Early Morning, Breakfast at Valois, and an Unexpected Meeting

Let me start this post off by telling you a story that Bob told me, a long while back.

We were talking about politics some time ago, and Bob mentioned to me how a very specific speech left a strong impression on him. It was a speech that Jesse Jackson gave, when he was running for President back in the 80’s. Bob explained to me how profoundly that speech changed his way of thinking. It was a big deal, and really shaped how he then started to look at the world.

Some time after, Bob was working at the airport on a job and happened to see Jesse Jackson walking by. He attempted to approach him, to share how much that speech changed his worldview and how much it impacted him… but Jackson’s body guards kept Bob at bay. And he never got that chance. It was a big regret, and something Bob wished he could have done – to share what an impact that speech had with Jackson, directly.

Today, I got a text really early in the morning. It was around 6:40 AM and Bob was letting me know he had taken an early train and was heading in to Hyde Park. I got dressed quickly, went downstairs, and was walking towards the car – thinking that we might go catch breakfast somewhere, given how early it was.

It was too early for Medici’s (but the bakery there was open). So it was possibly there (which was near the 57th street stop), or Valois over on 53rd. I called Bob while walking down the street, and we quickly realized we had crossed paths (Bob was already heading into the backyard).

We met in front of the house, and debated where to go. I was a bit lazy, and decided we should just go to Valois instead. We walk over, grab our trays of food, and settle in for an early breakfast.

About 20 minutes into our meal, we’re talking and I notice someone sitting at a table against the NE wall. His face looks a bit familiar. And I keep staring. As Bob and I keep talking, I keep looking over. And when I ask Bob to turn around and see if it’s who I think it is, Bob tells me (without turning around), “Yeah, it’s him. I saw him come in.”

It was Jesse Jackson! Having breakfast at Valois!

I was totally floored. What are the odds? I told Bob that this was his chance, after all this time.

Despite my urging, Bob shook his head no. He didn’t want to make a scene, and said that Jackson came in to have breakfast. And Bob didn’t feel like disturbing the man. I tried to press the matter a few times, but gave in to Bob’s desire not to bother Jackson.

The interesting thing: where we were sitting was along the path to the door/exit. And I knew Jackson would be walking past us.

And guess what? As he walked by, we happened to make eye contact. And Jackson stopped at our table, held out his hand, and say “How are you doing, brother” to me. I stood up and shook his hand. And Bob was also up, and Jackson turned to Bob and also said hello and shook his hand.

And that’s when Bob said “Can I tell you something?” And Bob shared with Jesse Jackson how much of an impact Jackson’s speech had on him. It was an unbelievable thing to experience. Knowing how much that speech meant to Bob, and how close he came previously to sharing that story with Jackson… to now seeing it actually happen. It was phenomenal.

A bit later – Bob was telling me that when he asked “Can I tell you something?” to Jackson, he saw Jackson’s bodyguard’s face scrunch up a bit – as though he were anticipating something negative or bad was about to happen. But the moment he heard Bob’s story, Bob said the bodyguard’s face lit up.

I was watching Jackson during the exchange, and could see that he heard and was touched by Bob’s words.

Later in the day, I learned that Bob was racing to get to the South Shore train in Valpo. TO the point where he was still inside the station, trying to get a ticket, while the train was pulling up and had its doors open. Had Bob missed that train, he wouldn’t have arrived as early as he did this morning.

Of all the little things that happened, the usually early time, the fact that we were out having breakfast on a Saturday at 7:10 AM… all of it so a-typical. I just can’t believe that things came together to where Bob and Jesse Jackson were, once more, in the same room together.

We got a bit more work done on the driveway. And before noon, we felt a few drops of rain and decided to tarp things up. I was wanting to push things a little bit, but “the rain didn’t get the memo” according to Bob – so it was lucky that we did start to pack up. Because once it started, the rain kept on coming.

All day today, I’ve been thinking about that encounter in the morning at Valois. And every time I remember, it’s brought a huge smile to my face. What a phenomenal thing to have been a part of, and to have witnessed.

Breakfast at Valois Cafeteria, Hyde Park

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