Pat Speer's Coincidence Blog
Stuff that makes me say "hmm"
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 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 she'd picked out for our son--Finnigan. It said "son of a white-haired giant," or something quite similar, which somehow seemed appropriate considering I stand 6'4" and my hair began turning white when I was 25. She then looked up the name Fitzgerald, which I'd recently suggested as a middle name for our soon to be Finnigan. 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 on a top 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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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 unsettling. Like something is happening here that I can't quite understand.
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 were trying to let me know they'd done some digging, and know all about me... Or maybe they just so happened to share my interest in music...
I'm going with the last one...
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.
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.)
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.
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 koi pond nearby. (I say "former" because, the mall promised to return the koi 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.
This happened sometime last year, but I thought I'd add it in here before I forget about it.
I'd just walked into the local library with my son Finn, and had noticed a small kid across the kid's section of the library. From behind, this kid looked like Devin, a friend of Finn's from school. So I started to ask Finn if that was his friend Devin. But just then the kid turned around and I saw that it wasn't Devin.
I then turned to face Finn and tell him I'd thought the kid was Devin. When I turned, however, I received a surprise. Devin's mom was standing 20 feet or so behind Finn, looking around. I flagged her down and told her I'd just seen a kid I thought was Devin. I mused that perhaps I'd seen Devin in the background as I walked in, and had had Devin on my brain when I walked into the kid's section of the library.
Only that didn't compute. She'd walked into the library behind us and Devin had went straight to the bathroom, if I recall. In any event, he had never been in front of us, where I could've seen him and had him on my brain when I saw this other kid.
Now, I realize something like this might happen fairly often in a small town. But not where we live. Finn and I have visited the library roughly 200 times. And have run into one of his school friends maybe twice. So the odds of my mistakenly thinking a kid was Devin and then running into the real Devin a moment later are fairly small, and the event is indeed mysterious.
I am writing this some months later and am guessing at the date, but thought this might be of interest. On or about this date, my friend Dale and I took his great-nephew C.J. (his wife's niece's kid) and my son Finn to Soak City, a water park in Palm Springs. This was about a three hour ride. Well, about two hours into it, we got off the freeway and picked up a fifth passenger, a college-aged nephew of Dale's named Matt (his sister's kid), who was interning for the summer at a company along the way. Now, this came as a surprise to the boys and was partly symbolic, seeing as we used to take Matt to Soak City when he was their age.
In any event, the strange coincidence happened on the way back, long after we dropped Matt back off at his summer residence. As we neared my house, we decided to give the boys a treat. Dale suggested we get C.J. a drink he'd grown to like from Coffee Bean, and I proposed I get something for Finn from the Jamba Juice next door. As we walked toward the Coffee Bean, however, we received a surprise. Dale's parents were standing on the sidewalk waving at us, along with Dale's sister and brother-in-law--Matt's parents. Now, I thought this had been arranged. But no, it was a true coincidence. Dale's parents, who live about 15 miles to the east of us, and Dale's sister and her husband, who live about 10 miles to the west of us, had decided to get together somewhere in the middle, and had picked the Coffee Bean that we by pure coincidence had happened to walk up to...at the exact time they were leaving.
At 9 PM on 9-10, I was mentally prepared for surgery. I would go into the hospital at 3 PM the next day, go into surgery around 5, and then go home around 9, with my broken kneecap screwed back together.
But then came the call. They wanted me at the hospital at 7:30 in the morning. So much for a good night's sleep.
I lay there for hours wondering why the last minute call. I tried to think of other things. How happy I would be to walk again. How happy I would be to use the bathroom again without worrying if I could make it in time.
And somewhere in that time I started trying to remember things I knew I'd forgotten. Chief among these was the name of a restaurant my wife and I used to frequent, in the location of a restaurant that we currently frequent. This restaurant had been a local landmark until the owner died and the family couldn't make a go of it. But for some reason neither my wife nor I could remember its name the last time we frequented its former location.
So I sat there in the dark for a half hour or more trying to come up with the name. Guillermo's? Adolpho's Pizzeria? Eventually I gave up.
Now, I'm at the hospital. It's 2 or so in the afternoon. I've been laying around all day in a hospital gown waiting for the doctor to get to cutting. And I'm chatting with a nurse who's doing his best to keep me from venting. And he asks me where I currently reside. And I tell him. Simi Valley (which is about 15 miles away from the hospital). And he says "Oh yeah, I know Simi Valley. My wife and I used to go out there all the time to a restaurant she liked, Paul's Italian Villa."
When I went into surgery I had one less thing on my mind.
Here's another quick one. I was working on my JFK assassination website today, typing in the recollections of Mrs. Carolyn Walther, when I noticed the word "Forearms." How odd, I thought, that this word has an "e" followed by an "a" and then an "r," and yet no one but no one mispronounces it as "for earms."
I stopped working on my website and went to dinner. While at dinner, my wife lectured my son about putting his elbows on the table. While doing so, she offered that it was okay to put your forearms on the table, but not your elbows. Well, this, then, led me to discuss my thoughts on the word "forearms" and how strange it was no one notices the hidden "ear" inside the word.
It was a late dinner, so I put my son to bed as soon as we got home. After brushing his teeth etc, we moved into the bedroom so we could solve another Encyclopedia Brown mystery before he drifted off to sleep. Tonight's mystery involved a pair of twins, one a store clerk and one a professional tennis player, neither of whom had an alibi for a crime. Encyclopedia had to figure out which one did it. His answer was neither of them because...wait for it...the victim was a fellow tennis player....and the supposed perpetrator had been wearing a short-sleeved shirt...and yet, even so, the victim said he couldn't ID which of the brothers had robbed him. Well, according to the author of the Encyclopedia Brown series, Donald Sobol, it should have been obvious to the victim--if he actually had been robbed--which brother robbed him, because...because...the FOREARMS of the brother who was a tennis player would have been easily distinguishable from the forearms of the brother who was a clerk.
I warned you it was a quick one. Forewarned is forearmed.
Another quick one. Super quick. Shortly before his bedtime, my son was watching a youtube video on Minecraft when the host of the video somehow got sidetracked and began discussing the Coelacanth, a species of fish thought to have been extinct for 65 million years, that was caught by a fisherman in the 20th century, and is presumed to still survive. He pronounced it Ko-la-canth. My ears picked up. I said "It's pronounced See-la-canth, right, Bud?" And he said "yeah." My wife then asked how we knew and I said I was pretty sure there was an exhibit at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum that had the pronunciation.
The video finished. My son prepared for bed. Before he went to bed, however, we started a new book together, Tentacles, by Roland Smith. At the beginning of the story, some kids are preparing to go on an ocean trip aboard a ship entitled the Coelacanth. A boy named Luther calls it the Ko-la-canth. After which he is corrected by his friend, and told the proper pronunciation is See-la-canth. This was less than an hour after we'd just had this very same discussion...
Here's yet another curious coinky-dink stemming from a conversation with my son. Last week, as he was getting ready for bed, our conversation drifted over to screenwriting, and I explained to him that the best screenplays often have a surprise in the middle, where you think the story is heading in one direction but then it takes off in another. L.A. Confidential then came to mind. So I explained to him that the movie seemed to be heading one way, until the seemingly main character (and the one played by the most prominent actor) got shot and died. I explained that this character got his revenge, moreover, by mentioning within his dying words a name to his killer, that had been provided by one of the other characters, and that this name was that character's made-up name for a killer who gets away with murder. I mentioned that this set the stage for the rest of the movie--that you were thereafter waiting to see if the killer mistakenly mentioned this made-up name to the guy who made up the name, and what this guy did after he realized this man had killed the only other person he'd told about this made-up name. The problem, though, was that I couldn't remember the name. So I looked it up; the name was Rolo Tomassi.
Now, jump ahead to the next day, to my next conversation with my son. We're walking home from school and he asks me what "neo" means. So I explain to him that it is a prefix used to designate a new version of something old. I cite as an example that if the music termed "grunge" were to make a comeback, it would be called "Neo-grunge." It then occurred to me that I had been away from the music biz for so long that there might actually be a scene calling itself "Neo-grunge." So I looked it up. And sure enough there is a genre of music called "Neo-grunge." But here's the surprise: one of the top bands of this genre is named "Rolo Tomassi." So, huh, two consecutive conversations with my son, and two consecutive searches on my iphone to fill in the blanks, had led me in the same direction: Rolo Tomassi. What are the odds?
Two days ago, while driving back from a play produced at the Dolby Theater, the site of the annual Academy Awards ceremony, I flashed back on what is now to me a rather humorous coincidence.
I was talking to my friend Jodi, who I'd known for over 40 years. Over the course of our conversation, we stumbled on a couple of previously unknown connections. One was that she knew one half of the team who'd created the cartoon character Harley Quinn, and I'd gone to middle school with the other half, and the other was that her brother lived on the same quiet suburban block as one of my best friends. Now, keep in mind that this block was like 12 miles from where she lives and 4 miles from where I live, and that there are roughly 200,000 people living in between where she lives and they live.
So, that's a pretty good coincidence. But not something to write about. No, what drew me to write this post is what I remembered while we were walking to the car in the parking lot below the theater at Hollywood and Highland.
I flashed back to 2002. I was going out with a woman much trendier than myself--the kind of person who read InStyle Magazine, and kept up with the latest trends and gossip. And I was trying to impress her. It turned out she had never been to downtown Los Angeles, which was just then beginning its still-ongoing renaissance. And she had never traveled on L.A.'s recently completed subway lines. So I decided to take her downtown for lunch, and then back up to the recently-opened mall at Hollywood and Highland, via subway.
My plan worked out much better than anticipated. Like 1,000 times better. When we got to downtown, I decided to take her to the Original Pantry, a restaurant that had been open for decades, that never closed. Upon entering the restaurant we were greeted by its owner, Richard Riordan, a two-time mayor of Los Angeles, who, if I recall, was then the front-runner for governor. She was suitably impressed. After lunch, we walked back to the subway and then headed for Hollywood. Nothing dramatic.
As we were climbing the steps of the station at Hollywood and Highland, however, the unexpected occurred. A man ran across the sidewalk at the top of the steps and stopped. He walked back out of sight. He then ran back across the sidewalk and stopped. At this point he looked down the stairs. Directly at us. It was...Harrison Ford. The real Harrison Ford, not some actor dressed up as Indiana Jones or Han Solo to fleece the tourists.
In any event, upon reaching the top of the stairs, and Hollywood Blvd., we could see that, sure enough, there was a film crew filming Ford run up to the stairs. This didn't exactly shock me, as I'd stumbled on film crews a number of times before. So I did the do, and asked a member of the crew what they were filming, and he did the do, and told me "Hollywood Homicide, out next year."
So here's why I now find this so funny. It turned out that my then girlfriend had thought that I'd somehow arranged all this--that I'd so badly wanted to impress her that I'd arranged for Mayor Riordan to walk out of his restaurant just as we were walking in, and for Harrison Ford--Harrison freakin' Ford-- to be the first face she saw on Hollywood Blvd. as she was climbing up outta the subway station at Hollywood and Highland.
It happened again. A bedtime conversation with my son boomeranged back at me moments later. We were reading part 2 of the Killer Species books, and the villain of the story, an ecoterrorist calling himself Dr. Catalyst, had just announced his decision to release his manifesto. I stopped right there and asked Finn if he knew what a "manifesto" was. He said he had no idea. So I explained to him that it was a serious statement on the world, and how it oughta be. I then discussed various manifestos, by the likes of Karl Marx and the Unabomber, and how the writing of a manifesto can have unintended consequences--such as the purges of the 30's in the Soviet Union, the Cultural Revolution in China in the 60's, and the Unabomber's brother's recognizing his writing and reporting him to the FBI. I spent much of this time describing how Mao encouraged and/or forced city folk to move to the country to farm, and how this backfired and led to a massive food shortage, and millions of deaths. Pretty heavy stuff, I must admit. And on the stock market's worse day in decades. And that's not even to mention the shutting down of schools, plays, and sporting events for weeks if not months to come.
So when I came back into the living room and put on the TV I was looking for something light. I decided on Awkwafina is Nora from Queens. Last week's episode centered around her making an embarrassing noise from her lady parts, and how her friend's musician boyfriend sampled this noise, and made a hit record with it. Not exactly highbrow, or particularly serious.
This week's episode, however, was a bit different. It was a departure from the usual formula, and told the story of Nora's grandma, and how she left China behind during the Cultural Revolution. At the close of the show, more to the point, her grandmother's friend Shu-Shu performed a comedic musical number about her disastrous experience on one of Mao's forced labor farms, and her decision to escape to America. Her experience on the farm was what I'd just described to my son--a mere half hour before.
This was a heckuva coincidence. I mean, it's not as if I'm always talking about the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and it's not as if I'd ever before watched a sitcom set amidst the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
What are the odds?
Awkwafina strikes again! On Monday, we watched the latest episode of Homeland. In this episode, the actor Art Malik played a Pakistani intelligence official sympathetic to the Taliban. Well, this struck me as a bit of type-casting, seeing as I first became aware of Art Malik when he played a terrorist in...what was the name of that movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis?
Oh well, I put that on the back-burner. The next night, however, we watched the latest Terminator movie, and I saw in the credits that James Cameron was involved in this one. This led me to remember that the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis film I was thinking of was directed by the one and only James Cameron, of Titanic and Avatar fame. So what was the name of that movie again? Aww, damn...
The next night we watched Awkwafina is Nora from Queens, to rest the old brain. Well, in this episode she goes to China. When she gets to her hotel, she puts on the telly, and squeals with delight that the movie on her TV is....you guessed it...the movie whose title I'd been trying to remember for the past two days...True Lies.
A few days after that another Pat-racks-his-brain-and-providence-provides-the-answer event transpired. I'd just heard that one of my favorite songwriters--and a man I'd met on several occasions--John Prine, had contacted the coronavirus and was in critical condition. This led me, as one might expect, to try to remember the times I'd been invited backstage to meet John. Which led me in turn to remember another one of those coincidences that seems to infect my life. It was, I believe, 1994. I was driving cross-country with a couple of friends. We were driving through Nashville. We spotted a sign saying Music Row, as I recall. In any event, we were driving down Music Row (a street on which a number of country music publishers and labels have their offices) when the thought hit me that I'd had some dealings with a couple of people who were currently working on Music Row, and I might see one as we drove down the street. And then, just as I had this thought, I looked up and saw one of the guys running John Prine's record label, Oh Boy Records, in a parking lot, talking to someone by a car. As I recall, I rolled down the window and yelled out "Hi" and then his name, as we drove by. I'm pretty sure we joked about it later.
Now, here's the thing. When I remembered this coincidence the other day, I couldn't remember the name of the guy I'd said "Hi" to. I remembered that John's label was run by his manager, Al Bunnetta, but I couldn't remember the name of the other guy, the guy who handled marketing and advertising etc,--the one I'd seen in the parking lot. And so, once again, I put an annoying blank in my memory on the back burner.
And then, once again, the answer was provided. The very next day, thanks to the coronavirus, I was trying to teach my son some basic math. At home. This led me to venture off onto other topics, including that as a child I did very well in math until it dived into complex problems involving the square root of negative one and other abstract ideas. For whatever reason, this led me to lose interest. Well, my wife overheard this and she injected that I shouldn't tell my son this because it might discourage him from trying to solve complex math problems, etc. She even pointed out that if it weren't for complex math problems, we'd have no theory of relativity.
Well, this made me feel a bit annoyed with myself. I want to encourage the boy, not discourage him. So, later, while out on a walk, I asked my son if he remembered anything about the theory of relativity, which I'd once tried to explain to him, and which he'd read about in a kid's book about science. He said he didn't remember. So I tried to explain it to him using the classic bit about a flashlight on a bullet train, and how the beam of light is longer (and time slower) for those watching the flashlight shine inside the train as it passes by than for those inside the train.
Well, just as I finished this explanation, I got a bit of a chuckle. I'd remembered the name of the guy who'd helped run Oh Boy Records...Einstein...Dan Einstein.