There’s an old joke, goes something like, a small-town guy has a friend, John, who moved to New York City some years ago. At some sort of event where people from far-flung places might meet – let’s say, his daughter’s wedding – he meets another man who lives in New York City. “New York City?” he says, “Do you know John?”
The Milwaukee metro area population is about 1.75 million. The Los Angeles metro area population is about 13 million. Last week, we were visiting our friends Bob and Susan in Lancaster, California, whom we’d met when both were graduate students in the English department at UW-Milwaukee at the same time I was doing my graduate work. Amusingly, at least two of Susan’s colleagues at the school where she now teaches have Milwaukee connections. We’d met one before, and on this trip we met the other, a woman named Angela who’d grown up in Milwaukee. In talking with Angela, we discovered that we had some acquaintances in common: a former colleague (and former student, in fact) of mine, named Brian, and a close friend of his, Michael, who’s a Brady cousin of mine. (This is not a technical term of relation, but I don’t know if there is one to designate children by previous marriage of a woman who married my uncle.)
That was coincidental enough (as was the fact that Angela attended the same high school as two other friends of mine, although a few years later), but in talking with Angela’s husband (also named Brian), I found out he worked doing licensing and rights for a major studio. Now it so happens that prior to meeting Angela and Brian, I’d met in person only one other person who lives in the L.A. basin, a guy named Rex, who happens to work for the same studio, although in a different department entirely. We weren’t able to get together with Rex on this trip, but I e-mailed him a day or so after we got together with Angela and Brian, and it occurred to me to ask if he happened to know Brian who worked with licensing and rights.
He did. As a matter of fact, he wrote, he had just talked with Brian the day before.
So, basically, this is like the guy in the joke being told, “John? Oh yeah – of course I know John!” Pretty steep odds, I’d say…not only that Angela and I had acquintances in common but that her husband and the only other guy I know in L.A. would know each other!