Thursday, May 08, 2008


My RRHB headed out of the house last night to do some recording after we booked our trip to NYC with his parents. We got an exceptionally good deal and we're super-excited to take them (they've never been). Then I sat down and sucked it up and worked for a bit until my eyelids drooped so far down my face that I was afraid they might stay that way. So I took my cup of tea and sat in front of the television and watched Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother and Samantha Who?.

It was wicked fun.

Then I noticed that the PVR had recorded a new This American Life. I've only seen a few episodes and was mainly recording it because it's something my RRHB would enjoy. But last night's episode, the first in the second season, was utterly captivating and truly moving. It started off with shots of three inner-city kids plus their mentor riding horses in North Philadelphia. Caring for them. Feeding them. Riding them. Then Ira Glass explained that the theme of the episode was the idea of escape and what that means for a very special man still living with his mother at the age of 27.

No ordinary fellow, Michael suffers from a rare debilitating disease called spinal muscular atrophy that has made him virtually immobile. He talks by tapping his thumb onto a small instrument that controls his computer -- recording his thoughts as words and giving him a spoken voice not his own. And yet, he's engaged in the most classic struggle of life -- how and when to gain your independence from your parents. His mother has been taking care of him his entire life. When his mother doesn't take care of him, accidents happen. Breathing tubes slip out, feeding tubes malfunction, and Mike's life hangs in the balance of human error.

But the urge to not become "a disability cliche" is great. He paints his nails black. Goes to tattoo conventions. Loves his girlfriend. Writes lovely, introspective notes (read by Johnny Depp, his choice for a voice; I cried, I'm not ashamed to say) about his life and his quest for independence. The immediacy of his experience and the utter strength in his voice and convictions caught me off guard. While the struggle, quite simply, to stay alive is a very real concern, Michael's spirit, for lack of a better word, comes across loud and clear, even if it does sound like Johnny Depp.

This American Life is the kind of television that kid over at Stuff White People Like loves to blog about. But I'd argue that in a world full of Oprah Winfrey (and I'm not knocking Oprah, believe me)-loving, Mitch Albom-book buying, The View-watching people, it becomes harder and harder to experience stories like in "Escape," ones that are real, relevant and utterly worthy of the energy it takes to create them.


Chico said...

Afraid to knock Oprah? Well I am not. She SUCKS.

scarbie doll said...

D, this was such a great post. It's hard to write about TV without alienating those who haven't watched the show. (I have seen some of season 1, so maybe I'm not totally going in blind here)

But this was excellent writing. You are fantastic critic. I think that may be one talent you need to pursue more -- professionally I mean.

Carrie said...

ooh another trip to nyc?
let me know if you need anymore advice or directions to imaginary places.

And thanks for the tv review. I've seen people riding horses in North Philly and it is the most beautiful and bizarre.