When I was a kid we didn’t have a television, so getting to watch cartoons at my friends’ houses was an especial treat. When my kids were kids, we didn’t have a television either, so getting to watch any television at all was an especial treat. Now that one of my kids has kids, she doesn’t let them watch television, which is easy because they don’t have one.
I do, however, have a laptop that I take to court and to depositions, and sometimes when I travel, and a laptop is pretty much a television thanks to YouTube. About a year ago my eldest grandson started sneaking up into bed with me after they had come over for dinner, and I began putting on television shows for him. I am a subversive grandpa.
We started with Timmy Time, which of course wasn’t around when I was a kid, and then for a long time we watched nothing but Speed Racer, the old ones. His favorite was The Mammoth Car, parts one and two, and we watched them together over and over and over.
We didn’t actually watch, he did. I sat next to him leaned up against my prop pillow and read. The first couple of times I watched Speed Racer it was nostalgic but after that it was just stupid. Television was stupid then and it is stupid now, but sometimes, I’ve learned, stupid is okay, especially when you can sneak in a good book.
Recently, my grandson graduated from Speed Racer to He-Man, and the Masters of the Universe. I only vaguely knew about this because by the time it was produced in the early 80’s, I was at college, t.v.-less, and buried in my books about philosophy and history. The only reason I knew about it at all was because one of my riding buddies, Spanky, was an ardent He-Man fan at age 24, and would occasionally sing the theme song on rides.
The collapsing of the American mind
A major audience for YouTube cartoons is grown men. Say whatever you want about the profundity of modern animation and how it “isn’t just for children anymore,” but don’t say it to me. He-Man, Speed Racer, and their ilk are a wasteland. And society knows it. I’ve yet to meet an adult who admits to kicking back after work for a few episodes of the Smurfs. Better to admit you’re an opioid addict, a vaper, or a time triallist.
Yesterday I had to drive to Bakersfield to go to court on a bike case, and I got there pretty early, with more than an hour to spare, so I pulled into a crowded Starbucks to get a coffee and answer a few emails. There was only one stool available up against the window, along a narrow bar, the kind where if you open up your computer everyone can see what’s on it.
My laptop is pretty new, it’s an Apple, and I’m a PC dude, which is one reason I don’t use it for much besides cartoons with my grandson. I’m not comfortable with it and don’t know all the controls well.
I sat down, opened up the screen, and logged on.
Unlike my PC, which is slower than dental surgery, the Mac is crazy fast. You enter the password and boom! You are up and running.
What up and ran, unfortunately, was the last thing that had been playing, which was the theme song to the next episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, where I’d had to turn off the laptop so my grandson could go home. And of course it was on at almost-full volume.
Everyone turned and stared at the dude in a black suit with a leather briefcase, looking oh-so professional and ready to collect scalps in court as he fumbled with the laptop screaming a moronic kiddie show. A couple of people snickered. And of course I couldn’t find the fucking volume switch, and of course the little “x” where you close a screen on a Mac is different from a PC, so enough seconds went by that the whole Starbucks got to take it in.
I don’t often blush, but I did then. The guy on the next stool was looking at me with a smirk.
“It was playing for my grandson last night,” I said, loud enough that people around me could hear.
“Whatever, man,” the smirking guy said. “I don’t judge.”
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