Day 982: Opening 40

originally published September 8, 2014

As some of you may have heard (I have griped about this rather frequently lately), the cold, icy grip of 40 is looming around my next corner, poised to wrestle my youth to the ground before September’s end, pummeling it with its grey-haired, middle-aged fists.

But I’m okay with that.

Not only because I will finally experience my first day off from writing since December 30, 2011, and not because I believe some faucet of inherent wisdom will squeak open and gush the solved riddles of the universe upon my anxious brain, but because I simply refuse to stack my plate full of anxiety and dread over a number. 40 can be the new 30 – except my kids are mostly grown-up, my time is more my own, and my taste in beer has matured to a delicious and luminous plateau.

Besides, I’m not the only one packing air into his lungs for a big 40-candle blow-out. Skittles turn forty this year, so does the Volkswagen Golf. The Intel 8080 chip was released four decades ago, as was the San Diego Chicken (from whatever oversized, freakish coop in which he was reared). Let’s see what else will be launching its fifth decade on earth in 2014.

The toy whose very visage defines the 1980’s was born in Budapest on January 16, 1974. The Rubik’s Cube is, quite literally, Rubik’s cube. Ernö Rubik worked at the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts (where I suppose you can begin working on your major in kindergarten), and he designed the toy as a way to solve the design problem of having the parts move independently without the entire thing falling apart. After playing around with it for a while, Rubik discovered that putting it back to its alpha state, with all six sides sporting a uniform color, was a nifty little puzzle.

There are about 43 quintillion positions in which a Rubik’s Cube can be arranged. While most of us spent our Rubik’s time in the 80’s claiming victory when we scored a single side, very few of us pieced together how to solve the entire thing. I always felt I would someday, but I know now (and maybe this is a droplet from that wisdom faucet) that it won’t happen. Unless I cheat. There are many solutions that one can find online which can direct you how to solve pretty much any scrambled Cube in less than a hundred moves.

If one should ever feel so inclined.

While Miss Piggy was most certainly not my favorite cast member on The Muppet Show (a cast which was near-flawless in its conception), she’s the one felt-based celebrity to be turning 40 this year. Her first appearance – with beady little eyes and a demure singing voice – was on a TV special featuring Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. She began on The Muppet Show as a secondary character, but her squealing popularity propelled her to the front of the stage. Also, she was the only strong female character on the show. Janice just didn’t cut it.

Miss Piggy – or “Piggy Lee”, a.k.a. “Pigathius”, as her full name was explained on various episodes of the show – has topped the New York Times Bestseller list, something even her amphibian co-star has failed to achieve. Frank Oz, who spent over 25 years with his hand crammed deep into her nether-regions, praised Piggy as one of the few Muppets with a full three dimensions of personality. She may also be the only Muppet who has been praised as “hot” on the internet, for whatever that’s worth.

Yep, if you’re my age or older I have now crammed this song so deep into your ear canal you’ll be weeping yourself to sleep tonight in bouncy descending notes. The feline foodstuff was initially scooped from the Ralston-Purina mind-stew in ’74, and now sits somewhere down the table from the canned pineapple at the Del Monte corporate banquet.

That damn song was written by Shelley Palmer, about whom I know nothing else. I can, however, identify Linda November as the lady behind the meowing voice. She also sang the “Have a Coke and a smile” jingle in that classic Mean Joe Greene spot. Her resume of jingles reads like a rolodex of my youth.

(I figure anyone old enough to remember these commercials is probably old enough to know what a rolodex is.)

The ultimate blend of mythology, fantasy, history, and (if you’re with the right people) complete bat-shit-weirdery has to be Dungeons & Dragons. Admittedly I never truly delved into this obsession, but had geek culture been a socially-accepted propeller of the mainstream in the 70’s and 80’s, this game would have been as popular as World of Warcraft today. Plus, it has the benefit of its dice being used as potential projectiles when someone you’re playing with pisses you off.

D&D has also given us a baffling melee battle with the religious right, as well as rumors of game-induced psychosis. It became the poster child for the ultimate in geekness, the embodiment of one side of the nerdism vs. jockism dichotomy that was 80’s culture. The one thing it hasn’t done is go away; any fad that can still claim a significantly populated subculture forty years later is worthy of some respect.

I had always assumed that Bailey’s Irish Cream stretched, like most mainstays of the booze world, at least back to the salty days of Prohibition. In fact its origins lie in 1971, when Gilbeys of Ireland was searching for something unique to shill on the international market. Three years later, they figured out how to blend cream with Irish Whiskey and bottle it for storage outside of a refrigerated environment. The name was borrowed from the Bailey’s Hotel in London.

That’s right, the “R.A. Bailey” signature on the bottle is a sham. The man doesn’t exist. All those lonely nights in which you told R.A. all your secrets while pouring his whiskey down your gullet were a lie.

That said, the Bailey’s people do use actual cream. Yet somehow it doesn’t go sour and we lactose-intolerant shlubs can usually drink the stuff with no problem. Hooray for magical cream.

Lastly… Fonzie.

Son of Vito, father of Danny, brother of Artie, cousin of Chachi and Spike.


The tenant who lived alone yet connected to the C’s.

Dater of Pinky. Mentor to Leather.

Conqueror of barrels. Master of the jukebox. Occupier of the bathroom office.

He who cannot say “wrong”. Who cannot say “sorry”.

He supported Ike in ’56. He fought for equal rights . He now sits in bronze in Milwaukee.

He made Mork seem believable enough to warrant his own series.

His act of aquatic bravery – in some minds – single-handedly signaled the point of ultimate decline for Happy Days. Jumping the shark is now the most dangerous activity in the world, if you’re a TV show.

Fonzie was my first hero, the first fictional character I ever wanted to be – even before Han Solo.

Why don’t I worry about turning 40 this year? Because the man who played Fonzie is still on TV, and he is still absolutely awesome. The fun is just getting started.

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