Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, June 18, 2018

Requiem For A Drunken Sailor

Notorious Drunken Sailor And Strongman Dies; Acquaintances Relieved

Boston (Reuters) In life, he was larger than life, a one eyed barely comprehensible man of the sea with overly developed muscles, a corn cob pipe, and a bizarre taste for one of agriculture’s more noxious vegetables. For nearly ninety years, his presence made itself known in popular culture, while he himself, and those around him, never aged beyond a set point in time. He presented himself as ill-mannered and not terribly well educated, and he shared a tempestuous on and off relationship with a peculiar sort of woman. All while regularly brawling with anyone crossing his path.

Popeye The Sailor Man is dead.

Whatever his real name is, it was long since lost to history. The sailor steamrolled into the popular culture in 1929, finding himself portrayed in comic strips, animated shorts, and even a dubious film. A brawling, spinach eating, garble-speaking tough guy known to break the arms of others in arm wrestling contests, he was over the top, cranky, possessive of superhuman strength and given to losing his temper with acquaintances and perceived rivals. For all his ferocity, Popeye (no last name given) was prone to going out of his way to please his significant other, one Olive Oyl.

“They had what in current parlance would be called a meet-cute sort of moment,” early twentieth century pop culture historian Geoffrey Willington noted. “Popeye and Olive hated each other at first. And you know how that goes. First they can’t stand each other, then they’re having at each other in the fun way. Happens all the time. I mean, half of Hollywood’s romantic comedies work that way. But there were times Olive was known to have a fickle eye, sometimes drawn to a rival suitor, sometimes irritated by his poor manners. After all, Popeye was what he was. A sailor, and sailors aren’t known to be the most suited to high society.”

I yam what I yam!” Popeye once bellowed as the keynote speaker for a gathering of the Daughters Of The Revolution. In a 1973 speech that is still remembered by the social group for its incoherence and paranoid rantings, the sailor spent an hour raving about freemasons, the price of spinach, the planet Nibiru, and the inability of hamburger eating moochers to pay him back. He was never invited back, and the group cautioned other historical societies against taking him on as a celebrity guest speaker.

“They say not to speak ill of the dead,” longtime acquaintance and professional moocher J. Wellington Wimpy told reporters. “But honestly, Popeye was a drunk. A full blown alcoholic with a mean streak. He was even worse than that cobbler who always wished death on me. No, Popeye was the sort of person who would go beyond wishes and hopes. He would beat me up for not paying him back for that burger he bought me last week. And he’d do it while laughing at me. Which reminds me, I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a burger today.”

“Oh, he wasn’t all that bad,” Popeye’s paramour Olive Oyl told reporters at her home, dressed in black as befits a widow, softly weeping. “Of course he had a temper. But whenever he got angry, he never took it out on me, never took it out on Swee’Pea. No, he had Bluto or someone else to throttle. Oh, sure, sometimes he’d throttle the wrong person, like that time he gave President Roosevelt a black eye. But Popeye said that he thought that FDR was going to run him over with the wheelchair, so that made everything okay. Turns out the Secret Service didn’t agree. That’s beside the point. With us, he was gentle and sweet and kind. Even if he could be kind of hard to understand at times. I’m going to miss the big lug. Even if he never got around to putting a wedding ring on my finger.”

Swee’Pea refers to the perpetual infant who was often in the care of Popeye and Olive. It has never been made clear who the child is, let alone his real name. Whether he was biologically related to or adopted by either Popeye or Olive has always gone unaddressed. Until now. “There’s a big problem with being a cartoon character,” Swee’Pea told reporters from his nursery at the Oyl home. “I’m over eighty years old, and here I am, still a baby, still supposed to go around talking as if I’m a baby, still wearing diapers, still going by a stupid nickname. Well that’s not my name! My name is Richard Winslow Hollingsworth the Third! I’ve been on the lam hiding out from my family for eighty years. I didn’t want anything to do with the Hollingsworth tobacco fortune. Which, in retrospect, I now regret. I mean, I could be a millionaire right now making big bucks off people dying of lung cancer, and instead here I am toddling around in diapers.”

“He was a lout,” longtime rival and fishing captain Bluto told reporters. “A jerk. A thug. A bully. A deranged jackass. Good riddance to him.” The oversized, bearded mountain of a man was known to occasionally kidnap Olive Oyl to win her affections, only to be promptly beaten up by Popeye. “No, that was just the plotlines of the strips and the film shorts we did,” Bluto clarified. “I never kidnapped Olive. You think I’d be the sort of guy who’d commit a crime? That doesn’t change the fact that Popeye was what he was. A brute who’d beat you up just because he woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Now I’m a big guy, a strong guy, but he was stronger.”

Popeye’s vaunted strength was credited to his consumption of spinach- so much so that he was noted as the biggest single consumer of spinach on the planet. But there was a darker truth to his strength that has only now been revealed in the wake of his death. “Steroids,” Cape Cod police captain Wayne Davis confirmed to reporters. “His real strength came from steroids. We found stockpiles of them in his home in the wake of what happened. Well, it explains a lot.”

Popeye was at a local bar Saturday night in the midst of an arm wrestling contest with five men at once. Breaking all their arms by winning the contest, he stood upright, yelled in triumph and flexed his arms… and then it happened. His massive arm muscles, vastly over developed, seemed to burst, as witnesses reported. “We’re talking veins and arteries busting open,” a bartender confirmed. “It’s like those body builders who go way too far in developing their muscles, to the point where you wonder what’s holding those muscles together. Well, in this case, veins popped, the skin popped, his pipe went flying, and he collapsed in a heap, going back and forth between howling in pain and that weird laugh thing he did.”

Medics were called, Popeye was taken to hospital, where doctors and nurses tried to save his life to no avail. “It seems that decades of steroid abuse had taken their toll on his heart,” Davis noted. “And his heart just couldn’t take it anymore.”

And so it is that an icon of pop culture has left the world’s stage. Popeye is no more. Funeral arrangements have been made. Bars around Cape Cod are determining if his tab had been paid in full. Spinach producers are wondering how to make up the gap that will surely show itself in their market. J. Wellington Wimpy is relieved that he won’t have to pay Popeye back for unpaid burgers. Bluto has been seen buying up flowers to court Olive Oyle. Richard Winslow Hollingsworth, formerly known as Swee’Pea, is making inquiries with doctors to see if he can start aging at a normal rate. And the sort of a widow Olive Oyl has been heard weeping from her parlour windows about her beloved drunken sailor, claiming, “I’ll never be able to look at another can of spinach again without bawling my eyes out!”

Friday, June 15, 2018

A Day In The Life Of A Cat

6:42 AM. Waking up at home. Taking a big stretch and yawning to start the day. Slept exceedingly well. That should hold me for an hour or two until my next nap. After all, a cat can never stockpile too many naps.

6:45 AM. Sitting on the back of the couch, gazing out at my domain. Brooding to myself on the meaning of life. Watching the flying lunches peck at the grass. Calculating required ground velocity and approach angles if I happen to get outside. Well, that’s a hypothetical, because let’s face it, the staff is going to be off to work today and I don’t want to be stuck outside for hours on end waiting for her to get back home. 

6:58 AM. Sounds from upstairs. The shower is on, so I know my staff is awake. Unless of course she turned on the shower and then decided to get another five minutes worth of sleep. Which, first of all, is sneaky and underhanded. Second, it’s a waste of water, and third, it’s a surefire way to turn five minutes of extra sleep into a half hour.

7:04 AM. Focused on sounds from upstairs. Well, the shower’s off and footsteps are heard, so that settles that.

7:16 AM. Greeting the staff as she comes downstairs with a head bonk to the legs. Well, staff, good morning. A fine day, isn’t it? Now then, I must pursue this matter with the utmost seriousness, because this is a vital matter. Have you put any thought into my breakfast to start the day? Because since I’ve been awake, I have scarcely thought of anything else.

7:18 AM. …and just so you understand, staff, I do not want any field rations. Are you listening, staff? Because this is important. I have stressed this to you many times, and many times you have continued to ignore my explicit wishes and put down field rations. You know, if you got up earlier, you could come downstairs and put my plate in the fridge for a little while. I’ve also told you that many a time. There is a taste advantage to food placed on a plate that has been lightly chilled for a half hour or so. It just tastes better, don’t ask me to explain why, just accept that it is. Oh, and for the record, I wouldn’t mind if you were generous on the milk today…

7:19 AM. The staff puts down a bowl of milk and a plate of chicken for me. She also sets down a bowl of field rations. I look at the field rations, turn up my nose, and get to work on the first two aspects of my breakfast, which meet to my exacting standards.

7:21 AM. Finished with my breakfast. At least those elements that meet with my approval. I shall ignore the field rations and leave the staff to have her breakfast in peace.

7:29 AM. Distant barking. The sounds of that idiot hound from down the road on his morning ramble. Just as long as he doesn’t come here, because if he does, I swear by all that is feline, there will be hell to pay.

7:42 AM. Bidding farewell to the staff as she heads out the door for her car. Now then, staff, tell me, if you’re going to be stopping to do some shopping before you come home, can you remember to pick up some extra catnip? I’m just saying, we can never have too much catnip in the house.

7:44 AM. Watching the staff pull out of the driveway in her car. Well, my car technically speaking, since I own the staff, the house, and everything else, but she gets to drive it.

8:23 AM. The Weather Network is on. There’s a special advisory for our area- thunderstorms this evening. Well, that being the case, the staff had best get home early, because after all, we can’t be inconvenienced by something like a power outage that prevents her from making dinner. 

10:49 AM. Waking up from a nap. Feeling fully charged and refreshed and ready to face the day for the second time today.

11:21 AM. Sprinting through every room in the house at top speed for absolutely no reason whatsoever. It’s a cat thing. I wouldn’t expect you to understand.

12:00 PM. Having had finished all that sprinting and upturning scatter rugs, I’m feeling a bit hungry. I think I must have a look at the kitchen and see what’s what.

12:01 PM. My reconnaissance of the kitchen has determined that the only food out in the open happens to be those field rations. Well, given my state of hunger, I simply have no choice but to consume them, no matter what I might personally think of them.

1:32 PM. Woken up out of a sound sleep by more distant barking. Glancing at the clock. The mailman must be on his rounds over there at the moment, and the buffoon mutt is barking up a storm.

3:39 PM. Waking up from another nap. Taking a big stretch. Another examination of the clock. Blast, it’ll be the better part of two hours before my staff is back home.

4:10 PM. Sitting on the back of the couch, staring outside onto the lawn, where a rabbit is busy ignoring me and chewing on the grass. Just as long as you stay away from the staff’s flowerbeds. She gets ornery about wildlife feasting on her flowers.

5:25 PM. The staff returns home. I greet her with head bonks to the legs and meows of inquiry as to catnip purchases.

5:30 PM. Inspecting the contents of bags while the staff unpacks her groceries on the kitchen table. Staff, where’s the extra catnip?

6:33 PM. Dinner with the staff. Bacon pancakes hit the spot if you ask me, and of course you’re asking me.

7:56 PM. Distant rumbling off to the west. Storm’s coming. Staff? Did you secure that tacky pink flamingo you have in the back yard? And while we’re at it, we really need to have a discussion about your tastes, because that pink flamingo is not in good taste.

9:01 PM. Thunder and lightning outside. I am as stoic as ever. My staff is taking it all in stride, though I note she hasn’t bothered to have a flashlight close at hand just in case the power goes out. Well, staff, if it does, just don’t trip over me in the dark. 

10:29 PM. The storm has passed us by. Too dark to see outside, so I don’t know if the pink flamingo made it through the storm, but I wouldn’t complain if it got deposited over on the other side of the ridge. Particularly if it smashed the front windshield of the vet’s car.

11:37 PM. The staff is off to bed. Well then, staff, good night. Sleep well. May your dreams be pleasant ones. But just in case the storm comes back, keep the door open. I may be upstairs meowing minute to minute updates to you from the scene on the storm’s track.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Day In The Life Of A Dog

It is time once more for the dog and the cat to have their say. As always, the dog gets things started.

6:47 AM. Waking up at home. Nice and bright outside. The sun’s up earlier and earlier every day. Of course, in just a few days that’ll stop, and it’ll start getting up later and later. Why is the first day of summer also the start towards winter?

6:53 AM. Staring out the living room windows. Birds out on the lawn, pecking away at the grass. I wonder what they’re after. I wonder if they know they’re being watched. I wonder what would happen if I possessed the ability to open doors by myself. Well of course I’d be out there in a flash barking my head off. 

7:01 AM. Waiting on the human to come downstairs so she can get my breakfast started. Because as we all know, breakfast is an important part of any good dog’s day. And I am a good dog. A very good dog!

7:09 AM. Come on, human, how long does it take to shower? I can hear the pipes going, you know…

7:15 AM. The human comes downstairs. I wag my tail furiously in greetings and bark hello. Fine day, isn’t it? Say, have you given any thought to my breakfast? Because between you and me, I’m feeling a bit hungry right about now.

7:17 AM. Watching attentively as the human pours a bowl of kibbles for me. Oh boy oh boy oh boy…

7:18 AM. Licking my lips after wolfing down my breakfast. Boy oh boy, was that good!

7:21 AM. Inquiring with the human as to if she can open the door for me. I’ve got to get my morning run in, after all.

7:22 AM. Out the door and sprinting across the grass. See you later, human!

7:29 AM. Running through the back fields, barking my head off, jubilantly happy.

7:36 AM. Stopping in to see Spike the Magnificent, Tormentor of Squirrels. Hello, Spike!

7:39 AM. Spike and I compare notes on latest observed movements of the enemy lines. We suspect that the squirrels are plotting some nefarious operation for next Tuesday at nine in the morning, based on their hoarding of chestnuts.

7:41 AM. Parting ways with Spike. We agree to keep each other up to date on any further sightings of enemy movements, and he promises that he’ll alert me when the mailman stops by his place. Oh, don’t worry, Spike, he’ll get a doubly vicious barking from you and then me, and maybe that’ll finally convince him to stop coming down our road.

8:03 AM. Returning home. Barking to alert the human to my presence.

8:04 AM. Back inside. See, human? I can manage to get through a day without rolling around in mud or splashing in the creek. Mind you, I can’t make any promises about tomorrow, just so you know in advance.

8:37 AM. Circling around three times in the living room before settling down on the rug for a nap. Two times is too few, and four times is too many, but three times is just right, if you ask me, and of course you are asking me.

11:10 AM. Waking up from my nap. Oh, good. Haven’t missed a lunchtime mooching opportunity.

12:18 PM. I have managed to mooch a couple of sandwiches from the human while she’s having lunch. Ham and cheese really do hit the spot for a good dog. And I am a good dog. A very good dog. Just ignore what the mailman and the vet and the town mayor say, because they’re all against me.

1:32 PM. Barking up a storm of fury at the evil mailman as he drops off mail at the mailbox and drives away. Get lost, you coward! And never come back here again! Do you hear me? Never again!

3:54 PM. Mooching an oatmeal cookie from the human while she has tea. Yum yum yum!

6:31 PM. Dinner with the human. She’s been considerate enough to give me some of the ground beef she had on hand for something she calls shepherd’s pie. Does that mean it’s made from shepherds? 

7:40 PM. Looking outside. Getting darker. Too early for sunset, and besides, those clouds in the west are looking rather dark and threatening and… human? Were we scheduled to get any rain?

8:07 PM. Barking my head off as rain pours down outside and lightning flashes. And where there’s lightning, you just know there’s going to be the terrible boom bang loud roar of thunder…

8:11 PM. Huddling behind the couch with my head buried beneath it. Sounds like the end of the world out there with all that thunder. Human! Batten down the hatches! Women and children first, or however that phrase goes! Save yourselves!

10:02 PM. The storm finally seems to have cleared off. The human looks at me and says it’s all perfectly normal and there’s no reason for me to cower behind the couch. I will have you know I wasn’t cowering. I was establishing my ambush position just in case the storm decided to break into the house.

11:32 PM. The human is off to bed. Well, good night, human. Sleep well. But please, keep the door open, because if there’s another storm in the night, I’m going to be sprinting upstairs and hiding under your bed and whimpering until the thunder goes away.