Tuesday, April 30, 2013

You've Got Grit

"Alice" was a popular TV show back in the '70s and '80s. From what I can recall (hey, this ain't IMDB), Alice, the star of the show, moved from ...somewhere. She moved from the rat race, I suppose, to start a new life out west with her teenaged son. Once there, she took a job as a waitress in a diner where she learned many important lessons about life and love and the importance of following your dreams. I guess. I haven't watched the show since I was a kid.

Actually, they show reruns here in Jacksonville on one of those channels you only get if you don't have cable. A friend of mine saw it for the first time and was telling me how depressing he found it, which I found strange since the show was a comedy.

"No, it's terrible," he claimed. "She's got this kid and they live in this crappy little apartment and she works this shitty job with a screaming boss and weirdo customers. There is no way that show is funny. Maybe in Russia or something."
Keep smiling and they won't notice how depressed we are.

I had never considered how time alters our perceptions. Sort of like when I noticed a Dave Dudley 'best of' comp at work a few years ago. He was a country star back in the '50s and '60s, probably best known for "Six Days on the Road," a song about a trucker driving around 'taking little white pills' and racing home after a delivery. Dudley also had some drinking songs, like "Two Six Packs Away," a funny song about the troubles a drinking man can find himself in.

Of course, that's how it played back then, when America had a much lighter view of substance abuse and drunk driving. Listening to it now with 21st century ears, you think, "That poor man. He's causing himself so much trouble. He really needs to stop drinking."
Damn, country singers looked a lot cooler back then.

But back to "Alice." Alice worked with another waitress named Flo. Flo was sassy. When their boss said something Flo disagreed with, Flo would answer back with her catchphrase, "Kiss my grits."

This phrase would absolutely slay the studio audience, and was featured all over the place back then; T-shirts, bumper stickers, whatever wasn't already plastered with "Who Shot J.R."

This was all very confusing to a young me.

I mean, I got the gist of what she was saying, but it still didn't make sense. I knew what grits looked like, and they didn't look like any part of the body. If her phrase was "kiss my melons," or "kiss a hot dog" I would  have understood, but grits? I had sneaked enough peeks at Playboy to know there was nothing naked ladies had that could be confused with grits. And I certainly didn't have anything like that. So what was she talking about?

I knew it was somewhat dirty, so I couldn't ask my parents. And because it was dirty, I couldn't ask my friends. You couldn't just mess up your rep as a sophisticated elementary schooler by asking your friends what Flo was talking about. As with other dirty jokes I didn't really understand, I had to just laugh and pretend I got it.

 I kept that silent confusion up for many years. In fact, if I'm being honest, I still don't exactly know what she was talking about, other than using grits as an acceptable way to say "kiss my ass" on TV.

These are the problems that faced a generation of children back in the '70s and '80s. Some call us the Greatest Generation. I am inclined to believe them.

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