Yeah, you read that right. Don't get me wrong... In my traveling days as a musician, I've gotten supremely lost on many occasions. I once tried to get to Long Island, NY for a gig, and Mapquest (yes, I just dated myself) spit out the "fastest" directions. After driving in the middle of nowhere, thinking we should almost be there, we reached the ferry landing.
You can imagine our surprise. Especially when we recalculated that to get back to where we needed to go would require another three hours of travel. Needless to say, we didn't make that gig. But how do you end up on the wrong coast completely? Well, certainly the time period in which this story happened had a lot to do with it.
It was 1977, and Erwin Kreuz was coming to America
Kreuz left on a big old jet airliner, headed for an American vacation in San Francisco. When the plane stopped in Bangor to refuel, the flight attendant, who was getting off in Bangor, told Kreuz to enjoy his time in San Fran. Well, Kreuz took this to mean that they were IN San Francisco. So, he got off the plane.
Needing rest, he was taken to a local hotel and assumed he must be on the outskirts of town. He also saw two Chinese restaurants on his way downtown, and knowing what a part of S.F. culture Chinatown was, he assumed he was getting closer. But he was in for a surprise.
Some local German restaurant owners saved the day
Long story short, after going into town and being utterly confused, and speaking almost no English at all, someone at a bar put him in touch with some German folks from Old Town who also spoke the language. Once the confusion was cleared up, the city of Bangor pretty much rallied around this guy, making him one of our own.
He was given the key to the city, he was the guest of honor at 1977's Oktoberfest, made an honorary member of the Penobscot tribe, and was even given an acre of land up north near the Canadian border. All for being hopelessly lost by thousands of miles from his intended destination.
Kreuz was a darling of the press, albeit short-lived.
The story was picked up by news outlets all over the world. Even his brewery job back in Germany tried to capitalize on his fame, which he didn't like. He even came back to Bangor a couple of times but found his "celebrity" wasn't sustainable. Funny, no one cared nearly as much about him when he knew where was going.
Kreuz is still kicking at 94 years old. Maybe his best line of the whole thing though? Telling the press that he preferred Bangor over San Francisco (after actually getting there), he said, "If Kennedy can say 'I am a Berliner,' then I am a Bangor". Me too, man. I am also a Bangor. We're all a Bangor.