I remember, when I
was kid, taunting other kids with those two words, drawn out in a short
mock-tune. I can still hear it in my head. I thought maybe it was part
of something longer, like a nursery rhyme or children’s song, but I
haven’t been able to find it. Maybe there was just some tuneful
sarcastic gibberish at the end: “Na na na na na!”
The picture doesn’t go with that so well, but reflects some personal
history that goes with it. It’s a long story, best left for another
piece of writing, but it’s long overdue. Consider this a preview. It’s
been perambulating in my head for some time now. Time to shoo it out of
there, though it may be over the long haul.
Not to leave anyone hanging in suspense, though, Copycat was the name of
the printing business which my dad, Vern, started from scratch, back in
the 50s. It was literally our family’s source of sustenance until I was
out of high school. It became quite a large business, with many
locations in at least 3 different cities. The picture below does not
come from its logo or ads.
Copycat is mostly gone now except, of course, for some copycat
businesses mostly unassociated with dad’s original. A few of his
original Copycat print shops in Omaha still exist under that name, but
the ownership changed a long time ago.
“Copycat” also fits so many more interconnected things. It cuts right
to the center of the big bang, black hole, fantasyland outer limits of
my existence. Inner, as well. I owe a lot to dad, who died back in 1989.
I don’t know if this will turn into any kind of a final tribute to him,
which is decades overdue, but Vern will certain figure heavily in it.
One more spoiler. The single most important piece of advice I ever got
came from Vern, way back in the early 60s. It was a single sentence, and
I’m sure he didn’t fully comprehended how apt it was, but there was a
penetrating, understanding look from him as he warned, with some
urgency, “Don’t pretend to be something you’re not!” I’ not even sure
what occasioned this, but there are times when I feel as though I’ve
spent the rest of my life ignoring that advise. For instance, was I
really a teacher for over 30 years? At the very least, it’s been an act
that would be hard to copy.
Now you can easily find this same advice on the internet, even in the
exact words. It was also said on Starsky & Hutch in 2004, but all those
were way after Dad’s days. I haven’t been able to locate an original
source for it, and have no way of knowing if Vern came up with it on his
own or was repeating something he’d heard. At the time, however, it
seemed shockingly tailor made for the occasion, whatever that was.
Nothing was ever said of that again; the creator of Copycat never again
told me not to be a Copycat. For a precious few things, I guess once is