By Tim Mollen
Journal entry: April 17, 1999 (age 29)
“Snarf” is the name of a character on the mid-‘80s TV cartoon, Thundercats. The Thundercats, led by the fierce and studly Lion-o, are a race of anthropomorphic cat warriors who battle the evil Mumm-Ra and his minions on the planet of Third Earth. Snarf is a small, plump, cat-like thing that acts as Lion-O’s sidekick. He’s also highly annoying. How annoying is Snarf? Well, for starters, his people are known as “Snarfs,” and they come from the “Planet of Snarfs.” And, like many hip-hop artists and Bob Dole, Snarf constantly reminds us of his name by saying it every time he speaks.
“Giroux” is the name of a lifelong friend of mine from the West Side of Binghamton. His full name is John Giroux, and during my school years, our relationship alternated between the convivial and the adversarial. In second grade, he greeted my every playground comment with shouts of “Motormouth Mollen – vroom, vroom!” In high school, Giroux gave me countless rides in his massive, battleship gray, 1972 Polara. But unlike the many other friends on board, I was the only passenger from whom he demanded gas money. In college, Giroux was my most frequent correspondent, but his letters and packages often contained all manner of scatological horrors he had found in his yard or on his person. In short, our friendship has always been a complicated one.
At some point in high school, these two “animated” characters became inextricably linked. Giroux was a Thundercats fan, and he had developed a vocal impersonation of Snarf. This was an improbable task, as Snarf’s voice is a kind of high-pitched caterwaul, and Giroux’s voice is a kind of post-gargling-with-razor-blades growl. My friends and I all found the attempted impression hilarious, and we began to request that Giroux perform it at the lunch table, at parties, and at drive-thru windows.
Which brings us to today, when Giroux and I were among the attendees at my cousin and friend Thom Mollen’s wedding. Thom and his new bride, Cynthia, are both physicians, and their reception was a lovely, classy occasion. I was sharing a beer with Thom’s brother and best man, Kevin, when Giroux approached us with a look that said, “Let’s get this party started!” Feeling some simpatico with my old pal, I suggested the best party-starter I could think of: “Do the Snarf for us, John!”
Giroux immediately and loudly complied – his voice a horrific, strangled wail. He managed to stretch the word “snarf” into four syllables, with fricatives noisily battling glottal stops for supremacy. The commotion soon drew a small crowd, which included my wife, Amanda. Like everyone else, she was laughing hysterically. “Oh, John,” she said, “I’ve heard about your Snarf impression for years, and it’s even worse than I imagined!”
As the laughs quieted, I noticed that Giroux’s face had dropped a bit. “What does she mean?,” he asked me. It took a moment for me to recognize the tragedy that had just reached its denouement. I said, quietly, “Don’t tell me that you’ve believed for the last 14 years that everyone loved your Snarf impression for its accuracy!” Giroux frowned, and let out a small, pathetic sound.