Monday, November 19, 2012

Oh Canada

Last month the movie Argo was  released. Purportedly the movie depicted the smuggling of six Americans out of Iran by the Canadian government and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. 

I use the term purportedly because as the star of the film Ben Affleck has noted, "Because we say it's based on a true story, rather than this is a true story, we’re allowed to take some dramatic license. There’s a spirit of truth."

I'm not going to quibble about how true to life the motion picture is, I mention it only because I had my own personal experience with the events of January 28-29, 1980 and that is the story of today's blog. 

Back on  November 4th of 1979 a group of Islamist militants took the the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran taking 52 Americans hostage who would remain captives for 444 days. During the initial attack six embassy staffers escaped to the Canadian embassy and were later smuggled out of Iran by the Canadians. For the nearly factual details of the "Canadian Caper" see the movie or try Wikipedia.

My story takes place in Los Angles on the day after the daring escape/rescue. I found myself with three tickets to the Los Angles Kings hockey game that Sunday evening and all of my usual hockey friends otherwise engaged. 

I called one of my buddies girlfriend who I knew was a hockey fan and asked if she wanted to go to the game and if she had anyone else who would want the third ticket. She laughed and told me that her best friend has just shown up at her front door with three hits of acid and two questions:

"What are we going to do?" and "Know anyone who would enjoy the third hit."

We all decided it was too serendipitous to ignore so we dropped the acid on the way to the Forum, where the L.A. Kings played in those days. We were coming on to the acid as we got to the stadium and managed to find our seats despite the mental alterations. Sixteen thousand fans had turned out that evening to see the Kings take on the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

As is the tradition in most NHL arenas when Canadian teams visit U.S. cities and visa versa, both national anthems are played. So we began the festivities with a rendition of 'Oh Canada.' What happened next is why we have a story to tell.

As the final refrain of the anthem died out the Forum erupted with cheers and a prolonged standing ovation. All the Sunday papers had led with the events in Iran the day before. Everyone in the house knew the Canadian embassy staff had risked their own lives to smuggle the six Americans out of Iran to safety. The moment was electric, particularly to my electrified brain. The organist at the Forum waited and held the playing of the American National Anthem until the tribute had died down.

It can be hard in these times to feel outpourings of spontaneous patriotism, it helps to have neighbors like Canada.

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