I met one of the smartest men in the world today.
In my never-ending quest to appear more erudite. I was at the New York Antiquarian book fair today. It’s the kind of place were you can find first edition prints of the Wizard of OZ signed by L Frank Baum, handwritten shipping manifests from the East India trading company and embarrassingly racist children’s books from industrial America. I heard of the fair last Thursday, listening to the classical music station to bolster my credentials as a pseudo intellectual.I walked around for a while looking at (and touching) books that cost more per page than I make in a week.
Then there standing talking to the proprietress of a booth for all things sciency was the man himself. Neil degrasse Tyson.
Director of the Hayden Planetarium and, most likely, the most famous scientist of our time. Of course I’d want to talk to him.
I approached. Then retreated. He was talking to somebody. Damn. It’s like going up asking a girl out only a really tall black-man girl with a mustache and one of the most formidable brains in the world.
I felt a sort of giddiness that was unfamiliar to me. I’d met celebrities before and didn’t bat an eye. But this was different. This was Neil deGrasse-mothereffing Tyson. This man will change the world. I felt guilty. I’m a religious Jew. I make no apologies about that. I don’t think the fact that I believe the universe has a creator has any bearing on my intelligence or impedes my ability to function in this world. I live the Torah. It’s who I am and I’m not gonna forget that. On the other hand NdT stands at the vanguard in the struggle to bring awareness of climate change to the minds and hearts of the ignorant and stubborn.
My companion laughed at my indecision as my heart pounded and hands shake.
So I went in.
“Hi, I don’t mean to be rude,” I said. “but I-“
“Of course you mean to be rude,” he threw back at me with a semi-smirk.
“Okay, maybe I do,” I played along, realizing I did not give one crap. ”but i just wanted to say that I’m a fan” etc etc etc. Who was babbling idiot, talking through my mouth by proxy. “ and even though our views on certain things may be diff-“
“Views?!” he interrupted again. He does this. “Look I don’t have views I have the facts and what the facts present.” I’ll be honest I don’t completely remember everything he said. I was too busy being starstruck and having an oh-my-god-i’m being-chewed-out-by-Neil-deGrasse-Tyson moment.
“I’m very careful not to present my views,” he continued. This was starting to get uncomfortable, but still TYSON! “Can you give me one moment on Youtube (sic) where I…offered my view.” BTW we said this while doing his trademark gesticulations that I like to call Neil deGrasse Tyson hands.
After the most well-deserved and welcomed tongue lashing of my adult life, I finally got word in edgewise to say that I was a fan (which is true). Just to be a good sport, he allowed the picture you see there. Seriously…a class act.
P.S. I saw a Delorean and that was just plain awesome.