If your name is Bob Smith or John Williams it's no big thing to meet someone who shares your name. But for a guy like me, it's not every day that you meet another Bob Makela. It's only happened once, back in '97 when I was barhopping for 100 days around the U.S. and I stopped in at this seemingly out-of-place western gear store on the Northern California coast near the end of my trip. I had never met my Dad's first cousin Bob before that night. In fact, that was my first visit to Fort Bragg, the tiny Mendocino County coastal logging town my great-grandparents settled in after getting to America from Finland around 1913. NorCal Bob Makela has lived in Fort Bragg his entire life, but for a brief stint in the military. (Was it the Coast Guard?) Even though we're clearly family—his father and my Dad's father were brothers—we are also different in a number of ways. First of all, he's a Giants fan. I'm a lifelong Dodger fan. NorCal Bob Makela talks quickly and often. I've been known to talk slowly, to the point of sounding comatose, and am a much better listener than talker. And just look at the differences in this photo. NorCal Bob is wearing Lee jeans, pearl snap long sleeve shirt, big ass belt buckle and a Ford cap. SoCal Bob is in cargo shorts, Billabong Aussie outback hat and a DIY George Harrison t-shirt—with a hint of his VW bus reflecting in the window. NorCal Bob has his old school, blue collar mustache. I've got the hint of a beard, too wary of shaving across my moles to bother with a razor. NorCal Bob Makela rides horses. SoCal Bob Makela rides surfboards. And here's the crazy thing: If my great-grandmother—Bob's paternal grandma—hadn't missed her connecting boat ride from Finland to England to catch the Titanic to America (she had her tickets, but one of her babies was sick), most likely neither one of the Bob Makelas you see here would be around today.
Do I know you? One man's attempt at a lifelong head count.
NOTE: If you think I might have a photo of you—most likely at least one great photo of you—don't be afraid to ask me to post it (firstname.lastname@example.org) along with a brief entry about how I know you. And if I've met or known you but don't have any photo evidence, feel free to send along YOUR favorite photo of you. (I'm fascinated by what that slideshow might look like.)