All through elementary school, my classmates and I were treated to instructions, both live and on VHS tape, detailing what we should do if we caught on fire. That’s right, kids. Say it with me: “STOP! DROP! And ROLL!”
A fire marshal would wheel in the television cart, and my friends and I would nudge each other with our elbows and wink knowingly. We had this one, easy. We could shout, “Stop! Drop! And Roll!” with the best of them...even better. On the screen, a blond, Eddie Haskell-ish child, in black-and-white, would dash around fanning the screaming inferno on his back until we shouted loud enough, and he finally threw himself down and began his impression of the stupidest dog trick.
My question is this: Was spontaneously bursting into flames such a problem among young people that a whole day of direction and video was required? I knew hundreds of kids during the ’80s. None of us ever suddenly popped alive with pyrotechnics as though we were a Kiss roadie huffing gas and smoking cigarettes. Children of the 1960s and 1970s must have been incredibly more flammable than we ’80s kids were. Perhaps clothes of those previous eras were soaked in kerosene, the pockets stuffed with wood chips, and the kids encouraged to wear magnifying-glass sun visors. I don’t know. But none of my friends ever caught ablaze while walking to the cafeteria.
What the fire marshal and teacher and video producers could’ve told us was to steer clear of the mullet haircut, how to get candy out of retainers and gum off of pants pockets, and that New Wave was neither a fashion of clothing nor style of music to be enjoyed, but rather a mass-hysterical, disgraceful lack of taste and that if we hunkered down, we could rush through to the other end where the far-less embarrassing “Grunge” awaited us with open flannel arms. Now that would’ve been an afternoon of video viewing that could’ve saved us quite a bit of grief. Especially for our seventh-grade class pictures, in which there were more than a few of us in green-and-pink-checkered sports coats with ape drape hairdos, digging in our mouths or scratching at pinkish black blobs of ABC gum stuck to our asses.
Thursday, July 3
BET 9:00 a.m.
Driving drunk is fun. It’s dangerous, so you’re not supposed to do it on city streets, but you can’t beat ripping across a flat, dry lake bed with the ghetto blaster pumpin’ out “Free Bird” from the passenger-side milk crate and a skillet half full of vermouth in your lap.
CBS 10:00 p.m.
I’m pretty sure that the reason I strike out with women is because I don’t have mutton-chop sideburns. I’ve started to coax some in, but until they grow I’m going to stick on some of those little rubbery glue strips from the backs of magazine subscription labels that I’ve dragged across the butt of my neighbor’s cat. (Well, hello ladies.)
Friday, July 4
U.S. Olympic Trials
NBC 8:00 p.m.
The javelin looks pretty cool. I’d like to practice this event, although I don’t want to do it on that lame field. My javelin contest will take place on a crowded city street and bonus points are awarded for sailing one a whole block and punching it into the roof of a school bus. “Hold your lunchboxes over your heads, you little SOBs! I’ve had two bags of steroids and meth this morning!”
Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular
NBC 9:00 p.m.
Until I complete my invention of the fireworks helmet, the world will not know the meaning of “spectacular.”
Saturday, July 5
America’s Test Kitchen from Cook’s Illustrated
PBS 12:30 p.m.
National Hangover Day! Dig around the fridge for a charred, hot dog from yesterday. Put it on your black eye. Find the bottle of cough syrup. Splash some on your armpits to contend with the stench, and then lie on the cool tile next to your toilet. Hiccup. A lot.
Sunday, July 6
Biology, The Fabric of Life
ITV 9:30 a.m.
Why are hearing aids the exact color of no one’s flesh but just close enough to be incredibly creepy? The only way to make them ickier would be to fashion them with stiff white hairs, moles, and maybe a baby tooth. EEEEE! I just scared myself with that one. EEEEE!
Monday, July 7
ABC 10:00 a.m.
I’m pretty sure I have osteoporosis. I called my dad to tell him I was shrinking because of brittle bones. After he told me I’m an idiot, he said, “You don’t have osteoporosis. You’re a 32-year-old man; it’s impossible. You’re not getting shorter.” But I’m not getting any taller either, and that’s how this sneaky disease starts, my friend. Oh, that’s how it starts.
Tuesday, July 8
AFI Lifetime Achievement Award: A Tribute to Warren Beatty
USA 9:00 p.m.
The better show is The Country Music Television Lifetime Achievement Award: A Tribute to Ned Beatty’s Tighty Whities, Crooked Teefs, and Expanse of Pale Belly When He Squealed Like a Pig in Deliverance, We Salute an Appalachian Sex Symbol.
Wednesday, July 9
Major League Lacrosse
CASD4 8:30 p.m.
Less popular than theoretical mathematician Barbie with robot-voiced electric wheelchair. “E-to-pi-times-i-equals-negative-one. Someone-wash-my-legs-and-change-my-bag.”
Thursday, July 10
FOX 6 News in the Morning
FOX 8:00 a.m.
If you saw me last week on the news and noticed I bumbled through some of the segment, please bear in mind that my interview happened before I got any coffee into my face. Also, while I was talking, just off camera, a middle-aged man applied makeup to himself, and that’s the first time I’d ever seen that. Watch the interview and you can hear me go “Buh, buh, buh,” and see my eyebrow creep upward. Yeah, I’m a big star. Cool under pressure, baby.