I was delighted that my high-school friend Ann Hopkins was so very, very good in the production of Arthur Miller's A View From The Bridge that I saw last week. They wrote plays to change the world back then, which I suppose they still do but with less optimism for their prospects of success. The perfect companion for the performance was Claire, my friend since junior high who now lives in San Francisco. Before the show we had an elegant pre-theater dinner at Scala's Bistro, which is part of the Francis Drake Hotel. Everything about the evening was full of historical resonance and present delight.
After the performance I was talking with Claire and Ann and considering to myself how amazing it was that I was enjoying time with people I've known for 36 and 32 years, respectively, when I heard "Steven Levine!" called out in baffled astonishment. It was David Tuller, whom I've known for 48 years, which is only possible because we shared a crib as babies. His father and my father were in the army together, as doctor and dentist stationed in Maryland. It's probably not a funny joke, but it amuses me to claim that I recruited him to the homosexual lifestyle, since I am two weeks the elder. My parents (and his mother) still have the picture of us together in the crib.
Infancy aside, David and I have never been particular friends, although I was quite friendly with his sister for a while when I lived in Boston and I've always followed his career as a freelance writer. I believe we were last in touch about 12 years ago, and it may have been as many as 20 years since I've seen him.
But without even a pause I turned and said, "David Tuller! My father's been trying to get your email address." A few years ago, when his father died, David wrote a piece about their complicated relationship that was published in the New York Times and my father was very touched and impressed and also wanted to offer his condolences (so he called me for David's email address, which I was unable to provide). David gave me his address and pointed out that he was listed in the phone book. Oh.
David was confused because he thought I lived in Minnesota, which of course I do but it didn't occur to me to explain why I was San Francisco on a random winter weeknight at a small theater company with friends from high school, since that seemed perfectly unremarkable to me. He said he heard the voice across the room and knew unmistakably that it had to be me. He said that he knows my friend Dan from Minneapolis who is now living in San Francisco and partnered with a friend of his. "Dan?" I said. "You've got to give me little more." "Oh, Oh," he said, "what's his last name? The clogger..." and I jumped up with "Oh, Dan Becker! Yes, of course". "The clogger" was all I needed.
David turned to his companion and told a story about something from my bar mitzvah. He said that he'd be happy if my father contacted him because he's interested in learning some things about his father from the time our parents were friends, and I assured him my father would be delighted to talk with him about that. We none of us had much time and we all headed off.
Afterwards it occurred to me to wonder how my name had even come up between David and Dan Becker. It must have been, "You're from Minneapolis? Do you know Steven?" And of course he did. I'm still not sure why somebody I haven't seen in a couple of decades and never knew particularly well would remember that I moved to Minneapolis, much less think to bring that up.
I wish I could say that this sort of encounter was atypical, or amazing in its coincidental nature. But no, it was just another evening in San Francisco, where the unexpected is to be expected.