Day 150 11/22/13: On Rodney Dangerfield & The Greenland Shark

Besides learning that Rodney Dangerfield’s widow keeps a bottle of the deceased funnyman’s sweat in her fridge, “Rescuers Save Beached Greenland Shark with Appetite for Moose” by Pete Thomas is one of the oddest and coolest things I’ve read all week.

English: Rodney Dangerfield at the Shorehaven ...

English: Rodney Dangerfield at the Shorehaven Beach Club in New York in 1978. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Greenland sharks are delightfully strange. They are slow. These sharks are not slate gray or blue, but a mottled color more like speckled green stone than flesh. Because they do not have urinary tracts, Greenland sharks secrete pee through their skin. Uric acid builds up in their tissues. Unless sufficiently rotten, (at which point the poison flesh  becomes an Icelandic “delicacy”) eating Greenland shark flesh can cause intoxication or even make people vomit blood. I don’t know if these symptoms depend on one’s “tolerance” or not.

Most disgusting and most poignant of all, the Greenland sharks’ only friends in the frigid, Northern waters are the eye eating parasites that accompany them everywhere. As Pete Thomas puts it:

“Greenland sharks, which can measure 20 feet, typically reside in deep water, where their only reliable companions are parasitic copepods that feed on their corneal tissue (the sharks suffer some eye damage, but the bioluminescent copepods glow and lure fish closer to feeding sharks.”)

My musings on the lonely, homely, toxic Greenland shark circle back to the bottled sweat of Rodney Dangerfield. If one dared drink it, what power might this elixir grant? The ability to laugh at nearly everything?

Rodney’s rejection began at birth:

“My mother refused to breastfeed me. She said she just liked me as a friend.”

So much of his schtick involves feeling ugly and abandoned:

“When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.”

“A girl phoned me the other day and said, ‘Come on over. There’s nobody home.’ I went over. Nobody was home.”

“I know I’m ugly. I said to the bartender, ‘Make me a zombie.’ He said, “God beat me to it.’

“I’m so ugly when I worked in a pet shop, people kept asking how big I’d get.”

“I was such an ugly kid… when I played in the sandbox, the cat kept covering me up.”

I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it.”

I love outsiders and underdogs. Not studied freaks slumming in the land of melancholia, but the truly transcendent losers and impossible creatures who manage to survive the daily horrors and indignities–from eye-eating parasites to cheating spouses. We ought to praise tenacity as much as we praise beauty. We should understand the value of the hidden and strange, not just the self-consciously odd and kooky. Maybe most of all, we need to see life’s brutality with a bit of humor as Rodney did:

“My psychiatrist told me I was crazy. I said I wanted a second opinion. He said, “Okay, you’re ugly too.”

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