The Long Way Home -- Multiple Connections

In 1994 the actor Kevin Bacon spawned the notion of "six degrees of separation", a concept which posits that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart.

I’m kinda interested in people when I meet them, and often mention folks I know who might have some connection with them, usually geographic. So here’s a riff on some of those experiences.

Before Kevin Bacon was in “Footloose” on the big screen, I was vacationing on a Florida beach with the Bohunk and our kids. A guy sat down in the chaise next to me while poolside and conversation ensued. As we divulged our residences, he told me he was from Boston, but had been to visit a childhood friend who had moved to Minneapolis . I mentioned that a good friend of mine (dyed in the wool Sox fan) was from Boston. Wouldn’t ya know? His friend was my friend.

After moving back to Cook County in 2017 I was working for a hardware store in Lutsen. A customer wrote a check and I noticed his phone number had an Omaha, NE area code. “So you’re from Omaha,” I said. “I have some family in Omaha that was in the commercial construction business. The name is Borchman.” Turns out that in his high school years he hung out with my cousins Jerry and Dutch, and still saw them on occasion.

In my 2018 hospital stay in Mayo, almost three weeks and seven roommates passed and I had a few of those degree of separation encounters.

Very early the morning following the 12 hours of surgery, I received my first ever blood transfusion in the semi darkness of my room. A tall, slender guy was doing the honors for me, and conversation ensued, quietly since my roommate was sleeping. Turns out he had a vacation cabin on the North Shore near Judge Magney State Park, not a handful of miles from my home.

When I’d been in hospital long enough to pass the threshold of sanity I was visited by a hospital volunteer who would rub lotion in my hands and forearms to get me back on the right side. Conversation ensued.

Told where Grand Marais was, she said that she’d only been as far north as Crosslake, MN. As we talked it turned out that her daughter and family lived on the east end of Fawn Lake, the northern border of my Grandpa’s farm.

The connections continued when one of my roommates and I were chatting on his first day (that stay) in hospital. He was a retired technology entrepreneur who founded a company called Datakey in the 1970s. When he found out I was from Grand Marais, he asked if I knew a guy named John Koscielak, one of my best friends here. He’d hired John for his software expertise back in the day.

Back when car phones were coming on the scene, I found a newspaper ad that offered phone and installation for almost half of the going rate of the phone companies. I made my appointment and brought the car for the deal of a lifetime. A real car phone that didn’t break the bank.

The merchant who sold me this was a guy named Dick Enrico, and his personalized license plates on a big, black Mercedes proclaimed “Gweedo.” I was delighted with the purchase. Had one installed in the Bohunk’s car. And referred several people to his shop.

Gweedo was appreciative of the referrals and we went on to be friends, sharing the occasional lunch and season tickets for the Timberwolves. He even got me a fake personalized license plate that said “Fernie,” giving birth to a nickname that won’t die. A “ranger” from Chisholm, Dick is what you would expect him to be.

When the phone craze ended, Gweedo went on to market other products, including remote engine starters for cars. But he hit on something big when he started buying and renting out used fitness equipment and 2nd Wind Fitness Equipment was born. He went on to fame, doing television ads for the business, looking like he never used the exercise equipment, just sold it. Which was true.

The other day I had the great pleasure of speaking to my sixth grade teacher from Centennial Elementary. We spent almost an hour on the phone. Mel is from Chisholm originally, although Chisholm in his rear view mirror back in the 60s was happiness for him.

And who was his classmate at Chisholm HIgh? My friend Gweedo. I never knew.

There are some amazing ways we are all connected. You just have to ask.