Perpetually Unfinished
Friday, October 24, 2003
 
Recently ran across the Greatest Poem Ever, which I spent long bus rides learning by heart the summer before last (and still mostly remember!). It resonates again with me particularly as I try to figure out where my place will be in the post-graduation world. It's an amazing poem... it makes me say: This is what I believe in. This is what I want to do with my life...

Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?


I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!
 
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Friday, October 17, 2003
 
Well, at least that's something.

I'm not overjoyed, or excited, or thrilled, or psyched, the way I would be if it was the Cubs who'd just won the pennant. I'm certainly not giddy. I'm not rabidly looking forward to spending the next week glued to the TV.

But I am pleased. That's better than nothing. And certainly better than the Red Sox winning, which would have been far worse than nothing.

Yes, I know that the Yankees' win pisses off the vast majority of baseball fans, who've been following the LCS's excitedly and are now looking at the World Series with frustration and disgust. I feel bad for them. But if there is a benevolent and omnipotent God, he would have let the Cubs win in the first place, so it's not like there's anything I can do about it.

And now I go back to being my isolated self, rooting for the team everyone else despises. That was one of the many nice things about cheering for the Cubs... it was something to share with everyone else, shared hopes, shared cheers, shared disappointments, everyone welcomed and included as fellow Cubs fans. As a Yankee fan, I'm used to everyone wanting my team to lose. And then there are always the people who not only want the Yankees to lose, but think that all Yankee fans deserve to be taunted and made to feel like shit, and either forget or don't care that I'm actually a human being, too.

Maybe there's at least one benefit to the Marlins being in the World Series. Maybe people who feel like that will be so disgusted that they won't care enough about the Series to find the fun in trying to make me miserable. Crossing my fingers for that...
 
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Thursday, October 16, 2003
 
Damn.
 
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Tuesday, October 14, 2003
 
Okay. This is the point where I cross my fingers and hope that I manage to do the right things to placate the Baseball Gods. Tomorrow could be a Very Good Day. Or it could be a Very Bad Day.

There is very little that would depress me more than a Marlins-Red Sox World Series at this point. With all of the passion I've got in my heart, I've been pulling for the Yankees and the Cubs all of October so far. In 24 hours, they may both have clinched. Or... or... I don't want to think about the alternatives.

I don't think I could really enjoy the World Series, even if the Yankees are in it, if the Cubs lose tomorrow. The Cubs have to win. Everyone's watching the Cubs, it's pulled this city together, and they have a date with destiny. (You know they do. You can feel it too.) If that gets blown and the Florida fucking Marlins win... it would be so, so sad. The Yankees creaming the Marlins couldn't make up for it.

And the Red Sox. Cannot. Win. At this point, it's more about them not winning than the Yankees not losing. If it's the Cubs and Red Sox in the World Series, yes it'll be that much more reason to root for the Cubs, but I'll be spending the Series freaking out every time the Red Sox score a run. You have to understand that while the Cubs haven't won in 95 years, them winning the World Series would just be extra fun and special. But the Red Sox? If they win, there are serious karmic consequences. If they win the World Series, the Yankees will never win again. The Yankees' 26 world championships and 38 pennants will be history, and it will be the Yankees doomed to 85 years of suffering. You can't tell me this is illogical, because in my heart of hearts, I believe it. And so if the Cubs and Red Sox play eachother, while it may turn out alright, it just might be too stressful to be that enjoyable.

But maybe, just maybe, everything will turn out alright. Maybe, somehow, we will find ourselves with a Yankees-Cubs World Series. It would be beautiful. No matter what happened, I couldn't be upset with the outcome. I can't deny that the Cubs winning the Series would be the most fun result. These fans are crazy and excited and wonderful and appreciative the way that New York fans aren't quite. And more than that, the whole city is part of it. It wasn't like this with the Yankees, because I was never a New Yorker. But I've never felt more a Chicagoan than this past month. I love it. And if the Cubs don't end up winning, who better than the Yankees? They may have won their share, but they're my guys. I've watched them for years, I know their strengths and weaknesses, their at-bat music, their kids' names. While it may not be the optimal end to the baseball season, I could hardly be depressed about the Yankees winning again.

So. I cross all my fingers and toes, whisper "Please please please" into the sky, and beg of cruel fate to let me have my way.

I've wrapped myself up in baseball, let it take up my time and lift me away from the weighty, serious things that fill my mind. Let me have this escape for just a little while longer...
 
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Thursday, October 09, 2003
 
Ah, this evening was most excellent.

I left earlier than I needed to, forgetting about the joy that is the Purple Line Express that got me to Addison in 20 minutes. So I did a lot of wandering around before the game. I scouted out a couple of bars, and the guy at Murphy's Bleachers hassled me about my ID. ("From New Jersey, huh? What're you doing in these parts?" "Going to school." "Ah, good old Newton." "Actually, I live in Fredon, it's just outside Newton." "Does Fake still live there?") He let me in, though, but I decided I didn't like the place much and went back to the bar at Addison and Sheffield.

I spent the first three innings there, which was much fun, especially because in that point at the game it was still suspenseful, and the joint went nuts when Sammy hit the home run to make the score 5-0. By the end of the third, though, I was sweating in the packed, hot bar, my legs were tired, I was hungry, and the Cubs were up by 8. So instead of buying overpriced bar food, I decided to wander.

I found $2 cheese fries, a seat, a TV, and a friendly crowd of maybe 20 Cubs fans across the street. When I was fed and rested, I made my way around Wrigley to Waveland Avenue, where those crowds you always see on TV are gathered. (Of course, I couldn't get into the crowd you always see on TV, because they were blockaded off and the police weren't letting anyone over-- I would have had to walk all the way around the stadium to get to them from the other side, and who knows if I'd have been able to get in there, either. So I was in the "second-class" crowd.) Maybe 15 minutes after I got there, Alex Gonzalez's home run flew over the fence, hit the street, and bounced up and into the crowd about 50 feet away from me. That was pretty neat.

Waveland Avenue was fun, but the main problem was that it was very hard to follow what was going on, since all we had to go by was the scoreboard (so we knew if there was an out or a run had scored) and our interpretation of the noise of the crowd. ("Did that cheer sound like he hit a double or a single?") So eventually I left. After a brief encounter with the inflatable Harry Caray, I made my way to the 7-11 and grabbed a slurpee. I sipped it happily outside the bar I was at before and watched the TV through the window, feeling pleased with myself for having a $1.19 slurpee instead of a $5 beer while being kind to my recently taxed liver to boot. That's how things went for the last couple innings, and then I screamed in glee with everyone around me, snapped a picture of "Cubs Win!" on the scoreboard, and dashed for the El ahead of the stadium crowd.

Ah, baseball, how I love you. And we shall conveniently forget that the Yankees lost tonight.
 
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Tuesday, October 07, 2003
 
So much to say, no faith in Comcast to keep my internet connected long enough to say it.

I'm going to a Wrigleyville bar tomorrow night to watch Game 2 of the NLCS. If you want to come with, e-mail me or call the cell. I'm planning to leave around 6. You should come. It'll be fun.
 
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Why is it only at 2:30 AM the night before an 11 AM class that I suddenly remember the letter I very much wanted to write to the Daily in response to a column today? Must remind self that the letter wouldn't get published tomorrow anyway, so I might as well write it tomorrow. Although I just spent a good 20 minutes looking stuff up online.

I guess that means now's not the time to whine about my day, either, is it? May I just say: Wisdom tooth. Side of mouth. Ow.

(Also: Jacket in library. Disappeared. Bizarre. Annoying.)

 
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Monday, October 06, 2003
 
My 24-hour fast for Yom Kippur started at sundown. (The quick story for anyone who isn't aware: I consider myself culturally Jewish, although I'm religiously agnostic. I carry out Jewish traditions like fasting on Yom Kippur and observing Passover as a connection to my family and my ancestors.) Anyhow, I started getting hungry pretty soon afterwards. The smells of everyone else's dinner (garlic bread!) were ever-so-tantalizing. It was hard (which is good, it's supposed to be), although I was persevering.

Then we found mouse droppings on the counter. And in the cabinet where I keep my food. Suddenly I'm not hungry anymore.

Granted, it's just a psychological effect, because all of my food is sealed and nothing was gnawed through or even more than barely nibbled. So my food is safe, now that it's been moved to an alternative location. (In the armoire in the next room, in fact. It's sort of silly, but it's the best alternative, because although we have tons of cabinet space above the sink and stove, they're pointlessly high and no one can reach above the lowest shelf, and I can't even reach beyond the very front of the lowest shelf. Yay for useless cabinets.)

Ugh. Yeah. Fun. Time to buy the mousetraps...
 
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Friday, October 03, 2003
 
I just took a nice, long, hot shower to get the chill out of my bones. (Well, and to get clean, too, but that's secondary.) It was quite sad how long it took me to convince myself that there was any reason to leave my warm, steamy cocoon and reenter the hard, cold world of the apartment. The feeling afterwards is reminiscent of being sent outside for recess in junior high in November immediately after swimming, and watching our wet hair crystallize into ice. (No frozen hair yet here, although I wouldn't be surprised.) We better figure out this heating stuff soon, since by my count only three of our seven radiators emit any heat currently, and I'm using a very loose definition of the word "any."

Speaking of heating, the landlord said that I'm basically going to need a space heater to get through the winter in my room. (Would you believe that it never occurred to me before I moved in that having a bedroom that's technically a porch might cause problems when it gets cold out?) I've done some preliminary research; what I've found so far is, "Space heaters are evil! You're going to die of carbon monoxide poisoning, unless the fire you start kills you first!" Seriously, though, I need to keep investigating. Prices seem to range between $20-$100, and I need to find something that's safe, energy efficient, compact, and maybe even with spiffy features like a timer so I could set it to turn on before I wake up in the morning. I'm kind of excited, although it's hard not to be excited about something that creates warmth as I sit in the freezer otherwise known as my room.
 
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Nature attains perfection, but man never does. There is a perfect ant, a perfect bee, but man is perpetually unfinished. He is both an unfinished animal and an unfinished man. It is this incurable unfinishedness which sets man apart from other living things. For, in the attempt to finish himself, man becomes a creator. Moreover, the incurable unfinishedness keeps man perpetually immature, perpetually capable of learning and growing.
--Eric Hoffer





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