Snacking in front of the TV

Sitting on the couch, watching TV and movies with others, I never snack. Alone, I must snack. Why is this?

I can’t just sit in front of the screen twiddling my thumbs, can I? I don’t knit or crochet or tat or whittle. Sorting and folding the wash doesn’t take very long. I don’t like to iron in front of the tube. Personal grooming is out in the family room. I can pet the cat, but not for an hour. Snacking is the go-to activity. I’m accomplishing something: I’m eating and drinking. Or is this not a habit, but a compulsion? Are my motivations darker? Loneliness? Comfort needed in the dark of night? Sublimation of other appetites? Boredom? Ennui? Is my snacking influenced by what’s on-screen, by whether I’m watching Criterion or zombies?

Ignoring the case where meals are eaten in front of the screen (no longer the tube, except for some of us) – meals are a whole different animal from snacks – I’m figuring that snacking is not an optimally healthful activity. I could be using hand-weights. I could be doing TV yoga. Why eat? And why eat salty snax instead of carrot sticks, almonds, Rye Crisp? Why alcohol instead of whey milk? Why grass instead of tobacco? Ok, that last one is easy.

I took a quick poll around me at work, but rats, it’s not simple. I was hoping for an easy two-kinds-of-people-in-the-world model, populated by those who snack alone and those who snack with others, in front of the screen. Instead, I get is a dichotomous planet inhabited by those who eat popcorn and those who don’t. What kind of a crazy divide is that, anyway? I get some who will snack only when alone, TV or no TV. I’m not that restricted. These loners with their mouths full are today’s version of troglodytous ancestors who, when they brought down the warthog single-handedly, would drag it back to the cave to be converted into jerky and consumed solo while star-watching on summer nights. Star-watching while jerky-eating, but also while listening to the embarassing sounds coming from the caves of others.

Others will snack only when not alone, as when the tribe gathers around the cooking pot wherein the hapless explorer sits up to his neck in soup liqours.

But between these two extreme poles of TV snacking behavior, there lies a multi-dimensioned spectrum of munching viewers. My assistant in the examination of this spectrum posted a query that resulted in these responses.

Later. The results of my extensive polling. I list the snackers in descending order of sanity:

1. Those who snack because they are hungry, or at least a little peckish.
2. Those who snack because friends are over and you’ve got to put something out for them, don’t you?
3. Those who snack for revenge, or out of deep shame, or as a howl of rage at the meaninglessness of Life.
4. Those who snack to improve the quality of their favorite TV sitcom.
5. Those who will only snack while holding a small stuffed animal.

Going to the Movies

The guys on /Filmcast were sharing terrible experiences at the cineplex today. Kermode and Mayo are assembling a list of behaviors that should be banned within the theater. Meanwhile, slowly but surely (as opposed to slowly but unsurely, or quickly but surely), I’ve practically stopped going to the movies. I was there for Furry Vengeance (2010), because my daughter shows up in it. I was surrounded by youngsters and their parents, all of whom, like me, seemed to like the movie and laughed in the right places. My daughter and I spent an evening at the Stanford, a restored movie palace in Palo Alto with a functioning organ for the silent offerings, and saw Flying Down to Rio (1933) and another 30s film, the name of which I’ve forgotten (feel free to remind me), about an elderly impecunious woman who pretends to be a… what?…countess? baroness? or whatever, to impress her daughter’s visiting fiancee… or something like that. This was on a weeknight and various seniors and lonely singles were scattered about the theater. We sat over on the side. That’s about it for my movie-going, with the following exception: my son and daughter-in-law gave me two gift cards to the local metroplex several years ago and every six months or so I go over on a weekday afternoon, buy an In-and-Out burger, and use my gift card to obtain a ticket to a random movie – and then surf around inside for five or six hours. The last time that I did this, I watched Inception (2010) and Salt (2010) and parts of The Expendables (2010), and… uh… three or four others, which I forget… the climax of Avatar (2009), for one, my first time checking out the new 3D – I found one pair of glasses in the barrel at the back. The 3D I didn’t like so much.

When I pull into a parking lot, I take the first space that I come to, way out on the edge. Similarly, in the theater I like to sit on the side or in the back, anywhere where the seat population is sparse. The notion of getting stuck in front of somebody texting or tweeting or unwrapping something hard to unwrap or with a tub on their lap, of popcorn, ugh.

But with lots of space, empty seats, around me, and lots of time to kill and that big screen unobstructed up there in front of me, the sound thumping, with burgers and coke and my legs draped over the seat in front of me, it’s still the best.

Summer Drive In

When I was a kid, we lived in a Marine Corps housing development outside of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. On Friday nights, my father would take my sisters and me onto the base to the indoor movie theater there. The place seemed huge to me. We sat in the balcony. I saw Invaders from Mars (1953) there, and Retreat Hell (1952), and many another classic. Meanwhile, my best friend and his brother and mom and dad would pile into their family station wagon with popcorn and drinks, both boys in their pajamas,  and head for the base drive-in. I loved the indoor theater but I was curious about that drive-in. We never went to it.

Later in Phoenix, when I was in the eighth grade and then high school, I lived half a mile down Indian School Road from the Big Sky Drive-In. The Big Sky had several rows of benches in front of the snack bar and you could walk in for a dollar. Double features twice a week, changing on Sunday and Wednesday. In the summer, the evening temperatures were in the low 80s and you could sit out in comfort with a snack under the stars. I remember especially the Steve Reeves movies there, Hercules (1958) and Hercules Unchained (1959), which represented exotic Italian perfection to me as a teenager, in spite of the dubbing and low-budget screen values. Reeves – Mr. Universe – what a guy, and steroid-free. For some reason, I also remember the Robert Mitchum/Shirley McClaine feature “Two for the Seesaw” (1962), which seemed practically arthouse and totally romantic.

So how come I never walked over there with a date, although there were plenty of girls in the neighborhood that I could have asked to go? Why didn’t I ever do that, especially to a movie like Two for the Seesaw? Miniature golf, indoor movies, the public pool, yes, I went on dates to all of those, but how come I only walked down to the Big Sky, sometimes stopping at the Dairy Queen on the way, alone or with my sisters? I need to think about that; maybe ask my therapist what he thinks.

I worked at another drive-in, a mile or so farther away in the opposite direction, over near 59th and Bethany Home. It was newer and had no drive-in uniform-hats that fit me. They were all too small. The manager, an adult who was probably younger than he seemed to me at the time, insisted that I wear one of those tiny hats and I’d squeeze it onto my head whenever I saw him coming – which was often, because he persisted in hitting on the female teens working at the drive-in. He’d glare at me and my hat, signaling that I should get lost while he was operating on Clara in the ticket booth. In return, I never checked the  car trunks, even when it seemed obvious that there were multiple kids hiding in them. The whole time I worked there, the same movie played, something about a big dog, an Irish Setter I think. It probably died at the end of the movie but I never actually watched frame one, so I couldn’t say. A station wagon would roll up to the ticket window with a dad and mom, packed with kids, and I’d have to tell them that Disney had jacked up the prices for the show, with me needing to charge for every kid in the carinstead of the usual flat rate, and the faces of the parents would fall. I let quite a few cars through without paying for the kids because Disney and its evil representative, the drive-in manager, pissed me off. Can’t remember why I quit but I do remember that I wasn’t fired.

There was one date that I took to the drive-in (can’t remember which theater but it wasn’t the Big Sky). Dr. No (1962) was playing – the first Bond movie. Who knew the future of the franchise, but I had been reading the Fleming books because JFK said that they were his favorites.  I liked the movie better than the date. I was there with Charlotte after she had changed her name to Amy. We were both home for the summer from college. Now that I think of it, I saw The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) on a date, too, and again, liked the movie more than the date. Maybe that’s why I went to The Big Sky alone. Dates and movies can both be good, but why mix them?

In later years, the Big Sky suffered the same fate as a lot of other drive-ins: softcore porn, then a weekend flea market, then torn down, memory erased by new construction. Not so different, mutatis mutandis, from the fate of many of its patrons.

What I’ve Learned from Movie Sex

What have I learned about sex, watching TV and movies? From Episodes 1-5, Season 1, of Hung (2009), I am taught that size matters. This knowledge, if true, can be of no particular use to any male, since as far as I know, in all normal circumstances, you’ve got what you’ve got and it’s not going to change. So if size matters, it doesn’t matter.

Moving on, the show teaches us that, the deed having been done, the participants continue their lives and perhaps their relationship according to interactive principles that have nothing to do with the deed itself. In this sense, sex is rendered minor, if not inconsequential. But then, contrariwise, sex can equal $$$ and the solution to life’s most difficult problems. In this sense, sex is rendered important, a life-saver.

Speaking of which, does anyone use the term “size queen” anymore? Seems like I haven’t heard it in years. Urban dictionary has an entry of course, but no data on current use. Hmm, Wikipedia: “This article needs additional citations for verification.” How would that work?

I was thinking that maybe I’d take a quick informal poll at my place of employment to find out if size matters around the office, but I’d better be careful. Many of the women that I would ask were born in countries other than the U.S. Might confuse the issue. What if in their country, the only size is “small”? What if small is beautiful? I want to be politically correct here. Best to go check with HR first… Ok, I went to HR. Didn’t want to just come out and ask the lady there if she thought that size matters, so I played it smart. I told her that a female co-worker had asked me if I thought size matters and was it ok with HR that she had asked me that? The HR lady said why did my co-worker ever ask me that in the first place? I wasn’t expecting such a question right back at me so I told her that I had asked the co-worker whether if I were a lot larger than normal, would that make me more attractive to her – you know, just to get her thinking about the subject in the first place. The HR person got prissy when I told her that, even though I had come to her in the first place. It was my idea to talk to HR, wasn’t it? Not hers. So then she got me moved out to “Q” wing, which I  thought had been closed years ago. Nobody out in Q but me and Bud and Cletis. Bud and Cletis were allowed to stay with the company after both won their suits on the basis of mental decrepitude. So, no in-house poll for me on whether the girls here think that size matters, not until they let me back into the main building, at least to use the cafeteria or the restroom (male).

Changing the subject, at the last company party I’m glad I didn’t throw my keys in the bowl.

And I must have learned more at the movies than a few simple facts about size. Let’s see… The Messenger (2009): [spoilers] Coming back from war and doing it with your ex-girlfriend, who is now engaged to somebody else, is not necessarily a good idea; hooking up with a newly bereaved war widow could work, but this film suggests that you should hold back on that, too. Youth in Revolt (2009): I’m too old for any of the learnings manifest here; nothing wrong with watching, though. The Eclipse (2010): Do it while she’s still alive.

As for how, exactly, to do “it,” I’m not getting too much from the movies: whether you’re on top or underneath, make sure that you’re panting for it in advance: this advice might work for the first night or the first week or the first month or the first year, but reenacting that typical movie scene of crazy passionate congress after, say, the ten-year mark of togetherness, would require the crazy sexual focus of a Maharishi Dontdoityourselfeveryjoor.

[to be continued]