Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, November 29, 2010


The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.

- from Casabianca, Felicia Dorothea Hemans

The boy stood on the burning deck, illuminated by the inferno that raged around him, seemingly oblivious to the eerie shadows cast by the corpses that littered the area round about.

He had long ago given up hope of surviving this sea-battle. At first, he had waited faithfully for his father’s instructions, hoping that he would be permitted to flee. But word from his father had not been forthcoming, and it was with a sinking heart that the boy realized that his father must have been slain belowdecks.

The boy’s eyes bulged, but not with fear. A superfluity of the secretions of the thyroid gland had bedeviled him for most of his short life, creating the protruding eyes characteristic of said condition. In addition, that selfsame glandular activity had given the lad an enormous reserve of energy, energy that he had attempted to control by directing it toward strenuous physical activity. The result was a set of hypertrophied biceps and quadriceps, musculature that was, strangely, both comical and frightening. His schoolmates, in the cruel manner typical of early adolescence, had taken to calling him “Boy Ceps,” but rather than meekly accepting the moniker as the insult it was intended to be, he wore the name proudly.

But now, surrounded by the bodies of both his father’s mercantile comrades and the pirates that had attempted to capture them, the youth was beyond thoughts of his schoolmates. That was in another world, a sweet world that would now be forever out of his reach. The world of home.

It was then that he realized with growing amazement that, while the deck was burning furiously, its timbers were not consumed. How could this be?

As if in answer to his unspoken thoughts, a basso voice rumbled inside his head. Quietly, and yet with infinite authority, it intoned, “Remove your boat shoes, for the deck upon which you stand is holy!”

The lad immediately took off his bloodstained Dockers, tossing them carelessly towards a burning pyre of bodies where they landed with a wet thud.

“No longer shall you be called Boy Ceps,” spoke the mysterious Voice. “Henceforth shall you be known as Pop Eye, for you shall be father unto a race of visionaries. And also because, well, let’s face it, you got you some bulgy-ass peepers there.”

“Who... who are you?” croaked the boy, throat raw from smoke.

The Voice answered, “I AM THAT I AM. But you can call me YHVH... or if that’s too tough to pronounce, the Lord.”

The boy - it would take him a while to become accustomed to his new name - took in this momentous piece of information with nary a blink, realizing that he could hardly complain about his new name if the Almighty Himself chose to bestow it upon him. Further, it dawned on him that the Master of the Universe was, in His own way, a paragon of humility. I AM THAT I AM! No lengthy, overblown, flowery titles... the holy Name was merely a simple statement of bedrock fact. For the boy, who would from that moment think of himself only as Pop Eye, it became a mantra: I AM THAT I AM.

He knew, too, that he would survive that fearsome battle. He would survive because the Lord had plans for him. His life, he understood, had been spared so that he could sail the length and breadth of the world, carrying the nourishment of his faith to the heathen nations. He would be a Prophet... and wherever he walked, humility and Godliness would spring up as spinach after a spring rain.

* * * * *

In years to come, even as he muttered his prophetical mumblings under his breath, the holy Name was ever a part of him. Walt Whitman might have sung a “Song of Myself,” but Pop Eye’s own Song of Myself was really a song unto the Lord:

I’m Popeye the Sailor Man
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man
I yam what I yam
And that’s all what I yam
I’m Popeye the Sailor Man

And thus the boy - that very boy who had stood upon the burning deck and had seen that it was not consumed - went forth into the world, spreading God’s word. The people of the nations saw him and listened; when they would not listen, he would punish the arrogant ones with his mighty fists. “Spinach is the source of his strength!” said some, but they were fools... for the sailor’s true strength was his belief in the mighty (and yet, paradoxically, humble!) Lord.

In years to come, he married the Oyl girl who had been sweet on him even in their early days. And such was her closeness to the Sailor-Man and his God that eventually, when people wished a special blessing, they would append her name to their petition: “You should live and be well - Olive Eye!”

And, eventually, Pop Eye - the Sailor Man who sailed the deep sea of Faith - became as beloved as Moses had been. Just as Moses was called Moshe Rabbeinu - Moses, Our Teacher - so Pop Eye became known to one and all as Popeye Sailoreinu. Popeye... Our Sailor.

Popeye Sailoreinu

1 comment:

Farmer Phil said...

The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled.
Silly bugger

- Spike Milligan