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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who comes out at night?

I'm not much of a night person. I used to be; but that was back in the day. My younger self liked the night times. Darkness and mind-altering substances made us all look better, or so it seemed. Cities looked exciting at night when you couldn't see the trash, and the homeless, and the dirt and grime that are revealed in the stark light of day. Everything just seemed cooler at night, lit by an array of electric feedback, from sizzling street lights to the amber dials of the dash. Night was a cloak that slipped easily over my shoulders; that protected me from the stresses and strains that the sun revealed. The darkness hid endless possibilities until, with a gasp of excitement, it chose to unveil one.

We lived in a music video world.

...among the neon lights...

But now, music videos are mostly gone or are caricatures of the night time lifestyle that is still on offer - if you're cool enough to take it. Sleep is overrated; Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy are the hot, black coffee of this age. How much life can you live? Things don't go better with Coke, they go better with darkness...

Ideally, with age comes wisdom. The night is always with us, velvet twin to the warm, bright light of days. I still like the night - but for totally different reasons. The transition time; lying on my back in the yard gazing up into the heavens. Watching the sky turn from smokey blue to inky black; watching as the heavenly lights wink on and the breadth of space is slowly revealed. Eventually, in the absence of artificial light, one can even see the star dust; particles of matter or asteroids or something that resembles clouds in and among the vaguely recognizable constellations.

the world still turns at night...

Yesterday, I stayed up later than normal. In part so I could gaze upward at the heavenly light show spread across the night sky of northern Alabama. After taking care of all those things that never occurred to a young night crawler - you know, locking doors, turning off lights, putting the last load of clothes in the dryer, making sure the dishes were washed - I lay down and lit the ultimate night light: the television.

Conan didn't hold my attention; he's funny and all but it's night after night of pretty much the same things. That left the two current titans of late night TV: Jay and Dave. A quick check of the on-screen guide made the choice very easy; Leno featured Kirstie Alley and Mike the Situation Sorentino vs. Letterman's show hosting British Prime Minister, David Cameron. Not much of a choice if you ask me.

Regular readers may remember this post, in which I briefly mentioned Mr. Sorentino.

I went with Dave.

I'm older now but I remember Johnny Carson. Staying up late to watch the Tonight Show was a treat. Do you notice how now it's the Tonight Show with [insert name of host here]? Johnny never felt the need to include his name in the title of the show - at least that I recall - everyone on the planet knew that the show was hosted by Johnny Carson. Maybe that's the problem with the new guys.

Don't get me wrong, Leno is alright, Conan can be funny when he's not trying to be a complete idiot and David Letterman is a little too self-righteous for me. This week, Dave has had Barack Obama and David Cameron on. If nothing else, he's trying to hold the intellectual high ground while Leno wrestles with the rehab stories of folks like Alley and Sorentino. But even Letterman can be funny sometimes and when he asked Mr. Cameron about the Magna Carta I recalled my early days of junior high school in the UK. Adroitly, the Prime Minister answered, "1215," when Letterman quizzed him on when the document was written. Mr. Cameron knew quite a bit of stuff off the top of his head (as a decent head of state should) but was equally apologetic when he couldn't recall what Magna Carta meant in Latin. Dave opined that it was Big Map; research during a commercial break revealed that it actually means Great Charter.

The Great Charter after restoration

Some actor came on after Mr. Cameron and I grew bored. Flipping over to Leno, I mercifully found the end of the Situation was at hand and actually enjoyed Richie Sambora's new solo effort. By this time I was almost out for the count but hung on long enough to watch the opening monologue of Jimmy Fallon who, in my mind, is miles better than any of those other guys - except for Carson, of course.

One of these nights maybe he'll get The Roots to play something by The Specials, and I can be reminded once more of those long-ago nights when the darkness was our friend and we fancied ourselves gangsters.

What do you think?


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