Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saying goodbye to three-fourths of my life

I could not say what David Letterman meant to the rest of the world.  I can only try and articulate what he meant to me.

In the early days, he (and the Beastie Boys) seemed to speak directly to my teenaged soul.  I can remember Axl and I discussing the previous night's Top Ten List the next day at school, when we weren't busy writing down color-coded lyrics to "Paul Revere" and "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." 

Sardonic, absurd, non-conforming, self-deprecating, and more than a bit of a goofball -- wait, are we talking about Dave or 17-year-old me?  Even so, he somehow managed to come across as hip and cool.  (OK, yes, we're definitely talking about Dave.)

In the NBC days particularly, the surprise element of the show was off the charts.  One article I read put forth the idea of how enormous Letterman would have been on the internet and Twitter has such things been around/popular then.  I cringe at using such a cliche, but you literally never knew what was going to happen.  It made for must-see late night TV.

One of my favorite parts was when Letterman took the show to the streets of Manhattan and somehow magically made you feel as if you were there, a part of New York, the center of the world.  The show lost something as those escapades became rarer, eventually all but stopping.

It's easy to forget how the late night landscape looked when Letterman, having been passed over to succeed Carson, made the jump to CBS.  ABC was airing "Nightline."  Prior to 1993, I think CBS had a late night movie offering in that slot.  Arsenio was around in syndication.  But for the most part, no other talk show had been able to sustain for any considerable length of time opposite "The Tonight Show."  (Remember "Into the Night Starring Rick Dees?"  Me either.)

I would argue that Letterman's move and success spurred a significant shift in late night programming, for better or worse.  Pretty soon every Tom (Snyder), Dick (Dietrick), and Chevy (Chase) around were joining the party. 

All this is not to say Dave and I didn't have our issues, or that I was always a faithful viewer.  I hadn't been for awhile.  Heck, I fell asleep during the finale and had to watch the rest of it the next day on DVR.  Staying up until midnight and waking up at 7:00 when you're seventeen is slightly more exhilarating than staying up until midnight and waking up at 5:00 when you're forty-two.

And I think we all remember the Bone/Letterman online Top Ten Contest feud.  (Top Ten Little Known Facts About Santa Claus? My entry: Doesn't believe in HIMSELF.)  Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the far-less-criminal Oprah/Letterman feud.

In recent years, the surprise element was not nearly what it once was.  The show became less funny to me.  But at the same time, Letterman became more real, more human.  (This is something Leno never quite managed, in my opinion, and I suppose maybe never wanted to.)

Letterman made very public mistakes, he had serious health problems, he became a father.  He cared and talked about world events and politics.  And I always thought his interview skills to be excellent, far and above any of his late night contemporaries.

As he sort of became the elder statesman, it seemed like he appealed to a wider audience.  At least within my test group.  Because while I didn't watch nearly as often, my Mom became one of his biggest fans.  I know she would not have even considered watching him in 1989.

"That David is so silly, isn't he?" she would say with much affection.  Rupert Jee and Jack Hanna were two of her favorites.  And anytime Regis and Letterman were on together, it was the highlight of her month.

I wonder what she'll do now, what she'll watch, as she doesn't seem to care for or get any of "those kids on there now."

I can hardly remember a time when there wasn't a David Letterman on television.  For thirty-three of my forty-two years, there has been.  And then it hits me, I'm not writing about what his show meant to me.  Instead, in all selfishness, it's about what his retirement signifies:  The inescapable passing of time.

And all you can do is remember, and say goodbye.  To the gap-toothed smile, the tossing of pens at cameras, and those years of your life.

"And I wonder when I sing along with you / If everything could ever feel this real forever / If anything could ever be this good again..."

Friday, May 15, 2015

Farmer Bone

I've always said I wanted a garden.

Turns out just saying it doesn't mean it gets dug, planted, watered, blessed by a priest, and whatever other steps are involved in facilitating fresh vegetables springing forth from God's green.

No, it's kinda like saying you want to climb Mt. Everest.  It's a nice thought, but unless you buy climbing gear, do numerous smaller climbs to prep, happen to know a good Sherpa, and many other steps I'm sure, your chances of ever scaling the Lhotse Face are slightly less than your chances of winning the Powerball.

After moving in to the house and actually having a yard for the first time in twenty years, my agricultural dreams -- unlike most of my other dreams -- seemed on the verge of coming true.  Time and home improvement projects would not allow for it last year.  So all winter I set my sights on this spring.

Then it rained for approximately 28 of the first 25 days in April and apparently standing water, while ideal for starting the world's largest natural mosquito habitat and malaria hotspot, is not good for planting.

There was also an issue finding a tiller.  While many people I know have a garden, not a single one had a tiller I could borrow.  "Oh, John Brown comes over and plows ours every year."  Unfortunately, I didn't know John Brown from... well, John Brown.  And even if I had, I'm fairly certain his tractor wasn't fitting through the four-foot wide gate in my back fence.

Renting a tiller didn't work, either.  We'd reserve one, but then had to call and cancel.  Again because of that pesky little 28 days of rain.

Then one day it hit me: If there was going to be a garden, I was going to have to dig it myself.

There are few realizations I hate more than the one where you realize if something is going to get done, you are going to have to be the one to do it.  It's right up there with "I'm going to have to confront this person" and "This toilet water is rising instead of going down" amongst my least-fave realizations of all-time.

But I was going to have to do it.  Old school.  By hand.  Like MacGyver.  Surely you remember that time MacGyver had to dig his own garden?  No?  Maybe it was one of the lost episodes.  Pesticides and hormones in commercial produce were the enemies.

Yes, I would MacGyver a garden right there in my own backyard.  First step?  Go to Lowe's and buy a shovel.   (This was the last season of the series when MacGyver was just mailing it in mostly.  It was sad to watch.)

Then I started digging.  And digging.  And digging. I dug a hole about 9 feet by 6 feet and roughly a foot deep.  It gave me a whole new appreciation for those people on "Forensic Files" who dig a hole to bury a body.  Unlike those lazy criminals who just dump it off the side of the road and down into some ravine.

I dug so much I got a callous!  My first, I believe.  Thankfully, some Aveeno did wonders for that.  (I'm pretty sure Aveeno was probably a big sponsor of MacGyver.  And now we know why.)  

My hamstrings hurt like they'd been beaten a thousand times with a cane by one of those women you saw on a video you accidentally came across years ago on the internet who whip people for sexual gratification.  But you could only watch like four seconds of it because it was 1998 and you still had dial-up.  Not that you tried.  I never remember MacGyver having hamstring problems.

During my 72-hour hamstring recovery period, I was able to ponder my next move, which would obviously be implanting my seeds into Mother Earth.  Though exactly when and how deeply I was unsure.  I asked, but again, there didn't seem to be a single garden Sherpa amongst my circle of family and friends.

But I'd forgotten about one friend that I knew.  The garden Sherpa warehouse: Lowe's.

And suddenly I was shoveling manure, per their advice.  Two 50 pound bags of pure cow malarkey.  I always figured I'd wind up shoveling manure at some point in my life, I just never thought it'd be voluntary.  (MacGyver refused to do the manure shoveling scene, which I believe is why the series was canceled.)

Finally it was time to impregnate the Earth.  Which I did, with seeds I had purchased from another man.  (It briefly occurs to me that perhaps there is a better way to phrase this?)

With lotioned hands and hopeful heart, I now wait for God to give the increase.  For the Earth to swell and spring forth with pesticide-free vegetables, which I and "Chad" from Lowe's hath made together.

The miracle known as life.

"Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now / Give me spots on my apples / But leave me the birds and the bees, please..."