Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

October 20-24, 2003. The Train Station Party.

This week we had the New Brunswick train station 100th birthday celebration. It was one of those grand events that I like to dream up and would love to have the time to really be engaged in organizing. The station was built in 1903. It has a historic marker on it, which I read months ago. The idea of a birthday party was immediate. My idea was a Saturday morning event, connected to the Raritan River Festival. As it eventually evolved mostly under the leadership of Sam, a local green architect, sustainability advocate, and real character it was a week-long performing arts festival, with music and dance in front of the station each morning and evening at rush hour.

My participation was all too minimal, but delightful. I blew up helium balloons in the back room and then emerged with huge bunches of them to hand out to the commuters and anyone else passing by.

Handing out balloons on the street is an amazing thing to do. I became a different person, an actor with no fears whatsoever about speaking to anyone at all. Older women were easy to talk into taking balloons, and often businessmen in suits could be gotten to smile with a few comments about the desirability of riding the train with a balloon in hand. Children, of course, were obvious targets, and many parents asked for more than

Photo from the New Brunswick City Directory, c. 1925, p. 14. Courtesy of the New Brunswick Public Library.

one so that each child could have one. Indian women all took them. Young men would take one for their girlfriend, but then Id make sure they had as well. What amazed me, though, was my ability to sashay up to people whom Id normally be afraid of tough young black men in falling-down pants, young Hispanics checking out the girls, homeless people, drunks, all kinds of folks. I felt part of a community that I had hardly realized was there, that because I was part of the train station celebration I could bring them all along to share the party. I was a different person from the one I usually am. I embraced everyone who is part of New Brunswick instead of fearing them or feeling different from them. Of course Im different, we are all different, but for two evenings I was encouraging them to celebrate the community together. Everyone should get to hand out helium balloons for at least an afternoon in the course of their lives!

Continue to the next entry. Return home.