Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Adventures of Captain Underpants

Saturdays are Grandpa and Isaiah days. 

Carolann works. Isaiah's dad works. So, it's just the eight-year-old and me.

This past Saturday I was preparing to fix us lunch when Isaiah marched into the kitchen and proudly proclaimed, "I AM CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS!" I didn't turn around to look at him right away because this is the sort of goofy thing I've come to expect of young boys, having been one myself and having several of my own. It was the sort of announcement that would have evoked a shake of the head and a single word from my dad:


My grandpa called me "Knothead." Same thing, I guess.

Capt. Isaiah Underpants
When he persisted, "Grandpa, look!" I turned and found myself facing Captain-Honest-To-God-Underpants in the flesh. At that point I think I actually did call him a knucklehead. I laughed and that was apparently all he wanted. Pleased with himself, Fruit-of-the-Looms perched firmly on his large, round cranium, he took off to save the world. Or, the TV room, at least.

I marvel at childish imaginations. I would give anything to have mine back.

When I was a kid in the fifties we had cowboy TV heroes like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger and Sky King, among others. We all had our own cowboy outfits and toy cap guns. We did not ride stick horses made from a single fence picket. That sort of thing was for babies. We merely slapped our thighs in a hoofbeat rhythm as we ran through the fields and neighborhood flower beds. We lived in a perpetual cloud of dust.

Back then I made a name for myself in the Wild West of North Sacramento as "Dapper Dave!" I don't think I ever mentioned it to anybody, it was my secret. I think even then I had an instinctive understanding of how stupid it sounded. But you have to give me credit for using the word "dapper" before turning ten and for appreciating the cheesy charms of alliteration.

Denny, Mike, Danny
Dapper Dave rode the range, battling bandits and rescuing lovely ladies with the help of  his sidekicks, Denny, Danny and Mike. These are my uncles, my mother's younger brothers, only slightly older than me. If they had their own cowboy monikers they kept them secrets, too.

Now, here I am half a century later, rinsing dishes and looking squarely into the britches of Captain Underpants and trying to figure out how we got from cowboys to this.

Don't get me started on Spongebob Squarepants, which is obviously where this lunacy began.

Only today have I learned that there actually is a Captain Underpants character! Isaiah did not invent him.

Captain Underpants is a super hero in a series of children's books with such
titles as Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of Professor Poopy Pants and Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy (Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets). These books are being sold at Isaiah's school fundraiser. Mind you, this is the same school that will send a kid to the principal's office for calling a classmate a "butthead."

I wonder who makes the call when a kid is referred to as a "Nasty Nostril Nugget"?

Look, I take pride in being open-minded and young at heart but I confess that when I first heard of these books I was a bit shocked and annoyed. Suddenly, Spongebob seemed as old-school and boring as Popeye. But, after thinking about it a bit I understand that the writers, cartoonists and publisher of these books are merely appealing to kids at their own level of developing sense of humor. And while part of me fears this will boost our progeny into more advanced levels of outrageous humor involving obscenities and pornographic themes at an even earlier age, the truth is, what I think doesn't matter any more. No, really, it doesn't. And that's a profound relief.

My work here is done.

While I assist in the care of my grandsons they are not mine to raise except when their own parents ask for help or drop the ball. Then I get involved because technically, I am merely continuing the raising of my own sons.

It's a wonderful release to no longer feel personally responsible for the plight of society and the direction it is headed. I'm an oldster now, paddling alongside those younger adults frolicking and jockeying for position in the mainstream of ever-changing modern culture. Our kids are now making the tough calls and the big decisions. They're the ones guiding the development and/or decay of the society.

Not my job, not any longer.

Just as Dapper Dave is nothing more now than an old, fond memory, so shall be my little Captain Underpants in the not-too-distant future. I suspect he'll be just fine for it. I'm not going to sweat the small stuff. But I'll tell you one thing:

The first time Captain Underpants refers to his five-year-old cousin, my youngest grandson, as "Bionic Booger Boy" we're going to have a little talk.

© David L. Williams, 2010
® Captain Underpants is a registered trademark of Scholastic Books. (That’s funny too, huh?)

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