Me and Paul

I’m not Paul.

And my apolo­gies to Paul if any­one thinks he’s me.

It’s a per­sis­tent case of mis­tak­en identity.

One day recent­ly, I was sit­ting near the entrance of Gaunce’s Deli & Café hav­ing a bowl of chili and a grilled cheese sand­wich when a woman who was leav­ing with her friends or fam­i­ly gave me a smile of recognition.

Who was she?

I’m only 63, but I’m becom­ing more for­get­ful when it comes to remem­ber­ing peo­ple I know I should know, and I couldn’t think who this woman might be.

I stalled by sip­ping my Ale‑8, return­ing her smile and flut­ter­ing my fin­gers around the straw as I racked my brain for some hint of rec­ol­lec­tion. Then right as she was walk­ing out, she said, “Hi, Paul!”

So that was it. She thought I was him.

It hap­pens quite often. Someone will walk past me at the cour­t­house or on the street and think I’m Paul.

I real­ly don’t know Paul, but I’ve met him a few times.

One of those times was a cou­ple of years ago at a lun­cheon at Woody’s. As I watched him from my table, I not only noticed the phys­i­cal resem­blance, but his man­ner­isms. He reared back in his chair with his fin­gers hooked over his bel­ly like I do and threw his head back and laughed like I do.

It was like watch­ing myself in a video.

Later, I walked over, intro­duced myself and told him it final­ly made sense.

Paul must be a good guy, because when peo­ple mis­take me for him, they are always amiable.

Sometimes they’re exuberant.

For exam­ple, last year, on Election Day, I was work­ing the polls, and a beau­ti­ful lit­tle girl saw me and lit up.

“Mommy! It’s Mr. Paul!”

No, hon­ey, it isn’t, her moth­er had to tell her.

The first time it hap­pened was more than a decade ago when I was man­ag­ing edi­tor of The Winchester Sun.

I often ate lunch at JK’s, which was on Main Street near the cour­t­house. One day I was wait­ing to order when a woman I had nev­er seen before greet­ed me with a big hug and gushed about my wife and kids.

I’ve nev­er been mar­ried and have no children.

I must have looked startled.

She looked slight­ly embarrassed.

“You’re not Paul, are you?” she asked.

“No, ma’am, I’m not.”

I almost wished I were, though.

After that, it hap­pened again and again. I found it fun­ny, and thought oth­ers might, too, so I wrote a col­umn about it for the newspaper.

Then one after­noon or evening that week, I was walk­ing across the park­ing lot at Kroger, and a young woman made eye con­tact, smiled and walked on. Then she turned and asked, “Are you Paul?”

“No, but you’re not the first per­son who’s asked me that,” I said.

Or words to that effect.

“I know,” she grinned. “I read your col­umn. I’m his daughter.”

When I moved to Bardstown in 2012 to work for The Kentucky Standard, I thought my days of being mis­tak­en for Paul were in the past.

But then I start­ed run­ning into peo­ple who thought I was Jim.

Jim Brooks was a for­mer reporter and pho­tog­ra­ph­er for the Standard who had start­ed his own online news­pa­per, the Gazette.

One day soon after I arrived in Bardstown, I was snap­ping pic­tures of kids at a drug­store soda foun­tain around the cor­ner from our office when some­one asked, “Weren’t you just here a lit­tle while ago tak­ing pictures?”

“I wasn’t,” I said.

“You’re the guy from the news­pa­per, right?”


“You were just here.”

Over the years, peo­ple mis­took me for Jim and Jim for me. We laughed about it, and I told him the sto­ry about Paul and me.

But Facebook had the last laugh.

My last year at the Standard, The Cox’s Station Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution invit­ed Jim and me to an annu­al din­ner and pre­sent­ed both of us their 2019 Media Award for our atten­tion to Nelson County’s rich his­to­ry in our news coverage.

Jim thought it would be a good idea for us to be pho­tographed togeth­er with the women pre­sent­ing the plaques — just to prove to our read­ers that we were two dif­fer­ent people.

The pic­ture was print­ed in the paper and on the web­sites of the Standard and the Gazette. But when I shared it on Facebook, the social media platform’s face recog­ni­tion fea­ture gave it a sur­prise twist: It labeled me “Paul!”

Randy tips his hat to coun­try singer Willie Nelson for the title of this commentary.

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