NOTE: A CAUTION TO THE READER – The management wishes to make clear that although styled to look like a newswire press report, the reader is urged to observe the following: Look carefully at the three, not two letters of the wire service identifier at the top of the story, and at the ownership notice at the bottom of this piece). This post is not #FakeNews, but rather a fictional man on the news tale. So remember, #MoeNtale, NOT #FakeNews. You may now proceed to the biggest, baddest nasty little dog story ever told.
RED BAY, ALABAMA (ABP) – When local resident Moe Noodleman, age 63, went out for his aerobic walk one evening this week he didn’t know that this would be “the day.” When this retired shepherd and pulpwood truck driver—and also an ongoing visiting lecturer and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Brown University—moved to his “dream retirement community” here in mid-2003 from his native Rhode Island, a very different sort of work challenge awaited him. But before we get to “the day” that I mentioned at the top, we have to rewind the calendar about a year and a couple of months so that the big day’s significance will make sense when we get there.
Noodleman, an avid power walker and fitness enthusiast credits watching The Jack LaLanne Show on TV in the late 1950s and through the 1960s as his long-latent, but ever-present inspiration to, in his words, “quit being such a high-back-chair/big-rig-left-seat/butt-on-the-ground-with-back-up-against-a-tree potato (like in my college teacher, truck driver and shepherd days) get up, get out, trim some fat off my gut, and some inches off my waistline. ‘Get with this whole fitness thing Moe,’ Jack would say if he were standing here today. ‘Find some robust physical activity you can do and get at it. And go at it like killing snakes! Give no quarter to those wimps named Sloth and Flab!’”
Mr. Noodleman tried running. “I just didn’t have the wind for it. And the knees; oy, the knees!” He tried mountain biking. “Better on the knees, but worse on the noggin; at least three concussions and one broken helmet; definitely not a sport for an old geezer with more chutzpah than skill.” And then he decided that walking (but as Jack LaLane would have said, walking robustly) might do the trick . . . and also not kill him which, as he claims, “is a real plus.”
And so a couple of years ago, he began his regimen of what some call “power walking” with several favorite in-neighborhood and in-town loops. But the beginning of all the loops took him past a certain house which—as it turned out, and which he soon discovered—was home to a very, exceedingly bad dog. The house was situated forty yards or so past the top of a “killer uphill climb.” Mr. Noodleman claims that, though this dog is small in stature and high-pitched “yappy” voice, it is behemoth in all other respects. This adversary has in its arsenal of tactical execution and strategic armament “the aggressiveness and ferocity of an African bull elephant during the mating season, the speed of a cheetah, and the teeth of a wolverine.”
“Every time the beast (I just call it ‘the beast’),” said Noodleman, “was outside of the house, it would hear me coming and charge, snarling and going straight for the ankles. Well, I’ll tell you mister that it only took a couple of times of trying to countercharge and display my superior verbal dominance and best menacing look, with the snapping teeth still coming toward me—forever snapping, yapping, yapping and snapping—before I would have to give up and, still waving and screaming at it, back down the downhill side and out of its territory. But after awhile I figured, you know, this is just not right. This has to stop!” What happened next seemed promising.
“A day or so later, on my next walk up that long hill, I was thinking about the beast and mentally rehearsing my moves when I noticed that an old vacant house had been cleaned up. They had cut up this big old cedar tree and it was then that I saw it: in the yard was this nearly six foot tall fairly straight piece of a branch, thick at one end, tapering to about an inch and a half diameter at the other, like maybe a walking staff or even (hopefully) like Moses’ staff at the Red Sea.” And so, he described how, with nonchalant stealth, he eased up into the yard and took it, barely breaking his workout stride before coolly returning to the street. He made the final ascent to the top of “Beast Hill” that day with extra measures of adrenaline and confidence as he anticipated the chance to prove the now-changed strategic balance of power.
As soon as the beast visually locked on to its quarry, it charged, Moe [we were not long into our “little chat” when our story’s leading man told me to “Drop the Mr. Noodleman bit. I’m just Moe, okay?”] anyway, Moe squared off, stood his ground—wait for it . . . wait for it—and when the aggressor closed in for the kill, he swung (both hands gripping the stick) as hard as he could . . . and missed.
How could I have missed, he thought as he kept swinging, never turning his back on the monster while backing down the other side of the hill and out of the evil one’s realm. Shaking his head and walking on, he wondered what had gone so wrong with his brilliant plan. This is no ordinary dog, thought he, but hey, I’m no ordinary Ivy League Spewin’, big rig drivin’, woolly critters herdin’ alter bok1 either!
And so it went. Occasionally the beast would be indoors and Moe could hear its muffled yapping and see its furious, frustrated expression through the living room window of its dark lair. On those days, Moshe’s Staff was simply his walking stick. But after each battle ended, Moe retreated frustrated that the beast, which he figured by now must be super-canine—with, maybe, special powers of depth perception, or bat-like sonar or something—always managed be just out of the combined range of Moe’s right arm (tactics had shifted to the one-handed swing) and six feet of cedar.
And here, our tale takes an odd twist.
It just so happened, that one day Moe had a revelation of sorts; an unseen, unheard prompting, as if an inner voice was alternately admonishing then chastising him: “Get more fit, Moe. Yes, even more fit. You’re weak. Look in that full-length mirror. You’ve made progress, don’t get me wrong. Flatter belly? Yes . . . noticeably even, and I like it. Strong legs? Yes. But just look at your upper body: your traps, your pitiful pecs, and those triceps. Mm, mm, mm! Mr. Jack LaLanne you’re not. You know frankly, and it pains me to say this Moe, but you really should be ashamed of yourself for not making more progress.”
Whoa, thought Moe. Body image shame in a 63 year-old man?! Whose voice is this? He wondered whether it could be that The Godfather of Fitness himself, the late Francois Henri “Jack” LaLanne, was dropping in to the edge of his subconsciousness playing the worn-out, stereotypic role of a Jewish mother. But because Moshe A. Noodleman knew deep down somehow that “you should listen to your mother,” though perplexed, he looked into it—improving his upper body fitness, that is. That’s when Moe found it.
Whether you believe that the sport known as Nordic Walking developed chiefly from the ingenuity of a P.E. teacher in a middle school in Helsinki, Finland in 1966 or because the head coach of a Finnish cross country ski team figured it to be a natural, great fit for off-season (i.e., no snow) training in the late 1970s, two things are clear:
- Done correctly, it looks weird to the uninitiated.
and . . .
- Done correctly, it is a very effective total body workout—benefitting some 90% of the human body’s muscles, improving cardiovascular health, producing upper body muscle building (which really doesn’t happen nearly as effectively in other types of walking exercise), and burning significantly more energy than normal, fast-paced walking without poles. Jack LaLanne would have been all over it!
And when Moe stumbled across it, this Nordic Walking thing intrigued him, especially the second part about the “building” and the “burning.” As for looking weird he mused, And? People have been laughing at Jewish guys for years; guys like Berle, Brooks, Marx ( x 3 ), Crystal, Hackett, Sandler, Silverman—well okay, technically not a guy, Caesar, Rickles, Seinfeld, Radner—another non “guy,” Wilder, Bruce, Rogen, Horwitz (aka, the original “Moe”), and I could go on just about forever. I would be in very good company.
So he ordered some poles, watched a bunch of YouTube videos, got on all his gear, and began Moe’s Excellent Fitness Adventure, Part II. Meanwhile, just beyond the top of Beast Hill, the neighborhood bully continued its reign of terror over any who dared walk, run, or cycle through its dark domain.
And interestingly, as Moe executed his first Nordic Walk and strode—with four limbs and two appearing-to-be ski poles (in hot, humid Red Bay, Alabama of all places) flailing in semi rhythm—out of his driveway toward . . . well, you know . . . it didn’t occur to him until he began the actual ascent of Beast Hill that perhaps the balance of power really had just shifted significantly in his favor. It wouldn’t be long before he knew. When the beast came into view, Moe fixed his dark-sun-glassed gaze into little beastie’s eyes, swung the right pole like lightning into the position of a magic wand pointing straight at the diminutive, demonic head and slowly, loudly commanded, Don’t think about it!! never breaking his brisk pace.
The beast halted, ceased yapping, a question mark appeared over its head (which turned slightly askew), and then it started barking again. But it didn’t move. I have the power, thought Mr. Noodleman. No, he was more than a simple Mister. King Moe of the Dark Forest more aptly described him in that moment of victory as he strode cockily down the other side. But, Moe soon learned, victory doesn’t come cheap.
The next day, the king fairly charged the steep incline in rapturous anticipation of another conquest. And what do you think happened? The berserker flew into total lunatic mode and more viciously than ever lunged, full speed ahead! At this point, our hero broke his stride again, and again fought for his life (but this time with two “sticks” to swing as he, like a flash, searched his memory for a contingency plan, and finding none, backed frantically away).
So it went, month after month, until—as we said at the top of this faithful account—the climactic scene came one evening this week. On that historic day, and on that now familiar battleground, Moe reports that he didn’t feel particularly ticked off or extraordinarily powerful. But as the beast charged, suddenly it was as if the action had gone into slow motion; time enough for him to think. Yes it was in those myriad, combined milliseconds that one defining moment of steadfast declaration and execution was born in Moe’s unwavering mind. He simultaneously drew on the thoughts, analyses, and lessons of the months during the siege, and combined them with a now iron resolve to execute justice. Then, as if somehow telepathically connected with the beast’s one-track-minded consciousness, saturated as it was in pure, unadulterated wickedness, Moe formally issued the following unyielding chastisement, command, and proclamation of final notice to the beast.
Wait just a doggone minute! Who pays the taxes to maintain this public street that happens to run by your puny little dog fairy tale world? Who owns this street? I do!!! Me, and hundreds of thous . . . okay, well, thousands of other men and women of good will who seek only to live in peace, and raise their little boys and girls to grow up and hold their heads high, yet always doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with their God; free from tyranny (you little Hitler wannabe)!! Well, you have owned me, owned us long enough. Today is that day, my own civil service version of D-Day! It’s over for you mister big shot and you’re about to get a spanking!! Furthermore and finally, from this moment forward and ever hereafter, you will meekly bow, and humbly YIELD to all who pass these premises!
With that, Moe did something heretofore untested nor even thought of before that instant. He went aggressively on the offensive by mounting his own “goat on the attack” preemptive-strike supercharge but amazingly, the beast kept coming. So Moe grew even more menacing in his appearance, swinging harder and faster, closing fast on his target with an afterburner of adrenaline until finally, at last it happened. The up-to-that-moment absolutely uncanny paw/eye coordination and speed of his menacing four legged enemy faltered for the split second that it took for Moe’s today-superior speed and coordination to at last find its target. With a satisfaction such as Moe had not felt for a very long time, he felt the end of his pole solidly strike the right hindquarter of the beast. He heard the “that-old-goat-will-never-get-me” yelp of shock. He saw the redirected forward angle and extra speed of actual retreat from battle.
He had done it! None other than Moe Noodleman was the first suburban athlete to ever successfully summit the peak of Beast Hill and plant the flag, as it were, squarely onto the right doggie buttock of the unrelenting fuzzball of evil which had for so long plagued so many. And in that instant, Moe enjoyed it; really, really enjoyed it! And after the blow was struck, the yelp was heard, and the retreat witnessed, Moe enjoyed every approximately 1.67 seconds of it.
Because when that celebrated span of less than two ticks of the clock ended, the indefatigable minion made a frighteningly quick, 180 degree course change and did the unfathomable. It charged, teeth flashing in the sunset.
I could barely believe what I had just heard. I looked across the kitchen table at this man who, a mere fifteen-seconds ago appeared before me positively Olympian, unbeatable, and proud. But now, he was sort of looking past me, apparently lost in a nether world of confused thought. His entire body seemed to have changed since I had last glanced up from my frantic note taking, and then back down to capture the climax, the highest point of the story. I was shocked! Weren’t his shoulders more, well, high and broad just a few seconds ago?
Probably a good twenty-seconds elapsed as Moe, brow furrowed in concentration and a puzzled, or maybe a bit sad, vacant look on his face seemed suddenly to be telling me a totally unexpected account of his being taken as part of the spoils of battle rather than of being its victor. And then, suddenly, he sat straight up, his eyes opened rather more widely than I would have imagined possible, he smiled broadly, lips beginning to part as if to speak and said excitedly . . .
“You know, that dog might be really good for my cardio workouts. I mean look at this graph. See the pace line that shows me nearly but not totally stopping? Well, it’s because I was jukin’ and jivin,’ laying down my best moves making war on this mutt!
And look at that heart rate. See?” He pointed at a printout of a page of graphs and statistics as captured by his phone, its onboard GPS, and a small Bluetooth heart rate monitor strapped to his chest. With great animation, as if telling the greatest epic tale ever before told, Moe went on still focusing my rapt attention on the graphs.
“And look at that! The beats per minute had started the normal post-hill’s-peak slowdown, but look right there. What about Mr. BPM [Beats Per Minute] now? Why he’s going up again; and fast!” Gradually he gestured less and less wildly as the telling of the whole nasty fight—blow by snarling, thrusting snap of the jaws—wound down to its finish.
After that, we spent another twenty minutes or so, and a half cup of decaf each talking about the various trips up and down Beast Hill which he had endured before finally “making the summit,” and his reflection on what, if anything has really changed. But we mainly laughed—as he led the way in poking fun—at an alter bok named Moshe Aaron Noodleman.
As I closed my lengthy interview with this renaissance man who has managed to fit two or maybe three unusual but gripping lifetimes of nutty experiences, occupations, and stories into the scant sixty-three years given him so far, I asked him—perhaps Red Bay, Alabama’s most doggedly determined citizen—just one more question.
“Mr. Noodleman,” I asked, “would you say that you have learned any lessons during this prolonged conflict with the beast?” Right away and without hesitation he said, “Well, for sure, it’s like a good friend of mine’s father—God rest his soul—used to say: ‘Ain’t nuthin’ easy.’” Then the man was silent but only briefly as he carefully considered my question.
With a warm, gentle, confident smile Moshe A. Noodleman looked me in the eyes and said, “I guess I know one last thing, and better after doing battle with that squatty little wire-haired ingrate, and it’s this: Only God knows exactly what is next for me, and for the beast, and the neighborhood and on out into space, and deep space, and way past our wildest imaginings!” his voice rising in volume and his arms making large sweeping gestures heavenward as he animated the idea of things ‘way past our wildest imaginings,’ and in his best human expressions described the vastness, the hugeness of the foreknowledge of his God in the lives not only of humans, but nasty little dogs too. Briefly, there was silence again in the kitchen.
And finally, he shrugged his shoulders, cocked his head slightly to one side, smiled just a little, and then said, “And here’s the ‘bonus’ part of what I believe:
Because of that dumb dog and his whacked out hyper-territorialism, I believe that I will likely live at least one year longer on this good Earth. Really I guess I ought to thank him for juicing up my fitness program with that large set of teeth implanted into that scrawny, wiry little ugly body with four legs and a crooked, wicked looking tail.”
He paused for a moment, dropped his eyes to the table top, and then laughed a little laugh (three times) at the perfect comedy of the whole thing.
“Yep, I believe that for sure,” he concluded.
Copyright 2017 Alter Bok Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
- [alter bok – Yiddish. Meaning: old goat] ↩︎