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What do you think you see?

What do you think you see?

Aug 11, 2020

I grew up in the Bronx for the most part. There were a few 'formative' years where I lived in Harlem, but the BX remains the place I've spent the majority of my life. It took forever for the entire Bronx to get cable. I remember the first time I viewed cable television as a kid was in Yonkers and then a few years later when my aunt moved to White Plains Rd. The remote now evolved pass the simple clicker to a formidable black wand of sorts fashioned with black buttons marked by white ink and an occasional spec of red about it's face. Nickelodeon and Nick At Nite earned the lion's share of my attention, while a few cooking shows on weekends held strong in my mind's portfolio, but they were public television. They were regular tv.

Cablevision was making it's way up the Grand Concourse and ultimately would be available to us in our section of the borough. Then one day something amazing happened. When turning the dial between the normal channels, HBO pushed through to one of the off numbered channels. It was a lil fuzzy at first but sharpened up. We had HBO without cable service and sans an illegal box which was pretty common then. Fraggle Rock was quite an experience. HBO ran movies like Short Circuit and Back To The Future over and over even more than TBS or TNT ran their blockbuster features back to back on any given day of the week.

Never change the channel for fear of losing the cable that we didn't officially have. Turning off the tv and turning it on hoping it was still there was a thing.

Fun times.

Then one day, cable was finally installed.

We had umpteen channels to choose from. The excitement eventually wore down once it was realized that there wasn't much to watch at all. While tv no longer ended late in the evening with the image of a waving American flag accompanied by a boisterously patriotic instrumental version the National Anthem, unless you had every movie channel, basic cable after midnight was filled with infomercials. Mostly paid programming just like regular tv once major networks began to broadcast for twenty-for hours a day.

When you didn't have movie channels if you turned to one the screen would alert you that you did not. Instructions of how to contact you cable provider and order them was provided. Then there were channels where you could order movies. You could order a fight too. Fight parties were huge especially during the era of Iron Mike Tyson, because no one wanted to risk paying for a sixty second fight. For some reason though the some adult channels if you turned to them would fluctuate in their scrambled state, providing a small window of pornographic imagery.

So. Here we are at the end of this trip down memory lane and I pose the question originally asked in the title, "What do you think you see?"


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