With utmost respect to Charles Dickens, I'm titling this column A Tale of Two Kirks, though its story is more akin to mistaken identity, ala Mark Twain's Prince and the Pauper.
It features Kirk Walters, The Blade's award-winning cartoonist whose Frogtown appears every Sunday in the funny pages and whose editorial cartoons run regularly in the paper.
And the other main character is me, Kirk Baird, The Blade's film critic and pop culture editor. I don't draw -- at least not anymore -- and other than a passing physical resemblance to Kirk Walters, who I will now refer to as Other Kirk, we share nothing in common other than a first name.
The plot of this column is the continual confusion readers have for me and Other Kirk. The case of mistaken bylines began understandably enough shortly after I joined The Blade four years ago with the occasional fan email meant for Other Kirk but mistakenly sent to my inbox.
It's an easy mix-up to make; his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, while I'm email@example.com. Also, given that Kirks aren't spreading over the country -- we're the 288th most common male first name in the United States, according to namestatistics.com -- it's easy for readers to assume there's probably only one Kirk at The Blade.
But the confusion reached near crisis level when I was assigned a story about Other Kirk to preview the birth of Frogtown. Other Kirk and I joked we should call it, Kirk on Kirk. And as we expected, having two separate Kirks linked so closely befuddled more than a few Blade subscribers.
I received several glowing emails from longtime readers and Other Kirk fans who were excited about Frogtown. His new project even stirred a cousin Other Kirk hadn't seen or spoken with in years to email him by sending the note to me by mistake. Hopefully, I helped foster a successful family reunion.
A few years later and I believed the confusion had almost gone away.
I was then asked to speak at a local church. When I met with the gentleman who extended the speaking invitation for a church breakfast -- I promised him I would not use his name in this column -- he matter-of-factly mentioned that there would be an easel available to me to use as part of my presentation. It quickly dawned on me that I was not the Kirk he was looking for.
As he talked, my heart sank knowing that I would have to drop the bomb on him: I'm the other Other Kirk.
The gentleman actually took the news with good humor and slight embarrassment, though he acknowledged that he enjoyed reading my columns and still thought I would make a good guest speaker.
I thought that was the end of it, until I returned to work. On my voicemail was a message from an artist in another state looking for career advice about cartooning. I left a message for him explaining that he had called the wrong Kirk and that he wanted Other Kirk.
As often as Wrong Kirk and Other Kirk are confused for each other, my favorite case of mistaken identity is, oddly enough, as myself.
An older gentleman at my church named Bob came to me after a service to say, "You know who you look like? You look just like that guy in The Blade."
I smiled and gently replied, "That's because I am that guy in The Blade."
Even Other Kirk isn't immune to the Confused Kirks Syndrome.
After posting an editorial cartoon on his Facebook page, he solicited comments.
Someone replied, "One of your best, Mr. Baird."
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.