The Sheridan misconception

It's the Circus Freakshow Channel — something called Dr Pimple Popper, and dwarfs in physical contests, and massively overweight people talking endlessly about being massively overweight, and people with boils and lesions, and here's someone with literally a hole in his head where you'd expect an eyeball.


April 10, 2022

That's the channel Mom watches, almost whenever she watches TV, and she watches TV even while she's reading her Bible. The channel is TLC, which at one time, ironically, was The Learning Channel, but now it's just an endless Barnum & Bailey sideshow for millions of people to gawk at.

Mom watches this with the volume set to absolute max, but after several days of my complaining about it, she has sometimes muted it and watched with subtitles, which is the kindest thing she's done for me in many years. Still, even muted, if there's a TV on in a room you're going to glance at it once in a while, and every time I glance I'm repulsed.

Maybe you watch TLC in the privacy of your own domicile, and if so I won't judge you. Everyone scratches their ass and then sniffs their fingers, so you go right ahead.

If you force the Circus Freakshow Channel into the eyes or ears of invited and very disinterested guests in your home, well, that's no better than puffing cigar smoke at non-smokers.

♦ ♦ ♦

Again, we were having a fairly fine evening together, Mom and me. Katrina was home from work, but usually she just says howdy and chats for a few minutes before fading into her bedroom, so it was just Mom and me in the living room. She was watching some disgusting show on the Circus Channel, but thankfully it was muted.

Our re re and re-recurring topics of conversation included ① please come to church, especially because it's almost Easter, ② is your cat peeing and pooping regularly?, ③ where did you sleep and eat on your long drive to Seattle?, ④ whatever sickening show was on TV at the moment, and ⑤ the perennial champ, why don't you recline in the recliner?

Mom does love her recliner. Not sure what her ordinary routine is, but while I've been there, she's spent virtually all of her awake time in the living room, in her recliner, six feet from the recliner that I sit in. She reclines in it half a dozen times every hour, I'd guess. She sits, and both she and her chair groan as they both recline, and then maybe a few minutes (or seconds) later she'll want something, so she'll un-recline with human and mechanical groans, get up, slowly fetch whatever, and then she'll walk back, sit down, groan and recline again. For the heck of it I counted last night; she reclined 22 times, just while I was in the living room, which was perhaps four hours, before I left in a furious huff and spent the night in my car again.

She wants me to recline in my recliner. Oh, how she wants me to recline. I've been staying here for a week, and she's asked me approximately thirty times in a dozen different ways —
    • "You should recline the chair."
    • "Why don't you recline the chair?"
    • "You'll get a sore neck if you sleep in the recliner without reclining."
    • "Do you know how to recline the chair?"
    • "It's very nice reclining the chair. You should try it..."
    • And my favorite, "I watched you sleeping in your chair for half an hour last night, and you looked so uncomfortable without the chair being reclined."

On this particular night, the first time she said I should recline, I said "No, I'm not going to recline."

The second time she said it, ten minutes later, I said, "Can we stop talking about reclining already? I'm not reclining."

The third and fourth times she mentioned it, I ignored her.

The fifth time, twenty minutes later when she said, "I wish you'd recline in the chair," I shouted "No!"

Half an hour after that, when she said, "You could recline just a little, to get your feet up off the floor," I kinda sorta lost it.

"There's a war in Ukraine and I'm worried about my cat and about finding a room, and it's hard to imagine anything less important than whether I recline in this recliner. It should matter to no-one but me. It's my decision, not yours, and I am not reclining, and I am very emphatically not talking any more about reclining."

"OK," is all she said, with the sweet look she always wears on her face when I lose my temper at her.

"No, it's actually not OK. Learn some manners, Mom." I was very nearly yelling, so of course she'd won.

"It's amazingly rude of you," I stupidly continued, "to keep telling me to recline the chair when I've said so many damned times that I am not reclining the chair — not tonight, not tomorrow, not ever — so knock it off. We are done talking about reclining the chair."

"OK," she said, still with the sweet look of utter innocence, as if she's the Virgin Mary before being raped by God.

It's not over, though. Same as when I was 17 and couldn't wait to be 18 and move out, I know again, it won't be over until I leave this house for a place of my own.

And even then it won't be over. It'll be the same every time I see her. What I want — desperately — is simply to choose when and where I see her, instead of having her with me in the living room whenever I'm in the living room.

No, I didn't handle it well. Should've said nothing but "Excuse me, I'm going to my car."

And if she asks me again to recline in the chair, I'm sure I'll handle it even worse. My reply will finally be: "Fuck off, Mom."

♦ ♦ ♦ 

On Thursday I took the day off from hovel-hunting, and went to see some of Seattle. Left the car behind, which I'm hoping to do more and more often, and rode the train to the U District, which was my home once upon a time, and then to the Pike Place Market.

The University District, at least what I saw strolling around for an hour, seems about what I'd remembered. Crowds of college kids, lots of tiny ethnic restaurants, a big book store, and a few movie theaters. The Neptune, where I saw hundreds of old movies, no longer shows films at all, but at least it's still there and open for business. Likewise, the University Theater is long gone, but still there. What was once an art-house multiplex now screens only the latest hits, so I'll never be there again. My favorite sub shop has become a vacant lot. I couldn't find the boarding house I'd lived in, 30+ years back. It was sorta the U District though, and that was nice.

The Pike Place Market has always been a great place for fresh fish and local produce, with a huge assortment of artisan shops and food purveyors, all wrapped in a garish pastiche of high prices and showmanship. The fakery has encroached further — now there's a full-size multi-story Target store, not quite inside the Market but dominating the block, and there's a Hard Rock Café, where a dozen tourists and college kids sat on the sidewalk eating and gawking and mistakenly thinking they were at the Pike Place Market.

Thought I'd buy some vegetables and bring them home to Katrina and Mom, but all the veggies were clearly corporate — plastic-wrapped, UPC-affixed, and pricier than Safeway, so I bought nothing.

Seattle is mostly gone, and I'm adrift where it used to be.

♦ ♦ ♦

Mom: "See the skin hanging loose from that woman? She used to be fat, but lost a lot of weight and now she has loose flaps of skin." On TV, the Circus never ends.

♦ ♦ ♦

More and more, I sleep in the car. 

Every evening, there's ordinary conversation with Katrina, who then turns in early. There's conversation with Mom, even enjoyable conversation, and then when I'm ready to turn in, I say so, but she stays. She says "Good night, Doug," but never leaves the living room, continues watching the Circus shows on TV, continues chatting with me about whatever topic occurs to her, continues reading the newspaper with crinkly page-turning sounds that keep me from sleeping.

I always think she's done talking and making noise, and indeed, sometimes there's 10 or 15 minutes of blessed silence, but then she'll awaken me again. When it's happened half a dozen times, I say, "Good night again, I'm going to sleep in my car."

At that, Mom says, "Good night again," but stays in her chair watching TV and reading the paper. I sleep in the car for a few hours, then dart inside to pee, and when I do, Mom is still in her recliner, watching TV and reading the newspaper, or reading the Bible if she's finished with the Seattle Times.

I don't know how much of this is her wackiness, and how much of this is my wackiness. Maybe I ought to just stay in the car and skip the living room entirely.

What I know with certainty and need to say, though, is that she's not suffering from dementia. Mom is 90-something, yes, but she's been this way at least since I moved out of the house in the 1970s. 

♦ ♦ ♦

And now, my recent internet history, with sadly no porn at the library…

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Life advice from NYC chess hustlers 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

What does this 17th-century painting smell like? 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Texas woman charged with murder for 'self-induced abortion' 

"This arrest is inhumane. We are demanding the immediate release of Lizelle Herrera." said Rockie Gonzalez, founder and board chair of Frontera Fund. "What is alleged is that she was in the hospital and had a miscarriage and divulged some information to hospital staff, who then reported her to the police."

♦ ♦ ♦  

The 8-hour East Village standoff against a homeless-encampment sweep 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Four more Starbucks stores unionize, sending shivers to board rooms 

♦ ♦ ♦  

NYC cuts off Wells Fargo from new bank contracts following discrimination claims 

I like the thought, but isn't it obvious that no city, county, or state government should be doing business with any bank that's not headquartered in that city, county, or state?

♦ ♦ ♦  

What it means that an incel avoided prison for a terror hoax 

♦ ♦ ♦   

Ukraine’s wheat harvest, which feeds the world, can’t leave the country 

"There is nothing else to do but give the grain away to the army or as humanitarian aid. Ukraine, thankfully, will not starve," he said. "But if we are talking about global food security, well, that is already a fragile system. Climate change, supply chain chaos, and now this war — in six months' time, poor people will starve to death. I don’t think the world understands that yet." 

This is a crazy, unjust attack:
Pink Floyd re-form to support Ukraine

♦ ♦ ♦  

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an episode of Veronica Mars. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

Amtrak is streaming an empty railroad on Twitch to beef with freight rail companies 

By law, Amtrak’s passenger trains also have priority over freight traffic. But in practice this doesn’t happen, and freight traffic is the leading source of delays on Amtrak trains outside the Northeast Corridor, one of the only places Amtrak retains ownership of tracks (along with sections owned by state governments that also operate commuter rails). 

This is one of the key reasons rail travel in America is unreliable and underutilized.

♦ ♦ ♦  

In California, you can borrow state park passes from your local library. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

One-word newscast, because it's the same news every time...

♦ ♦ ♦

Me: "Good night, Mom. I'm falling asleep now."

Mom: "I think Mayim Bialik is doing just fine as host of Jeopardy."

Me: "I'm sure she is."

Mom: "Do you watch Jeopardy?"

Me: "No, I don't, and I'm going to sleep now."

Mom: "You don't watch anything, because you don't have a TV."

Me: (aggressively closing my eyes, but saying nothing) I answered a question, once, by saying that I don't have a TV, and now she tells me I don't have a TV whenever she's watching TV.

...several minutes later…

Mom: "Do you remember Lila Shields, who used to be Lila Murray?"

Me: "Yes." (Mom then narrates a brief documentary on the life and times of Lila Shields.)

...several minutes later…

Mom: "Do you know who Anna Ling is?"

Me: No reply, but yeah, I know who Anna Ling is, and I know that whether I answer yes, no, or don't answer, Mom will explain who Anna Ling is. Mom then explains who Anna Ling is.

...several minutes later…

Mom: "Did you spend a night in Sheridan, Wyoming?"

Me: "Yes," but actually, no. During the drive, I spent a night in Wyoming, but not in the town of Sheridan. Don't know where she got the Sheridan misconception, but I've already twice explained that I didn't sleep or even stop in Sheridan, Wyoming. As a kindness to Mom, this time I let it be Sheridan.

...several minutes later…

Mom checks the messages on her phone. There are no new messages, so she replays several old messages and texts. 

Me: "I'm trying to sleep."

Mom: "I'm just checking my messages."

Me: "OK, well, I'll be sleeping in my car," and I zip up my jacket and step outside.

...several hours later…

I return to the house to pee. Mom is still on her recliner, still reclined and under a blanket, now watching the Circus Freakshow Channel on TV at full volume. She appears to be asleep, and she's snoring, but as I walk past her toward the bathroom: "Do you watch Darcey & Stacey?"

Me: "No." I don't even know what that is.

Mom: "You don't watch anything, because you don't have a TV."

And then, while I'm peeing, she stands outside the bathroom door and loudly explains the premise of Darcey & Stacey. It's a TV show on the Circus channel.

...and then...

Mom, as I'm headed back to the car: "Will you come to church with me on Easter Sunday?"

Me: "No," as I close the door and walk back to the peace, quiet, and sanity of sleeping alone in a rusted Chevy.

♦ ♦ ♦

The End
    (two weeks' worth of death)
Eric Boehlert
Dagny Carlsson
Renny Cushing
Tommy Davis
Francisco González
Estelle Harris
Joan Joyce
John Korty
Richard Lipez
Jimmy Lydon
Patricia MacLachlan
Michelle Materre
CW McCall
Joe Messina
Ted Mooney
Nehemiah Persoff
Mimi Reinhardt
John Roach
Bobby Rydell
June Shagaloff Alexander
Liz Shore
Terry Wallis
Av Westin


Cranky Old Man is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to All Hat No Cattle, Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S., and always Stephanie...


  1. Don't forget
    To recline
    Just writing to remind you
    To recline
    Recline again

    1. An artist AND a poet. And you might have thought he was one of those "good field, no hit" guys.


    2. That is the best poem I've read in a long time and encapsulates Doug's mother perfect.

    3. Why thank you sir. I almost forgot to recline.

      I'm in my own place now, and have ordered a recliner, but it's being shipped via ground from Antarctica, so for a few days I still won't recline.

  2. I read the story about the Washington Square chess hustlers and it was well done, but might have implied that the interviewees were typical of the players in the Square. They're not.

    I only visited once (it's a 3,000 mile trip), but that was enough to discover that many of the hustlers are a little angry right out of the gate, and others seem to have tics that they're never going to control. Most aren't anywhere close to as articulate as the three gentlemen interviewed nor do they want to be. I'm not exactly shy, and I'm a mediocre chess player at best, but there's no way I would have played against any of the players that inhabit the park.

    It was a terrific article. I'm just cautioning you to not expect to see those three guys when you visit. They are atypical.


    1. Never been there myself. The only chess hustlers I've ever seen were in San Francisco, at Civic Center. I played just once, lost $5 in about three minutes.

  3. I had to check on TLC because I'm old and I only have one television which I rarely turn on. I remember it as The Learning Channel, but it had even higher aspirations prior to that. The Learning Channel evolved from the Appalachian Educational Satellite Project, a distance learning feed for isolated families.

    No more. I assume there's a word for a set of initials that don't stand for anything, but I'd rather make one up than look it up. That reminds me of a girl I dated a lifetime ago who stood for quite a bit at a time when quite a bit was hard to come by. Of course, it was easy to come by. Jesus, all of a sudden I'm a dirty comic in a sleazy bar in Reno with a two drink minimum.

    So TLC stands for whatever you want it to, and it features "reality programming". I don't get cable: I have a thirty dollar antenna, but if that's reality, heaven help us.


    1. Even 5-7 years ago, TLC was at least watchable, though it already had nothing to do with 'learning'. Also, possibly it's better than it seems, because Mom watches it with the volume at 100%.

      AARP now stands for AARP.

      I think NAACP stands for NAACP.

      Seems like just another stupid trend to me.

  4. I keep seeing that title, "The Sheridan Misconception". It kept sounding familiar, or at least resonant. I finally figured it out. It's Robert Ludlum's new book. Sorry about the book joke. I know you're not a big book fan.


    1. Robert Ludlum writes like a dead author. Ha! That's my book joke for the day.

  5. Gilbert Gottfried was a funny comic, but his podcast, which was able to capture the voices of an entire comedy/film generation before they left the earth will still be "on the air" in a hundred years. The chances of there being any human ears to hear the broadcasts are so close to zero, it makes me nervous.


    1. I should listen to this and hope I do. It's surprising how saddened I am by GG's death. He was too easy to take for granted, but the clips have convinced me I should've been a bigger fan.

  6. You mom is so crazy I (forgive me) hope you can't quickly find an apartment and you stay with her for a month. It's hilarious man!

    1. Well, you lose, sucker. Mom and I are now seven miles instead of seven feet apart, a more workable distance.

  7. MY friend was watching 90 Day Romance on TLChannel. I checked it out and it was very addictive. He said he had quit but when I checked back later he admitted to still watching it. I think the attraction is that no matter how shitty your life is it's not as bad as those characters on the show, so you can actually feel better about yourself watching it. (My friend is depressed.)
    It doesn't take much to get addicted to TV stuff: about thirty years ago I was taping the Olympics and the recording ran into the soap opera Days of Our Lives about fifteen minutes. I watched the fifteen and then the show for about six months...scary!

    1. My wife liked Cake Boss and Say Yes to the Dress, but those shows seem genetically quite different from everything on that channel now. Everything I saw on TLC in the past few weeks made me want a long hot shower.

      Sorry about your depressed friend. Hope it helped.

      I was kinda hooked on All My Children for a while, many years ago.

  8. Warmest congrats on moving into your own place. In a way the week that preceded it made it seem all the more valuable. I trust you're near mass transit and groceries and old-time strip joints with untunable pianos. You know, the best of Seattle. Vaya sin Dios.


    1. Thanks for the housewarming wishes. I'm not near anything except a bus stop that connects with Life every ten minutes. Which is good enough, I guess.

      Only been a strip club once, and I was embarrassed. Twice, if belly-dancing counts, and I was embarrassed again. My life feels debauchery deprived — let's make up for lost embarrassments.

    2. Ah strip joints, got a few stories about those...
      I went a couple times JUST as they opened and i
      was the only guy there, felt like the show was all mine...
      But when other dudes drifted in it got too real and I didn't want
      to hang out with anyone who went to a place like that (to paraphrase Groucho)

    3. Guess I'm just impatient, but if I woman is gyrating or stripping or acting sexy in front of me, I want an orgasm. She can give it or I can do it myself, I ain't picky, but neither is allowed at a strip club so it just doesn't seem practical to me. Give me a video I can stream instead, and we can skip all the watered-down drinks and seedy elements of strip club management and patrons.


The site's software sometimes swallows comments. For less frustration, send an email and I'll post it as a comment.