Poozilla

At one point or another in our lives we come to a pause moment. A moment in time where you’re captured by some effect; a physical condition or limitation, a change in jobs, a marriage or divorce, a delightful surprise or perhaps the cataclysmic upheaval from the death of a loved one. Whatever the causes, these pause moments can make us take a step back and reflect a little.

And yesterday was no different. You see, yesterday I ran into a pause moment. Well, to be more accurate, my wife and I ran into it, because I suppose that I would have completely missed it, if my lovely wife of 30 years hadn’t pointed it out. We were on the first day of our one-week celebration vacation for our 30th wedding anniversary, doing a little antique shopping up in central Washington State.

And what had innocently begun as a nice, calm stroll through the basement of another antique store, ended abruptly in a pause moment – only this is the kind of pause moment that no amount of soap, eye wash or electroshock therapy will ever remove.

These are her unforgettable words as we strolled down the aisle:

“That picture is making me dizzy,” she says from a little distance away.

“Oh?” I stop my duck-like stroll and look up. Seeing that she has my attention, she turns, finger pointing slightly up and away from her. Then I see it. It only took a split second, and to my dismay, I immediately know that it can’t be unseen. Amid all the clutter, all the other pictures hung in various orientations vying for the attention of the shoppers meandering through the brightly lit halls of antiquity, this picture had them all beat, hands down. No contest.

Dizzy doesn’t even begin to touch it.

Now, point of clarification here; I’m generally not a picture shopper, and most men are mercifully endowed with powerful filtration systems on their single-threaded input channels, so my visual cortex was blind to pictures until that moment.

Lest you be expecting the usual depiction of black-light illuminated sad-eyed bulls and crying orphans on a velvet canvass, you’d be as wrong as my daughter, who guessed it was that bastion of all things kitsch when she called me, a day late, for father’s day. Oh if it were only so mundane. I could soon forget even sad-eyed bulls goring crying orphans, but I could not forget this. Well, maybe I can’t forget sad-eyed bulls goring crying orphans, because despite my best efforts, that Firesign Theatre CD always seems to resurface, but I digress.

So by now you’re wondering what’s all the kerfuffle about? Trust me, dear reader, you are nearing the end of your normal life as you know it. For if you continue along this journey with me, despite my oath to protect and serve and uphold the laws and constitution of this State, I feel compelled as if watching a train-wreck and unable to resist, to share this image with you. But be warned – and don’t say I didn’t warn you – that once seen, you will never be able to un-see it, and alas, you will never be quite the same again. So, I bid you fair warning and counsel to carefully consider before continuing.

You think I jest?

Well, before I reveal this….thing… let me relay a quick story, one from my childhood that might help you decide.

You see, there was this show. I have never seen it since, though I have looked – I was probably far too young and too impressionable to be watching this particular show at the time. It was some Sci-Fi TV show or movie, in black and white, about some guy who owned this mystery box. It looked like an ordinary wooden box, but my memory is fading. I don’t recall the circumstances around this box, only that it made this weird sound – as if something were spinning around and around inside of it. The tension kept building up. There was something horrible inside. Something monstrous. Something evil.

The guy who owned the box didn’t want people to see what was in it – the details are vague – all I recall was that it was set in a typical 1950’s style urban American home. During the movie, some people looked into the box and freaked out. The viewer of course, doesn’t see what’s in it, we only see the results and impacts on those that do, and they weren’t pleasant.

In one scene toward the end, there’s this small hole in the box, and despite the owner’s attempts to keep people away, this (I think woman?) peeks into a hole in the side of the box, and we see that it’s a human eyeball orbiting in a circle inside the box. She screams, and that’s how the show ended, or that’s how it ended for me – likely because my 5-year old self went scurrying into the nearest bed and buried myself into the blankets and pillows. Nightmares ensued.

Ok, so consider that I’ve given you fair warning. Enough, you say. Very well. Just put your drink down before you look at this. Be nice to your computer screen. Be prepared for nightmares.

 Exhibit one,  Poozilla:

PooZilla

Poozilla

Missing from the effect here – besides the nuclear war between the colors – is that the creator of this abomination apparently wasn’t satisfied with a simple two-dimensional picture. Oh, goodness no. They went with a THREE DIMENSIONAL effect, using a massive full-size Fresnel lens over the entire picture so that the metal-framed damnation appears to be more alive and vibrant in its reach-out-and-explode-your-head assault.

So there I stood in stunned silence, a palpable, nauseating miasma of mixed feelings erupting in my throat that began to rip me apart in several directions. The sheer and utter hideousness of it, the assault on any sensibility, the questions, and the myriad of objections, all gave way to the feeling of helplessness that it had been seen. I heaved, choked, farted and inhaled a snorted laugh all at the same time.

And I was terrified.

My analytical mind jammed up like a tilted pachinko machine. What’s with that apocalyptic log-jam background? Or is it the rubble of some poor city? Is that a toxic cloudburst above it, showering down in a gloomy green graveyard deluge of death? And those flowers, arranged so thoughtfully, and carefully, almost as if Poozilla was cheerfully breathing out some kind of fragrant but lethal fireball of doom.

The Coup De Grâce of course, is the powder-blue carpet our happy white Poozilla is so prominently placed upon. As foregrounds go, this one is definitely DEA, schedule-A, psychotropic. Just where did they find that anyway? Please, don’t answer, I really don’t want to know. It’s more than enough to consider that somewhere, at some time, there was a carpet factory that actually cranked this stuff out.

And did I mention it was metal framed?

“Of course it is,” you reply. What else would it be framed with? What else could hold such magnificence? What else could contain it?

And there, if you will note, to the right, in a picture hung on the same wall just behind Poozilla is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ depicted in his passion as He suffers on the cross to atone for the sins of a lost and dying world. Is it my imagination, or does He appear to be fixing a gaze on Poozilla as well? As if He hadn’t suffered enough already. The ignominy of it all.

Well, there it is. Poozilla. Now you’ve seen it, you can never un-see it.

To be fair, this was probably someone’s beloved pet from the 1970’s and they likely paid a small fortune to have some travel-agent / passport photographer snap this shot of Petunia and for an extra $35, they got the deluxe, stereo-3D package complete with chain-link metal frame to last a lifetime.

If you know me at all, you know that I like to wrap stories around things to make sense out of them. Especially things that make no sense whatsoever. Like our Poozilla here.

So it is, after framing, with Petunia in tow, Bert and Ethel (Petunia’s imaginary owners) probably jumped back in their 1972 Winnebago and drove down the road with their brand new picture firmly affixed to the wall above the bed where Petunia could watch over them day and night. At some point in the retired couples’ lifetime journey, like all of ours, the road sadly ended and they had to park it. It’s entirely possible someone found Poozilla in the slowly rotting, half-decimated remains of their old Winnebago in a forgotten, dusty-hot backlot of a U-Pull-It in southern Arizona.

It’s also possible that Ethel, having buried Burt a few years back, found this garish reminder of their canine homunculus while cleaning out the last of his side of the closet and promptly disposed of it at a thrift store where it was picked up by a near-sighted color-blind antique collector with a texture fetish.

We just don’t know.

Judging by the robustness of the metal frame alone, this thing could likely survive world war III. And for only $39, it can be all yours if you – perish the thought – actually like it.

One thing is for certain. Now that I’ve written about it and photographed it, we’re all stuck with it.

EXPLODING VEGEMITE

vegemite

A short story (and history) of the world’s most evil explosive

Unless you’re an Aussie or have traveled extensively down-under, or are a ‘Men At Work’ fan, you probably don’t know about Vegemite. Of course, unless you were alive in the 80’s, you probably won’t know what Men At Work are anyway, but I digress.

Contrary to my mates down-under, who actually sell it as a foodstuff, I want you to know that Vegemite isn’t for human consumption – it’s one of the world’s most powerful explosives.

Earlier in my years of personal experience and exposure, I originally figured it was designed and intended to be the worlds’ most powerful expectorate. For those of you at home, expectorate is a pretty substitution word for vomit, puke, hurl, barf, spew, upchuck, chunder, retch or disgorge. And in this case, violently.

Memories of my mother spreading the thick, dark-brown goop on a set of otherwise perfectly good pieces of bread still sends a cold shiver down my spine. Despite my abundantly negative palate experiences, the loathsome bile is still boldly sold on several Aussie food websites and enjoys a huge fan base spanning several generations. You can go here if you’d like to read the Australian government’s self-sanctioned propaganda on this evil stuff, but rest assured, those of us who’ve ever tasted it know exactly how to spell it: W-R-E-T-C-H-E-M-I-T-E.

According to the official Australian government propaganda, Vegemite was fed to the Aussie troops during World War II as a “reminder of what home was like.” Yeah, bless those poor guys in the trenches. There they were, cold, shivering and frequently shot-at while in the fog of war, and along comes some sales person in a cozy office and says, “Oi, let’s chuck ‘em some veg-e-mite!” Henceforth the Australian troops earned their nick-names; “diggers.” Do you want to guess why they were nicknamed ‘diggers?’ It’s because that’s the only safe thing you could do with Vegemite back then; dig a hole and bury it. Deep.

So one might ask, “What can you do with it?”

I’ll get to that, but first, just a little more history.

Back in 1922, an evil scientist named Dr. Cyril P. Callister invented the stuff during a time when such magnificent wonders like mustard gas were pouring out of most government laboratories. Born from the same yeast-based breeding ground for much of our modern biological warfare bugs, it was known back then as ‘Pure Vegetable Extract.’ Apparently this name wasn’t very appealing to anyone, so an enterprising government agent – masquerading as a Melbourne businessman named Fred – (I’m not making this up, I swear) took a different approach and turned to the Australian public for a new name and ran a contest to rename it. (A 50lb tub of the hideously vile morass was offered as the grand prize.)

Tellingly, the winning entry came from Fred’s daughter. (Imagine that!) After the goop’s successful renaming, Vegemite started showing up on Australian grocery store shelves being touted as, “delicious on sandwiches and toast, and improves the flavor of soups, stews and gravies.”

It took fourteen years to gain acceptance.

Fourteen years? Can you even cite just one product in recent memory that the inventor was able to market over a period of 14 years and still remain financially solvent?

No?

I thought not. And that proves that Vegemite is an evil compound designed, formulated and supported by the Australian government with the original intent to keep their populace trim, fit and in good shape by completely destroying their ability to taste anything else.

Or was it designed for some other purpose?

Several years ago, my brother thought it’d be funny if he sent me a rather large tub of the vegetable muck as a Christmas present. Perhaps he was passive-aggressively commenting on the gravitational field found around my waistline? Nonetheless, being the consummate engineer, I discovered that by adding sufficient quantities of Potassium Chlorate to the sticky, Velcro-like brown goop that it would actually explode after being struck hard enough with a ball peen hammer.

Excited by my discovery, but dismayed at the utter mess the supersonic vegemite splatter made of my shop, I ventured further into more technical and chemical engineering pursuits.

That’s when I discovered that by following Morton Thiokol’s own recipe, I could substitute Ammonium Perchlorate for Potassium Chlorate, and along with a pinch or two of atomized aluminum, I created a new rocket fuel formula. Only it turned out to being the world’s nastiest smelling rocket fuel formula. Nonetheless, after perfecting the balance of oxidizer-to-vegemite ratio in the formula, I was able to make solid fuel rocket motors with amazing thrust and lift capacity – enough to send larger homemade rockets into low orbit and neighboring states.

This was a big hit with the Tripoli and LDRS model rocketry crowd. That is, until the wind changed directions one day at an event, and blew the ominous-looking vertical brown cloud of smoke into the spectator area. One survivor was quoted in a local newspaper as saying, “[they] had always wondered if the smoke smelled as bad as it looked… We paid dearly for that confirmation.”

Having been promptly banned from further participation at their organized model rocketry events, I returned to my initial discovery – explosive vegemite.

As corrupt as I believed the original inventor to be, I wasn’t prepared for the wild success of adding Hydrogen Peroxide and Ammonium Nitrate to the blend. Having finely powdered the nitrate, I turned to a cheap kitchen blender to help intimately bind the ingredients together. Because of the Velcro-like properties, I added a tablespoon of 30-weight motor oil and left the blender on ‘puree’ overnight with a long extension cord out by a dead stump.

At precisely 2:14am, my then agitated wife tore the blankets off my slumbering frame and body slammed me out of bed. Removing my plush headphones, I was somewhat startled at her sudden insistence and recall with a good measure of clarity the following short discussion;
“What’s wrong honey?”
“It’s raining!”
I yawned, still confused about the body slam and shrugged, “Oh, that’s nice, but it does that a lot here in Oregon.”
“No you $%#$@, it’s RAINING!” Her violent countenance erupted and traveled viciously to the point of her left index finger which stabbed upward toward the ceiling,

“It’s raining HERE!” She spat, with a considerably apoplectic upward gaze. That’s when I noticed it was indeed raining – raining inside our bedroom.  Interestingly, the still smoking hole in the roof had the unmistakable signature of some awful smell – reticent of vegemite and something else that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Apparently, the spontaneous detonation of the mix atomized the old tree stump and sent the base of the blender on a low-angle trajectory that punched a nifty 18-inch hole through our roof. After passing through both sides of our roof, the shredded mass of the blender’s base – consisting almost entirely of a wildly spinning electric motor core – traversed our property in a sizzling and unwinding ball of smoking death. I know this because it neatly decapitated a wide swath of her favorite Hydrangea on the way through the backyard. The vegemite-powered projectile finally tangled in a nearby telephone pole, temporarily shorting out power to our area which caused the wall clock to halt at the time described above.

Shortly thereafter, the police wanted to know all about vegemite. As did the visiting HAZMAT team and wagon load of ATF storm troopers who didn’t seem too keen on the lingering aroma.

So there you have it. Vegemite is now on the homeland security’s counter-terrorism list of high explosives, right next to Gelignite, Dynamite and C4.

And if you ask me, that’s where it rightfully belongs.