Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This is Your Brain on 70's TV

I can run but I can't hide from the fact that I am a child of the 70's.  I grew up in the golden age of Tang, Astronaut Sticks and Funny Face Drink Mix.  My wardrobe included marshmallow shoes, bell-bottoms and denim vests. I wore a Danskin body suit with a wrap skirt and platform heels to the teen disco night at our local church, only to find that my outfit was too hip for the room. All of that had an impact on who I would become in life, but nothing could equal the impact of 1970's TV.

It all started innocently enough with The Partridge Family and The Brady Bunch, with their saccharine sweetness and teen heart throb actors.  But what really set the 70's apart were the made for TV movies and ABC After School Specials.  These were the 70's all served up with a side of morals and a lesson baked in for good measure.  The 70's was a time of transformation and the movies seemed to want to hammer these changes home with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

Here is a list of 10 TV Movies and TV Shows that left a memorable mark on my psyche and are probably responsible (in part) for whatever I am today. They are neither favorite, nor a finite list, just what I think is a representative slice of what kept me glued to the tube for a decade.

James at 15 16 - Lance Kerwin and his bowl cut.  I thought he was so adorable as he was wrestling with losing his V card and other important stuff.  His sister was played by none other than the notorious Kim Richards (of Real Housewives fame), who I wanted to be like for most of my childhood (glad I got over that desire).

Family - As Buddy Lawrence, I admired McNichol's feathered hair and her intensity. She had what were easily the squarest parents on network TV, but she kept her winged head and her teen angst high.

The Mod Squad - Peggy Lipton was yet another female from television whose silky, straight blond hair haunted me.  Add Eve Plumb, Maureen McCormick, Kim Richards and Meredith Baxter to the mix and this little auburn haired lass had enough toxic hair shame to fill a stadium.

Mary Tyler Moore - I loved all the characters on this TV show, but the episode where Mare and Lou Grant decide to date was where my suspension of disbelief ended.  Even at 9, I knew a babe like her wasn't going to be drawn to a gruff, middle aged, alcoholic news man like him.

The Odd Couple - To this day, I have nothing but love for Felix and Oscar.  I watched the Odd Couple in first run and for years after in late night repeats. I still find myself quoting this show.  I remember when the show went off the air.  Might have been the stupidest programming decision of the decade.

That Girl - At an early age, I can remember being confused by the message of That Girl.  She was supposed to be an independent wo-man who don't need no man to get by.  This was supposed to be our example of feminism.  However, for all her girl power, she was always surrounded by her dad and boyfriend, she had a job where she traded on her looks (she was a model, and how else could a young girl support herself?  Certainly not with her brain.) and she was a whiny little bitch who wouldn't give up the cookie to her blue balled boyfriend.  I never believed that there was any example of female empowerment in that show.

ABC After School Special (Various) - There were many after school specials, but Rookie of the Year took on women's issues when a 12 year old Jodie Foster wanted to play on the boy's baseball team. Oh the intensity.  Oh the drama.

I Dream of Jeanie - More blond hair to elevate my toxic hair shame.  But Major Anthony Nelson?  What a babe. Little did I know that his handsome exterior was just a shiny box to hold a liver that looked like a prune that did battle with a wood chipper.

Trilogy of Terror - Karen Black's turned eye + angry, poorly animated troll doll = unintentional comedy gold.

Boy in the Plastic Bubble - This was the golden age of John Travolta.  A role to make you forget about Vinnie Barbarino, if only for a moment. And Glynnis O'Connor, the hair of Glynnis O'Connor just stomped all over my self esteem.

Like Normal People - Sean Cassidy playing a mentally handicapped man who wants to marry his similarly handicapped girlfriend (Linda Purl).  I don't know whose LSD charged fever dream initiated this casting, but all I can say is bravo.

I guess I should wrap this up by letting you know that in spite of my teen aged hatred for and subsequent chemical and heat based torture of my auburn hair, I learned to love it by the time I was 19.  These days, I wouldn't want Marcia Brady's limp, lifeless mop for all the gold in Switzerland.  Given my hair obsession, is there any surprise that I went on to have a brief career as a hairdresser?  I had to get out there and create some redheads.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

You Can't Fix Stupid

Sometimes I reflect back on my life and wonder how I ever made it to this age; how the universe allowed me to procreate; how I have ever held a job?  I ask this because I have been known to suffer from "The Stupid". Now, I suppose everyone does stupid things once in a while and that is part of being a human.  But the collective stupid of my teen years and the arrogant stupid of my twenties are enough combined stupid to prevent the graduation of a class of 500 high school seniors, were I unkind enough to infect them with a viral version of my stupid.

The beauty of aging is truly the gaining of wisdom.  For every laugh line you gain and grey hair you sprout, you lose a little bit of your stupid.  I like to imagine it falling out of my head, like grains of sand, but based on the number of grey hairs in my head, I would be nothing but an empty sack of skin at this point, so that's probably not how it works.  Nonetheless...

Whatever the magic formula is for losing of the stupid with age, it does seem to leave a little wiggle room for the occasional and sometimes colossal bouts of The Stupid to reappear.  Such is the case of last Sunday when I was infected with a case of The Stupid so powerful, I am lucky that I did not end up in the hospital, or worse.

I had done a little food shopping that morning and I had about six bags of groceries to carry into the house. I walked around to the back of my van and popped the back door, which opens upward, over my head.  There were six bags of groceries and I figured I could load up five on my left hand and one on my right, leaving it semi-free to pull the door down and save a trip back to close it. Great.  Nope.

Because I was one handed, I felt like I had to pull down extra hard on the door to get it closed.  I closed my hand firmly around the handle and yanked downward on it with all my might, straight on to my head.  The stream of profanity that pierced the early Sunday morning air would have made a porn star blush as I reeled in the driveway.   

I stumbled into the house, still cursing and screaming and grabbed a bag of ice from the freezer.  I sat there and iced my head, while the three other people in my house slumbered quietly, never noticing a thing. By the time  I came to my senses, I realized that I was not bleeding and I wasn't dizzy but I couldn't do algebra.  I'm pretty sure I never had a lock on the algebra to begin with, so I was probably going to be ok. 

A few minutes later, my poor, unfortunate and late sleeping husband finally wandered downstairs and naturally, I took it out on him.  How could he have not heard me screaming in pain?  Where was he when I needed him?  He made himself a cup of coffee and began to quietly put the groceries away.  Good for him for not catching a case of my stupid.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Finding His Voice

When we first got Buzz the Magnificent, he was completely terrified by the sound of Brownie the Wonderdog's bark.  Brownie, being somewhat neurotic, barks at the television any time she can make out even the faintest suggesstion of a four legged creature.  It does not matter how loose that suggestion is, either.  It can be a cartoon, live action, a photo or a painting.  If she can make out four legs, ears and a tail, she goes off. And for some reason, she barks aggressively at the line drawing of the of the Ford Cmax guy and the Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil guys.  See what I mean about neurotic?  Or perhaps only she senses that both of these animations have an evil plot for world domination and she needs to save us from their nefarious doings...and then won't I have egg on my face?

See the open hand pointed skyward?  Clearly a megalomaniacal dictator with a god complex and an endless suppy of plastique.
Photo Cred -

Little silver chefs - the axis of evil.
Photo cred -

In spite of Buzz's sphincter seizing fear when Brownie barks and in spite of the fact that we have in fact seemingly rendered him a castrata, our dear boy is developing something of a deep, basso profundo bark, as evidenced below.  He can also eat without chewing.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Fast Way to Learn Italian

I would love for this to happen to me.  Do you think there are any larger models than the Fiat 500 that come with this feature because the 500 is like a roller skate.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Sunday Sauce with a Side of Salty Tears

Early this morning I started the process of making Sunday Sauce.  Our family always referred to it as Sunday Sauce, though some call it Sunday Gravy, some don't call it anything and just open a jar of Ragu.  To each his own.  For me, the ritual of making a Sunday Sauce is pleasant and relaxing and carries sense memories from childhood, when my mother or grandmother would go through a very similar set of steps to create a rich, meat filled tomato sauce that would be served as an early Sunday dinner.

The magic combination for most Sunday Sauces and certainly for mine, is time, love and meat, meat, meat.  Any combination of beef and pork will enhance the flavor of the sauce.  I like to change the combination up from week to week, using any/all of the following meat options -hot sausage, sweet sausage, meatballs, braciole, pork ribs, pork chops, beef short ribs, the options are almost limitless.  The sauce simmers over a low flame for half a day and fills house with the most amazing smells.  Just the smell of sauteing onions and garlic in olive oil can lift my spirits to incredible heights...that is, most of the time.

This morning as I was chopping garlic and onions, I started to whistle while I chopped.  I always whistle while I cook as I tend to get lost in the busy work of chopping and stirring and sauteing.  This is usually an unconscious thing and I don't realize I am doing it until I catch myself, sometimes three or four songs in.  This morning I was about half way through a song as a wave of sadness came over me.  I realized that I was whistling "Come Back to Sorrento".  I then looked up at the calendar and realized that exactly one year ago, we were in Sorrento, and it was one of the most magical experiences of my life. Once I realized that, the tears came.

Ever since my first trip to Italy in 2010, I have become nostalgic about Italy in a way that is unlike anything I have ever experienced before.  The silliest things can make me cry (what I call) "Italy tears".  They come on like a freight train and over the smallest things.  For example:

  • See an Italian grandmother pulling her shopping cart up Arthur Ave in the Bronx?  Choke up. Hold back the Italy Tears.
  • Hear Italian being spoken in a bakery in Greenwich Village?  Stare like a creeper.  Try to listen. Mist up. Quietly wipe the Italy Tear that appears on my cheek.
  • Push my shopping cart through the Italian Grocery store and hear Volare? A river of Italy Tears.
  • Catch myself whistling Come Back to Sorrento? Heaving sobs and copious streams of Italy Tears.

I know some day the gravitational pull of Italy go away. Perhaps there is some magic number of trips that I will reach where I become bored of it.  How many is that?  20? 78? 350?  I'm not sure.  Sadly, trips to Italy do not grow on trees.  If they did, I would renounce my distaste for nature and do nothing but water and tend to the Trip to Italy tree. Until the next trip, I will try to keep myself from watching videos like the one below because, there just isn't enough Kleenex.