I went to the Alan Doyle concert Friday nigh. If you don’t know who Alan is, well, how about lead singer of Great Big Sea? Newfie music? Kitchen party?
O.K., so he may not be well known. But he does draw a rabid following of fans who love his songs of the sea and stories about life in Newfoundland. If you haven’t heard him, give him a whirl. You may just find yourself questioning what you’ve been doing all these years without his music, just like I did when Great Big Sea first stepped into my world about 15 years ago.
The fact that Alan isn’t super well known is the reason this story is so fun. The only time I had gone to the Edmonds Performing Art Center was to see Great Big Sea for their 20th year tour. This was in 2013.
It was their last tour before Alan struck out on his own. I had the chance to see his new band at the Triple Door last May and couple of weeks later bought tickets to his May concert in Edmonds.
I am particularly proud of this as: 1) I rarely commit to anything more than two weeks out, let alone a year out and 2) I remembered a year later that I had bought tickets and actually went to the show.
It was at the show that I came upon one of those amazing things that happen in life, one that shows us clearly that we live in a very, very small world.
Let’s step into the Way Back Machine (vague Sherman & Peabody reference) for a moment. Way back in 1994, I had just started my company. We were in between clients at the time (a nice way to say that receivables were not keeping up with expenditures), so I took a temp job, one that required me to drive every day from West Seattle to Everett.
Now, for you geographically challenged, that’s quite a slog. Today you wouldn’t even attempt that kind of commute, given Seattle’s growth and legendary traffic. But back in the 90s, it wasn’t too bad of a drive.
I worked at Providence Hospital in their Communications department. They needed someone to handle their employee communications and I took the job. They ended up liking me so much there that they offered me the job fulltime. But I was already my own boss and there was no way I was going to be chained down to a desk again, working for The Man. That would have to wait until 2012.
I worked with some really wonderful people. Dava, the boss, wasn’t such a charmer but I worked mostly with Lori and Linda.
I hadn’t seen any of the old gang in 25 years. Notice this is past tense, for as I was waiting for Alan to come on, a woman behind me said, “Robb?”
It was Lori.
Talk about a small world. We hadn’t crossed paths for nearly a quarter century and there she was in the seat right behind me. Not at a James Taylor concert or some other ‘star”, but at the largest kitchen party in the world featuring Alan Doyle.
These moments always amaze me, largely because they are pretty rare in life.
The first time it happened to me was on Moorea, one of the islands in French Polynesia. I had driven my rental car up to Belvedere, a scenic viewpoint that overlooks the bays where Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed.
As I enjoyed the breathtaking splendor, I heard, “Robb?”
I turned and there was Janice Gaub, who was an advertising account representative when I worked at Associated Grocers. We didn’t exactly move in the same circles back then, but there we were, 10 years later, standing on the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere, she on a cruise and me just hanging out at Club Med on the island.
Several years later, I was vacationing in New Orleans. I was outside the aquarium along the Mississippi taking pictures. “Robb?” I heard someone say. “Is that you?”
It wasn’t Janice. It was Jerry. He and I had been Seafair Pirates together. I hadn’t seen him in years. But there we were, Jerry, I and our respective wives at the time.
I’m not sure how this exactly happens. In all three cases, I hadn’t seen these people for years, even decades. But there they were. Bigger than life.
Jerry may be the oddest of these happenstances. We both lived in West Seattle. Not exactly a big place at the time, he on the south side of California and I on the north. Never once did we run into each other while I lived there even though we frequented the same restaurants and bars.
Which makes these moments so amazing. And so telling.
The reason I say telling is because though rare, it seems to happen when you’re the farthest from home. I mean, Moorea is 4,800 miles from Seattle, a 12-hour flight. And there was Janice. About 2,5800 miles, and there’s Jerry.
Yet, in Florida, I never ran into anyone I knew from Seattle in those, not even at the world’s most popular and frequented theme parks.
I came to this sad “fish out of water” conclusion one day. I came to finally realize how truly alone I was there, largely because I had been there eight years and never ran into anyone I knew. I had been in the middle of the Pacific. I had on the riverfront of The Big Easy. But never in Florida.
Back in Seattle, the same amount of time passes that I had been in Florida and I run into Lori. In the seat behind me. At a concert showcasing the talent of one of Newfoundland’s biggest stars, whose virtually unknown in the states, let alone Edmonds, Washington.
It makes me really wonder about this world of ours and how small it really is. We like to think that we’re being swallowed up by urban sprawl and our own self-absorption, but these blast from the past encounters prove to me that we indeed live in a pretty small world, if we just take the time to look around us and see this place for the miracle it is.
It certainly makes you wonder if we’re just a stupid accident of primordial ooze or all interconnected some way in ways we can never truly understand.
In the Emerald City, wondering who I’ll run into next. Or not.
A side story. I hadn’t seen Lori since two ex-wives ago. So I needed to introduce the lovely Kat. I did the usual “Kat this is Lori” and “Lori this is Kat” thing. Kat looked at me quizzically and I simply said, “Remember that Christmas where I ended up at the wrong holiday party?” and Kat instantly knew how Lori fit into my world. You mean you haven’t heard the Wrong Christmas Party story? It’s right here.