Sirius Hours

In our fractured age, do children still discover pleasure in chasing elusive fireflies and capturing them for display in jars?

Well, certainly not in August Nevada, but elsewhere where summer temperatures are lower and vegetation isn’t sparse. Imperiled as the planet is by climate change, do fireflies still exist in sufficient for their green sparks to flare around nighttime lawns?

Moreover, given the casual watchfulness that for the longest lent earlier childhoods long tethers on summer nights has now been supplanted by short leashes bordering on mania, is the younger set even allowed to roam and explore nightly environs without parents’ hovering presences insisting on activities under bright lights?

Or is there today an app which lets kids seek, chase, and collect fireflies from the too cushy comfort of families’ living room couches? If there isn’t, that suggestion probably put one into the works.

Nevada summers and these days don’t comport themselves to my memories of August, the Dog Star month. For one thing, Las Vegas public school resumes several weeks before Labor Day. Another, despite the exquisitely maintained parks and fields, daytime heat, particularly in afternoons, makes playing outside until dusk an iron man competition.

If the reader is of a certain age, he or she might remember that before adults transformed school-age children’s school vacations and afterschool hours into regimented enjoyment, those same minors learned order as well as conflict resolution while playing games with rules often established on the fly. Or as it should be known, messy democracy.

The idea behind this post had been germinating before a what’s old is new again development reentered American life. TV antennas. Without a doubt among cable, satellite, and streaming, desire for “rabbit ears” or rooftop signal TV catchers has grown. While not necessarily prohibitive, the cost for all three services is burdensome. Especially when it comes to retransmission of over-the-air broadcasts. Better known as “free TV.”

Years ago, when I still paid tribute to the local cable provider, it got into a snit with one of the OTA stations. The free broadcaster wasn’t willingly submitting to the tech firm’s rate increase extortion in order to keep its offerings on the cord uninterrupted. So the cable company blocked the OTA station’s channel.

This hardball had happened before. Usually after a few days of boilerplate explanation why viewers were denied the absent station’s game shows and soap operas the two parties reached an accord, ending the impasse. Plainly put, stations put the arm on local advertisers to cough up more to cover increased costs. Wonder if that fostered any resentment.

The question never asked was why should OTA stations pay to transmit otherwise freely beamed broadcasting? Cable, satellite companies, streamers should zip those stations into homes without cost. These should be offerings the trio carries for public good.

Doubtless mine would be the sort of suggestion that might cause apoplexy in media platform boardrooms around America. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Anyway, after being denied “free TV” once too often, I went out and bought a pair of today’s “rabbit ears” for my two TV sets. Digital antennas. For digital TVs. Immense satisfaction derived from skirting money machinations which intentionally deprived me of favorite OTA programs.

Like Monday Night Football before it migrated to cable.

Although lately the three platforms have been reluctant to extort OTA stations for higher retransmission fees, I nonetheless occasionally use the “rabbit ears” to corral signals. Just to retain the skill sometimes necessary to capture tricky stations. It’s fun, no, instructive, no, memory inducing as well as informative to what’s floating among us on the ether.

Particularly programing which escapes mainstream notice until it’s way too late.

Until reputable media alerted itself to the low-tech cord cutting afforded by antennas, thereby making the phenomena “the next big thing” again, I’d daydreamed about television shows which had occupied my adolescence. Mornings shows watched at breakfasts during languid summer days out of school. A time when working parents possessed enough confidence in their children to keep busy without tragedy or disaster resulting. An hour or two before filling out days congregating with the gang for sports, at the nearby parks & recreations pool, or attending movies.

The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy must be ingrained in the remnants of my childhood brainpan, I’d watched those episodes so often growing up. Funny how these two situation comedies featuring husband & wife couples embodied Metropolitan New York polarities. The Ricardos were Manhattanites whose milieu was the then center of the world, while Ralph and Alice Kramden would’ve been those outer borough residents who gaped in envy at them from the periphery.

Now and then celebrities crossed paths with Ricky and Lucy Ricardo. And what could’ve been more enviable than his profession, nightclub bandleader? A Brooklyn bus driver, could Ralph Kramden have passed through humanity with greater anonymity?

Yet mentioned as they were, the husbands’ jobs weren’t the programs’ focuses. Interactions with spouses, their circle of friends and acquaintances, propelled both shows. While Lucy always sought some advocation that would lift her, these days I guess fulfill her, Alice complacently performed housewifely duties. Certainly Lucy’s searches created predicaments, whereas Ralph’s striving to get ahead complicated his life rather than advanced it.

Who watching these episodes, whether originally broadcast on 1950s’ nights or as early evening repeats throughout the 60s and beyond, failed grasping Lucy’s and Ralph’s dissatisfaction with the accepted? Status quo. Their lots in life. New Yorkers saw in them their same yearnings to expand, to aspire, to achieve.

Besides, the dilemmas both worked themselves into and escaped were fall-down funny. They remained so regardless of how many times the episodes had been watched.

“Low-cal pizza” or “vitameatavegamin” anybody?

Daytime repeats didn’t linger as long or as deeply as evenings’ showings of I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners. Set in generic suburbia in households headed by too perfect parents, the mischiefs encountered by Beaver Cleaver or created by Dennis the Menace had nothing for a growing urbanite to affix himself upon.

The Andersons on Father Knows Best, the Stones on The Donna Reed Show, those characters, their arcs, these were little more than low volume white noise on summer mornings.

Little as I regarded the above two series, as well as Leave It to Beaver, when actor Tony Dow (Beaver’s older brother) died in July, a social media correspondent imagined a conversation between the television siblings. Beaver was forlorn at the loss of his TV brother as well as the rest of the show’s characters who’d already gone on. Wally’s tender response reverently referenced the wholesome homilies which comforted past American viewers.

Resembling then society’s outlook, the topic, death, as difficult a one as there is to navigate, was gently resolved. Just like problems had been on the show itself.

It wasn’t nostalgia so much as acknowledging a bygone era’s simple earnest appeal. Reassurance brought into our homes onto our televisions. Sometimes through “rabbit ears.”