The Reader's Eye on Television

Drawn across the top of my Soundgarden CD case are parallel lines of dusty, crushed-rock powder. I suck at one with a straw and rub my nose because of the raw scratching and chemical burn. On the bed beside me, the sheet rises and falls in waves where she breathes, but she's not asleep. I saw her claw and drag great heaps of swirling brown smoke from a glass bowl into her lungs and force the acrid cloud out to hang above our heads. She couldn't be asleep with that much bug juice in her system. I prefer snorting. I like the pain. In the rowdy motel part of Tijuana, everything almost works. The door almost closes properly; you just have to pull up on the handle. The shower gets very near to hot, and the television plays a lot of channels, and the movie is only interrupted by the squiggly lines on occasion.

There are a lot of things I should do. I should write. I should sweep the foul artificial grit from every surface and baggie, throw out the empty bottles, and face myself in the mirror. But the only thing I'm going to do is finish this box of cigarettes, start on the next one, and watch Fight Club dubbed in Spanish on the black set bolted to the wall.

There's a moment when one is this high that the walls radiate color like brass patina, the ceiling fan sprinkles chrome butterflies, and the muscles in the shoulder can do nothing except droop in acceptance. My mind soaks in the golden rush and I pour cold Corona into my mouth.

A trail of white smoke rises from my hand, and I dismiss it as the normal exhaust from my Marlboro until the column of smoke thickens and darkens. Across the bedspread are dancing red embers, circumscribing a black ring. The ring grows, and the beginnings of short flames are hinted at. The burning threads twist and curl.

I jump from the bed and shower the remainder of my beer around the catching fabric, but not in time. Cristina shoots from beneath the smoldering covers, cranking out bitter Spanish, and she sprints across our yellow room and slams the bathroom door behind her with a puff of smoke billowing from the jamb.

My silver phone chimes, and I snatch it from the table and flip it open and bark, "Hang on I just lit a whore on fire, um..." I check the caller ID and bring the phone back to my face to say, "Dad."


Thursday, March 16

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

WGNSAT 4:00 p.m. If I ever want to work my dad up and get him into a full-tilt rant, I have two options. The first is to ask him what happened to his cherry red 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass, to which he replies, "Your mother flipped it over on its top going 70 miles an hour in the rain!" My other choice to make him red in the face is to ask him if he's ever seen Fiddler on the Roof . "There's two hours I won't get back," he starts off slowly, but I can see the tension building in his neck. "Your mother dragged me to that in 1971, and I'll never forgive her." The Jewish musical is not high on the old hillbilly's list of greatest films.

American Inventor

ABC 8:00 p.m. Somebody needs to invent the "Dreadlock-ulator 9000." It's a device that I can wear to art openings, and whenever a white kid with dreadlocks passes in range and starts to speak, the contraption will spring from my pocket, clamp his lips shut, and with ringing bells and flashing lights it will sound an alarm that repeats, "SHUT UP, YOU DUMB HIPPIE. SHUT UP, YOU DUMB HIPPIE. SHUT UP, YOU DUMB HIPPIE."

Friday, March 17 Half a Dozen Babies (1999)

FAM 8:00 p.m. Half a Dozen Babies is about the mother of fertility-drug sextuplets. Six Reasons the Fine People at Jim Beam Will Never Be Out of a Job is the father's version, but it doesn't get as much airtime on the Family channel.

St. Patrick's Day Celebration

QVC 6:00 p.m. WOO! I know what I'm doing come St. Patty's day. To hell with drinking beer downtown. It's QVC. It's St. Patrick's Day. And there's no stopping the celebration. Ain't no party like a QVC party, baby! WOO! YEAH!

Saturday, March 18

The Sixth Sense (1999)

ABC 8:00 p.m. In the sequel Bruce Willis runs into Patrick Swayze and they tape eyebrows to Whoopie Goldberg's forehead while she's asleep. That kid who can see dead people digs up Demi Moore's Ward Cleaver haircut, unflattering jeans, and wavering career after she filmed Ghost .

The JammX Kids All Star Dance Special

WB 11:00 a.m. To pass fifth-grade P.E., we had to practice square-dancing. At the end of the month we had to do a recital in front of the school -- yellow neckerchiefs, blue felt cowboy hats, the whole thing. Between this and the memory of wetting my Sears Toughskins at a school assembly, it's a wonder why I don't shoot people in the streets for fun.

Sunday, March 19

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

FAM 10:30 p.m. There's a TV show in Japan where a contestant is thrown into 120-degree water and timed to see how long he can stand it. Instead of a clock they have a woman in a bikini jump up and down and the audience counts how many times her boobs jiggle. Highest score wins. What do we have? Drew Carey and his band of merry ding-dongs playing out "What if Little Orphan Annie met a mob boss?" for points. Yay USA! We're number 1!

Monday, March 20

Ultimate Knockouts 3

SPIKE 9:00 p.m. Strip away all the slow parts of ultimate fighting and just show guys getting hit so hard they shoot snot like a lawn sprinkler. Is it sick if I watch this from under a warm blanket and it makes me smile?

Tuesday, March 21

Real Housewives of Orange County

BRAVO 10:00 p.m. This reeks of the shoulder-pad '80s, when cocaine, European cars, and flipped up pastel collars were the only thing that could get you laid. I can't wait until the grunge, dirty blue jeans, and watery American beer days come back around and -- thank you, God -- I'll be cool again.

Wednesday, March 22

Dennis DeYoung: The Music of Styx With Symphony Orchestra

PBS 8:00 p.m. If this concert was an hors d'oeuvre and it was handed to me at a party, I'd have two choices: force it down with teary eyes and pray that it didn't come back up or graciously accept it, sneak it into my pocket, and deposit it in a nearby planter.

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