Gabe Ballard

If you find mine a difficult narrative to follow, join the club.

Everyone’s a little weird, and the law can shun a fresh narrative. My weird looks like this: I dislike boxes and frameworks. It’s good to use them when necessary. But we should all purpose to love the future at least as much as we love the past.

I’m John, but also not.

I’m johnballard on LinkedIn because my full name is John Gabriel Ballard, and my Oregon “Gabe Ballard” nemesis beat me (and our Florida competitor) to LinkedIn. John Ballard was my grandfather, and I'm technically named after him. But I'm Gabe. So that's what you call me: that or Gabriel, (the Gabe, Gaber, GaberSaber, Habe, “J. Gabe,”) or El Gaberino (expressed in my web handle, “elgaberino”). Sure, the dentist calls me John, but the baristas call me “Dave” (because it’s loud in there, and “Gabe” is hard to say clearly in loud places).

If you're that classy old lady at Panera, you just go right on calling me “Gable.” Please and thank you.


Explaining contract damages to my classmates, 2012. Sometimes I look like this. Other times I have more hair and a beard. There’s no telling when I will look one way or the other.


The Origin of El Gaberino

In 2005, a friend convinced me to blog on Xanga, a platform now as dead as it was definitely alive and kicking then. At its peak, Xanga was a weird, unholy mixture of public dear-diary, half-journalism, and social clickseeking that amplified histrionics and bred drama like bread mold. Roundly unambitious coming off a few years earning my jaded side in politics, I dabbled in bad poetry and cryptic personal journaling until I won an amateur contest hosted by a prominent blogger. The prize was a coaching session in social media account management and growth. With that help, I garnered modest readership (for a Xangan), and managed to win popularity contests within the community. Xanga users even elected me their “president” in 2008. I think I might still be president, if it means anything to be prom king of a dead platform for the bored and attention-hungry.

The following is an entry I drafted to explain elgaberino etymology and history.

The term “elgaberino” is a one-word shortening of the pseudonym “El Gaberino,” portmanteau of “Gabe” and “El Duderino,” nickname of Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, the protagonist of 1998 film The Big Lebowski. “‘Bowski” became a cult classic, but in 2006 when Gabe coined the handle, the reference was lost on a lot of people. Still, The Big Lebowski’s portrayal of a California burnout, fluent in “dude” and bowling, with a background in youthful idealist sociopolitical activism, resonated with Gabe’s pedestrian, post-politics writer/office drone. Mid activism-hangover, that Gabe wanted everyone to calm down, become circumspect, jump to fewer conclusions, pursue kindness, enjoy good music, and hit the lanes from time to time. So the Dude and his gang, with their absurd small-stage problems, felt personal.

The screen name “elgaberino” gained minor notoriety mid-’00s when Gabe’s blog on society, morality, new music releases, and social writing patterns during 2008-2009 made him a minor xangalebrity (defined as a personality familiar to major xangalebrities whose articles were occasionally featured on the front page of The blog sported other Lebowski references, including its title, The Whole Brevity Thing. (In the movie, another character named Lebowski addresses the Dude by their shared surname. The Dude protests. Let me explain something to you,” he says. “Um, I am not ‘Mr. Lebowski.’ You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.”) The Whole Brevity Thing doubled as a nod to both the movie and Gabe’s love-hate relationship with concision.

Despite its frequent association with his person, Gabe did not consider “El Gaberino” a real nickname until 2016. Everyone knows you can’t pick your own nickname. But in 2016 a friend (having only known “Gabe,” without any knowledge of the online handle) independently and spontaneously called out “El Gaberino!” when handing Gabe a drink.

Years of investment on the now-defunct Xanga platform taught me the following.

  • We do more cool things when we set goals.

  • Repetition and perfectionism over time will turn almost anyone into a decent communicator.

  • Most people are not trying. If you try, you have the advantage.

  • Being a part of a dynamic community is fun and rewarding.

  • Networking is as valuable as it is natural if you like making friends.

I am “elgaberino” on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, Untappd, Tumblr, Rate Your Music, Sputnik Music, GitHub, Duolingo, Xanga, here, and here, among other places. THESE ARE NOT ME: elGaberino on Reddit; elgaberino on Repl.It.