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Archive for April, 2018

Our first TV set I remember as a kid was one of those big brown cabinet boxes on four legs. This one:

That’s me and Tracy sitting in front of it. All those times Mom told us not to sit too close to the TV, and just look at where they propped us. Anyway, I am apparently gorging myself on candy from my Easter basket, along with the candy in both mine and Tracy’s rolling-toy-basket-things, while eyeing the candy in her basket. Hmm. I wonder why my Mom was making Friday Night Casserole on Easter Sunday …

In later years, that TV had rabbit ears on top that one of us kids often had to adjust and hold for my Dad when he was trying to tune in “Hogan’s Heroes” or something. And of course, we had to get up from where we were sitting on the floor to turn the TV on, to switch between the three only channels or to turn it off.

Once we moved to Napa, we got cable which gave us a few more channels. They were mostly local stations from San Francisco or Oakland, and gave us a few more options, but we’d always complain that “there’s nothing on.”

When I was in Junior High, we got HBO, which was awesome, because we could watch actual movies that actually played in the theater recently – or not-so-recently as was often the case. Anyway, to get HBO, you had to attach an A-B switch thing to your TV. You’d have to switch to ‘B’ and put the TV on a certain channel to watch HBO. I remember watching the movie “It’s Alive” about 40 times, because back then it was scary-cool, and plus, it was about the only movie playing on HBO for about three solid months. The A-B switch was also a ‘lock box,’ so if our parents were heading out for the night, they could ‘lock’ the switch so we couldn’t turn the box to ‘B’ and watch R-rated movies on HBO. Or so they thought. Even with that lock thing on, we could push that switch hard enough towards ‘B’ to tune in HBO and catch moments of scary or racy flicks like “The Man Who Fell to Earth” and “The Omen.” Of course, we had to take turns standing by the TV to push that switch towards ‘B’ and hold it in place. But that was okay, we were kinda used to doing a similar task, the one where Dad needed us to keep our hand on the antenna so a local station wouldn’t fade in and out.

Yeah, TV was a lot of work back then. Plus, you couldn’t just grab a remote and scroll through 500 channels to find something to watch. You had to find the TV Guide, flip to the current day and then scan through the listings to find out what to watch. And if you wanted to watch your favorite sitcom, you had to make sure you could dedicate 30 entire minutes to being in front of the TV, at the exact time that show came on. And the thought of watching one of your favorite movies any time you wanted? Well, that was just make-believe.

Before I left for college, video cassettes came out, and holy crap, you could go to an actual store stocked full of all the latest movie releases on tape. Well, some of them. But you had to own your own video player, which back then cost about a million dollars. My Dad, being the tech-gadgety guy, obviously went out and bought one. But he bought a Beta player, which at the time was fancier than standard VHS, and there was a smaller choice of videos to choose from at the store. Like five.

If you didn’t have a video player, you could rent one at the store. In college, I remember going into the big, popular liquor store where you could pick up a six-pack of Coors Light or California Coolers, AND grab a video cassette player and a few movies. So you or one of your roommates had to put down like a hundred-dollar deposit to rent a big, bulky video cassette player, along with all the necessary cables and plugs. Then you hauled it home, hooked it up to the TV and watched your movie. Then the next day you had to unplug that thing and haul it back to the liquor store. Which was no big deal since you had to pick up more alcohol anyway.

These days you can find just about anything on TV to watch. Literally. Anything. But even with hundreds and hundreds of channels available, we still complain that “there’s nothing on.” Well, at least nothing we want to actually watch.

Jay and I finally stuck it to the Man and cancelled our Cable TV. Hundreds of useless channels at hundreds of dollars a month was getting old, and besides, all we ever do is watch our favorite shows that we’ve taped or binge-watch Netflix. So we switched to Hulu Live TV since it’s one of the few choices for our area that includes both ABC (gotta practice “Wheel of Fortune”) and the Golf Channel (Jay’s best friend) for a decent, low price. We’ll start binging our way through Hulu shows now, too, I imagine, but we’re still working through Netflix.

Last night we were binge-watching “Arrested Development” and the mom, Lucille, did something my Mom used to do; a fancy skill my sisters and I inherited. We’ve never seen anyone else do it. My mom would close her left eyelid completely–usually while laughing, or while saying or hearing something funny–and her right eyelid wouldn’t move. With this superpower, she could just drop her eyelid without affecting the other one. And my sisters and I can all do it. It’s kinda like winking, but when you wink, you have to scrunch your eyelid. And if you try to lower one eyelid, you can’t help but kinda squint the other one. (You just tried it, didn’t you …)  My sisters and I still do it, sometimes when talking about Mom, but usually when we just want to indicate “yeah, whatever.” It’s our secret code. Umm. It was our secret code.

Anyway, I saw Lucille do this last night on TV and I immediately wanted to show my sisters. Back in the day, I would’ve only been able to call them and tell them what I saw on TV … after waiting till after 7:00 pm to save on long-distance charges, and then walking into the kitchen to dial 10 digits into the rotary phone, three separate times, and hoping their lines weren’t busy, and that they were home to answer the phone. Today? I grabbed the remote, rewound the show, paused it on the frame were Lucille was dropping her eyelid, took a picture with my phone, then attached the pic to a group text and hit ‘Send.’

Gotta love modern technology; it helps us accomplish so many important things.

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