I was in the family room of my home with four of my friends. Someone had turned the TV to "E." "Keeping up with the Kardashians" was being aired. Inexplicably, no one changed the channel or even suggested doing so. We all sat there like observers of a train wreck, too mesmerized to look away.
My mother was working at school today and planned to work into the evening because she will be with me in my central coast location all of next week. She will work by computer from there, but she needed to make lots of preparations so that everything would go smoothly in her absence.
My father walked into the kitchen. He has the same speed-of-light metabolism that the rest of the family has, and when he's home, he eats almost continuously. I've described many of my father's characteristics in earlier posts, so anyone who's read more than two of my blogs probably already is aware that he is somewhat playing pool without a cue ball, but I don't know if I've ever mentioned his ability to totally tune out other things when something else is on his mind. His job is perfecting cures for leukemia and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, among other things, so more often than not, his mind is not focused upon what is happening around him. He chose the particular moment when he was in our kitchen, which opens into the family room, to actually focus upon what was happening in front of him.
"What in the hell are you fools watching?" my father demanded. Most parents don't curse at their kids in front of their kids' friends, much less curse at the actual friends, but mild swear words (by him; my brother and I are not allowed to curse in his presence) are fair game as far my father is concerned anywhere except at school or at church, where he miraculously manages to censor his vocabulary.
"It's called 'Keeping up with the Kardashians,'" my friend Megan explained. She's been around my house enough to be unimpressed by my father's vocabulary.
"What is it about?" my dad asked.
"It's a reality show about a rich family," my friend Krista explained.
My friend Tyler gave his take. "I don't think it's actually reality," he opined. "I think it's all staged, and it's really bad acting."
"Then why in the hell all you all watching it?" my dad exclaimed. "It's a beautiful day. You could be outside playing football or soccer."
I pointed to my leg. "Do you really want me playing football or soccer yet?" I asked him.
"OK. Then you could be playing Scrabble or doing something productive," he amended his earlier suggestion. Any normal teen would probably die of embarrassment if his or her father suggested that his or her group of friends play Scrabble for entertainment. I am beyond that. My father is so far into the ozone layer that suggesting Scrabble as an activity for my friends was one of the more normal recommendations he's ever made.
Ordinarily I might groan when he said something so lame, but I knew it was pointless. "We're watching the rest of this episode, and then we'll think of something more productive to do with our time."
So my father made a peanut butter sandwich and joined us in the family room to watch the rest of "Keeping up with the Kardashians."
"What are you doing?" I asked him.
"I'm sitting in my own recliner [when he walked into the family room and stood next to his recliner, my friend Rafael took the cue and moved to the sofa so my father could have his prized chair] eating a snack."
"Wouldn't you rather eat it somewhere else than watch such an asinine program?" I asked him.
"No. I'm comfortable here. I'm sure I'll lose a few IQ points before it's over, but I have enough to spare." I've also never shared that humility is not a trait of which my father is in abundant possession.
So "Keeping up with the Kardashians" got to the point where Bruce Jenner and his wife, the ex-Mrs. Kardashian, had this huge obviously staged fight about who would get to put what in the garage that culminated in Bruce Jenner taking an air mattress into the garage and sleeping there. I'm sure he got off the air mattress and resumed his normal activities as soon as the cameras stopped filming, and, for that matter, it probably wasn't even nighttime, but no one believes reality TV anyway. "Who is that guy? He looks familiar," my father asked.
It's Bruce Jenner," my friend Rafael answered. "You know. The guy that won something in the Olympics a long time ago.'
"I know who Bruce Jenner is," my dad responded. "He won the gold medal in the decathlon in '76. Has he stooped to this garbage? And who did his plastic surgery, anyway? That surgeon should be sued for malpractice."
Megan explained to my dad that he was actually seeing an improved version of Bruce Jenner's plastic surgery, because a previously done cosmetic procedure had been botched to the point that it had to be repaired. "I just can't believe the depths to which he's sunk," my dad muttered.
From that point, we got to hear my father's critique of every single thing that was said or done for the rest of the program, and there is much to critique when watching "Keeping up with the Kardashians." The only time he shut up was during the commercials. He said this was one of the few shows he'd ever seen that was worse than the commercials. He said he was sure it was just like being a non-football fan watching the Super Bowl. My friends thought he was hysterical because they don't have to live with him. I was mortified. After the episode ended, someone switched the TV to some college football game. Apparently CAL was being massacred by USC, which caused my father to swear a blue streak. The guys stayed in there with him and watched football games, while the females went to check something out on my computer. The guys were waiting for the Giants' game to come on.
My father has, among other things, a tendency to stereotype. After the females reappeared, he looked around the room. Looking at each of us, he finally set his eyes upon Rafael. "Hey, Rafael," he asked, "Do you know how to cook Mexican food?"
"A little bit," Rafael answered.
"You've got to be better than anyone else here, " my father declared. "Cook something. Use anything you want in the fridge or freezer or pantry. Alexis can be your sous chef. Just don't let her cut with sharp knives or anything like that. She's already messed up enough as it is. The last thing she needs is to cut off any of her fingers."
I gave my dad my middle finger behind my back where several of my friends but not he could see. He asked what they were laughing about, but no one was sufficiently disloyal to betray me.
Rafael made steak fajitas, which were really good. He told me he didn't have any idea what the hell he was actually doing, and that it was a miracle they turned out edible. My mother came home as we were all eating. I knew she would be hungry, so I had put away a bit of food for her. She sat down on the couch next to my dad's recliner. He tried to tell her about "Keeping up with the Kardashians" and how he wished he had more time to monitor our television viewing habits.
"They're almost seventeen, John," my mom said. "As long as it's not porn, I'm not sure it's worth worrying about."
"I will say one thing," my dad sad. I was quite sure that before he was finished, he'd say more than one thing, as he was particularly verbose this afternoon and evening, but I listened for what he had to say. "I will never again complain about that Judge Alex guy. Those Kardashian people make him look like Einstein."
P. S. I edited the title of this post on the advice of a friend. I had previously called it "Killing Time," meaning that I'm killing time waiting around to start my sentence or whatever one cares to call it at my facility. A person advised me that it could be taken to mean I plan some sort of killing spree, a la Columbine. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, and I thank the reader for pointing out to me the double entendre nature of my earlier title.