Friday, December 18, 2020

the last book I ever read (A Promised Land by Barack Obama, excerpt eleven)

from A Promised Land by Barack Obama:

I also became particular about my debate-day rituals. The morning was always devoted to going over strategy and key points, the early afternoon to some light campaigning. But by four o’clock I wanted the schedule cleared. To shed excess adrenaline, I’d get in a quick workout. Then, ninety minutes before heading to the venue, I’d shave and take a long hot shower, before putting on the new shirt (white) and tie (blue or red) that Reggie had hung in the hotel closet beside my freshly pressed blue suit. For dinner, comfort food: steak cooked medium-well, roasted or mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli. And in the half hour or so ahead of the debate, while glancing at my notes, I’d listen to music delivered through earbuds or a small portable speaker. Eventually I became a tad compulsive about hearing certain songs. At first it was a handful of jazz classics—Miles Davis’s “Freddie Freeloader,” John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things,” Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady.” (Before one primary debate, I must have played that last track two or three times in a row, clearly indicating a lack of confidence in my preparations.)

Ultimately it was rap that go my head in the right place, two songs especially: “Jay-Z’s “My 1st Song” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Both were about defying the odds and putting it all on the line (“Look, if you had one shot or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it? Or just let it slip…”); how it felt to spin something out of nothing; getting by on wit, hustle, and fear disguised as bravado. The lyrics felt tailored to my early underdog status. And as I sat alone in the back of the Secret Service van on the way to a debate site, in my crisp uniform and dimpled tie, I’d nod my head to the beat of those songs, feeling a whiff of private rebellion, a connection to something grittier and more real than all the fuss and deference that now surrounded me. It was a way to cut through the artifice and remember who I was.

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