Last Sunday I drove to Parma, to the Byzantine Cathedral of St John, because I wanted to hear a talk on the Jesus Prayer after the Divine Liturgy.
After the Liturgy was over, a middle aged man walked up to me and said “Dan?” I studied his face for a moment and realized that I had no idea who he was. Something like that had happened not too long ago, when a friend I had not seen in 30 years or so approached me and said my name. Embarrassed, I told him that I did not recognize him, but when he told me his name I could see how the guy I remembered- thin and long haired- had evolved into the grey, balding and portly fellow before me. Old friends are more likely to recognize me than I them, because while I have aged, I haven’t changed much: I have all my hair, it isn’t grey, and while I have put on weight since youth, in my case that has meant going from skinny to average.
So I assumed this was a similar case. I told him, “I’m sorry; I’m afraid I don’t know who you are”. He said, “John. John Powers”. The name was no more familiar than the face, and for a moment I panicked: was this some delayed side effect from the stroke I suffered in 2002, from which I thought I had escaped with only minor short term memory loss? “I’m sorry, but I am drawing a blank”, I told him. “Aren’t you a musician?” he asked; “Don’t you play at the Loose Moose in Sagamore Hills?” (I am not making up the name of either the bar or the town). I told him that while I play a little guitar and penny whistle I wouldn’t call myself a musician, and I had never been to the Loose Moose. “Man”, he said “I know a guy who looks just like you”.
Now, I must pause to explain to those of you who have never met me that I’m not often told I look like anyone else. My hair is blond and curly. I’m not sure what percentage of men are afflicted with this kind of hair is, but it is not great, though it seemed to be plentiful among the subspecies Rock Stars of the 70s. But I see it so rarely that I do a double take when I do. On top of this, I haven’t cut my hair for a few years now, and I wear it tied back in a pony tail. There cannot be very many men with my hair color and texture and style. Further, that look enough like me for me to mistaken for them. AND who have the same first name! I regretted not asking what the guy’s last name is. I mean what if …??!! What is this? Am I living two lives, unbeknownst to myself? Is this a permanent case of bilocation?
I mean what are the odds?
It reminds me of the time, in my hitch-hiking youth, when I struck up a conversation with a young woman in a cafe high in the Sierra Mountains in California. “Where are you from?” she asked. “Michigan” I replied. “Michigan! Do you know Mike Purzycki?”, who happened to be an old friend since our days at St John’s Elementary School. There are what? 30 million people in Michigan?
But this was, if anything, even stranger.
There are strange experiences. Then there are stranger experiences. Then there are what I call perfect stranger experiences, like these two.
I don’t know. Some weekend I may drive up to Sagamore Hills, find the Loose Moose, and introduce my selves.