Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter in the High Church and a Line in the Sand - Between Shelly and Certainity

Maybe this says something about me, but one of my top five favorite movies of all time was Popeye, staring Robin Williams and Shelly Duvall. Why that makes me odd is that it was a total box-office flop and I've seen it on lists of the worse movies ever made.

I thought I was really strange until I saw an interview with Robin Williams' mother. When she was asked, "What is your favorite movie that Robin has made?" She—without reservation—said, "Popeye." That surprised her interviewer very much . . . but made me feel a lot better.

I have to say that Robin is one of the most gifted actors of the past century. It is painful watching his talents wasted on cheap, poorly written movies of late (like RV).

I think one of the reasons the movie appealed to me so much that when I was six years old, the cartoon Popeye was my favorite show. There was a reason for that. Popeye was my savior-type.

Like Popeye, I lived in a world of cruel bullies (like Brutus). Inside my house was my brother, seven years older than me. He had some mental health problems. One of which was that he was extremely jealous of me, the "baby of the family." He tortured me for most of my young life.

Then outside, next door, was Les. He was about 4 years older than me, and looked very much like Brutus. As a six year old I could not tell the difference between Les in the real world and the animated Brutus. I don't know how tall Les was but he eventually played center for the high school basketball team. He was also fat. He, additionally, was emotionally disturbed. I don't know what made him that way, but he was the kind of kid that would put lighter fluid on a cat and set in on fire for the humor effect. Evan at age 10 he was hyper-sexual and—at least attempted—to molest every kid on the street, whether they were male or female.

Once, I came into our kitchen and mom was unloading a bag of Tupperware stuff she had bought from my aunt (this was my narcissistic aunt). Aunt Mary drove a “Tupperware car” which she had won for selling so much stuff. Usually she used extreme guilt manipulation to get all her relatives to buy much more than what they would ever need.

In the pile of plastic containers were two small round ones with semi-transparent lids that grabbed my attention. When I placed the lids on them, it became clear that they were salt and pepper shakers. The main lid had the holes in it. A second lid, connected by hinged plastic piece could cover the holes.

Since mom bought far more Tupperware than she could ever use, I turned many of the items into toys. I found the little shaker containers most appealing in this shipment, mostly because I too was little. But then I discovered the most amazing thing. With the lids on, I could squeeze the containers in my hand and the lids would pop off. It was just like Popeye squeezing a can of spinach and the lid popping open. This gave me a wonderful idea.

I had already tried eating spinach, to see if it would give me the strength to resist Les. It didn’t. But then I decided to put spinach in the Tupperware shaker and put it down my shirt. I had to tuck in the tail to keep it from falling out. The next time that Les messed with me, I planned on pulling it out, squeezing it until the top popped off, eating it in one gulp and then beat the hell out of him.

I loaded up the container and went to look for Les and the rest of the kids (all years older than me) which lived on our street. They were two houses up, at Garnets.

Sure enough, as soon as I showed up Les started to pick on me. Who knows what he was doing this time. But as soon as he hurt me, I pulled the shaker out of my shirt (now dripping with spinach juice) and popped the top and ate it.

The kids all looked stunned. “What are you doing you little freak?” asked one of them. I told them. They didn’t look scared. But like a typical group of adolescents, they began to belly laugh.

I flexed my muscles and put up my fists like a prize fighter from the 1800s. Then Les grabbed me and did something horrible. I can’t remember what he did that time . . . who knows, maybe he tried to force me to eat a dried dog turd. Anyway, my acute use of spinach didn’t work.

What does all of this have to do with Easter? Okay, I’m getting to that.

Easter weekend was a bit of confusing time for me. Denise asked me to go to a big ecumenical service on Good Friday. I had mixed feelings about it. I don’t enjoy a lot of religious pageantry. I posted about those feelings when I was in the middle of them . . . but then deleted it because I sounded like a crab again. I did decide to go, but could never connect with Denise and she went without me before I got home from work.

I was certainly planning on going to Easter brunch and service at my normal Evangelical church this morning. Then something came up. I won’t go into it here because it is too complicated (and this posting is already too long) but I had a very important meeting come up today at noon in Seattle. I wasn’t sure what to do. There was no way I could go to my church’s service at 10 AM and then make Seattle by noon. So, I asked my son if he would go with me to the large Presbyterian church’s early morning service then go with me to Seattle. He agreed.

We went to the service in the brick cathedral (I mean this positively; it is a beautiful church with a large pipe organ). This is the same church I’ve visited before and the one that my normal pastor, and many of the leaders of my church, consider as “liberal.” After all, the pastor is a woman. The church was totally packed with folding chairs around the old, oak pews.

But the thing I noticed, once again, was a great feeling of comfort. It is on a sub-conscious level that this feeling comes.

I spent some time meditating on this whole experience, trying to put into words what it is I feel. Well, it finally came to me. I will continue on with this story in part II. I will relate it (although loosely) to that video clip from Popeye.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I loved the "Popeye" movie too! Truly an underrated classic. Am looking forward to Part II to find out how you're relating it to Easter!

Anonymous said...

Popeye is one of my all-time favorite movies too! I also though eating spinach must certainly give you muscles, but I don't remember ever being offered spinach as a kid.

I'm pretty sure the big brawny guy that Olive sings about in "he's large" is named Bluto.

So grateful to have discovered the term "post-evangelical." It makes me feel less alone to have a label.

MJ said...

I think it was Pluto. Actually, after I did that post it got me thinking about the movie and I watched the whole thing the other night. There I realized she was singing about Pluto. I think Brutus came along later (in the cartoon).