I was having one of those far-ranging conversations with some friends this evening, the kind of talk, with an open bottle of wine on the table, that jumps from topic to topic, taking in philosophy and personal history, touches on politics, jumps back to shared times together, and then goes off on a tangent.
And I found myself relating to my friends the oddest little tidbit from my own life – something I hadn’t thought of for years. Some time around 1992, back when I was a heedless young guy who liked to roam around the world with little more than jeans, a tee shirt and a guitar, I was in a taxi coming back from the airport – I think from a visit to Brazil – and the cab driver said to me “You know, it’s funny, the fare before you was the actor River Phoenix. He was also coming from the airport with just a small bag and a guitar, dressed in jeans and a tee shirt.”
I remember musing about this on the way home, thinking that somehow I was in the wrong taxi – I had been just one taxi ride away from being a world famous movie star (at the time River Phoenix was at the top of his game – “My Own Private Idaho” had come out just the previous year). How strange, I thought – even as I realized the thought was absurd. It felt like being one number off from someone who had won the lottery.
A year later, of course, River Phoenix was gone – from an overdose of heroin and cocaine on Halloween 1993. In my mind, since that taxi ride, I had developed an odd feeling of connection with him – that other guy carrying his guitar in the taxicab, on his way from the airport.
And so, hearing the tragic news, I had a weird epiphany, about the craziness of fate, and the vagaries of chance and circumstance. I know it doesn’t make any rational sense, but there it was. I had indeed been one taxi ride away. But it turned out that I had been in the right taxi after all.