Far Out, the Tiger Said

I’m having a serious “Free to Be You And Me” session in my art studio tonight. (Yes, yes, I know, I should be breaking things, acting out, being drunk, etc. Sorry. Maybe later.)

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(In hindsight, perhaps it’s not the best studio music choice, since whilst singing along ecstatically to “Parents Are People” a few minutes ago, I accidentally drooled on the gouache painting I was working on, and ruined a section of it…)

This post might seem a little irreverent, coming right after my last one. (Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes. Walt Whitman) Anyway, a friend of mine had given me a CD copy of it a while back: we used to listen to this over and over again at the photo lab we worked in years ago and laugh and laugh and laugh about it.

Having just re-discovered it this month, I’m not only totally in love with it all over again, but acutely aware, as I listen to it, just how influential it was in shaping me as a child. The more time I spend with friends’ children, the more I feel that palpable sense of how hard-wired we are by our childhood experiences, for better or worse. Lucky me: this fantastic, subversive kid’s album helped hard-wire me into growing into a confident, eccentric, feminist, highly independent woman. (Erm, and having great parents, too. Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad.)

Free To Be You And Me came out in 1974, but it found its way into my life when I was growing up in Dubai in the late 70′s. By some strange miracle, this album got played at my school there (the Jumeirah American School, now the American School of Dubai), then circulated around the homes of many of the American kids living there at the time. Sort of surreal, in retrospect, but I’m beginning to suspect that surreal childhoods make for solidly entertaining adulthoods…

Growing up in Jumeirah/Dubai back then was more like growing up in a small, dusty town: it was nothing like the cosmopolis/Vegas of the Middle East that it is now. It was a strangely innocent era: no TV, no VCR, lots of sand and space for one’s imagination. There were tons of expats from Texas and Louisiana in our little neighborhood, which naturally meant that the only Mardi Gras I’ve still ever experienced was a bunch of sandy trucks filled with seriously fun rednecks and their kids driving down my block in clown makeup, throwing beads and candy to a handful of the rest of us. All this, fronted by an Arab bagpipe police band.

This really doesn’t have anything to do with Marlo Thomas, of course, but in trying to contextualize my experience with this wonderful, bizarre album, it’s bringing back a host of other wonderful, bizarre experiences. If I can scan some old family photos, I can prove all of this. I swear.

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One Response to “Far Out, the Tiger Said”

  1. John Meyer Says:

    Yes, please. I would like to see photos of Mardi Gras in Dubai before it went electric.