Thank goodness my Mom gave me the middle name Ashleigh. I rejected my first name (which I won’t mention) as early as I understood that that’s what people were going to be calling me for all of my time on Earth. I later found out that my first name was one of my Dad’s high school sweethearts, so I never feel guilty for whatever suffering I caused in renouncing it. For a while I made everyone call me “Kimberly” which my Mother explained was just confusing and selfish. She suggested I go by my middle name, Ashleigh. “Ashleigh” I told her “that’s pretty” I quickly stopped responding to Kimberly and strictly only responded to “Ashleigh” or “Ash” I kept the initial from my discarded first name and combined that with my Dad’s last name and “C. Ashleigh Caldwell” became my name.
Four years ago I answered an add on Craiglist seeking a ride share to an art festival north of Reno, NV. He was leaving the next day and for the first time in my life I was actually packed early and ready to go. Without giving it too much thought, I agreed, showed up at his apartment, and then spent over 24 hours sweating off the summer heat in the passenger seat of his borrowed 1970’s Dodge RV which he referred to as “The Cosmic Bee.” Spending that much time with a stranger sometimes results in “what was I thinking” but it was obvious, at least to me, that this is a man who seemed to understand me or at the very least seemed charmed by my endless stories and attempts to keep him entertained on our long journey.
When we arrived at the festival, he began referring to me as “Hollywood.” He had, after all, just heard my whole life story and all of my experiences living in Hollywood for over 10 years. Maybe he knew better than Mom and Dad just what I should respond to. It felt fitting to me…I mean, I live in Hollywood. I manage an artist community in the center of Hollywood. I work in Hollywood. I LOVE Hollywood.
He introduced me to new arrivals as such and he insisted that I camp with him and his friends. We spent a subsequent 12 days together and another 24 hour drive home. Ashleigh slowly faded away with the desert sun and was replaced by “Hollywood”
At an art festival where people go by names like “Ramona Mayhem” “Admiral Pain Joy” and “Captain Nice Guy” the name “Hollywood” was never questioned and so I met and befriended 50 or so friends who knew me only as such.
Back here in Hollywood away from the dizzying heat of the Nevada desert my new name was rejected by a few, but at the end of the day enough people felt that it’s tongue and cheekiness fit me. So now I respond to many names: “C” “Ashleigh” “Ash” “C. Ashleigh” “Hollywood” and now a shortened version of my nickname, “Holly”
Picture of me at said art festival running my “Free Store”