I've been watching way too much television lately. It's not in my nature, really. I blame Matthew, but for the best of reasons: he needs to be fed, which takes up way more time than I ever imagined. And, it's extremely difficult to do anything else while feeding the little boy, since his ever-developing motor skills mean the pages of my magazine or book will get crumpled, the buttons on my phone will get dialed, the pen in my hand is pushed around, etc. He started eating some solid foods recently, and we don't have a routine established yet (though, soon enough). I know I'm not used to it yet, but I swear this is a two person job. I need an assistant just to hold his hands down and clean up the mush that inevitably falls out of his mouth. When Glen is around, we work together at the task of feeding Matthew solid chow; the rest of the time gives me a whole new respect for single parents. But while he's on his normal liquid diet, often, I sit in front of the boob tube, which keeps me entertained, and Matthew focused on the task of eating.
Nearly everyone asks us if we watch the HBO show, The Wire, the police drama series set in Baltimore, because of the show's focus on gangs, crime, and other urban issues, which I suppose, with our Trenton zip code, might be interesting to us. We don't watch it, but it's because we haven't shelled out the big bucks for HBO. We do watch The First 48, though; that's another police show, though unlike The Wire, The First 48 is a reality show. The show follows homicide detectives in several cities during the first 48 hours after a murder. I have a love-hate relationship with this show, because I hate knowing that the death we're watching is real. It makes me feel icky to see the show as entertainment, when lives are ending, for real, before my eyes.
Also, The First 48 is predictable. But that's not a criticism of the show: knuckleheads everywhere are predictable: sometimes an innocent person is killed, but more often, knuckleheads murder each other, usually on purpose, and then they deny it to detectives, by claiming they weren't at the scene.
This is how it goes when they sit down with detectives:
"I ain't did it. You ain't pinnin no [bleeep] murder on ME, dude."
After a bit of denial, the officers offer a bit of information to let the knucklehead know that they're on to him.
"Okay. Okay. Dis time, I'll tell you da trufe. Honest. Dis time, it's da trufe. My cousin do it, but I don't know why. Honest, man, dat's all I know."
The officers don't believe the knucklehead, but tell him they're going to check with his cousin. And during that time, the knucklehead's relatively law-abiding girlfriend/mother/cousin comes in, and tells the police the real truth. And by this point, the forensic evidence is starting to come in, further disproving the knucklehead's story. The knucklehead logically cannot refute this new information, but always does.
"I didn't do it, man. I didn't. Dat's da Gods honest TRUFE! I SWEAR!"
The knucklehead almost always cries, as the cuffs are slapped on his wrists, only the tears are for his own wasted life; tragic, to be sure, but not as tragic as the life/lives he cut short.
Even though I have summed up nearly every episode of the show, I still watch, because the police work is fascinating. Plus, I love the regional accents, and always get a kick out of what Sergeant Caroline Mason (of Memphis Homicide) is wearing. That girl ROCKS. Detective John Palmer (of Dallas Homicide) is also fantastic to watch, as he is both bad-ass and a genuine, gentle soul. He treats everyone — even the accused — with dignity, and he seems to have a brilliant track record for obtaining confessions.
I watch this and other shows, nearly always to the backdrop of my own block's knuckleheads carrying on. Usually, they're just hollering in the street, throwing their trash everywhere, or riding around, without any risk of punishment, on their ATVs. Every single night. Some nights, as you know, there is violence, as evidenced by my block's two murders last summer. Even without the violence, as soon as I hear their voices, my hackles go up. I curse fate and karma for not working quickly enough, or worse, not at all. The police can only do so much, though there are some days we're not sure they're doing anything over here. That sounds critical, I realize; that's my frustration speaking, but we do know that our knuckleheads, even with two murders under their collective knucklehead belt in a very short span of time, aren't Trenton's worst offenders. We always figure the police have bigger fish to fry elsewhere in the city. That's the reason we don't call much. We're discouraged.
Someday, though, I may snap. I'm the sort who would, especially if I had a weapon. Like a lot of people, I probably take too much crap in life; I let a lot of stuff slide. And I've certainly done that for my neighborhood's morons, and what sucks about that, is that they don't deserve my diplomacy. If I lived alone, I'm fairly certain I would lob rocks at them as they rode by on their quads, or get them with a power washer. I would take it upon myself to booby trap the alley behind my house, maybe with a big hole disguised with a large piece of cardboard, or asphalt; or if I were feeling particularly pissy, maybe I'd run a piece of piano wire across the alley. I've been fantasizing about building what looks to be like an obvious, and ominous hunting perch in the tree, right on the corner. "Oh hi, boys!" I'd say with a smile, as they rode by on their stupid, illegal vehicles.
Yeah, yeah, I can hear it now, "Chrissy, don't even think that. These guys are dangerous. They'd retaliate." I'm not denying that they're dangerous, but maybe I'm dangerous too. Plus, I think more people need to challenge these knuckleheads directly, with brooms and hoses and stones and 6-foot holes dug just for them. Personally, I'd wave as they were falling off their ATVs, so they'd have no doubt as to who made that happen. And I KNOW that nearly all of them, once they stood up and brushed themselves off, and saw me standing there, sleep-deprived, yet wide-eyed and crazy, smiling, with a baby on my hip and a power washer in my hand, would apologize to me. I am certain of it. However, I'm writing about it here, in the event I do snap when Glen's not here to hold me back, and, in the very unlikely scenario I wind up dead, you'll have a pretty good idea of the who, what, where, how, and why of the story.
All of this makes me wonder what are the possibilities, and ramifications, of a show like The First 48 filming in Trenton? Would the TPD be open to that? If so, would it help solve murders? Would it deter crime here, at all? Would it just help make the criminals smarter? Or is it just real life and real death of local kids turned entertainment for the masses?
I watch other shows, too, not just police programming. I watch a lot of cooking shows, lately, with just as much fantasy, and with very questionable results, and I'm ashamed of that. Also, I like home renovation/DIY shows, and luckily, haven't attempted, or even really fantasized about, that sort of stuff. (Yet.) One of my favorites is Urban Outsiders, an American show hosted by England's popular TV gardener, Matt James. If you know me, and read this blog, you know I like British programming, so I'm not embarrassed to admit I first learned of James on his original British series, called City Gardeners. Like other HGTV shows, the host turns a bland backyard and into a luxurious retreat. What I like about this particular show, though, is that he works in CITY gardens, and deals with issues that I face: a small space, lack of privacy, ugly fences and wires, and that sort of thing. The show has had a recent run in Brooklyn, which got me thinking: maybe I could contact the producers to see if they'd come to Trenton. The downside to this particular show is that the homeowner foots the bill, and Matt James always mentions in a voice-over how much they're spending, and it always takes my breath away ("with a budget of $8,000, Gary and Melissa should be ecstatic about their new, lush space.") I don't have a budget for that pressure washer I've been ranting about, so I can pretty much kiss goodbye a visit from Matt James. Sigh.
Urban Gardeners isn't one of those shows where the host sends away the homeowners and brings them back for the surprise reveal at the end of the show. Oh no. Matt James makes the homeowner participate every step of the way, and with big pieces of slate, and lumber, and large plants. That's really hard work. I don't have that kind of strength or time right now, even if I did have the coin. Also, I don't have the energy at present to tie piano wire across the alley, or dig ATV-traps. As much as I'd love some reality TV to happen here in Trenton, I'll bet Urban Outsiders has gone back to sunny, predictable California for filming. So I'll just have to manage in my own backyard without any expertise. Also, certainly the producers of The First 48 are probably too busy in Cleveland, Memphis, Miami, Tucson, and Dallas, to make it to Trenton.
Besides, crime is down here in Trenton, anyway. For realsies. At least for now.