chocolate is a verb

colors, flavors, whims and other growing things


televisionThere was never more than one television in our house and the first one didn’t arrive until I was 12, long after most of my friends were spending their evenings with American Bandstand, 77 Sunset Strip, Perry Mason, Ozzie and Harriet, Sea Hunt and the Ed Sullivan Show.

The television, black-and-white, rabbit-eared, was installed on a rolling cart in the corner of my bedroom — not that it ever rolled anywhere — and was strictly rationed: no TV on school nights; one hour a night on weekends. I don’t recall this as a privation; at 12, this was just one of many ways in which I felt myself strange and different.

I remember little about actually watching the television, but, oddly, I recall its smell — a kind of sweetness, almost like cookies baking.

When I was perhaps 15, my parents went out one night, leaving me alone. The TV was off and I was sitting on my bed reading when suddenly the screen shattered, spewing glass onto the floor. I was terrified, my first thought being that someone had shot a gun from the front of the house and the bullet had ripped straight up the long hallway into the television (a trajectory that was possible, no matter how unlikely). Once I determined there was no matching bullet hole in the front window, I had the presence of mind to unplug the thing, but no satisfactory explanation was ever found.

After I left home (when I was 17), the TV was rarely watched; my parents had better things to do. But decades later, they found themselves enjoying the occasional program, so they upgraded to color and a new, larger but still “portable” TV took up residence in my mother’s bedroom on an even larger rolling cart.

There they would sit together for an hour or two in the evening and watch public television — music or dance or history or science — one of them as likely as not dozing off for part of the program. It was on one of those evenings, both of them in their 80s, Dorothy already well into her mental decline, when she turned to my father and said, “Didn’t we use to have a color TV?”

Groping among the tiny knobs behind the TV’s front panel to adjust the image, my father had accidentally turned off the color. Who knows how long they had been watching it that way?

Except for a few months when I rented a furnished apartment, I’ve never had a television since I left my parents’ home. Somehow, through privilege or privation, I’m an addict, yielding myself without a grain of resistance or discrimination to its cheap seduction. Put me in a hotel room and the first thing I do is turn on the TV; unchallenged, I’ll watch it until 3 in the morning, scrolling through movies, CSI, Family Guy and reruns of Starsky and Hutch until I can no longer operate the remote…

4 responses to “watching…

  1. Eric Solstein May 24, 2012 at 9:03 am

    I can’t speak to privilege or privation, but the tv by itself has everything a brain needs to squeeze out endorphins or dopamine or whatever kinda brain juice that turns a person dopey and passive. I just cancelled cable at my country place, where I do my editing and writing, away from my family… the withdrawal is a little rough but the moral high ground is dizzying. But consider, television sets won’t be with us too much longer, going the way of the rotary phone.

  2. jik May 24, 2012 at 9:15 am

    …to be sure, but the small screen vortex will continue to suck us in…

  3. LaVera May 24, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    I loved the story

  4. jik May 25, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Thanks, LaVera!

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