I went north and stopped in Princeton. A cousin of mine is studying engineering there. He was granted a scholarship and is now living in one of the most privileged university environments in the world. This campus is extraordinary. I can’t think of a better place to drive your mind into abstract subjects. There is nothing to distract you, and every square foot is a good place to sit and read. The architecture is delightful; sober and peaceful.
I love the arrogant attitude of young people as they walk up and down. They want to change the world, and that’s the state of mind every human should hold in their twenties. They are reading the numbers, looking the facts and measuring the elements. The problems of the world seem pretty obvious at this stage, and they are going to fix it. Later on, they are going to experience a phase of humiliating reality. This humbling period, that comes on in your late twenties and early thirties, has the unintended effect of killing dreams. Losers celebrate that and use that lapse to confirm their bias. They will try to defend the thesis that “reality” is about routine, hard work and taxes. They'll love that confirmation since they are only capable of surviving in an aseptic world, where nothing is magic.
Surpassing that phase is vital. After years of beatings and failures, you can decide to learn the rules but keep your dreams. The pieces on the chessboard don’t work the way books tell us, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work at all. The real rules are natural and beautiful and, as every natural and beautiful thing on Earth, they have nothing to do with justice.
Our dreams, then, get reborn, not as an innocent hope but as an aggressive project.
That evening in Princeton I walked into a sub shop. The owner in his smock was serving fruit juices behind the counter. The place was called “Tico” which is a nickname for Costa Rican used in Central America. So I started to speak Spanish with the man at the cash register – and it turns out that he was my boss when I was working as a Black Jack dealer to pay for my college. Now he is the owner of this business.
We talked for a long time about the big opportunities that this country has to offer. I told him one of my oldest observations: that this place has a permanent affluence of immigrants that are filtered for their bravery. Good or bad, people that come here have the guts to leave everything behind and start from scratch, even while learning a new language. That is a permanent infusion of dreamers. No other country has that advantage.
I don’t mind seeing people with limitations. What I can’t stand is people who settle for something.
We don't have the option of quitting our dreams; that's like quitting being humans. A man without dreams does not amount to more than a dog. The fact of walking upright is just misleading.
The next day I went to Manhattan. I have been there several times before, but I needed another dose.
This is a city that I’d like to hug and kiss. I LOVE it! The vibrant rain of colors from those gigantic ads in Times Square, the crowd crossing the streets, the women in long coats with furry necks, the men in black suits, the teens skating in Bryant Park and the loud howl of ambulances: all was there. I’d never guessed that a hurricane had just crossed Manhattan.
I went to Walt Street from the Empire State using the subway and, even with some routes floated, this city has no intention to stop. They are building a beautiful skyscraper in the place of the old World Trade Center. That night I saw the red lights on the cranes at the top of that construction flashing above the clouds.
That’s why I love New York. My soul gets reloaded just by walking 42nd street. This place reminds me that this is not just the land of the free, but also, and above all, the home of the brave. With so many cultures, races and religions, the only real identity is this: those who choose to keep dreaming.