Anything dirty or dingy or dusty, anything ragged or rotten or rusty

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Boy, if anyone's reading this on someone else's "friends" page, it's going to look like I'm hogging all the space!

I was just barely two years old when Sesame Street debuted in 1969. My mother and I watched the very first episode together, when Oscar the Grouch was orange. I was there at the beginning, but I was young enough that I can't now remember a time when there wasn't a Sesame Street.

In fact, I thought Sesame Street was a real place. I thought it must be in Los Angeles, which is where I lived until I was six. I imagined that if I ran away from home (something that often seemed highly desirable) I could somehow find Sesame Street out there in the city somewhere and live there forever. I could sing "I Love Trash" with Oscar, and I could pronounce that amazing word that goes "ab-kuh-deff-ghee-jeckyl-muh-nop-queer-stoov-wixes" along with Big Bird. I took the rhetorical question in the theme song very literally. I wanted someone to tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street.

In 1998, at the age of 31, someone told me how to get to Sesame Street. There is a way to get there, but you have to know whom to ask. No one will just come out and tell you, even when you work for the Children's Television Workshop. But I found out whom to ask, and I made it there.

Walking onto the set for the first time, I was overwhelmed. This was it. I had made it to Sesame Street. In her journal, Ellie said she was suddenly seven again. I was four. I was so happy I wanted to run and jump and laugh. I was so happy I wanted to cry.

Bill visits Oscar on the set of Sesame Street
I really can't say why it was Oscar who was my favorite character when I was little, but it was. I was fascinated by this bizarro grouch who was delighted by things that made other people wrinkle their noses. He even had a magical underground home that had to be bigger on the inside than it was on the outside. Even then I could appreciate a good paradox.

But that's why the crowning moment of my first visit to Sesame Street was when they let me climb inside Oscar's garbage can. Now I know the secret of that fathomless space, but I'll never divulge it. It's something you have to experience for yourself, and even if the trick of the illusion is a little prosaic at first glance, that doesn't mean that it isn't pure magic when you push your head up through the opening of that trashcan. I felt like I was reborn. Reborn from trash.

I love trash. That Oscar, I think he's my totem Muppet.

(Photos from the second visit to Sesame Street appear on my Web site. Photos from the third visit are coming soon.)

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William Shunn

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on November 1, 2000 5:46 PM.

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