Author Archives: Carmen Soret

Oh Alice

“One of the things I remember about growing up was that my mom would sing me funny songs and after she would sing them she would crack up. Even though my family experienced a lot of loss and pain, it was always great to hear my mom’s laugh. One of the songs she used to sing was about Alice. When she sang it she thought it was so funny, but it would scare me. I was a little girl and I thought I might go down the drain!”

The lyrics are as follow:

Alice, where are you going?

Upstairs to take a bath

Her shape is like a toothpick

Her head is like a tack

Oh my goodness, oh my soul there goes Alice down the hole!

Oh Alice, where are you going?

An audio recording of Gloriadele Guzman (the mother of the informant, referenced above) singing the song has been provided: Oh Alice

I collected this song from my mother. It was fun for me because I also remember my grandmother singing me this song when I was a little girl. I had always thought it was a song my grandmother had made up but I found some other versions of the song online. My grandmothers version is slightly different. Some of the other version include more details that has caused some people to infer that the song is actually about Alice in Wonderland.

For one of the other versions of this song please see: http://www.rahelmusic.net/lyrics-kidsongs.html

Don’t step on the falcon

“Our mascot for my high school is a falcon. They have a big tile mosaic thing of a falcon in the quad and you’re not supposed to walk on it, especially on game days. And especially when we played our rivals, Los Gatos High School. It’s right in the middle of the quad. It’s supposed to be bad luck if you step on it. I’m not really sure if it works or not but I never stepped on it just in case. Also I never played sports but I still didn’t do it.”

My participant is not an athletic person and did not participate in athletics in high school. I found it intriguing that despite her lack of interest or involvement in sports she still subscribed to the superstitions associated with her high school mascot. I was also surprised that it was bad luck to step on the falcon when it was located in such a public place as the school quad since it would be an easy mistake for pedestrians to make.

Kicking the Flag Pole

“When USC students go to football games, as they head off of campus they kick the flagpoles on the edge of campus. It’s suppose to be for good luck. It’s supposed to help the team win. I heard about it when I was at orientation and the guide pointed at the poles and told us that ‘All the students kick theese poles on the way to the Collesium.’ It’s like a superstition thing. I have done it once during freshman year when I went to a game and sure enough when I did it I saw tons of other people doing it too. It’s definitely caught on.”

As a fellow student at USC I know this tradition to be true. It is interesting to note that this was taught during the orientation process to the university. During orientation at USC students are not only taught official protocols of the university but they are also taught about the unofficial culture of the campus, through an official medium. The kicking of the flag pole could even be considered a ‘right of passage’ for students attending football games. As if only the true fans and devoted students partake in this good luck ritual. This tradition is not only to ensure success for the football team during the game, but also an initiation into true fandom.

Semester at Sea- Neptune Day

“There alot of weird traditons on ships. The one I will tell you about is called Neptune Day. Back in the day sailing was really hard, people died all the time, it was real smelly, your chances of making it off the ship were slim. Ships are hard. Seaman….hahaha, had this tradition that when you cross the equator, ‘Woo hoo! You’ve survived!’ It’s a big feat because most people don’t. Clearly this is the future, we wouldn’t die, things didn’t really smell for us, but we still kept tradition. I was there as a student, but for the people who actually run the ship this tradition is really important and we do it to honor them. And it’s just fun. There’s 600 people on a ship and sometimes you just need things to do so you plan an activity for a bunch of college kids. On my ship we did this, they do it every voyage, but we crossed the Equator and the Prime Meridian at the same time, so 0’0″. Normally when you cross the Equator you go from a ‘slimy scally wag’ to a ‘shellback’. But because we also crossed at the Prime Meridian we became ’emerald shellbacks.’ So we were at the heart of the world. And everyone is really excited and it’s this whole big thing. We have a pool on the ship; you jump into a pool of fish guts. And then you get doused with salt and then you kiss a fish. Our dean, this prestigious guy, paints himself green and is King Trident. He shakes your hand after you get out of the pool, get doused in salt and kiss the fish. And all the teachers dress up, they come out as a parade, and are kind of creepy. There were some kids on the ship too, the teachers kids and they get to dress up too. The students dress up too though, like war paint. Also some people shave their heads. A lot of guys do it. Some girls did it too and gave their hair to Locks of Love. Everyone¬† watches and cheers you on as you do it. I think it’s from back in the day that people would get lice and needed to shave their heads on ships. And ya that’s pretty much it. It’s a fun day. It’s supposed to be like you’ve earned your ‘sea legs’ after being on the course. I did not shave my head; I’m an actor so I can’t do that. I did shave my friends head though. But I did do the fish guts, salt thing. You didn’t HAVE to do that, but you like kinda did.”

This festival is particularly interesting because it draws on ancient traditions of the sea but also incorporates modern additions, like giving the shaved hair to charities. Upon doing a little more research I discovered that ‘shellbacks’ is meant to mean ‘Sons of Neptune’ and another variant on ‘slimy scally wag’ is (slimy) polywogs. There are historical records going back as far as the early 1800’s describing this ritual of crossing the equator as performed on Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian ships. My participant experienced this tradition while on an academic experience but it is also performed by many naval groups in the United States and Russia. As Captain Robert Fitzroy noted it “was beneficial for moral.” This ritual seemed to have been a really positive and fun experience for my friend. She remembered it fondly and it seemed like one of the most memorable experience she had while on her trip.

Gypsy Robe

“I use to do community theater at this place called Starstruck. Theater people are just weird in general and we love weird traditions and culty kind of stuff, anything that nobody else might know about is great. A gypsy robe is a tradition with this theater company that you work on the show, you work really hard, and then everybody votes on who gets the gypsy robe. If you’re new, maybe somebody might tell you what it means, but probably not. You just have to figure it out when it happens. So we all load into the theater and it’s opening night and we all go to the stage to warm up. We do a group warmup: singing, dancing, weird theater shit. And then it comes the part when it gets really emotional and the director gives a speech like “You guys have done such a great job, we’re so ready, it’s going to be great, it’s going to be sold out.” Stuff like that; weepy weepy, cute, inspirational stuff. Whatever. So all that happens and its right before they let all the people in the house. The house is all the audience seats. We’re all on the stage and they can’t let the audience in until we get off. So then the director, as though she has a secret to tell, ‘Ok so some of you may know about this and some of you don’t know yet…’ I’ve been in their children’s shows and professional shows but when I first got introduced to it I was in high school so it was a really big deal. She points backstage and the stage manager would go and get this robe. It says ‘gypsy robe’ on the lapel and has trinkets on it from every show they’ve ever done. Well since they started the gypsy robe anyways. The trinket is embroidered onto the robe with the show name and attached is a prop, or a piece of the set or a piece of costume. It supposed to have something to do with the show but sometimes the things are random and then it’s like an inside joke and therefore even cooler, but doesn’t make sense. *laughs* So then the director takes a full sweep around the circle, showing off the robe, talking about the robe, saying what it means and gives the background, and says ‘One person has stood out and we all voted and came to the conclusion that _____(name)___ deserves the gypsy robe!’ She would then meaningful walk over the gypsy robe to the winner. It’s always a person who doesn’t have a really big role. It’s probably someone whose done a lot of shows with them already, put in your dues kind of shpeal, and you probably deserved a way better role than you got, but you stayed with the show and were in ensemble and didn’t really complain about it. It’s a prize but it’s pretty political now that I think about it. You’ve got the gypsy robe, you’re basically like MVP of the show/ Miss Congeniality of the show. So they put the robe on you and you’re so excited and then someone starts the gypsy robe song. I think it’s a real song but they put different words to it. “Cotton candy, sweet n low, let me touch your gypsy robe.” I can’t remember the rest of the song but, everyone is clapping, and stomping, dancing around the circle. The winner starts from their spot and run/dance around the whole circle. Everyone is supposed to touch you, like a pat on the back but some people use this as an opportunity to get weird. The winner makes it back to their spot and everyone is still singing and dancing. It’s like a dance party and then everyone cheers for the winner. The winner is suppose to wear the robe every night of the show, as they’re getting ready, before the show, every show. ”

Did you ever win the gypsy robe?

“I didn’t. I was ‘supposed’ to get it for Grease but then I didn’t. It was ok though, I liked the girl who got it. I was supposed to get it though so it was shit. It was extra political that year. Her mom was the costume designer.”

Have you heard of other theater groups doing this?

“I think they stole this idea from somebody else because I was with this performing arts center since 6th grade and they didn’t start it until 9th grade. ”

Even though you never technically won it, would you say this made it more fun and added to your experience?

“Mmm. Ehh. It was just kind of like a thing we did. It was just a nice thing we did on opening night. It’s nice to have tradition but it wasn’t an end all be all.”

I did some reserach and discovered the ‘gypsy robes’ are commonly given out in Broadway Musicals and goes back to the 1950’s. The ‘gypsy’ comes from “their continuous travel from job to job in show after show.” Some robes from popular musicals have even been housed in museums.

I thought it was interesting that she didn’t identify too personally with the tradition even though she was a member of this troupe for several years. It is most likely because she was snubbed and did not receive the award.