Monday, November 8, 2010

Goodbye Tinfoil Angel

It's a sad day for the tinfoil angel. It remains perched between the rabbit ears of my faithful Sylvania TV, retired by technology and cable television; replaced by boxes and dishes that no one understands. The tinfoil angel was graceful in its simplicity and ability to receive free television from the airwaves. On a stormy night, a slight adjustment of her wings could invite a picture clear as a bell.

I can't begin to count how many televised concerts, sporting events, and special reports have been brought into focus by the tinfoil angel. Neighbors used to come to me in a panic at the outset of football games and ask for one of the angels. You can bet I received many slaps on the back along with a free beverage when the picture came in near perfect, thanks to the hand-wrought efforts of the angel.

When America first walked on the moon, I was in a small cabin in the redwood forests of northern California with two friends. We had a shabby black and white TV and a roll of tinfoil which quickly morphed into an airwave-capturing device. The stalwart little angel assisted NASA in bringing the picture into focus in that austere shelter, enabling mankind (three hippies) to witness the historic event. Looking back, the moment was not unlike the three wise men at the manger in Bethlehem, except we didn't have any camels, and I'm guessing the three wise men didn't have access to righteous weed. But the angel was there to make sure we witnessed the most magnificent technological leap humans have made in our lifetime.

So it is with great sadness that this artifact, a time-proven craft (some say it's an art), is destined for the trash bin. Oh, a few might survive and one day wind up on a future version of the Antiques Road Show where the appraiser will explain with a little pointer how the rare piece of Americana used to aid in television reception. And he'll probably go on to remark how so few survived the transition to cable TV.

To give the tinfoil angel one last chance at immortality, it seemed prudent to place a call to the Smithsonian. After several departmental transfers and being put on hold to a recording of Elvis singing "In the Ghetto" (apparently the King still has some influence in the nation's capitol), contact was made:

--Smithsonian: Hello, Lawrence Darton, curator of acquisitions.
--Me: Hi Larry. I have a tinfoil angel you might like for your museum.
--Smithsonian: We generally don't deal in religious items.
--Me: No, you don't understand, this is not a religious angel.
--Smithsonian: What is the affiliation of the angel?
--Me: No affiliation. It's a TV angel.
--Smithsonian: So you see this angel on your TV?
--Me: On top of the TV.
--Smithsonian: Did it hop out of the picture and perch itself on top of the set?
--Me: It's on top of the TV because that's where I put it. It's made of tinfoil.
--Smithsonian: Oh, I see. We get lots of those: the image of Jesus on a tortilla, Mary on a pancake, Elvis on a Ritz cracker. We consider these accidental coincidences and not appropriate for display in the museum.
--Me: This tinfoil angel is no accident, I can assure you. It was crafted by my own two hands.
--Smithsonian: Perhaps you'd be better off talking to a member of your local clergy.
--Me: For thirty years, my handcrafted angels have been assisting me and others with television transmission.
--Smithsonian: Perhaps if you buried your figurine in your yard, the way many Catholics bury Saint Joseph when they are selling their homes, it will continue to bring you good luck with your TV.
--Me: This has nothing to do with luck. It's science. Artful science.
--Smithsonian: Oh, and what science would that be?
--Me: The science of the airwaves. When one of the angel's wings is affixed to the antennae, the other wing can be manipulated in order to secure a clear picture. At least that's how it used to work before technology made all tinfoil angels obsolete.
--Smithsonian: Sir, we deal in reality.
--Me: You have Fonzie's leather jacket and Dorothy's red shoes, don't you?
--Smithsonian: Yes we do. Both, popular acquisitions.
--Me: Well, Fonzie is not real. He's pretend, an actor. Same with Dorothy and her much-celebrated red shoes.
--Smithsonian: What's your point?
--Me: The tinfoil angel is real and has been a valuable service to American homes for many years.
--Smithsonian: Thank you for your interest, but I'm very busy.
--Me: Do you have the number of the Antiques Roadshow?
--Smithsonian: (click).

The lack of vision of those in charge is sometimes quite startling.