What follows is part 3 of a true story of a girl (me) and her on-going battle with addiction.
[continued from part 2]
How did it pass that by the age of four my sister and I were speaking in full, if slightly juvenile sentences in both English and Korean? I believe the credit might belong to the Helena Rubenstein Foundation and the Children’s Television Workshop.
Grover was always my favorite monster. From the moment I saw him flying through the air with his knight’s helmet and “Super Grover” cape, I was smitten. He was cute, funny, fuzzy, and blue. With his exhaustive yet hysterical repetition, he taught me near and far. With the help of John-John, he taught me to count backwards. He was the main reason I sat still for Sesame Street, and still do on occasion.
To be honest, I can’t think of any other reason to watch Sesame Street these days. Maybe I’m too old, but I don’t remember this show being so boring. I blame it on the introduction of the ubiquitous Elmo, whose only redeeming value is that his segment’s Mr. Noodle is played by the brilliant Bill Irwin. Rather than being showered with baby talk, watching classic episodes of this show reminds me of a time where monsters spoke to kids like they were little adults. And what is with the “Elmo loves you” junk? Sure, Grover doesn’t use contractions, but at least he does not refer to himself in the third person. But I digress. With the help of Grover and his pals, English seeped into my mind, as did my affection for the television set.
Growing up, I remember thinking that our television was beautiful. I am not saying this from an addict’s perspective, but from a strictly aesthetic point of view. The picture tube lived within solid maple housing. The simple design offered but three knobs: the on/volume knob, the knob for VHF channels, and the last for UHF channels. The design was simple, yet versatile. Everything was placed in the exact location it should have been. It came with no instructions, save for the warning label stuck to the back saying “Removal of this panel WILL cause electric shock.”
I loved that set. It was functional art. Those were the days where you were expected to crochet a vast doily to protect its delicate surface. It was a time when built-in sound was the only option. It was an era where picture quality was adjusted by hitting the side of the cabinet, but only after failing with the tuning rings. It was the decade when cable was only for perverts.
My father believed that television sets should be like Americans: huge. I can’t recall what the screen dimensions were, but I remember it seemed enormous. Then again, I was very small.
continued in part 4…