Just A Coincidence



I'm your deja vu man. In fact, I get deja vus about deja vus it happens so often. Such phenomena should make me a prime candidate for the occult, or its more conventional counterpart called religion, but that's not what this scribbling's about. According to the title, you see, this is about coincidence. Okay - that's a lie, too - it's about freaks. Eventually - read on.

First, though, the two very respectable coincidence stories. The freakiness will come out in its own time. This is called suspense. The lesser (and thus first) tale concerns my friend Jim, an American who (coincidentally?!?) lives in nearby Portland to my Seattle. Isn't that something? We met in Venezuela! Okay, I'll admit that doesn't yet make for much of a coinkidink, but one has to start somewhere.

The REAL deal was that, a year after I met Jim in that Bolivaran redoubt of Hugo Chavez on the Caribbean (that'd be Venezuela, by the way), I found myself walking in a park in Copenhagen, Denmark. Said place is very, very far from Portland, Seattle, and Venezuela all three - agreed? No matter: who, might you guess, was I to meet in this park walking in my very direction? JIM!

I'll admit that you mighta guessed this. That's probably the result of something called foreshadowing. Nevertheless, it gets better: I was accompanied then by my Danish friends ALSO met in that selfsame country called Venezuela (henceforth to be known as the Venezuela Triangle in honor of Bermuda's special appellation and tradition). Now you're quaking, I can tell.

Granted, Christian and Dortha were met some weeks after meeting Jim, with a visit to the Orinoco Delta, some jungly and desertlike places, and my (to date) second worst stomach ailment ever thrown in between. But I'll still attest that this makes for a DOUBLE coincidence - in my book, anyway. Be impressed.

We spent a few minutes in amazement, then shortly parted ways to do the more important Danish activity of drinking beer. No coincidence necessary. I would next see Jim the following year in Switzerland with his non-Venezuelan wife, Tanja. She was with him that fateful day in Denmark. No coincidence there, either. But you're not impressed, are you? I can feel it.

Hmm. Not freaky enough? You should meet Jim! Not that Jim wouldn't take that as a compliment, mind you. No, it'd be some years prior to this - in a place closer to Venezuela, although coincidentally that figures nowhere into this, either - that I had my disturbing, "greater" coincidence. I'll allow for it being "lesser" - you decide - but you'll have to bear with me while I sketch in some prurient details.

The upcoming, landmark event would take place in Tallahassee, Florida, after several years in Germany which came after several other ones in Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan. Germany had started with my senior year of high school, then a couple of away semesters at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and some working years in Germany were thrown in for good measure. Ah, stacking sacks of onions and driving a forklift. Whee. Anyway, I found myself at F.S.U. due to Michigan's out-of-country taxes, my dependent residency changing as my parents' did taxwise, and cheap Florida swampland being available to avoid them.

So here I was, several years passed from being a punk in Grosse Pointe Park, MI, and enjoying a new life and environment a world - or at least 1500 miles - away in sunny Florida. Reason to celebrate, no? Yes. In any event, I found myself at a party one night in my dorm lodgings. Party... on!

I'm sure I was celebrating something. Friends, liquor, co-eds... or was I really merely rejoicing this new distance from the wastelands of Greater Detroit? Perhaps that was it, co-eds notwithstanding. But apparently no one ever truly motors away from the Motor City - here it comes.

Well into the night of a (cheap) beer-keg-induced debauchery (such as comprises such dormitory events), I was approached by a paunchy pale guy some years my junior. Truth was on its way.

"You're TripTrumpet!" he exclaimed. [Names changed to protect innocents.]

"Wha....?" I intelligently rejoined.

"How are John, Jack.... Mary, Rachel?" he continued.

THAT quickly brought his face into clearer focus; I scrutinized it for any inkling of recognition. Nope. Meanwhile, where I had been ready to move on to the general inquiry of "Wha---t?," instead the following was blurted out: "Do I know you?"

He wasn't done, however, ignoring me adroitly. "And Jim, Tim?" he pushed on.

Impressive. He knew at least half of my siblings, somehow including me - while ignoring those older than me. That told me about... next to nothing. Now I finally countered with the obvious "Who ARE you?" My vision was clear by this point, trying to puzzle this enigma out. But I still had no idea who this guy was, nor how he had such potentially damning information about my clan. What else did he know - show sizes?!?

Apparently not yet: "I'm Chris Marshall - I lived down the street from you guys on Balfour Road in Grosse Pointe Park."

Well, THAT place was familiar, certainly - our home street was correctly identified - but otherwise no bells rang. No, there wasn't even a chirp, though this DID remind me acutely of being similarly stopped by an actual FRIEND one year removed from Grosse Pointe Park. That had come when I had returned to attend the University of Michigan. I drew utter blanks as my (former) friend repeated his name ad nauseum: "I'm Fred! Fred! Fred Genberg - remember?"

Well, yes, eventually I did, but that only came after an embarrassing five minutes of his recounting events and teachers, etc. This wasn't a promising experience, and it didn't bode well for this time around.

"Did you come to our house sometimes?" I feebly ventured.

"No." He seemed non-plussed with my vacant lack of recognition.

"Were you friends with one of my brothers and sisters?" I advanced the interrogation.

"No." He paused. "...but we all knew who you guys were."

Ah-HA! Oh. And that was it. Out of these huge, out-of-scale odds of bumping into an old neighbor from another time and place, what a rub! I had only been recognized for being a part of the freak show that is a family of twelve children. Thanks.

Perhaps this shouldn't have been surprising. Grosse Pointe Park, after all, was a lily white, suburbian bastion of one and two kid families. This was especially amazing only because G.P.P. lay just across the road from rough-and-tumble (and rather non-white) Detroit.

Meanwhile, I stood there, flabbergasted. Eventually, though, I lifted my head and looked at this strange connection to my past, this amazing vehicle of coincidence and happenstance. Then I dropped my head, turned, and walked away. No coincidence to that at all. Freak.

2008-10

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