by Jeff Johnson
From time to time, The Awl offers its space to normal, everyday people with a perspective on national issues. Today, we’re pleased to bring you this report by Jeff Johnson, who, after reading Padgett Powell and recent reports on Popeye’s spinach abuse, realized that he has some questions about Wimpy. Should you somehow answer all of his questions in a comment, he will buy you a Shake Shack hamburger next Tuesday. No fibbing. Shake Shack is not affiliated with this promotion.
Were you familiar with the character Wimpy in the cartoon Popeye? Did a comic strip better convey, perhaps, Wimpy’s-Depression-era desperation when it came to begging albeit politely for a hamburger? Was it a better aesthetic choice than an animated cartoon? Do you consider Wimpy’s actions begging? Or just deal-brokering for beef? Who was he asking for a hamburger, anyway? Pretty much everyone? Was he discrete in putting it out there? Or was he just hoping anyone had a hamburger, or the means to acquire a hamburger and “lend” it to him, fairly soon after his asking? Or was carrying a hamburger (or two) a common thing in Popeye’s world? Was there a special meat pocket on garments then? Do you consider Wimpy’s eagerness in asking somewhat pathetic? Or are you more of a “Hey, do what ya gotta do?” person?
Was it ever established where Popeye & co. lived? Was it a harbor town? Near an ocean? Near a sea? Near a Great Lake, perhaps? I remember there were some sojourns to islands inhabited by Goons, but did anyone ever zero in on where Popeye lived? Popeye sailed, but for what reason? Who was his employer? Was he self-employed? Does he strike you as the type of person who might be self-employed for a very short period of time, before messing it all up completely? Do you think Popeye might resort to arson to even the score financially if his business went under? Did he or anyone beyond Olive Oyl have a last name? Was the town or city or region they lived in as violent as Popeye and Brutus were toward one another? Could one reasonably expect to get the shit beaten out of them at any given moment if their address were in this place? Did you like Popeye’s speech impediment? Did you enjoy hearing him call Brutus “Brut-isk”? Did that amuse you or detract from matters at hand, from their eternal conflict that could never seem to be mediated? Would they have listened to a mediator, anyway or wound up undoubtedly splintering his or her wooden desk in a bout of fisticuffs?
Was it all due to the fact that no one knew who Swee’Pea’s father was? Was there even DNA testing in that era? Is it possible Olive Oyl was also not the baby’s mother? Looking at her figure, does she strike you as particularly fertile? Would you fuck Popeye? Would you accept my apology for being so coarse? Can you imagine pillow talk with this guy, though? Is it odd that for how much crawling Swee’pea did, his/her onesie never got dirty? Or is that totally normal given the other psychic parameters that were constantly changing in their world? Speaking of Swee’pea, which I’m not, I’m writing about Swee’pea, did I put the apostrophe in the right place? Does it really matter? Would you look it up on the internet? Should I look it up on the internet?
Do you know if Swee’pea is a boy or a girl? Couldn’t you swear that throughout the years Swee’pea was both genders at different times? Sort of like Bluto was also Brutus? Do you think it is sort of crazy that they couldn’t even decide on a villain’s name? Does it disturb you that I refer to the creators of Popeye as “they”? Do you think some writer there thought he/she was adding a Shakespearean flourish by calling a bad guy Brutus? Am I kidding myself by adding “she” in that last question? Did any women write cartoons in the 1950s? Were they allowed, just a few decades after getting the right to vote, to write a simple cartoon?
Have you ever had Popeye’s fried chicken? Have you eaten it while watching Popeye the animated cartoon? While not high on marijuana? Do you ever think of Popeye himself while eating it? Have you ever asked someone if they would buy you Popeye’s chicken “today” if you would gladly repay them “Tuesday”? What do you think would happen at the counter if you suggested that? Do you think whomever was working might have a sense of humor? Do you think the police would get involved? Wouldn’t it become a crazy internet meme if there were closed circuit camera footage of you trying to get free chicken at Popeye’s by using Wimpy’s tactics and then were violently tasered by the police, or just a random customer who took the law into his own hands? Have you heard just about enough of that?
Getting back to Wimpy, did he have some type of employment that would pay him on Tuesdays? Do we know what that was? Was that a merely a rouse? Was it a given that he did not have a job? Was it a given that even though he did not have a job he would have the ability to pay someone back on Tuesday for a hamburger that day? Was it a given that he would never pay anyone back, but was fairly charming when he fibbed about being glad to pay someone back, and on such a specific date? Did that usually work to his advantage? Was he mentally ill and truly believing he could pay someone back on the following Tuesday for a hamburger even though there was no way on God’s green earth that that was going to happen? Were there meds for that? What kind of condition is that anyway? Bipolar? Do you believe he was often simply ecstatic about the hamburger deal just being somehow AWESOME for everyone involved? How much did a hamburger cost then, anyway? When is then? 1930s? 1920s? 1986? What type of payroll department decides that every Tuesday will be payday? Is there any benefit in terms of cash flow to hold on to funds through the weekend and not issue them to employees until Tuesday?
How often do you get paid? Biweekly? Would you buy someone a hamburger or two now, in a similar arrangement? How about a beer? How about a dimebag? How about an eightball of some really pure cocaine? How about for an author of a blog post whom you’ve never met, but could meet you anywhere in the Tri-state area on pretty short notice? Do you think Wimpy got some money from the state? Does it seem odd that he’d receive assistance every week? Does that strike you as inefficient? Or clearly not, in so much as Wimpy clearly was unable to live on a budget that would keep him afloat until the following Tuesday? Do you know what day he ran out of money each week? Do you know what day he generally asked for the hamburger advance? Was it every day? And was that part of his sickness/genius? Who kept falling for this? Do you find that a case of gullibility or charitability? Did he wolf that hamburger down? Was it more about asking for it? Making the deal? Rather than getting something hot to eat?
If he had a job, do you think Wimpy’s suit have anything to do with what he did at that job? Was his suit sort of a Goodwill thing, or was it truly considered fashionable? He had a mustache but no beard, correct? Can we assume he had a place to live? Is it dickish to think that just because a man has to cajole for a hamburger he is homeless, too? Would it be easy to maintain a mustache, while also having the ability to shave if you were homeless? Would facial hair grooming be a main concern for you if you were homeless? Do you think Wimpy drank and/or maybe even abused alcohol? If so, do you imagine him as a beer guy? A rum drinker? Just getting completely shithouse on Gin? Do you picture Wimpy sleeping-feet hanging out from the covers-in a bed in a row of many identical beds in a men’s home? Do you think he’d sleep soundly there? Have friends? Or be a nervous wreck? Or dreaming of hamburgers? Do you think he was finicky about what kind of bun they were served on? If you gave him a hamburger, did he expect you to also tip whomever provided it? Would that be worked out in his repayment to you? Is there a record of Wimpy repaying anyone, gladly or not, for even one hamburger?
Would you have been the type of person to say “Wimpy, could you try a salad, you’re a bit rotund for a hamburger?” Would you have even suggested a low-fat dressing, even though he might prefer a creamy, spicy 1,000 Island? Do you suppose Alice the Goon lived in the land of 1,000 islands? Do you think Wimpy was just asking for any kind of hamburger? Do you know which, if any, toppings he preferred? Would you swear that you never saw him using condiments in any Popeye cartoon? Did you like it when everything, including condiments came in glass bottles? Do you like onions on your hamburger? If so, do you like them diced or whole? Is it possible to prefer both, on some sort of rotation? Do you think Wimpy liked his hamburgers well done or less well done? Do you think the quality of meat was substantially better then or substantially worse, or about the same? Do you think the life of the cow that went into a hamburger was as scary as it is today? Didn’t Wimpy usually have a napkin around his neck? Wasn’t that a bit goddamn presumptuous? Do you think Wimpy was just a little bit too happy for a guy, who let’s face it was probably, if asked to actually start paying people back, pretty far in debt in terms of hamburger assistance? If you helped Wimpy get something to eat, could you be called a hamburger helper? Is that corny? Would Wimpy by now have tuned out any similar jokes, in anticipation of you saying a simple yes or no about that hamburger? Did you like to see him get free hamburgers? If not, is it because you are unhappy? Do you think Wimpy should have pulled himself up by his bootstraps? Do you think he ever lent anyone any money or food? Maybe?