...nothing here is promised, not one day... Lin-Manuel Miranda

Where does it all come from?
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Many years ago, when I worked at the University of California, one of the few (very few) perks of employment was a discount on tuition. I wasn't seriously thinking about going back to school, but it felt it would be dumb to ignore such a deal, so I did take time to look at the school catalogue. And was intrigued to discover a filed of study called "folklore".

I wasn't sure how, but what I wanted to do (no, I never even tried) was to develop a way to study HOW things get into our brains. I'm not talking mechanics, or brain function, but where does stuff come from. What I mean is, "I know that rhyme. Why?" "How did I learn that song?" Stuff like that. At the time I was still working with people with disabilities and many of the folks I knew, either from work or socially or politically were deaf. The California School for the Deaf had been in Berkeley (and there's a whole different story) for years and I'd studied both American Sign Language and "Deaf Culture" and learned that because those schools were often residential, that when folks graduated, they often stuck around. After all, would you go home to a place your parent were when you spent only a few months out of the year, or stick around the place you went to school? Where by the time you graduated, you were a teenager; you had friends, hangouts, you knew were stuff WAS and, I imagine, most importantly, you had folks you could TALK to.

I know, and knew only a little about ASL and the culture, but I really was interested and one of the things that I found so way cool was the way ASL was regional, the way it changed. No different from any other language, mind you except that a) I hadn't really studied any language in depth in a long time, and b) back then, there were TTYs and that was about it. So when new terms were created, I wondered how did they spread? TTY communication was in English, not in sign language and could be pretty clunky. I mean we ALL talk faster than we type, and typing doesn't convey subtleties (says the woman who has missed SO many things in email/internet postings/written communications.)

I remember, however, that I was working at CIL (that's the Center for Independent Living) in Berkeley when Reagan was shot. Within hours, as I recall, the event changed the sign that was used to indicate "Ronald Reagan". HOW? I wanted to know? Did it happen spontaneously? Was it changing in Washington DC at the same time? At Gallaudet? Was it the SAME change? Cool stuff. And since it was a pun - I LOVE ASL puns - I thought ooo, I could study that too.

Was it folklore? I have no idea; I might have been able to make the argument. Later on I thought about this when other "where does it come from?" questions arose. Like yesterday. Out of ever-loving nowhere comes some doggerel into my brain that went something like this:
"Help! Murder! Police!
My dad fell in the grease!
I laughed so hard I fell in the lard.
Help! Murder! Police!"

Now come ON. It's like that little thing we used to recite that went "One fine day in the middle of the night, two dead boys got up to fight." In other words, HUH? How did I "learn" that? Where did it come form? And I know there are different versions. How? Why? (and the ever popular "and so why can't I get rid of it for more useful information?" which, especially lately, as I'm having massive problems with details because of pain crap, I really could use.)

I know we "learned it in camp" or on the playground. But I don’t' quite think my mother taught me this stuff. Older kids? Maybe but who remembers? Older kids often didn't hang out with younger ones. And of course, when you're absorbing this junk, the least interesting thing about it is where it comes from, right? When you're of the age to learn the stuff, you have no interest in how you learn stuff.

The songs I did learn in summer camp - who taught THEM to whoever taught ME? Who started it? And if you didn't go to summer camp, do you know all those dopey songs and rhymes? Do you know all the parodies OF the dopey songs and rhymes? The weirdness of singing "oh they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue" which has this oddly cheery tone as we happily chirped "it was sad, so sad, it was sad when the great ship went down….husbands and wives, little children lost their lives". No joke!

And "we welcome you to Camp Shalom, we're mighty glad you're here, we'll send the air reverberating with a mighty cheer" that effortlessly became "with a can of beer".

Where does it come from? Are there secret meetings of the cabal of camp song creators? Training sessions for counselors? Sleep teaching tapes where you put on headphones every night for weeks before camp starts so you wake up one morning just knowing all the words?

"Out of my window, looking at the light, I can see the barges' twinkling lights…Barges, I would like to sail with you, I would like to sail the ocean blue"

Barges? Sweet songs about sailing on barges? Ocean-going barges? I mean, they're not big as pleasure craft in the US anyway, so this song would have seemed odd to any American kid, I would think.

Ok, ok, all together now, "we don't need no stinking barges!"

We're here all week folks! Shows at 7 and 10!

I think I'll be going now.

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