back to the Black Table

When I lived in St. Louis, back in the nineties, my apartment was the most popular meeting spot for all my friends. Its location wasn’t particularly convenient, it didn’t have central air and anyplace you might want to sit was covered with a sticky film of cigarette ash, week-old pizza cheese and cat hair. Hey, what do you want from me? I was a single guy, living alone. If a girl was coming over or something, I’d always make sure to scrape the cat poop off the walls.

But people always came by. Whenever we had a party to go to, everyone would gather at my place for drinks beforehand. Whenever anyone wanted to grab a few beers after work, good old Geoffry Lane was the perpetual destination. Why? Because I was the only guy who didn’t have a television.



It was a revolutionary concept to a group of people weaned on television. Rather than just sitting silently in a room staring at sports highlights, or cooking shows, or wild animals procreating, whoever came was forced to actually speak and interact with each other. We’d just grab a case of beer, put in some CDs and just chat all night. And people loved it. Everyone remarked on how much they enjoyed coming by Will’s place, and, I assure you, that never happens. No one could really believe it; not watching television was not only productive, it could be fun.

I wasn’t trying to make any statement by not having a television; I just didn’t trust myself. With my television in the front room, I was spending a frightening amount of time falling asleep on my couch to reruns of ER. I’d just started writing more, and every time inspiration would hit, it would be all I could do to avoid the narcotic of Die Hard sequels on TBS. Eventually I just had to sell the damn thing; it was like removing a tumor. Shortly after that, I started writing this column, weekly, and I haven’t stopped. But now I have a TV again.

A friend of mine back in the Midwest just signed up for Tivo. He works nights and wakes up about noon. After breakfast, he flips through all the night’s programming -- specifically Cardinals games and HBO specials, my personal vices as well -- sets up exactly what he wants to record and then goes to work. When he comes home, he watches all the night’s events, at his own pace, until the wee hours of the morning. Then he goes to bed and does the whole thing again. What’s bad about this is not that television appears to be ruling his life; what’s bad is that any of us, including me, would likely do the exact same thing.

My roommates and I just signed up for digital cable. Included are about 75 movie stations, five different ESPN channels, MTV2, five (five!) Lifetime affiliates and, if you can believe this, HBO On Demand. Anytime I want to watch Curb Your Enthusiasm or The Sopranos, I can just do so. This is not good. This is bad. This is trouble.

I had a long weekend and have been putting off writing this column, mostly out of exhaustion and, um, lack of electricity. But now, I’ve sat down to do it, in front of the TV.

I’m watching golf on television right now. It’s a little embarrassing to say this, but either I’ve gotten older and more boring or golf has become considerably more interesting since I saw it last. It’s very soothing, golf … heck, watching golf is better than actually being outside … let’s see, what else is on …

A man just told me how, when he got genital herpes, he decided that wasn’t gonna stop him from living his life. (You go!) The "Spike" network is showing Friday the 13th, Part VII. (Stay out of the woods, people!) Ozzy Osbourne appears unable to articulate syllables while singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at Wrigley Field. (Uh, isn’t Ozzy a professional singer? Does anybody believe this act anymore?) The Yankees are up 8-0 … Cinemax has an on demand service that lets you watch soft porn ANYTIME … hey, look, Diane Lane is nude in a movie again … that’s wild that you can chop all that salad so easily …

Usually, writing this column takes about an hour, maybe a little more if I’m feeling particularly windy. This column, written on a laptop in my living room, in front of the television, took me seven hours. USA is running a marathon of that Monk show, you see. There’s three hours, right there. (That little dude always gets his man!)

How anyone gets anything done these days, honestly, I have no idea.


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