It’s finally happened. Elon Musk has gone too far. First, he gives his kid an unpronounceable and possibly illegal name, according to the state of California, X Æ A-12. Then again, California has an active law banning women from driving while wearing a housecoat. It is unclear if this offensive is equally punishable for men. Someone, please try it and get back to me.
I am also not talking about Rocket Ships, SNL appearances, or even the fact that he sold 6.9 Billion, with a B worth of Tesla Stock based on a Twitter poll.
No, what really riles me up is that he is apparently single-handedly responsible for culture canceling a NUMBER! This, according to several articles on the internet, so it must be true. A number so stuck in the brain of any adolescent from the late 80′ and early ‘90s.
A number, used as a response to a question, posed to two young men who were on a most excellent adventure. The question came when the singular Rufus, played spectacularly by George Carlin, brings Bill and Ted back to meet themselves. To prove they are really themselves (don’t try to understand it, time travel is tricky), Ted asks Bill and Ted, “what number am I thinking of?”
After exchanging a knowing smile between themselves, the other William “Bill” S. Preston Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan gleefully shout, “69 Dude!” At which point, teen boys worldwide simultaneously looked toward their best friend. Then repeated the phrase while simultaneously mimicking an Eddie van Halen-like air guitar lick with their bare hands. That’s right, their bare hands.
69 is a number that does not require definition. If you know what it means, you know. If you don’t, it’s no one’s responsibility to explain it to you. It’s possibly the sole reason erotic used book stores still sell the Kama Sutra at inflated prices.
The thing was, none of us knew what the phrase meant at the time. There was no Google to look it up. But we went right on saying it. Knowing it must contain mischief if not the devil himself. Only occasionally did a savvy teacher throw us a furtive glance of knowing. But that only reinforced our desire to repeat the phrase. We knew we were on to something naughty, meaningful, and likely taboo.
Over the years, we learned what 69 meant. Our fascination continued, but eventually, as is wont to happen, other numbers took its place in the pantheon of young adulting. “Turning 18” and then “21” became more significant digits. Still, upon hearing the phrase on occasion, grown adults (mostly med) could be seen covertly smiling between themselves at various school functions with a slight head nod of knowing.
Face the Music
When Bill and Ted Faced the music, I knew it was time to introduce my teen daughters to the movies. Yes, it was a risk; they had Google! But they also have Tick Tock in my defense, so how bad could an 80’s movie be?
My wife and I soldiered on and set up a movie marathon of all three movies with the girls. We all agreed the first one was the best, No Doy! Number twowasn’t as bogus a journey as its title suggested. Still, we all concurred the discarded muppets from the Dark Crystal were a bit strange but oddly endearing.
Yes, of course, both girls rolled their eyes when I paused the movie. But I was not deterred. It was my parental obligation to explain the Supreme Beings characters. My children would not go through life not knowing that Martha Davis was the lead singer for The Motels. Or that Fee Waybill fronted The Tubes. He also forever cemented a deep attraction and abject fear of fun rides at amusement parks. Yet, he still remains one of my all-time favorite singers.
Socrates of the Saxophone
Last but not least, at the center of it all was the big man himself. Surprisingly taking a turn at acting before his fellow musician, Little Steven. Stevie would later see his acting star rise in a recurring role on The Sopranos. Which, by the way, I’ve never seen. Except for the Journey, Don’t Stop Believing episode, so please don’t tell me how it ends. Shhh.
Larger than life was the “Socrates of the saxophone,” “king of the world,” “master of the universe,” “the prince of the city,” Mr. Clarence Clemmons. Known to the rest of the world as Bruce Springsteen’s irreplaceable saxophonist extraordinaire and brother from another mother
Once all of my rantings were over, my girls just looked at each other and said, “69, Dude.” At first, I was concerned. I wasn’t prepared for them to be running around school repeating the phrase. After all, Teachers now had Google. Thankfully, I have internet access too. Which provided some alternate theories of the number origin and allowed my adult parent self to feign ignorance.
For example, the third and final movie was originally scheduled to be released on 8/21/2020. For those of you without a calculator, let me add that up for you. 8+21+20+20 = 69! Spooky, right. I was able to tell my daughters, “see, in 1989, they KNEW there would be a third movie release on this date.” I wasn’t entirely sure they were buying it, so I tried something else. A theory I read on Twitter by Horror Director Paul Overacker replying to Bill and Ted writer Bill Solomon and Ted himself, Alex Winters. Paul theorized that 69 was actually a date. Specifically, the date that Bill and Ted’s final exam was due, June 9th!
Alibies of Ignorance
Armed with two airtight Alibies of Ignorance (name of my next punk band, by the way), I was pleased to move on from the topic. But today, I continue to be no less shocked every time my girls take a moment to say, “69, Dude.” It is clearly less of a carnal reference and perhaps a simple celebration of knowing. The same way, Bill and Ted knew everything would be ok when they knew the number Rufus and their other selves were expecting to hear.
So, for now, I can see why cancel culture insists that 69 is no longer funny due to Elon. Then again, perhaps it never was. Maybe it was simply a rallying cry of joy. Hence why dozens of people a year celebrate the unofficial Bill and Ted Day on June 9th. We may never know.
I would like to request that those in charge of cancel-culture, whomever you may be, focus on Elon’s other favorite number, “420!” As a resident of Colorado, I find the phrase “4–20 Dude” even more offensive.
Whatever you do, please leave 42 alone. A number that’s so important it has its own WIKI Page and an Asteroid named after it. Take that 69! EDIT: I must admit, 69 also has a Wiki page, several in fact. Also, 69 Hesperia is a giant M-type main-belt asteroid. It is an asteroid orbiting the Sun with a period of 5.14 years, a semimajor axis of 2.980 AU, and an eccentricity of 0.165. But even for me, I think we can agree; this is a bit off-topic.
No. what is important is we must protect 42! Let this put the world on notice. I am officially initiating the hashtag #SAVE42 before it is too late! For the love of all things literary, Mr. Elon, and others, please let Douglas Adams rest in peace!