Sometimes when I am nostalgic, I have a hankering for a slice of pizza. Just the other day, as I was walking along Newbury Street
, I stopped in to get myself a slice. But it's a lost cause... I can't get to the taste and the sensation that I am craving for. During my first year in America
, when I tried pizza
for the first time, it tasted so amazing that I could only compare the feeling to trying some kind of most expensive chocolate cake
. Soft, melted cheese
mixed with spicy and slightly sweet tomato paste, cracking crunchy crust, the bitterness of the basil, the chewiness and the sourness of the meat topping. Just think about it? How is it possible that one slice combines so many different taste sensations?
On that New England autumn, pizza was absolutely the best most complicated gustatory experience I've ever been treated to, no holds barred. Yes, dear reader, I am describing pizza in terms most reserve for wine. And this is no special pizza. Just your ordinary Papa Gino's
pie. I don't know if I've made you all laugh, but I laugh myself at my own deification of this rather ordinary take-out dish. And fact, is, I can't relate to that American newbie who thought pizza was so amazing. Since then, I've learned to think of pizza as a stale stew of leftover ingredients. It seems to me like every pizza cook pretty much reaches out for some old musty cheese, sausage, some frozen tomato paste, and a couple of last year's chopped vegetables and bakes them alltogether into some kind of a freak pie fit for the hungry dogs rummaging about in the scrapyard
Yes, I feel guilty about falling in love with pizza
. It promised me so much, but turned out to be so unworthy of my heartfelt admiration. And how do I wish that pizza was the only thing that disappointed me this way. But isn't true. You see - I was seduced by all that America
had to the point of madness. Granted, I was a 10 year old with an overly-hyper imagination. But there are reasonable kids out there, I am sure. I can't decide which one of my obsessions was worse. Television has to be it for sure. I was reared on cartoons with narrative simplicity and simple animation. Socialist realism cartoon
s that kept their characters in the modern time period and had them do everyday ordinary stuff. Kinda like the stuff you find on public television or religious-themed stations.
But then, there was Disney
. Duck Tales
... I remember being so fascinated by this cartoon because it stepped out of the real world and traveled to centuries past.. It was so exotic.. There were episodes that had the characters go back to old England and solve the Sherlock Holmes
Mystery of the The Hound of the Baskervilles
. Some episodes traveled to the cavemen period, others drew on magic narratives and involved lamps, genies, and witches. A cartoon that mixed modern-life settings with ancient history and magic. I could not comprehend how this was legal! The cartoons I knew were so mundane in comparison: girls raising their puppy to adulthood, a talking wolf chasing a talking rabbit
, and a story about a weird creature with two humongous ears
and a pipe-smoking crocodile
who made friends with kids in the neighborhood and worked on reeducating a cleptomaniac old lady
into civic decency.... Thing is, all these cartoons, though they did involve talking animals dressed as humans, all took place in the mundane every day world of trains, planes, and communist commitee meetings. And then to see a cartoon that had magic
, science fiction
, ancient history mixed into an everyday setting was like switching from black and white to colored television... Tom and Jerry
had all those amazing elements. I loved the episode where cat and mouse reenacted The Three Musketeers
.The characters were taken from their usual modern settings into Medieval France
. What a wonder!
But of course, the downside is the novelty of cartoons wear out on you just as much as the novelty of pizza. The things that I used to love about Duck Tales - it's ability to switch genres from fantasy
and science fiction
to detective story
and or thriller - eventually made me think of it as degenerate
. Ok, it's a bit extreme to resort to Nazi terms - but I honestly did think that all this genre and time period switching meant that these cartoon shows were resorting to shallow tricks to distract the viewers from the fact that they had no story to tell. I always remained a fan of Duck Tales, but the other cartoons seemed to me to have too many ingredients in their narrative. Like Darkwing Duck
. I hated that show with a passion. I and a couple of friends who also immigrated from the USSR refused to watch it. It seemed like utter nonsense. Why the heck would you create a character who would always make ridiculous pronouncements about his power as a superhero and then fly into walls like a blathering idiot? There were just too many ingredients in that stew.. Yes it was like a pizza that had anchovies and mushrooms and pineapples at the same time. Ducks, capes, green and purple-fur covered villain
s that had drool. And of course - all of these villains would utter completely weird plans about blowing up things or taking over the world that seemed even more nonsensical than their fur and their drooling.
Yes, some of you may be eager to tell me that these are all humorous and appropriate references to the superhero
genre. Maybe even the fact that Darkwing the superhero has a lisp makes him somehow more charming and endearing. Don't worry, I've figured it this all out too. A decade later, though. I've also slowly come around to the point of view that rock n'roll
isn't random noise intended to produce seizures in its listeners...Oh... and I think I am getting used to the fact that the paint colors of the houses on the streets clash with each other because no central committee is there to pick one color for all. Now, I would like to form one... Yes, let's make sure the houses are of uniform size and color so that the neighborhood expresses one theme... But I think the chances of that happening are even tinier than the possibility of making cartoon shows drop their multiple genre
s and time periods in favor of one unified coherent story. And no, I don't think I'll be able to go back to those days in 1991 where America's cities impressed me with their glittering color, the pizza seduced my taste palate, and the "let's combine stories and genres in a blender
" cartoons seemed unbelievably creative.
Yes, it now seems quite ordinary and boring that shrub
s on lawns are trimmed into perfect shapes while the houses that surround them are in blue, red, purple, and green! Ordinary and annoying. No, the America
that awakened my sensations with its color
s, and wildly creative stories is gone. But I would be lying if I said I don't try to go back to that special time period. Some days, like about a week ago, I remember my first taste of pizza and absolutely have to get a slice even though the taste turns out to be disappointingly plain. And I mysteriously find myself downloading video clip
s and theme song
s of Duck Tales
and Darkwing Duck
. The episodes themselves don't seem as overwhelmingly new and strange as they once were, but hearing the theme songs does the trick. I still get incredibly excited and nervous when hearing them just like I once was in 1991. I think I even hear them the same way as back then. At that time, I still didn't understand English so I heard the words of the theme songs as pure undifferentiated sound. I still hear them that way even now.
According to Wikipedia, Duck Tales was the first first American animated TV series to be officially broadcast in syndication in the former USSR. Tom and Jerry was broadcasted shortly before, but it was probably was a pirated copy aired without legal permission.
For clarification: I first watched Duck Tales in the USSR and then continued to watch it upon my arrival to the United States.