Dateless at Penn

I went through four years at the University of Pennsylvania without a date.

I’m not saying that I didn’t date at all between 1979 and 1983. When I went home for the weekends, I would sometimes go out with my sister’s friends. I even got an invitation to the junior prom, and I have the photos to prove it! And on one weekend back home, I had a date with a girl I went to high school with.

But nothing on campus. No dates with anyone I met in college. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Zip. Diddly squat.

It wasn’t completely my fault. Back in those days, the male-to-female ratio at Penn was 2 to 1. That’s for the whole school, which included all the English majors and Psych majors. In Computer Science, I think the ratio was more like 30 to 1.

I did come close to having a date once. In my first week of college as a freshman, there was a girl in the computer lab, We were both working on our programming assignments. Back then, you didn’t have your own laptop in your room. You had to reserve a terminal at the computer lab, and once you got it, you wouldn’t want to give it up until you were done. I was done at a reasonable time, maybe 9 or 10 pm. But she was having trouble and asked me for help. So I helped her, and we talked (I think), and before I knew it, it was 2 am.

It was time to go back to our dorms, and I asked for her phone number. She wrote it down on a little white piece of paper, along with her name (which I did not know up to that point). Becky Chang. I was so young, only seventeen. I didn’t even know yet that I liked Asian women.

I was happy when I got back to my room in High Rise South, about six blocks from the Moore School Building that housed the computer lab. Or was it the Towne Building? Yeah, I think it was the Towne Building. The classes were in the Moore School Building, but the computer terminals were in the Towne Building, along with ENIAC. Doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I never called Becky.

I know what you’re thinking, Go ahead and say it. Loser!

I wonder what happened to Becky Chang. Who knows, maybe she’s single. It would be next to impossible to find her though. I probably wouldn’t even recognize her if I did.

I don’t think I kept that slip of paper that she wrote her name and phone number on all those years ago. On the other hand, I don’t remember throwing it away. If I didn’t throw away my class notes from college, maybe I still have that paper in one of the boxes. This gives me a bit of incentive to continue on with my home tidying project. If I find that slip of paper, it will be sure to spark joy.

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The One With Alan Brady’s Hair

Sally: Where’s Laura?

Rob: She’s at home.

Sally: No she’s not, she’s here. I saw her get into the elevator.

Rob: The elevator?

Sally: Yeah, you know, that little room in the lobby that goes up and down.

This is from S5E1 of “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, from 1965. Fifteen years before Leslie Nielsen told us in “Airplane!” that a hospital is a big building with patients.

But that’s not important right now.

The Star Trek Years

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Last night, a friend told me he was rewatching all the episodes of the original Star Trek series on Prime. Star Trek is something that I think all of my friends have watched, but I’ve managed to mostly avoid my whole life.

I have early memories of Star Trek when my father was watching it on our black and white Zenith TV. All I remember is that I was afraid of the man with the pointy ears. Star Trek originally ran from 1966 to 1969, so I would have been between four and seven years old when I was frightened by the Vulcan ears.

Starting in junior high and continuing through college and work, friends have continually raved about Star Trek. I remember when Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out in 1979, my freshman year in college. It was a big thing, and everyone was talking about it. But I had no desire to see it. I would occasionally try to watch an episode on TV, as it was shown in syndication, but it never held my attention long enough to watch a complete episode. I thought it was campy.

I finally succumbed in 1986 when the movie Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home came out. A group of colleagues at work were going to see it, and they invited me. This is the movie where the crew travels back in time to 1986 San Francisco. To save the whales! Since this was soon after I had seen another time travel movie, Back to the Future, which I liked a lot, I decided to go with them to see it.

Side note. I was working at Unisys, in Santa Monica, at the time. The movie was playing in Westwood. Maybe six to eight of us went to see it. We didn’t carpool. Rather, each of us drove separately from the office to Westwood, in our own cars. Someone commented that was the Southern California way.

Back to Star Trek. I really enjoyed the movie. Seeing the crew in 1986 San Francisco was cool. And the movie was funny, though I understood that the comedy was a bit of an aberration for Star Trek. I had to smile when I saw Mr. Scott pick up the mouse and said “Hello computer.”

After the movie, someone commented that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was also good. And it had Mr. Roarke in it! So sometime later I went over to Wherehouse to rent Star Trek II on Betamax.

Star Trek II was OK. But I was not hooked. It was not until 1989, when I had a girlfriend who was a Trekkie, that I watched Star Trek again. The new movie was coming out, and she was really looking forward to seeing it. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. So, we went to see it. I think we saw it on the day it came out. At a movie theater in Encino.

Although the movie was forgettable, I remember that I enjoyed the experience. It made my girlfriend happy, and I was in love. So it made me happy.

Fast forward to 2019. No Star Trek watching during all these years. I was intrigued that my friend was rewatching the series. And it’s been remastered and can be watched without commercials on Prime. So I tuned in to Prime and started watching S1E1.

My first thought was, “Wow, that’s a pretty good hairpiece on William Shatner, for 1966.” And my second thought, because I sometimes have a hard time single tasking and paying attention to something I am watching on TV, was all of the above. So five minutes and four seconds into episode 1, I had to pick up my phone and thumb type my newest blog post. I hope it was entertaining!

Maybe I’ll go back sometime and see if I can sit through all of the first episode.

My July 1982 Brett Kavanaugh Calendar!

When I saw K’s July 1982 calendar in the news, it made me wonder whether I still have my calendar from 1982. I was doing a bit of tidying today, and voila, look what I found!

Mine is not as interesting as K’s! The numbers (9, 10, 11, 12) on Tuesdays represent (I think) the week number of summer vacation.

I have no idea what I was keeping a daily record of. I’m guessing it was something like good days vs bad days, which would mean I had 23 good days and 8 bad days.

The entry on July 24 was a picnic. Tina was my crush in middle school and high school, and she invited me to go on a picnic in Lorimer Park (which I misspelled). But it was three of us: me, Tina, and her BOYFRIEND, so not so much fun for me.

I’m not sure what I drew in the box for the 24th. It looks like a telephone handset. Maybe I had a phone call that day with my friend, Howard.

I didn’t throw this away as part of my tidying. It qualifies as something that brings me joy, as defined by the KonMari method. And besides, I might need it one day if I ever get nominated to the Supreme Court.

I’ll See You Tomorrow, God Willing

When a friend told me she liked Herschel Bernardi’s version of Sunrise Sunset, I decided I needed to find the whole album online. I grew up listening to this album on vinyl, and it was what I knew before the movie came out in 1971.

I found it on Amazon, and I downloaded it and started listening to it. It brought back happy old memories of my childhood. And surprisingly, I remembered all the words, including the spoken parts.

The album has two songs that were not in the movie or the Broadway show: “When Messiah Comes” and “Fiddler on the Roof’. I especially like “When Messiah Comes”.

This song begins with a spoken part that includes these lines:

Here, you never say, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” You say, “I’ll see you tomorrow, God willing.” Because, who knows, with one good pogrom, you could be driven out of town forever.

This sentiment is sadly still relevant today, even in this country. If you go to religious services, you don’t know if you will be alive tomorrow.

The song offers a ray of hope in a scary time. When Messiah comes, everything is going to be all right.

I Used To Be A Heart Beating For Someone

“I used to be a heart beating for someone.” In case you don’t recognize this line, it’s a lyric from Elton John’s song, Philadelphia Freedom. I must have listened to this song hundreds of times since Elton wrote it in 1975 for his friend Billie Jean King, in honor of her tennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms. But today was the first time that I really noticed this line and what it might mean.

On the surface, this is a song about the city of Philadelphia. 1975 was the year before the nation’s bicentennial. So, freedom and Philadelphia were on people’s minds, and the song fit right in. But the song is also about relationships.

I used to be a heart beating for someone
But the times have changed

It’s pretty obvious this line is about lost love.

Cause I live and breathe this Philadelphia freedom

How many times have you felt like you were free after the end of a relationship? I know that I’ve been guilty of that multiple times.

Oh Philadelphia freedom, shine on me, I love you
Shine the light, through the eyes of the ones left behind

And if you’re not convinced that the freedom that he loves is the freedom derived from walking away from bad relationships, here are some more lyrics.

If you choose to you can live your life alone
I like living easy without family ties

But the freedom is an illusion. Or freedom doesn’t imply happiness, as Elton so eloquently states later in the song.

I like living easy without family ties (living easy)
Till the whippoorwill* of freedom zapped me
Right between the eyes

Philadelphia Freedom
Songwriters: Bernie Taupin / Elton John
Philadelphia Freedom lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

______
* A whippoorwill is a North American songbird. It is known for its singing and its camouflage.

 

Zero Envy

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I still remember when Fiddler on the Roof came out as a movie in 1971. I had just turned ten years old. My parents had the album from the Broadway show, and we listened to it all the time on the record player. And I even played all the songs on the piano. Simplified version, of course. I was only ten years old.

I still have the piano book. Yes, this is the same book that I played from back in 1971, taped up and all. I sat down at the piano tonight, and I could still play all the songs. It’s like riding a bicycle,

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I think I also had a cassette tape of the music, which I listened to in my room on my portable tape recorder. I recorded it from the record by holding up the microphone to the speaker on the stereo that was playing the record. That’s how I recorded things in those days, either from a record or from the radio. The recording would always have background noise, like my sister or my parents talking, or the telephone ringing.

I don’t still have the tape recorder, but it looked something like this (photo courtesy of Ebay).

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Back to Fiddler, I remember when the movie came out, I was disappointed that Tevye wasn’t played by Zero Mostel. Who was this Topol? An Israeli actor? I felt like I was missing out, since I was too young to have seen the live broadway show with Zero.

After seeing the movie, I thought Topol did a fine job. But all these years, I’ve always wondered what it would have been like to see the real Tevye.

Tonight, I had this crazy idea that maybe there was a video of Zero Mostel playing Tevye, and maybe it was on YouTube. So I looked, and voila, look what I found! Yes, a video of Zero Mostel performing If I Were a Rich Man on the broadcast of the 1965 Tony Awards. Enjoy!