A signed coincidence (3 minute read)18 February 2018
Last few months there have been a lot of things on my mind; a couple of successes, the launch of my website, the further professionalization of my photography and some other major decisions that will probably have long lasting consequences in various forms and degrees. What to choose, what direction to take and which roads to avoid by carefully tuning in on my intuition to guide me in my choices.
When I was packing my suitcase for last week's visit to the conference in Seattle, I wanted to bring a book with me that has been one of the most inspirational and recognizable books I've ever read; the memoirs of Ernest K. Gann; 'A Hostage to Fortune'.
Gann was a pioneering airline pilot in the 1930's-50's and later in life became a hugely successful (screen)writer with the innate capability of describing his harrowing adventures he lived through the course of his life as a pilot and adventurer, combined with his insights in people and the events of life in general.
Having read this book already a few times in the past years, I thought it would be a great idea to read it again in these times with so many choices to be made.
Of course, I forgot to pack the book and was left with a few quiet evenings in hotels that I intended to fill with reading this inspirational and entertaining page turner.
Even though I gave it absolutely zero chance, I decided to visit a couple of second hand book stores that can be found around Pike Market, downtown Seattle and see if they had a copy for sale.
A carefully hidden little gem of a store, Lion Heart Book Store, run by a friendly and frequently singing owner, I stepped in and was hoping to find a copy of the book that was published nearly 40 years ago.
Wandering through the store with thousands of books and their stories, I had already lowered my expectations of finding this book at all, but instead I just enjoyed the atmosphere of the wonderful little store. Hoping to perhaps stumble upon some other books of Gann or other worthwhile authors.
Seeing how this random Dutch guy was inspecting certain bookshelves for a while, the owner asked me what I was looking for.
Not expecting him to even recognize the name of the writer, I told him I was looking for books from Gann but actually gave it little chance myself.
'Oh Ernest Gann? That man is dead already for a while... he was from here originally, wasn't he?'
'Eh yeah, he was living the last 30 years of his life on the San Juan islands just north of Seattle if Im not mistaken'
'Yeah that's right, remarkable that you are interested in his books. Its been ages since anybody asked for his name or work, I believe I even have a few copies here that I kept for myself. Let me see if I can find it in my stockpile of books I have here'... and immediately the owner dove behind his counter. Fumbling and shifting through boxes and other undefinable piles of books that he never got to organize so far, he told me there must be at least one of his books there.
And just like that, I laid my eyes on the cover of a book he managed to dig up. There it was, a one-in-a-million chance. Not just a book of Gann, but his memoirs, the very book I was looking for. And judging by the cover it must have been a first or second print.
Opening the book, I found it was even a hand signed and dated copy too. Excellent condition with a little bit of damage on the paper cover, but I was as happy as a small boy that finds his birthday present.
Now what are the odds.
Not just the fact that I managed to find one specific book that I forgot to bring with me, but a book that was printed nearly 40 years ago and that has been a major inspiration to lifting my photography to a higher level.
And a hand signed copy from Gann as well... I was willing to pay a quite a handsome amount for this book as its a sought-after collectors item all over the world.
But the owner of the store was so pleased that a young Dutch pilot visiting his store was a fan of Gann's work and even knew a thing or two about the author, that he insisted to ask only 5 dollars for the book and refused to take more. Kindness still exists in the world and it made my day.
Maybe its a sign from above, maybe its a huge coincidence or maybe it was just my lucky day.
But the book has a prime location in my bookcase now and once again proves to be a major inspiration as I flip through the chapters and stories.