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My dad still calls a refrigerator an "icebox." He got it from his dad, who got it from his dad. You see , Great Granddad Olivieri delivered ice in a horse and buggy through the winding dust and stone streets of Sonora, California, before automobiles, TV, and air conditioning. It took Great Granddad all day. He'd wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning, drive his carriage to the icehouse, load up, and make his rounds, dropping off his white cargo to the housewives and businessmen in town.

He started delivering on that ice route when he was ten years old. My grandfather started working at the local newspaper printing press when he was ten, and my dad started delivering that same paper when he was ten.

When I was ten, I was a porky goofball in a Batman cape and Transformer underpants, swinging a light saber around. The disappointment in my father's eyes registered the grief and history of his long-since passed-on father and grandfather. But I couldn't recognize my father's letdown, yet. As a kid, all I wanted to do was draw comic books and watch TV.

The three generations before me had all worked on road crews at one time in their lives, paving the dirt streets of Sonora.

I watch TV for a living.

They all started working young; worked backbreaking jobs their whole lives, sweating through their shirts and pushing their bodies to the point of injury. Great Granddad and Grandpa Olivieri died right after they retired.

My dad retires next year.

Great Granddad went off to World War I. Grandpa Olivieri fought Rommel in North Africa and came back to Sonora with a hunk of Nazi tin in his neck from Kasserine Pass. My dad fought the commies in Vietnam.

I never fought in a war.

They've all come to be known as "the old man." When my dad speaks of his grandfather or dad he says "the old man." I call my dad "the old man" now, too.

I'm going up to see the old man this week. It's his birthday; he'll be 61. I'll stock the icebox full of beer, and we'll sit in our chairs and watch TV. I'll absentmindedly draw pictures and leave them scattered around the front room. He'll collect them all when I leave and keep them in his room.

It'll be good to see him before he retires.

WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK

A rating of this week's television programs as they correspond to the smell in my kitchen sink from last week:

Thursday, November 23

Spider-Man 2

FOX 8:00 p.m. First night. I've broiled kabobs in the oven for my girlfriend and me. My sink smells of the remnants of dinner. The chicken and roasted vegetables are a savory and warm aroma, sentimental and satiating. Spider Man 2 is a tender, romantic, and affectionate film. Perfect!

Sex and the City

WB 11:00 p.m. It's later. Wine has been opened, drunk, and the glasses mingle in the sink with the dishes from dinner. The fruity alcohol has lent a metropolitan air. As a hillbilly kid, wine was something only snooty city folk drank. Now I'm an adult who has moved to the Big Smoke and have a glass with dinner every night. The girlfriend's in bed, watching Sex and the City, and I'm typing on my laptop. How appropriate.

Friday, November 24

The Megan Mullally Show

NBC 11:00 a.m. Morning. The dishes still sit and the smell has become stale, but it hasn't turned ugly yet. (Yet!) Some breakfast plates clutter up the basin and the eggs add a hint of morning flavor to last night's dinner. My coffee cup has splashed over and has taken up residence. I needed something bracing and slightly irritating to break me out of bed and get me moving.

Saturday, November 25

G.I. Joe Sigma 6

FOX 10:30 a.m. Things are getting worse. What was once flavorful and the symbol of a good time has gone sour. Glasses of bourbon from Friday night, a beer can, and the morning dump of coffee grounds and swill collect in the sink now. I'm a little hung over and don't want to deal with reality. The sink has changed from something I once enjoyed to an annoyance hanging over my head.

American Idol Rewind

WB 8:00 p.m. Things have gotten worse, but I don't care. I've forgotten about the stink of it and only add to the growing problem. More beer cans, more coffee, more bourbon. Wine glasses are no longer sweet and continental, but have rather become the vehicle to intoxication and have taken on a sinister role in the community of my kitchen sink. I'm drunk and don't mind the stench.

Sunday, November 26

Family Guy

FOX 9:00 p.m. Unexpectedly, things have gotten better. Somehow the rank juices, liquids, and pulp from a few days of neglect have canceled each other out. A fan and my open door have helped to clear the air and it's refreshing to stand in the kitchen and not gag. What was once an irritant has become okay.

Monday, November 27

Heroes

NBC 9:00 p.m. It's absolutely pleasant in here now. The growing stack of plates and bowls is a little gritty to look at, but a green tea--scented candle gives an oriental and ethereal aroma to the place. It's a fool's paradise, though. The duty of cleaning up will no doubt be an apocalyptic and sacrificial one. I'm thinking of leaving it for the girl to clean up, but no, it's my responsibility.

Tuesday, November 28

The Great American Christmas

USA 9:00 p.m. Woof! It's back, and it's worse. The sweet smell of candle and mixing of scents was only gilding on the dark bacteria that's been corrupting the now-overcrowded pile. But. The experiment must go on. Only two days left.

Wednesday, November 29

Everybody Loves Raymond

WB 7:30 p.m. Sweet Mary! I've gone to the gym, and in my absence the stink pile has threatened to overtake my entire apartment. It will be hard to sleep here tonight. It's not only befouled the entire front room but has crept its dark tentacles into the bathroom and bedroom. Things couldn't get worse. I hope.

Thursday, November 30

The King of Queens

FOX 6:00 p.m. Things have gotten worse. What was the formula for a disgusting sink odor has mutated into a gagging, sickly sweet, and aggressive rot. It smells like the dump in here. I've got to do something. The dishes have spilled from the sink and are now covering the stovetop and a section of the floor. It's giving me a headache, and I might "number 3" right there in the kitchen trash can, but I've got to get rid of this load of crap. Who-ho-ho!

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