“It’s How You Manage Your Dreams”
The quote in today’s title is from Giancarlo Esposito, a wonderful actor most people would know from Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, or any number of Spike Lee movies. He is an actor you might recognize on sight without knowing his name. Interviewed on Terry Gross’s Fresh Air Wednesday, June 7th, you can track down the entire program at the WNYC (93.9 FM) website. Today’s Blast is more interested in the quote than Esposito’s fascinating career and that’s the direction we’ll pursue. Upon hearing the quote I was flooded with ideas and images. Some were quite personal and others were more general and political. I thought about Barak Obama’s memoir Dreams from My Father in contrast to The Art of the Deal and wondered what our current President’s childhood dreams may have been (I’ll let you use your own imagination to fill in that blank). The quote provoked the notion of “Dreamers,” those children born here in America to undocumented parents; children who believe in “The American Dream.” Having just come from a lunch with a friend I’ve known since our elementary school days, I reflected on the conversation we had about our own youth and how we “managed” our dreams over the years.
Growing up in a New York City suburb in the post-WW II era is a recognizable setting for millions of people. Wave after wave of GI’s returning from “the war” (as it was always referenced in our household) were rewarded with the “GI Bill,” permitting them to attend school, get a mortgage, etc. (particularly if you were a white GI --- but that’s another story for another day). My generation, the 1946 to 1964 “Baby Boomers,” grew up in the full flower of The American Dream! My Dad used the GI Bill go to Brooklyn Automotive School and finance a mortgage for a house on Long Island. We moved out there when I was 2 years old, leaving Brooklyn behind forever and buying into the dream this new America was promising.
Despite being “working class,” at best (we lived paycheck to paycheck with Dad sometimes working three jobs), my brother and I had no idea we were not pretty “well off.” We always had baseball mitts, bicycles, toy soldiers, decent clothes and, most significantly, the given in our household that we would go to college. And that was the ultimate Dream for me, certainly (I won’t presume to speak for my brother). No one in our family had ever gone to college. My mother had a “night school” high school diploma and Dad has his Brooklyn Automotive certificate. Our immigrant grandparents and their children were solid workers in the “trades” (carpenters, electricians, sanitation workers, mechanics). No one had, as far as I know, even seen a college campus. For me, going to South Country School, and Bay Shore Junior High School, and Bay Shore High , there was one goal, one dream, one destination: college.
I had no idea (right up through setting foot on campus) what college was going to do for me, or what new dreams it might spawn --- it was simply getting there that absorbed my being from about 5th Grade on. How did I manage my dream? Nose to the grindstone, immersion in athletics, being a “good boy.” I bought into the mythology that hard work and a certain purity of purpose would guarantee results in 1960’s America (I would learn later that the myth was exclusive to those of us with less melanin). And, as has been the story of my life, I was in the right place at the right time. Managing my dream well ---National Honor Society, quarterbacking the undefeated football team, captain of the basketball team, etc. --- and applying to Yale the year it decided to admit more public school students than private school boys (it was still an all-male bastion, another break for me) --- was a winning ticket. So, at 18 years of age I got the Willie Wonka Golden Ticket --- what would the new dream be --- and how would I manage it?
To be continued . . . while you reflect on how you
have managed your Dreams.