The hardest part of doing something new every day for a year is coming up with ideas. Or I should say cheap ideas. Or perhaps I should say cheap, quick ideas.
But, once in a while, something cheap and quick happens all on its own and, when it does, it's a blessing. Like having my identity stolen.
I'd just finished filming a segment for an upcoming profile on Oregon Art Beat, when I got a panicked message from Powell's publicist Michal Drannen asking: A) if I was in Toronto, and B) was I okay?
I called back to learn that Danielle Marshall, in an obvious punishment for her "holy pointy hats" comment about His Holiness, the Pope, had just spent twenty-eight minutes talking to a Marc Acito impersonator.
That's right. An impersonator.I feel like Elvis. It's only a matter of time before guys in tights and shiny shirts perform at birthday parties.
"I'm in a big mess," faux Marco said. "I got mugged in Toronto and I've been stabbed."
Poor Danielle freaked, which I must admit makes me feel all snuggly. It's nice to know people care about you. Once, when I was in Europe, my partner Floyd called a friend to tell her that our cat had died, causing her to burst into tears.
"No, no, no!" she wailed, prompting Floyd to weep as well. "How did it happen? Was he in Europe?"
"No," Floyd said. "BART, our cat. Not Marc."
I tell that story because you rarely get the opportunity to know just how much you mean to people, like Tom Sawyer attending his own funeral.
"What's weird is that he really sounded like you," Danielle said, "although his voice was slurry.But I figured you were on morphine or something." She was so worried she scrawled this note and waved it in front of Michal.
I'm going to put it in my scrapbook.
Like any good liar, this parallel version of me abetted the ruse with realistic details, asking Danielle whether she enjoyed the cookies I brought, then having her locate the number for Bank of America so he could cancel the credit card that was stolen. Finally he told her he needed to change his flight and it would cost $150 and Powell's needed to pay for it.
That's when she got suspicious. "I mean, why wouldn't you call your partner?" she said to me. "Or one of your many, many friends?"Still, she was worried that I might be delirious and trapped in a foreign country, so she stayed on, trying to suss out the truth.
Now Danielle got all Miss Marpley on the phone. "Apparently there's some confusion," she said. "Your partner says you're here in Oregon."
That's when the scammer made his fatal mistake. "How can there be confusement?" he replied.
Confusement.Case closed on account of illiteracy.
That said, I must say I love the word, which sounds like something George W. Bush would say.
Like any good mystery, the Case of the Canadian Confusement has some interesting twists. For instance, I'm not the first guest blogger at Powells.com to have been scammed this way. Take a look at Donald Ray Pollock's version and you'll see some of the same techniques.
Still, who could have guessed that the guest blogger would be gathering material for another novel?
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Marc Acito's debut novel, How I Paid for College, won the Ken Kesey Award for the Novel and was also selected as an Editors' Choice by the New York Times. Acito is a popular contributor to the New York Times and National Public Radio's "All Things Considered." He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Books mentioned in this post
Marc Acito is the author of Attack of the Theater People