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Stranger 99, Day 99 - Meet Shyamal

Stranger 99, Day 99 – Meet Shyamal, the “Organizer for the Love of the Game”

I knew this day was going to be a busy one spent with my brother and his family. So, I wanted to meet today’s Stranger real early in the day. Fortunately (and very fun-ly), I met today’s Stranger while playing pick-up soccer in the morning. This was the first time I was playing with this big group of players; though, I have several friends who play regularly. There was probably a good 50 players out there for 9AM pick-up. My field was set with two teams with 9 players each (small-sided games). So, I felt pretty comfortable finding a player to meet today.

In fact, today’s Stranger is the organizer of these large pick-up soccer meet-ups. Since it was my first time playing, it was fitting that we meet.

Note: I did approach one other person prior to the Stranger of the Day. However, he felt too exhausted after game play to speak/ think coherently.

Meet Shyamal, 26

Who are you?

“I am a human-being that’s loves soccer. So, I organize all this stuff every week. I’m an immigrant to this country – a U.S. citizen now.”

“Just trying to, I guess, live my life the best I can. I was actually born in Kenya in Africa. Lived there for 12 years. Then, moved here, and yeah, been here ever since.”

I imagine organizing this type of thing is a lot of work. Why do you do it?

“Basically, because I want to keep playing. When I came to this, I wasn’t really doing the organizing. I was just part of the people. When one of the organizers had to leave, they needed some people to step up. I have a lot of free time usually, and I like playing soccer in that free time, so that’s pretty cool.”

“I get to organize and make sure other people can have fun and have a place to play, and we can keep this thing going for a relatively low cost. Basically, we’re not making money. But in Atlanta, it’s hard to find fields and things where you can just play for free, and have the equipment and stuff. We have to pay a little bit of money for that, but it’s relatively low.”

“But yeah, basically for the fun!”

I noticed that you’re an immigrant. Here, there’s just a plethora of different immigrants.

“Yeah, a lot of them are here, too. Soccer is, like, an immigrant sport, I guess, or like a sport that’s growing in America. But’s it’s big, obviously, in the rest of the world. That’s what a lot of these people bring when they come here – a love for soccer. It’s one of the things that kind of binds us all together. That’s what I find is pretty good – pretty good connections.”

A little bit outside of soccer, what are some of your other passions?

“So, I like movies, video games. Whenever I hang out with my friends, that’s what we usually do. Or, we’ll watch sports on TV. Video games, music, things like that. And then for my job, I work in a children’s hospital. I do software development for them. That’s pretty fulfilling, too.”

“So, I have two fulfilling sides of my life with soccer, and I guess, my actual work. But also, for fun, I’m a really big video game fan. That, too, whenever I get time.”

Yeah, I’ve met a couple video gamers including a professional. It’s pretty interesting hearing about all the stuff he wins.

“I really like single-player gaming. Games with stories and things. I like movies, too, but games with stories are really cool. Multi-player gaming, I’m just not very good. Unless it’s FIFA. I’m good at FIFA. Other than that, yeah, it’s tough.”

Anything about video games and movies and stuff that you really love? Is there a root cause to why you love these?

“I like, I guess, you get different experiences. So, I do like traveling and whenever that’s possible, that’s good to get different experiences. But when you just need to turn on the TV or go to the movies, and you can get a different experience. You can get an escapism, or you can get something very real. But it’s just easily accessible. It’s good. So, I like movies with a good story, a lot of good characters. Sometimes, I like those action movies, too, obviously. Usually, just good stories.”

I’ll start to wrap it up. You watch a lot of movies and some Marvel and super hero movies, so this will fit in great. Yesterday, I met Lindsey who was a big fan of comic book movies, super heroes, etc. So, I like to ask the Stranger of the Day, if you could ask anyone anything, effectively, tomorrow’s Stranger, what would you ask them? So, Lindsey wants to ask you if you were a villain, what super hero would you want to destroy, and why? (Thanks to Lindsey, Stranger 98)

“Any of the Marvel or DC super heroes? I would pick Superman.”

It could be any super hero, any comic.

“That’s true. Well, I’d still probably still pick Superman. I like the super heroes that are… well, my favorite super hero is Batman. I kind of like that he’s someone is very real – a little more realistic, I guess, if you had to say that he doesn’t have super powers. I guess Superman is just too powerful. As someone who is very… very one-sided character where he is just purely good. You know what I mean? Like, he doesn’t have a gray character to himself. Other super heroes, I feel, like Batman, have a little bit of white in them. Black… or just gray side to them. So maybe him.”

“Best I can come up with!”

So, what’s a question you’d like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“You could ask who is their favorite soccer player, and why? Maybe. Or something better…”

Not sure if tomorrow’s Stranger will know soccer, but…

“That’s true.” He thinks for a moment.

“You could ask what they plan to do to make things better in the future for everyone else.”

“… Maybe. I guess that’ll be a good question that is kind of general.”

After the handshake.

Like I said, it was my first time truly playing with these guys aside from 6 or so other friends I knew. So, it was nice to speak with the organizer. This pick-up play is supposed to be geared for pretty competitive players, too (or at least, non-beginners), so I had to play some before actually being let in. Doesn’t hurt to meet the guy who runs it, too!

Shyamal was very nice and open to speaking with me. It’s hard work setting up these meet-ups, and ensuring we have a place to play week in, week out. Spending a few minutes to get to know the man behind the curtain is sometimes rare. Luckily, he plays and organizes this because he has a passion for soccer and enabling others to continue playing soccer. Much like we talked about the immigrants who were playing, we could all find a common ground that bounds us all together. Sometimes, that’s really all you need to create something as fun, as consistent as these pick-up games.

Meet Shyamal. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 98, Day 98 - Meet Lindsey

Stranger 98, Day 98 – Meet Lindsey, the “Super Fan”

I met today’s Stranger on my floor in the kitchen, like several other Strangers. Yes, there are that many people on my floor that I can continue to meet new Strangers, and still adhere to my rule of speaking to Strangers who have never read or heard about this journey.

She was casually making her breakfast when I approached her. Happily, she accepted, and luckily, it’s a slow day this Friday before Christmas weekend.

Meet Lindsey, 29

Lindsey’s birthday is next week, so happy birthday in advance!

Who are you?

“I’m Lindsey,” she laughs.

“I guess I am a sister — a baby sister. I have two older sisters. I actually work for my brother-in-law. So, my oldest sister — that’s her husband — she comes in one-day a-week on Tuesdays. I get to work and I get to still see my family, so it’s awesome.”

“I guess if someone’s to just like, ‘Okay, who are you?’ I’d be like, ‘I’m a fan.’ I have a lot of fandoms. I really like Star Wars. I really liked to read Marvel comic books. My dog’s name is Marvel. I am definitely a dog-lover. So, that’s, I guess, who I would be. Not really a short answer.”

Nah, that’s okay. That’s the beauty of that question. Thinking about you’re a fan of “fantasy” or… I don’t know. What do you love about the comic books, Star Wars, and the like?

“I like reading, in general. So, I read a lot of Star Wars. Not only have I seen all of the movies, seen all the cartoons, I like to read all of the books. I’m actually reading the book that’s almost one of the prequels to Rogue One right now. I like the fact that you can read about things, and encompass yourself with things that don’t exist. You know, like, spaceships and space battles and things like that and super heroes. If I could be a super hero, you know, that would be awesome! But I hate to feel like, sometimes, I think I would end up being more of a villain!” she laughs. “But, I like the aspect of, you know, people helping other people, coming together, using non-traditional ways.”

“I really love Miss Marvel — that’s actually my dog’s name — Miss Marvel. She, in the new comic book, she is like a younger, urban teenager. She encompasses these powers from the original Miss Marvel, and she basically has to take on this whole new life as a teenager similar to Spider-Man and things. You’re trying to deal with life, and also trying to not deal with being selfish. You know, helping other people as well; which is not normally everyone‘s human nature, especially as a teenager. So that’s probably the aspect. And it’s fun. Having friends that are into the same stuff you are. Going to Dragon Con, and things like that.”

I like how you might actually be a villain as you’re wearing a Darth Vader shirt. If you’re a villain or super hero, or whatever, what would your name be?

“Oh, my name!”

… and what would your super power be?

“I’ve never even thought about a name, though. It would probably have to, you know, how people have a name based on their power like the Flash or things like that. I would probably have to go with something being small.” She thinks.

“Like, I’m really short. Something along those lines of… I don’t know!” She’s unsure of how to answer this one admitting, “I’ll have to think about that one.”

“I always think that reading minds would be really cool, but I actually think that it would be terrible. Like ‘True Blood’ is one of the worst shows and books ever. But, she could hear people’s thoughts, and it ended up driving her crazy because you hear people all the time.”

“I would think being able to teleport because I really like Night Crawler. I live in the city. Traffic sucks, so why not have a power that would, at least, help you out on your day-to-day life. You’ve gotta save people sometimes, but you also gotta live.” she laughs. “If I could teleport, that would probably be awesome. Then you can just, you know, you have family who lives in one spot. Family lives in another spot, and you can just go all the time. It would never be, ‘Oh, I can’t go do this because I gotta get there. Gotta work in the morning’. Things like that. Kind of selfish reasons, but…!” She laughs. “Whatever!”

“I can’t think of a name. I don’t know…”

Well, maybe it’ll come to you.

“I’m going to be thinking about that forever now!”

The other side of that, you talked about being able to read minds was your first thought, right? Kind of like the rest of the super heroes, they kind of gotta figure out ways to control that. So in a lot of ways, maybe it’s reading minds, but not just being able to hear everything, but being able to control.

“Yeah, that would be so key!” She laughs again.

Is there something that you’re really, really good at, but you gotta kind of control how often you use that “super power”?

“Yeah, well, I do get really excited. My boyfriend is more…” She pauses before continuing, “I got him into the fandoms and the things like that. We kind of have different things we’re interested in. He does the stuff with me, and he rides dirt bikes. So, I have a dirt bike now. We do stuff like that.”

“I would think I’m very emotional when it comes to animals. It’s almost like… we had a squirrel that fell off a pole yesterday — right in our front yard. It’s like, you get so sad about that.”

“I’m like, ‘Why am I sad? It’s a squirrel’. So probably, maybe something like that that you’d have to tone down. It’s just a squirrel. There are a million squirrels. You can’t be so sad about this one squirrel.” She gives a big laugh.

“I don’t know if that makes sense.”

I think it does. Sometimes being empathetic or emotional about some things…

“Yeah, you can’t cry every time you see a trash bag on the ground and think it’s a dog.” I was a little lost at this. Huh?

“I had a friend who posted that the other day. They drove by, and she would start crying because she saw this dog on the ground, but it was a trash bag. She found out the next day it was a trash bag. Stuff like that.”

“I guess the older I get, the more emotional I get… and caring about things, I guess, more so.”

Why do you think that is?

“Well, I think, I’ve always cared about people. I talk about my family a lot. I’ve always cared a lot. I lost my dad. When you lose someone, it changes the way you think. So, you know, now more so, it’s like, ‘Oh, you always think that could be the last time I see that person.’ So you always kind of feel more empathetic. More emotional. ‘Oh, they’re so mad today, but I’m not going to be mad because you never know when you could not see that person again’ because it’s happened to you before. I think the older I get, the more I realize things like that.”

I guess, to that point, sometimes that can be tough balancing that, right? You want to be cognizant of this person is here. Be present in the moment. But at the same time, you can’t always be pulled towards that emotional side.

“It is definitely a pull.” She shares with me someone close to her who gets angry at personal relationships somewhat often. “Then, it’s kind of like, you don’t want to get into that situation of letting her anger or frustrations take on you.”

“It’s also the thing of ‘you don’t miss calls from family’. If your family called you two times, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh! I gotta call them back immediately!’ So definitely, things change. Like you said, it could be something my mom just wants to tell me something like, ‘Oh! You left something at the house.’ But they call you twice. You’re like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ You think the worst things just because you’ve been through a situation like that. So, it’s definitely a pull, and it’s definitely something you’re thinking about. It’s very strange. Only people who I’ve realized who have lost someone really close to them kind of know what you’re talking about.”

“And then, not that I want anyone to ever lose someone, but they realize, ‘Oh! I see what you were seeing’ kind of thing. Not that it’s good or bad, but I think it definitely puts things into perspective — for your life and what’s really important.'”

I’m going to use this as a segue. Start to wrap this up. I like to ask the Stranger of the Day (congrats, you’re number 98): if you could ask anyone anything, what would you ask them? Before you have that opportunity, I’ll ask you what the previous day’s Stranger. He proposed two scenarios. If you could live in a place where everything is perfect and happy. Everyone’s happy, but there isn’t much fun. Would you live in that vs. you’re living in the present where there’s a bit of sadness, a bit of hatred, as much as there is. But there is that fun component, but of course, you have to balance that. Which one of these lives would you want to live? (Thanks to Alvin, Stranger 97)

“That doesn’t even take me a second to think about to answer because I would choose the present. The reason is I’ve realized that, you know, just living and happy/ normal/ whatever may sound great, but that sounds like a zombie to me. Emotions. Feelings. That’s what makes us humans. Your ups and down. That’s really… the downs are what makes the ups so great.”

“So, I know I would always choose the present, not just somewhere that’s complacent, and fun, and mellow. I guess more so of a world, if that’s what he was intending. I would definitely pick something that was, yeah, the present. So I could feel what’s going on.”

(It’s your turn.)

“So for me, I mean… You know, I would love to ask… let me think.” She takes a moment to think to herself. “Hmm, that was a tough question.”

“If I could ask anyone anything… Hmm…”

“That last guy’s was so good! He must be a deep thinker. I’m going to take it more on the light and airy side of, you know, the things I’m into.”

“Everyone always asks if you could be one super hero, what would you be? Or what super power would you have? I’m going to ask if you had to be a villain and fight against one super hero, and you had to destroy them, who would it be? And why?”

“Because I want to take it on a different angle of the question. I don’t know!” She laughs. She’s wondering if tomorrow’s Stranger would have any idea.

Anymore thought as to what your super hero/ super villain name might be? Knowing how you said some of them would adopt their super power like the Flash or Super Man… your super power is about reading minds or teleportation.

“Umm, everyone always calls me Shorty. Like, that was just my nickname forever. But I would probably go with just something like, ‘Little Lindsey’. That’s what my mom calls me. It’s easy. It goes together. They can call me Double-L! I don’t know…” she laughs. Then, she exclaims, “There’s Double L!”

“… that’s a terrible one! But one day, I’m going to think of a good one, I’m going to find you, and I’m going to be like, ‘I found it!’ Finally. It’s going to be like a year from now! I don’t know. I’ve never thought of an actual name for myself.”

A lot of times, super heroes never really come up with them. It’s the newspaper.

“Yeah!”

So if I was the newspaper, maybe if you can teleport, I would call you INSTANT or something. Instant Woman!

“The INSTANT WOMAN!”

After the handshake.

Haha, I had fun getting to know Lindsey. She has so much energy in the morning, and she’s clearly passionate about comics. Won’t lie, I got pretty into thinking about the comics and the Marvel heroes as she was sharing. I have a lot of fun watching the movies and “experiencing” some of that world.

I noted how much Lindsey was laughing because she really had so much positive energy today. Perhaps because we’re heading into some holidays. She was great, and she gave me a little more pep and kick to my day. Had a real pleasure meeting her, and look forward to talking to her about the upcoming Marvel movies.

Meet Lindsey. No longer a Stranger.

Stranger 72, Day 72 - Meet Toby

Stranger 72, Day 72 – Meet Toby, the “Comic Book Enthusiast”

I’ve seen today’s Stranger several times at the gym. He’s another staple there. I wanted to meet him last week, but he was not there. Lo and behold, he was actually at the mall yesterday when I ran into him. That’s when we introduced ourselves before having to go our separate ways. So when I saw him today, I asked him to be the Stranger of the Day to get to know him.

Here’s a recap of our introduction…

Meet Toby, 43

Who are you?

“I’m a country boy from a small town — Chester, South Carolina. I’ve been here since ’95. College-educated. I have a degree in history. Currently, working in IT. I’m single. I live in Brookhaven. I’m gay. I’m just a regular, average Joe. I collect comic books. I’m kind of a — I’m not going to say a ‘geek’ — but I’m half-way there.” Toby laughs.

“Just a regular ole dude.”

I’m thinking about the comic books. I find that interesting. What do you love about comic books?

“I’ve been reading them since I was little. Like, 5 years old. I think that’s how I learned to read, basically. I used to have a passion for reading, but now, as I’ve gotten older, the digital age has come about with the internet and everything, I don’t read like I used to. I used to be in book clubs. I guess the fantasy of it. Having powers. Be able to do things that normal people can’t do. Kind of like an escape for me.”

What’s your favorite comic book hero?

“That’s a good question. I really don’t have a favorite comic book hero. The way I collect comic books is based off the writer and artist at the time. So if, like the X-Men — let me explain.” He pauses and pardons his “French” — “If they have a shitty artist and writer, then I lose interest. It’s basically based off the material that’s in the comic book at the time. It fluctuates. Off the top of my head, I think the most consistent comic book that I prefer is The Authority.”

Toby explains, “It’s based off this group of heroes… they didn’t follow rules. They did whatever it took to combat evil and [exercise] justice in the world. It’s kind of like they were the authority. They didn’t answer to anybody.”

Who is the most bad ass villain?

“I’d say Emma Frost, the White Queen.”

I recall the question the three friends (from Day 29) I had met on top of Stone Mountain. One of the questions they wanted to ask the next day’s Stranger was if people could be a super hero, what super power would people want. (See Stranger 29 story here.) So I asked Toby if he were a super hero, what super power would he want?

“Well, I’m nosy. I kind of have a control issue sometimes, so for me, it would be telepathy. Then, I could read your mind and tell you what to do.” He laughs. “That’s probably it right there.” Haha.

I mention to Toby how one of the friends from Day 29 wanted the super power to teleport. He responds, “You know, if you have telepathy, then you can just tell somebody to take you where you want to go. Let me on this plane. Take me to the pilot. Take me here. I don’t have to be there in an instant.” He laughs again.

I see you here several mornings, about the same mornings I’m here. First, do you enjoy working out?

“As I’ve gotten older, it’s become a necessity.” He admits, “I’m a little vain. I hate to say this, I just want to look good naked for no other reason. When I look at myself when I get up in the morning, I want to look a certain way. Kind of vain. Not for health reasons or anything like that. Just… just want to look good.”

That works! Plenty of people just want to look good, and that’s perfectly fine. We’re all motivated in different ways, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, too, want to look good.

Is that the motivation behind getting up early in the morning most of those days?

“I get up in the morning because, like I said, I have control issues. So if you get here when it first opens, then you don’t have to be bothered by other people hogging the machines and stuff like that. So the earlier you’re here, the more you get done, and the more machines you can work on without having to weight or share. It’s more of a selfish thing.” He laughs. Those are the same sentiments I feel.

Any other passions?

“Besides comics, I’m an avid movie-goer. And I watch a lot of TV. A lot of TV.” He mentions he has other passions that he’ll “leave off the blog”. Haha, okay!

“Movies… I go to the movies at least once or twice a month. Like I said, I watch a lot of TV. My DVR is probably 80% filled right now.”

What kind of TV shows? What genres?

“Right now, it’s not a specific genre, but as I’ve gotten older, I’m more geared toward shows that have a very diverse cast. So right now, my favorite show is Queen Sugar. It comes on the On Network. It’s about a family — three siblings — whose father died. He leaves them a sugar plantation/ farm. It’s just the trials and tribulations of them trying to run that farm. I have no idea what they’re doing. It’s set in the south of Louisiana, and they’re black. So they’re dealing with the good ole boy system in that area, and just trying to survive, and doing something new they didn’t deal with. They all took three different paths in life. One is a wife of an NBA basketball player. The other’s an award-winning journalist. The third is an ex-convict. So it’s just all of them trying to get along. Also, I discovered a new show called Insecure about this black girl who works at a non-profit in L.A. It’s on HBO. But I’m just mainly geared towards shows that are more diverse. Not the typical Big Bang TheoryCSI…”

I mention to him how I felt like he was kind of an “escape artist” with all the comic books, movies, and TV shows. I was curious what he thought of that. I also asked him how he viewed himself.

“Quirky. Off-beat. I’m just… different. I’m the type of person who wasn’t in the ‘in-crowd’ or ‘popular’ or anything in school. I kind of came into my own as I’ve gotten older. I’m literally just now finding myself for the most part.”

“I probably couldn’t escape myself out of a paper bag if I had to,” he jokes. Haha

“So I don’t know, but I don’t think that’d be a good… I’m just learning how to fit in now.” He adds, “I’m not doing it well still, but I’m getting better at it.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

He thinks about this for a minute.

“Focus mainly on my career. I’m not doing what I want to do right now. I want to get back into QA. That’s what I would like to do. Not necessarily live in Atlanta. If I find a job focusing on QA, then I’ll stay. But at the end of the year, there’s a good chance I might be living in D.C. So focus on my career. Maybe finally buy a home. Would be nice to be in a relationship, but I’m not stressed about it. Came into the world by yourself, so if you die by yourself, oh well. That’s about it.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“Considering that this is November and we just had an election, I probably would want to know…”

“Well, I guess it just depends what their answer would be. For instance, if you ask somebody who they voted for, and they said Trump. I would like to know how they reconcile the fact of all the things he’s said about people. How do you reconcile voting for a man like that? In other words, I’ve heard a lot of people say, (I watch a lot of politics) so a lot of pundits say it’s not about race because a lot of people who voted for Obama voted for Trump. Okay, that’s understandable. I get that. They say it’s about the economics. Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, those states… middle America has had such a hard time. So they look past what he said to vote for Trump because it was all about economics. But how do you reconcile the things that he said enough to, in your mind, vote for somebody like that? What makes you think that after he’s done the things or said the things he said about other people, he won’t say them about you?”

Toby recounts how Hitler first invaded Poland first. The European powers didn’t believe he would do anything else. However, then, he invaded another country. Toby’s point was that “he didn’t stop. So I think a lot of people don’t realize if you don’t stop somebody from doing something, it’s going to be sooner or later before they turn on you. I’d like to know how people reconcile voting for somebody like that, and to think sooner or later that person won’t turn on you.”

Hmm, that might be a tricky one to ask let alone answer. I may need to just step back and ask tomorrow’s Stranger to explain the reasoning behind who the Stranger voted for — assuming tomorrow’s Stranger voted. We’ll see!

After the handshake.

It was great to finally meet Toby. I see him most every Sunday on one of the machines near the squat racks where I start out. It’s been months, and I never said hello or met him. I wanted to, but yesterday running into each other at the mall was another great example of how we (most others) only reach out and meet when we’re out of the “normal”.

We talked for a little bit longer afterwards focusing on perspectives, and what it means to be an American. I enjoyed the extra time especially since typically at the gym, we’re pretty focused on our workouts.

Meet Toby. No longer a Stranger.

 

Stranger 70, Day 70 - Meet Bruce

Stranger 70, Day 70 – Meet Bruce, the “Sarcastic”

Today’s Stranger is a staple at the gym I go to. I see him there whenever I’m there, and I’m only there 3 times a week mostly. So today, it wasn’t a surprise to see him in the gym early the day after Thanksgiving. He’s typically lifting some pretty big weight, so I’ve noticed him for a while. He works hard. However, he and I are alike in that we get fully focused in our gym routines, and try to cut out as much social activity as possible. So as he and I were both wrapping up, I asked to meet him after.

So meet the beast!

Meet Bruce, 30

Who are you?

“Oh man… who am I?!” His eyes get big as he looks up and thinks.

“Let’s see, I was born and raised in Atlanta. Been here all my life. Spent a couple years outside like in North Carolina and Tennessee. I’m an accountant… accountant/ auditor — it’s my profession. Went to school at Morehouse. Went to graduate school at Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Let’s see, what else?”

“Love to workout. Love to watch movies, play video games. What else?”

Bruce continues, “Let’s see. Who am I? I’m pretty passionate about everything that I do. I love to workout. It’s my number one thing. Helps me relax. Relieve some stress or whatnot. I like to play sports, but not as much as I used to mainly because I work out so much — too sore to do anything.” He laughs. “Play golf and stuff like that. And basketball when I can.”

Your main passions are working out, movies, and video games…

“Yeah, that’s what I usually do most of the time in my free time.”

What do you love (you can pick any one of those three) about it?

“Just working out… just push myself. I want to see how far I can go before it’s too late, I guess. So my main passion is building strength. Just want to see how strong I get. Aesthetics, I’m not too worried about that. Mostly building strength.”

“Video games — I’ve just been playing video games all my life. Nothing too special there.”

What’s your favorite video game?

“Oh, I don’t know… Right now, only games I’m really playing are first-person shooter games. So, I’m playing Overwatch, Titanfall. But I like RPG’s as well. So I’m about to play Final Fantasy when that comes out. I don’t really have favorites to be honest.”

Whenever I think about video games, I get nostalgic about playing with friends and family. What’s a good memory that you’ve had that is nostalgic for you?

“I used to play with my friends. College… when I first got into college when Halo first came out, man… that was the only time when you could really play four people playing on one TV. You got the four different boxes on the screen. But then you could also connect on the school network and play other people at other dorms. There was always competition out there. That always stood out to me, too. It’s very competitive during college for Halo.”

I mentioned to him how back in college, my friends and I started a clan (team) on a computer game. I asked him if he was part of clan, and what was the name of it.

“Yup! We changed our names very frequently. We ended up most of the time being The Sopranos. I think we had some other names.”

What was your name?

“I changed that a lot, too. I had really silly names like, ‘A Smurf”. So when you kill someone, it’ll say, ‘You got killed by A Smurf’, or ‘You got killed by Your Own Gun’. Stuff like that.”

I shared with him how my friends and my clan was known as “[WaD]” for War and Destruction. The name I primarily went as was “[WaD]in_my_pants”. Oh yeah, it’s true. We laughed at this along with other names we shared.

He shared with me how he had the game that I played installed at school, so he and his friends always played at school. He wasn’t sure how the game got installed on the computer in the first place, but he had fun with it.

Thinking about these days, I’m 31 and you’re 30. I’m finding it hard trying to get people together. (He nods agreeing.) If you could get the band back together, how would you do that? What’s stopping you to do that?

“It’s kind of hard. A lot of times, we’re playing online at our own homes or whatnot. Every once in a while, we do try to get together. Not as much, but we like to get together — used to always have tournaments. We’d go over to someone’s house, and we’d just play an 8-person tournament in Tekken. That’s usually the only time that we’re actually playing together. Other than that, we’re usually online talking to each through headphones.”

Is there any other names that your friends would call you?

“I don’t really have nicknames. Oh man…”

“I’m a little bit of a smart ass sometimes. So, I know one of my friends is always calling me smart ass… and just different variations of that.” Haha, right.

“Also, I have a very sarcastic humor, so it’s all fun and games.”

How would you describe who you are to your friends and family?

“I mean… who I am… I don’t know.”

“One being my family, they know I’m very, very sarcastic. I’m reliable. I have a little sister. When she was going to college, I was sending her money all the time because I was working at the time. Just help her out — get her through college or whatnot. Help pay for her books and stuff. We had a small family, but we’re very close, so I always try to help out.”

He shared how he liked “helping [his parents] out when he can”.

Where did you get that from?

“I don’t know…” he thinks. “That’s a good question.”

“Probably just because we’re a small family. I just felt pretty grateful. My grandparents actually took pretty good care of me and my sister as well. Once our grandfather passed away, I stepped up and helped my sister out where I could.”

“It’s just…” he thinks. “I just felt like it’s something I wanted to do. I needed to do being a big brother.”

Bruce tells me how he doesn’t have a family “of his own”, but he does hope to have kids one day. So I asked him what’s a value he’d like to pass on and ensure he instills as part of his kids’ values.

He’s struggling to find the word he’s looking for (“Having a brain fart right now,” he laughs). I’m seeing the gears work in his head. “Just always being there for them.”

“Dependable! There we go.”

“Being loyal. Family first. Stuff like that. That’s the number one thing…”

How has your family been dependable for you?

“When I was going through school, my mom was always there for me when I needed her. A little cash here and there. My dad’s always there when I needed to talk about things. Like when I was choosing what school I wanted to go to, career paths…” and even other life events today. “Stuff like that.”

“Their wisdom, I guess, for, you know, being around for so long — just something I really depend on.”

When you were a kid, you would dream about everything you could have, possibly do — big house, cars, families, and all this great stuff. What would you do to attain that? How far will you go? What steps would you take to make that dream to absolutely happen and they didn’t get lost? What would you do to make sure all those dreams you had as a kid happened? (Thanks to TK, Stranger 69)

I asked him to step back for a moment and share what was his dream as a kid.

“Probably being an astronaut. I don’t know why, but when I was growing up, I was just so infatuated with space. That was my big thing. Obviously, didn’t take any steps to get there. But until high school, I had 2-3 pretty good telescopes. I was always out in the country with no lights and whatnot, and looking up. That was kind of my thing. But never happened.”

That might be a hard one for him to take steps towards, but I was curious what steps could he take if he wanted to be an astronaut now. What were the first couple steps he’d take?

“There are so many ways to be an astronaut these days. I mean, they don’t really go up to space, but you could be any profession almost and kinda go into space as long as you have an idea, and what NASA wants of you. I guess the big thing would be focus more on science, definitely. I’m just an accountant, but just really excel in my field.”

Your turn. What’s a question you’d like to ask anyone?

“Piggybacking on that question right there, this is something I always ask my friends — if you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be? Any point in time, what would it be?”

What would that be for you?

He admits, “I don’t know”, and thinks.

“For me, it’d probably be being a little more focused in college. I started off in math and engineering, but I kind of veered off a little bit. Finished with the math, but I didn’t finish the engineering piece. Pretty much just sticking with that piece.”

“That’d be the one thing off the top of my head.”

After the handshake.

Bruce and I talked a little bit longer after our Stranger meet. He thought this journey was very interesting, and he shared that he was interested in perhaps doing it, too. He may not write about it, but he likes the reasons for this journey. He didn’t say it, but I can see that he also appreciates the consistent practice, and he may see it as a challenge to try his own Strangers journey for a little while.

I felt this meet was slightly different from many others right as he started talking about video games. Playing video games just brought me so many memories with friends and family growing up. So as he mentioned his interest in video games, I was curious if he had the same experiences as I did growing up. Hence, the nostalgia questions. It was pretty cool to also watch him as he relived some of those college days thinking about how he and his friends would gather around the TV split-screen as everyone played. It was very similar experiences to me, too.

Also, I really enjoyed learning about his sarcastic personality. When I mentioned he could take any picture he wanted, he really wanted to do a funny one, so the picture here is what he was really happy to do. Gotta love people who can hit the gym hard and have a completely fun personality away from the iron.

Meet Bruce. No longer a Stranger.