Finding America

Me and Tarah

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Recently, as part of my Finding America series, I visited Salt Lake City, Utah, where I stayed with the lovely Poulson family (pictured). What you are about to read is a British-American coincidence of epic proportions.

Shortly after I arrived at the house on August 17th and became acquainted with the family for the first time, I began a conversation with Noelle (far right). It had been brought to my attention that she had lived abroad in London earlier in the decade, so I figured we could trade stories about English life, laugh at each other's pronunciation of "tomato", and talk British comedy. The usual stuff.

When I asked her where exactly in London she had lived, she responded with "West Hampstead," a place I recalled—but wasn't altogether certain—had also been the home of my eldest brother.

Geographical uncertainties notwithstanding, I told her that my brother was (and is) the editor-at-large of Londonist, a successful London-focused news, food, and entertainment website, and casually inquired if she was familiar with the site. 

Her eyes lit up. "I actually gave a feature interview to Londonist," she said. 

In 2014, Noelle had undertaken the extraordinary mission of walking the length of every single street in Central London, something which grabbed the attention of not just Londonist, but BBC London.

I pressed forth with my line of questioning: "do you happen to recall the name of the interviewer?"

Understandably, she did not. However, the great thing about digital works is that they can be pulled up in five seconds on a smart phone. While Noelle did precisely that, I mentally noted all of the possible writers I could recall from my own brief stint contributing to Londonist.  

Could it have been Chris, the foodie, just looking to branch out? Perhaps it was Lindsey, who reviewed one of my plays in Camden. Or, more likely, it was one of hundreds of contributors I'd never actually heard of.

Before I could continue my internal conversation, Noelle located the article and read aloud the name of the person in the byline. 

"Matt Brown?", she said, with rising inflection, as if to ascertain whether or not the name rang any bells. 

My jaw dropped. 

"That's my brother," I said, prompting Noelle's mum, Maryalys (near right), to chuckle at what she initially assumed was a joke. 

And who could blame her? I mean, even when I lived in London—a city of 8 million people—I'd have been relatively floored by such an encounter. But this was Salt Lake City—almost 5,000 miles from England's capital. I could have stayed at 650,000 different Airbnbs across the country, or even 100 million other households, and not have found a link to Matt.

After I relayed the coincidence to my brother later that evening, he responded in typical Matt Brown fashion: "Say hello from me, and enjoy your trip."

I duly did both, safe in the knowledge that the world, like Salt Lake City, is a beautiful, if small place.

Laurence Brown is a British writer and YouTuber who somehow convinced the city of Chicago to let him in. He is an English Language graduate from Lancaster University and a passionate word etymologist, with a particular interest in British and American neologisms. Since moving to the United States, he has become increasingly curious about Britain's historical influence on American culture and about America in general.

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