I’d heard about it, of course, and may even have been walked by one in a store window
holding a parental hand, but a wise combo of thrift and caution usually had us the last ones
on the block to actually buy any of the many technological innovations of those consumptive times.
In the process we avoided many fruitless fads and purchased better products lots cheaper
(a point of family pride which favorably defined us in an, oh, too suggestible world)
And, amazingly (at least to us others) it proved not a hardship at all.
So I first confronted one at a neighbor’s house a couple of doors down where all the kids
had gathered to partake of the new electronic wonder. I was the last one in the door and
therefore I had the luxury of investigating the box sitting on the table in the living room
almost completely unobserved since the blazing flicker of the box had everyone’s rapt attention.
I’d seen movies, of course, and understood how film and projectors worked, so initially,
I suspected this must be some home version of that process of beaming light. I looked
behind me as some guy on the screen was telling the news (but not like the news reels
he was just sitting there ferchrissake’s) but there was no projector room behind
the living room wall and no beam of light descending to the dancing silver and black screen.
This was serious I realized and intent on solving this mystery I made my way to the rear
of the infernal box to check for any tricks that might be hidden way back there. Nope. Nothing.
By this time my investigatory behavior had attracted the attention of the hosts, the proud owners
and my best friends Kurt and Jan Miller. “Where’s it coming from,” I asked. At which they informed me
that the cowboys now chasing each other across the Old West on the screen were being broadcast
from Lansing miles away. I finally realized ‘it’s like radio with pictures’. Then I knew we were
in big trouble because if “they”, those guys out there who do these things could do that
“they” could do just about anything. Uh-oh. Uh-oh. Uh-oh. Oh, oh, oh.
James Van Looy has been a fixture in Boston’s poetry venues since the 1970s. He is a member of Cosmic Spelunker Theater and has run poetry workshops for Boston area homeless people at Pine Street Inn and St. Francis House since 1992. Van Looy leads the Labyrinth Creative Movement Workshop, which his Labyrinth titled poems are based on. His work appears weekly in Oddball Magazine.