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Friday, July 26, 2013

My Journey As A Muppet Fan Part X: Life’s Not Always A Happy Song by Nicholas Napoli

My Journey As A Muppet Fan Part X:
Life’s Not Always A Happy Song
I had basically grown up with the Muppets during the 90’s when Gonzo and Rizzo had more or less taken over for Kermit and Fozzie. I was a huge fan of both the Weirdo and the Rat for this particular reason but it was Gonzo who at the age of thirteen I could most relate too. I was the Gonzo amongst my group of friends and when they realised who Gonzo was that soon became my nickname for a while too. Becoming a teenager isn’t easy especially when everybody your age knows who you are and especially when you have this crazy obsession with the Muppets which everybody knows about. Even as far back as middle school I remember hiding my Ernie and Bert puppets which were displayed on my bed anytime any of my friends came over but it was when I first became a teenager that being a Muppet fan seemed totally wrong. Knowing the difference between Statler and Waldorf, being able to sing It’s Not Easy Being Green in its entirety and my massive Muppet collection now didn’t seem as cool anymore. The thing is that as ashamed as I was about it everybody still knew I loved the Muppets because I just couldn’t hide it.

When I was thirteen I entered comprehensive school and to make matters worse when you reach comprehensive in Gibraltar the boys and girls are suddenly separated into two different schools (yep we’re that small). Now I was forced to meet every single boy my age and all the ones up to six years older than me and in all my time there I discovered one thing… I was the only boy in the whole school who had a Miss Piggy soft toy back home. Actually I was the only kid who liked Muppets period but it was totally normal if you were into Warbummer, Star Bores or Pokemoron.
1999 was the year when the jokes started, apparently being a teenaged mutant ninja Muppet fan makes you a target for ridicule. I now realise it wasn’t so much my passion that they were ridiculing it was how open I was about it. Yet The Muppets were such a big part of my life that it was normal for me to say the occasional Wocka-Wocka or sing about the Rainbow Connection. I probably didn’t help myself by going around blurting out “Mahna-Mahna” everywhere I went hoping I would get a “Doo-Do-Doo-Do” back in response, sadly the only response I ever got was physical.

When I started comprehensive I also started hanging with my new friends and now I had my own group of Muppets even though they’d never admit to it. Everyone was always so obsessed over my obsession with the Muppets and the jokes that were funny for them were in fact tiring for me. Even though I had plenty of friends I still felt so left out as though I didn’t belong anywhere. Everyone had their own little group, there were the football kids, the dancing kids, the intelligent kids, the geeks, the jocks, the inbetweeners but where were the Muppet kids? I was so tired of just speaking online with people about Muppets. I wanted a real live face to face conversation with a true Muppet fan, one who could actually keep up with me and maybe even teach me a thing or two if that were even possible.
The year ended with my voice breaking, my confidence fading and pimples appearing but my dedication to the Muppets just got stronger and stronger even though at the same time I was keeping my Muppet obsession to myself. This is the year when it was finally official… I could no longer talk about the Muppets as freely as I once did and for this reason the original Muppet Closet was created not only to hide my collection but my passion too. This was going to have to be my secret even though everybody already knew about it I had just decided I wasn’t going to give them anymore fuel and because of this I began to distant myself from the Muppets. Soon after the millennium came to an end and I officially quit being a Muppet Fan. Two minutes later the clock strikes twelve and I could not believe I had started the new millennium Muppet free and hopefully this would also mean a whole new me. At 12:03 I realised what a fool I was and once again became a Muppet Fan and good thing I did because thirteen years later it was all going to be worth it.
After I returned from my great Muppet caper… again I was over the moon with happiness especially considering the fact that I was finally fixed. When I went to bed I actually slept, when I woke up I was actually awake, when I ate food it finally had taste and the list continues on and on and on. Life was a happy song but sadly that tune always changes because realistically life isn’t always a happy song and when my tune changed it caught me completely off guard. I was on a Muppet high and couldn’t believe I had actually met both the Muppets and the Muppeteers plus an extra bonus visiting the set of a Muppet movie. As a fan you want this to happen so much that you actually convince yourself that it’ll happen someday. Honestly I always believed that this day would come but at the same time I always had this little doubt that I was lying to myself. When it finally happened I couldn’t believe it but now I was back home where life needed my concentration. Instead in my head I was still helping the Muppet catch those jewel thieves’ red handed or whatever colour their hands might have been at that particular moment. I was still in my little Muppet fantasy bubble dancing my cares away, leaving my worries for another day as I let the music play down on my home rock.

My Grandmother Angela for the past year every time I visited her would always ask me the same two questions:
1) Did you meet the Muppets?
2) Are you better?
My Mama Angela is wheelchair bound and resides in a caring home and every time I went to visit her I had such a great time that I sometimes forgot I was surrounded by old people. Throughout the years I’ve become friends with all the Statlers, Waldorfs, Ma Fiamas and Emily Bears who reside there so when I actually went to visit my Grandmother I was also going to visit all of them. My Grandfather was always angry that my Grandmother never had her own personal wheelchair, it was always shared about with everyone else and there was a particular wheelchair she preferred and he hated it when she didn’t get it. A few years earlier after my Grandpa passed away I stuck Muppet stickers on that particular wheelchair, the one my Grandmother prefers. Now I know which one is supposedly hers and to this day those stickers are all still there. Every time I could I made sure my Grandmother got that wheelchair but sometimes I might find Arturo or Alberto sat on that chair instead covered with Miss Piggy, Janice, Camilla, Beaker, Swedish Chef and Tutu Pepe stickers.

A month earlier before I had gone to London my Grandmother was on a high as they were giving her too much medication. Every time we visited her she would only speak about the food she wanted to buy for the kitchen, the decorations she wanted to decorate the living room with and how she was beating everyone at dominos… when it comes to dominions my grandmother is the ultimate champion. Something that really touched me was that even though she was on a high only speaking about things that interested her and sometimes even forgetting other people’s name she would never forget mine. In fact for the past few days just before I left she was driving everyone crazy with her “lists” and always asking them if I had met the Muppets and if I was free from my “seizures”.
The day before I left to meet Sam the Eagle in London I went to visit my Grandmother who had a whole list of stuff she wanted me to bring back for her from London. My Mama Angela is a fighter no matter how ill she got or how scared she made us many times she always surprised us by coming back stronger than ever. I get my determination from my Grandfather but I definitely get my strength from her. A week later when I returned from London I went to visit Mama Angela along with the souvenirs I had brought her from London and answers to her questions. “Please tell me the doctor was able to help you?” she asked me and I smiled and began telling her all about Dr Grant. My Grandmother seemed so relieved that finally after a year of asking I was able to give her the answer she wanted. I had also brought a nice big Burger King feast along with me and in the care agency’s garden we ate and I told my Mama all about my awesome Muppet experience. I was so glad I finally had the answers she wanted and then my Grandmother looked at me and said “I would really like to eat a McDonalds tomorrow” and I promised to bring her one next time I came. Sadly I never kept my promise to her because the very next day my very own biggest fan passed away.


My tune had changed and even though I had accomplished my dream I realised there’s never a point in life where you can actually think that you’re done struggling. That’s actually the whole point of life, we’re being tested for what’s to come and until we don’t pass our test our struggles will never be over. We are all scared of death and honestly I am too but truthfully death isn’t as bad as it sounds and it’s simply the next step of quite a long journey. These shells that we call bodies which we all try so hard to keep pretty in the long run is a waste of our time. The outside isn’t important it’s what’s on the inside and even though you may no longer see a person’s shell they still live on whilst we’re still stuck in class taking our test. When someone passes away although it might take a while until we see them again the comforting part is knowing that they are not feeling the same loss as we are because they are still able to see us taking our test.
A few days after my grandmother had passed away now that I was out of my Muppet bubble and back to reality I realised that I wasn’t making the most of my test. I had lived my dream but now that this was accomplished I realised I really hadn’t accomplished anything. I was lost in life, I had no job, no money, no car, no girlfriend, no Hot wheels Electric Mayhem Bus… I hadn’t really answered any questions from my actual test. I was so bored with life and had no idea in what direction I wanted to take it in, I felt like a big yellow bird who had no idea where he was going in life.
My aim is always to make people happy and I always used to accomplish this by making people laugh and feel good about themselves by unintentionally showing them what a fool I am. Now that I was back and finally healthy I was ready to join humanity in this stupid hobby we all share in common… working for a living. I had worked for the past eight years counting down the hours on the clock every day and why wasn’t I fulfilled? I wasn’t making any difference in the world as my jobs consisted of doing nothing that I personally felt achieved anything that mattered. If I was going to start working again I was going to make sure that I woke up every morning knowing I was going to make a difference that day. At the same time I just wanted to live my life and be happy and the only time I was truly happy was when I visited my old pals the Muppets. I knew I was still healthy, I could feel it but still I called up Dr Grant’s office and moved by check-up forward because I realised life is too short to waste it not doing what makes you happy. I live in Gibraltar, the Muppets live in America and right now they’re in England only a two hour plane ride away. Why was I still in Gibraltar if being in London was where I actually wanted to be? I was about to start work again and start living the life that is expected but before I did that I needed one last big hoorah with my friends. The questions on my test were finally starting to make sense to me and I was going to make sure that years from now I passed it with flying colours.
I began checking to see what jobs were available and none of them interested me except for one which was exactly what I was looking for I just didn’t know it until I saw it. There was a vacancy at the care agency where I’d actually be working directly with people whose lives I could make a difference in. I could certainly wake up every morning knowing I would go to bed that night having had the chance to make a difference in people’s lives.

A few days later I was called in for an interview, I did my best even though for three minutes all I did was speak about Muppets and then came the worst part… waiting. For the first time in a long time I finally felt I had a better understanding of this test I was taking. My health was much better in fact you could say I was cured but until I visited Dr Grant for my check-up I wasn’t going to get my hopes up. I bought my plane ticket and this time decided I was going to do this on my own for the simple reason that I wanted to prove to myself that I was fixed. As always the hardest thing about going on these trips was the fact that I would not see my nephew for a while and he was growing up so fast and I didn’t want to miss a single second of it.


I began getting ready for my trip back to London where I was going to meet the Muppet… again… and again and this time I was finally cured. I was back to the old Nicholas who I had forgotten even existed but I was so happy to see him again, the missing link had returned. Having already met most of the Muppeteers, the fact that I was cured and had finally managed to get my life on the right track meant there could be no possible way that I could make a fool of myself this time… or is there?
I was getting ready to finish what I started and I just hoped my invitation to Pinewood Studios had yet not expired. This was it, this was my last trip to play the music, light the lights and meet the Muppets without making a fool of myself tonight. Would I meet three more of my heroes left on my list? Let’s just say this time around I was going to get an amazing gift from Peter Linz, I was going to talk about Scooter with David Rudman and Dave Goelz had a very special message for me. I still didn’t know it but out of all my trips this last one clearly ended up being my greatest Muppet caper ever. When you ride with Dave Goelz and Peter Linz in a car for forty-five minutes on the last day of shooting a Muppet movie then you know you hit the Muppet fan jack pot.
Before I left for London I went and placed flowers at my Grandmother’s grave not because she had died but because she had evolved and I missed her. I then went to my other Grandmother’s house and said goodbye to Mama June who only keeps becoming a bigger and bigger Muppet Fan each day.

I was finally ready, I was healthy, I was packed, I had a direction in life, everything was finally coming to an end and I was in for an extraordinary finale. I said goodbye to my family, I kissed my nephew, I panicked at the fact that I barley had any spending money. I boarded the plane, panicked that I wouldn’t get the job when I came back and then I took a deep breath and got ready for my great Muppet caper… again and again.    

- Nicholas Napoli
Thanking Nicholas so much for Part X.
My Journey As A Muppet Fan Part XI:
My Great Muppet Caper...Again and Again
coming soon!


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