This morning I was sitting in my van, parked on 9th and 29th, waiting for B&H Photo and Video to open. I was taking advantage of my telephonic device's magical superpowers to make connections with all of the amazing people I got to meet this weekend.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man approaching my car across the bike lane from the sidewalk. He gave me the international sign for, "hey man... roll down your window."
I paused for a brief moment to look down at myself in my thick furry burner jacket, black playa goggles, and tons of bangly things sparkling and jingling in my wrists. I am trying to start connecting the 'me' that others see with the 'self' in my head more, just before a conversation starts so that I am aware of what they're perceiving.
My window opens to waft in the words, "FIRST OF ALL, lemme tell you that you got the COOLEST van in new YORK!"
Sgt. Troy Daniel Walker was smiling at me, bright and warm. He started to ask me about the "Burn Your Stars Bright!!!" message on the side, but then he stopped himself mid-word, mouth-agape and finger pointed to the sky in an 'ah-ha' pose.
"Were you wondering what it means?" I asked.
"I... well... I don't know if I WANT to know! Hahahaha."
"Good point! It can be different for everyone. YOUR meaning can be the unknown one!"
We both laughed again for a minute at life, the universe & everything. And then we got back to it. That was the windup, and here was the pitch.
"I hate to start your day with a request but... Wait... Is that a FERN in your car?!"
I laughed again. My plant totally threw him off his game!! "Yeah, this is Lily. Poor thing. She has identity issues. She's a plant with a flower's name."
Sgt. Troy Daniel Walker started REALLY laughing now, to the point that he stepped back and looked at the van again from a wide angle. You could see him start to question if this was REALLY the version of reality he was in right there. He cocked his head and looked at the van, then back at me, then returned to his normal talking spot.
Sgt. Troy Daniel Walker collected himself and said that he'd like to ask me a question, but one that might be a little odd. I said, "Sure! Go for it! I LOVE odd things!!!"
"I would like to ask you, if out of the kindness if your heart, you can spare one dollar, and sixty-eight cents."
Now it was my turn to throw my head back with laughter.
"I lovezit Sgt. Troy Daniel Walker!!!! Why that number? I'm FASCINATED!!!!"
"Well..well..see I'm gonna trade ya. I'm going to give you a great joke in explanation."
"Yes! I LOVE jokes but I've forgot them all! Tell me a new joke!!"
Sgt. Troy Daniel Walker shifted his weight to his back foot and hitched his pants up a bit. "So I want you to just clear your mind and forget about whatever you got going on in there and just think about the question I'm asking."
"Ok," I said.
"What is the greatest nation in the world?"
For the first instant I thought, "I can figure this out. What answer is he trying to get at? I know the obvious answer is this one, so it must be something else."
Then, in the next instant (and a bit of left over time from the first) I thought, "why am I trying to solve it? I'm buying the ticket...I should take the ride! Let's play into his hands!"
"The United States of America?" I question-answered.
"Good choice.. Very popular... That's the SECOND greatest nation. SECOND greatest. There's one better. There's one that beats them all."
"I give, Sgt. Troy Daniel Walker! Which one?"
We both laughed again together and high-fived.
I looked at the little coin-holder on my dashboard and started grabbing the coins.
"How amazing would it be if there was EXACTLY $1.68 here?" I pondered aloud.
"That would just about blow my mind at this point. I don't know if i could handle that," he chuckled.
Turned out to be a $1.92. Sgt. Troy Daniel Walker kept saying I didn't need to give him the additional $0.24.
I said, "That's OK! I've got something ELSE for you... A gold star for being AWESOME!!"
He laughed and looked more than a bit confused as I started to exit the vehicle.
I told him the story of the mystery BG actress who started the idea of the stars project, and asked him if I could give HIM a gold star. He said yes.
This is Sgt. Troy Daniel Walker, who received a gold star at my car window, on Monday November 18th, 2013, on the corner of 29th St & 9 Ave. New York, NY. He received this star for talking to a stranger, for trading me a story in the form of a joke and for thus giving me the gift of an experience.
Object chosen for brandishing of star:
Book of matches.