Paris is known as the City of Light, a city for lovers, and a destination where you can enjoy a never-ending supply of art, wine, food, naturally chic people, and incredible architecture and monuments. Little did I know it would be the place where I’d meet of one of the world’s most generous and inexhaustible connectors.
Here’s how it all started…
My friend Jill Griffin and I were chatting over lunch, coffee, or a cocktail (I forget) one afternoon last spring. We’ve been friends for 20+ years, but I’d been busy running my own business and raising a son; she’d been busy writing lots of incredible books and speaking all over the world about customer loyalty. Our conversation meandered all over, eventually turning to travel. We both revealed, with high enthusiasm, that a trip to Paris would be fun. “Let’s go!” Jill said — and, trust me, I know her well enough to know she wasn’t kidding.
With military precision and within days, schedules were compared, dates selected, apartments researched, and tickets purchased. In mid-September we’d be on our way. The planning sessions and research began. The emails flew back and forth weekly with the promise, “This is going to be fun!” And before long, the day of departure was nigh.
Jill took a different flight that would arrive in Paris several hours after me. No worries. It gave me time to get settled and do a little the grocery shopping, neighborhood recon, and additional research on what we could see and do. Buried in a tiny sidebar in Fodor’s were a few notes about a man named Jim Haynes, a worldly character (look him up, there’s too much to explain here). Yes, that’s him in the photo shown here. To be very brief and very incomplete, Jim hosts weekly salons (a.k.a. parties) at his Paris home. He’s been doing it for three decades. His phone number and email were clearly listed in the book along with hearty recommendations to look him up.
“Wow,” I thought. “That would be cool!”
Moments later, Jill comes breezing in with her suitcases. The first thing out of her mouth (besides the usual shriek of “Can you believe we are in PARIS????” ) is the news that she sat with mutual friend and fellow author / speaker Byron Reese (another fascinating man) on the flight from Austin to Chicago. What’s more, he’s highly recommended that we track down a man named (drum roll, please…) Jim Haynes and see if we can get on the list to attend one of his famous gatherings.
What? I could hardly believe it. Only I did, I did, I did. This, my friends, is one of those moments where you know exactly what you need to do — and promptly if not sooner.
Important interjection: Call these what you will — serendipities, synchronicities, or eerie coincidences. Matters not. I believe they happen very purposely, and that you can spot them and even tee them up best when you’ve set your intentions. (Did I mention that one of my intentions for the Paris trip was to meet interesting people?)
Without hesitation I whip out my internationally-enabled smartphone and call Mr. Haynes. I initially get his voice mail, but guess what? An hour or two later he calls me back. It’s not an assistant or an agent. It’s him. We chat briefly, learn more about how the whole thing works, and manage to grab a spot on the guest list for his next event. We’re in!
Also, the trips to and from Jim’s salon include interesting events that involve getting lost, asking strangers for directions, attempting to hail cabs on cobblestone streets whilst wearing high heels, and surreal conversations with former-hippie cabdrivers who have a thing for Credence Clearwater Revival (I have video on that). But those stories are for another blog or a well-timed happy hour.
Back to our Jim Haynes experience…
The group we encountered at Jim’s salon was a mix of retired Australians on an extended tour blissfully combined with a lovely tribe of Americans and Brits living in Paris. A few other stragglers like Jill and I rounded out the mix. There was wine and beer in abundance along with good food skillfully prepared by Jim’s generous and talented friends. (He has many, as you can guess. Word is he could travel the world and never have to book a hotel room. )
And of course Jim himself was on hand in his legendary red apron to greet everyone who came in the door. He offered tours of his apartment to those who wanted one. (Each tour took about 10 seconds as he lives very compactly.) Once things got rolling he sat back and observed as we introduced ourselves and got the conversations rolling. Jim doesn’t spend the evening flitting about making sure everyone’s met everyone else. He’s already done enough. You are ultimately responsible and on your own for that, which according to business etiquette is indeed your duty. You can be as involved or unengaged as you choose to be. I noted many along the spectrum.
It didn’t take long for Jill and I to start respective conversations – good ones, too. It was strange how connected we, as fellow travelers, felt. We quickly found various points in common and heard fun, amusing stories about lives, careers, kids, dogs, projects, and travels around the world. Someone even pulled out a ukulele and got us all singing a selection of Australian drinking songs, including “Waltzing Matilda.” It was a blast. Unforgettable.
To summarize an experience that defies description: There’s a certain magic that comes with being the one who provides the time and space for gathering and socialization at this level. And the real beauty of Jim Haynes is that he’s been doing this consistently for more than 30 years. Thirty years! And he does it with a pure sense of trust that a handful of regulars and a revolving door of strangers will arrive and in the course of a few short hours become friends. The world becomes a little smaller and a lot warmer.
In this season of gratitude, I am grateful for the gift of good friends and my trip to Paris. I am also grateful for the opportunity to meet Jim Haynes, a fellow connector, and experiencing one of his gatherings and the delightful people who are attracted to them. I’m also thankful and in awe of the miracles that can happen when you commit to plans and intentions, are open to new sights and experiences, and are willing to listen to clear and present messages that will guide you precisely and purposefully to where you are destined to be.