Get Stuffed!

Just read a blog from a good friend of mine today concerning the small stuffed cow that he has been travelling the globe with for quite a few years now. If you are interested, you can read about it here:

Well, the point being that JuLes and his cow, named Biff, are not an oddity in this world. I myself have been known to jump a plane or train with the ever faithful Balthy the stuffed emu in order to satiate his lifelong quest for pins (flags or crests from countries visited). Jonathan, my good friend and homeless Canadian from the earlier Scandinavian adventures, was actually the one who forced me into this existence of plushness when he discovered Balthy in the lost-and-found bin at the High Street Hostel in Edinburgh. Balthy was presented to me, Jonathan told me that I must henceforth carry this modified beanbag wherever I venture and that I must affix the aforementioned pins to its fuzzy flesh. Though Biff and Balthy have actual form and a vague resemblance to some living creature, Jonathan carries around a stuffed sock with white cut-out paper eyes, ragged green bit of wash cloth hair and repeatedly replaced mangled cigar butt (because someone usually ends up smoking the cigar at some point) sticking out from a hole in the sock, all this based upon a Canadian icon of sorts called Ed the Sock – a loud-mouthed, arrogant “host” of a music video program on TV. Jonathan has even kept the same name and has gone as far as fabricating some strange background story of how “his” Ed the Sock is the evil twin of the original and wished to see the world instead of being trapped in the clutches of television stardom all his existence. Give him a break, he’s Canadian!

There are various reasons why we and many others like us cavort with these inanimate travel companions, but I guess the main underlying reason is to have some sort of unique foreground for the photographs we take: A slightly out-of-focus Biff against the expanse of the Red Square in Moscow; Ed the Sock in the gentle grip of a young monk in Thailand; Balthy warming up to an elderly woman selling bird feed in a Sarajevo market. I guess that many of these photos began as a humorous gesture to amuse of family and friends, but then it became an obsession … a sickness, even … especially with Jonathan and I … well, mostly Jonathan. Competitions started arising, points to be scored, goals to achieve. Could one of us get a Russian border guard to have their image snapped with a stuffed doll? Can you sneak a shot of the plush critter sitting astride a sawdust filled seal in the Tromsø Polar Museum? Would the Pope give these cuddly items a squeeze? And even more so, would he let you capture this on film for the faithful masses to become exposed to!? Sometimes these reasons outweighed logic and became our sole motives for going certain places; some of which have been fulfilled, some waiting for another day.

I guess there is also the fact that most us like being in the spotlight a bit, as well. I know that I can be a ham at times. Nothing starts up a conversation or attracts various sideways glances or full-on gawking as meandering up to some well-know or sacred landmark, withdrawing a mangy sock / cow / emu from your rucksack and then trying to find that perfect angle and shot that would encompass the beauty of the location only to flaw it with the presence of a tattered and stuffed something. I am not too sure how well this has been at winning the hearts of beautiful women, but then again, I am married to a beautiful little lady, and JuLes has the lifelong companionship of the lovely Gerri. Jonathan, on the other hand … well, what kind of impression could you hope to make with a grubby sock puppet?

The well-dressed Canadian meanders over to a table occupied by a beautiful dark-haired woman that has been catching his eye all evening: “Hi, my name is Jonathan, very nice to meet you!”
With a shy, come-hither look, the lady replies: “Hello. I’m Bertha. So, how did you end up in this small cafĂ© in rural Cumbernauld?”
“Actually, I’ve been travelling constantly for over the past 10 years now. I now work as a tour guide for a prestigious firm which pays me to traverse the globe in search of exotic locales.”
More sparkles glint within her eyes: “Wow! That sounds really interesting!”
Jonathan notices the sparks flying and helps himself to the empty seat beside her: “Yeah, it is fun, but I really use it as a vehicle for my true love … photography. As a matter of fact, I was wondering if you could help me with a photo right now.” Jonathan reaches into his day pack resting on his lap and pulls out Ed: “Here, could you hold this a moment?”
Those once magical, sparkling eyes dull into the colour of charcoal that has been urinated upon to extinguish any remaining hint of flame: “Excuse me,” she says in a flat tone typically utilised by postal clerks, “I have to get back to the doctor now and have a bad case of haemorrhoids examined.”

Now, the story if he had been travelling with a cute, cuddly plush creature the likes of Biff or Balthy:

Jonathan notices the sparks flying and helps himself to the empty seat beside her: “Yeah, it is fun, but I really use it as a vehicle for my true love … photography. As a matter of fact, I was wondering if you could help me with a photo right now.” Jonathan reaches into his day pack resting on his lap and pulls out an adorable, stuffed, fluffy kitten: “Here, could you hold this a moment?”
Her eyes flare up with brightness unseen except by those who have had near-death experiences and claim to have ‘seen the light’. She stands up, grasping the collar of her button-down blouse and ripping the front open in one blindingly quick movement that sends mother-of-pear flying across the room to expose lingerie and cleavage that would have most mortal men shaking in their Wellington boots and drooling like a little child after an injection of Novocain. “Take me now!” she screams with passion. “Show me the love that only a heart as pure as yours can deliver unto my unworthy soul! Let me become fertile with your seed and bear forth the fruit of your sacred loins! I am at your whim … command me and deliver me into the paradise that is your embrace!”

I’m sure JuLes could back me up on this and that he had a similar experience when telling his future wife-to-be about Biff … right?

Whatever the reasoning the three of us have for doing what we do, we are not alone. There are others out there, and I think the world would be more boring and a much less happier place without us. At least we give others something to point and laugh at.