The Email – Part 1


THE EMAIL – Part 1

“I don’t know why people hate Mondays,” Winston said as he lined by the french fry truck on Pilot Street.

The fry truck was well-known for 2 things. An impeccable cup of early morning coffee and their fragrant deep-fried chips. Winston stood just in front of Francis Vernon, his co-worker at CFPE, the public radio station in New Chelsea. It was their ritual to get chips for breakfast on Tuesdays. And coffee.

“Tuesdays are way worse, ” finishing his thought.

“You’ve no desire to shoot that whole day down?” Francis asked, aware that he and Winston were about to do one their “conversations,” the ones they normally do for complete strangers while waiting in lines.

“Look, Tuesdays are worse because at least Monday is the start of something. Tuesday is just… uh-eh … It’s a nothing day.”

“I suppose,” Francis seemed to agree. “But who could take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?”

“Precious few, that’s who.

“I mean, Mondays for me are great,” Winston continued. “I’m a freelancer. At 9am, I have no idea how I’m making a living that week. By day’s end, I do. That’s great!

“Tuesdays, I now have to somehow do whatever it was I was assigned to do.”

“Yeah, but aren’t Wednesdays worse? ‘Coz the stuff is still not due, but you might panicky because you’ve got just two more days to get it done,” Francis offered.

“That’s why Thursdays are the best days,” Winston declared. “You almost done the work. Every other Thursday is a pay day, and you still haven’t been exposed to Friday and all that entails.”

“Yeah, Friday,” acknowledged Francis. “You know there are no songs about Wednesday. I mean Monday is well covered. You got ‘Blue Monday’ by Fats Domino and New Order.”

“I saw them play together in Chicago once. It was great.”

“And then you got ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ by the Moody Blues,, ‘Thursday’s Child’ by Bowie. ‘Friday, I’m In Love,’ The Cure. ‘Saturday Morning’ by Harry Chapin. And “Everyday is Like Sunday’ from Morrissey. Where’s Wednesday’s song?”

“‘Wednesday Night’,” Winston answered at the ready.

“Never heard of it,” Francis said as they moved just one person away from the weekly order of a bag of chips and gravy from the truck.

“It’s an Elton tune. Part of a medley that opens the ‘Rock of the Westies’ album. The whole thing called ‘Yell Help, Wednesday Night & Ugly'”

Francis didn’t doubt this because if there were two things Winston had knowledge about it was 1) pop music and #B, the extensive back catalogue of Elton Hercules John.

However, he did tentatively propose “But medleys don’t really count.”

“Look, it’s a song with own words and music. Does length matter?”

“Depends. Are we asking a woman?”

“Well, I am asking you, after all.”

‘You’re despicable,” channeled Francis in the spirit of Daffy Duck.

After they got their orders, they started back up the hill of stairs that connected Pilot Street to Quidi Vidi Road where the studios of CFPE were located.

The conversation turned to the Winston’s hockey jersey. A Guildford Flames official merchandise that Winston picked up when he was on Christmas vacation in England the year previous. Francis had commented on how good it looked, and instead of telling Francis where he got the jersey, Winston said his non-existant/probably deceased grand-mother had knit for him, and furthermore, the non-existant/possibly expired grand-mother was so prolific in her intertwining ways, she was adept at knitting a CD stand, a Matisse print and the engine block of a 1979 Chevy Chevette.

“Your grand-mother knit a Chevette?” Francis asked with fake incredulity… and things kind of descended from there.

After the fry truck, Winston set about avoiding the research into the history of radio and broadcasting around the world for an upcoming 9-part documentary celebrating Marconi’s reception of the first Trans-Atlantic wireless signal. He had to make a call to New York, but it was 9am for him, and 7:30am ET. Probably too early to call the curator at the Radio and Television Museum.

He’d been in the office barely half an hour when his very wired telephone rang in his office.

“Radio One,” he answered.

“Oh, you’re at work,” came a slightly surprised and former telephone operator’s voice

“Yes,” began the slightly sarcastic response. “You know I‘m at work. You called me here.”

“Oh, I wasn‘t sure you‘d be there. So are you working today?” asked Winston‘s mother, yet again, just like every other time she called him at work for the last 6 years.

“Yes, I’m at work today,” Winston responded in his increasingly exasperated way, a feeling that he was growing simultaneously tired of and resigned to. “Remember how Dad had to go to work each day? That’s kinda like me, now. I go to work every day.”

“Oh that’s good,” Ettie May breathed. “Do you need any money for lunch?”

“No, I’m good.”

“Did you need your brother to come pick you up later?”

“Nope. I live five minutes from the station. I can walk there.”

“Oh my,” his mother fretted, yet again. “I hates the thought of you walking everywhere. I wish I was rich, I tell you, you wouldn’t be without a car, if it was up to me.”

Knowing that, short of a lottery winning, his parents weren’t going to be rich anytime soon, he responded, “That’s ok. Everything’s close by.”

“I know, but you works all day and then you have to come home to an empty home. I wish you’d get a wife so you’d have someone to get your supper for you and take care of you.”

“Well, wives are like children, Mom. They’re fine as long as they’re someone else’s,” is what he wanted to say.

Winston found the idea of a stay-at-home wife in no way appealing, and in the new millennium, even if there was a chance of finding such a person, given his particular and peculiar food issues, it was unlikely she would put with that nonsense. In Winston’s mind, and to a significant extent in his body, he was still the chubby fat kid at school.

“Well, no one’s been foolish enough to want to do that, yet,” was his actual, although not entirely accurate, response.

The conversation ended. Winston got up and strode down the hall from his office to visit the commissioning producer for local Arts programming. Doug Newhook loved wordplay and the ruder the better. As Winston entered Doug’s office, he got a look from the producer that told him he had a new one that he was dying to tell someone but harassment codes being what they were, forced Doug to be selective about entrants to his verbal playground.

“Dr. Durdle,” he began after a brief glance up at his door and adding his penchant for bigging up an insider. “Just the man to appreciate this. So, I’ve been thinking about a name for a band.” He leaned away from his computer screen to show a mock-up for a CD cover. “They‘re called Kickin’ the Nuts and the name of the album is ‘Two Acres‘,” thus beginning a wave of laughter Doug himself began and was quickly echoed by Winston.

“What do you think? 1000 copies for the first vanity pressing?”, Doug asked.

“At a minimum,” Winston suggested. “Can’t be any worse than the others.”

“How’s your social calendar for this week-end?

“Not too bad. I’ve got a fundraiser for the local Black Box on Sunday.”

“Can you host the Songwriters series we’re doing at the Armoury Theatre? Just two nights. We need the usual, the audience warm-up, the idents and the like.”

“Yeah, I can cover that. What time?

“Be there for 7 and we can record everything prior to the audience coming in. We can mix and match what we like later.”

“Sure. Sounds fine.”

“Another Silk Purse Production, I’m sure,” laughed Doug.

Winston laughed too, but he knew it was going to be yet another session of a umpteen takes to eventually use something from the first two or three. He could never tell after a recording session with Doug if his performance was really so awful that he needed an umpteen takes, or if Doug was hoping against hope that Winston would get better as they went along.

Returning down the long corridor to his office, he took his customary looks at the large photo collections on the wall of the radio station. Five of them commemorating the large scale radio productions of days gone by. Another six portraits on the wall opposite as a mini Hall of Fame for great men and women of the Microphone Past.

Winston wanted to join their ranks, but for as much as relished his job and the ever changing nature of it, he still felt like he was that quintessential tradesman who was Jack to every one, yet not a master to any.

He fell into his chair at his desk. Research needed doing, but a few checks of email first.

There was a update from the Miner’s Union Hall, a converted black box theatre, about the fundraiser he was hosting on Sunday. One was from a producer needing him to host the late afternoon show all next week. Another request from the Perlin Art Gallery asking him to speak at their Gala Auction on the 29th. A quick email from Doug already wanting to know if Winston could spread the word on the Songwriters concerts through his impressively large virtual Rolodex of email addresses.

Just then, Nancy Markovich came into the office.

“How’s the new digs?” she asked.

Winston had just been moved from a corner office down the Hall by one of the senior producers who fancied a quieter spot in the building. The week previous, the station manager had called Winston in to tell him about the move.

“But don’t worry,” Teresa advised. “We’ll find you another spot in the building.”

Winston thought about leaning in and telling Teresa, conspiratorially, “Uh, you know I don’t work here, right?” She didn’t really have to find him another office. He was a freelancer, and technically speaking, he didn’t actually work there. Even the paid staff of regular reporters were all huddled in a set of cubicles one floor below. Why would a freelancer with no position get his own office?

But he didn’t lean in. And a week later, his work-station and signed goalie stick were in new quarters.

“It’s not bad here, actually,” he replied to Nancy. “View’s not as good, but Marie in the next office keeps giving me leads on some gigs with the network, so I think I’m in a good place.”

“When are you supposed to go for that training session up at the Mother Corps?” she asked.

“Uh, let me check,” he said as he began to look for the work email that contained the invite.

Exhaling through his closed mouth and letting the air out in short bursts, he found the email. “Three weeks from now. I’m there Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. So, I’ll probably fly up there on, Sunday?”

“Maybe you should fly up sooner,” Nancy implied.

Winston liked the look on her face as she said, although it seemed to take his brain a second to register the implication. He hadn’t been with Nancy long, but she excited like no one he’d been with before. In the looks department, he came to believe he’d won a lottery of some sort. Angelina Jolie’s torso on Jennifer Lopez’s hips and legs, and a face that radiated a look all her own, with a punky shock of brown hair and red highlights. He had known Nancy for nearly a year before they began dating. He knew she was a very good, although still new reporter. He enjoyed their chats on local politics and theatre. She had done some film work in her past as a script supervisor and having a thought to be a screenwriter in the back of his mind, he was enthralled by her stories from various film sets.

It was only after he had seen her naked, the second time, that it dawned on him the depth of expression her beauty spoke to him.

“O-ohh!!” Winston got it. “Well let me see about that.”

“You haven’t been up to the big headquarters before, have you?” she asked.

“No, this will be my first time.”

“Well, we should go a couple days early and I can show you around,” she smiled.

“What time should we fly up on the Friday (?), then?”

“I’m at work til 5 or 6, so, why don’t you fly up earlier in the day and get the hotel sorted, and I’ll join in the evening?”

“Yeah, OK, that works?” Winston decided. “What are you working on today?”

“Oh, a ferry users committee meeting over on Rosecastle Island. Probably boring, but there will be public outrage, gnashing of teeth… you know,” she shrugged.

“Well, give me a shout when you get back,” he said. “You want to do something later?”

“Maybe. I’ll have to see how much work is ahead of me when I get back from the Island.”

And with that, Nancy left his office and he turned his attention back to his email and the next one to deal with came from a magazine he used to work for, The Gazette on Sunday.

It actually published on Mondays but it used to come out on Sundays until workers in the printing press demanded a Mon-Fri schedule, so the paper was usually written and edited between Monday and Wednesday, proofed on a Thursday to be printed on a Friday, sent to the drivers on Saturday, no work on Sunday of course, and then finally delivered to newsstands and homes on the following Monday. The Gazette on Sunday appreciated good irony.

Pam Armstrong was the current editor of the Gazette. She was a college flame of Winston’s for a brief time but it ended so amicably that she later gave Winston a regular writing gig covering local bands and the music scene. He often wrote uncomplimentary things about untalented local bands and in a place like New Chealsea, everyone is paddling against the current and so someone who doesn’t muck in with the rest of the crew soon finds themselves estranged. No one sent him their awful demo tapes and CD’s anymore so he lost momentum on the column. His successor won the local acts back by describing some sounds as being “Fresh as Spring peaches.”

This morning, Pam sent a cryptic email.

It read:

> Date: Tues, 11 Sep 2001 10:02:19 NT -0330

> From: parmstrong@sundaygazette.com

> To: makemewince@bowdurhook.net

> Subject: Letter to Editor

>

> Hey Wince,

> Is your email secure? Are you the only one who looks at it?

> I have something for you to see.

> > Pam

He hated “Wince” but as he still kinda like Pam, he always let it pass.

Response:

> Date: Tues, 11 Sep 2001 10:03:03 NT -0330

> From: makemewince@bowdurhook.net

> To: pam@sundaygazette.com

> Subject: RE: Letter to Editor

>

> Hey,

> Yeah, sure. It’s not a Radio One address, but I‘m the only one who checks this.

> What is it?

> > Wince

Follow-up:

> Date: Tues, 11 Sep 2001 10:04:32 -0330

> From: parmstrong@sundaygazette.com

> To: makemewince@bowdurhook.net

> Subject: RE: RE: Letter to Editor

>

> OK,

> This was sent in as a Letter to the Editor. I’m not going to print it, but I thought you’d want to read it.

> > Pam

Attachments:

Total size: 15.7 KB of 10.0 MB

Aug 31, 2010

Dear Editor,

I am looking for someone and I understand he used to work for your magazine.

Could you please print my letter in case he sees it?

I am looking for Winston Durdle. He doesn’t know it, but he is my brother. I have been looking for him over the last ten years however his family are blocking my efforts to contact him.

He should know that his parents are not who they say they are.

I have been looking for him for a long time and I would like it if you could print my letter so he can know the truth.

Thank you.

Woodrow Rogers

Burlington

(204) 055-1236

Winston stared at the letter. What to think?

Incredulity? Possibly.

Hysterical? Quite probably?

Concerning? A bit.

A security issue? I’m not that famous at this job, am I?

Puzzling? A peaked curiousity.

Expected? Kinda?

Control-P, Print was quickly actioned across his keyboard and the email became a reality on paper. He went down the hallway to Doug’s office asked, “What do you think of this?” handing the sheet of paper to his Arts Department boss.

Doug mulled it over and as he read, a slight smile, becoming a full-on grin developed as he went down the letter line by line.

“Well, Dr. Durdle … that’s something. Where did it come from?”

“Pam, over at the Gazette, just sent it to me. She asked if my email was secure before she sent it. She was all cloak and dagger about it. And it turns out to be this.”

“Hmm,” Doug contributed.

“Great. Do I have a stalker here? I mean, I‘m starting to get some notoriety around here. Is this some nutter out to have a go at me?”

“I don’t know,” Doug said. “But you better make sure Pam doesn’t print this.”

“No, she’s not. What do I do?”

“Well, you could try calling the number.”

“Yeah, but what if he really is a whack job. I don’t want him knowing I saw this.”

“Do you recognize the name?”

“Well, I have an Uncle Woodrow, and his last name is Rogers. But he’s like, 80. Why would he send me this? And he doesn’t live in Burlington.”

“I’m not sure what to tell you,” Doug said. “Maybe just leave it for a bit.”

Winston returned a little slower to his office, still looking at the pictures that lined the wall, but now slightly disconnected to the world they came from.

He felt weird.

It was getting on for 10:30. The main office in Toronto would be dialing him soon for a conference call at 9am, their time. New Chelsea existed in this strange little time zone, three and one half hours behind GMT. Something to do with mariners in the 1700’s setting their chronometers when they arrived in New Chelsea, which was naturally 3 and half hours from Greenwich as the sun sets. Locals have kept up the extra half hour of time arithmetic ever since.

Usually, the phone rang promptly at 10:30 in Winston’s office, but this morning, it didn’t. He carried on googling Marconi websites, looking up bios about Kasey Kasem and Cousin Brucey.

When he next glanced at the computer’s clock, it read 10:35, Newfoundland Daylight Time.

Doug unceremoniously and austerely appeared at Winston’s office doorway.

“You might want to get downstairs to a TV.”

Winston bounded down over the one flight of stairs that opened into the Radio One newsroom. The local morning show crew were gathered round the 24-inch TV next to Philip’s desk, the executive producer. A mound of newspapers, the computer with three different news editing programs open, a mini-disc recording machine, the small 4-channel mixer, scripts for the next day’s radio show – all of it ignored for the images on the TV. While Radio One always has a much larger and loyal audience than their counterparts at TV One, even the radio purists had to accede to the power of television on this morning.

Although, just to be spiteful, the Radio Exec Prod did have the TV tuned to CNN. Aaron Brown, himself not long into his new anchoring position, struggling to find the words that adequately described the images that everyone was struggling to comprehend.

Anyone who looked at the TV’s that day knew what they were looking at. Tall burning buildings that used to be The Twin Towers.

For his part, Winston never much associated the Twin Towers with New York before this morning. Sure he had seen them, but wasn’t the most iconic buildings in New York the Empire State or Chrysler Buildings? He “sort of” knew the Twin Towers existed but they wouldn’t have been foremost in his mind. Everyone in the TV-connected world wouldn’t forget them ever again.

“Well fuck, Bush is going to get his war,” declared Mike Grey, the morning host.

“Christ, I wouldn’t want to be Bin Laden right now,” said John, the morning chase reporter.

“It’s World War Three,” gasped Helen, one of the other producers.

“Are we going back on the air?” Mike asked.

“No, I think the network is covering this,” Philip replied.

Kathryn, a show contributor and also a connection back to Radio One’s main news network in Toronto barged into the huddle of TV watchers.

Looking at Philip, she said, “They’re re-routing all the planes in this area to our airports. There are 15,000 passengers on their way to landing here! NOW!”

The whole group went into action. A few felt quite excited by the prospect of what they were about to do. Some even giddy about it.

News reporting is mostly about noting the small, occasionally significant changes in a town, a place, a country, and even more rarely, the world. A radio host or reporter spends a lot of days ruing having to talk to one more city councilor about one more pointless airport initiative, or to one lone rural B&B owner who wants a bypass built to help his business. Reporters love a challenge and the feeling that what they do matters. But most days, it just ain’t there.

On this day, it looked like everything mattered. Every contact with every official mattered. Every phone number for every hotelier mattered. Emergency Services. Social organizations. Everyone was on every phone in a matter of moments to see who was getting what and when. Whoever wasn’t on a phone, was writing a script. Every day previous to this was a dry run for the rare days like this. Adrenaline pumped everywhere you looked.

Winston was put in charge of finding out which planes were landing, what airlines, how many people were on board. He came into the studio with Mike to provide on-air updates and help shuttle information back and forth between the announce booth and the main newsroom.

After two hours on the radio, Nancy had been brought back from the ferry users story. Although she was one of the general reporters with no particular beat, she was widely regarded for being good on the radio and working fast. Nancy and Winston were the on-air team anchoring the mid-afternoon coverage of what was emerging as a terrorist attack on the United States. Some really did wonder about the WWIII implications of what was happening, but with the unending stream of planes and jets now landing at airstrips all over New Chelsea, it was hard to pull focus away from that.

During a break, Winston saw the footage of President Bush in the classroom being told by a secret service agent about the attack.

John, the chase reporter said, “What’s wrong with this guy? Why is he just sitting there?“

“Well, I dunno, what’s he supposed to do?” WInston asked. “Make a classroom of small kids freak out?”

The list of airlines and flight just kept rolling in. United 475 from London. Air Canada 8791 from Paris. American 263 from Amsterdam. Wave over wave, from across the waves.

The Red Cross was coordinating shelters. The hockey rink was getting mobilized to house a few thousand. Hourly updates from fire and police officials poured in. Government representatives were brought on the air at regular intervals. Church groups detailed their activities. And yes, a few B&B owners were called to check on their availability..

The on-air portion of Winston’s day came to an end at 4pm when the afternoon host, Andrea Gemmell, arrived to take over the coverage. A huge pressure valve released in Winston’s mind as he slumped heavily up the stairs and into his office. He fell deliberately across the old couch across from his desk and it never felt more comfortable than it did at that moment.

In a way that only someone in the media might understand, he felt good about the day. This was the event that had everything he got into broadcasting to do. He consoled. He informed. He reported. He may have even entertained. In that solitary and personal moment, he didn’t think about the horror in New York. The deaths or destruction. The politics or fall-out. That will all still be there in a few minutes, a few hours and indeed, tomorrow. For this instance, it was about being a service to someone, somewhere.

Nancy came into the room. “Wow. What the fuck was all that,” she said.

“I think the arse is out of her, my dear. Just all apart at the seams” Winston responded.

“How you feeling?”

“I dunno. I’ve been on automatic all day.”

“Wanna go somewhere?”

“Everywhere we go is going to have the news on,” he said.

“Yes, but it’ll be news with a supply of draught.”

THE EMAIL – Part 2

On September 27, President Bush appeared on the TV and told Americans not to live in fear. To get on board a flight they had already planned and yes, take your family. “If we live in fear, and change our way of life” the President said, “then the Terrorists win.”

We have nothing to fear except a drop in retail confidence. It was the beginning of a new millennium. Priorities changed.

In the safety of Winston’s freelance office, he wasn’t living in fear, but then he didn’t have any flights booked. And it wasn’t his country’s symbols that had been attacked. It was lunchtime and he certainly didn’t have to or want to change his life.

“Hey!” intruded Nancy. “A bunch of us are headed over to The Duke. Wanna come?”

“A Hot turkey sandwich. Yes b’y!”

As Winston put away some items in a drawer, Nacny noticed the letter on top of his desk as she idly looked around.

“What’s this?” she asked.

It was more than two weeks since he even remembered that he got the email in the first place.

“Oh! Yeah. I got that on the morning the shit hit the fan,” he said.

“What is it?”

“Someone thinks I’m their long lost brother.”

“You never told me about this. Are you?”

“God, I hope not. I have enough crazy family as it is.”

“Well, are you going to call him or get in touch?

“Yeah, I’ll call tomorrow or something.”

The next morning did indeed come and Winston picked up the phone to call this Woodrow person. 9/11, as it had now been dubbed, was too big a story to go away in just a day and more and more stories about passengers and the towns that were taking them in were the only agenda that mattered to Winston and the other reporters over the last two weeks. However, this letter would not go unattended and 9/11 had a tragic convenience that had run its course.

He dialed the number and a woman answered.

“Hello?”

“Yes, is Woodrow Rogers there?”, Winston asked in his own version of the telephone operator’s voice. Authoritative and a slightly intimidating tone was taken in case this turned into a “Don’t fuck with me” phone call.

“Who?” was the slightly puzzled response from the woman.

“Ahh, Woodrow Rogers,” he re-pronounced adding clarity for effect.

“Oh,” came the sound of a shoe dropping. “One sec.”

Winston waited a few seconds after hearing her saw “It’s for you.“ and the unsure voice of a man took the receiver. “Hello.”

“Hi, I’m looking for Woodrow Rogers. Is this the right number?”

“Yeah. Is this Winston.”

“Yeah.”

“Hi Winston, I’m not Woodrow. Do you remember me? Your cousin, Dwayne. Aunt Natalie and Uncle Fred?”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“Well, we’re brothers.”

Winston sat back in his chair. He took a deep breath. This could take awhile.

“OK,” Winston exhaled. “What’s the story?”



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