A few months ago, I had the good fortune to move to Old Louisville. As fate would have it, I moved into an apartment building on Third Street just four houses down from a house I used to live in as a young man during the turbulent ’70s. As a matter of fact, my family actually owned that building and sold it in 1993.
Fast forward to the present.
My friend Victoria was looking for an apartment and I have long been encouraging her to look in Old Louisville. It was a very interesting place to live with a lot of old Victorian Mansions which have been subdivided into apartments. And there was Central Park nearby.
One day she was over at my place and we went out apartment hunting together. She had several picked out over on Fourth Street to look at. It was raining so we took our umbrellas.
We walked down Hill Street over to Fourth and as we were about to round the corner, I noticed a “For Rent” sign in the front yard of a house that I had long admired. I called it the House of Lions and Pineapples. It was a beautiful three-story red brick Victorian with two stone lions and pineapples sitting outside the black wrought iron gate.
I said, “Why don’t you give them a call?”
She did and we were able to see it right then. They had just put it on the market and were in the process of cleaning it and painting it when we went in. Victoria fell in love with it immediately and I did too.
After looking at a couple of other places in the area Victoria decided that the house of pineapples and lions was the one for her, so we called the owner and asked for a meeting. Sure, come on over they said. They lived on Third Street, just a few doors down from where I am living now. They gave us their address and we headed over there.
“Hey! Wait a minute! What’s that address again,” I asked Victoria. “1461? Why I used to live in that house back in the ’70s. As a matter of fact, my family owned that very building back then!”
When we got there and knocked on the door, a little old lady, round and short, answered the door. She was all smiles. I introduced myself and told her I used to live in this building back in the ’70s and wasn’t it ironic that we were here?
“Oh, did you know Dr. Bell?”
“Why yes! I am his son!”
We sat down and had a nice talk. Joe and his wife Arden bought the house in 1993 from my parents. At that time, I was part-owner of the house myself and received some of the proceeds from the sale. Arden gave us a tour of the house.
“I bet it looks a lot different now than it did then,” she said.
Yep, it sure did!
So, there we were. My friend Victoria was about to rent an apartment from a couple who owned the house I used to live in when I was a kid but was sold to them in 1993, the same year she was born. What kind of alignment of the planets was necessary to bring us to this point? By what chance occurrences was Victoria destined to cross my path and rent this apartment in the building of the lions and pineapples?
It put me in mind of a story I once heard when I was living in Philadelphia.
It seems there was this college professor living in my building, The Marine Club Apartments, who sent his servant to the Italian Market for supplies. In a very little while, the servant came back, shaking and trembling. It was clear he had been greatly disturbed by something that had happened at the market.
He said, “Mister Coffer, sir, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd. I turned to look to see who it was and I saw it was Death staring me in the face. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. I ran from the market and came back here. Mister Coffer, will you please lend me your car so that I can ride away from this city and avoid my fate? I will go across the river to Salem and there, Death will not find me.”
The college professor gave him the keys to his Mustang, and the servant rode away as fast as the car could drive, not without leaving a stretch of burning black rubber behind him as he peeled out of the parking garage. Later that day the professor went down to the Italian Market and he saw Death standing in the crowd and he went over and asked her, “Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant this morning when you saw him?”
“That was not a threatening gesture,” she said, “I was just surprised to see him in here in Philly, as I had an appointment with him tonight in Salem.”
Thomas Wolfe wrote in his book, Look Homeward Angel, “Through chance, we are each a ghost to all the others, and our only reality; through chance, the huge hinge of the world, and a grain of dust; the stone that starts an avalanche, the pebble whose concentric circle widen across the seas.”
Although chance may have something to do with our lives and though we might make a move this way or that we are still bound like an ant on a leaf rushing down a river to the sea. And there is precious little we can do about it but enjoy the ride.
Victoria rented the apartment and she is living there now one block away in the building of the lions and pineapples. And if you squint your eyes and hold your mouth in a certain way you can almost see the flapping wings of the butterfly in the rain-forest that made it all possible.