They may not do it this way down here, but in my little town in the hills, kids slept outside when the weather was right. In the summer, it was cooler to sleep outside. I can’t remember anyone having air conditioning, so kids hopped onto cots or air pads on the back porch or front lawn and giggled and read and drew pictures and griped about going back to school until their heads couldn’t resist gravity anymore and the pillow took them.
One thing you had to do was stay behind a fence. Or else neighborhood dogs would come up and lick your face in the morning, and dog breath in the morning is downright revolting. If a neighborhood dog licked your face in the morning, you just had to duck under your blanket and wipe the slobber off your cheek and shoo the dog through the covers. You could pretend to sleep after that, but the thought of that dog’s tongue on your nose and mouth wouldn’t permit you to nod off again.
Sometimes it was buggy; sometimes you got a little eaten up. Every so often there’d be a swarm of goat-killing mosquitoes that would threaten to empty all your fluids and leave you a shriveled husk on a cot. If you forgot to spray yourself in the face with chemical repellant, you might have to give up and go inside. You only had to do that once a year or so because it was an amateur maneuver to forget your bug spray, and you’d go out for the rest of the season prepared.
A successful snooze outdoors required a lot of equipment. Not really bedding because we didn’t really think about that. A cot and a sheet was all you needed in that department, but there were other considerations. Flashlights, maps, compasses, rope, candles, matches, comic books, shoes, bug spray, canteens, and any kind of radio equipment; all of that was totally essential. My friend Timmy and I had walkie-talkies. Our range was too far to get voice communication, but we could screech at each other using the Morse-code button. Until one of our dads yelled out his bedroom window, “KNOCK IT THE HELL OFF OUT THERE!”
Some summer nights I shut the TV off and listen at my window. I think I might hear neighborhood dogs panting and patrolling and the fuzzy squelch of walkie-talkie buttons. I hope.
All I hear are other TVs.
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday, January 17
VH1 10:00 a.m.
My new favorite video game is Kazoo Hero. You don’t need a video-game system. All that’s required is a radio, a cassette of Casey’s Top 40 from May 19, 1983, two kazoos, and a competitive spirit. I AM THE KAZOO HERO! LONG LIVE ME!
My Big Redneck Wedding
CMT 9:00 p.m.
If all the TV channels had a party, CMT would be alone by the chip bowl. Only Gay TV would talk to CMT, and that would be because VH1 dared the Gay channel to do it. Then the Gay channel would come back, giggling and waving its hands around and telling the group of Lifetime, Travel, Discovery, and VH1 that CMT smelled like stale cheese puffs and BO. Sadly, in this tale, I am represented by CMT. Sigh.
Friday, January 18
KUSI 7:30 p.m.
You know Judge Judy goes home and makes out with a plushy giraffe while she stares at a picture of John Wayne. He was the only man she considered tough enough to take her, and he’s long gone, so she sits alone in a bathroom with a bottle of scotch and a wistful feeling and says, “You were the one, Duke. You were the one.”
Saturday, January 19
The Nevada Passage Adventure Competition
NBC 11:00 a.m.
Everyone from Nevada brags that they pay no state tax because the casinos take care of all that. I think I pay 300 dollars per year (gladly!) to the State of California for the “Thank you for not making me live in Nevada” tax.
At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper
NBC 6:30 p.m.
First it was Siskel and Ebert. Then Ebert and Roeper. Last week I flipped past and it was two “guest critics” who were not Siskel, Ebert, nor even the fifth-Beatle-ish Roeper. Soon it will be a houseplant and a cup of juice that a prop guy found and named “Roger and Gene,” and legally they’ll be able to do it. And that’s sad. I liked Siskel.
Sunday, January 20
ESPN 11:30 a.m.
The most boring game in the world unless you’re playing it, and then it’s second only to Scrabble. There might be four of those grimy guys with oily hair, their own pool sticks, and weird little gray gloves who watch this on TV. Everyone else just stops for a second to watch as a contestant bends over the table...they then recognize it’s not a woman, get a little icked out that they just watched a guy bend over, and continue past with a little shiver and a hghghghhh noise.
Monday, January 21
Bringing Down the House
USA 5:00 p.m.
After Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, I wish Steve Martin’s manager had said, “Go out on top, kid. Retire to a ranch in Scotland and let everyone remember you as a genius.” To which Steve would’ve replied, “But, I just read this script for Father of the Bride II and boy is it...” Sit down. Sit. Take the ranch in Scotland. Trust me. Ranch. Scotland.
Tuesday, January 22
The Biggest Loser: Couples
NBC 8:00 p.m.
You can just see producers off-camera giving the contestants some hand signal that means “More crying. More sweating. More crying.” All right. CUT! You! You need to cry more and YOU, with the jump rope, you need to sweat more. “But I...” I SAID MORE CRYING AND SWEATING!
Wednesday, January 23
Pioneers of Television
PBS 8:00 p.m.
Oh, what brave and righteous souls have marched forward. You, the pioneers of this noble medium who have traversed great new territories so that we...we fortunate recipients of your favor and generosity can sit, unencumbered by oppression, and watch Deal or No Deal, we salute you!
Thursday, January 24
CBS Evening News with Katie Couric
CBS 6:00 p.m.
There’s one reason and one reason only why I’ve liked Katie Couric for more than 20 years: She looks like she has a chew of tobacco in her bottom lip.