What TV Taught Me

by August 21, 2010 0 comments

Hialeah
I remember this name
From black and white TV
Bookies making book
On my national broadcast system
Hialeah
Where horses raced
And rich Jewish retirees
Escaped for an afternoon
Away from their cartoon harpy
Jewish brides
Hialeah
Gimme twenty dolla’s on
Born to Run to place in the fifth

“My God, he’s hemorrhaging!”
I didn’t know what that was
But I could tell it had to be bad
Since she was crying pretty hard
I was home alone with strep throat again
And 2 pm is the worst time
For a ten year old
With the TV to himself
And nothing but soaps to watch

“Things are different now.”
Was Leslie Nielsen’s line
To Warren Stevens
By which he explained the affect
A young and voluptuous Anne Francis
Had upon him
She had to be nineteen
And my God she was hot
But I was a child
And the references to The Tempest
Were lost on me
I hadn’t read The Tempest
We had just discovered my near-sightedness
Because I couldn’t get close enough to Huckleberry Hound
Color TV wouldn’t be around
For another 10 years

TV gave me my first really bad news
While televising the first assassination
Of an American president in the 20th century
The bad news for me was
No cartoons for three days
I was nine
Later came more bad news that I could understand
The “Veet Nam” war
Then Bobby and Martin
Bad shit
Watts, Chicago ‘68
When I was just trying to be cool

TV taught me Cool
I watched for Cool
The Stones were cool
But they didn’t get on TV much
The Beatles were cool
Ed’s people thought so
On national TV, they got him to say so
Jimmi got on Johnny
I think he played Purple Haze
My Dad was outraged
And I didn’t know enough to shut up
It wasn’t all distortion through amplification
There was melody and diction
It was clear
But, “You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’”
Were not words a 12 year old was going to say out loud
To a Father who was ten beers and four shots
On his way to another night of belligerent oblivion

All those shows
Object lessons
Rob and Laura holding hands
Across the space between their twin beds
But not for too long
Ward and June
Talking through the complexities
Of rearing Wally and the Beaver
In white America
“Tell the truth”
“Show compassion for the weak
And downtrodden”
“The ends never justify the . . .”

Meanness before harm never
Or strike before stricken
But, slide before slipping
Glide upon the stumble
Turn humiliation into pride
Glide

I learned to examine the evidence
Analyze the circumstances
Expose the man behind the curtain
Uncover the secret wheels
Indict the corporate criminals
Convict the simpering smiling
Slick grifting shyster
Robber embezzler of fortunes
The old man’s
Young widow’s
Yours and mine
Brain matter turned to jelly
Independent actions warped to mindless obedience
Buy more
Borrow ever
Debt is gain
For someone else
Someone smarter, richer
Rich enough
To pen the writer
Hire the director
Threaten the producers
Seduce the investors
To bring in the money, money
Document the crime
To the morbid fascination
And abject impoverishment
Of us all who pay, no matter what
The cable bill
Or the satellite bill
We have the choice
And think this makes us free

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