11/15/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

TV or Not TV

Leno in prime time has nothing to do with why I just got TV. As much
as I like these seismic shifts that shake up the very foundation of
our media universe, this is not the reason I allowed television to
invade my home for the first time in years.

No, there's a TV in my place because my best friend and downstairs
neighbor Bernie just moved to Detroit (that's a whole other story) and
I was helping him give away all his furniture. I figured as a remnant
of our friendship, I should keep the television, a beat-up old
Sylvania with a DVD and VHS built in. (Like I watch movies, either.)
After enjoying this boob-tube-free existence, it seemed like a good
idea, for a variety of reasons. The biggest one is that I've been
underground for a long while now, writing a book about the formerly TV-
free country of Bhutan, for one, and the guilt I feel about having
gone there to help start a radio station that pumps a whole lot of
crappy Western pop music into the pristine Buddhist air. Now that
I've delivered the manuscript to my publisher, it seemed like a fine
time to rejoin the world and see what's going on in the zeitgeist I've
so blissfully shut out for so long now. And what better way to do
that than to deploy the cable television? Next thing you know, I'll
be reinstating my Costco membership, maniacally hunting around for the
Sunday New York Times and filling up a TiVo with stuff I never manage
to watch.

I made the executive decision to locate the set in my bedroom. I've
never slept with a television set before, except in a hotel room, and
I'm a bit scared about the implications. But I figured if I was going
to go all out, I would go all out. Sleep with the damned thing;
what's the difference between going to bed with a laptop or my iPhone,
and this other menacing screen? I know the answer. A huge
difference. "Horrible feng shui," said a friend. And though I've
never feng shui-ed a thing in my life, I admit, it feels a bit lurid,
the glow at my feet. I'm not quite sure how to deal with it, really.
The minute Miguel the Time Warner cable guy left my apartment last
Wednesday, I knew I'd made a terrible, wasteful mistake. The picture
danced with the bright beautiful light that streams in my windows, and
all I wanted to do was go outside.

Already I have crumbs in my bed; I'd never even consider eating in bed
before now. I keep turning the set on and shuttling through the
selections, hoping to find something I want to watch. When I pump up
the volume, I get a bit agitated. And yet I'm afraid to turn off the
picture. If I'm paying for this, shouldn't I keep it on all the time?

In three months I could have graduated to a flat panel HD TV and
bumped up to a the full movie package, or I could trot this old piece
of crap to Goodwill, and go back to my peaceful state of ignorance
about what made the evening news. That life I had before, where
people talk about commercials they've seen or make cultural references
that fly right over my head, and I smile, blissfully, ignorant.

Right now at the bottom of MSNBC there's a crawl: Two thirds of
Americans think news stories are inaccurate.