Temporary layoffs… easy credit rip-offs… scratchin’ and surviving… hangin’ in a chow line… ain’t we lucky we got ‘em – GOOD TIMES!
(I don’t know who the hell sang it)
Alright, I’ve already admitted that pop culture shaped and moulded me as a youngster raised in the 1980s. And few things influenced that ball of clay that grew up in the dust bowl of Shedden more than television. So, my answer should’ve come as no surprise when, as a child, people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’d look up at them with youthful exuberance and declare, “Black.”
In the late 1970s, my babysitter, the television, was inundated with urban programming. My favourite shows were Good Times, Sanford and Son, What’s Happening, and The Jeffersons. I desperately wanted to be cool like the characters from these shows; however, I made Tom Willis look like Dolemite. Sure, I had the requisite ‘fro like every other kid in the 70s, but the problem was it looked too much like a “season 5” Greg Brady as opposed to the symmetrically perfect John Shaft. I was totally jealous of their culture, and thought that being black would greatly improve my life. Besides, there were plenty of things I wished I could do. I wanted to talk jive, but my pre-adolescent voice would crack and it would result in a closer resemblance to the Bee Gees “Jive talkin.’” I wanted to win a ribbon at Southwold Public School’s track and field day, just so I could raise a black-gloved fist in the air while atop the podium. I wanted to respond to alarming statements with a long, drawn out “Dammnn…” I wanted to strut like George Jefferson, and wheel chicks like Super Fly. And their names wouldn’t be Gwyneth or Abigail, either. They would have more suggestive and alliterative names like “Boom Boom Belinda,” or “Samantha, the human panther.”
I wanted to buy raffle tickets for one of Florida Evans’ lip-smackin’ sweet potato pies at a rent party fundraiser. I wanted to play in the junkyard with Fat Albert and Mushmouth until the PO-lice chased us away. I wanted to be the guy the camera zoomed in on as Soul Train cut to a commercial. I wanted to purchase a gold watch from the many displayed in the liner of a trench coat worn by a shady character on a street corner. I wanted to compete in a game of “the dozens,” the verbal smackdown where scores are settled via the participants trading insults until one of them gives up, (“Your mama so ugly…”) In fact, I’m considering joining the Masons, merely because I read on Wikipedia that they have an elongated, sequential handshake similar to the greetings exchanged between Raj and Rerun.
However, my aspirations did dissipate a little after seeing a Public enemy concert in 1989. I received so many injuries from swinging clock necklaces and people stumbling out of their unlaced Adidas that I just wasn’t as sure what I wanted to be anymore. Furthermore, whenever I was subjected to the Arsenio Hall show, I never once felt the urge to leap out of my seat, pump my fist and woof. Maybe I’m still just that white kid from the sticks that appreciated the escape that television provided. I’m also a little too old to be hedging my bets that one day I’ll be adopted by a millionaire widower who lives in a Park Avenue penthouse.
And besides, I think I like The Carpenters too much…