Three-and-a-half Channels Rant

I was trying to write a statement of purpose for an application I'm working on, but I ended up writing this instead:

When I was growing up, my parents were too cheap to pay for cable (“I don’t want to pay for all those channels - you know how many channels there are - I just want the History channel or what’s-it? Discovery?”), and, living in the mountains as we did, the only channels we got via antenna were ABC, CBS and half of Fox. (If you think Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns look gritty and dark how Joss intended it, then you should try watching it through the snow flurry of television static.)

An additional hangup in my early on-screen education was my dad’s habit of recording on-air movies rather than actually buying them. Not only is the televised version often altered, my dad wouldn't plan ahead about it. So the movies I’d watch over and over with my brothers often started somewhere near the middle, were cleared of their more racy scenes, and were dotted with early nineties commercials. (My introduction to the word “sexy” was by one of these commercials. It was for cream cheese.)

Many times, there being two or more recordings per tape, the last one would cut out, and we’d have to search through a trunk full of barely-marked VHS tapes trying to find where it picked up again. An added pitfall to this whole endeavor was that on one of the tapes was the footage of our cousin Zach being born, and you didn’t want to accidentally run into that. There was an ending to a particular Star Trek: The Next Generation episode (the one where Deanna turns into a swamp creature in the bathtub) that I looked for in vain until it came to my Netflix queue in 2010. I’ve seen Zach’s birth twice. 
Willow was a family favorite due, in part, to the fact that it all fit on one tape and was clearly marked.
Alright, the shirtlessness might have factored in, too.
So when I set out on my own, in the world, I went in for all the TV imaginable. I got cable (all those channels), Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO, Amazon Prime and friends with DVD collections. Got to make up for lost time.

My parents still don’t pay for cable, and they have crappy internet that they share with the neighbors (which its own whole rant for another day). But recently my dad discovered that he could take the antenna outside and run a cable to the television, and now they get, like, five channels.



Valentine's Day for Psychics

Our next-door neighbors are psychics. At least, that's what the neon sign says - $5 for a reading. (The outside staircase to the second-floor business even has one of those powered seats that slides up the railing.) We're not sure how capable they are at telling the future, but we're pretty sure they're not the best at regular living. A few generations and a couple of nuclear families live next door. Their patriarch is a man named Archie whose voice sounds like gravel having sex with a litter box. When Tyson goes outside to smoke, sometimes Archie will talk to him. Tell him about his bouts with various drug addictions, with his struggle to deal with and care for his family.

Somebody from next door is always hanging out on the sidewalk in front of our apartment, and they're always yelling. Yelling at one another out on the sidewalk, yelling from the sidewalk to upstairs. Cars pull up outside and honk - one guy routinely screams at his pregnant wife to "get the fuck out here!"

Last night, everybody was outside, yelling on the sidewalk opposite our kitchen and living room windows. Children were screaming and running around in the streets. Archie lead the rhythmic refrain of "Cut it out!" to the kids about twice a minute.

This morning, as I was standing at the kitchen sink, I saw Archie laboriously making his way up the sidewalk. His arms were stacked high with boxes of chocolates. Tyson thinks Archie's a good guy somewhere in the midst of all the fucked up events of his life. And anyway, it's nice to see him up early doing something nice for his family. I was surprised. But I suppose they, as psychics, won't be.