A while back now, I unplugged. Not from everything--I kept my computer, mobile phone, coffeemaker--you know, the necessities. But I got rid of my TV. I found that I was tired of noise--professionally happy voices trying to sell me things, dismal voices telling me the world is spinning out of control. One too many real housewife of somewhere tipped the balance, and goodbye television. Before I continue with why I gave it away, I must tell you it's back. I enjoyed the year of quiet. I believe my TV-less time was about that long. I didn't tell many people. It makes a statement to say you don't watch television. It can sound morally and culturally superior, an attitude I remember flinching from in childhood. I grew up near families who didn't have televisions and, if they did, only watched PBS, back then known as "educational tv." Perhaps it was just me, but it felt as if they were looking down at those of us who ran home from school in time to catch Ranger Andy, or who stayed up late to watch Hawaii 5-0. I'm not a TV snob. I love a good Boston Pops concert, but few TV moments make me happier than Kojak reruns. And so many more: Dexter, 30 Rock, Shark Week, the Inspector Lynley mysteries, Ice Road Truckers, Iconoclasts (especially the one with Eddie Vedder and Laird Hamilton,) frequent reruns of "The Daytrippers" on IFC.
I'd started to notice that even when I couldn't find a show I liked, I'd settle down just for the sake of watching something. More often there were too many choices. How can one decide what to watch when there are hundreds of channels? I felt inundated. It could take an hour just to go through the guide, and by they I'd feel like someone wandering the desert, parched and pixilated, in need of an oasis. The news stations made me anxious. My side hates your side and your side hates my side. It made my stomach hurt. I get the newspaper delivered every day; that's enough. Ever-present was the joyful and/or soothing sound of selling. Ads for everything, mainly in pill form, and with a list of really ugly side effects.
I gave the TV to a man who works in my building. He took it away, and everyone was happy. Life was quiet. The words "incessant chatter" were gone from my vocabulary. I read so much more. I relearned what it was to get lost in a book every night, feel the alchemy of story, characters, setting, and me. The latest stack of finished books is piled high next to Maisie's favorite chair.
So why did I spend a whole day last week waiting for the technician to come back and hook up the cable? I'm not sure. TV was an old love. We'd been together since each other's childhood. I don't like everything about it, all the housewives and such. But there are great shows, stories, characters. I don't plan to give up my reconfigured love affair with reading. Just me and the book, no background noise.
But the TV is here for when I want it. There are new shows I want to try. Dexter will be back soon. There's a lovely documentary about sharks near an island off Baja with dreamy photography and Dr. Sylvia Earle diving with other oceanographers. Sometimes I feel like watching a movie, and there is no shortage. A rerun of Kojak will come along and I'll remember New York when it was still badass. Seriously--who loves ya, baby? Once in a while I'll stumble across a Luanne Rice movie, and it always shocks and thrills me. I'm pretty sure another hundred or so channels have been added since I ditched my last TV. So many choices in life, ways to spend time. Some of the choices begin with the "menu" button on the remote. Still others begin with the "off" button. I look forward to exercising both.
Since it's a bright summer day, I'm off with a novel to the lighthouse path. I know a good bench in the tower's shade, my Surfrider beach bag contains the book, sunscreen, and a peach, the background noise will be breaking waves and crying seagulls. I'll be living the Nat Geo channel.
P.S. I love ya.