I Miss Soul Train

From the time I was a kid, I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons, all the while anticipating the treat which would come after cartoons were over. The Soul Train theme song would play, and I would settle in for an hour of some of the best music around. I continued this pattern through my early 20’s, and would plan my Saturday around Soul Train, carving out time to watch like the faithful fan I always was. At the 45 minute mark, the Soul Train dance line would form, and I would be glued to the television set, watching all the moves, and looking at all the cool outfits. The Dance Line began as a couples line, then by the 1980’s, it morphed into singlets and the occasional group of dancers moving across the dance floor:

The first Soul Train episode aired on October 2, 1971, and the show ran through March of 2006. That’s 35 years and 1,117 soul, dance, R and B, and funk-filled episodes. Thanks to creator and host Don Cornelius, Soul Train brought black culture into America’s homes, broke down barriers, and wowed people like me. Don Cornelius would close out every episode with a sweeping thrown kiss and a wish to the viewers for “love, peace, and SOUUUUUUUULLLL”, a uniting and loving gesture which became a signature for the show.

For those of you who loved Soul Train as much as I did, you’ll get kick out of the following video, in which former Soul Train dancers share their experiences of being on the show:

Here are two video compilations, one which features the top ten female Soul Train dancers, and the other which showcases the top ten male Soul Train dancers:

Childhood Quirks

Image ID : 21701963 (123rf.com)
Copyright : Yael Weiss

My mom taught me how to blow bubbles with bubble gum when I was 5 years old, sparking a years-long obsession with gum.  I loved trying different flavors of gum: orange, grape, strawberry, Fruit Stripe (anyone remember this?), lime, bubble gum flavor, you name it.

I was so obsessed with different flavors of gum that I developed a rather odd and disgusting habit which sounds so horrific to me now.  When I found an especially tasty morsel of gum, I would stop chewing it before all the flavor left, then stick the wad on the underside of a small card table I had in my room.  At any given time, I would have between 6 to maybe 10 wads of chewed gum under that table.  When I wanted to experience the flavor of a gum again, I would pry the gum off the underside of the table, then go to the bathroom sink and run the gum under steaming hot water until it softened up.  Once the gum was heated up, I’d pop it in my mouth and chew happily away.

I definitely doubt that the water was hot enough to disinfect the gross little clumps of gum, and I think it’s a miracle that I didn’t become ill from that unsanitary habit!

Is anyone else brave enough to admit to a strange or gross habit they might have had when they were children?

 

My Years As An Arachnophobe

I spent the bulk of my childhood as an arachnophobe, all because of two incidents which occurred when I was rather young. The second incident was even more jarring than the first, and scarred me for many years.

The first incident occurred when I was six years old while I was at summer camp. All the kids had gone swimming in an effort to beat the triple digit heat, and were in the locker rooms getting dressed after a fun afternoon in the pool. I was standing at one locker, almost completely dressed, and just needed to put on my socks and shoes, so they were sitting on top of a bench. Suddenly, one of the girls shrieked, which triggered a domino effect, causing several other girls to follow suit. These girls jumped on top of nearby benches, looking down at one spot on the floor. I simply stood where I was, puzzled by their reaction.

Our teacher came in and asked one of the girls what all the noise was about.

“There’s a spider on the floor!”

The teacher looked at the floor, then said, “Oh yeah, that’s a black widow. We’d better kill that one!” Whereupon she grabbed one of my sneakers and deftly smashed the spider to a mushy black pulp.

I was so horrified that I refused to wear my shoes. When my mom picked me up, she asked me why I wasn’t wearing my shoes. “The teacher squashed a black widow spider with my shoe!” I was so adamant about my refusal to wear those sneakers that I wouldn’t even wear them after my mom had scoured the soles of the shoes, removing any remaining spider residue from them.

The second incident occurred less than a year later. I was staying at my best friend Tammy’s house in Sun Valley, an area which is known to have rattlesnakes and tarantulas. Tammy’s family had a habit of catching tarantulas and giving them to their poolman, who would defang them and sell them to pet stores.

One afternoon, we decided to go to the movies, and returned to the house shortly before dark. I was sitting in the rear passenger’s seat, Tammy’s brother Chad in the middle, Tammy on the left, her sister Wendy in the front passenger’s seat, and her mother in the driver’s seat. Tammy’s mother pulled into the garage and closed the garage door, and we began filing out of the vehicle.

As soon as Wendy set foot on the garage floor, she exclaimed, “Nobody move! Tarantula in the corner!” Sure enough, there was a large tarantula in the far right corner of the garage, about six feet in front of me. Wendy carefully tiptoed past me to the wall to pick up a small, empty aquarium to place over the tarantula, thus trapping him. Her movement must have startled the tarantula, because it sprung up about two and a half feet in the air and forward, landing about eight inches from my feet.

Wendy said, “Don’t move!”, which was almost unnecessary because I was paralyzed with fear. By this time, she had grabbed the aquarium, and quickly placed it over the tarantula, who sprang up and hit the base of the aquarium and fell back to the garage floor, trapped in its glass dungeon.

That second incident really solidified my arachnophobia. I spent the next 28 years so afraid of spiders that, although I would never shriek or lose my cool, I would simply leave a room if I saw a spider in it. My mother became accustomed to me leaving a room and saying, “Mom, please kill the spider there!”. Once I was an adult living on my own, I would ask my boyfriend to rid the room of any spider who dared to chase me out of there.

What cured me was a touch of desensitization therapy which took place at, of all places, the Los Angeles County Fair in 2001. My then-husband Pete and I encountered an exotic pet petting zoo at the fair, and two tarantulas were featured in the zoo. Pete was well aware of my arachnophobia, as he had been ridding the house of spiders for me for a few years. I never liked his method, which consisted of capturing the spider and letting it go outside, because in my arachnophobic mind, he was just releasing a pissed off spider who would find its way back into the house and terrorize me once again.

It was Pete’s idea for me to hold a tarantula so that I would benefit from desensitization. I honestly think that his psychiatry rotation (he was a medical student then) had influenced him to make the suggestion, but it made a lot of sense to me, so I begrudgingly agreed to hold a tarantula.

I remember the handler placing this hairy, scary creature into the palm of my hand. I have very small hands, so the tarantula’s legs extended along my fingers and my wrist. It rested there for about 15 seconds, kind of hovering, and I could barely breathe at first, then I calmed down when I realized the spider wouldn’t do anything to me. Then it decided to crawl along my forearm, and that is when I told the handler to get the f*$@ing thing off of me!

Guess what though? It worked. Since that day, I have not been freaked out by a spider’s presence. More recently, I saw two black widow spiders, and quickly stomped on them with, you guessed it, a shoe-clad foot.

No Pink Please!

PinkUnlike many women who seem to gravitate towards the color pink, I hate the hue with a passion, regardless of whether it’s baby, bubble gum, rose, magenta, hot, blush, fuschia, or any other shade in the pink portion of the spectrum. It bothers me to no end when people, especially men, assume that every female likes pink and that all females should identify with the color since it is a “girl’s” color. I am not a fan of gender stereotyping, and find myself delighted when I hear a woman say she hates pink, or that she refuses to dress her young daughter in pink. Amen to that!

My mother certainly fell under the gender constraints which dictated that her daughter should wear pink, but thankfully she allowed me to assert my personality and hatred of pink when I dressed in regular day to day clothing. However, I did not win the battle when it came to my yearly portrait sitting. In fact, there were SEVERAL years in which I was made to wear baby pink chiffon dresses to my portrait sitting. This was utter torture for me, because I felt like a poof of pink cotton candy, ultra-girly and completely unlike the tomboyish girl I was. My mom would point out that I would only have to wear a dreaded pink garment for a few hours, and that pink was SUCH a good color on me. Truth be told, many shades of pink flatter my complexion very well, but the mere sight of pink has always turned my stomach.

I also remember one item of clothing which was given to me one Christmas (I believe it was when I was 4 years old). The item was my first bathrobe, a baby pink, polyester quilted number which I wore for many years, until it literally began to fall apart, and of course I was thrilled. When the robe was finally retired, it was no longer a full length garment, but hit my knees. When the time came to pick out a new robe, I selected a vibrant blue robe to erase the memory of having that pink monstrosity.

Some people may regard pink as a happy, calming, comforting color, but to me, it is just plain UGLY. Even purple, which is one of my favorite colors, has to have a strong leaning away from the pink spectrum in order for me to choose it. If it’s too pink, I will opt for red or black. I look at pink and I think of Pepto-Bismol and weakness. It is very safe to assume that I will reject anything (that includes clothing, accessories, decor items, etc.) that is pink. I can guarantee that I will never have logos or merchandise which have the color pink in them. It was difficult for me to pick an image for this blogpost because I knew it had to be pink. My hatred of pink is consistent and pervasive.

Pink is NOT for this girl!

White Rice

white rice
Anyone who grew up in a household which was managed on a shoestring budget can relate to the concept of adding an inexpensive, bulky carbohydrate to meals to increase their volume. My entire childhood was punctuated by the ubiquitous presence of glutinous Japanese sticky rice. In fact, the only times I did not consume white rice with dinner were when my mom decided to heat up Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese, Stouffer’s Lasagna, or pot pies (Swanson and Banquet were the two brands she bought…she ended up purhcasing whatever was on sale). When we had the mac and cheese or the lasagna, we would split the dinner, and she would serve frozen veggies on the side.

All of our other meals featured a mound of white rice which occupied the majority of the plate’s surface. If we had broiled hot dogs, there was rice. Scrambled eggs and rice. Broiled chicken and rice. Vienna sausage and rice. Pan fried SPAM and rice. The occasional steak or lamb chop treat and rice. Sukiyaki (one of only two dishes my mother knew how to cook) and rice. Meatloaf (the other dish my mom could make from scratch) and rice. I even had Campbell’s soup with rice, and was so accustomed to eating soup with rice, that I was always thrown off when I would go to a classmate’s house and encounter soup being served as a precursor to the main course, not the actual main course, and sans rice.

Despite the fact that I was raised in a very low income household, and ate processed foods almost constantly, I was a very happy child and never felt that I was being deprived. I was more astonished and disgusted by the ultra wealthy children I went to school with, because I thought they lived in a false world, one which was based almost exclusively on possessions and financial wealth. A number of my classmates were pretentious, unpleasant brats who were so brainwashed with a sense of entitlement that they probably got kicked around by life when they had to navigate through it on their own.

White rice was such an important part of my life that once I moved out of my mom’s as an adult, I quickly got a rice cooker. I was so unhappy with the small Hitachi cooker I got, that I almost ran cartwheels when someone gifted me with an 8-cup National cooker (that cooker is still with me, almost 30 years later). For those of you who are Japanese, you can probably relate to that need to have a National, Tiger, or Zojirushi cooker! The nicest Zojirushi rice cookers are quite fancy now, as you can see here:

zojirushi fancy

And yes, I still covet a Zojirushi rice cooker!

Now that I am very carb conscious, I avoid white rice on most days, but there are carb spike days in which I allow myself to indulge in jasmine white rice. Why? Because white rice is one of my main comfort foods. It ties me to my Japanese heritage, and it reminds me of my humble upbringing.

Walt Disney’s Story Land

Disney Story Land

On my sixth birthday, my mom gave me a copy of Walt Disney’s Story Land which quickly became one of my most beloved books. Story Land is a classic collection of Disney stories which was published by Golden Press from 1962-1999, and is now out of print. I still have my copy, and am proud to say that it is in excellent condition. There are 55 stories in this book, most of which are original Disney stories, but I always knew that Ugly Duckling was a Hans Christian Anderson story, and that Disney merely wrote an adaptation of the original Anderson tale.

Here are the stories which are found in the original version of Walt Disney’s Story Land:

Bambi
Hiawatha
Donald Duck, Private Eye
Toy Sailboat
Bongo
Pedro
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Once Upon a Wintertime
Chip n’ Dale at the Zoo
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
Perri
The Grasshopper and the Ants
The Adventures of Mr. Toad
The Orphan Kittens
Pilgrim’s Party
Ben and Me
Goliath II
The Lonely Little Colt
Dumbo of the Circus
Paul Revere
Alice in Wonderland Meets the White Rabbit
Donald Duck, Prize Driver
Goofy, Movie Star
Babes in Toyland
Forest Friends (based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
The Flying Mouse
Through the Picture Frame
The Runaway Lamb (an excerpt from So Dear to My Heart)
Grandpa Bunny (an excerpt from Funny Little Bunnies)
The Ugly Duckling
Uncle Remus/De Tar Baby
Elmer Elephant
Lady and the Tramp
Scamp
Donald the Explorer (based on Polar Trappers)
Mrs. Cackle’s Corn (based on The Wise Little Hen)
Mickey Mouse and Pluto Pup
Pigs Is Pigs
Peter Pan
Cinderella
Mickey Mouse Goes Christmas Shopping
Pluto Pup Goes to Sea
Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier
Darby O’Gill
The Old Mill
Johnny Appleseed
The Grand Canyon
Beaver and His Brothers
Peter and the Wolf
Brave Little Tailor
101 Dalmatians
Sleeping Beauty
Three Little Pigs
The Country Cousin
Pinocchio

Does anyone remember this book?

Ditching Chapel

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Many of you don’t know that I attended an Episcopalian school for nine years, from fourth through twelfth grade, and that part of my daily school experience included attending chapel. During chapel, we would sing hymns, recite the Lord’s Prayer (just hearing “Our Father, who art in heaven…” triggers the rest of the prayer in my well programmed brain) and listen to a daily sermon from our dean. Every year during the school’s Homecoming, we would visit St. John’s Cathedral, and though I enjoyed the beauty and majesty of the church, it was all sort of lost on me because at my core, I wasn’t an Episcopalian. Every year we observed Lent, and I agreed to give up something during that period that could be considered a vice for a child.

By the time I reached high school, I was fed up with being force fed a religion I did not practice outside of school, so I gradually began to rebel. When we were in chapel, I would refuse to sing the hymns or recite the Lord’s Prayer. By the time I was a junior, I had fallen into the occasional habit of completely ditching chapel and taking that 45 minute period to hang out in a quiet spot on campus with my best friend Diane or with my friend Shari. Though there were a couple of occasions in which we nearly got caught and spent a few tense minutes standing on toilet seats in the bathroom stalls and stifling nervous giggles, we never got caught. Diane was my best friend, soul sister, bad influence (according to her mom and mine), partner in crime and fellow bad Christian, whereas Shari was a defiant Jewish girl forced to attend a strongly Christian school. Between these two girls, I had rationalized the chapel-skipping behavior quite convincingly.

Looking back at the nine years of chapel which helped to shape me, I am actually grateful for the experience. I may not be a religious person, and I may not attend chapel or go to church, but I truly believe that the Christian environment I was exposed to gave me structure and discipline and helped me to find my way spiritually. Even when I dodged chapel, I learned a great deal about friendship. Teenagers need to challenge constraints every once in a while to help them find their own way.