The city is a procrustean bed for man’s wildness. His heart and eyes disfavor straight line and timidity. Children know this. Set a child down on grass, and he’ll strip his shirt off, pick a rock up, and throw it. He’ll try to harm an animal, and he’ll smear mud on his face because for the past two million years the kiln of Earth forged his cells to do exactly that.
Put him in a stiff shirt and set him in the square of a classroom at the rectangle of a desk so that he may watch another broken man scratch at a chalkboard. This is what school teaches. The lesson isn’t triangles. The lesson is to stand still inside.
But it doesn’t work.
Every once in a while an astronaut dons a set of diapers, loads a pellet gun, and pulls onto the interstate to follow a false love to Florida, like trying to carry a bucketful of vapor. A senator cruises alleyways for a Baggie of magic crystals and a friend with hairy wrists and chest to share it with. In her declining years, a once-fine preacher’s widow finds comfort in the care and feeding of 212 housecats.
We are wild things kept in a cage.
We can’t go back. We’ve set the train in motion on these tracks. We’ve sold the tickets and promised passengers a safe ride to Pennsylvania. Our pennant of black smoke rises to the atmosphere, billows, and settles to cover the tracks behind us.
So we keep pressing forward. We sally onto the field, and even in wilderness our tendrils reach like chimney creosote in a cup of tea. Go away, as far as you can, get off the roads, leave your car, walk for a week away from the sodium lights of any town, and you’ll wander across a family from Nebraska eating microwave food and watching TV from a satellite dish set atop a gigantic vehicle.
Do you think you can get up onto your roof? Get to the highest point of your house. If you can, stand up there tonight. See if you can spot Orion or Coma Berenices or the tailless comet that flies through Perseus the Hero. My wager is you will only see other people on their houses, holding onto antennas and looking through high-tension wiring to the false firmament where our city light ends and where we cannot see the celestial.
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday, June 19
PBS 9:00 a.m.
That opening bit was weird. I know. I get stuck on these poetic jags. Humor me and in due time I’ll make with the mustache and Tonka truck jokes. Keep reading. These capsules are all about underpants and ’80s cartoons.
Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew
MTV 10:00 p.m.
Can I get a little less Randy Jackson, please and thanks. I don’t even know what he did before he became America’s Least-Talented Celebrity. At least Paris Hilton has that one funny eye that prompts you to guess where it’s going next. Is it fishing or digging for worms? Is it settin’ on the front porch or countin’ chickens in the side yard?
Friday, June 20
Planet of the Apes (2001)
FOX 8:00 p.m.
I had the misfortune to run afoul of Marky’s latest lawn offering, called The Crappening (in theaters now). I was flimflammed into seeing it by someone I thought was a friend. It’s nobody’s fault but mine. I went even though I knew all of Marky’s movies stink like a fake leg full of fish sticks.
Saturday, June 21
US Olympic Trials: Women’s
NBC 8:00 p.m.
Here we go. My blood pressure usually keeps my face flushed and pink. I have a twitchy neck muscle, too. All that’s about to smooth out, though. An icy bourbon and some women’s gymnastics and I’ll be calm like a tranquilized puppy in a Zen garden.
ABC 8:00 p.m.
I wish ABC would stop pretending that I’m supposed to know who these guys are. Their commercial says, “Starring the Jonas brothers!” as though that means something. They’d get more viewers and I’d be far more impressed if it starred a Dorito shaped like Bob Hope.
Sunday, June 22
American Idol Rewind
CW 11:00 p.m.
Ugh. Sundays suck. You know you have to work in the morning. It’s like when you were a kid and Jem and the Holograms was the last Saturday-morning cartoon. And you either had to sit through it or start your chores. So you sat there in your tighty whiteys with your mouth all torn up from two bowls of Cap’n Crunch’s tiny meteorites of pain and you pretended like GI Joe was still on. Stupid Sundays.
Monday, June 23
ABC 10:00 p.m.
ABC, you already tried this. The Mole was a museum-sized failure and here you are trotting it out in front of us again like it’s your prized pony. But that pony’s got a weird rash and it smells and, frankly — I’ll say it — the hair on its butt is not clean. I mean, we can all clearly see that pony’s behind, and there are not supposed to be dreadlocks under a pony’s tail, we all know that. Let’s try harder, ABC.
Tuesday, June 24
I Survived a Japanese Game Show
ABC 8:00 p.m.
Man, I hope this is cool because I love Japanese game shows. I love Japanese game shows as much as Jimmy Dean loves sausages. And that’s saying something. You know he sits on his front porch at night listening for cicadas and petting a breakfast link as if it were a dog’s head. (It’s funny because sausage is greasy. His hand would be all greasy.)
Wednesday, June 25
AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Warren Beatty
USA 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday continues its reign of blandness over the other nights of the week. When the nights of the week have a party, Wednesday is the one that brings egg salad. Saturday night is, like, “It’s a freakin’ party and you brought egg salad? What are you, my grandmother? Is this a bingo parlor? I brought a keg of Heineken, for cryin’ out loud. Friday scored three eight balls of coke and you brought egg salad. Super, Wednesday. Thanks a heap.”
Thursday, June 26
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit
USA 10:00 p.m.
Mariska Hargitay’s so tasty she makes me want to slap someone. Mariska, go out with me! Let me buy you dinner; we can even get expensive food, like Red Lobster or Black Angus. We can share a tallboy of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Then I’ll ride my bicycle past your house every night for three weeks. You can tell your brother to answer the phone and say, “Look, we told you already. We’ll call the cops.” Ah, the Sturm und Drang of new love!