Archive for the Uncategorized Category

50 Years

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13, 2013 by davegerry

JFK

I am reposting this from a few years ago. The television is awash with the image of JFK. How can it possibly have been 50 years? I can’t say it better than I did originally.

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I watched a PBS special on the Kennedys last night. I have seen it before but that did not stop me from viewing it again. And I cannot watch it without emotion. It is a well-measured piece of journalism which does nothing to gloss over the personal shortcomings that percolated beneath the public triumphs of the pre-eminent American political family.

The Kennedys are a sizable hunk of mythology to much of the population. But for some of us, old enough to remember, there’s a kind of collective, recollective scar that twitches to this day.

I have bookshelves full of titles on the Kennedys. Why?  I have, at times, obsessively immersed myself in their story. This is no mere ghoulish fascination but, rather, a futile attempt to connect with a hopeful yet desperate time. My friends know that if I could send myself back it would be to the year that I was 10 years old. 1963 was a watershed year. No one who lived through it does not carry a bit of its baggage in hand.

They sent us home from school early the day John F. Kennedy died. One minute I was tossing a basketball during recess..the next, we were all walking home at a very unfamiliar time of the afternoon. I remember coming through the front door to find that my mother was absolutely shattered. Shattered. I remember that she took me to a movie that same night (because she had promised to) and I will never forget that she sat there beside me quietly crying throughout the film. No ten-year old could truly understand what had just happened. But it didn’t matter because the impact had gone home. No child wants to see a parent in that kind of pain.

Five years passed.

Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were killed just few months before my mother succumbed to cancer in the Autumn of 1968. It was the worst year of my life. I often wonder, despite her devotion to her family, if my mother ever doubted the sanity of the world..ever wondered if it was still a place worth living in… as she lay in bed, at home, waiting for the end.

Many, many years later I travelled to Dallas. I was there to produce some television but when I swept open the drapes in my hotel room I found that I was looking directly down into Dealey Plaza. Director Oliver Stone had just finished production of his film JFK. The Texas School Book Depository sign, put back for the movie, still sat atop the building.

I dropped everything and told the cameraman that before we did anything..anything at all..we would have to walk into Dealey Plaza. This was not negotiable.

We approached up the sidewalk in the same direction as the fateful motorcade and I looked up at the window. You had to look at the window. There was a tangible, physical pull. And then we turned the corner at the intersection and it was all there. All of it….the freeway overpass, the railway fence, the grassy knoll, the spot where Abraham Zapruder had stood, camera in hand. I could have walked it blindfolded. And it was overwhelming. It was the strongest sense of deja vu I had ever experienced and will likely ever experience. We have all seen this place so many times, from so many angles, that it is impossible to believe you have not visited before.

The plaza was full of people..most of whom were standing alone in their thoughts. They lingered by the curb, right about the spot where they presumed the President took the fatal bullet. (There is a plaque to mark the location now.) People looked at the window and they looked at the knoll and their gaze drifted back again to the street. And then they did the same sequence all over again…like a choreographed observational ballet. Everyone, in their mind’s eye, was cycling through the various theories. Most of all though, people cried. Just silent streams of tears. They wept for a moment that no one really wanted to remember but most were helpless to ignore.

There is an extraordinary museum dedicated to this event on the sixth floor of the old building. It is the biggest tourist draw in the city of Dallas, which for many years did its best to fight the legacy. But the people who pour through the door are there because of a compulsion they can’t completely define. It has to do with who you were and what you became and how that notable family and its fate left both a public and personal mark. If you go to Dallas you will feel it too….the communal, cathartic revelation that occurred curb side in a flash frozen corner of the 20th century.

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Bon Voyage

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on October 3, 2013 by davegerry

plane

Yesterday’s mail brought my new passport. It took a week.  A week !  I couldn’t quite believe it. I’m pretty sure I was at the passport office longer than a week just waiting for my number to be called.

It’s always a marvellous thing when the system (any system) works the way it should. We have such low expectations now of bureaucracy that anything short of total failure is celebrated. No one is celebrating south of the border at the moment. Our American cousins are in a pickle and you have to feel for them. I keep reading posts from people online who are having their cherished travel plans disrupted because they can’t get access to the National Parks in the United States. People visiting Maui, for example, can no longer drive to the top of Haleakala to view the sunrise. The parks personnel have been furloughed. I guess visitors will have to settle for another day on some beach. There’s a first-world problem, folks.

But kudos to the people who handle Canadian passport applications. I’m good to go (literally) for another ten years.

What kind of traveller will I be by the time I need to have another passport photo taken? It would be wonderful if I was slightly more flexible…..more pliable than, say, a Kaiser porcelain hummingbird figurine. But people rarely loosen up as they age. We get more brittle.

I tend to be selectively clenched. I will agonize over a parking space for a rental car but have become far more forgiving when it comes to holiday wardrobe. One trip, I ended up in Bermuda without a single pair of shorts. My wife…who does all the packing…blamed me because I had not thrown the shorts on the bed with the other items of clothing. Fortunately, Bermuda is the World Retail Capital of Shorts…so I sweat nary a dewy drop.

No shorts? No sweat.

No shorts? No sweat.

Travel clothing selection seems to less stressful as you age. This is why you often see older couples in matching outfits. They’ve given up. They don’t give a damn anymore. I’m with her and she’s with me…and we don’t care who knows it. I like that. So I think we can get the luggage allotment down to just two bags in the future. One for the matching outfits…and the other for the medications.

Bathrobe Weather

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 1, 2013 by davegerry
Wake me when it's over

Wake me when it’s over

We are currently experiencing the kind of weather that makes one never want to get out of bed. This has been going on for about a week. You retire for the night to the sound of pounding rain on the roof..and the same relentless drumming is still there in the morning.

Should you feel compelled to crawl out of bed, but be blessed with nothing better to do, I would suggest remaining in your bathrobe. It’s bathrobe weather, basically.

Bathrobe weather means it is your sworn duty to remain cosy. Cosy is key. You look outside and it’s as dark at 10am as it will be at 6pm. There is so much rain coming down that your eaves-troughs cannot handle the flow. Every petal from every summer flower has now been beaten soundly to the ground. Pelicans could high-dive in your birdbath. It is the kind of weather that makes you want to shave your head because there is no way to maintain any manner of presentable coif.

The problem with staying in a bathrobe from sunup to sundown is that you may associate this outfit with being ill. Some people need to feel the presence of buttons to achieve a state of wellness. So have some soup. Soup and slippers and a bathrobe are the keys to surviving these god-awful Pacific winters. (Don’t think too much about the fact that everyone in hospital has got the soup and slippers and bathrobe combo going too.)

Workplaces often have ‘casual Friday’s’….so why not a ‘bathrobe Tuesday’? It would be something to get on a bus full of people in bathrobes. It’s been my experience that half of them haven’t shaved anyway.

I would write more but bathrobe weather has drained every last vestige of motivation from my being.

Plus, the soup is ready. We’ll talk later.

The Case for a Kinder, Gentler Kitchen

Posted in Food, Glorious Food, Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 13, 2013 by davegerry
knife:fork

The tools of civility, not combat.

I just saw a promo for a new tv cooking show where, once again, it’s some kind of culinary competition. This one will allow people to cheat, lie and openly sabotage the work of the other chefs. Charming.

I think it’s great we have entire channels devoted to the joy of food, but really folks, does it all have to be some kind of subhuman, gnarly race against time and technique? Why the hell does everything have to be a knock down, drag-em-out fight?

It’s cooking. It’s not the Roman coliseum.

This is what happens when you combine so-called reality television (a continued blight on our collective houses) with the planet-wide pleasure of preparing a meal. You get shlock…pure, unadulterated shlock. Is this what it takes now to hold the interest of an audience? You need to ratchet up the drama. You do serious harm to the dignity of the people on the screen by gratuitously dramatizing their back stories. (Of course, people go willingly into these things.) We all have crises in our  lives…but I don’t need to see any of it on a cooking show. Some of the most obnoxious personalities possible are now standing there, raging at the tv screen.  There’s Wagnerian music…slam dunk editing…phoney-baloney timelines.  The shows are over-produced and completely (if not clumsily) manipulative. In short, it’s garbage.

We have ourselves to blame. We have taken one of the great, bonding universal survival skills and turned it into theatre of the absurd. Time in the kitchen is supposed to nourish both the body and the soul. I don’t want to be screamed at, denigrated, humiliated or defeated.  I want to sample some sauce and sip some wine.

I want to come to the table renewed.

Talk to me

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 4, 2013 by davegerry
Your thoughts?

Your thoughts?

After a brief summer hiatus I find myself back on the street again. Soliciting comments from passersby on the sidewalk is the bread and butter of just about every television reporter. I have asked so many people so many questions (many exceedingly strange..the questions, that is, not the people) that it is second nature to me now.

Weather, though, is a critical component to success in this venture. You can’t really blame people who don’t want to stop in a monsoon and give you their thoughts on something like National Macaroni and Cheese Day. Doing ‘streeters’ in the rain..or the biting cold..can be misery. Sheer misery.

When the skies open up you seek an awning for shelter. This often brings you into close contact with a security professional. I’ve had security people come up to me and tell me and the cameraman that the business we are standing in front of owns the sidewalk clear out to the street. He would like us to move along. This, of course, is nonsense. The sidewalk is the sidewalk…unless you are in the type of neighbourhood that has specific bylaws and regulations governing filming. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is such a place. You need permits to get footage on Rodeo Drive and, if you get the proper paperwork, you’ll probably be accompanied by an advisor from the film commission every step of the way. This seems odd in an age when anyone with a smartphone can point it and make their own little movie.

At its best a ‘streeter’ will fly. It becomes a kind of random curb-side theatre with the potential for great little spontaneous moments and reactions. At its worst it is a grind. It’s an airliner coming in with no landing gear on an unfoamed runway. There is no real way of telling , in advance, whether you will get a high flyer or a mess.

You just fasten your seat belt..and assume the position!

Cruel Summer (Signs)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 1, 2013 by davegerry
The sweet sip of summer

The sweet sip of summer

How sad the Back to School sale.

Every child regards the summer as sacred. I know there are those who would alter the education calendar so that students might be toiling away twelve months of the year but, really, think of that special place in time you would be denying all succeeding generations. Summer is not summer because the sun happens to be high in the sky. Summer is summer because it is the one season where banality is banished and routine is what you make it, if you choose to make it at all.

When I was a kid (skipping through flowered fields under sunny skies in pursuit of butterflies) the earliest you might have seen a Back to School sale sign (or heard a commercial) was the middle of August. Now, it seems, children barely have time to put down their books and kick off their shoes in June before this buzz-killing marketing blitz is launched.

Every child has an internal seasonal clock. You don’t have to tell anyone under 12 that the summer is waning. And you certainly don’t need to taint the visual space with a screaming reminder in every other store window. It seems downright cruel. They used to hold out the promise of a new set of coloured pencils as if that were any kind of suitable compensation for the death of summer. Now it’s laptops and tablets and e-readers and phones that constitute the bribe. But nothing can fill the gap of a summer now spent.

Summer is too damn fleeting and precious to be polluted by any reference to school. And, frankly, there oughta be a law.

The Vampire Diaries?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 17, 2013 by davegerry
One more flight

One more flight

Have I become one of those guys in broadcasting whom you can’t seem to kill with anything less than a wooden stake through the heart?

I hope not. At the age of 60, though, I was perfectly ready for early retirement.

But, it seems, not quite yet.

I will be back on television in Vancouver after a two-year hiatus in Toronto…which I enjoyed but which took me far from the familial home. This is not a commercial blog so I can’t go touting the new station here. It’s the one with the ball, the square and the triangle. You know the one. That’s about all I can say.

It’ll be a couple of stories a week…which, at this stage in the long , long game,  is about all I want. I hope I can still have some fun out there on the sidewalk of life. I did find Torontonians quite engaging and willing to banter.  Vancouverites can often be a little shy. Sometimes you have to go after them. I still like the chase.

I have been a broadcaster for 37 years. By any measure, I have had a marvellous run with only the occasional hiccup. For almost all of that time I have been allowed to do what I do best…and that is to tell stories. Along the way I developed a style, did some travelling, met (and worked with) fantastically creative people and been praised personally and professionally for my work. What else can you ask for?

I have also watched myself grow old on television. There’s a reality show, let me tell you! Boy, if I could only have all those hours back that have been narcissistically spent in front of the bathroom mirror tweaking and snipping and grooming and groaning. You have no idea. I’ve owned boats that didn’t require this much maintenance.

Television has changed so much since I first wandered into it while still at university back in 1976. The technology advances alone have been breathtaking. When I tell younger (just about everyone now) broadcasters about shooting news stories on 16mm film they look at me as if I’m a hologram. And I guess that’s true. This business has been a rocket ship through the formats.

I have always enjoyed the writing. That is my strength. Storytelling for television allows you to produce your own tiny movies. You cast the characters and you frame them appropriately. And then you try to distill the story arc. It’s a lovely little bit of control. It was only when I wandered out of that format and into the much higher-risk venue of television hosting that I encountered a few problems.  Be careful what you do for money!

Being a television host is like sitting in a foxhole and then standing up without a helmet or flak jacket and inviting people to take a shot. And they will. Hoo boy….you’d better believe they will ! You can soon feel like Sonny Corleone at the toll booth. But none of it is tragic. It’s a little ego-bruising (well, it can be a sizeable contusion, depending on the ego) but it’s not life and death stuff . It’s just educational.

I know many broadcasters who cannot fathom the concept of retirement. So they don’t. They hang on by whatever means until they just kind of rot on-air. The problem with this profession is that it can be all-consuming. It is easy for a broadcaster to forsake any outside interests. The job becomes everything. To retire would mean mind-numbing boredom and a complete lack of purpose. Plus, broadcasting can so easily come to define who you are. You step away…and you don’t recognize the face in the mirror anymore. This is really the saddest side of the profession. They never tell you about that when you’re a fresh-faced cherub in journalism school. You just wanna be on tv!

But I have always made a point of being busy when I wasn’t writing. I have been sailing and sculpting and painting and puttering about in the garden. I realize now that I got that gene from my father who, until the end of his days, was intensely interested in everything.

Now, here’s the funny thing. No broadcaster is ever truly retired..because there is always a very tiny sliver of grey matter that is convinced that you can still do the job. So if someone were to offer you a small role..somewhere on some channel…you’d be very tempted to bite. Well, nibble. By now, though, it would have to be on your own terms. You’d never take off more than you could chew…or , at least, gum.

Time to sink my teeth into this latest..and probably last, go-round.

Dave