"14 Miles," the angular numbers and white diode letters flash from a matte black, artificial panel, and a synthesized beep beep sounds. The beeps escape the atmosphere of the room and leave behind the whirring and ticking of the pedals and chain of a mechanized bicycle. Lungs huff from their depths. Sweat, wicking through a shirt, shorts, socks, and sopped up by a towel, fouls the air. Blue light bathes the skin, wiry carpet, and vaulting glass. Steam rises.
As a child being raised in rural America, he would adjust and pull, set and fiddle with a pair of chrome rabbit-ear antennae atop his father's television. The picture behind the dusty glass would wobble and bend, crack with crisp static, and draw lines of pink, lime, and heliotrope, but would never display Channel 2 from San Francisco. Channel 6 from Sacramento was the only station received on the faux wood paneled box with the knob, dial, and plastic button on the front. "You're not going to get Channel 2. Just watch Channel 6," his father called out from the kitchen.
"I hate Channel 6," he says, wiping the salty taste from his lips with the heavy white towel. Whir whir whir, the crank turns and his small fingers on each hand tingle by the deadening nerves inside. "21 Miles," beep beep . Those days in that ranch house are far-gone. From this exercise room in his 32nd floor condo, he can see foggy uptown, the sparkling waves of the bay, and the newsroom down the hill where he sits with perfect posture and from his diaphragm reads the top stories of the day, five nights a week. "33 Miles," beep beep .
"Channel 6 is PBS and I don't want to watch that British crap," he mumbled over his shoulder. "I want to watch The Simpsons ."
"We don't get Channel 2, son. That's all there is to it."
Now he gets 999 channels with hi-def programming piped through on his digital cable line. Satellite brings him news from the other side of the country, the other side of the world. At night he watches the news from other cities with the sound muted while perched upon one of his stationary exercise machines. Last night was the elliptical trainer. Tonight it's the bicycle. Condensation clings to the white blue glass beside him.
Down that gravel road he drove away from the ranch house and the rabbit ears, away from the old man in the kitchen, and toward a college, a degree in communications, a tower of shimmering glass and steel, toward cameras, white halogen, and the whirring and clicking of alloy metal chain and plastic pedals.
"68 Miles," beep beep .
Thursday, December 15
KUSI News at 6
KUSI 6:00 p.m.
This is a "Special Report! To Keep You from Dying from the Hidden Dangers of Chicken Fat!" Our "Bacteria and Illness Expert" isn't the copier repairman slathered in makeup and squeezed into an ill-fitting suit. NO! He's educated on this important subject and, dammit, he's in charge. If he says you better keep two sets of silverware, one for meats and one for vegetables, then by god you better. Or you're going to need a plastic shopping bag, a sponge, and a double-sized box of breath mints to make it through your morning commute tomorrow. He's stared E. coli straight in the face and thumbed his rosy nose. A scorching case of the trots is no laughing matter!
Health Matters: UCSD Community Pediatrics
UCSD 9:00 p.m.
I'd like to tell you my mother kept the rectal thermometers separate from the oral thermometers. But, how could I know for sure? I was a borderline-retarded kid, and she's a mean woman.
Friday, December 16
Close to Home
KFMB 9:00 p.m.
Sure, my truck has a brown film on it, and my skin is breaking out, but one good thing about living in the "developing" area of town is everything smells like carne asada -- no, not just the air. Things like my couch, shirts, and water from the tap all reek of spicy grease, meat, and fat. Milk has a beefy flavor, and a gasoline shower couldn't wash the stench out of my hair. Ah, it's good to be back in North Park. That Ocean Beach livin' was getting a little too healthy for my blood.
Saturday, December 17
Race Against the Killer Flu
NGC 11:00 a.m.
Don't hand me that malarkey about taking "hangover pills" while you're drinking. If you can remember to pop a gel cap every couple of hours, then you're not drinking nearly enough. Until you wake up on the floor of a tub, your skin stained by your own juices, then you aren't participating in the spirit of the thing. And, get me a bourbon and soda on the rocks while you're at it.
A Very Brady Christmas
XUPN 8:00 p.m.
Here's a prime example of a fart in a mitten.
Sunday, December 18
HGTV 6:00 p.m.
I'm not telling you to do it, but if you're too lazy to scrub your shower, white spray paint is a buck-forty-nine-a-can at the hardware store. That's all I'm saying.
Monday, December 19
USA2 5:00 p.m.
Hilary Swank is paralyzed in a boxing match and Clint Eastwood euthanizes her. That's the ending to Million Dollar Baby . Oh, sorry. Were you going to watch that? Jeez, I kind of blew it for you, huh. HA HA HA HA HA HA! Sucker!
Tuesday, December 20
America's Next Top Model
XUPN 9:00 p.m.
Women who wouldn't let you carry them to the john, wearing filmy bikinis you can't afford, and prancing on stage in a polished ivory city you'll never visit. Welcome to scenic downtown Sucksville Loserton (Population: you [yes, you], you butthole).
Wednesday, December 21
Bravo 7:00 p.m.
I've named my left nipple "Truth," my right nipple "Justice," and the patch of hair leading to my waistband, "The American Way." Patriotism isn't just waving a flag, it's an attitude, a look, and a musky scent.
Thursday, December 22
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas
ABCFAM 8:00 p.m.
How Ron Howard and Jim Carrey Tag Teamed the Memories of My Youth and Left Them Violated and Crying in the Alley Behind an Adult "Novelty" Shop on El Cajon and 42nd Street .