You know it’s a good day when your biggest disappointment is not being able to livestream a Roy Rogers movie more than half a century after Trigger was taxidermied.
The Trail of Robin Hood — a Christmas-themed 1950 Western in which the cowboy’s stunning Palomino gets star billing — is apparently too wholesomely chunky to travel through invisible waves or light particles or on the backs of magic monkeys, all of which, to me, are plausible explanations of how streaming works. But Saturday’s little glitch could not dim my enthusiasm for being newly able to livestream the only cable channel I’ve missed since emerging from a post-analog TV blackout as a cord-cutter several years ago.
Having access to Turner Classic Movies’ wonderful library of old cinema is one delight, as movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age (and earlier) are too ancient and unhip to have much of a presence on Netflix or Amazon Prime. But what really delighted me — this I realized with a start — was the notion of having to plan to watch a movie, to be present at a certain time and place because that’s when it’s going to air. In an age of on-demand viewing, I’d almost forgotten what that feels like.
Surprisingly, it feels good — right, somehow — to make some small but necessary effort in order to achieve a desired end. And that effort put a gloss on my anticipation yesterday as I arranged other activities around an evening screening of Meet Me in St. Louis. It was almost as if I had missed being inconvenienced, as if my doughy First World constitution was longing for some minor exertion in exchange for another pleasure that has become too readily available. I could pluck the movie from TCM’s library for viewing at any time, but I wanted this other; I wanted to cooperate with something other than my own impulses, my own immediate gratification.
I’ve chosen a kindred experience recently with Amazon Prime, after learning the high environmental costs of the free two-day delivery to which so many of us have become accustomed. I forego it now, reverting to the not-so-olden days when receiving a package by mail in a week seemed plenty good enough.
Such individual choices probably aren’t significant in a consumer culture that makes everything available for consumption within 48 hours, if not right now. And opting to delay gratification, or at least make some concession to it, is laughable against a scenario of real, involuntary privation. Yet even small resistances to the market’s mindless momentum may call forth the qualities it continually erodes — discipline, patience, a broader perspective — which as measures of character seem endangered in American society as a whole.
I want to be disciplined; I want to cultivate patience; I want to think about something more than my own proximate pleasure. So I guess I want to practice inconvenience.
I thought of that yesterday, as I did laundry, baked Christmas treats and tidied the house, working purposefully toward a clear two-hour window at 6 p.m. Because that’s when Meet Me in St. Louis was showing.