The Christmas of ’87: Part 2

The worst was over for that year. I was back in my own little world, safe from asshats like Mrs. Conners, Bobby and his friend, what’s-his-face. Not only did I not have to see them again, I didn’t have to attend CCD for the rest of the year. But all that was like a distant dream to me because it was happiest time of the year for a ten-year old and I had business to attend to.

Is it just me or did Christmas break seem like it was month-long back in the 1980’s? I suppose time moves a little slower when you countdown to a day rather than hurrying like a madman before it arrives. Regardless whether it was perception or an actual month break, it seemed long enough to forget math. But no matter, the weeks leading up to Christmas day was filled with fun like my favorite activity, searching for hidden presents!

I was a kid who could be left home alone for certain periods of time during the afternoon. Once Christmas break hit, Mom would run errands like the grocery store or lunch with friends and she felt a few hours unsupervised wouldn’t be so bad. After all, I proved what I could do to someone with a bible and we own around fifty of them.

These little spans of time alone were perfect for me to get snooping. And also the perfect time for me to play around with the new gas powered fireplace Dad had just installed. It amazed me. With the turn of a key and press of a button, I could have a roaring fire by the tree. It was also the perfect opportunity for a ten-year old boy to do something insanely stupid like, for example, toss in a couple of M-80 firecrackers I had been saving under the bed since the previous 4th or July. I can not explain why this was something I had to do but I had to do it.

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Mom wasn’t even out of the subdivision before I had that fire turned on high. Without giving a second thought, I tossed both M-80s into the fireplace and stood back, cupping my ears. Within seconds I saw a the distinctive spark of the fuse from the first firecracker and with an incredible blast, it blew exploded flaming paper out from the stone fireplace and onto the carpet. That sent a ten-year old into a panic and I stomped out the little flames and turned off the fire in one swift motion.

Then there was the issue of the second M-80. It didn’t go off. I was caught in a situation of unexploded ordnance and a possible life grounding event. I had to retrieve the M-80 somehow without blowing my fingers off and even more so, not get in trouble with only a week left before Christmas. As I collected the bits of the exploded firecracker, Mom came home early because she forgot something.


Boy, there was a lot of yelling. I remember this pretty clearly because for the next…well…ever, I was not allowed to even look at the fireplace. I was marched up to my room but there was a silver lining. She had no idea about the M-80. That is  a secret I have kept until now.

The one plus about the pre-cellphone and cordless era was I could count on Mom never being more than ten feet from the kitchen thanks to a lan line. That meant I was free to slip out of the room and look around the closets for any gifts that might be hidden. As long as Mom kept yapping, I knew I was free to roam around. And the second I heard the phone hangup, I knew I had 0.05 seconds to get from a closet and down the hall to my room. But such risks brought such sweet rewards.

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Behold what I found under a pile of coats, still in the old Toys R Us bag. The GI Joe Cobra Night Raven! I was overjoyed. I didn’t even know this was apart of the Cobra inventory. I sat there looking at the box of awesome when I heard Mom begin her famous long goodbye. You know the one moms do, “Okay…alright…you too…bye now”.

I placed the coats back over the box and with ninja speed and stealth, I raced back to the bedroom. I had to brief the Joes about the new ride they will have in seven short days.

I remember that magical feeling of finding such a big gift and knowing I would be the envy of the neighborhood. I daydreamed about the fantastic battles ahead and sending Shipwreck and Snake Eyes past the speed of sound. There were plenty of doodles with a big black plane strafing jeeps, I am sure.

That Christmas was also the one when I found the famous Tomahawk helicopter too. But I already wrote about that. You won’t have to revisit my gushing over a toy unless you want to. Okay, here is a link.

Later that evening, after dinner, we settled in for a night of Christmas specials. We didn’t have cable then so the primary channels were ABC, CBS, NBC and the dreaded PBS. I had the VCR primed to record every special from How the Grinch Stole Christmas to Merry Christmas Charlie Brown. It was a pure magic and I was at the right age to love the Hell out of them.

We sat there with the lights turned off, the tree aglow, basking in the warm fire as The Muppets Family Christmas aired. These are some of my best memories as a kid. Laughing with my Dad as we watched Animal scream, “PRESENTS! PRESENTS! PRESENTS!” we ate chocolate covered pretzel sticks and I dreamed of my big black jet that was soon to grace the skies of my imagination. Mom sat in her chair, cross stitching something to give to someone. It was a perfect pre-Christmas night full of everything that makes the holid-BABOOM!!!!

Great Jesus’s Ghost, I fucking forgot about the other M-80 firecracker that never went off! It was such a tranquil night until a great explosion that sent all of us to the ceiling. Dad went to great lengths to not use profanity around me but after that shocker, I remember quite a string of obscenities.

Upon investigation, somehow it was ruled the cracking of one of the ceramic logs which sounded like a firecracker was the cause of the blast. The bits of the M-80 must have burned up in the back of the fireplace because the rest was never found. I kept that secret until just this second. You are the only one to know.

We sat back down, a little shaken but otherwise fine. I don’t think my heart slowed down until my bedtime at 9:30. It was the second close call for a grounding over the same stupidity and I can’t believe I got away with it especially since just hours before I was sent to my room over the damn fireplace. Santa might see me when I was sleeping but I knew I what I was getting and it wasn’t punishment. It was a Night Raven.

That concludes part 2 of the greatest Christmas ever. I might drag this all the way to a part 4 but for now, I will leave you with the entire Muppet Family Christmas special. It’s glorious and wonderful and a few years ago I did full review of it. Here’s the link to that too.

Goodnight, you amazing person you.

Holiday Cheer From Yesteryear

I am about to enter into a week of work-hell so before I checkout starting Sunday through next Saturday, I thought I might link you to some past Thanksgiving-Holiday-Christmas posts from years past. It’s a cheap filler but if you have not read them, here is chance to grow your heart three sizes and decorate the dog.

Click the images to be whisked away to magical holiday…just click the images.

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A couple of years ago I wrote 1100 words describing a one minute McDonald’s commercial from 1987. Back before the war against McDonald’s, kids had a special love for the restaurant. Every holiday season, these types of commercials left an indelible impression on us. I still remember most of them, mentally linking the airing to certain CBS holiday programming like Garfield’s Christmas or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It was a simple time with simple pleasures like tearing up to Hardnose Mrs. Hatcher and her third grade class.

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Oh my gorsh, the Muppet Family Christmas is my favorite holiday special. It’s the king and if you have never seen it, I weep for you. Jim Henson goes full nuclear on us by bringing together the Muppets, Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock under one roof for a Christmas never to be equaled again. We even get a little cameo from the master himself and if you have a dry eye, you have no soul.

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Back before I knew the magic of Black Friday, I created a list of things I would rather do than subject myself to the herd of crazy bargain shoppers. Then, last year, the girl I was dating at the time introduced me to alcohol while shopping and I finally got it. Look for me at Target come 12:01am this coming Black Friday. I’ll be wearing something stupid and drinking a Big Gulp cup full of margarita.

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Years ago I was in a bidding war on eBay for an ugly Christmas sweater. When the price got to $200 I backed out and lost the bid. Thank God because then I would have never had the motivation to create this monstrosity. AND, get “pinned” on Pintrest over 300,000 times. Sometimes fame comes in weird forms.

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Hey, did you know certain European countries believed St. Nick had a demon sidekick that would kill and rape the bad kids? Yeah, it’s not bad enough to be screwed out of gifts because you didn’t finish your peas but get violated and killed by Krampus? Damn Christmas, you scary.

So there you go.


Thanksgiving, Muppet Family Christmas and a Magical Cat

I have learned over the years of blogging that a catchy title really makes a difference in readership. So, I suppose I need to produce a magic cat now. Okay, I don’t have a magic cat but I do have a picture of a very fat cat named Sox who let me dress him as a reindeer. He’s a good sport.

So, as I type this I am three beers and a whole turkey dinner into the holiday. We watched the Lions get beaten (again) and now it’s the third quarter of the last NFL game of the night. It’s always a little sad to carry the plate to the sink as we wave goodbye to another Thanksgiving, but to live is to die and now my focus is on Christmas entirely. And do you know what that means?  Nothing! I’ve been on Christmas since October 31st so making things official will just breed contempt for my last three weeks. No, I’ll just yap about my favorite holiday special of all time that, for some reason, isn’t very well-known. I hate that!

The Muppet Family Christmas was a gem of the mid-eighties that hasn’t had any air time in years. I don’t really know why because it is a true Jim Henson creation that combines not just the Muppets but Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock. As a child who relied on Sesame Street for basic reading and math, Muppets for what is relevent in entertainment and Fraggles for…what happens underground, this Christmas special was like the meeting of the titans for anyone who still wears Oshkosh overalls. It was and still is amazing. Let’s try to break down this very busy special.

We begin with the entire Muppet cast driving in an old beater with Fozzie at the wheel. Seems a bit senseless to put everyone in a truck, driven by a bear in a blinding snow storm but I need to remind myself that they are muppets. Anyway, the whole crew is singing carols and most jolly because they are headed to Fozzie’s mother’s house for a surprise Muppet family Christmas vacation. Only thing is…Fozzie’s mother took six months of surfing lessons soooo….

Wait a minute, this bear isn’t dressed for winter weather! Apparently, Momma Fozzie had other plans for Christmas and is packed and ready to leave for Malibu. The Muppets better hurry up or Animal will most likely shit on the doorstep out of sheer disappointment. But before she goes she needs to wait for her seasonal renters.

And the renters are none other than the antagonists from Fraggle Rock; Doc and Sprocket. I love Sprocket and he is by far, my favorite Henson character. Well, it looks like  Doc and dog are there for the goal of having a nice, quiet Christmas; far away from their Fraggle pests (so they think). Little do they know that in the driveway is about a hundred wild mutant creatures made of carpet with a showbiz talent coming to alter their intentions. Enter the Muppets.

Man, when a hundred of these things are in a room things get confusing. But knowing her plans for a tropical heat wave vacation is down the tubes and her six months of surf lessons are for not, she warmly welcomes all the “weirdos” much to the chagrin of Doc and Sprocket. But they get over it. By the way, where do you take surf lessons in the country?

In a humorous moment, Doc asks Sprocket if these are the Fraggles he has been trying to tell him about. Sprocket gives his best “sort of” shake of the hand. It’s about as cute as you can get.

So we have a house full of Muppets and one human minus one pig. It seems that Miss Piggy is still in the city finishing all the stuff a famous pig has to do. But it’s okay, she will be along shortly. Until then there are more visitors to come. Like this iconic Swedish character.

Boom! The Swedish Chef is in the house (after slipping on the icy patch) to cook the “gobbla gobbla Kreeesmas Tuuurkeeeee”. This is shaping up to be a special that doesn’t hold back. Of course shortly after his arrival the turkey himself shows up, sporting sunglasses and a tennis racket under the impression he was invited (by Chef of course) to a winter vacation. Greeted by Gonzo, he is warned of the impending doom that was to await him should he not leave, but his warnings go unheeded and the turkey blows off the danger. In an ironic statement Gonzo bids him farewell stating, “see you at dinner”. Hilarious.

Mean while in the kitchen, Kermit and his nephew Robbin share a touching and reflective moment as they sing “Jingle Bells” but are quickly interrupted by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem and their version of “Jingle Bell Rock”. I never realized what an awesome band name that was until now. I wonder if they have an album? Seriously.

Slowly the Muppet family grows as Rowlf the Dog arrives and keeps the running gag alive by slipping on the icy patch at the door. He shares a humorous conversation with Sprocket as they  trade “Bark! bark! Yeah, woof! woof!”. Dog talk. Then Rowlf spots the piano and another musical starts and the scene slides to Fozzie and a snowman sing “Bear and a Snowman” and do a stand up comedy sketch that seems to go over well with all the wild animals outside.

After cracking up the muppet animals that can sing, talk and discern humor but apparently not wear clothes or live indoors, they take advice from a penguin and decide to continue the comedy team. Excited, Fozzie races to pass the idea by Kermit but havoc once again rears its head and the Swedish Chef is trying to cook Sprocket the dog after being tricked by the turkey. Doc intervenes and states, “I don’t care if the turkey says the dog is a turkey, the dog is not the turkey, the turkey is the turkey, you turkey.” Well said, Doc.

After that scuffle was resolved, Skeeter finds old muppet baby movies and everyone(thing) gathers in the den to watch. I maybe mistaken but I think this scene inspired the popular 80’s Saturday morning cartoon, Muppet Babies on ABC. Don’t hold me to that, but the timeline matches up.

So, guess what? Something else is happening! Man, this Christmas special has a lot going on and probably isn’t the best one to recap. Bare with me because this show has a special nostalgic connection and I think I maybe writing this tonight for myself rather than for entertainment value.

Great Ceasar’s dick! It’s the entire gang from Sesame Street and they are coming to celebrate Christmas with the Muppets in an already crowded country house.

In another endearing scene we see Bert and Ernie engage Doc in what they call “small talk” by informing him what every letter for every word he says begins with. Doc, seemingly in a much better mood, cheerfully states he’s off to build bunk beds which almost sends Bert and Ernie into hysterics by hitting a double ‘B’ word.

Again, we switch gears and we find the Swedish Chef has finally caught up with the sly turkey in the kitchen and he finally admits he is what he is. But, before accepting his fate he let’s the Chef know that he’s not the only fat bird in the house. “Gobbla Gobbla Humonga!”

Well, with all this goodwill through the house we need a subplot that brings worry to Kermit and that is the fact a huge blizzard approaching the house and Miss Piggy is still not there. We find this out by an emergency broadcast warning that barometers are falling sharply. Haha.

What makes this special…well…special is the interaction between all the Jim Henson characters. Like this priceless moment between Janice (Electric Mayhem guitarist) and the Cookie Monster.

Little does Janice know that she is offering cookies to a creature that would rip her arms out of socket for a crumb. Cookie Monster ravages the cookies as Janice could do nothing but look in shock. This scene is worth a thousand words but I feel I am only worthy enough to dedicate fifty.

With the weather cold enough to “freeze your winnebego” Kermit becomes increasingly worried about Miss Piggy. This is a perfect opportunity for Fozzie to distract Kermit from his worries and introduce his new comedy act. But little does he know his nemesis critics have joined the festivities and are waiting for something like this. And boy do they rip the bear and snowman a new one!

While the critics stomp the piss out of Fozzie and the Snowman’s comedy sketch, Big Bird checks out the kitchen, unknowingly into the clutches of the Swedish Chef who wants to serve him as the Christmas bird. But, as disarming as Big Bird is in nature, he gives the Chef chocolate covered bird seed because he knew his home was far away in Sweden and this gesture took the Chef off guard as the two engage in, you guessed it, a song.

I remember this scene as being one of the funniest as a kid because hearing the Swedish Chef sing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” is about the most hilarious thing I can think of. Today, I wonder if he really was singing is Swedish or it’s just a lot of made up gibberish. If it was real, man, Sweden got fucked on a language.

Big Bird inadvertently saved his beak and the Chef decided to cook “Cran un boochers” or as we call it, shredded wheat and cranberries, which just happens to be Big Birds favorite. I think everyone else is going to be pissed.

Well, the weather just isn’t letting up and Kermit is getting more and more anxious by the minute. Doc sees the worried frog and offers to go out and look for Miss Piggy. In a momentary loss of his mind he asks how he should recognize her to which Kermit replies, “she’s a pig”. Brilliant. It’s nice to see Doc taking to the weirdos.

After Doc leaves, Kermit’s annoying cousin Scrappy…er…Robin calls him downstairs to investigate something he found. It looks to be something Kermit had told Robin about in stories and that is a genuine…

…Fraggle cave. I had no idea these Muppet/Henson creatures knew about each other. Then again, I had no idea that a 33-year-old guy could care about this. (me) But I do.

Robbin and Kermit explore the cave for approximately three seconds before running into a family of Fraggles. They, of course, broke into a song about the Fraggle version of Christmas and how they too share the tradition of giving. Their’s, however, kind of sucks because all they do is re-gift an orange pebble over the past thirty-seven years. If they knew about a Muppet’s Christmas that pebble would be passed to no one.

There’s a commotion happening upstairs and the frogs have to depart from the Fraggle cave but not before they give Robbin the pebble in the spirit of their godless holiday. There goes that thirty-seven year tradition.

Well look is tardy to the fuckin’ party? Miss Pig! And she managed to talk Doc into dressing up like some Canadian Mounty. I would have liked to have seen that. Do you think the old guy stripped down to his briefs in a blizzard just because a pig asked? I bet she is packing heat and Doc had one option or face a chance of being found in April when the snow dunes melt.

The next ten minutes of this special is filled with about twenty Christmas songs while the entire muppet family sits in the living room. Any other movie, this would be unbearable. But because it’s the Muppets, this scene is amazing. I, at times, turn this part of the movie on just for the music and drink my eggnog. I love it.

The last scene is my favorite. In fact, it’s the entire reason I wrote this painfully long and redundant recap of this special. I get teary every time I see it. A cameo by the creator and largest part of my childhood entertainment made this show. Jim Henson was a good man who made educational shows, bridged gaps in a racial divide, inspired creativity and blessed my childhood with an array of iconic characters. Of all the imaginateers and creators, his death was the hardest for me. I think maybe it was the thought that all these Muppets no longer have their creator behind the magic and in a way, they passed too. But we have this to remind us that imagination never really dies and that, I can be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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