When I was ten or twelve I’d put on little roller skating shows in my garage. I’d sing my favorite songs while I’d skate in a circle, pretending I was Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu. One such afternoon, my neighbor Mark, who was my age, pulled up on his dirt bike and asked me what song I was listening to. It so happened that, at this moment I was listening to and belting out and figure-eight-ing to The Magic Store from The Muppet Movie. So I told him. “Only fags listen to music like that,” he said and then rode off on his bike, proud of himself for obvious reasons.
I immediately turned off my music and took off my roller skates and went inside. My mom asked me what Mark wanted, I told her about our exchange and what he’d said to me. She asked what song I was listening to and I told her The Magic Store. She didn’t say anything but she gave me a look that compassionately said, “Well, that is sort of a colorful song.”
I loved The Magic Store. When not singing to it on roller skates, I’d sing it standing in front of the mirror, creating new choreography every time. It thrilled me, it understood me, it spoke to me and it inspired me. I did find a home at the magic store.
Today is Jim Henson’s birthday. Like many of my generation, he figured prominently to my youth. I started with Sesame Street as a wee boy, and then I remember watching The Muppet Show every Saturday night. I saw The Muppet Movie at least 10 times in the theatre and I don’t know how many more times I watched it on tv. I loved Kermit and Miss Piggy. I loved Ernie. I loved Fozzie. And Remember Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas?
I do know why I gravitated to the things that Jim Henson created. He understood the outsider, the person who couldn’t quite pass as normal. Back when I was 10 or 12, I thought there was such a thing as normal. Every once in a while, I’ll still stand in front of a mirror and launch into, “It starts when we’re kids…” And thankfully nothing anyone could ever say to me now would make me turn off my music and take off my roller skates and go inside.