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« The Parallax View - (Watergate on the Tube: Part Two) | Main | Just talk natural, why dontcha? »
Thursday
Feb162017

Watergate and other truths from the tube (Part One)

This week my novel was released on NetGalley – a service I only learned about recently, since working with my publisher. This is a very exciting moment for me as it is the first wave of readers for Fall In One Day (there have been some advance readers before this, who read "not quite finished" versions of the novel).

But as the novel goes into the wild, or goes out there in stages (one jungle tree at a time? Looking for the proper wilderness metaphor but coming up short), I'm very curious to see if the story and characters that have been in my head for a number of years will catch a reader's interest.

While I await for the full launch and release of Fall in One Day, I find that I've been wondering about the releasing of a novel, at this time in our political history, that has the going-ons of 1973 as its historical backdrop – notably, I am thinking about Watergate.

Watergate has always fascinated me. In 1973, I was 10 years old, and a child of the library and American TV. I say the library because I spent hours there, I was an advanced reader for my age, and devoured books of all genres. The American TV had to do with growing up in a city, one of the first in Canada, to have more than a few channels. We didn't know it as cable TV (all TVs had cables, so what would "cable TV" mean?) We called it "Co-Ax". At the time, I had no idea that was the name of the cable (co-axial) that plugged us into the wonder of a multi-channel universe. My wife grew up in a larger city that only had 2 channels, both Canadian. I grew up in a place that had 7, or 8 channels, if you counted the French one. As a testament to those days, I can still recite the channels: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13 and the French one.(10 maybe?) 


Now the great mother-corp., CBC was on 2, and it was mostly boring... unless you liked hockey, news, Tommy Hunter, and the Pig and Whistle (an odd British Pub, that was actually filmed in Toronto, that became a popular show, my mother's favourite in fact). Channels 3 and 7 were out of the small city of Yorkton. Now why a small city would have two stations, where the capital (Regina, my wife's city) only had one, was a mystery I didn't delve into, or even care about. Whoever was running this station had the wisdom to feed me a steady stream of spaghetti westerns, war pictures, and kooky spy stuff (Not just Bond, but Flint, and Matt Helm!

 

But besides the two movie channels, which was how I thought of the Yorkton stations, it was all about the channels 6 and 13. Both were from North Dakota, Minot and Williston, and this was American TV – a whole 'nother thing. Shows sounded different, actors looked different, and were actually famous people, the commercials were different, all the kids shows were cooler, trippy even (H.R. Pufnstuf anyone?). Shows like Star Trek were in syndication, as was Hogan's Heroes, Mayberry, and Dick Van Dyke. I was forced to sit through the Canadian channels as my parents usually decided what we were watching (see above list). One oddity, a show that could have been co-written by Norman Lear and David Lynch, was a variety show on Yorkton TV, called "Profile" – basically, a local talent show. I could fill a whole blog post on this show (maybe later) – just to say that a lot of my memories from this era were of waiting for the time when I could switch back to the U.S. station to watch Columbo, Mannix, re-watch another Star Trek, or another Eastwood/Leone western. My parents liked Gunsmoke and Bonanza, but after watching Clint stare down Indigo, with a hammered metal plate under his poncho, taking shot after shot into the chest... well Hoss and Little Joe arguing, or Miss Kitty doing whatever she did, just didn't cut it.

So in the summer of '73, on vacation, and eating up as much TV as I could before getting my ass booted outside to "get the stink blown off me" (a fave expression of my mother's), something came on the air that interrupted the steady flow of detectives, gunslingers, and Starship captains. Every show got kicked off the air for the cameras to watch a room full of men, maybe some women too (I'm sure there were both), talk for hours about something that had happened in the U.S. government. They seemed, in my somewhat blurry memory, to be in a bleacher type setting. Rows and rows of them, microphones, earpieces, names appearing under whomever was speaking, a tone of seriousness, something was definitively going down.

Now at first, I was just pissed, and bored. I didn't understand any of it. And watching it for long periods didn't make things any clearer. I figured it would play out, and they'd be back to Kirk fighting the Gorn any minute. But it just kept going and going, day after day. Mom didn't have to boot me outside. I'd wake up, flick on the tube, see the hearings still going on, and flick it off.

Still, a fascination began to develop - something that became full blown obsessions later, in my teen years and early 20's, and then much later when I first wrote a chapter of a novel that would become Fall in One Day.

I realized, even as a 10 year-old, that something was happening that had not happened before. And this wasn't a movie, this was news. They called it Watergate, and I didn't know why. Was that the name of a person, a place, an event? I sensed the seriousness. I'd like to think I sensed the truth being hidden – but I wonder if that came after. So many of my favourite movies from the 1970s explored this idea of truth being hidden. Three Days of the Condor (1975), Parallax View (1974), Night Moves (1975)... though, in a sense a detective movie, still one that obscured truth, a truth that the main character never uncovers (brilliantly shown at the end of the film with the visual metaphor of a boat going in circles), and of course, All the President's Men, (I have lost count how many times I've seen this film.)

The idea of Watergate and what it meant for all of us, not just for the United States, touches on the whole idea of hidden truth.

I'll explore more of what this meant then, and what it means in our current political environment in my next post.

But for now, do "enjoy" some trippy fun. The one and only LSD inspired (I am sure), H.R. Pufnstuf!

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