How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Many modern-day philosophers suggest that religion's day in the sun is over, and that nowadays television has taken over as the masses' official opiate. These people have obviously never had a good opiate. Heroin, for instance, is hugely addictive and can cause psychotic episodes, painful constipation, and/or death, but it still holds no side effect as horrifying as thirty minutes' worth of Jm J. Bullock. If it did, the suicide rate in Scotland would be that much higher.
Nonetheless, I can sort of see what they're getting at, especially during these summer months. That's because as the weather turns warm and I slave through the hot hours, working toward each day's ultimate goal of a frozen bean burrito and a fifth of rotgut, I often find myself daydreaming about younger, happier times.
Ah, summer vacation!
Tire swings hung from the ol' oak tree.
Cooking s'mores and singing songs around the campfire.
Ice cold lemonade on the front porch.
Running through the sprinklers in the hot August sun, the air thick with the aroma of freshly mowed grass and barbequed pork ribs.
Yes, I distinctly remember seeing all of these things on the television from my spot on the floor two feet in front of it, where my ass would remain firmly planted from mid-June to early September.
While other kids were out riding their bikes, or hootin' and hollerin' down at the community pool, my itinerary for a typical summer vacation day was as follows:
Wake up, watch farm report, make toast, watch cartoons, remember toast, watch game shows, eat toast, watch soap operas, poop, watch more cartoons, transfer poop from shorts to toilet, watch reruns of Three's Company, bolt down dinner at behest of Mom, watch reruns of the year's prime time swill, go to bed. Second verse, same as the first.
To this very day, if you visit my parents' house (which, by the way, I highly recommend--they're lovely people) you can still see a perfect impression of my youthful cheeks in the living room's threadbare pile carpeting. In my childhood home, there was no wall with lines scratched on it to measure my growth. They would just trace around my ass once a year while I was engrossed in the Twilight Zone marathon. For years, this is how I thought Labor Day was traditionally celebrated.
I knew by heart every network schedule, every commercial script, every word to the "Hanker For a Hunk o' Cheese" song. I would view time not in minutes and hours, but in shows, as in, "It's half-past Gilligan", or, "It's quarter to the part in Scooby Doo where they sing a totally unrelated song and run aimlessly in front of a tie-dyed background."
Oh, sure, in my teenage years I would spend some of that time pursuing other interests, such as masturbating. But, like reruns of F Troop, you can only take so much of that before the uncomfortable burning sensations set in. My rule of thumb, so to speak, was that when you can see through the skin to your urethra in some places, it's time to turn the TV back on.
So in a way I suppose television really was for me a kind of opiate. Most addicts will tell you that they turn to drugs because of some sort of emotional emptiness. I used TV to fill a gaping void in my summer lifestyle. Namely, the excruciating, bottomless Ennui that kicked in approximately five days after school got out.
You remember the scene. By day five you've already played more games of freeze tag than a human being can reasonably be expected to endure. You've returned the golden chalice to the gold castle in Atari Adventure approximately six thousand times. And then you're suddenly hit with the realization that you have a monstrous expanse of time stretching out before you, but no money, transportation, or fake ID with which to enjoy it.
Everyone had their own method of battling The Ennui, but with no fishin' hole in the vicinity, our choices were severely limited. Those with BMX bikes or skateboards would play the time-tested kids' game of "Find Novel Ways to Attempt Suicide." Some of the more industrious kids would head out into a vacant lot with shovels and build a fort. Which actually sounds kind of fun, until you realize that it usually consisted of digging a big ditch and then sitting in it.
I took the easy way out. I'd just cook up a spoonful of Hogan's Heroes and ease myself into a bleary-eyed stupor. Sometimes I would really play with fire and chase the junk down with a line of Good Times. I knew you weren't supposed to mix Norman Lear and Nazi death camp sitcoms, but extreme times call for extreme measures.
Was I dependent? Probably. Did it screw me up permanently? That depends on how you look at it. It's probably not a good thing that I can quote verbatim any commercial for a Milton Bradley game made in the last three decades, yet I commonly forget my current age. On the other hand, I have grown into a fairly productive member of society. I'm very good to my cat. And I haven't killed anyone in months.
But these many years later, I have come to understand that television is a vice that will hound me until the day I die. For most nights, when I return home from another unfulfilling day of lower back pain and monitor radiation... I get cravings.
You see, The Ennui is still with me, though it has taken on a slightly different flavor. In a bitterly ironic twist, I now have all of the resources necessary to enjoy life, but I have no time. And, for that matter, no life. Since you're still reading this, I assume you can relate.
I realize that ninety percent of the TV you find on the streets these days is low quality and impure. Much of it, in fact, appears to be cut with feces. But it doesn't matter. The Ennui must be sated. And against my better judgment, more often than not I find myself reaching for the remote, slumping into a worn corner of the couch, and frittering away the precious hours of my life staring, catatonic, into the demon eye of the idiot box.
The only difference is, I don't watch so much goddamned F Troop. Even a junkie's gotta have his standards.
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