My buddy Stan called.
“I dropped something off this afternoon,” he said.
That puzzled me.
“I was home all day,” I told him.
“I know,” he said.“I didn’t want to bother you.”
In a pig’ s eye.
But I should not have been surprised.
Stan often borrows things without asking and rarely returns them. He also drops off things that he has “borrowed” from others and rarely retrieves them. He never tells me about these things because the less I know, the better.
But why was he calling now?
“I’m going to Jakarta.” he said.
“Yeah. It’s a city of ten million in Indonesia and it’s sinking into the sea. When it rains the rivers run backwards – and I know big industrial pumps.”
“What did you leave at my house?”
“Well…, Daphne is coming with.”
I hung up.
Both of them out of town could only mean one thing. He unilaterally decided that I should be dog-sitting.
Chester is the name of Stan’s psychotic Pomeranian. The dog looks like an explosion in a hair salon and has a ferocity unmatched by all Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The last time he stayed with me, he destroyed the living room carpet, skinned a leather chair and powdered a row of fireplace bricks, all because a summer storm interfered with TV reception.
You see, Chester loves watching the Home Shopping Network (HSN). He is addicted to it and Stan knows I have DirectTV. It’s why he drops Chester off at my place.
The little guy is mesmerized by the bling on HSN and the incessant patter of the presenters lulls him to sleep. The channel is the only thing capable of soothing his savage soul.
And that is where I found him. Curled up on my living room rug, head resting on his paws, entranced by the nice lady hawking cubic zirconium jewelry.
I left him there to finish my work until it was time to cook supper.
The last time Stan abandoned Chester at my house, the dog and I came to an agreement. He could watch HSN most of the day but I got to spend an hour with the news while I cooked.
And he was good with that.
For a while.
At 5:30, I turned on World News Tonight with David Muir.
It began well.
It took three commercials to get from the local to the national news and Chester loved the pharmaceutical ads. All the nice people were overjoyed with their medications and the dire warnings of side affects were cleverly counterbalanced by bouncy upbeat rhythms.
But then a face and a haircut appeared on the screen and breathlessly announced;
The truth was, not a bit of the news was breaking and none of it was news.
Chester was not amused.
That intro cost me a bookcase shelf.
I quickly flipped to Nightly New with Lester Holt.
Apparently ABC and NBC use the same script because Lester Holt finished David Muir’s sentence.
Scratch one throw rug.
In a panic, I tuned to FOX.
That was a mistake.
The scrum of newcasters shouting over one another resulted in my living room floor losing several planks.
I quickly dialed CNN.
A fateful decision for the dining room buffet.
By now, Chester was airborne, plucking the recessed lights out of the ceiling, so in a final desperate measure, I brought up NEWSHOUR on PBS.
The instant he saw Judy Woodruff, he landed softly on his paws and curled up on a pile of shavings that once was a rocking chair.
I don’t know why I didn’t do this earlier. Chester and I have watched PBS before without losing furniture, so we settled in to watch Ms. Woodruff interview two academics on the impact of the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
It went well until the next segment – which was received with a menacing growl. But it wasn’t Chester who was growling, it was me.
NEWSHOUR was yet again airing one of their countless segments on the topics of race, gender, class and climate change.
“Good Lord,” I shrieked, “give it a freak’n rest. Those segments were informative the first fifty times you covered them. This isn’t news, it’s obsessive compulsive behavior!”
Chester cocked his head and stared at me quizzically.
Then taking his cue from my response, he shredded the drywall from one end of the room to the other.
Just then Stan called.
“Where are you?” I asked, more than a little annoyed.
“At LAX, our flight has been canceled because a volcano shut down the airport in Jakarta.”
“Why don’t we hear more about these things on the news?” I asked. “It would be nice if they covered exploding volcanoes or rivers running backwards instead of what Trump tweeted last night?”
“You haven’t been watching the news with Chester, have you?”
“We tried to.”
“Don’t do that,” he said.
“One of these days, I’ll get your dog figured out,” I told him.
“It’s pretty simple,” Stan said. “You know why Chester loves the Home Shopping Network?”
“Not at all.”
“And why he loves commercials?”
“And why he hates the news, especially in the last few years.”
“I have no idea.”
“What does HSN and commercials have that the news does not?” he asked
“Don’t make me guess.”
“Hope,” he said.
“They don’t sell jewelry on HSN or pharmaceuticals during the news, they sell hope. Their product is happiness. The very essence of marketing is grounded in optimism. Happiness is all Chester wants. It is all anybody wants. It is why he loves it so.”
“And lately there has been precious little of that on the news,” Stan said.