On the Dirty Boulevard

Man Under Bridge

The American Standard: What is it, or what should it be?

Politicians, philosophers, art­ists and just about everyone else have some opinion on the subject.

Perhaps it’s a claim to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Or maybe it’s an ideology more closely related to that intangible thing we call the American Dream. Or maybe it’s even just a set of codified opinions written by a bunch of elites — I mean revolutionaries. The point is, the American Standard means a lot of things to a lot of people.

I see it a little bit differently, perhaps more literally, though.

Whenever I use a bathroom on campus — or most of the time — I see the American Standard. White, porcelain and sometimes waterless, the “American Standard is the undisputed leader in high performance toilets.” Don’t believe me? Check for yourself. The next time you’re in a bathroom take a look at the toilet. You’ll see a little blue American Standard logo shining up at you, printed in a font designed to look handwritten and authentically, well, American.

Let that company’s insignia serve as a reminder of what hard work and dedication can get you: a monopoly on bathroom hardware at the premier public university in the world.

And isn’t that what we all want?

Not necessarily to become pioneers in the world of toilets, but to make it big — to make a difference. To have logos of our own printed in authentic font that tells the world we lived the Dream and climbed up the social ladder, and you can too if you’re like us. That’s what we do in America, that’s our standard of living. We can grow up poor, but just get us to Berkeley, and soon the world will know our name.

It’s as if our campus is more than an educational institution, it’s a gateway to success, however you might define that, and just being here means we deserve what’s on the other side. Bad job market?

Sucks not to be us. We go to Berkeley, we’re smart. Here’s our resume, see the education section?

Loser lady waiting outside for the next interview can’t match that.

So give me what I want, or I’ll have to take my talents elsewhere, maybe to South Beach. Or maybe to Vegas and really hunt the Dream — be that big winner who emerges from the last-minute predawn chaos of a stale casino. Or should I just stick to plagiarism and fake my way into a career?

Regardless, it’d be foolish not to ride this torpedo to the end because even that’s become a standard: go to the extreme for myself, fuck the rest.

I’m reminded of Lou Reed’s “Dirty Blvd.” and those poor savages who don’t dream of being doctors or lawyers or anything. If only they knew what it meant to be educated: The world becomes your oyster, and it’s served on a diploma that reads “University of California, Berkeley.” So shoot that slimy bit of mollusk back and enjoy the ride — it’s free after you mortgage your life away — and thank God that you aren’t out there dealing on the dirty boulevard.

Instead, work kind of hard, graduate and take the world by storm.

Only let your sense of self-worth eclipse your sense of ambition because, after all, you’re worth at least 13 grand a year, and that number is only going up. Go out and start small businesses or join really big ones, the choice is yours. And never forget that you aren’t lucky, but rather invested with a birthright to life, liberty, and anything you want. You walked through the metaphorical gateway, remember?

Those four years undoubtedly molded you into the kind of person who deserves nothing short of everything. Immortality — how ironic, this is going to kill the joke — take it, it’s yours.

The truth of the matter is we feel entitled far too often, mistaking our time at Berkeley as a right to anything and everything post-graduation. Instead of focusing on what we think we deserve, we should focus on making sure we actually deserve what we want.

Don’t get me wrong, ambition and desire are great things to have.

They propel you forward and keep you going in the face of whatever odds you might be up against. But don’t be fooled: There is a difference between being ambitious and feeling entitled. It’s on all of us to distinguish between the two.

Or we can just continue to chase the Dream all the way to Vegas or South Beach, inebriated from the prospect of striking gold yet again in a circus ring of decadence and low chances. Consumed with wants and just enough room for expectations, we can throw ourselves ahead of the pack by sitting tight and slurping down more oysters, thinking, “Things are gonna change, I can feel it.” But if that’s really where we’re headed, I must ask everyone one small favor: Remember the American Standard — it’s that thing you’re pissing on.