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Hey, that store clerk didn't wish me 'Merry DeWyze Day'
By Burt Constable | Daily Herald Columnist

Lee DeWyze in downtown Chicago this morning.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 5/14/2010 11:36 AM | Updated: 5/14/2010 5:07 PM

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I feel as out of place as a Jewish kid in line for Santa's Workshop, a gay Mexican at a Sarah Palin rally or a Cubs fan watching a World Series championship parade.

Friday is Lee DeWyze Day in the suburbs. The Daily Herald staff is tweeting round-the-clock about everything the "American Idol" TV contestant does, and I halfheartedly feign mild interest.

Just because I don't actively celebrate DeWyze Day doesn't mean I am anti-DeWyze. Although I must admit the first time I saw his name crack our front page, I confused him with Dewayne Wise, that White Sox outfielder who saved Mark Buehrle's perfect game by taking a home run away from Tampa Bay hitter Gabe Kapler, whom I also confuse with a guy from TV land.

DeWyze seems like a nice guy and I wish him well, it's just that I don't care one whit about anything that happens on "American Idol."

Lots and lots of people do, and that makes me feel as if I'm missing something. I haven't felt this out of the loop since I attended a literary banquet years ago where my friend Charles Dickinson, a novelist and short-story writer who lives in Arlington Heights, was up for a writing award. Saul Bellow was at the main table, and the writers at my table were discussing their favorite Latin American authors. I avoided eye contact because the only Latin American entry rattling around my empty noggin was "High and Inside," the autobiography of baseball great Orlando Cepeda.

Literature and TV can make people feel left out, even stupid. So can sports. You'd never even know Friday was DeWyze Day if all you did was listen to sports talk radio. Those stations were celebrating LeBron James Speculation Day, with many praying the free-agent basketball player might end up in Chicago.

During the Michael Jordan Bulls run, I wrote a column about a Mundelein girl who could name every character in Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," but didn't know Scottie Pippen from Horace Grant. She turned out OK.

In other circles, LaBron is trumped by discussions of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagen, who, like DeWyze, is trying to impress a panel that will decide her fate.

As popular as "American Idol" seems, lots of American televisions sit idle when it airs.

"In my household, we try to establish a set of guidelines and rules that make sense _ no computers, phones, television during the week," Michelle Obama recently told CNN in a statement that apparently means Malia and Sasha never watch "American Idol" live in the White House.

People who shun TV can come across as snooty intellectuals who think they're better than the flat-screen folks. Even though I just went way out of my way to drop a Saul Bellow reference into a column about how I don't watch "American Idol," I understand those who can't get enough of DeWyze.

There was a time when I felt sorry for anyone who didn't know the name of TV's Laura Palmer. My wife and I and all the smart, happening people we knew always carved out an hour before we went out on Saturday nights to watch "Twin Peaks" on our big 19-inch TV.

The show was brilliant and crisp and had us craving cherry pie and black coffee and talking about murders and love. Then it added bizarre twists, an otherworldly killer named Bob, a dancing little person and a giant, who warned "the owls are not what they seem."

I stopped watching, but I think "Twin Peaks" still airs today under the name of "Lost," which seems to have a similar following.

We can't keep up with everything on TV. Some people totally missed "The Sopranos." Others, mindful of the hours spent watching TV, opt not to add a show called "24" to the mix. When people talk about "Jersey Shore," I might as well be Andy Rooney.

That's OK. One person's craze is another person's crazy obsession. Which reminds me: Even if I want to, I don't have time to read a new DeWyze tweet every 90 seconds. As soon as he throws his first pitch, the Cubs game is on.