Trying and doing since 2001
for 25 July 2005.

Chris Porcaro


Lately I've been thinking about

the rise of the next generation.

The boomers' clout is showing

signs of decline and slowly, room

is being made in the social structure

for the next round of thinkers,

workers, and entrepreneurs. I've

been surprised to learn that there

are many young people frothing

and chomping, ready to claim the

world as their own. Reassuringly

this goes against the frequently

sited stereotype of the youth

as consumptive discontents, standing

in line for their corporate handouts.

Perhaps this is a new shift

due to changing political agendas.

In the 90's it seemed that any

fresh faced American could fall

off the IT bus and land a great

job, corner office, and after

a year or two, cash out their

stock options and retire at 25.

Post dotcom bubble, global terrorist

threats, war in Iraq, and the

failure of the European Constitution

things seem less carefree. Populous

and economically nimble countries

like Inda and China are quickly

advancing on service sector industries

that were once the sole territory

of Western countries. Competition

doesn't just come from the cubicle

next to you, it comes from the

cubicle around the world from

you. There are over 2 billion

people waiting for your job who

are as educated (or better educated)

and will work for less than half

your pay.

Scary? Yes. True? Somewhat.

This assessment of global affairs

is also narrowly focused and overly

simplistic. These pressures are

new developments and the youth

(although young) have been around

longer. More likely the youth

were already ambitious and focused

and they are rallying around the

cause of global competition, war,

and political uncertainty. My

personal experience with one of

these exceptional youth came in

the form of one Chris Porcaro.

Chris Porcaro is dead. He died

in 2000 of bone cancer. Only

24 years old his life story is

tragically short. I lived with

Chris during his Junior year at

NYU when he was studying for his

BA in history. Chris was not

a good roommate. A young man

of disgusting personal habits,

Chris would routinely eat order

in chicken wings from Cluck U

and throw the bones onto the floor

without regard to sanitation or

manners. He once stepped on a

tube of toothpaste and left the

squished remains to smear the

floor for days until I cleaned

it up. After making a huge meal

for himself and a few friends

he kept the dishes in the sink

until mold grew over the entire

stack. He denied any connection

with the mess when cornered, instead

adopting an attitude of righteous

indignation; offended that anyone would

even think to implicate his involvement.

He did not shower often, never

picked up his laundry, and refused

to clean anything. The only time

something was scrubbed in his

name was when his mother visited

and cleaned the whole apartment

out of concern for Chris' health.

Chris also had odd sexual habits.

Chris and I shared a East Village

apartment that was advertised

as a one bedroom. It was more

like a studio and three people

lived there. This afforded little

visual privacy and zero aural

privacy. Music, conversations;

any noise became the public's domain.

If any roommate "entertained"

then everyone took part. Chris

was loud in his lovemaking, which

could be a little rude but forgiven

if he hadn't talked about it later.

He would describe the rimjobs

that he would ask his lovers to

perform. He felt that having

someone lick his butt-hole was

the best thing that could be done

during intercourse. Knowing this

and knowing how often he showered

made it difficult to listen to

his nocturnal howls and grunts.

Even though he dated women and

never admitted to being homosexual,

he made a few passes at me while

I lived with him. Once, with

Cluck U chicken bits still lodged

in his teeth and BBQ sauce smeared

in his scraggled goatee, he laid

on top of me in bed and invited

me to "take him" whenever I felt

the urge. I never took him up

on the offer.

Chris was the master of first

impressions. He was an amateur

at following up relationships

however. Decisive, confident,

and intelligent he would easily

win people's respect and make

friends. Chris would mine his

fast-friends for their utility;

often for mutual, short term benefit.

Long term friends were subject

to the same treatment. Chris'

girlfriends were treated as conveniences

kept for his entertainment and

pleasure. I was often witness

to tearful exchanges which Chris

would deal with by leaving the

apartment, the girl left to cry

by herself. The 3rd roommate

was much closer to Chris than

I ever was and it seemed that

their friendship was sustained

by conflict and competition rather

than respect. I wouldn't say

that I was ever good friends with

Chris after I moved in, but my

first impression of him was so

positive I decided to be his roommate.

So after all of this what made

Chris so remarkable? His drive.

Chris' lack of personal attachment

made it easy for him to maneuver

his career where he wanted it

to be. He was presented with

the 1998 ADPA speaker of the year

award. He served as both the

NYU debate team's vice-president

and president and took the team

to finish 7th in World debate

during his term as president.

Although he went to a public high

school in Glendale Arizona he

graduated from NYU and was enrolled

at USC Law at the time of

his death. The ADPA now presents

an award in Chris' name to the

graduating senior with the most

top speaker finishes.

He often told me that debate was

not easy for him, indeed, he said

this was the reason that he chose

to be on the NYU team. Chris

would frequently quote JFK in

a faux New England accent, "we

do these things not because they

are easy, but because they are

hard." When I first arrived in

NYC in 1997 he described his experience

of moving to the city as being

sandblasted of his past. He felt

that his old self was gone and

in its place was a stronger person,

someone who could accomplish any

goal he chose to pursue. When

I knew Chris his single, stated

life goal was to become the governor

of Arizona. I suspected that

he also wanted to one day be president

and as much as I disliked him

at times, I believed that he could

do it.

Chris showed me that being young

did not have to mean being a slacker.

He set an example for me that

has lived on beyond my relationship

with him or even his own life.

He was flawed, stubborn, grotesque,

confused, driven, and successful.

His example is counter to the

stereotype and he is not alone.

The press finds it fashionable

to profile America in decline

but reality may show that there

is a whole army of chicken eating,

girlfriend abusing, no dish doing,

hardassed, hard headed, take no

prisoners, goal obsessed Americans

out there ready to keep the colors

flying forever and ever.

courtesy of John Winters

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