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There is no way around it, not for several more weeks; I can’t get out, cruising on crutches to look into neat stuff to do on Fridays or weekends. I am reduced to poring over listings online and in newspapers. Or, I can write about my personal and current existential dilemma. A surprising number of readers seem to be okay with that and I presume the appeal is it ain’t me, babe.

Let’s have a look-see. Bad Religion is playing (has played) Friday night at House of Blues. On Monday night the New York Dolls will be performing at the Belly Up. God knows why. They must have fans, all of whom couldn’t possibly have lived in New York City in the 1970s. For about 40 years in the ’70s, the Dolls were on Manhattan public access TV (it seemed like 24 hours a day); you couldn’t have missed them. Everyone in my band — actually everyone in my building (a population the size of Coronado) agreed, Lipstick Punk was doomed. They sucked. I didn’t know they were back together (two of them, anyway, the rest victims of spontaneous combustion and leukemia). I can only assume this is because the film career of Buster Poindexter (David Johansen) went down the plug. But this, by the time you’re reading it, is history.

My other option, as mentioned, is to describe my Friday, yesterday, albeit one three weeks in the past now.

I actually had an early dinner at T.G.I. Friday’s, an unremarkable experience, I’m afraid. It involved a tough, $16 steak lathered in Jack Daniel’s sauce, which is really a kind of teriyaki sauce or a candy glaze. I was there because it was in limping distance of the Gaslamp Theatres where I had just seen There Will Be Blood. That involved Daniel Day Lewis doing a pretty good imitation of John Huston. I had with me at dinner the book I’d been reading, My Friend Leonard, by James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, which I wrote about and defended two weeks ago.

My Friend Leonard was a New York Times bestseller a couple of years ago, unbeknownst to me. As I began the thing, I saw that Frey had not only continued with some annoying stylistic idiosyncrasies, but really poured them on with the sequel. Things such as repeating phrases. Repeating phrases. Over and over. Over and over. For emphasis. Stream of consciousness. And particularly the stream of consciousness of an addict. Perfectly valid. And after a few pages you skate right over these repetitions. He seemed to have eased off the habit of capitalizing things, seemingly at random. For example, “I am an Alcoholic an Addict and a Criminal.” In this one he’s just “an alcoholic an addict and a criminal.” His rendering of his friend, Leonard, was one of the best things about the first book, and he delivers the character more fully in My Friend. I did not cry, and I did not want to. At least I did not cry.

Cry. Cry.

As Frey does in his books. I did not do it at T.G.I. Friday’s either, but later in my hotel room. Of course, as I read the book, a pile of unpaid and unpayable hospital bills were lying next to me on the bed, but still...Leonard (whom I pictured as Gene Hackman per Frey’s cue in A Million Little Pieces) is a great creation, and if he is from whole cloth, I don’t care.

Friday night I read as I tried to stay awake long enough to watch a rerun of House. Eleven p.m. is officially past Old Guy Bed Time, and on pain meds it’s even later. House himself would be long passed out. I didn’t make it; but meanwhile I flipped the remote around cable channels — a novelty for me — and was momentarily inspired. Looking back and forth from the television to the stack of medical bills, I thought, I know, I’ll pitch the idea of writing a television column to my boss. It’s been a few years since we did any TV coverage and there is remarkable stuff on the box. I could write an additional column on tube watching and start paying off these bills. It wasn’t long before I realized this was another of my bad ideas, wide-eyed and dumb. Just because I had watched almost no television in recent years did not make this a novelty for everyone else. I had no idea who these actors, actresses, American Idol contestants, or talk-show hosts were. I had no idea what TMZ meant even after watching that same titled show slack-jawed for 40 minutes.

I was astounded — and I think that’s the word — at the cavalcade of raunch presented on Friday-night television. On the heels of that thought was a wave of depression as I realized I had taken on the most prudish aspects of my father. He once wrote to a Chicago television station protesting the gyrating thighs of dancing girls on a show called Hollywood à Go Go. Shortly after writing that letter the show was cancelled, and Dad claimed credit.

Coverage of spring break around the country with loving camera work closed up on writhing, gyrating, thrusting, and nubile athletic bodies, their taut flesh glistening with perspiration as they undulated against each other’s perfect abdomens, hips, and loins, was deeply disturbing. Music videos, even on CMT (that’s the country-music channel), seemed to mirror this rampant lust. A show called Soup seemed to focus only on the sexual activities of celebrities I’d never heard of, but they were all young and beautiful even if their career descriptions were hazy.

I was, frankly, aghast that television executives would allow this stuff on the air for young people to happen across at a wholesome pajama party on a weekend night. Then I realized that this stuff was deliberately directed toward the same demographic that was videotaped and filmed; that is, those in their 20s or younger who wanted to be one of them...or, of course, those older and lecherous. Have they nothing better to do than watch themselves, Narcissus-like, on weekend nights on the tube?

I thought I might be sick. I will fire off an angry email immediately, but to whom? The young? The networks? I will start with everyone I know in their 20s, but that’s only about four people. It occurred to me that I actually know more people in the television industry than I do people in their 20s. I will naturally give this more thought, and I trust you will do the same.

Meanwhile, may your Fridays and weekends be more eventful than mine lately. If you want them that way.

If you want them that way.

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Comments

EricBlair March 26, 2008 @ 8:30 p.m.

Frey's conceit reminds me of Spider Robinson's critique of the late, great Roger Zelazny, who truly did tend to use sentence fragments.

As paragraphs.

Part of a highly self-indulgent trope.

Like a college sophomore.

Pulling an all-nighter.

Actually, it reads like very bad haiku.

By the way, Brother John, your idea of a television column is NOT bad. You could pitch it as "The Man from Mars Watches Late Night Television," followed by "The Man from Mars Watches 'Women's' Television," and so on.

Your NOT watching the stuff helps with that pitch.

Enjoyable column, with or without Jack Daniel's sauce. Hope you are healing on schedule.

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cosmo March 28, 2008 @ 10:50 p.m.

Hollywood a Go Go? Who out there besides me remembers Lada Edmunds, Jr., dancing on Hullabaloo?

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