too much typing—since 2003


Degrees of Separation

Curious just how small a world it can be sometimes. Here's a story:

Some years ago, a guy named Jamie from St. Louis sent me a mix tape in exchange for a CD or something. At any rate, as often happens with such mixes, I listened to it a few times but then returned to it only infrequently as other music overwhelmed it. The car I drive to work has a cassette player, though, and I've been rotating through my cassette collection to provide variety. So Jamie's tape comes up the other day, and I remember that its closing track, "Greyhound Bus" by Minneapolis band the Hang Ups, is a lovely little song about travel, distance, separation, and the like. Listening again, I remembered that I'd noticed before that the song refers to "Whitefish Bay," which is the name of a Milwaukee suburb - but I hadn't paid much attention, figuring that it was just as likely some other Whitefish Bay (there are others - most infamously, the one referred to in "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"). But this time, I noticed the singer also refers to a "welcome mat on Idlewild," presumably a street name - and there's an Idlewild Avenue in our Whitefish Bay.

So now I'm intrigued, do some digging, and find out that the singer and main songwriter is, in fact, from Milwaukee. And so I think, hmm, I wonder if his family still lives on Idlewild? (I think the collection of consistent details led me to read the song autobiographically, rather than, say, about some character fitted out with random place names.) And in the Milwaukee phone book, I find a family with his surname on Idlewild.

But that world gets smaller: I realize the name listed (presumably the singer's father) is familiar...and after a while, I realize why. He's a coordinator in my department's creative writing program, and his office is about three doors down from mine.

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