Weird random occurrence is weird.

Yes, I’ve finally decided to write it up. The critique did say I needed to take risks to be a real writer, after all… and when I think about it, this is about the most offbeat thing I’ll ever have to write about.

(Well, that and the whole ‘providing liner notes for a Bob & Ray CD’ thing. Heard back from the publisher last week, they’re just setting out the final layout and needed me to cite the few quotes I used. Gotta love legal departments.)

At any rate, please note, when reading the below, that I know there is at least a 95.9% chance I have taken a stupid little non-incident twenty years ago and have blown it up into something… else. Half the reason I am writing is to make it a 100% chance. The other half involves my being tired of chasing my own brain trying to figure it out, and deciding to ‘write it out’, once and for all.

So… it’s 1990. I’m hanging out watching TV… flicking round the dial… pausing to check out a spandy-new cable channel called  YTV. Back then, not so much with the hipness; more with the Camp Cariboo reruns. So when what appears to be an actual live-action costume drama pops up, I am intrigued.

Turns out — a few sword-slashing scene transitions later — it’s the latest Zorro remake, the series the Family Channel produced with Duncan Regehr (at the very beginning of a genre career that would culminate on Star Trek: DS9). It hasn’t aired in years and years now, and frankly the world’s not missing much, except some spectacular scenery; but to a bored young geek many years pre-Interwebs, it  was deeply awesome. Also, the scenery included not only Regehr, but a young Spanish hottie by the name of Juan Diego Botto as his sweet, mute sidekick. I was instantly fascinated.

About half-way through, Shoedad wanders in, as fathers have a habit of doing. "Whatcha watchin’?"

"Oh…" Well, go on, I think to myself. He’s always complaining that you don’t talk to him. Tell him all about how you think it’s a new Zorro remake and it’s really cool because..

"…Just, y’know, a show."

He gives me a funny look. "Uh-huh. Well, great, ’cause I wanted to lie down for awhile. You won’t mind if I just change channels while it’s on commercial break, right?"

Long story short, he flops onto the couch and does so, and the commercial break comes and goes and he is still watching golf or something and I get a little crazy because I am missing the end of my show and have no way to get it across that this is important. Until, of course, he falls asleep, and I pounce on the remote just in time for the final pre-credit capper scene.

I know, yes, so far so inconsequential. I mention all this only to make it clear that this moment, this episode I’m watching, has reason to be stuck in my memory. And it gets further cemented later on — when I run across another episode, realise it’s a series, and settle down to squeeing in earnest. Had Net fandoms existed for it at the time, I would’ve been one of the fic-writing ringleaders, let us put it that way.

That I never did see the original episode again among the many reruns was mildly puzzling, but by no means fatal… again, pre-Net, pre-episode guides etc. Several years later, when there were episode guides (and, rather amusingly, fanfic) I searched the first-season list for that episode, found nothing… and still wasn’t too bothered.

Flash-forward a year or so past that: I am working at the Book Superstore That Used to Be a Bowling Alley, and among many other oddities, the other guy in my department is a Western fanatic. He has everything ever filmed among sagebrush on VHS somewhere. The hot media topic of the moment is the Antonio Banderas Zorro movie, and when I happen to mention my particular interest, he readily offers to dub off a copy for me.

So I excitedly schlub all these tapes home, start watching… yeah, remember that, that was cute, fun stuff… oh look, there’s that episode! It was part of the third season, not the first, that was the problem!…

..wait, what?

I hasten back to those ep guides. Yep, there it is, marked as made in the third season — that is, in mid-1991 or so. It’s easy to spot, as one of the leading roles was recast between seasons.

So, um, not to put too fine a point on it, but… how the hell do I clearly remember having seen it in 1990? I mean, clearly remember it? As in, yeah, that’s the plot, that’s the dialogue, here’s the point where Shoedad interrupted me, first episode I ever saw? On the other hand, why didn’t I notice the change of actors at the time? Or did I? If it only ever aired in late prime-time, starting in Sept 1990,  how could I remember this little scene as taking place on a weekend afternoon in spring?

It’s all very weird indeed. One of those things where you’d just shrug and think, must be some explanation… except when you try to find one, you hit a brick wall. Likewise anyone I try to discuss it with. Either my memory’s off (really unlikely), the episode existed when I remember seeing it (really, really unlikely, not even including the actor switch), or… I dunno, it’s some sort of cosmic slip a la those ladies who thought they’d slipped back to Versailles for the afternoon (really, really, REALLY unlikely).

So… yeah. Most of the time I just shove it into the back of my psyche and try not to think about it — but you can see where that becomes a little hard to do, when confronted with stuff like The Matrix,or the Simulated Reality theory, or frankly this whole frelling idea of philosophical zombies. I mean, just on g.p.’s, brrrrr. You can see where the whole mind-altering drug thing became popular, among philosophy majors.

The thing is, though, said philosophers can settle back after a long evening of imagining themselves as disembodied brains in VR vats and chuckle ruefully. Just a thought experiment! Not a shred of real-world evidence! Ha ha ha…

…except, for yours truly, there’s a little corner of my head that’s going Ah, but you do have evidence, don’t you? Can’t say you don’t, can you? And because I literally cannot lie to myself — not even to save myself nightmares — this occasionally messes me up a little bit, to the extent where I have to put the life of the mind on hold to work on the problem for awhile. Because if everything (and by logical extension) everyone I love is… well… just better get this squared away, before going on to anything else, yes?

Then Shoemom smacks me upside the ear as only she can ("Look, I remember when you were born, OK?"). And/or one of my dearest friends, who happens to actually be a philosophy major, will patiently explain the concept of thought experiments as distinct from actually plausible real-world hypotheses for the 100th time, and I feel much, much better.

But it’s still weird.

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