Author John Wilkerson

I took a foray into a group mixer I found on Meetup a few days ago. We gathered at CHEAP restaurant and spent the evening trading wild stories about our travels. The restaurant located in South Tampa is in an area I use to frequent many years ago. Back when we were all a little bit younger and on the prowl. I get ahead of myself; on the prowl is not the right word. We were unattached and trying to navigate the perils of meeting people. This was before the ease of social media and smartphones capable of launching lunar rockets. Turns out the same obstacles exist as you reach your adult years, but now we have technology to assist with the endeavor.

Dennis our host had arranged for everyone attending to get valet parking. I was directed to the back lounge and after wandering through the eclectic décor, found our host and his assistant chatting up several other guests. Right off, he began talking about his adventures to Europe and the South Pacific. I lost count with his total number of countries visited, but I think it clocked-in around forty within the past few years.

Next, I found myself surrounded by a group of women chatting about their passport stamps. One of the lovely gals offered the question, “what’s your most loved destination trip?” Paris and Italy were prime locations for the three single women. Really surprising was the interest the women showed in Scandinavia and Norway. And I must agree, there’s something about Northern Europe and their holdover Viking culture which inspires me as well. I presented my best destination as an ongoing road trip. For more than ten years, I’ve taken a twice-yearly trip with a college buddy from Tampa to Jacksonville, Florida. Our excuse for the trip is to play cards with the rest of our college friends. Truth is, we play very little poker, instead spending the time to catch-up on life’s irregularities and enjoy the simple pleasure of good food and long friendships. On the drive up, we also stop at backroad tourist traps. It’s amazing how much fun you can have when you embrace the swag-filled low-rent attractions.

As the evening hours passed. I found myself in another conversation with Dennis. We talked about his travels and his meeting Woody Harrelson on a flight from Ireland. Okay. It may be a tall tale, or it may not, but anyway you take it, it highlighted the fantastic storytelling circling the bar. I took the moment to tease Dennis why he didn’t offer Woody his autograph. The perplexed look on his face was priceless, and I could see inklings of a new travel story starting to build.

Dennis walked me around the room and introduced his assistant, Kat. You never know who you’re going to meet, and this encounter didn’t disappoint. I’m always enamored by women who are educated, and Kat pulled out all the stops with her masters in French. We chatted about travels and spent way too long discussing art. Turns out she blows decorative glass and comes from an artistic family. I couldn’t compete with the degree in French, but once I brought up my background in creating fine-art jewelry, we found common ground and spent the next hour chatting and talking about life’s triumphs.

I’m going to call this evening a win for everybody. I had a great night out, made some friends, and look forward to the next gathering. It turns out some of their gathering are overseas as well, and with my passport getting dusty, it may be time to pack a bag and join Dennis and crew on their upcoming trip to Ireland.

*I’m going to offer a bit of an update on Dennis’ Harrelson story. I ran into Dennis a couple of months after I first wrote this article. With finger thumping my chest, he set me straight. The story is all true. So it goes to show you. Life is full to mysteries and who knows what surprise meetings may happen at 30,000 feet.