Who can say what leads us from one event to the next? What controls the decision that seals our fate? You’re stuck in traffic and miss your plane, and the flight later crashes in the ocean. You go back to find the credit card you left in a restaurant and run in to Mr. Right—or Mr. Wrong. Someone pushes ahead of you in line to buy lottery tickets, but you get the winning ticket that would have been his if he had stayed in line. The smallest details become the turning points of life decisions. It can paralyze you if you let it.
In the spring of 1969 I was invited by a man I was dating to cruise from Cabo San Lucas to Ensenada, Mexico aboard the yacht Goodwill, owned by our mutual friend, Southern California industrialist Ralph Larrabee. My friend explained that a number of Larrabee’s friends would be making the trip as well. The Goodwill was a two-masted schooner, 161 feet, and had twice won the Transpacific yacht race. As it has so often happened in my life, I was booked to do a job, this time in New York. When I said I couldn’t make it, my friend said he would pass too since I wasn’t going.
In the early part of June I got a call from my friend asking if I had heard about the Goodwill. It had been a week overdue and a Coast Guard search had been launched. What was left of the Goodwill was discovered on the Sacramento Reef, 110 miles sound of Ensenada, where it had run aground and sunk with all hands. I could have been on it.
I am asked to star in a play on Broadway called Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? I turn it down and the producers find an unknown blonde named Jayne Mansfield to do it.
I am held over in a show in New York and can’t play a date at a supper club in Biloxi, Mississippi. Jayne Mansfield, who is scheduled to play there the month after I do, agrees to switch dates and then dies in a car crash.
There is an eerie web of decisions in all our lives. Turns of the road that bring us face to face with destiny.
As Vin Scully says, “If you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plans.” It is why I don’t like to look too far ahead. You may suddenly to feel the breath of fate in your face, the chill up your neck. And it does no good to fight it. Karma has already punched your ticket.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
–Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken