Encounters in life often seem random. Of course, there are specific introductions, or the people we are related to or work with, but outside of such organized settings, many individuals do seem to cross our paths out of nowhere. And yet, from time to time, we see that some are connected, randomly to us, perhaps, but not to one another.
Follow me here; I’ll give you a sampling of my random encounters, over the years.
In my 19th year, (1983) I spent several weeks in Tahiti during a stretch of about nine months that I crewed on boats in the South Pacific. I caught a ride from the capital, Papeete on the main island, to Moorea, a few hours’ sail away.
There I quickly befriended a handful of English-speaking actors – British, Australian, New Zealander, Irish, and so on – who had been living on the island for months as they filmed a remake of The Bounty with Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins as the stars. Few of them spoke French or Tahitian and so they were delighted to speak to someone who shared their language and we sort of hung out together, like kids in school thrown in together for detention.
One evening, we meandered down to the beach and as we sat on the sand, under the stars, a tall broad-shouldered Irishman started singing “Gypsy Rover” and I tried to join in with harmonies. I wasn’t doing very well at deciphering his accent, so he taught me the lyrics and for an hour or two we were singing buddies.
Several years later, (1990) back in the States, I went to the movies in San Francisco with a friend and saw that same face on the big screen. As we watched the film, I think it was Dark Man and I listened to his voice, I realized that this actor was the same one I’d sung folks songs with on the beach in the South Pacific. Liam Neeson was becoming a star in his own right, no longer the guy in the background, and I smiled as the lyrics played in my head.
About six years after that, (1996) I attended a luncheon organized by amfAR, and our gracious hostess was Natasha Richardson. She and I rode the elevator together and I was tempted to tell her that her husband had taught me Irish folk songs, years before, but decided to keep that information to myself. I simply introduced myself, thanked her for her work on AIDS, and once out of the elevator, made my way to my table with the other guests.
Then, (2011) in the last month of my career with UNICEF, I met Vanessa Redgrave when she spoke at an event at our headquarters in New York City. I asked a friend who works with celebrities for UNICEF to introduce me. I thanked Ms. Redgrave her for her words and her work and, in that case, did opt to tell her that I’d met her daughter and commented what a beautiful person she had been.
And just this fall, (2014) in the first semester of my MFA at Stony Brook Manhattan, I enrolled in a fiction class with Susan Minot who wrote the book Evening which, when adapted for film, starred Vanessa Redgrave with a supporting role by Natasha Richardson who in this, one of her last films, played the on-screen daughter of her real-life mother.
Over the course of thirty years, by chance, I met all of these people who are connected to one another. Beyond sharing the randomness of encounters, there really is no point to this story except to highlight how amazing life is.
Who will I meet next?