GETTING MORE TALE #842: Three Times
Cottages were not meant to have all the niceties of city living. No washing machines, no dishwasher, no cable TV, no telephones. At least that’s how it used to be. When we used to head to the cottage for a long two week vacation, we had to take our clothes to the laundromat. If we needed to make a phone call, we had to go over to my Uncle’s place who had a phone. If I was worried about missing some WWF wrestling, I had to set the VCR at home and hope it worked. (It usually didn’t — programming those simple machines was very finicky.)
We only got two TV stations at the cottage so pickings were slim. There was a station up in Lion’s Head and another in Wingham. You had to turn the TV antenna in the general direction of those towns to get a signal. I can recall that the two stations were exactly 90 degrees apart and almost in line with the cottage itself. If you wanted Lion’s Head, you turned the antenna aligned with the front wall. If you wanted Wingham, you turned it 90 degrees to match the angle of the side wall. All done manually by twisting a pole in your hands. Changing channels in the rain was something that happened too! On a particularly clear day, we could pick up a signal from Michigan across the lake. The old timers say that if the weather is just right, you could actually see the lights of Michigan from the shore of Goderich, Ontario — a trick of the refraction of light.
Between those two stations, we had very little television to choose from. The one show that we watched every single day was The Price is Right. I seem to remember watching Bob Barker and Barker’s Beauties after many morning swims, and just before heading back to the beach again.
One morning in ’87, we were watching a poor old guy named Fred up there on the Price is Right, and he was so uncomfortable. “You can tell he really doesn’t want to be there,” I said to my sister Kathryn. He ended up winning a bid and had to play a pricing game. He looked so miserable and confused up there. You just wanted the poor guy to lose and be out of his misery. But that also demonstrates how dull cottage life could be for a kid — one of the most memorable highlights of that vacation was a goddamn Price is Right episode! I can still remember Fred and his green hat!
The potential boredom of the cottage, and even the Price is Right, really sparked some creative moments. Two things you needed at the lake at all times: Some paper and pencils. With those, you could keep yourself entertained through days-long rain spells and cold snaps. The weather up there was colder and wetter than home, and you could find yourself stuck indoors with no respite.
Kathryn was always creative back then, which was shortly before she started playing music. She invented her own games. One of them was based on the Price is Right.
Do you recall that pricing game called “Three Strikes”? You reached in a bag and pulled out a chip. It could have a number, or a “strike” on it. Pull three strikes and yer out! Kathryn invented her own variation of that. She called it “Three Times”. Her version was far more challenging. She put more chips and way more strikes in the bag. It was unwinnable. But memorable. We still talk about her first prototypical game, “Three Times”. Not a triumph, but certainly a good effort.
Another of her creations was more original and ambitious. It was a Choose Your Own Adventure book. She drew upon real life experiences for its storyline. This book still exists; it is in a drawer at the lake. It is fully illustrated and bound.
Inside, on a street that looked a lot like ours, a little kid was taking their dog for a walk. A cute miniature Schnauzer, just like ours. Turn the page. You see a man approaching. Do you: 1) Turn and walk the other direction? 2) Turn and walk towards the man.
I’m not sure what the two endings say about my sister. In one, the man turns out to be your dad and walks with you. In the other, the same man kills you with a knife!
This bizarre book was limited to a single copy. Her latest work, The Improvising Musician’s Mask: Using Musical Instruments to Build Self-Confidence and Social Skills in Collective Free Improvisation is less accessible but saw a wider distribution. But would it exist if her Choose Your Own Adventure dog walking book did not?
We’ll never know!