I am visiting my brother, Lew, in Payson, AZ. Both of us have chores to do, none critical to saving the world, so we take a couple of hours of timeouts every day to talk about whatever comes to mind.
I recalled that four or five months and four or five thousand miles ago, I stood on his deck and got a phone call from fellow writer and Alamedan, Irv Hamilton.
I had met Irv a few years ago, at a folksy writers’ club in Alameda and again when he appeared at a meeting of my home club, the California Writers Club. Irv and I exchanged the usual writer’s pleasantries but never got to be beer-hoisting buddies. So I was surprised that he called me deep in the heart of Arizona.
He wanted Colleen Rae’s email address. Blog regulars know Colleen as a prolific and lively commenter on the blogs and the comments of others. And she lives 2000 miles from Alameda.
Now I believe in hooking up people that have some thread of connection, but I also do a bit of gate keeping just in case one of the parties has jumped bail.
“So, Irv, what wouldya be wanting with Colleen? I happen to know the lassie has a steady bloke,” says I.
“She mentioned the name of a friend of hers in a recent comment, a name exactly matching a boyhood chum of mine. I thought I’d write and see if, by some chance, it was the same fellow.”
Colleen put together the two men, and they did turn out to be pals from a time gone by. Sixty-eight years prior to be exact. I don’t know if The Guinness Book has anything better.
Lew didn’t either, but he did have a story that might be a contender.
In 1948, Lew, a Navy midshipman, whose ship had docked on the West coast had enough leave time to hitchhike to New Jersey to visit his family. In those days hitchhiking was a legitimate way to travel, and men in uniform got rides easily.
One of his rides dropped Lew off in Iowa. Not far up the road was another naval officer, also thumbing. Lew walked over to say hello, he and Charles Cotter recognized one another right away as classmates at Georgia Tech. (Update: one week later, I received a call from Charles).
His story put me in mind of one of my own. In the sixties, when I was ready to run away from home, there were no circuses passing through town. I wasn’t notified about the sexual goings-on in California, so I headed for the Caribbean and lit in St Thomas. I got some odd day jobs down at the yacht harbor, and for spare change and sport I got a job in a little bar outside of town patronized mainly by locals.
One day a sailor came in and sat at my bar, and I started a conversation him:
“Where ya from, sailor?
To which he answered,
“Jersey.” The only one of the “New” states that doesn’t need the “New”.
“Oh, yeah, what part?’’ I asked.
“South,” he said.
“Oh, yeah, what part?”
“Oh yeah, what part?”
“Oh, yeah, what part?”
“I lived on the east end.”
Hampton Street is about one mile long.
Three people. Three stories of chance meetings with odds beyond calculation. And, of course, among the hundreds of readers of this blog, the odds are short that there are other personal stories contending for a place inThe Guinness Book.
Do you have a story to share? Use the comments section below.