After puttering around our den, Bull wanted to know if he should run the cable to the roof through the window or drill a hole in the wall. "Through the window," said Laura immediately. "This is a temporary arrangement."
The concept of a satellite dish on the premises disturbed her. Some background on Laura: She is, like me, a journalist. She has, unlike me, taken poetry workshops. It was her idea to name our daughter Willa, after the novelist Willa Cather. Her philosophy on television: Time spent in front of the tube is time that could be spent reading. I attribute it to the complexity of her character, rather than to hypocrisy, that on Thursday nights when Friends comes on you cannot pry her from the set.
Laura's problem with my new toy was this: A dish on one's property fairly shrieks, Trailer park! The fact that the DirecTV dish is 18 inches in diameter and invisible from the street failed to sway her. "It's not that," she huffed. "It's the fact that it's there."
I went up on the roof to hang with Bull, someone who was excited about DirecTV, someone who was on board with the project. I'd never been on my roof before. Noticing that I was peering into my neighbors' windows, Bull told me how, during a recent job in San Francisco, he'd been walking on someone's roof when he stumbled upon a woman "taking a sun shower," in his words. "She had on nothing."
Bull averages two installations a day, I learned after eliciting from him a physical description of the sunbather. Not too long ago he put a dish on former San Francisco 49er coach (and now DirecTV spokesman) Bill Walsh's house. As we talked, Bull read a meter that measured the strength of the satellite's signal. "Between 75 and 80 is good," he said. "The highest I've ever gotten was an 82. You're a 79."
How strong was Bill Walsh's signal? "He was a 78," said Bull.
I found this knowledge to be deeply satisfying.
My immersion in the DirecTV universe did not officially begin until the next morning, but I thought it would be wise to subject myself to a sort of freshman orientation. After dinner I clicked on the set.
I skimmed past several hoops and hockey games and stopped at NewSport Talk. A man with defiantly garish suspenders—I discovered that obnoxious braces are host Chet Coppock's sartorial trademark—was interviewing Richard Sandomir, The New York Times sports media critic. They were discussing the Arts & Entertainment Network's recent Three Stooges retrospective.
"I loved it," Sandomir was saying. "You saw when Moe started combing his hair forward. You saw Curly when he actually had hair. You saw how valuable Shemp was as the utility Stooge."