Pat Speer's Coincidence Blog

Stuff that makes me say "hmm"

3-28-09

For many years, I've been noticing strange coincidences in my life. When one pops up, my girlfriend Brigette never fails to respond "It's your life, babe." But I think there may be something to it. And so, I've decided to create this blog tracking these weird coincidences.

With time, I'm hoping others will share similar coincidences from their own life.

Anyhow, my latest brush with "Hmmm, weird" came just today. Last night, while watching the Johnny Depp movie The Ninth Gate on cable, I noticed that his character, an expert on rare books, was named Dean Corso. This sounded vaguely familiar. I then realized that the writer of the story was having a bit of fun, and that the character's name was a combination of Dean, as in Dean Moriarty, a character from the most famous work of beat fiction, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and Corso, as in beat poet Gregory Corso. I pointed this out to Brigette, and commented that I hadn't thought of Gregory Corso in many years.

Well, today, after having breakfast with some friends, I suggested we go to a bookstore. Even though I meant to suggest we head for a book store in Burbank, California, Brigette intuitively headed for the nearest cool book store to the restaurant, the Iliad Bookstore in North Hollywood. This turned out to be a brilliant bit of mis-communication. Once I realized where we were headed, I thought "what the heck, why not."  

Well, once inside, two strange things happened. First, while looking through a book on baby names, Brigette looked up the name Fitzgerald, which I'd recently suggested as a middle name for our baby about to be. Now I'd suggested this as an homage to both F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Fitzgerald Kennedy. But the book gave us another reason. The book said Fitzgerald meant "son of the Spearmighty". My last name, of course, is Speer, a variant of spear. Now what are the odds?

Anyhow, a few minutes later, I noticed a book at the top of a shelf that I thought might be interesting. While it proved to be no big deal, when I climbed up the ladder to get a good look at it I noticed an interesting book on the shelf just below. This book was entitled "The Autobiography of Jack Black." I thought "Now this can't be THE Jack Black, could it?" Of course it was not THAT Jack Black. But when I opened up the book I nevertheless received a surprise. The inner page had three handwritten words..."GREGORY CORSO'S BOOK." Someone at the bookstore, furthermore, had added "Autographed by the poet Gregory Corso" and had marked it up to 25 dollars.  Needless to say, my mind was blown. I immediately told Brigette. Her response was, no surprise, "It's your life, babe!"

Anyhow, I think we've got a middle name for our son.  Fitzgerald. We wouldn't want to mess with the coincidence gods, now would we?

And no, I didn't buy the book.

 

4-24-09

On 10-29-08 I was reading an email with the TV on in the background. In the email, the writer, Moses Avalon, was writing about the demise of the record industry. Out of the blue, he noted that the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world will come in 2012. JUST as I read that, however, the voice on the TV, on a program that had come on after the program I'd been watching had ended, said "2012." I couldn't believe my ears. I immediately replayed the TV (we have Tivo) and sure enough the program was talking about the Mayan calendar, and the end of the world coming in 2012. It noted that, according to Mayan prophecy, greed will bring about this downfall and that "for half there will be food, for others misfortunes. A time for the end of the world of God. A time for uniting for a cause." Now, the odds of me randomly reading "2012" just as I randomly heard "2012" would have to have been one in a million, right? It made me start to wonder if I was receiving some sort of message. 

I then realized that my six-year old nephew had died exactly 10 years earlier. 10 years to the day, within the hour. This led me to wonder if someway somehow my nephew was trying to communicate with me from some other world. This feeling lasted about a day.

I've had an even stranger experience. In January 1998, I was working as a buyer in the record industry. This means I was taken out to lunch. A lot. In my case it also means I ate Chinese food. A lot. So much so that I became well-acquainted with the fortunes one was likely to find in a fortune cookie. Well, one day I received what for me was a quite unusual fortune. It read "You will soon witness a miracle." I thought it so unusual I brought it back from lunch and showed it to a few co-workers. I thought it was kind of funny. But, then the next day, which I believe was a Friday, things started to get weird. At a different Chinese restaurant, but in my very next fortune cookie, I received an even stranger fortune, which seemed to confirm that I would soon witness a miracle. It read "Something amazing will happen on Monday." I was like, "Wow, I'm gonna witness a miracle on Monday." I made a big joke of it. I asked people to predict what miracle I was gonna witness, etc.

By Monday, however, I'd almost forgotten about it. I did my work and went to lunch (no Chinese this time) but nothing unusual happened. Come late afternoon, my friend Deborah dropped off a large mail tub in my office and asked me the status of my miracle-watch. I opened my mail as I explained to her my slight sense of disappointment. As I opened one package--a promo CD of the artist Kristen Hersh's album Strange Angels, however, something caught Deborah's eye. It was a little metal angel. Deborah asked if she could have it. I said, "Yeah, sure," figuring it could only bring me luck. Deborah took the envelope containing the angel and returned to her office. As she did so, however, I reached back in the tub containing 20-30 packages and opened the next one. It was...a promo CD of the artist Kristen Hersh's album Strange Angels. Someone from the label (Rykodisc) had screwed up and sent me two packages. It occurred to me that this was the miracle. As soon as I gave something away, it had been returned. I thought of the Beatles' album Abbey Road, and their song "The End," and its lyrics "And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make." 

I went into Deborah's office. She was sitting down behind her desk with a strange look on her face. I started to tell her that I thought my getting a second strange angel as soon as I gave her the first one was the miracle I'd been waiting for. No response. I started to apologize for sounding like a freak. She said something like "No, I totally believe you" and handed me back the angel I'd given her. She then handed me a short slip of paper that had come with the angel in the envelope, but which I had not read. The slip explained that in South America small metal angels like the ones I was holding were nailed on church walls, and that they represented prayers. The slip said further that these angels are known as Milagros...Spanish for...MIRACLES. 

A fortune said I would soon witness a miracle. A second fortune said something amazing would happen on Monday. And on Monday, I received not one but two miracles in the mail, one replacing the other as soon as I gave it away.

Now what are the odds of that? A billion to one? A hundred billion to one? You tell me. I was so unnerved by this coincidence that I spent weeks trying to figure out its meaning. I thought for a time it had something to do with a female friend who had an angel painting at her house. This led me to tell her I approved of her dating a guy I otherwise knew little about. They soon got married. I thought the glory of their love was somehow connected to the miracle I'd witnessed.

I ran into her a few years later, however, and she told me they were now divorced. So much for miracles... Or at least our understanding of them.


12-07-10

One night, about a year ago, I dreamt a ray of light was slowly flowing from my forehead, down along my body, and across the room to my son's crib. JUST as the ray of light touched my son's forehead, however, he screamed out in real life, and woke me from my dream... Needless to say, this scared me a little. The next morning, by the light of day, moreover, I noticed a small red mark in the middle of his forehead. This led me to do some reading, whereby I discovered that psychics consider the middle of the forehead "The Mind's Eye." This got me thinking maybe I was psychic or something.

That feeling didn't last long. 

Unfortunately, however, that feeling returned today. Last night, while putting my son to bed, I started thinking about famous people who've died of cancer. This led me to think a series of thoughts that went something like this: "Huh, I wonder how Elizabeth Edwards is doing. Oh crap. I haven't heard much about her lately. Maybe this means she's gonna die soon. Tomorrow. She's gonna die tomorrow. Well, how do I know this? I don't know. I feel this. I have this really strong feeling she's gonna die tomorrow. Geez, should I go out and predict her death to my mom and sisters, waiting for me in the living room? No, that would be tacky. Besides, I'll probably be wrong and look really really stupid."

She died today.


7-13-11

On 7-10-11 my father died in Everett, Washington. While at lunch the next day in Seattle, while awaiting our flight back to Los Angeles, my brother and I talked about the fairly awful experience we'd just been through--flying up to Washington at the spur of the moment when we heard our dad was in the hospital with bleeding ulcers, only to watch him slowly bleed to death when we discovered no one was willing to operate on a man in such poor health. 

Anyhow, somewhere in this conversation I got sidetracked into telling one of the many amusing anecdotes I'd saved up from my days in the record industry. I told my brother how, while having dinner awaiting a musician's performance at a nightclub, the musician's wife started singing to me from across the table. This serenade came without a warning, and was essentially an a cappella rendering of a medley of TV show themes--first the theme from Gilligan's Island, and then the theme from the Brady Bunch. Needless to say, I was puzzled as hell. Well, at the end of this medley, which seemed to go on forever, my questions were answered--the musician's wife, now somewhat embarrassed, explained that she was the daughter of TV producer Sherwood Schwartz, and that she'd grown up on the sets of Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch. We ended up talking for an hour or more.

There was one part of the story I couldn't recall, however, and that was the name of this wonderful woman. I tried a few on for size for my brother, but they didn't sound right, and so I left her name a blank.

Well, the next day I received a call. As I picked up the phone I heard two words "Hope Juber." It was my brother's voice. I thought "what the heck is he talking about?" He then repeated the words "Hope Juber" and explained "that's the name of Sherwood Schwartz's daughter." I replied "You're right! That's it" and then asked him how he'd found out.

He told me he'd turned on his TV. She was up there on the screen. She was being interviewed. Her father had just died.

4-5-13

Here's another head-scratcher. My son is now almost 4 years-old. He's really interested in animals, especially birds. Like most little boys, however, he just loves to watch dogs, and makes a point of following them around when we're visiting someone who has one. So far, in his life, he's had multiple visits with seven different dogs. In descending order, based upon the number of days he's spent watching them and following them around, these dogs are Pixie (his Aunt Ninette's dog), Boone, Sadie, and Puppy (his Aunt Rhonda's dogs), Bailey (his Uncle Mike's dog), Bella (his Aunt Judy's dog), and Schotzie (his Uncle Darren's dog). Well, last fall things started falling apart, and a number of the dogs required medical attention. Pixie had to have surgery. Bella was sick. And then this year, things got even worse. Sadie was in a bad way. Bailey had to get a pacemaker. It became increasingly harder for Puppy to get up from the floor. It's not all that surprising, then, that, so far this year, four of the seven dogs my son has come to know have been put down. Sadie died a few months back. She was followed by three others. What's surprising, however, is not that three more have died, but which three died, and when. Two of the sickest dogs--dogs that could barely walk as of a few weeks ago, Puppy and Bailey, are still alive--for now. But we received notice last week that Bella was to be put down on Monday, April 1. And we received word on Monday April 1 that Boone was put down earlier that day. And then that night--the night of April 1--we received word that Pixie was put down that day as well. Three dead dogs. Three different cities, hundreds of miles apart. Three different owners, whose only connection to each other was through us. I mean, what are the odds my son would know six dogs, and that three of them would be put down on the same day? Ten million to one, right?

The poor health of Puppy and Bailey, of course, adds another element to this tragedy. Assuming they don't make it through the year--which is not remotely a stretch at this point--it would mean that the six dogs my son knows best, and heck, that I know best, all died within a year. Pretty freaky. 

P.S. On April 17, Puppy was put down. And then there were two... 


6-4-13

This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I periodically google my name to see if anyone is writing about me or my JFK research. This is usually a waste of time. Sometimes, however, I end up reading about people with the same name as myself, whose lives seem far more interesting than my own. There's an Irish musician, a realtor, etc. Well, today I discovered the existence of a Dr. James Patrick Speer, a dentist who died in 1925. He went by the name "Pat."

He was at one time the owner of Hickory Hill, a house in Virginia where John F. Kennedy once lived and the house where Robert Kennedy was living at the time of his brother's assassination. His widow Ethel lives there still.

I found this slightly unnerving. Not too much. Just a little.

This reminds me of another JFK-related coincidence. Over the past decade, I have sold thousands of cds over the internet. I do this under an alias. Well, in that time, I have recognized the names of a number of my customers. Several writers. One rock musician. A record producer I'd met once or twice when I was working in the record industry. Two of my customers, however, were JFK researchers with whom I'd exchanged e-mails in the past. And they were both prominent lone-nutters--JFK buffs committed to the premise Oswald acted alone, and dedicated to debunking every bit of evidence suggesting he did not.

It made me a little paranoid. I mean, I must know 20 times as many conspiracy theorists as lone-nutters. And yet the only two JFK buffs to purchase a cd from me were lone-nutters, and prominent ones at that.

Maybe they knew my alias, and felt sorry for me... As if...



6-6-14

My son is now five years old. Like many kids his age, he has a few issues. For some reason, he's never wanted to go out to a movie, and has adamantly insisted that he hates going out to movies. He'd never been to one, of course.

Until today. The other night, while eating at a local pizza parlor, I'd noticed that he was completely absorbed in a video playing on one of the TV screens. It was a video of Lego figures. He kept asking me what episode it was, and how many episodes there were. Well, this made me think he might be interested in going to see the Lego Movie, which just so happened to be playing at the local discount theater.

And so today Brigette, my sister Terry, and I, told Finn we were going to see the Lego Movie, and going out to eat afterwards. He belly-ached that he didn't want to go, etc, but we managed to get him inside the theater without too much fuss. I picked out some seats in the back row, and pulled him onto my lap as the theater went black. I half-expected him to wriggle his way free and take his own seat, but he seemed to take comfort in the situation, and quickly became absorbed in the movie. About half-way through the film, however, he started to get antsy, and I thought I might restore his interest by whispering little things in his ear. At one point, Batman made an appearance. In short order, Superman, Abraham Lincoln and Shaquille O'Neal joined the action. As each one entered the plot, I'd whisper "Hey, that's..." in his ear.  

The film then took a weird twist. It stepped back and revealed that the whole movie we'd been watching was taking place in the imagination of a young boy playing with his father's Lego figures, and that his father was represented by the villain of the story. At this point, I tried to explain the twist to Finn. I whispered that the movie we'd been watching was a story made up by a boy while he played with Legos. I said "He's like you, Finn, playing with your Legos." The dad--played by Will Ferrell--then called the boy by his name.

His name was FINN. Now, I know some will say, well, the name Finn is not so rare anymore, and is becoming more and more common. This misses that, at five years old, Finn has never met another boy named Finn, and hasn't seen a character on TV named Finn outside of the character on Glee, when he was a baby, and commercials for the cartoon Adventuretime. The only Finn Finn knows is himself. And here I was, telling Finn the boy in the film was like him, seconds before the name of the boy in the film was revealed as being...Finn. And here this was--the very first film Finn would ever see.

Fin.


7-18-14

Here's another weird one. Last Thursday, while out on a walk, I decided to call up an ex-girlfriend, who I'd last spoken to about a year before. We were together for about three years back in the late 80's and had maintained a friendship ever since. Well, about a minute into the call we lost our connection, and I stood looking at my phone waiting for her to ring me back. The phone rang, and I answered only to find it wasn't her, but my current girlfriend, Brigette, telling me that someone had just left a message on our answering machine, and that this someone had been downstairs hoping to drop by and say hello, but had left before she (Brigette) realized what was going on.

Now, here's the pay-off. This someone was another ex-girlfriend of mine from the late 80's. She was, in fact, the girlfriend I started dating when the other ex-girlfriend decided she wanted to see other guys, and that I broke up with after the other ex-girlfriend wanted to get back together, sort of, y'know, just enough to screw things up with the new girlfriend. In other words, there was a complicated history between the three of us. I hadn't seen this ex in ten years or so. She lived hundreds of miles away. And yet, here she was, ten years after I last saw her, showing up at my door within moments of my talking to the other side of our once semi-tragic love triangle.

Was something in the air? Or what? (We had lunch the next day, and I finally met her kids.)

Bizarre.

3-2-15

Here are a few more weird coincidences involving long-time friends.

Last night I discovered that my life-long friend Ihor...had died from a recently-developed complication with his heart. We hadn't talked in months, but were due for a periodic check-in with each other. And so I sent him a text last week. He didn't respond. This wasn't surprising in that he was doing important work overseas. A few days later, however, I had a sudden feeling that something bad had happened to him, and called him. He didn't pick up so I left a message. Now, here's the weird part. Last night, I decided to check in with him on Facebook to see what he was up to, and discovered that he had died. He had died on the day that I had had the sudden urge to call him.

This got me thinking about a far happier coincidence involving my friends. Last year, two of my best friends had a bit of a falling out. For months, they'd ask me "Have you heard from" the other guy, and then ask me all the questions they should have been asking the other guy. I told each of them that they should just pick up the phone and work it out.

Well, last fall, I had some family in town, and everyone wanted to meet for breakfast. I suggested we meet at Brigette's favorite breakfast place, just a few blocks from our house. Well, when we got there, I went inside to reserve a large table, and was shown to a table in a room off the main room. Well, lo and behold, who was sitting at a table ten feet from our table but my two friends, who'd finally decided to make up. Now, this in itself was remarkable, seeing as neither of them lived anywhere near the breakfast place, and it wasn't a place they'd ever met before. One lived about 4 miles away, and one lived about 6 miles away. But what was even more remarkable was what happened when I walked up and sat down at their table. Neither of them said anything--they'd each assumed the other had invited me!

This weird coincidence actually has a precedent. In the early 1980's, I fancied myself a poet. I would spend hours sitting in a park, searching for inspiration. Well, one day, late afternoon, I was sitting in a park when I heard the blare of a car horn. I looked up and saw, on the street, about 50 yards away, my best friend slowly driving by in his parents' car. Well, this was a good mile from either of our houses and he had no way of knowing I was in the park, so he clearly wasn't honking at me. I then realized that he had blown the horn at a car approaching from the opposite direction. Both cars stopped. My friend stuck his head out the window to speak to the other driver. I then realized that the other driver was another close friend, and that he was driving his parents' station wagon. The two of them had just so happened to spot each other driving down the street, and had just so happened to stop in the middle of the street and have a quick chat, and it just so happened that this happened directly in front of me.

Now, the three of us have dinner most Wednesday nights. And the two of them have confirmed that that was the only time they ever saw each other driving down the street like that, and stopped to say hello in such a manner. It was a once in a lifetime thing between two of my best friends. And I just so happened to be in the exact right spot to witness it.


11-9-15


There have been several coincidences recently that I thought should be added to this blog.

The first occurred about a month ago. Brigette, my son, and I were shopping at Costco. As we were walking near the toy aisle, I saw a small kid from behind who looked vaguely familiar. I asked my son, "Finn, isn't that your friend James from pre-school?" Now, pre-school was two years back, but we still see James from time to time at a children's center, and I really thought it was him. In any event, Finn said "No" and the boy turned around and he really didn't look like James at all.

We shopped for another half-hour or so and got in line to check-out. Now, Costco usually has long lines, but they move fairly fast, so we usually stand in line together. But this time Finn was acting kind of squirrelly, so I decided to take him to the other side of the register, and wait there. So I took him to the register to the left, but it was lacking in the space needed to squeeze through to the other side. So I walked to the left, again and again, looking for a register where we could squeeze through. To no avail.

We then came to the final register. And thankfully, there was enough room to squeeze through. Plenty of room, in fact. You see. the person standing at this register was not a grown-up with their big old bodies all spread out, but a little boy leaning up against the register watching his family's items get scanned. This little boy was James...

I noticed this as I squeezed past and surprised him with "Hi, James." When I got to the other side, moreover, I asked Finn if he'd said hi to James and he looked at me with puzzlement. I then turned him around to point out James, and he was totally bewildered. James' dad, who'd been standing behind James in line, then waved and said hello.

And that wasn't our last James sighting. The other day, while Brigette was shopping at the mall, I walked Finn up to the recently-constructed movie theater, looked at the schedule, and then walked over to the former coi pond nearby. (I say "former" because, the mall promised to return the coi after construction of the theater was completed, but has failed to do so. ) In any event, Finn was adamant that he didn't want to see the Peanuts movie, and was greatly disappointed that the fish had not been returned to the pond. As he was protesting, however, I looked over and saw someone waving at us from across the pond. It was James' dad. It turned out that James and his family had just watched the Peanuts movie, and had loved it. James gave it a thumbs up.

His review proved helpful, moreover. When Brigette finished shopping, we took Finn to see the movie. Without protest.

Now, this kind of thing might happen all the time in a small town. But James and his family don't live down the street. They live five miles or more away, a few communities over. The population pool in which we swim must be 150,000 people or so. The odds of us running into them twice in such a short period are pretty darned small, and a heckuva lot smaller when one considers that in the month or so between James sightings, we ran into exactly zero of Finn's schoolmates and friends in public. Zero. And yet, we ran into James...twice in a row.

And that's not the only recent weirdness involving kids. On Halloween night, we took Finn out for trick-or-treat. In the best suburban parent tradition, we stood back on the sidewalk and made Finn go up to the house. Well, one of the first houses we came to was handing out giant Pixy Stix. It stuck out of the top of Finn's small trick-or-treat bag.

When we got home an hour later, and Finn dumped his candy out on the floor, however, I noticed something. No Pixy Stick. Now, this irritated me because Finn has an annoying habit of breaking or throwing away things that don't fit. Like a piece of cheese dangling from the side of his cheeseburger. He'll tear it off with his hands and throw it on the floor. So I was annoyed because I suspected he'd simply decided to get rid of the Pixy Stick somewhere in the night, and had just thrown it on the sidewalk or some such thing. So I started grilling him a bit to see if he would cop to just throwing it on the street, or sidewalk, or if he had honestly lost it, perhaps when he tripped.

Brigette told me to get over it. It was just a Pixy Stick.

Just then the bell rang. I went to answer the door, and Finn followed. It was, no surprise, a group of trick-or-treaters. Now, we'd promised Finn he could have the candy leftover at the end of the night, and he surprised me by taking this to heart. So, as I handed out some candy to the last of the three trick-or-treaters, he blurted out something like "You're getting my candy."

Here came the surprise. The last of these boys, a roughly 8 year-old pirate if I recall, turned back around and said something like "Well, you can have some of my candy, then." And reached into his trick-or-treat bag. And pulled out a...giant Pixy Stick. And handed it to me to give to Finn.

When we walked back into the family room, Brigette asked "So, after all that, you found it, huh?" Nope, that wasn't it.

Now, think about this. This was a kid on Halloween giving away his candy, and by pure coincidence giving us the one piece of candy we'd been discussing for five minutes. Pretty bizarre, in my book.

Well, that brings us up to yesterday. Yesterday, while going on a two-hour drive, I noticed a sign announcing the offramp for the University of Redlands. Now, as we passed this sign, it occurred to me that I had never known anyone who'd attended the University of Redlands, or even been to the University of Redlands. I announced as much in the car, and asked Brigette if she knew anyone who'd even set foot on the University of Redlands campus. And she said no.

Then, late last night, I discovered that I did in fact know someone who'd attended the University of Redlands. And this came about by pure coincidence. I was killing time by searching for images using the names of some of my childhood friends. I was thinking that some of them would pop up and I could say "Wow, he looks good" or "Man, she looks old", whatever. I'm not proud of it. I was just curious about what happened to these people.

And I couldn't find a one. So I kept trying, using the names of people I'd known in more recent times, but with whom I'd lost contact. Well, when googling one of my female friends, I couldn't remember the exact spelling of her married name. So i just tried as a what-the-heck her maiden name. And a picture of her came up.

Aha. Success. I found someone. I took a closer look, however, and realized it wasn't her. But wait, could it be--yes, it could--her little sister? I clicked on the image to see if it was in fact my friend's little sister--who had been attending UCLA the last time we spoke maybe 7 years ago. And found that the picture came from a business profile of--yessirree--my friend's little sister.

And that she was working at the University of Redlands.