Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cool-haired Traveler, Old with Panache, et al

In my travels into Manhattan today, I found so many deserving folks.

First off, down into the subway at 7th Ave., I identified with the banjo player playing to few, sometimes to no one. Writing a blog is the same, trying out talents without buy-in from the powers that be, the publishers and music moguls who might or might not recognize the gifts you have to give.

On the F train, I saw a girl whose hair I liked so much I just had to give her a gold star. It stood straight up, curls upon curls, like a tall afro except she was white, visiting from Washington State it turned out.

"Hey, cool, thanks!" she said, reaching out to take the star from me. After a bit of time, she asked. "Are you a teacher, or why are you giving out gold stars...just to be nice?"

I told her the story, told her to check out the blog. She said she might try to give out stars herself in her hometown. I could see her doing it.

She thought New York was pretty good, but too expensive.

"I could have a lot more fun if I had money," she said, quickly adding, "Not that I'm not having fun, but..."

She had been to the Met, but not gone in. Too overwhelming. I suggested some other less daunting choices, like the New Museum in Soho. She had seen Times Square. She thought Williamsburg was really cool. I wished her luck as she got off at York, in Dumbo. She thanked me for the star and waved back, her fabulous hair bobbing ever so slightly as she moved.


The elderly man, smiling, made his way slowly, like a stoned turtle, up the subway stairs. He deserved a star. "Well, thank you young lady!" he said,taking it, his smile growing wider, stretching out his wrinkles. "You have a great day, au revoir!" he said.

"You too!" I said, appreciating anew the speed with which I took the next set of stairs.

Aphorisms come mostly from ads in our society, I notice. They come at a price. "Every Day Matters," shouts a JC Penney billboard. Nice sentiment, but I don't trust it coming from the source. Rarely is a message imparted without a sales pitch attached. I want to let people know about the blog, but it seems almost against the point. Their star shouldn't come with strings, just a supposition: that they are trying.


"Hey Sexy!" a dreadlocked dude on his cell phone yells out, opening the door of the Manhattan Mall in busy Midtown to beckon a beautiful woman, jeans stretched tight over her ample bottom. I interrupt his call to give him a star.

"Hold on," he says to the person on the other end, looking at me quizzically as I hand him the glittery gold.

"Just for trying," I say. "Good job." I leave him laughing.


I meet my friend, the mother of my first friend at college, for lunch near Penn Station.

"How are you?" I ask amiably.

"Good," she says, but then reconsiders. "Fine, I'm know." She works in finance. Say no more.

"I have something for you," I say, reaching into my bag.

"Is it $50 million? Or some new clients? 'Cause that's what I need," she says.

I give her the gold star, a big one. It's all I can do.

She is aghast when her star goes missing from her lapel after lunch. She looks and looks for it, as do the guys at the next table, for which they get stars. One guy is happy with his small one, asks where I got it. His friend is unsatisfied. He deserves the big one, he says. OK, I say, and give it.

I wonder: why do some people feel they are more deserving than others? Is that a good thing? As a mother, I try hard to instill confidence in my children, but am cautious. Too much is too much. I want people to want the big stars for themselves, to feel deserving, but at what point does it cross the line into conceit, into greed? It is a question we all should be asking ourselves right now, one we haven't considered enough. For that, we are facing dire consequences.

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