Monday, February 1, 2010


This summer, Jeremy, my next-door neighbor, stands outside on hot nights near his satellite dish mounted to a pole in the yard and speaks to the sky. I see him from my bedroom window. He is silhouetted against ground lighting in the distance. Sometimes Jeremy’s fists gesture skyward as if in anger; other times his hands plead like a black swan flapping its wings to begin flight. We live near an O’Hare Airport flight path, but it’s late and quiet.
During the day Jeremy is an ordinary guy who commutes to his day job in Chicago, cuts the lawn on weekends, tinkers with an old Harley Davidson motorcycle he rarely rides in the early evening before dark, and does some gardening with his wife—a buxom woman who wears sweat-stained halter tops of various colors and complains vehemently about climate change. A woman who must wonder to whom her husband is speaking in the yard while she lies, I can only assume, naked beneath a thin top sheet. Unlike our house, theirs does not have air conditioning and it must be stifling inside.
I’m worried about Jeremy; tonight I have decided to confront him. I grab two cold bottles of water from the fridge, step out into the world of humidity, insects, and a hazy overcast sky with not a star in sight. I elbow spider webs away from my face while walking between trees bordering our yards, and say, “Hey, man.”
Jeremy answers, “Hey,” turns toward me, takes the water bottle, clicks open its security cap, and looks back to the sky.
“What’s up?” I ask, giving him a nudge. His arm is moist and hot.
“Nothing,” says Jeremy. “That’s why I’m out here . . . to ask God what became of the promises.”
“Promises?” I ask.
“Yeah. When small satellite dishes were announced years ago, promoters said there would be channels for every interest. If you were a sculptor, you’d have a channel. If you were interested in rebuilding motorcycles, you’d have a channel . . . and I don’t mean these repeats of guys with tattoos and facial hair building six-figure choppers. It’s supposedly reality TV. But the reality is, they feed repeats of cheaply-made, camera-zooming, voice-over junk to us and we wear out our remotes. They buy the rights to a few cheap movies and . . . Oh what’s the use?”
I wait for a second, then ask, “So, you’re talking to God about this?”
Jeremy takes another swig of water and wipes his mouth before responding. “Did you know my name is short for the Hebrew, Jeremiah, which means ‘Jehovah is up high?’”
“Uh . . . no.”
Jeremy has turned toward me, and I swear I smell wine on his breath. He looks back to the overcast sky. “Everyone in the world watches the same junk,” he says, raising his water bottle to the sky. “I command television be changed! I want my thousand channels!”
As if in answer, a FedEx flight, probably carrying hundreds of dishes and receivers for the two satellite monopolies, cruises over for a landing, its lights piercing the haze.