Track One: The Plan

A Rose Mary Stretch of the Imagination, pt. 1

The story of Richard Nixon’s secretary, told as if Built to Spill’s seminal release Keep it like a Secret was a concept album about the Watergate Scandal.


Rose Mary Woods had come to understand — perhaps unconsciously—that distance was not the problem. Regrets would follow her wherever she fled; they clung round her like a neckerchief—uncomfortable, suffocating, gaudily-patterned. Billowing behind her in the wind, but always there. Her fiancé was dead; her greatest hope for the future extinguished before it could ever resolve into something legally tangible. No matter where she landed, no matter how far she went, whenever she stopped the past would find her again.

So after 4 years of measuring in her mind the distance between Ohio and anywhere else, Rose accepted that Washington D.C. would not be far enough away, and then she went anyhow.


“The plan,” Dick said at a benefit dinner one evening, “means nothing stays the same.” He was referring to some conservative economic policy he was set to endorse, but Rose heard something more.

Nothing stays the same.

For weeks the phrase hung suspended in the air as she lay in bed. Then one night it struck her: What if she didn’t stay the same? What if she kept changing? The past always found her, but what if it couldn’t recognize her when it did?

In 1951, when Nixon finally offered her a position, she didn’t hesitate to accept. She had a plan.


“I have never cared for History,” Richard told her, late one night. They stood smoking on the balcony outside the oval office. He motioned out across the city before them, a far-away look in his eye, “What drove the great men of history, good and evil, to make the choices they did? I have never found it out. There’s never enough context.

“Life may be a history lesson, Rose, but it takes 10,000 year increments to get to the point. And our collective memory just can’t recall the details that far back.”

“No,” he stubbed out his cigar and turned to go back inside, “I have no truck with history: I’m a common sense man.”