I was asking my friend who is living in Sao Paolo if he had voted in the French legislative elections. He said that not only had he voted but he was one of the officials at the polling station at the French consulate.
But he added that the Green party candidate for District 2 (Latin America from Mexico to the tip of South America + Caribbean), Sergio Coronado, turned out to be somebody that he knew. He was in the French municipal elections for the 14th arrondissement way back when, and one of the main headquarters of the Green party back then was our collective café Au Vrai Paris. He was a regular customer of the café back then. Small world.
So I decided that we needed a Small World thread to tell such tales.
I have sort of a shaggy-dog example, and apologies to those of you who know me from other forums & may have heard it before. (maybe even here )
Back in the very early 70s my cousin Buddy D'Aquila met an Australian writer who was visiting New Orleans & invited him to stay with him & his family. That's how I came to know Frank Morehouse.
Flash forward a few years after Frank returned home. My cousin nipped into a small café one day that was nowhere near his home or workplace -- a place he'd never been before. There was a guy sitting further down the bar & when Buddy heard him speak, he said, "You're from Australia, aren't you?"
The guy said yes, that he was from Sydney. Buddy commented that he knew exactly one person in Sydney, Frank Morehouse, whereupon the guy responded, "Then you must be Buddy D'Aquila." It turned out that Frank had given him Buddy's phone number, but he felt funny about calling a complete stranger.
Now flash forward a few more years. A large group of us were clumped around the bar in the Maple Leaf (New Orleans). Several of the group were from England & had started making fun of Australians. The bartender walked up & said, "The couple at the end of the bar want to buy a round for you all." Naturally they were beckoned over and the second they opened their mouths, it was obvious that yes, they were Australians.
I was sitting & talking to the wife, who told me she was from Sydney. I said, "I know someone from Sydney." She groaned & said, "Please don't -- it's a city of almost 3 million people!" To which I answered, "Aw come on -- do you know Frank Morehouse?"
She didn't even answer me. Her mouth dropped open and she turned around and started pounding on her husband's arm, saying "She knows Frank! She knows Frank!"
It turned out they had been next-door neighbors for ten years.
A number of years ago, my brother informed me that one of the people we went to elementary school with was living just a few blocks from me in Paris.
After finishing high school in Mississippi, she had moved to Colorado Springs where she worked for a few years and decided to finally get a college degree. During her studies, she met a French air force officer since there was an exchange program between the American air force and the French air force. They got married and moved to Paris.
She had already been living there for 4 or 5 years when my brother found out and told me. It was all quite strange when we got in touch and talked about things from "back there" and all of the people we had known. She had fresh information, because most of her family was still living there.
She ended up getting divorced and she moved back to the United States -- Colorado Springs is her home. I have lost touch with her, but it was strange to follow completely different courses in life and end up living almost in the same place. Then again, as small as the chances are, I suppose it is much more likely for people to end up living in Paris or New York or London at the same time rather than a village in the Congo or Bolivia.
My small world story: Mr. Kimby and I travelled in Mayan Mexico in the early 90's for several weeks during which time we ran into almost no English-speakers. There were surprisingly few American tourists, and though there were plenty of European tourists - who undoubtedly knew some English - they preferred to speak Spanish or their native tongues, even with Americans whose language skills tend to be fairly parochial (English or "un poquito Espanol"). Even the Mexican people who worked with tourists all the time - shop clerks, hoteliers, and waiters - spoke almost no English.
After several weeks of feeling almost mute, with no one to speak to but each other, Mr. Kimby and I settled in for a few days on the coast at a tiny town called Puerto Arista with a single one-star concrete hotel on the sea. Being October, there were very few guests, and the town was pretty deserted too. The hotel had an open air restaurant, and our first night dining there we noticed a gringo-looking couple, the only other guests, apparently, at another table. We greeted them tentatively in English and to our delight they returned our greeting in American-accented English.
After a short visit we discovered that not only were they from America, they were from Wisconsin originally, as were we, and also that the husband grew up about 3 miles from Mr. Kimby and the wife's mother lives a block and a half from my parents!
So not only were we able to converse in English and American English at that, we were conversing in a Wisconsin accent about places and people we had in common. Small world indeed.
Both couples stayed at that hotel 3 nights and though we did our sight-seeing separately during the day, we met up for dinner each night to compare notes. And then we went our separate ways to finish our trips, again in a sea of non-English speakers.
We are still in touch with them more than 20 years later via the annual Christmas letter, but have not seen them since.
Kerouac's reminded me of one from my family. When I was a kid my dad, who was in the Air Force, was transferred to Madrid. On our way out of the US, we stopped in the Boston area so he could visit family. They informed him that his first cousin was also in Madrid, having married a South African who was currently posted in Spain as chargé d'affaires. What was really great was that their family had kids the same age as me & my brother and sister, so we had our cousins to play with the whole time we were overseas.
Whenever I think of my dad's cousin, I remember with great fondness the gorgeous pair of pigskin gloves she gave me, which I treasured & mourned when I grew out of them.