Roger Clark: Perfectly Good Stranger

So many cool things have happened in my life when I’ve quieted the worried voices in my head, stuck out my hand, and introduced myself to a perfectly good stranger.

Roger Clark was one of those perfectly good strangers. 

It was the fourth year of our annual Holiday Benefit in New York City, somewhere in the early aughts. We were looking to make the event bigger, better, brighter — to add some star power. So my pal Chris Abad suggested asking NY1’s beloved morning anchor, Pat Kiernan, to host. And I said, “What about Roger Clark?”

Roger is to NY1 what Jeanne Moos is to CNN.  When there’s a hurricane, Roger’s on the beach in the Rockaways. When there’s a hot dog eating contest, Roger’s on the boardwalk on Coney Island. And when the Ramones exhibit opens at The Queens Museum, Roger’s first in line in Flushing Meadows.

So I emailed him. 

And a few days later, there we were: Roger, Chris, Social Justice Comedian Negin Farsad and me, all locked in an MTV conference room, improvising around my unfunny promo skit just as well as could have been hoped. A few nights later, Roger and Negin were front and center at A Holiday Benefit, cracking wise and raising money for kid’s literacy. 

A few months later, Roger, his wife, Jenny, and son, Jack, met Abbi, Maggie and me to share sandwiches on a picnic blanket in Central Park. We were all new parents, all overwhelmed, all juggling day jobs and toddlers as best as we could. Then, as prior and since, I loved Rogers’ honesty, vulnerability and approachability. He is a sweet, thoughtful, regular guy.

Ten years later, Jack and Maggie are in middle school. Roger remains a NY1 fixture, Spectrum Cables’ affable Anderson Cooper. And we decided it was time to catch up. What we found was even more in common than we could have imagined prior.

In my twenty-five years there, I found New York to be rife with a certain type of hipster cognoscenti to whom black is the only color, downtown the only neighborhood, and nothing is cool. They define themselves in opposition: I don’t go above Fourteenth Street. I only eat Zabars bagels. The City ends at The Hudson.

Roger, though, retains a child-like wonder in every story. He manifests a sense of play, cultivates a “beginner’s mind,” and humbly, thoughtfully and enthusiastically asks deep and simple questions. His connection to the people of New York is clear in every segment.

Fred Rogers said that “Our society is more interested in information than wonder, and in noise rather than silence. And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives.”

In modeling that wonder, Roger reminds us all — like Amy Hollingsworth and Bo Lozoff before him — to stay curious, present, patient and open in every facet of our lives.

“It’s very important,” Fred reminds us, “no matter what you may do professionally — to keep alive some of the healthy interests of your youth. Children’s play is not just kids’ stuff; it is the stuff of future inventions.”

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