When you’re home sick with a cold, you’ll watch almost anything on TV

John Kelly
Columnist January 15

Did you know that Ringo Starr could never do a proper drum roll? I can’t, either, yet I can say the words — well, type the words — “Drum roll, please!”

So with an imaginary snare buzz echoing in your mind, allow me to announce the grand total of this year’s “John Kelly’s Washington” fundraising campaign for Children’s National: $467,990.41.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

We bested our $400,000 goal, and I’m enormously grateful. Underpinning this year’s campaign was the generous matching grant given by Bill and Joanne Conway, who donated $150,000 through their Bedford Falls Foundation. But that strong start would have been for naught if thousands of readers hadn’t dug deep.

Or dug shallow, for the beauty of this campaign — a fixture in the paper since this column started in the 1940s (under different authorship, obviously) — is that many little acorns come together to make a mighty oak. Gifts of $10 or $25 are just as appreciated as those of $1,000 or $150,000.

I’ll have some specific thank-yous in a future column to the many groups that pooled their money to donate, but for now, thank you one and all.

Remembrance of sicknesses past

I’m suffering from my January cold. I get it every year: a telltale scratchiness in the throat, followed by aches, pains and a stuffy nose and chest. I stay home and recline on the couch, surrounded by spent tissues and my remote control(s).

This takes me back to the sick days of my youth. What I always hoped for, of course, was to be sick enough to stay home from school, but not so sick that I couldn’t be in the living room, basking in something I never got to see: daytime television.

It’s the commercials I remember most. “You’ll look better in a sweater washed in Woolite,” went the snappy jingle of one. “Ancient Chinese secret” was the catchphrase of another. “Calgon, take me away,” pleaded an overwhelmed housewife.

These ads were windows into the inscrutable world of adults, or at least into the world that Madison Avenue wanted to reach: women worried about their sweaters. Even at age 8 or 9 I suspected that the best things about Woolite were the song, which I’ll be able to sing to my dying day, and the logo: oddly formal letters that look like German Fraktur.

Ja Wohlite!

The shows themselves were things like reruns of “The Lucy Show” and “Family Affair.” Pretty crappy, now that I think of it, “Family Affair,” especially. (Jody? Buffy? A guy named Mr. French who’s actually English?) Its ratings were no doubt helped by all the feverish third-graders too lazy to get up from their sickbeds to change the channel.

What I did appreciate was the oddly comforting feeling of community I got watching television in the middle of a weekday. I was a sensitive child, prone to bouts of unhealthy thoughtfulness, and there was something reassuring about knowing that I was one of millions of Americans who were all watching the same Woolite commercial at the same time.

When I got older, TV choices got better. In high school, I was home for two weeks with mono. I gorged on the classic movies Channel 26 showed in the early afternoons and got a mini-education in film: Alec Guinness in “The Lavender Hill Mob,” “The Ladykillers” and “The Man in the White Suit”; Francois Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows.”

Maybe it was because I was sick — my brow hot, my throat a minefield of pain — but I found myself susceptible to the charms of these old black-and-white movies. I wallowed in a weird nostalgia, missing, at age 16, a past I never had.

What have I learned during my most recent sniffly stint? That more channels doesn’t mean better options. On Tuesday. I stumbled across a channel called LMN, which sounds nicely alphabetical (I want to see OPQ!) but apparently stands for Lifetime Movie Network.

I watched a made-for-TV film called “The Perfect Roommate,” about a bad girl — you knew she was bad because she had black hair — who moved into an apartment with a nice girl just to seduce the nice girl’s rich father and then kill him to get his money.

In the best scene, the nice girl goes to her childhood home one morning (to pick up scholarship papers!) and finds the bad girl sipping a cup of post-coital coffee in the kitchen. The worst thing isn’t that the bad girl has slept with the nice girl’s father, it’s what the bad girl is wearing. Wails the nice girl: “And that’s my shirt!” I believe the title — “The Perfect Roommate” — is meant to be ironic.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go lie down.

Bye for now

And I’m taking a little break. My column will resume Jan. 27.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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