Today’s prompt is, “What is a treasure that’s been lost?”
Black and white televisions with limited reception.
I had a tiny TV from 1995-1999. My friend Eddie McNulty gifted it to me when I moved into my first “alone” apartment in Stevens Square of Minneapolis.
It was my first time living alone and I had big plans. I was very keen on not having a TV. I was an artist after all…
“I’m far too busy to watch it anyway!”
After one day I could barely stand the sickening silence. I was confused, jittery and sweaty. I couldn’t concentrate on reading or writing. I was only 25 but I wondered, “Am I having a heart attack?”
I called Eddie and told him I wasn’t feeling well. I confessed to him that I was having a hard time with the transition and felt like I had made a terrible mistake.
Eddie came right over. He brought me his old TV and said, “This is a loan.” I remember the eye contact. Eddie valued his antiques and I knew not to mess with that.
“Oh I promise I’ll give it back.”
He left and I tested the TV in every outlet until I found the best reception which was gloriously in my bedroom, also something I had previously sworn I’d never do. I placed it precariously on a stack of old books and no the irony is not lost on me.
The little television didn’t have very good reception but the NBC station was reliable. Many nights I would watch the late news (KARE-11) followed by a Cheers rerun and then The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
One night I couldn’t sleep so I turned it on, gently turned the dial a little to the left and begged the TV to bring me something to watch.
“Come on, TV. You can do it. Be positive. ‘I think I can, I think I can…'”
Even though I wasn’t technically on a channel, my TV miraculously picked up an old movie!
I didn’t immediately know what it was but the dialogue seemed familiar. After a couple minutes I recognized it was the 1939 film The Women because I had stage managed the stage play with the same title by Clare Boothe Luce at Park Square Theatre in 1996.
It was pure joy to watch this film in the middle of the night. It was hilarious and glamorous and wonderfully campy. I remember eagerly watching all the way until the end of the credits, soaking up every second of the old black and white magic.
Other than that one night, my TV-watching was routine: news, Cheers, Tonight Show. I often fell asleep with the TV on and one morning in August 1997, I woke up to the shocking news that Princess Diana had died. It stunned me right out of my bed. I sat on the edge of my bed and watched the early morning breaking news. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the princess’s death kickstarted my obsession with the Royal Family, something I really don’t want to admit.
In 1999, I moved to a tiny old house in north Minneapolis. I brought the black and white TV with me, but it didn’t get any reception. I was television-less for months but finally saved enough money to purchase a color TV. I brought the black and white TV to the basement with the intention of returning it to Eddie “some day.”
“Some day” never happened. The basement became the TV’s “forever home.” I moved to a new apartment in 2003. I left the TV along with several paintings and yard tools in the basement. There just wasn’t room but I still feel terribly guilty about leaving those items behind and I’m certain Eddie will never forgive me for not returning his television.
Years later, I learned that the house was demolished. I have no idea if anyone rescued the art or TV from the basement before the house was leveled. It’s one of those things that gnaws at me, especially when I find myself watching Harry & Meghan on Netflix on our ridiculously enormous screen in our ridiculously tiny bedroom. Note to self: Get some damn discipline!
Thanks for reading,