"What do you want to be?" A classroom full of scruffy, grubby, teenaged boys and primped, upright girls. I'm drawing Transformers and comic-book characters on my desk. Optimus Prime and Wolverine.
"If you don't know what you want to be right now, it's best if you sign up for college."
She's the career counselor, and it's time for her to cross off "Speak to kids in Bonehead English class" from her list of things to do. Since you have to fail Sophomore English A to get into Bonehead English as a junior, she knows she's talking to kids who aren't going to college, but she tries anyway.
"There are great job-training programs at the local junior college."
My friend, Tuff, reaches across the aisle that separates us and taps the can of tobacco in my front pocket. I slide the tin out and hand it to him.
Why would Optimus Prime and Wolverine fight each other? There's been a mix-up. They're confused. Wolverine springs toward Optimus Prime and takes a laser blast to the shoulder.
"What do you want to be? There's a program to be a nurse. There's a school for mechanics. Firefighter."
Tuff is going to be a truck driver. His dad's a truck driver. His brothers and uncles are truck drivers. He taps the empty can of Pepsi on my desk, and I hand it across the aisle. He drops a long string of brown spit into the can and sets it on his desk.
"What do you want to be?" she asks. I look up. She's staring at me.
"I want to draw comic books." This baffles her. There's no program at the local junior college for comic-book artists.
"Well," she pauses and thinks. "There will always be a need for manual laborers," she tells the class, using me as an example. "Even if there are tractors that can dig a ditch, someone has to go through it with a shovel to clean it out."
Thanks for the vote of confidence.
"What else do you want to be if you can't draw comic books? What do you like to do?"
I get my can of Copenhagen back from Tuff. Open it and take a chew. Think for a second. Start to rub away the drawing on my desk.
"What do you like to do?" she asks again.
"I like to watch TV," I say.
"Well," she says through a smile. "There are no jobs watching TV."
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday, October 19
The Greg Behrendt Show
CW 9:00 a.m. His next best seller will be They Just Weren't That Into My TV Show .
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005)
FAM 8:00 p.m. "Ollie's Frigid Ex-Live-In-Girlfriend" is the better show, but not "Family Channel" stuff. It's kind of light on the romance-after-death theme and heavy on the bottle-of-vodka-hidden-in-the-toilet-tank motif.
Friday, October 20
FOOD 11:00 p.m. I want to be the guest on a Friday-night cooking show so that when the host asks me what I'm cooking, I can respond, "Cigarette butt, coffee grounds, and Rolaids stew! Because, do you really think anyone's watching this right now?" The secret ingredient is hairspray! Wink!
Saturday, October 21
Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County
MTV 10:00 a.m. Do you think the kids on Laguna Beach get fed up with being young, rich, beautiful, and dramatic? I'll bet one of them, at one time, just wished she was a little pudgy and wearing a chunky sweater in Iowa. Just for a second, when her quarterback boyfriend made the dirty Wookie with her immigrant maid in the back of his Mercedes SUV, she longed to be average.
Wild Child: The Story of Feral Children
DSC 11:00 p.m. I confess. It was me. I was the one, stripped naked and creeping along that wooden fence in North Park. Oh, the embarrassment when the police shined that bright spotlight up into that tree and I was there, hanging upside down with baby opossums clinging to my belly. When the tranquilizer wore off, all I could say, through streaming tears, was, "They're my family!" They called me pervert. They called me a menace. Oh, my babies. I'll come for you. Squeak! Squeak! I'll come for you!
Sunday, October 22
Diddy Press Play
MTV2 3:00 p.m. Diddy Press Play, Market It as Your Own, Collect the Fortunes from It, Don't Acknowledge the Original Artist, and Never Really Develop a Talent of Your Own was the original title, but it wouldn't fit on the screen.
Monday, October 23
When Zachary Beaver Came to Town (2003)
EWAM 4:40 p.m. People snickered behind his back but never really said anything to his face. Because it's, you know, kind of childish. It was hell to be in a meeting with him when the CEO asked, "What do you think, Beaver?"
NBC 9:00 p.m. Every couple of months I sit with a pencil on my desk and my eyebrows in an angry "V," trying my damnedest to move that thing with my mind. I'm sure I can do it, but I haven't unlocked the part of my brain responsible for telekinesis. Move, you little yellow Ticonderoga Number 2. MOVE!
Tuesday, October 24
Help Me Help You
ABC 9:30 p.m. The whole I'm Okay, You're Okay new-age revolution passed right over my father. He was firmly ensconced in the "stop being an a-hole and mow the lawn" way of thinking, so I developed my own "you'd be cooler if you didn't suck so much" attitude. Who's to say which way is better?
Wednesday, October 25
CBS Evening News With Katie Couric
CBS 6:00 p.m. Tonight's headline, "CBS Trades in Journalistic Credibility for Pinchable Cheekies."