I went cross-country in the summer of 1976. My sixty-eight day odyssey was a combination of hitchhiking and using the Greyhound bus. Along the way, I met other backpackers starting in Brooklyn New York, to New Orleans, Juarez Mexico, Colorado, the Grand Canyon, Vegas, California and across Canada.
The Canadian Rockies was a visual highlight of that trip...and my life. While hitting such beautiful places as Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise, I traveled with a Danish guy named Bengt, (my March 4, 2011 blog about him was called, "GET BENGT)."
In Banff, Bengt and I were chatting on the cable car line to the Sulphur Peak mountaintop.
|AN ISOLATED PARADISE OF NATURE, MOST PEOPLE NEVER HEARD OF BANFF, ALBERTA, CANADA. IT'S LOCATED ABOVE MONTANA, NEAR THE BRITISH COLUMBIA BORDER. BEFORE GOING UP INTO THOSE GORGEOUS MOUNTAINS, BENGT TOOK THIS PICTURE OF ME.|
While waiting for the gondola to take us up, another tourist overheard our conversation and asked, "Where are you from?" Bengt proudly said, "Copenhagen Denmark." "Not you," the man said. He pointed at me, "I meant him." I shrugged, "New York..." Before I could get more specific he cut in, "I thought so. My cousin Rod is from New York. Do you know Rod Tompkins?"
What a knucklehead! I didn't even have a chance to narrow-down the possibilities by saying New York City. This gentleman's ridiculousness was made worse because the odds of me knowing his cousin was no longer an eight million-to-one shot...it was a twenty-million-to-one shot because he was covering the whole damned state.
In case he was putting me on, I didn't scream out that; I don't know half the families on my street. Instead, out of respect, I thoughtfully said, "Hmmm, Rod..." He smiled in anticipation, "Well, actually his full name is Rodney Tompkins..." I shook my head, "Sorry. Doesn't ring a bell." He walked away.
During a quiet moment on the scenic cable car ride, my mind raced to the song, "IT'S A SMALL WORLD." I was reminded about the great coincidences we all experience...but the thought of knowing Rod Tompkins wasn't one of them.
|FROM THE SULPHUR PEAK OBSERVATION DECK, MY PHOTO (above), SHOWS HOW OUR EYES FEASTED ON THE VIEW OF SIX MOUNTAIN RANGES.|
The "It's a Small World,"song distracted me before we reached the summit. Soon I was recalling the summer of 1974 when RBOY and I had our mega working vacation at Disney World, (Florida).
|AT DISNEY, WE WERE CLEAN-UP GUYS. PRIOR TO ONE OF OUR SHIFTS, RBOY AND I WALKED THROUGH THE PARK AND USED IT AS A PHOTO-OP.|
RBOY and I once had a friendly argument. I complained how awful it was to work next to the Disneyworld carousel. I said, "The redundancy and repetitiousness of the same tune repeating over and over and over and over again is killing me." RBOY said, "My torture is worse. I'm stationed next to the Tiki Room".
RBOY droned, "I heard that routine a million times. 'Come to the Tiki Room. Fly with the Tiki Birds.' Over and over..." I said, "I got you beat...if I got tired of the merry-go-round song, my next stop was sweeping-up in front of, "It's a Small World."
The "It's a Small World'" song is so universally annoying that RBOY immediately conceded. If you need more ammunition to understand my point, Disney shockingly lampooned the song in their 1994 movie, "THE LION KING." This sequence happened after Scar, the murderous new lion king lazily allows his kingdom to rot. At a depressing moment in his monarchy, he demands that his majordomo (Zazu) sing something upbeat. Zazu chooses, "IT'S A SMALL WORLD." Within the first few bars Scar snarls, "No, no Zazu...ANYTHING but that!"
|CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO SEE AND HEAR THE 1:45 SCENE BETWEEN SCAR (left) AND ZAZU (right).|
I had my own, it's a small world moment, a few weeks ago, in the supermarket. I saw a young woman in the cereal aisle and it killed me that I couldn't figure out where I knew her from. Minutes later, we cross paths again by the frozen pizza. She gave me a familiar smile. I am a staunch believer in boundaries (personal space), especially with women. So I didn't want to come off like a stalker or bigger weirdo than I already am. But in a thirty-year rush of memories I blurted out, "Are you Erleen?" She nodded so I said, "I remember your first day as a teller trainee, at the bank on New Jersey Avenue." She was cordial as she thanked me. I said, "You were my favorite. Over the years, you stood out because you were always so nice. You even stayed the same after you were promoted to assistant manager." She was nodding as I added, "You were pregnant the last time I saw you. But I switched banks when a more convenient one opened by my house." She said, "That baby is going to be twenty-seven." A short time later, I walked away feeling good.
Considering that Erleen and I live comparatively close to each other, it really wasn't such a coincidence to run into her after such a long time. The real, it's a small world" moment happened at work a week later.
I was dealing roulette and a young woman read my name tag and said, "Wow, you're from Canarsie...I work in Canarsie." I said, "Where do you work?" "I'm a teller at the Chase Bank on Seaview Avenue." I said, "When I was a kid, I had my first savings account there...except back then, it was called the Brevoort Bank." She said, "We have a photos on the wall of all the different names the bank has had."
|I OPENED MY BREVOORT ACCOUNT IN 1967. THE NAME CHANGED (see above) TO METROPOLITAN BANK AND CROSSLANDS BEFORE BECOMING CHASE.|
I told this lady, "Before they opened your branch, the Brevoort was just a tiny storefront, in the Bayview strip mall across the street." I also mentioned the historic Canarsie photo of Lyndon Johnson and Robert Kennedy campaigning on the street where the bank would eventually be built.
|CONSIDERING THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF WHAT HAPPENED TO RFK's BOTHER... WHICH LED TO JOHNSON 'S PRESIDENCY, THIS "SHOT" FROM FALL 1964, ELSEWHERE IN BROOKLYN, (FLATBUSH AVENUE?) IS INCREDIBLE AND FAR MORE COMPELLING THAN THE CANARSIE PICTURE.|
I also said, "I wasn't a sophisticated twelve year old. So while it was important for me to use my pittance to make bank deposits, I frequently made the mistake of going on Friday (when the whole world got paid). The lines at the bank were incredibly long. But stupidly, I'd wait to hand over some silly amount like $6.12."
The woman commended me. That's when I connected meeting Erleen with my least favorite bank teller. I said, "Yeah but there was one witch...who used to give me a hard time. I'd hand over four crumpled singles and two dollars in loose change (with loads of pennies) and get a harsh, dirty look." My player said, "That's terrible. You waited on that line as well as any other customer. You should have been congratulated and encouraged." I thanked her. She said, "You don't happen to remember her name?" I said, "Sure do! Miss Bainbridge..." The lady choked back a giggle and whispered, "That old maid is still there. Her name is Louise and she's my manager. That fossil is coming up on her fiftieth anniversary there...and refuses to retire. You know something? As a little boy you were perceptive 'cause our Miss Bainbridge is still a mean, frustrated bitch."
|I'D PREFER TO REMEMBER THE BEAUTY OF BANFF RATHER THAN THAT NASTY, INTIMIDATING BAINBRIDGE.|
At the and of the day...yes, it's a small world after all...as long as you don't sing the song to yourself.
|BENGT AND I STUPIDLY TOOK PHOTOS OF EACH OTHER FEEDING THIS RAM ATOP SULPHUR PEAK WITH OUR OWN CAMERA. SO I HAVE THIS PIC AND HE HAS THE ONE OF ME. I WONDER IF BENGT STILL HAS MY PICTURE?|
I would love to own the picture of me feeding that ram. Luckily, the Internet has an incredible ability to help us network. So, it would be a crazy long shot to locate Bengt without knowing his last name. But if some genius thought I would know his New York cousin Rodney Tompkins, (without a computer), maybe one of my reader's knows a Bengt from Copenhagen who happened to be in Banff during August 1976?