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The Blog of Photographer Steven Gray

wedding photography :: portrait photography :: travel photography :: pensacola, fl

Formative influences.

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I love The Golden Girls! I say this unashamedly and without irony.  After my history of physical and intellectual pursuits and a man card validated by a shelf of karate trophies in my room, I will say it again.  I love The Golden Girls!

I love telling that to people.  It really throws them off and I get a good laugh.  But I say it with all sincerity.

The Golden Girls was helmed by Christopher Lloyd, who is responsible for producing many, many hit TV shows over the years, Modern Family being his most recent hit.  But it pales in contrast to The Golden Girls, which was perfectly cast, brilliantly written, and much less dated today than the sorely Modern Family will be in twenty years.  And did you know that Bea Arthur was a truck driver for the USMC?

But it is special to me for other reasons than its comedic excellence.

Like many grandparents, mine watched a lot of television.  My maternal grandmother must have seen every episode ever produced of Seinfeld, Frasier, and The Golden Girls.  When I was only about seven or eight years old, I used to watch "her shows" with her for a few minutes at a time, and the only one that ever held my attention was TGG.  Something about the razor-sharp delivery of cutting one-liners, whose actual meaning was far above my head at the time, struck a chord of comedic appreciation with me, even as a child, and I would laugh hysterically at Sophia's deadpan delivery of snark and insults.

I grew up with my grandparents' friends, on both sides of the family.  Through holidays, dinners and sunday brunches, I was introduced from infancy to an eclectic and boisterous mix of personalities.  They were a hilarious group of people; they loved nothing better than to get together and pass the time.

A Sunday brunch at my dad's old family home overlooking Woodland Bayou would begin as soon as the bell rang the close of service at my grandparents' church and would not end until the shadows grew long in the afternoon.  Men and women who had known each other for thirty years or more would gather in ever-shifting clumps of conversation inside and outside the house and pass an afternoon laughing over rich food and fizzing cocktails.

As one of the younger members of the family, I was not an active part of many conversations, but the overall experience made an impression on me.  Every time I attend or assist with a party, I am hoping in the back of my mind that it will be comparable to the uproarious good times had by interesting people at my grandparents' home.  Sadly, such events never occur by design; they create themselves from the interaction of the people who attend.  Experience has taught me that just as good food will never be truly appreciated by people whose palates have been conditioned by McDonalds, a generation (in this case, my own) raised on smart phones and online friends lists are rarely apt to take advantage of opportunities to actively engage in storytelling, joke-swapping and yarn-spinning.

And, personally, I think that what I saw in the personalities I saw on display among my grandparents and their peers is why I love The Golden Girls as much as I do.  Many of those people are dead now, but when I watch the clashes of articulate personalities on TGG, I am strongly reminded of people I knew, but did not appreciate as much as I should have when I had the chance.  The Golden Girls is, for me, a glimpse into the lives of fictional characters created from personalities I knew in real life.  And even though I didn't know them well, I can, in retrospect, appreciate who they were, and consequently feel their absence.

It's like dark chocolate; a combination of bitterness and sweetness.  A celebration of strong friendships which could survive witty, biting and stinging deliveries of insights.  Friendships that were articulate, often strained, but always strong and supportive.