In the fall of 2002, after a brief stint in LA, my wife and I moved back to Michigan. We realized as soon as we got there, that it had been a mistake. Then winter settled in, and we really, really knew it had been a mistake. We had a big apartment, little furniture, and a lot of life to kill.
Michigan has eight months of winter and the rest of the time it’s so muggy you think you’re breathing underwater, in one of these modern isolation tanks popularized by Dan Brown’s latest novel.
What we did to survive the winter was to drive over to Jet’s Pizza, order a party tray of deep dish pepperoni pizza (60 pieces), deposit ourselves on the futon-slash-sofa, deposit the pizza in our laps and switch on our new TV (the only other piece of furniture in the room) just in time to catch the 6:00 pm rerun of Friends. If we switched channels at 6:30, we’d catch another Friends episode. Then we had to sit through Everybody Loves Raymond and at 7:30, we watched another episode of Friends.
After that, life got tricky, but I soon became addicted to Law and Order. I had never watched a single episode of the show, and one Sunday afternoon I surfed the channels, got hooked on the last ten minutes of one, and then, hey, there already came the next one. All these years of Law and Order I hadn’t watched! Imagine that – years and years of episodes: Michael Moriarty classics, early Sam Waterston, always Jerry Orbach. I just had to keep the pizza coming. (I was not quite as fat as this makes me sound. Not quite. I could still move okay, my car was an ’85 Grand Marquis and nicely dwarfed me). What else was there to do? (drinking vodka while hopping from one movie theatre to the next, drinking wine out of travel mugs at the local mall).
The end came without drama and had nothing to do with New Year’s resolutions. In the summer of 2004 we moved to a different apartment, and our TV was big. Not by modern home theater standards, but it was big nonetheless, unwieldy, and my wife and I were the only ones carrying our stuff.
So we carried this large silver box downstairs, halfway to the car, and then we’d had enough. We got annoyed and left it by the curb. When I switched on TNT, I couldn’t find a Law and Order episode I hadn’t seen before, anyway.
That was it. No vows, no oaths, no speeches. We didn’t scream, yell, dance or get drunk, and if we should have had second thoughts – the TV one was gone before we made it back to the apartment. We might have thought we’d buy a new one.
And we haven’t. And it’s been one of these small things that really do change your life, and if only for the reason that there is no droning noise or laugh track when you eat your pepperoni pizza and you actually notice that you’re on your eighth piece. Also, when you open Entertainment Weekly, you have no idea who all these freshly-scrubbed faces are.
For a brief time we noticed the quiet. At first it was awkward, it wanted to be filled, and we looked for board games, books, cameras, bikes, anything that would make that feeling go away. And after that I noticed that the anxiousness I had felt after Sunday night’s Sopranos subsided and that I felt less crushed by the ineptitude of the Buffalo Bills when I couldn’t watch them screw up. And there were so many things left to become addicted to. Sudoku, for example (I found out the hard way after sitting for four hours in the bathtub; I couldn’t finish an evil puzzle). I’m just glad I always hated golf, disc-golfing and video games. (And you can’t play beer pong indefinitely).
There have been relapses, thanks to Netflix and large-screen computers and Dexter, Californication, and most recently Battlestar Galactica. But lucky for us, the pizza was thin crust, and there weren’t any good breaks to reload your plate – it’s the commercials that make you fat.