[ From the Archives of 365 ]
“Stay honest and don’t lie. It’s always easier to remember the truth.”
The start-up of this story may seem a bit vain, but trust me; it weaves into an interesting encounter.
Not sure if I have told you this: I was raised in Las Vegas. Best not to play cards with me, it’s a losing proposition. I’ve got the Sin City luck of the draw. Even had a business there, way back in the late eighties. “Here I go again, dating myself!” Ended up there after my family migrated to LV from England in 1961. Father was a tailor turned produce king (supplied most of the hotels deep into the nineties)–personal history that explains my occasional use of British grammar and my twitchy fear of Vegas buffets.
Also, I have two sisters; one born nine years before me, and the other eleven years older than myself.
“Hey, Radstone! Why are you telling us this? We want to read about your new friends. You’re becoming old news.”
Alright! Here is why.
I was driving past a small obscure building, and for whatever reason, I was undeniably drawn to it. Almost to the point of rubber-necking as I passed by it. The magnetism of the place was impossible to dismiss, and even though I was very behind in my day’s schedule and responsibilities, I knew I had to visit.
Finding a nearby parking lot, I walked an easy block to the address that had so smitten me. Outside it was a most eclectic set of artifacts: A vintage baby stroller, some funky art, yard furniture, a rusty hand truck, and a few other items of equal eccentricity.
It was my kind of joint. Turned out to be a wonderful little haunt of an antique shop. “Ah, that must be it? I dig vintage stuff!” I settled in my mind.
Entering the door I realized I’d stumbled upon a holy grail of local culture. The shop was packed with customers, a we are all family vibe heavy in the air.
I had no idea who was running the place. My first inclination being a blond lady, who near the center of the shop, was closely checking a very cool piece of old luggage. My mind was made up (well sort of), for I knew something was not right. But still, I readied myself to throw her an invite in seeing what would happen.
I set my approach pattern, my fact-finding radar engaged, target sighted, I began an internal countdown. Ten feet, eight feet, six feet, her eyes still locked on the luggage, she did not see me coming. A few steps away I took my breath, mentally rehearsing my words as her head suddenly popped up. I was stopped in my track when she looked over my shoulder and said, “How much is this case?”
“Huh? Me?” I stared that embarrassed I’ve been put on the spot expression. Trapped in my tracks as I worked to choke up a word or two; when all of a sudden I was saved by a voice that traveled over my shoulder. Seemed the real shop owner was standing behind me the whole time. I was way off in my assessment of the situation. Felt pretty stupid with my hand already extended with an introductory handshake that was intended for the lady checking the luggage. It was one of those caught-with-my-pants-down moments, but I followed through with grace by redirecting my body movement. In perfect you’re an idiot form I converted my movement to appear as if I was reaching for a statue. Luckily my blunder went unnoticed. Still, it left me a little unsure. The pull was so strong and caught off guard as to the reason why I was there, I was a little stupefied. But at least I knew who ran the joint.
There was no option other than to move forward. I was there, had my camera kit, a statue in hand, and a potential for a new friend for the day. Yet, I’d be lying if I said I was not jittery after my above-referenced clumsiness, but again, I was there.
Ron, the owner, photographer, director, and actor, greeted me as he silently listened to my pitch. Even though my delivery was not as eloquent as past invites (still felt a tad stupid for my earlier confusion). Luckily for me, he accepted.
We talked in generalities at first. What do you shoot? How many films have you been in? How did you start this business? Expected conversation starters that did lead to some enlightening stories, but my gut told me there was more.
Store customers were watching, and with the endorsement of Ron, I handed out a bunch of business cards; and as I did, I noticed Ron studying one intensely. It was a simple card, just had my last name on the front of it, RADSTONE, and on the back, contact info.
Ron’s tone shifted. A questioning smile grew on his face as he hammered me with a series of questions: “Radstone?”
Ron: “Do you have a sister named Tammy?”
Me (now shaky): “Yes.”
Ron: “Are you from Las Vegas?”
Me (now overwhelmed), “Yes.”
Ron: “Was your father a tailor?”
Me (now freaked out): “Yes.”
Ron: “Did you live on El Cedral in the seventies?”
Me (now losing it): “Are you Satan reading my mind!”
Ron burst into laughter. Now, remember, Ron and I had never met; the two of us standing raw in introduction at a little hidden antique shop in Canoga Park, California. A place that for some unknown reason had beckoned to me, and I could not stop self-questioning how he knew very personal facts about me. I was speechless by his queries.
His laughter began to quite as, with a smile still on his face, he explained, “I lived up the street from you and I used to date your sister. Is she still a tiny thing?”
I was staggered, and at that moment, I knew why I was there.
It happened again, the still-small voice had directed me to where I needed to be, and we were both dumbfounded. Here is the crazy part. Ron told me he was wondering what had come of my sister at the very moment I was driving by his store. I’m just going to leave it at that.
Happily married with grandchildren, Ron showed me photos of his family as he revealed a feeling he had been carrying for years, “I thought I broke your sister’s heart when I got drafted to Vietnam.” Then he asked, “How is Tammy?”
“She is doing great, married, and with her own children and grandchildren,” I responded.
Pleased to hear the news, “I always wondered what happened to her; great to hear she is doing well?” Ron smiled again as he advised, “Ask her about the green Plymouth Duster?”
I called my sister later that evening, and per Ron’s request, “Do you remember a green Plymouth Duster?”
The phone fell silent. I knew she was on the other end, her breaths noticeable as I waited for a response. Then she replied, a shaky, “Yes.”
No, Ron was not Satan. Frankly, he was at the total other end of the spectrum. Not that he was a spiritual saint in any way, just another person doing his best to live a good life. But whatever the reason, I knew the draw to meet him that day was inspired from somewhere, from something, or someone greater than either of us.
As I continually state, I am not spouting the spiritual or metaphysical. That is not my intent in any way. But at times I think it appropriate to acknowledge that some things are more than coincidence. Aren’t they?