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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Six Degrees of Separation

When I began to think about all the “coincidences” in my life of late, and there have been many, I was reminded of the theory of six degrees of separation.  Frigyes Karinthy, an Hungarian author, playwright, poet and journalist, first put forth the theory in a very short story in 1929.  In the story, “Chain-Links,” he hypothesized that that any one person on earth can be connected to any other person on earth through a series of five or fewer acquaintance links.  I found the story on the internet and read it.  The fact that, in 1929, Karinthy predicted the way our world communicates today is more than fascinating.
The theory was popularized in 1994, when a group of college students invented the game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” of which the object was to connect Kevin Bacon with any other Hollywood star using five or fewer links.
When I moved home in August, I was reacquainted with The Famous Writer.  Through him, I met the Drury brothers, Bob and Jim, and also Steve Applegate, whom they conscripted into service when they moved The Famous Writer into my flat for a planned visit of about three weeks.  If you follow this blog, you know how that turned out.   
On the day of the move, I offered them refreshments and we sat down for a short visit.  During the course of our getting acquainted, Jim invited us, my roommate Celeste, and The Famous Writer and me, to Music Night at his house any Wednesday night.
The three men are accomplished musicians, and on every Wednesday, they get together at Jim’s house and, well, make music.  Steve, a photographer, can make electric guitar talk, and he plays in a band called Stone Groove.  Jim, a retired art teacher and visual artist, plays keyboards with a great deal of soul and creativity.  Bob, a computer whiz and all-around bon vivant, plays acoustic guitar and electric guitar with contagious energy and flare.  They all sing - really well.
It was a couple of weeks before we made it to Jim’s on a Wednesday.  Celeste was out of town, and it was before The Famous Writer morphed into a cranky old man, so I took him along.  
The energy in Jim’s house and the music that filled the air that night worked on me like a tonic, and I have rarely missed a Wednesday.  These incredible musicians take turns choosing a song, improvising and sharing chord sequences, and each having such different styles, the end result is a melange of eclectic and soulful sounds.  I look forward to it every week and always come away energized and positive and grateful to have been a part of it.  Jim put together a song book, we call it The Hymnal, and from time to time I sing along.  And I dance with the furniture.
The six degrees of separation thing started on about my third visit to Jim’s.  Steve, who is originally from Swainsboro, Georgia, and I were talking about something, I honestly forget what, when I mentioned my brother John’s name, and Steve said he remembered him.  They had a connection through a mutual friend, and though they were not close friends, they were acquainted.  Steve remembered John fondly, and I was pleased to find we had this parallel in our lives, that he had known my incredible brother.
The weeks rocked by, and last week, Steve mentioned that his wife’s nephew, a young man named Kip Moore, is a rising star in the national country music scene.  I said I thought that was cool and jotted down the name so I could Google him.  Then I forgot all about it.  My week was filled with family obligations and aggravations.
I knew Steve was married and that his wife’s name was Janice, but until this Wednesday night, I had not met her.  They came in the door together, and she and I shared a hug.  After getting to know Steve, I was sure I would be crazy about her.  And I was.
When Janice found out I was from here, that I went to Glynn Academy, she asked my maiden name.  When I said “Harmon,” she gasped.
“You’re John Harmon’s sister!”
Surprised, I nodded.
“I loved John.  He was one of the coolest people I ever met.”
We hugged again, a little tearfully, and I felt as though I had known this warm and welcoming woman all my life.  She and John graduated from high school the same year, but she attended Brunswick High while John went to Glynn Academy.  She lived in Brunswick.  We lived on Saint Simons.  They had a circle of mutual friends, John’s best friend, Larry McDonough, and his girlfriend, Emily to name only two.  She also knew John’s girlfriend, Cindy. 
While the men made music, we sat at the table and reminisced about growing up “coastal.”  She asked me who my friends were in high school, and I listed Mary Ellen Coleman and Cecie Cate and Mike Drury and Freddie Tullos and Donnie Livingston and a few more.  
She nodded in recognition.  Steve piped in and said something about her nephew, Kip, the country singer.  
“Oh, yes!  Steve told me about him.  It sounds as though he is on his way to the top.”
“He’s definitely making a splash," Janice replied  "He didn't win a American Country Award this year but he was nominated for Single of the Year by a male artist and for Single of the Year by a new artist.  He’s wonderful, and we are all so proud of him.  He’s a terrific young man.”
I did not make the connection.  I don’t know why, but I didn’t put Kip Moore and Stan Moore together.  Stan was in my class at Glynn Academy.  I could easily have included his name earlier in our conversation.  
My synapses began to activate.
“What’s your connection to Stan?” I asked.
“He was my brother.  Kip is Stan’s child.”
I asked Jim if he had a fainting couch, and he laughingly pointed at the sofa across the room.
“That one will have to do.”
I did feel light-headed but didn’t swoon.  It was sensory overload, connections falling on top of one another as they were.  I met a woman the same age as my brother who called him her friend.  Her brother was the same age as me and I knew him well and was very fond of him.  They are both dead now.  Until that night, Janice and I had never met, but in the course of a couple of hours, we established a strong connection.  To make it all the more sweet, we like each other.  It’s entirely conceivable that we might have met and had bad chemistry, but we didn’t. 
There’s an eerie symmetry to that. 
When in the course of our conversation, I mentioned my friend Mike Drury's name (no relation to Jim and Bob), Janice's face lit up.
"He and Stan were good friends, and I absolutely love Mike!”
“Yes!” I said.  “He was in our class and is one of the funniest men I have ever known.  We are still in touch.”
"I want to talk to that rascal!"
And so it went.  I’m embarrassed to say that our newfound synchronicity kept Janice and me talking through most of the music.  Every now and then, we piped in and sang along, but we were engrossed in how our stories meshed together.  At the end of the evening, I knew I had a new and invaluable friend.  
So, the six degrees of separation thing goes like this:
My link with the Drury brothers is through one person, The Famous Writer.
My connection with Steve is through two links, The Famous Writer and the Drury brothers.  There is another altogether separate connection through his and my brother’s mutual friend.
My tie-in with Janice is through four links: The Famous Writer, the Drury brothers and Steve.  
And I can connect myself to Kip through five links:  The Famous Writer, The Drury brothers, Steve, Janice and Stan.
Then there is the two-way tie-in between Janice and me that involves none of the above.   We are linked through Stan and through John, two separate connections each with only one link.

© cj Schlottman

PS  Check out Kip here


Howard Haisten said...

I love that story!!...
Howard :-)

Janice Applegate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janice Applegate said...

Glad I live in a Universe where this kind of instant connection is possible. Love to you, Claudia!