It’s a Small World

Everyone, it seems, has a story ending with the words “it’s a small world.”

My roommate, Kevin, ran into someone recently he’d never met before at the Bahia Cabana bar who is best friends with one of his cousins…”it’s a small world.”

I have three small world stories I’d like to pass on.

Story #1

When I was growing up in Orleans out on the elbow of Cape Cod one of the highlights of the summer for us kids was the arrival of the carnival. With it’s bright lights, scary rides and cotton candy it was a three day bacchanal of delight.

I was about 10 the year my dad and I were walking down the midway on the opening night of the carnival when he stopped short and cocked his head and listened to something that caught his ear above the din.

“That sounds like Johnnie LaGasse” he said and we set out to track down the voice like bloodhounds on the scent of a convict escaped from the chain gang. And sure enough, at one of the games the barker we had heard had been bunkmates with my dad on the ship they sailed in together in the Pacific during WWII.

Johnnie wasn’t just running the game, he and his brothers owned the carnival! The great thing for me was that he had a son my age and for the next four years when the carnival set up at the baseball field at the high school I got all the free rides any kid could want.

The game was great, too, though I wasn’t allowed to play it. There was a large square table, probably 10’X10′ on which dozens of Lucky Strike packs had been glued. People would toss nickles, dimes and quarters trying to get them to land completely in the red circle of the pack. There had to be red showing all around the coin in order to win. A nickle got you a pack of cigarettes, a dime got you two and a quarter got you five packs. The secret to winning was that the coin had to come straight down onto the red circle and not at the slightest angle, and to put the winning edge in the house’s favor, the board was lovingly waxed every day. It was, as the farmers in Missouri would say, slicker than snot on a door knob.

Story #2

This one is about how the sequence in which you do something eventually leads up to that small world moment.

One Sunday when I was living  in New Orleans, which was a LOT more fun than the Orleans I grew up in,  I needed to go down to the flea market in the French Quarter to repay a loan to a friend of mine who had a stall down there on the weekends. I had been inhaling some fine mind-altering herb prior to making the decision to go. I hopped on my motor cycle and headed out but after a couple of blocks I decided that riding in my condition wasn’t the smartest move in the world so I took the bike back home. All of which took some time. I rode the St. Charles street car down to Canal Street, instead.

I paid my friend, Roy, the money I owed him and we chatted for a bit. As I started to head back home I ran into a lady friend who enticed me into taking a walk down towards the levee to partake of some of Jamaica’s finest agricultural export. So we took a stroll, sat on the levee watching the shipping passing up and down the river for a while and I headed for home once more.

Well, by now I’d worked up an appetite, as you might imagine, so I had to stop off for a roast beef po’boy sandwich dripping with gravy before I could get on the streetcar.

Normally what I would do was to head up Carondelet Street to the stop at Gravier two blocks before the Canal Street stop. The Canal Street stop is always a bit of a zoo since the street car ride up St. Charles is a big tourist attraction and the closest stop to the French Quarter. The car would fill to capacity in no time. So, by getting on at Gravier I would already be aboard when the herd got off at Canal emptying the varnished wooden seats and I would be assured of getting a seat by a window for my ride home.

Carondelet makes a slight turn to the right as it approaches Canal Street, so you can’t see the stop from the corner. As I was halfway up the block I see that the street car has already gone past my intended stop and since they only ran every half hour on Sundays the only thing for me to do was to go down Common Street and catch the train after it had loaded and started heading uptown on St. Charles.

So, I was standing on the corner of St. Charles and Gravier checking out the others waiting for the street car. Hmmmmmmmmmmm…that’s a good looking girl standing there. Shiny black hair, nice legs, too. Then she looks up at me and says, “Richard?”

“Yes,” I reply cautiously.

“You don’t remember me, do you? My name’s Marie. I used to cut your hair when you lived in Chicago.”

Now, that wouldn’t have happened if anything that preceeded the meeting had been changed.

It’s a small world.

Story #3 (My Best Small World Story)

When I was down in Fronteras, Guatemala,  a small, one-road bump in the road on the way from nowhere in particular to the Mayan ruins of Tikal, the Nirvana Express Bar used to sponsor cruising sailboat races every other Sunday as an excuse to have a party afterwards which would boost their coffers. I didn’t participate in the races but always participated in the parties afterwards.

One Sunday Eugenio, a young Guatemalan who owned Hacienda Tijax, below,tijax a small eco-resort and marina on the river, won the race. As I entered the bar Eugenio came over to me with a cold Gallo in hand. “Come here,” he said, “I want you to meet my girlfriend.”

We went over to the bar where a blond and a brunette sat with their backs to us.

“Libby, Libby,” Eugenio said, “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine.

The girls turned around to face us and the blond smiled broadly and said, “Hello, Richard. What are you doing here?”

Libby, sitting there in this run-down, third-world bar in the middle of nowhere had been the regular baby-sitter for one of my best friends in Antibes, France, when I lived over there.

It truly is a small world!

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