Halley’s Comet appeared when I was nine. It came late at night. I was watching TV on the couch, dozing. There was a big fuss about it; every commercial break, a news anchor would tell us how long we had until it arrived. He also informed us what to look for — a bright ball of light with a long tail.
In what now occurs to me as a careless omission, my parents, who both need glasses to see, never had my eyes checked until I was about 13. On that first visit, the optometrist remarked that he couldn’t believe I’d managed so well with so little vision. Turns out I couldn’t see detail on any object farther away from me than arm’s length.
At nine years old, my world was a fuzzy, blocky blur. The television was a bright light with little squiggles and amorphous shapes on its screen that I followed along with my hearing. I knew what cartoon characters, newscasters, and popular actors looked like because on occasion I’d get right up close to the screen and memorize their faces. Then, when watching TV from a normal distance, I’d replay in my head what each person, cat, mouse, coyote, rabbit, or duck looked like and match it to what they were saying at the time. I thought that was how everyone watched TV.
The night Halley’s Comet arrived, I listened to the newscaster and imagined his face reading the reports. My eyelids grew heavier, so to ensure that I saw the event, I set an alarm on my Batman watch and then curled myself under a blanket. My focus and mind slipped into a dream like a dry dandelion on a breeze.
Batman beeped and the newscaster told me it was time to go outside and survey the sky. I uncovered and stood, rubbed my face, and blinked for a moment. I found the door and the front step and lawn. Cool April air stood still and crickets silenced their symphony for Halley and me.
Beyond an oak tree hovered the moon, and in a churchyard across the street, yellow sodium lights shone. That’s what I saw, just the moon and the lights. Neighbors came to their front lawns and I heard them murmuring. Behind me, in the house, the newscaster said that the comet was overhead and I imagined what he looked like when he said it and I imagined what the comet looked like and I decided it was beautiful.
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday, January 1, 2009
WGN 10:00 a.m.
Things to enjoy today: cheeseburgers, Tylenol, water. What you’re going to want to avoid: people, tortilla chips, stairs, money, vertical blinds, fish products, driving, walking, standing, gum, dogs, computers, anteaters, alarms, fire, petroleum, news, power tools, shoelaces, and self-esteem.
Tyler Perry’s House of Payne
XDTV 10:00 p.m.
Now that your hangover burnt off, you’re going to want to pay penance for your indulgence last night. You can chant, “I’ll never drink again,” whip yourself with a knotted cord, and kneel on glass shards, or you could watch anything involving Tyler Perry.
Friday, January 2
Discovery 9:00 p.m.
This just sounds dirty.
Saturday, January 3
Animal Planet 8:00 a.m.
You can try to fight it, you can try to be a snobby dog person, and you can be so smug and self-involved that you don’t snicker when it happens, but you want to, you want to giggle just like I do when the announcer says, “That’s one fabulous bitch!”
Tougher in Alaska
History 10:00 a.m.
What’s bothering me is that Sarah Palin WON’T GO AWAY. She’s still on the news; I still hear her yapper; I still see her boxy dress suits and those little glasses and I’m irritated. I want to slap her until rocket pops come out of her ears and then I want to sell Alaska. Canada, make us an offer.
Sunday, January 4
RAH! Paula Abdul Cheerleading Challenge
MTV 9:30 a.m.
It’s not so much the dancing with a cartoon cat — I don’t give a damn about that. Everybody makes a mistake once in a while. You want to know what it is? It’s the shoulderpad tragedy of 1985. She owes us an apology.
Monday, January 5
Rock of Love Bus
VH1 7:30 p.m.
The better show is Flashing Joggers in the Park on My Go-Kart, starring me, a trench coat, a bottle of bourbon, and my poor impulse control.
Tuesday, January 6
Homeland Security USA
ABC 8:00 p.m.
Great. In case there weren’t already enough people looking at my socks with the holes in them and watching me waddle around with my jeans falling down while I juggle my change and keys and belt and shoes, now there’ll be cameras. Super. Let’s complete this gauntlet of embarrassment by posting a measurement of how wide my ass is on the White House website.
Wednesday, January 7
Discovery 8:00 p.m.
I’m not really looking forward to the first time-travel experience. (Great, we all get to tug Abe Lincoln’s beard and make a wish, yippee.) I’m looking forward to when time machines are as common as cars and I can prevent myself from locking my keys in the laundry room or I can stop myself from watching The Love Guru.
Thursday, January 8
Best Damn Yo-Yo Championship
Fox Sports 11:00 p.m.
Every few years I think buying a yo-yo is a great idea and I’m going to learn all those tricks and do that “cat’s cradle” thing and all that. Fifteen minutes later my TV screen is busted, I’ve got a bloody nose, and I’ve knocked a neighborhood cat unconscious. Stupid yo-yos.