I got hooked early on. I was just a little kid getting sucked into the magic glowing cathode-ray vacuum tube. Like millions of baby boomers, TV was my babysitter and my best friend who never disagreed or talked trash back to me. The American way is the way it should be. I hear heated conversations, they’re all out there now in the cosmic realm of floating debris and accumulated space junk reanimating regurgitated programming. Old sitcoms are being enjoyed somewhere between Alpha Centauri and the Milky Way’s vast void. Airwaves signal that the future has passed. One glance at the full moon, and there’s the great one, Jackie Gleason’s smiling mug. Lost episodes of The Honeymooners are transmitting ghost images to the universe. Alice Kramden got her one-way trip to the moon. There’s a level of comfort in watching old TV shows that makes present-day troubles temporarily disappear. Never worry during regularly scheduled programs.
It didn’t take long before it ruled my life. It took control by telling me what to do with its subtle telepathic subliminal messaging. Using subversive catchphrases to shape the electric field of my destiny. You will obey! Trigger mechanisms like, “You want this toy! You eat that cereal! You will shop here now! Television formed my personality and formal education. You smoke them cigarettes and drink this kind of beer! It was my teacher. To obey the hypnotic medium's magical powers as the purveyor of untold secrets, dreams, wishes and desires. A wanton force of illumination that consumed my body, mind, heart, and soul with electrical high-energy vibrations. I mean, what does a kid know about anything? It's easy to dismiss what’s taught on TV versus what's learned in school.
Years stuck on a never-ending three-hour tour. Getting down with Good Times, The Jeffersons and Diff’rent Strokes. Hanging out with Fred Sanford and Kid Dynamite! Partying with Three’s Company and Charlie’s Angels. Living the simple life of Green Acres, next to Mayberry, way past Petticoat Junction. It was wholesome American fun with Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, and The Life of Riley. Forever stuck on a short reel with the Three Stooges in every single vaudevillian manifestation. I was the head stooge of my own gag reel. Who didn’t party heartily with WC Fields, Mae West, and the Marx Brothers? Get down with classic clowns like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and the cast and crew of the Love Boat by way of Fantasy Island with a short stopover in Dallas. From Dragnet to Hawaii 5-O, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. gets down with Get Smart.
My earliest memories of watching The Big Top Circus Show with the giant laughing clown head as a circus caravan paraded across his bald pate. My brother always screamed in dread at this spectacle every Saturday morning. Everybody loves a clown, but more people are deathly afraid of clowns. They’re creepy. I’ve always loved clowns. The circus kind. Many of my happiest memories involve comedy, clowns, comedians, and laughter. Without a sense of humor, we’re diminished. Less is the common denominator of what makes us more human.
It’s like Dorian Gray walking through the decades without his painting. Self-made Frankenstein. Without a craven image of himself, or else a shadow of his former self, he could never survive. It’s the same with television. The shows and cast of ever-changing, colorful characters that make us comfortable. We project, casting ourselves onto the three-dimensional reality of the world as we believe it to be. In return, it feeds on our joys and fears, creating a new reality. Becoming characters in everyday sitcoms. The blank screen on my empty page, bare canvas, across the skyline is a mirror image of time in a timeless picture on a backlit mirrored screen. Writing a story, painting the picture, and singing the song of you simply being human and living in television land.
It’s a crazy dance of light in the dark, moving pictures beamed outward into static space, and silent noise. The sound is like music in reverse. Just last week, an old friend sent me a text message. It was a screenshot. A pic of a younger version of me on TV. He was watching a movie on his TV. I was in an old movie, and he captured me with a cell phone photo on his TV. There I was in all my faded glory. It was taken from a scene, along with a punk named Stiv Bators. He was killed decades ago. Run over by a bus in Paris. That was his made-for-TV version. There we were, both very much alive, inside that TV rocket blasting into space. You can’t make this stuff up, but we usually do.