Spin the Black Circle or How I ended my TV addiction
I know exactly when I became addicted to television. It was my sophomore year of college. I was essentially living on my own for the first time. I had convinced my parents to allow me to move off campus into an apartment. I am a nerd and I’ve been told I’ve had the personality of a 45-year-old accountant since I was 19 so it should come as no shock that I actually prepare a presentation with supporting documentation to convince my parents that it would, in fact, be more cost efficient for me to live off campus. It was a booming success.
Moving off campus meant having an apartment with my own room and my own bathroom (which is massive luxury for a college kid). It also meant having my own TV connected to cable in my room with my own VHS player (yes kids, we still had VHS tapes). What this meant was that I never had to leave my room to find entertainment. I used my TV to go to sleep and I used it as an alarm to wake me up in the morning. I used it as background noise while I was getting ready for the day or doing work in my room. Television quickly turned into white noise in the background. I wasn’t seeking out a specific show I just needed to have something on so I didn’t just hear the voices in my head.
My addiction to television continued for the next 13 years. For the next 13 years I never lived in a house that didn’t have a television in the bedroom. When I moved from my house in Charlottesville to the tiny, one bedroom apartment in Stafford I still had two TVs, one in the bedroom and one in the living room. The televisions were literally 2 feet apart on different sides of the same wall. When I moved in with Rizzo the first thing I insisted upon was putting a TV in our bedroom. I went so far as to purchase a bracket in order to mount the TV over the fireplace (can you imagine having a bedroom that is classy enough to have a fireplace and still putting in a TV?). TV wasn’t there for temporary entertainment but as a constant distraction from whatever was happening in the moment.
It wasn’t until late 2012 that the addiction began to become muted. It started with a visit to our good friends the Drusteps (Kevin and Brenn). We had gone out to dinner and were heading back to their place for some drinks and board games (this is a common occurrence with the Clizzos and Drusteps get together). Back at their apartment Kevin was showing off the new toy he had purchased as a gift for Brenn, a record player and cabinet. The next part of this story is really how I recall the why Kevin decided to make the purchase so some of the details may be off but the gist of the story is the same.
While Brenn and Kevin were living in England they made sure to take advantage of the time by taking trips to many parts of Europe. During one of the trips, the happy couple was in a tea shop (or a bar or a restaurant or a coffee house or a Cinnabon or wherever) and there was an antique turntable cabinet complete with speakers and turntable. Some record was playing (they were probably in Paris I’m sure it was an Edith Piaf or Monique Serf album) and Brenn fell in love with the record player. This stuck in Kevin’s mind, seeing as he is the nicest dude on the planet, and a plan was hatched.
Kevin returned to the U.S. a month or so before Brenn for work and in order to get some living situations nailed down while Brenn finished up her Master’s Degree. Kevin had secured the apartment and as a welcome home gift for Brenn he wanted to give her a turntable in a nice cabinet so the two could play records in their own home. That is exactly what he did, which brings us back to our visit with the Drusteps.
In much the same way that Brenn fell in love with the record play in Paris, I fell in love with the record player in the Drustep’s abode. The next day I started doing some research on turn tables and found out that they can get really pricey. Knowing this was going to be my first dalliance into the world of vinyl and turn tables I didn’t want so lose my shirt so Rizzo and I headed down to the local Target shopping facility and secured a lovely Crosley Troubadour record player. It was a match made in wannabe hipster heaven and I don’t even care if it makes me a “poser”, it made me happy and started the end to the TV addition.
The record player made the perfect addition to our bar area and provided an instant replacement for the background noise that TV used to provide. The record player also provided an instant opening for any and all gifts to be given in the future. Rizzo is a huge Ani DiFranco fan so for her birthday I bought her every Ani album available on vinyl at the time. Rizzo knows my love of Pearl Jam so she purchased Pearl Jam’s Ten on vinyl as well as Rot Gut Domestic by one of my other favorite bands, Margot and the Nuclear So and Sos.
With our new record player in the house we had to find a way to fill our record collection to keep new music playing in the house. If you seek you shall find and we found a wonderful little record shop in downtown Falls Church. We would make regular trips to the record shop and were able to get everything from Frank Sinatra to Richard Marx. Not only that, finding a record shop also led us to find Spacebar which is far and away the best grilled cheese sandwich restaurant around (more on that another time).
It wasn’t instant but gradually I started putting on a record for background noise instead of a TV show. It’s amazing what more can be accomplished when you have music (something that doesn’t require visual stimulation) instead of a television. I know I spend more time reading, more time exercising, and more time cooking better food. All around reducing the amount of TV has been healthy for me.
When Rizzo and I bought a new home in Herndon we decided we wouldn’t get cable installed. Don’t get me wrong, we both still love watching TV. We subscribe to Hulu and Netflix and we have an antenna. This has forced us to be selective in the TV we watch which has been a wonderful thing. Now instead of just turning on the TV to see what is on we tune in for a very specific event or show. To an extent it uses technology to throw back to the days when there were only four channels and no such thing as DVR. In those days, if you wanted to watch M.A.S.H. you better tune in Wednesday night at 8pm or else you weren’t going to see the show. You were turning on your TV for a very specific purpose. We do the same thing in that we don’t turn on our TV because we are bored we turn on our TV so we can watch the latest episode of The Mindy Project or Modern Family. If we don’t have specific shows to watch then we will turn off the TV and put on a Queen record.
Cutting the cord of addition to cable television has been one of the best things I have done in the last 5 years. It has opened up a new love and respect for music and opened up more time to spend with Rizzo and Cece. We aren’t militant parents. Cece gets to watch TV. She watches shows when she is at daycare, when she is at Gege and Granddaddy’s house, and she gets to watch Atlanta Braves baseball and Washington Redskins football. But I’m no longer addicted to TV so most of the time I spend with Cece we are playing in her playroom with She & Him on the turntable instead of staring at a TV screen. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
P.S. My parents had quite the vinyl collect that was just sitting in their backroom. They were gracious enough to give us pretty much free reign on their collection when we got our turntable. They had records ranging from the soundtrack to Paint Your Wagon to the soundtrack for Shaft featuring Isaac Hayes. I'm a lucky guy to have cool parents that kept their records so now I can listen to the smooth tones of Isaac Hayes singing "Shaft is a bad mother....."