Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Rochester from Afar: Lament for an Anchorman

Today I had a random "Whatever happened to...?" moment, and did a web search for Gabe Dalmath, whom I had grown up knowing as the anchorman for the six o'clock news on WHEC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Rochester, New York.

For the longest time, the American network affiliates beamed to Ottawa cable subscribers were from Rochester, except for the PBS station, which was out of Watertown, New York. For reasons that escape me now, WHEC was the American channel I tuned into most often. And although I didn't watch it's evening news on a regular basis, Gabe Dalmath was always turning up on my radar via promos for the day's top news stories during commercial breaks. (Local missing or murdered children always seemed to be the lead items.)

In this way, Gabe was my consular officer for Rochester specifically, and the journalistic United States of America in general, particularly in those days before our merciful God created CNN.

Thus it was through the cracked little window of WHEC that I viewed Rochester from afar, a world apart from my own presided over by Gabe Dalmath. When you factor in those crazed House of Guitars spots, it seemed to my pre-teen brain that he was presiding over a drug-addled fun house, albeit one where local children may not make it out the other end. (Film at eleven.)

Eventually, Ottawa's cable provider switched out the Rochester stations for ones from Detroit so we could derive the same haughty amusement from Motor City's crime woes as that enjoyed by residents of the Stepfordian enclaves of nearby Oakland County. So, aside from the occasional passing remembrance when I'd hear or read about his city, Gabe Dalmath fell out of my orbit.

The one time in the ensuing years I thought about him in any protracted sense was during the last major road trip through the U.S. my wife and I took in 2010, the year before we became parents. Traveling along the Interstate, we grazed Rochester's southern extremity, and I remember scanning the landscape, trying to get a sense of its Gabe Dalmathiness, but to no avail. All I saw was nondescript suburbia. We were far, far away from the downtown core and whatever je ne sais quoi Rochester has to offer. (Correction: we saw a sign for some kind of sports field, but weren't tempted to adore this wonder with our own eyes.)

Fast forward to earlier today, when I decided for no reason in particular to enter "Gabe Dalmath" into the Google search field, only to find out he passed away in 2006 from kidney cancer, and now has a foundation named in his honor. I had been expecting to find he was either still at the helm of WHEC news, had moved to a different market, or had simply retired, and experienced a momentary bummer at the idea of his death. And by this I don't mean the death of an actual person but of an abstract projection of him occupying a small corner of my inner universe, where "Gabe Dalmath" and "Rochester, New York" recursively cross-reference each other ad infinitum.

Long live Gabe Dalmath, he of the network-issued coif of yore, spirit of a city I can't really say I've been to.

Journal entry
August 1, 2014