Trying and doing since 2001
for 25 July 2005.
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
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
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