Guilty Pleasures


It started last September, and I blame a friend
who asked me, please, to tape an episode for her
just once. I pulled the blanket off the tv set,
learned to use the VCR, set it up to tape…and then
I thought it wouldn’t hurt to turn the tv on
just for a moment, just to see what might be on —
it had been years, after all, and I had no idea what
I might be missing.


You have to understand, there was a time
when I would watch from six ’til eleven; back in Philly,
when Jean-Luc was on at six and ten, and once the tv
was on, it stayed on, through seven
and eight, and nine; there was nothing on at nine,
and yet we watched, every weekday, and on the weekends
we complained that there was nothing on;
five hours every weeknight, twenty-five hours a week,
twelve months of a year, at least — more like sixteen months,
until you get sixteen hundred hours of mostly terrible tv.


And so I told myself that I would stop, I quit cold turkey.
It was better for my writing, and I actually read a few books —


Until last September, when I took the blanket off the tv set,
when I started watching Jean-Luc and Catherine and Jonathan,
the bold captains of Star Trek — there was a new series, you see,
and I owed it to my childhood friendship with James T. Kirk…


But the reception — god, the reception was killing me,
was destroying my eyes, and I need my eyes to read and write,
so you see, I had to get cable. It was a writing investment.
With cable came the X-Files, and HBO — I didn’t buy HBO; they
just included it for free, the sneaky bastards.


And since the tv was on, why not find out what had happened
in those intervening years to Joey and Monica and Chandler —
my god, they’re getting married! Phoebe had triplets! Rachel
is pregnant with Ross’s baby, but they’re not together anymore…
Friends, Spin City, a little Frasier, and West Wing — well,
that’s just being a good citizen. You agree. And I had it under control.
It was only an hour or two some nights — not every night. I didn’t even┬áturn
the tv on on Fridays. There were still nights when I might pull a little
Derrida off the shelf — okay, not Derrida, but a novel, or at least
a short story, maybe by Alice Munro…


Then my friend, you remember her? She told me that Buffy was on
at seven and eight, every weekday night. All the episodes I’d missed,
the seasons that had gone by in my great drought. I had a priceless
opportunity here; I could finally catch them all.


And so you see, this is why I really need an extension
on my fellowship funding; at the rate I’m going there’s no way
I’ll be able to finish in four years — probably not even five…
you understand, don’t you? I know you do, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Dean.


For all your fluency with Derrida,
I know you do it too.