If we are talking about Henry Winkler, then it has an awful lot to do with them. If you are like me and grew up in the 70's and 80's, then you remember Happy Days. More specifically you remember the Fonz, the Triumph riding epitome of cool who was part Lone Ranger and part Marlon Brando. For many of us, the character of Fonzie put motorcycles in our sights and exposed us to a way of life.
To me, I always appreciated the code that the character followed to the letter. He was confident and loyal, a great friend and fierce enemy. He was revered for his fighting prowess, so much so that he rarely had to resort to violence to solve a crisis. His mechanical skills were legendary and he was like candy to females.
Most importantly, the Fonz rode. His bike was a part of him, to the degree that it was in his apartment during the winter. (and yes, my own beloved Triumph stayed in my living room in the harsher months at my old house) These are all things to be respected and admired when you are a pre-teen!
Except, I still admire them. I can watch old episodes of Happy Days over and over again. A debt is owed to Henry Winkler, who brought the Fonz to life and made the show a true sensation. I owe him a debt for another reason, but I will get to that in a moment.
George Stroumboulopoulos (or 'Strombo' as he is mercifully referred to more often) is a well known Canadian interviewer who recently joined CNN's Friday night time slot. I was fortunate enough to see his debut show, at least the part when he interviewed Henry Winkler. A portion of that can be found here:
It's true. Henry Winkler cannot ride a motorcycle. At all. period. He is apparently unable to manipulate the controls and lacks the correct co-ordination. Does that diminish anything for me? Not at all.
What is far more relevant to me is that Henry Winkler has a serious learning Disability. In his case, Dyslexia. This is something he has battled with his whole life and has been very open about for many years.
Growing up with any learning disability is very difficult, I have been dealing with the trials and tribulations of Attention Deficit Disorder as far back as I can remember. To this day it is a problem, though I have developed methods to deal with it. I have a very limited short term memory; sometimes when I am using a manual I have forgotten what I just read by the time I grab a wrench. In the past, I would walk away from projects or enlist help because the frustration overwhelmed me. I had been afraid to build an engine or do my own brakes as forgetting one part or step could have catastrophic results.
On some occasions, I have forgotten what someone has said to me almost instantly. This has led to many difficult and awkward moments as one might imagine, especially with the opposite sex or at work.
In my youth I had been called slow, lazy, thoughtless, careless, stupid. It could be very depressing and painful at times, leading me to withdraw from others. I wanted to be liked and to fit in but that seemed to be a flight of fantasy.
When I was about nine or so, my mother told me that Fonzie was also learning Disabled. She of course meant the actor who played him, but it made a huge impact on me. Suddenly, I felt less alone, less alien. I shared a kinship with the Fonz! It wasn't so bad, being different and doing things the way I needed to.
One day I would have my own code and live by it. I would also have my own motorcycle and embark on a life of intrigue and adventure.
Watching that interview, I felt a big piece of my past resurface. I found myself appreciating Henry Winkler on an adult level. He comes across as someone who is caring, thoughtful and very genuine. He has found great success and overcome a great many obstacles. He spoke of how he always approaches someone he wants to meet regardless of where he is or when it is. This was a lesson learned when he missed an opportunity to speak with Steve McQueen in the mid 70's.
I have done a great deal of interesting things in my life, I have been blessed with the courage to do the things I have wanted to do and I have met and known wonderful people. My parents deserve much of the credit for that, there were certainly moments in my history where it could have all gone south. I have to chalk a little of that up to the conversation my Mum and I had all those years ago. While I haven't jumped a line of cars in the parking lot of Arnolds, I do own a beautiful Triumph and wear a leather jacket when I ride her. Coincidence? Perhaps.
There is a saying that goes 'you should never meet your heroes'. I think in this case, whoever wrote that may be wrong. You see, the Fonz is still a man to look up to and admire. His hair might be grey and the leather jacket long since gone, However it is the man, not these things that maketh a legend.
|I keep this in my garage on the shelf, here is a picture sitting astride my '73 Triumph when it became a roller.|