Yes hello hi. This is going to get weird pretty fast. So, let’s just jump in.
After somewhere in the neighborhood of six or seven years, I am retiring my pseudonym. (Yes, I know, you’re shocked that Danger Guerrero isn’t my real name. Sorry about that.) Apologies go out to: 1) the real Danger Guerrero, a Cuban baseball player whose name I basically stole after seeing it on an old Name of the Year ballot and whose Google results I have ruined forever, and; 2) anyone who assumed I am of Hispanic descent. I am not. I assure you, if it helps at all, that my decision was made with no intention to mislead. I was just in a rush to find a pseudonym and saw the first name “Danger” and was like, “Nice.” If I had thought about it for maybe five more seconds (and considered both the potential implications and the fact that I might still be tied to it, professionally, over half a decade later), I would have chosen something else. Probably something entirely made up. Probably, like, Bosco Alcatraz. Or Special Agent Buzz Jacuzzi. Something like that.
Point being: My name is Brian Grubb. I am 33 years old. I am in a wheelchair.
I suppose this is where I should elaborate a bit. The short version of the story is that I fell out of the loft bed in my college apartment something like 10 years ago after a very hard night of partying and I broke the C-4 vertebrae in my neck, leaving me paralyzed-ish from the shoulders down and reliant on an electric wheelchair to scoot around. I say “paralyzed-ish” because I did end up getting a fair amount of movement back in my right arm. Not enough to, say, heave projectiles from the upper deck at professional athletes who have slighted my beloved local Philadelphia sports franchises, but enough that I can use a TV remote, play with my phone every second of the day like a trash human, and peck out words like these on a standard laptop keyboard.
The long version of the story, on the other hand, involves hospitals and physical therapy and going back to school and getting my law degree and kind of falling into writing as a career. I will probably elaborate on it all at greater length eventually, either in some sort of public forum or to you personally in exchange for one beer. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just up and do my job — write about pop culture and such — without making everything about me. Maybe I’ll demand two beers for my story instead of one. It’s a better story after a few drinks anyway.
Now, let’s clear something up, quickly. I did not write under a pseudonym for as long as I did because I’m embarrassed or ashamed about being disabled. I like to think I am pretty well adjusted about the whole thing. The pseudonym business started in law school because I was screwing around for some friends on a now-defunct blog and I didn’t particularly want potential future employers to google my name and see me cussing at length about… whatever I was cussing about. I cussed a lot.
I stuck with the pseudonym beyond that for a couple reasons. One had to do with making sure a few government programs were in place before I pursued this as a full-time thing, so I’d avoid violating any of the very annoying and strict financial requirements for the programs I was originally on. It involved a lot of paperwork. (The paperwork stuff is very boring. Not worth discussing. Just trust me on this.) The other, bigger reason was feedback.
One of the more annoying things about having a disability is that it becomes hard to get real, honest feedback on things. What I often get is a kind of sing-songy “Oh, good for you!” that I’ve received for everything from getting my law degree after my injury to paying for a coffee by myself at Starbucks. While people in both situations meant well (and I very much appreciated both the sentiment and the fact that finding the right words in the moment to say to the dude in the wheelchair can be hard), the result of years of this can be an erosion of your ability to process feedback. Like, was the thing I just did actually good, or was it good… considering? Or was it crap and you’re too nice to be mean to the disabled guy?
Writing online under a fake name provided me with a place where the work I did was judged on its own merit. If I got positive feedback, I could feel confident it was because the work was good, not because people pitied me or felt a need to overcompensate. (I hate this last thing. Do not do it. I will puke.) And if I got negative feedback, well, that was okay, too. (In moderation. Please do not yell at me.) It’s like how they say famous people need to keep one person in their lives who isn’t afraid to say no to them. It keeps your equilibrium from getting out of whack. Enough people in a row say yes to you and next thing you know you’re in custody for driving your Lamborghini through the front of a California Pizza Kitchen. We’ve all seen it a million times.
Okay, I think “crashing an exotic sports car into the front of an upscale pizza chain” feels like a good place to stop. We definitely hit the biggies: my name, the wheelchair thing, the don’t feel bad for me thing, etc. I think that’s enough for now. Gotta leave something in the tank for those in-person chats, or for that book I’ll probably never write, or for my appearance on Fresh Air promoting that book I’ll probably never write. (“That’s an excellent question, Terry…” he says out loud to no one at 3 a.m., rehearsing answers to insightful hypothetical questions from Terry Gross… again.) So, I suppose I’ll just close by thanking you, preemptively, for not freaking out about this.
Wait, you’re not going to freak out about this, are you? Oh man, please do not freak out about this. This is just something that happened on the Internet. The longest you should freak out about anything that happens exclusively on the Internet is, like, 24 hours. Max. The only real difference for you going forward is that I’ll be writing as Brian Grubb now instead of Danger Guerrero, and I get to say things on Twitter like, “Jesus, I could have made that play” when a professional athlete makes a mistake and have people consider it witty sarcasm instead of the rantings of some delusional idiot. (Note: I am also a delusional idiot.) It will be fine. I promise.
This was a good chat.