13 June 2009

With or Without TV

Three weeks from today, I plan to board the flight that will take me from LaGuardia to Denver International. Then another to Colorado Springs, where I'll spend the night before I'm picked up by the hospital's escort service.

I'll be entering that plane at LaGuardia on my birthday: the 4th. Some people have told me that the 7th, the date of my surgery, will be my new birthday. I will return home on the 15th. The day before that is, of course, Bastille Day. But it's also the anniversary of my name change, my first day clean and sober and my discharge from the military.

Maybe I should just make the month of July my birthday. Or something.

Now I wonder if I might be making another new beginning. Yesterday, analogue TV signals in the US were turned off; now there are only digital signals. My TV set is not equipped to receive digital transmissions, and I didn't buy one of those converter boxes. Furthermore, I don't subscribe to cable or satellite TV, and don't plan to.

So...that means I can't watch TV. Will it affect my life?

At the moment, I'm rather enjoying the hissing swish of rainwater plumes kicked back by car tires nearly gliding on the drizzle-slickened street just outside my window. I wish it would stop drizzling, raining, pouring or otherwise precipitating (Is that a word?): It seems that's what kind of weather we've had for the past three or four months. The skies have been gray and the air's been so moist that I have difficulty pulling my front door shut so that I can lock it. Of course, that might also be a consequence of my diminished upper body strength: Do I blame the hormones or my relatively sedentary lifestyle?

But if we must have precipitation, it's nice to hear its echoes. And, Charlie and Max seem to be purring even louder and more deeply than they usually do. Perhaps their voices echo in the rain and mist; maybe it's just easier to hear them when there's no TV blaring.

But they seem even louder than they did on other nights when I didn't have the TV on. Something about this place just seems to have become quieter. I don't mind it. Being distracted is overrated; at least, it's not as good as being busy. And, when there are no distractions and the business of the day is done, then I will busy myself with living.

Last night, I told my brother Mike that one of the reasons I chose to teach a short course this month was to keep myself busy. "Are you having second thoughts about the surgery?," he wondered.

"No. I just don't want to be thinking about it during my every waking hour."


"Obsessing about anything isn't healthy."

"I guess you're right about that."

"Sure. Look at Dad."

"Yeah, that's all he does."

Not to pick on him, but I must also say that my father spends most of his days in front of the television set. For a few weeks, when he was in the deepest part of his depression, he wasn't even doing that. Imagine: Spending twelve hours a day with The O'Reilly Factor and Faux, I mean Fox, News actually is an improvement in his condition from what it was a couple of weeks ago. I can just see the ads now.

Now, of course I didn't watch those shows. In fact, if you don't count Law and Order, Cold Case and Prison Break, most people would say that my TV-watching habits were in middle-to high-brow territory: Healthy doeses of PBS programming interspersed with Sixty Minutes and other news-magazine programs, leavened by the occasional movie and sports event. No reality TV shows (Whose reality do they show?), no Desperate Housewives, no Entertainment Tonight. The only game show I watched was Jeopardy.

Of course, I didn't watch any of those programs faithfully. I wasn't always home when they aired, and I never could be bothered to tape them. I never felt any real sense of loss over missing an episode of any program.

As for cable and satellite TV: I've subscribed to them, only to find myself watching the same two or three channels (out of 500!) and to find the same programs repeated. I don't suspect the situation has changed much, so I have no wish to start a new subscription. Plus, some of the worst customer service in the world comes from cable and satellite TV companies.

I am free of all of that. I'm wondering how I'll feel about this decision when I'm recovering from my surgery. I do plan to read and write a lot. And, of course, when I get home, I'll be spending lots of time with Charlie and Max and, hopefully, with my human friends.

There was a time in my life when I lived without a television. For about two years after I returned from France, I moved a few times and lived mainly in single rooms. I would say that I was content not to have the tube, but I wasn't really content about anything. Mainly, not watching TV made me feel superior to other people and helped me to create a rationale for my alienation and anger. It was true that I wasn't participating in the deceptions and lies practiced and accepted by the ruling classes and, well, just about everybody else. But of course I was living in my own delusions about what it meant to be well-informed and -educated and, well, simply to be.

Now all I want is to create some serenity for myself and whoever happens to spend time with me.

Now raindrops are plonking against the roofs of parked cars. Charlie and Max are sleeping. Soon, I will be, too.