The Boulevard of Broken Dreams
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The Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Allen shares his memories of a trip many years ago.

Many years ago, I took a trip to the West Coast, and kept a diary over those six days. I came in contact with the broad range of humanity, from the highly disciplined to the neglected, from the caring to the lonely. It brought me face to face with what I want out of life, and why I am here after all.

My train of thought began with a famous picture of Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, all sitting in an all-night diner late at night. The picture is called “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams” because of the tragic endings for these three great movie stars. Each died early in life: Bogart to cancer, Dean in a motorcycle accident, and Monroe by suicide.

As I passed the mass of humanity in the airports, I thought how many of them have a boulevard of broken dreams. I remember passing a car that had recently been in an accident. The car was upside down, the roof smashed in, glass everywhere, police cars with flashing lights and police directing traffic. The driver was already gone, probably to a hospital, and I wondered whether someone’s dreams were literally shattered in just a few seconds.

The next day I drove through Santa Monica to the beach. What shocked me was the large numbers of homeless sleeping on the grass, in the parks and on the beach. In Los Angeles, hundreds of homeless were outside the missions waiting for a meal. I passed two policemen checking the papers of two poorly dressed men, who looked like they could be aliens. Once again, I thought about the boulevard of broken dreams; how many of these men had dreams that were no more.

As I walked down the tourist path at the beach in Venice that day, I again was amazed at the number of fortune tellers in one place. These fortune tellers had tarot cards, beads and rocks, astrology books, signs and whatever else one needs to be a psychic. The fact that there were more than a dozen of these wizards of the future attests to the fact that people want to know their future, want to see if their dreams will come true.

And while we may dream dreams of greatness, dreams of glory and excellence, we put up with the mediocrity of the world we live in. While one side on the boulevard at Venice Beach was selling fortunes and dreams of the future, the other side was selling gaudy gifts, cheap T-shirts and junk food. There were at least 200 such shops and this, too, attested to the low levels people stoop to bring someone a gift. What a contrast between dreams and reality. What a contrast between the mediocrity we live with versus the dreams we have of greatness.

Somehow this theme about the dreams we have and the reality we live stayed with me that whole weekend. I spent the better part of the weekend attending a family bat mitzvah. At the party that night, I was impressed with the degree of commitment of so many people, people who were determined to live their dreams. To name a few, there was:

  • The 9-year-old boy full of independence and doing it his way.
  • The woman who came without her husband.
  • The newlyweds: She was pregnant, and he was in love.
  • The father in his 50s who had a new girlfriend.
  • The aunt in her 70s who had broken her arm the day before.
  • The grandfather who was still married to his invalid wife.
  • My mother, a widow, insisted on attending every celebration.

Each of them in their own way was living out their dreams, unwilling to take less because their commitment to life was too precious.

All this put me in touch with my own dreams and my own boulevard of broken dreams. There is the feeling that so much that we do has little impact. There are the unfulfilled promises, the wasted time to be productive, and the failure to help others in time of need. To really make a difference in life is no easy task.

What it all means is that you get to choose your life every day. You decide whether to merely dream your dreams in bed or to live them alive, kicking and being productive every day.

The Bottom Line: To be great or not to be: you choose each and every day.

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