Dawson Beats: The Podcast Show Notes EPISODE 2
Updated: Aug 20, 2019
Episode 2 of Dawson Eats America: The Podcast was an emotional tribute to fathers and included a conversation with my niece, Nickol. The episode led off with a story entitled "Sardines & Yoo-hoo," which walked us through the life of my father, Albert Oscar Dawson, Sr.
From this episode, we offer a version of the story in print form. Enjoy.
SARDINES & YOO-HOO!
That was his meal. No matter where we went, the cooler would be full of sardines and Yoo-Hoo. For him, that is. I couldn’t stand the smell, let alone the taste of those small fish that came lined up for the slaughter in a small can, opened with a key. The whole ritual reminded me on some sort of Death Row for fish.
But that meal was in fact the “key” to our relationship. It meant we were headed out to bond, coming together to do something fun. It could’ve been boarding a fishing boat to Cape Cod, or crossing the Triboro for a Yankee game at the Stadium, or on a road trip to visit family in Pittsburgh.
Whatever the experience, it all began with sardines and Yoo-Hoo. Well, it didn’t really begin there. But that was the proverbial “meat” of it.
Where it actually began was with the trip to Gouz (rhymes with cows) in nearby Elmont, NY. This discount store had everything — eggs, flavored juice (wild cherry was my absolute favorite of the store-themed concoctions), lunchmeat, sixty kinds of mustard… and those sardines and Yoo-Hoo. The outdoor barn replete with chickens and goats was just a bonus. Hell, this was the best supermarket in the world to a young kid from Queens who never saw animals outside of the stray dog pack on the block.
It was after purchasing that signature meal, along with other groceries for the house, that I drove the family’s 1983 Ford Fairmont for the first time. Fresh off getting my license, my dad handed me the keys to take us home.
Well… that didn’t work out too well.
Needless to say, my adrenaline was pumping while I should’ve been pumping the brakes. Yep. There was a smack down of ‘The Rock’ proportions in the parking lot that day — me hitting a parked car.
But my dad never hit the roof.
After checking to make sure the eggs didn’t break, he calmly told me to back up off the bumper of the 1985 Caddy I had just kissed, and to get out of the parking lot. He slowed my syncopated heartbeat on the way home, assuring me that I didn’t damage the car, all while relating his first driving experience, which included a learner’s permit and a pet gerbil. Yes, a gerbil.
Maybe he made that story up. In fact, looking back, I’m sure he did. But whatever the case, he turned what could’ve been a disastrous maiden voyage into a lesson on keeping perspective. His soothing words carried us home from Gouz that afternoon. In fact, carried us throughout my teenage years without incident outside of a kissed bumper and the usual growing pains.
It is his example that I still try to apply in life today. When my brother passed, he showed me a type of strength that could never be taught, being strong for my mother, my sister, my niece and my nephew. No doubt he cried. But the lesson to be strong for family was still learned.
He taught me to like who or what I like, with no excuses. Sure the Mets were virtually around the corner from our house at Shea Stadium in Queens, but I favored the Yankees… and he supported that.
There were times years later, when my dad fell ill, that I would think back to games at Yankee Stadium, when Ken Griffey, Sr. and Oscar Gamble starred with my favorite player, Willie Randolph, on some horrible New York teams. I’d be keeping score, cheering as if they could hear me while my dad sat there — after working hard all day — content with his son being content, and with his sardines and Yoo-Hoo.
For sure, that was not the only meal we shared, but it was always around — just like my dad. A portly man with wavy hair, a killer smile and a singing voice that could light up a room, my father always loved his wife, his kids, his God — and his favorite meal. I always loved being around him.
He’s no longer here in physical form, but he lives through those life lessons and memories I wrap myself around (as opposed to wrapping my car around another fender). And on this Father’s Day, I raise one of America’s favorite chocolate drinks to my favorite person — the man who not only guided me through a Gouz parking lot, but through a lifetime of experiences that have molded me into a competent and somewhat successful man.
My dad’s favorite saying was always “How sweet it is!” On this Father’s Day 2009, I say to him: “Thank you for everything, Albert Dawson.” And to borrow from a 60s soul group,“Indeed, how sweet it [was] to be loved by you.”
Suddenly, I have a taste for sardines…