New York Serendipity At Last!
Then, three years ago, I was staying with my friend Ryan in Chelsea and just sort of wandering around town. My very first afternoon in town, we were heading toward the West Village when---again, right there on the street---I met a friend of mine, Jen, who had just moved from Tallahassee to attend grad school at NYU. "Dave?" she said. "Is that you?" (Good thing, or I might have missed her; it was a busy street.) We hugged, talked crazily, and agreed to meet up later. And then, one day later, I met another friend of mine named Joy who had just moved a year ago and was working at The Big Cup---a coffee shop smack in the middle of the Chelsea district which Dan Savage has called "The Fifth Circle of Gay Hell." The Big Cup's closed now and I don't know where she is, but that was another shock. (In other odd anecdotal news, she'd apparently just broken up with an editor at Maxim.)
I thought that was weird, but then, two weeks later, I was walking across Manhattan looking for an agent, and I made the error of assuming I could just follow Broadway from downtown up to 42nd street. But Broadway cants, it shunts, it angles, it apparently changes its name (sometimes I read 6th, sometimes Avenue of the Americas, wherever Broadway was supposed to be), and an hour into my walk I realized I was very, very lost. I decided I was going to have to ask for help. So I decided to ask the very next person I met who seemed idle. And sure enough, a mere minute later, I saw a guy sitting on the stoop in front of a large office building, staring intently at a tiny paper newsletter, pencil in hand. As I looked closer, I noticed with a shock that he was solving The Enigma, which is the monthly newsletter of the National Puzzlers League. (The newsletter is basically a small puzzle magazine.) I don't want to speculate about the odds on this, but at the time the National Puzzlers League had about 600 members worldwide, of whom only about 300 were regularly sending in solution lists. I don't remember his name---he was tall, balding, fortyish, with piercing blue-gray eyes and hair I remember as wispy and light brown. A handsome guy. And he knew who I was! We chatted, caught up with a little bit of NPL business, and he sent me on my way. (Apparently I was going the right direction and was only eleven blocks from my goal.) I'm still blanking on his name, to my great shame, but what a lucky break!
Anyway, I mention this because nothing like that has happened since. Oh, sure, I met Jeff "Jeffurry" Schwartz at the Scrabble Club, but the odds of that happening were about 100 per cent. The only shock is I didn't meet anyone else, since about four of us are regulars. The real magic, the real fun, is the random street meeting. And that's what's been missing in the four months I've been here.
Until yesterday. While running from the S train to my A train home in Grand Central Station, I practically plowed into another National Puzzlers League member, Cazique, coming the other direction. (You've got to grab the S while you can.) "Hey, Quiz!" he said. (My name in the NPL is Quiz.) "Where are you headed?" I asked. He was very well dressed---suit, valise, the whole shebang. "Back to work," he said. It was five. Back to work? I suddenly felt very lucky to be headed home. "Well---I guess we'll talk!" I said. "Good to see you," he replied. And with that we parted ways. My first accidental meeting with a National Puzzlers League member who I actually socialize with regularly at the conventions. Thanks, Cazique! You just kept my accidental-meeting mojo at 100%.