I suppose I could pick a few sections off the map and try to hit those, rather than waiting for my week of vacation in July. Because, otherwise, I'm going to lose the thread here. This never happened to Warren Beatty or Jeff Bridges. Now, it's not that I think Parallax View and Winter Kills were documentaries (although they do tiptoe right up to some awfully plainspoken truths) but it's always disappointing when real life so totally fails to match expectations. In the heightened reality of the conspiracy film, there's always a key witness lurking out there, and if you're smart enough you'll find them. There's always a hidden safe with a vital document, a black cat glitch in the matrix, a glance out the rear window.
And if you truly believe in the conspiracy you're hunting down, you know that there's one of these out there. And if you're not finding it, well, maybe it's your fault.
No, seriously. I can walk across Staten Island if I want, from one side to the other. Brooklyn is freakishly large. And there are a hell of a lot of people in a Congressional district. First, I had to find what the actual boundaries were in 1972. New York politicians have gerrymandered districts in the city pretty regularaly, but I've got a map up on the wall now, and I'm pretty confident that I know my target area.
Have started poking around the Board of Elections data to see how to crosstab it with property taxes. Some parts of the district have swapped out completely, but there are some pockets where individuals (or at least family names) seem to be consistent. There seem to be some target-rich sections of the district, but I won't know until I get evertthing into mySQL where I can massage. With a little work, I should be able to generate walk lists for my vacation. Spending my precious week away from the job knocking on doors isn't something I look forward to, but it has to be done.
I'm beginning to think nostalgically about JFK and 9/11 -- not because those were easy, but because they were such well-explored phenomena that there was a wealth of secondary literature. Maybe you couldn't talk to everyone, but you could find an interview done by someone who did. Even the people who were dead had mostly gone on the record at some point. And with secondary sources come bibliographies, witness lists, photos, links, all the stuff you take for granted in research these days.
This is turning into something much more difficult than I ever anticipated, and it looks now like the only approach is an old-fashioned canvass. I will confess, I have never done one of these, and the prospect of actually turnign something up after almost 40 years is depressingly small. But one thing I do have going for me is fairly good voting and tax records, and if I can fillter out newcomers and find some long-term residents who might have first-hand knowledge, it might be worth it.
It's certainly all I can do short of plannign a trip to Washington. That will need to wait until I can save some money. Unless all you readers -- yes YOU -- want to pitch in and feed the kitty. Buy an extra copy of UM and ITB for your friends. Great for Dads and Grads. Buy early, buy often.
Was able to talk to a few people -- all secondary players. Relatives, next-door neighbors, nobody with the real juice. Of course, that's the way it goes. And it's bloody hard to sneak out of the office for long lunch hours to snoop around courthouses and office buildings. Nobody ever said this would be easy. Lo and behold: it's not.
There was no conspiracy in the Nixon resignation. Everyone involved was acting from the highest human motives and putting the good of the country and the safety of our troops in harm's way above all else. The media were in no way complicit. I have been completely overreacting.
Of course, check the post date.
I've learned long ago not to take no for an answer, whether that "no" is delivered by cold shoulder, a slammed door, or a couple of New York's Finest showing up to escort me off the premises. (Yes, I mean you. I know you're reading this now, and you can bet that I'm not going to be kind to you in the book.)
You learn early that the first answer is always no, the second answer is always that you're crazy, and the third is to clam up and call for an attorney or security. That's when you know you're really closing in on something.
When people blow you off -- and believe me, when you're honest about what your researching, elected officials and public figures do that -- you have no choice but to go the hard route.
Especially with events 35 years in the past, with some of the principals dead, it's hard to get anyone to talk. I never expect to get more than one or two responses to my first-round queries, that's why I spent the weekend tracking down homes, office locations, and planning the next couple of weeks of ambush journalism.
Some by e-mail, some the old-fashioned way, in W.A.S.T.E. envelopes. Ha ha. Lucas make joke.
Interesting weekend of work. Here's what I think I know.
In 1972, Emmanuel Cellar had been the Congressman from Brooklyn's 10th district for almost 50 years. He had been the chair of the House Judiciary Committee for over 20 years. To say his seat was safe is an understatement.
And suddenly, he's defeated in the Democratic primary by an upstart lawyer named Elizabeth Holzman, who had never held elective office before. A neophyte beat the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives.
Not only does Nixon not have a friendly face at the gavel, but Holzman contributes actively to building the case against him.
That is just about the textbook example of a Black Swan.
Feels like I've turned a corner. Get home on a Friday, and I'm looking forward to a weekend of researching and writing again.