The Search for my Sesame Street

Jun 28 2017

Group hug with Ernie

To most, the title of this post makes no sense so allow me to explain (Dan Frysinger, you're exempt).

Sesame Street is my personal utopia. I've spent a lot of time thinking about why, but I'm still a little fuzzy on what this truly means. I'm also a tried n' true ESFP-T, so explaining complex, abstract thoughts is a challenge I don't usually bother tackling. But this is a curious subject and exploring it on here might help give me the clarity I need to understand it.

I grew up watching the show and became obsessed pretty early. By the time I was 5 years old, I decided I was Ernie and that my mom was Bert. I signed my handmade greeting cards "Ernie" and concocted elaborate scenarios that I acted out as if I was on stage. I picked out a pair of pink saddle shoes at Famous Footwear, which to me, looked like the sneakers Ernie wore each day. I pretended the school bus was a New York city bus and that I was going on an adventure rather than a day of school. I used my imagination to turn my suburban street block, devoid of any commercial businesses, into a thriving city street with a corner cafe, flower shop and community garden.

First day of school with my "Ernie shoes"

I loved the vibe on Sesame Street. It was an urban setting, which was drastically different than the suburban environment I was used to. There was always something happening on The Street which to me, was fun and exciting. People (and Muppets) woke up, got ready and left their apartment in the morning to go about their daily tasks. Once outside, a friendly hello was exchanged to the upstairs neighbor, Bob, then to Oscar the Grouch, and maybe even to Big Bird. A stop in Hooper's store meant you got your order without having to ask, because you stopped by every day and Mr. Hooper knew your ass. Then, you headed to work, doing something you loved around people and Muppets that supported you. Sometimes, the whole neighborhood got together for sing alongs, block parties or birthday parties. In one episode, Maria had a baby and half of Sesame Street visited her in the hospital. Basically, if you lived on The Street, you belonged to something bigger and your uniqueness and individuality was always respected.

The idea of "community" really captivated me early on. Because of Sesame Street, I wanted to live somewhere where people knew each other and were involved in each other's lives. It was like a family. No matter how weird you were, you had your Sesame family and you belonged.

The 80s cast I knew and loved. Image from Screener.com

Oddly enough, I get this same sense of community from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. The environments are similar, yet different. In the movie, the characters live in Whistle Stop, which is a rural town in the nowhere South during the Great Depression. I know what you're thinking – Adrianne, the rural South is a helluva lot different than NYC. Hell yeah it is but the community aspect is present in both. In Whistle Stop, Idgie and Ruth open a cafe and they know all their customers by name. There are community events where everyone comes out to celebrate, and tragic events where the same folks come out again in support. I wanted to find Whistle Stop and live there immediately because I wanted to be a part of the tight knit community I saw on the screen.

Set of Whistle Stop from Fried Green Tomatoes. Taken from RoadTripMemories.com

I was talking to my friend Mike a few weeks ago and I was telling him about Kansas and how it captivated me while I was on the tornado chase tour. I told him how weird it felt, since I'd always called myself a city girl and never thought I'd be drawn to po-dunk nowhere USA. He said he thinks rural towns have the same close knit feel of city neighborhoods and that the suburbs are the worst. I think he's right. In the suburbs, everyone has their own plot of land with a fence to keep out their neighbors and their own car, which they drive to their own errands and park in their own spot and buy their own groceries. I'm not saying that you can't have meaningful relationships and communities in the suburbs – you totally can but it feels different. In the city, neighborhoods thrive because they are small, little nuclei of activity. In rural towns, there's literally nothing else around so you have to know everyone. The suburbs are the place in between these two extremes and that's why I've never been interested in living in them. They feel void of interaction and too large to navigate.

Railroad tracks outside Haswell, CO

Reality has always panned out differently from what "little me" wanted. My life has often been pretty far from Sesame Street. Even when I've lived in a city, I've always commuted out to some far ass place (Mountain View, Lincolnshire, you know who you are!) or I've had to take the train downtown from my apartment. When I lived in the suburbs, I drove to work and it was usually a minimum of 20 minutes away. The only time I've lived close to work was when I worked at the restaurant and was able to bike there from my apartment. That short bike ride gave me such joy – why, I'm not sure because it wasn't the job I was excited about, that's for sure! I think it's because I felt like I had everything I needed, like I had my own little place/routine/neighborhood/Sesame Street, whatever. I was independent.

What does this mean for me now? I'm struggling to understand how to insert the joy I felt watching Sesame Street into my current life. I think it's something bigger than a place to live, although that certainly plays a huge part. Another facet might be working "in the neighborhood," especially somewhere that is walking distance away. Reporting to a space that is close by, but not my living room sounds like a good fit right now (I was a little too lonely when I worked for myself before). Oh, and owning my own business sounds really good right now.

Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, the area that's always felt most like Sesame Street to me. Taken from Reddit

Maybe this is on my mind with my impending move or something, I don't know. Honestly, being overcome with invisible emotion and longing in Kansas and in that boutique shop in Vienna has really gotten me thinking. The old me would have pushed the feelings to the side because they don't fit into the life I've fallen into. Then again, the life I've tried to pre-define hasn't always panned out and in some cases, it has made things worse. My therapist wonders why I can't entertain the possibility of something different. I told her it's because I've always had an image of myself in my head that I've never considered changing. If a renegade thought crept in (something like living in a rural town or owning a boutique in Chicago) I'd immediately throw it into my memory's garbage can, never to be considered again. Now, I'm actively trying to change that.

The time has come to consider all my thoughts no matter how wacky they seem. After all, they are just thoughts and it doesn't hurt to have them, right? This approach will allow me to find the real me vs. the predefined me or the me I've fallen into. The predefined me is actually ridiculous and the me I've fallen into is exactly that – fallen into. People change, things change, evolution happens and sometimes you feel out of control. But nothing is permanent and everything can be changed, it's never too late. I can't expect to know exactly what I'm gonna be, what career I'm gonna have, where I'll live and who I'll marry. The truth comes from within and digging it out is a struggle. Being open minded is the first step, followed closely by the ability to take risks.

Limoncello, the corner deli where I've gotten to know everyone

The Healing Arts Center, where I go to therapy, reiki and acupuncture

While I may not live on Sesame Street, I subconsciously channel it into my daily life whenever I can. I've befriended the owners of Limoncello, an Italian deli on the corner near my house. I attend yoga and am on a first name basis with the owner. I'm like, VIP at the place where I receive weekly acupuncture and reiki. My therapist is in the same building and I see her twice per week. The guy at the liquor store on Octavia and Sutter knows me, but not by name (I think it's the hair). The staff at the Walgreen's on Franklin know me. The women at Silk Nail Spa know me and the woman who owned Paws in the City had pictures of Flip and Sweet Pea on her wall. I smile when I walk down "my" streets, my little neighborhood in SF, my little community, my lil' Sesame Street.

Meet Adrianne

Colorful, wild paintings and other art by color lover and maximalist Adrianne Hawthorne.

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