Writing about friends in warm places

I wrote before about meeting a certain couple in Vallarta two years ago. Do you remember that?

You know this is where I’m going to tell you about it again, right?

Here’s how that meeting went down:

We’re standing on a corner waiting for a city bus to take us out to a restaurant called El Rio. You can see El Rio here. Sure it’s somewhat “Americanized” but it’s still fun and the ribs are fabulous! Check it out if you ever go to Puerto Vallarta.

So anyway, we’re waiting for this bus except I’m over looking in a store window and Gerry, who always talks to strangers, starts talking to this couple.

As I said, Gerry always talks to strangers. He actually comes up with some pretty strange facts about people.

I’ve been saying for years that I want to start a website called, “Gerry talking to strangers.” And you know what? Someone beat me to it. Seriously. Check out Humans of New York. Now, don’t get me wrong; I LOVE HONY (that’s the acronym for Humans…). The guy, Brandon, has two books out and he’s done some seriously good humanitarian stuff through the people he’s met AND helped. I can’t see that “Gerry talking to strangers” could ever be that powerful but hey, one never knows. Yeah, I should put that site further up on my “to-do list”. What do you think?

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Us with Don and Karen in Puerto Vallarta 2015

So anyway, we’re waiting for that bus and I hear Gerry calling my name and I look up. He waves me over. “Guess where these people are from?” he asks. I shrug.

“Port Huron, Michigan.”

“I told them we were from the Sault, then said not really but they wouldn’t know the place but then I said Thessalon, and this guy said his wife’s family is from there.”

Coincidence? Yes. But it gets better.

Gerry asked who their family was. Because you know how we are in a small town. We KNOW everyone. (And if we don’t, we make it our business to find out.) So anyway, the man said to Gerry, “Karen’s aunt was a lighthouse keeper there.”

And of course, Gerry said, “No way! My wife wrote a story about that.”

And the man, Don, said. “We saw that story. That was our nephew she interviewed. He sent us the article.”

How funny is that?

So anyway, it turned out we were going to the same restaurant so we ended up going together and dining and visiting together for the afternoon. Don took my email and we said we’d get in touch sometime.

And a couple of weeks before we went to Mexico last year, we got an email from Don and Karen. “We’re going to be in Vallarta for most of February. How about you?” We only had one overlapping day but we hooked up for brunch and caught up on things. We also met Don and Karen for lunch last summer when we passed through Frankenmuth and it looks like we’re going to meet up again in Mexico in February. We’re friends on Facebook and Don and Karen may be coming through Thessalon on some sort of vintage car tour in late spring.

Isn’t it funny how things happen all because a certain someone talks to strangers. Every time I voice that out loud, I realize again how it’s such a great concept for a website. Now I’m not claiming it’s a truly original idea. They say that no story is original–there are 7 or 8 basic plots. I suppose it could be said of newspaper stories too. The ideas aren’t original. It’s just how they’re presented that becomes different.

After all, I’ve long been inspired by reporter David Johnson of the Lewiston Morning Tribune who used to write a column called Everyone has a story. Fully believing that to be true, Johnson would randomly phone people up from the phone book listings in the newspaper’s viewing area and talk to them to find their story. HONY does the same thing by approaching people on the streets of New York and Gerry Talking To Strangers would be another version of that same thing.

I suppose in a way that’s what I already do with the feature articles I write for the Sault Star. I don’t randomly phone people up. Well, not blindly anyway. But I do keep my ears open and when I hear unusual things, I jump at it and try to get the full story. My recent article on Shirley Seabrook came about when I went to get a copy of her prize-winning short story she’d entered in the Stories in the North Short Story Contest. When Shirley told me about how she’d been writing since she was a young girl, I knew I had to tell her story.

I love telling those kinds of stories so never be afraid to share one with me. “Anonymous” tips are also welcomed.

Anyway, if you’d like to read my original lighthouse story, go here. And if you’d like to read a story about my travels in Mexico go here. And here.

Right now, I’m finishing up some scheduled work projects including two more upcoming Sault Star features. I’m trying to clear my desk as we prep for another visit to Mexico where I’m pretty sure I’ll find myself a story. Or two.

And even if I don’t, Gerry just might when he’s talking to strangers.

Do you talk to strangers? What unusual incident or connection have you chanced upon just by striking up a conversation with someone you didn’t know? And if you’re feeling brave, tell me, what’s YOUR story?

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