Sunday, January 20, 2013

David Tucker's One Way Ticket

I'm about to warn you never to sit beside David Tucker on the GO train going to and from Oakville.
For years Tucker has been telling me he actually enjoys the long commute --at one time he pretended to me he was reading Tolstoy to while away the 45-minute journey.
Now it appears he was into something else --observing fellow passengers.
And all this accumulated observation has resulted in a must read book of short stories called One Way Passage.
The best one and the last in the book concerns a hapless older salesman making futile call after call on his cell and talking so loud ever other  GO passenger can hear him.
The tale is deliciously rich in irony although the reader will also get involved in the plight of the man who can no longer even sell himself.
I don't think Tucker could have written it if he hadn't put in so many hours riding GO --the feel of the situation is pitch perfect.
Now let me back up and explain I first met David Tucker in those long ago days when I was the kid TV critic for The Hamilton Spectator, then (the early 1970's) the most profitable newspaper in Canada.
Radio was also tagged on to my beat and in the era before cassettes that meant I'd have to venture into CBC's crumbling Jarvis street building to listen to them and interview the talent.
Tucker had just been parachuted into the PR department to liven things up --he knew everything about new media but CBC was not a place where anybody ever lightened up.
A CBC co-worker was publicist Linda Litwack and she was promoting the latest radio documentary by Glenn Gould --Toronto critics and I got shuffled into a darkened room and told Gould might appear at the end or maybe he would not.
In the dark I thought I felt somebody breathing on my neck. When the curtains were raised there was a tossed chair behind me. Had I actually have been in the presence of Gould, I wondered. Nobody could tell me.
Tucker I would meet in a tiny room in one of the back turrets with a window that led out onto the gabled roof --he used this as a quick get away on some occasions.
So far Tucker has not fictionalized any of the stories I'm sure he heard about very odd CBC happenings. Some are so strange probably nobody outside the Corp would ever believe them.
Tucker went off to Sheridan College to teach the art of film making and become associate dean.
Later he switchedto Ryerson University as dean of TV Radio Arts and Media faculty.
He got a deserved sabbatical before returning to teaching duties and just to see if he could he turned out these stories.
Also along the way he had made a string of incisive documentaries mostly for CBC's The Nature Of Things that I wish were still available for public viewing.
Amanda's Choice examined the dilemma of a young woman who carries the gene for early Alzheimer's and her decision whether or not to have her son tested.
"I 'm still hearing from her on occasion," Tucker told me.
Another looked at four desperately ill heart patients at Toronto General Hospital as they await for transplants that may never take place.
It's strange but when I was watching these hours on cassette to preview I was involved in the human angle. I forgot the high editing and directing skills necessary to make the whole story seamless.
In a sense Tucker has always been a steady  story writer.
The first story in One Way Ticket, really it's a novella, is a look at a hapless guy born during Hurricane Hazel --the references are all Southern Ontario in the Fifties and Sixties.
Maybe that's why I couldn't stop reading this one. As one who remembers the horror the night Hazel struck --albeit from a little boy's perspective--I felt this one had real movement, texture.
And  that's why Tucker is already involved in drafting a screenplay, it's so cinematic the sparse use of dialogue is startling but effective.
But you don't have to wait for the film. One Way Ticket, published by Bookland Press, is best purchased from or a neighborhood book seller.
And, yes, Tucker, Litwack and I still meet for lunch.
At a restaurant very near Union Station where Tucker can sprint to the GO train and possibly plot the much needed sequel to One Way Ticket.

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