Chicken wings and a trip to New York

Published 7:02 pm Wednesday, January 21, 2009

As the crowd began to assemble at the Greenville High School cafeteria for the trip to New York during the summer of 2005, I kept looking around at the familiar faces. It made me really proud to be a member of this group, but I was even more proud of being a Greenville native. About 180 of us had been chosen to appear on a pilot TV series called “My Kind of Town.” We were going to be whisked away to New York City to film the show and possibly win prizes. We really didn’t know what to expect, just that it was a type of game show like “Let’s Make a Deal” or “The Price is Right.”

After signing my life away with all of the paperwork, we finally began to board the buses. I was ready to get this show on the road, no pun intended. The next thing I know, I’m walking next to Regina Herring Gorum. When we were kids, we were the only two “Regina’s” in the entire city of Greenville, so that bond was quickly rekindled.

“That woman is waving at you, Regina,” she said to me, and, sure enough, I look up at the first bus, and I see Lisa Parker Cortez waving wildly trying to get my attention. I thought to myself, “Self, you are about to be on national television, and you’re surrounded by some close high school friends. If you ever want to be able to walk the streets of Greenville again with your face showing, you’d better behave.” To which my Self responded, “Okay, just be on the lookout for the hidden cameras they told us about in those papers we signed. I’d hate for you to have to move so soon after you just got back.”

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As much as I loved my family, I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait to shake the dust of small-town life off my feet and hit the big cities after college, only to find out that 15 years later, there was “no place like home.”

Well, on with the show, as they say.

Once on the bus, Regina Gorum and I began practicing our “game-show faces” that we might need to use while being taped. There was the “surprise” face, the “shocked” face, the “teary-eyes plus fanning with the hands” face. (That one was reserved for winning a really big prize.) Finally, there was the “I can’t believe she just did that” face. With that last one, we suddenly remembered the possibility of a hidden camera and quickly straightened up.

So much for maturity and grace.

That was not my only concern, however; I was really hungry. I sheepishly admitted to Regina that I had a pack of peanut butter crackers in my purse because my mama made me bring them in case I got hungry on the plane. I kept telling Mama how I felt like Fred Sanford bringing a sack of chicken wings on the flight before Lamont found out and made him put them up. Of course, Regina Gorum had Pop Tarts in her suitcase, so I figured we were covered either way.

By the way, the food they served us on both flights and in New York was wonderful. Needless to say, that pack of peanut butter crackers made it back to Greenville.

Once in New York, it was a whirlwind adventure.

When we got to the studio, some of us were asked questions in between the taping of the show in order to win gift certificates. I must say that Dr. Kathy Murphy made me totally ashamed of myself. After watching her do 25 military pushups, I immediately wanted to join the YMCA with the aspiration of signing a contract with the World Wrestling Federation, just like Lita and the former China.

After all was said and done, I wouldn’t trade that TV experience for anything. Even though the pilot series only aired four of its shows, with ours being the first, we came away as winners with everyone being the proud new owner of a Venice scooter.

I love to ride my scooter, even though I don’t get to as often as I would like, and I would even like to join the Crenshaw County Riders, but I’m afraid they’d just run over me, and there I’d be–just a smudge in the road. Even though I’ve had visions of being like Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider,” somehow, my Venice scooter doesn’t quite have the same oomph as a Harley-Davidson.

By the way, after winning my scooter on that TV show, Samson, my 21-pound tomcat, made me attach a small sidecar on mine so he could ride with me. He wanted to feel the wind in his fur.

The only problem was finding a helmet that would fit him.