A Rare Rendezvous In Old San Juan

The most famous cafe in the world is arguably Les Deux Magots on Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris. According to local myth, a traveler who spends one day at Les Deux Magots is guaranteed to see a celebrity, long-lost relative or hometown friend stroll past the cafe. I haven’t wasted an entire day at Les Deux Magots, but I have sipped wine at its outdoor tables on many vacations, and I’ve never recognized a single face, famous or otherwise. As far as I’m concerned, myth busted.

In Puerto Rico, however, such a myth became reality when I experienced the most unlikely encounter of my life so far.

In 1999, our family spent a summer day sightseeing in the San Juan’s historic district. By late afternoon, we were hot and tired and ready to leave, but Vanessa and the kids wanted to buy souvenirs before we left downtown. They went shopping, and I backtracked across the cobblestone streets to a tavern sign above an open door. It was time for refreshment.

The dark tavern, about 15 feet wide and twice as deep, was split lengthwise by a wooden bar with five or six stools. The bartender’s lone client, a nice-enough looking fellow, occupied the last stool at the far end of the bar. I chose a middle stool and ordered a beer.

“Woosley, what’s up?”

The next few milliseconds of my life were occupied with questions similar to these: Did that gentleman say my name? Is the Puerto Rican bartender named Woosley? No way. Then my mind clicked and I recognized the friendly stranger in the shadows.

“Hi Craig,” I said. “Long time, no see.”

I was looking at Craig Cannon, a long-time acquaintance from my newspaper days and the TV anchorman at the ABC affiliate in western Arkansas. Nice guy. Craig and his family were enjoying a Caribbean cruise and their ship was docked for several hours in San Juan. Craig had walked into this small tavern a few minutes before me to consume a cold beverage while his family, possibly elbow-to-elbow with mine, shopped for souvenirs.

So, what is the probability of bumping into a friend in a Paris cafe or a back-alley beer joint in San Juan? For all practical purposes, it’s zero. On the other hand, anything is possible. Heck, someday I might see Craig — or you — stroll past Les Deux Magots.