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The big switch
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Television-watching has always been a nighttime pursuit for me. Dressing for work to the sounds of the Today show has never been my idea of a good way to start the morning. But last Friday I made a point to turn on the TV around 9 am.

On Channel 11 it was snowing. Channel 3 helpfully had a fuzzy, grey and white message broadcasting, its general theme being "if you can read this, your analog TV watching days are over."

Welcome to the digital age, baby.

After a several-months delay and plenty of warning to non-cable people like me, on Friday morning, TV stations across the country switched over from old-timey analog broadcasting to newfangled digital signals.

Now my rabbit ears antenna, perched atop the television I inherited from my grandmother after she died in 1995, is solely a decorative item. The TV is still functional, serving as the monitor for my DVD player.

Less than a week after "The Big Switch," so far I've had only the slightest pang of longing for the good old days of television.

For starters, my Facebook friends tell me that all weekend, the biggest national news story being aired was that the Big Switch had happened, and that millions of households weren't prepared for the new era. Newscasters filled the newly-digital airwaves (are they still airwaves?) interviewing people who had not switched their TV's, and who would not be able to watch themselves on TV when their interviews were broadcast.

Then there were all the events on last weekend's roster that beat out TV watching, analog or digital.

Despite stellar competition from the Statts benefit and the Steve Earle concert, for me the simple pleasures of hometown living won out. Coffee and "hot off the roller" doughnuts at Krispy Kreme with a high school buddy. Online photos of church friends at their Friday graduation from Savannah Arts Academy.

The sweet victory of figuring out, with a neighbor, exactly how the heck to start our jointly-owned lawn mower, then cutting the front lawn before the heat became stifling.

The sweet harmony of Sacred Heart Church's folk choir, accompanying a Saturday afternoon wedding in the Bull Street sanctuary. Father Higgins' homily during the service, on all the ways to say I love you---" ‘How was your day?' or, ‘I was wrong,' or, ‘Can I get you something from the store?' "

And the thrill of finding, on my porch, a still-in-the-box digital TV converter kit, complete with remote, courtesy of a friend who had an extra one in the garage.

Perhaps this week I will get around to connecting the converter to the rabbit ear antenna. But first there's the lawn edging to finish, another wedding this Saturday, and a stack of books on the night stand.

With so much going on, those rabbit ears may end up as a permanently decorative item.


My Friend Harry Deal

Just before Easter I learned that my new friend Coach Harry Deal was in the hospital, injured when he was hit by an automobile in a parking lot in March, a few weeks after his favorite annual event, the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

I met Coach Deal in the sunshine of Gwinnett Street this past March 17, as we waited together for the parade to start. Soon afterward I wrote in this column about getting to know Coach Deal--the Grand Marshall for the 1999 parade-while serving as his parade driver, the honor and thrill I felt, spending that short time with him and his family, and the way he and his family scooped me up like I was part of the Deal clan.

Driving the parade route took us less than two hours, but in that time I could tell by the response from the crowds what an impact Coach made during his decades of service to students at Benedictine and at St. James School, as well as to the parade committee in his years as adjutant.

In a short telephone interview a few days after the parade, Coach Deal's greeting was energetic, warm and enthusiastic. I asked him about the long-defunct Drum and Bugle Corps he led at St. James School during the 1970's, and despite the decades gone by, he recalled individual corps members' names with clarity and fondness.

Days after the column was published, Coach was injured, and never fully recovered. He died on June 3 at age 84.

My friendship with Coach Deal was measured in hours, not years, but I miss him deeply all the same.