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Abbreviated Life History

Like most children of similar background, many of my earliest childhood memories revolve around the television set. TV was always a big part of my life, as I found consolation in its comforting images and its unmatched entertaining qualities.

Of course the first show I can recall watching is Sesame Street. Learning to say "water" in Spanish was something of a thrill for me, and I always loved the counting pinball machine cartoon. Later I grew fond of such cartoons as GI Joe, Vol-Tron and especially Transformers.

As junior high began, I found myself watching plenty of TV, despite my wise father's constant denouncing of TV (he was right). Having been born and raised in Buffalo, I was like everyone else a big fan of the Buffalo Bills, the local pro football team. As it turned out, the Bills went to the Super Bowl my first year of high school. In retrospect, I would say I was a rather emotional child, but hey, puberty isn't pretty.

I remember vividly the Super Bowl party in January of 1991. Several dozen family, friends and neighbors gathered around the set, passing bowls of chips, clutching each other at crucial moments and generally having a fun. The Bills were heavy favorites and expected to win by a considerable margin over the gritty New York Giants. As the game came to its closing seconds, the Bills had an opportunity to win it all with a last-second field goal. They'd let the Giants back into the game after a comfortable lead, and now trailed by one point. It was strange, as I look back now upon that moment now, that I'd become so enraptured in the emotion of the game, that my whole existence became centered on the something so out of my control on that night. The room fell silent as the ball was kicked and sailed through the air. It looked good at first, heading dead-center between the uprights, then we all watching in horror as it veered right...and further right...and finally it was done. No good. Wide right. The silent was broken by groans, disappointing remarks, and someone said, "well, there's always next year," but to me, that was it. I stalked off to my room and grabbed a book, any book, to get my mind off of this tragedy. But it of course didn't work. However, the Bills returned to the Super Bowl the following three years, and lost it, each year. The Bills going to (and consequently losing) the Super Bowl became an annual event in Buffalo. This was the first time I was truly disappointed in TV, and looking back it may have been the catalyst or at least a precursor to me eventually evolving my current anti-TV personality. I used to think that if its on TV, it has to have a happy ending. But this time it didn't.

Through high school I still watched the lion's share of TV. I can't remember anything that happened during my sophomore year, other than events that happened within the sterile, pristine reality of the television. I had a bit of trouble fitting in high school, and found consolation in relating to characters on sappy teen soap operas such as "Beverly Hills, 90210" and similar series.

Then, in my senior year of high school, I fell in what could arguably be described as love. Despite the fact that I had a gut feeling it was doomed, I didn't know any better. The tumultuous affair lasted about three months, about 2 and a half months longer than it should have. The resulting, inevitable ugly breakup was devastating for me and, although it happened little over 3 years ago, I can say with considerable conviction it was the biggest influence on me becoming the person I am today. It is also worthy of mention that I didn't really grasp the TV as a life-preserver when I found myself floundering in a sea of powerful conflicting emotions, it was then that I reached for music. During the ensuing months it was my newfound love for music that eased the pain of the breakup, and eventually led to my learning the guitar and becoming a performing songwriter.

Having survived that trial by fire, I found I was no longer dependent on TV for solace, all I needed was my guitar. Soon after the O.J. Simpson circus began, and I can recall quite well being in my high school sociology class when the verdict was announced. I remember hearing, "not guilty" read off for the lengthy list of charges, and my consequent thought was, "big deal." It was about that time that my tastes evolved to appreciated the very pinnacle of musical craftsmanship, the perfectionist songs of Steely Dan. The attitude of the music is what got my attention, a kind of smug indifference to the mainstream events around me, a brilliant combination of witty, sardonic and occasionally biting lyrics so effectively veiled to the masses with smooth, pristine music was their trademark, and it took my by storm.

I adopted its attitude as my own, rejecting what popular culture told me was important and installed my own system of unconventional, though not immoral, beliefs.

Soon after, I graduated from high school and hightailed it to Chicago to start college. Before I came to live with my mom here, she told me she had thrown out her TV set. I wasn't very worried, as I knew I wouldn't have time to watch it anyway. The lack of a TV set in the household turned out to the single greatest aspect of my life, and aided my rapidly developing disposition of contrarianism, the sake of being different just to be different. Case in point: I still haven't seen (and will never see) the insultingly vapid movie Titanic. Simply because everyone else has and I believe it be an awful abomination on history.

I consider myself to be a cultural cynic and have become quite wary of advertising's seeping into various corners of people's lives. I believe my tastes and intellect continue to grow and evolve as I will see only what I consider to be the best movies, read the best books, listen to the best music and watch the best TV...at a friend's house, of course.

"A good place to forget we are all but insignificant cosmic dust specks"

February 1999

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