever you like. For those who wonder, Christopher is what I prefer but you can call me Chris, Vago, Vargo, Damitio, Ugen, The, or whatever you want. I don’t care.
By the way, as you’ll notice when you read his books or blog – Vago is a bit of an asshole. That’s what I was trying for. I’m not sure why I wanted that – but now I don’t care to be that person. So, I’m not. Now, I’m just me. No pretense, no act, no intent to offend.
So now you know.
On a happy note, I contacted the guy who bought ChrisDamitio.com in 2013 and bought it back for $350 – all the traffic and community was gone, but maybe they’ll come back – we’ll see.