Surprising inspiration from an unlikely source

I’m going to reveal something about myself here, something that is completely embarrassing and might even make some of you respect me less. But because we all have embarrassing confessions stored up in our mental vaults, I feel comfortable telling you all anyways. Here goes: I have a decades-long habit of becoming entirely obsessed with and devotedly loyal to really awful sitcoms. And not just sorta bad—I mean really bad. This habit has led me to watch every single episode of such television atrocities as Charmed, Reba (The Reba McEntyre Show), The Nanny, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All terrible, I know.


The whole thing started one winter when I spent far too many weeks on the couch in front of the TV while wood-burning a giant trailhead map for one of our trail systems at camp. As I slowly traced the carbon paper outline of roads and trees with the smoking tip of my soldering tool, I kept the TV on to keep me company. The daytime lineup always included at least two episode of the sitcom, Roseanne. I watched the pilot episode and, unimpressed, left the channel on out of pure laziness. The weeks wore on and as I completed the four-foot-by-three-foot map, I kept watching. Finally, the series finale aired, and I watched with tears in my eyes and I said goodbye to the characters to whom I’d grown so attached.


I was surprised by the literary quality of this final segment in the show’s history, and was stunned when a poignant quote appeared on the screen as the parting image. I didn’t write it down, but instead turned the TV off and picked up a book. Over the last several years, I’ve tried to remember that quote with no success. I couldn’t even remember who wrote it. I did Google searches galore, poured through all of Thoreau’s Walden and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, with still no luck. I knew parts of it, and would try to remember the rest, always keeping an eye out for any random Roseanne episode airings.


Yesterday, while I wrote descriptions for hotels in India, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia (sounds much more exciting than it really is), I happened to see that the final episode of Roseanne was set to play in the afternoon. I set my DVR to record the episode, and went back to work, anxiously awaiting 4 pm. I fast-forwarded to the last five minutes of the show and watched with much excitement. At long last, the following quote from T.E. Lawrence appeared on the screen:

Those who dream by night, in the dusty recesses of their minds,

wake in the day to find that all was vanity;

but the dreamers of the day

are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams

with open eyes, and make it possible.


This may come from a writer with slightly less literary prowess than Thoreau or Whitman, and through a surprising source, but I’ll take it. As I wait around with my little manuscript floating around out there in Pitch-Land, an experience I used to only dream of, I’ll take it as inspiration. Regardless of how it came to me.


As for Charmed and Reba, well, there’s really no excuse there. No literary moments to make the canned laughter and pun-jokes worthwhile. No excuse at all.


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