It’s a small world, and I am thankful for that. Given the holiday we celebrate on Thursday, this seems like a good time to express that thanks. And, probably by sheer coincidence, this week has been the culmination of a flurry of small world occurrences.
Let’s begin a few weeks ago, when I was invited to speak at the “Old Guard” group of retired Princeton University alumni. The subject of my talk: “Old Rules for the New Journalism,” and I relied on some anecdotes from my early days at the Binghamton Evening Press — 46 years ago! — to help make my point.
As I scanned the audience I saw a truth squad of people who were around when I started U.S. 1 27 years ago, as well as one couple whose granddaughter currently works for the paper. If I had any ideas of embellishing my present, the small world around me had me cornered. So I waxed on instead about my days in Binghamton, shortly after my high school graduation in 1965.
Halfway through that trip down memory lane I suddenly noticed, sitting in the very first row, Nick Wilson, Princeton Class of 1951, who was living in Binghamton and reading the Binghamton Evening Press at the very time I was working there. Small world.
The nice thing about the small world, and another reason to be thankful for it, is that it is also a friendly world. In a moment of high drama for the Princeton Club of Binghamton in the winter of 1968-’69, Nick Wilson extricated me from a difficult rhetorical situation. Here he was more than four decades later, and if he had any correction to my view of history, he did not state it. I probably owe Nick a small favor.
At the Old Guard meeting, I shared some of my rules for successful publishing, including the idea that no matter how reasonable your editorial idea, it also has to be delivered at the right time. An editor should ask “why do we need to do this story now?” And a reporter suggesting the story should have an answer.
In my early days as a freelancer, I suggested a story to People Magazine on Immanuel Velikovsky, the author of the bestselling “Worlds In Collision,” and the proponent of the controversial idea that much of ancient history was influenced by catastrophic events, such as meteors crashing into the earth.
I had access to Velikovsky, then living in Princeton, and he was willing to talk to me, I explained to the editor. But why now? the editor asked. Other than the fact that I was a freelancer desperately in need of an assignment, there was no good reason. And no assignment.
Fast forward to last Saturday night, when I went out to listen to some jazz from trumpeter John Henry Goldman at Tusk Restaurant on Route 206 north of Princeton. My friend and I were led to a table adjacent to a thin, bespectacled man who seemed to know me. Of course, it was Rafe Sharon, psychotherapist and — in a previous life — one of the founders of KSS Architects on Witherspoon Street.
And also the grandson of Immanuel Velikovsky. I shared my recent Velikovsky story with Sharon, who told me he continues to hear from people with an interest in his grandfather’s theories.
The evening with John Henry was similar to one I had enjoyed last summer when he performed at the Blue Rooster in Cranbury. Small world again. The next day I was editing this week’s cover story on the trials of businesses rebuilding after Hurricane Irene. Blue Rooster was one of them. And, I realized, so was Goldman, whose house in the Alexander Road area of West Windsor took in a foot of water.
I wrote about Goldman in the July 21, 2010, issue of U.S. 1, telling the story of my meeting him at a performance and introducing him to my two musically inclined sons, who in turn were invited — sound unheard — to sit in with Goldman at a subsequent gig.
After seeing Goldman this weekend, and hearing him describe the flood damage to his house, I visited his website, www.straightjazz.com, to see if he had posted anything about the ordeal. I found nothing about the flood but I did come upon Goldman’s “Principles of Teaching.” As I read them, I realized they could also stand as a credo for existing in the small world:
“I was often placed in leadership positions as a child, I enjoyed the responsibility of making decisions, but even more so did I accept the challenge of helping everyone feel a part, of being fair-minded and sensitive to the feelings and needs of others.”
I continued to browse through Goldman’s website. I found a listing of venues he has played and musicians he has performed with. To my amazement there was a section for trumpet: The well-known Jimmy Maxwell was there, along with the unknown Rick Rein. And trombone: All by himself, the little known Frank Rein. The boys’ father probably will appreciate these credits more than they will.
It’s a small world, kids, and we are all a part of it. For that we should be thankful.
Editor’s note: John Henry Goldman with Ben Cahill on piano and Tom McMillan on bass will appear at the Blue Rooster in Cranbury Saturday, December 3, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Call 609-235-7539. www.blueroosterbakery.com