My fellow Americans and grad-utarians:
We are gathered here together, again, because of your abject failure to invite me to deliver a stemwinder speech at your precious commencement ceremony.
Sadly this is not news; it happened last year, as well, prompting yours truly to seize the reins and steer the horse cart of graduation discourse directly into a ditch, via +/- 900 words of unsolicited advice. You get what you don’t pay for.
Just to clear the throat here: That treatise began with what turned out to be a surprisingly controversial admonition to grads: You’re really not that special. Upshot: Man, some young people's parents are touchy, touchy, touchy!
Lighten up, Francis and Frances.
Anway: To quote Arlo Guthrie at the end of the seemingly endless live recording of “Alice’s Restaurant” (kids: ask your grandparents): I’m not tired. Or proud.
So off we go again, with V. 2.0 of the editor’s fatherly guidance from a man who is not a father, but has shepherded numerous dogs and interns with varying degrees of success:
Get a pineapple guy. The pineapple is the King of Fruits and is truly appreciated only by tasting a pineapple from Maui. The difference between a Hawaii pineapple and one from Central America is like fresh versus canned asparagus. Get your pineapple purveyor to slip an occasional box of fruity deliciousness on an outbound plane once per quarter, to whatever dank place you’re occupying. It’s not cheap, but what is? You will thank me later.
Backup plan: Suck up to a wealthy acquaintance who already has a pineapple guy.
Think hard about marriage. Or specifically, pushing it to a proper age bracket. Like, I dunno, late 20s. From time to time feelings of matrimonial obligation will arise, usually at the behest of meddling friends and parents of unsuspecting young couples. This is normal, and might inspire feelings of obligatory acquiescence. You should lie down until these go away.
Do the crossword. It keeps your brain active — or perhaps awakens it from a weekslong state of torpor resulting from chain-streaming “Riverdale” or similar rot.
Learn how to navigate a traffic circle. Short course: look to your left, see an opening, gun it. Repeat as necessary.
Call a plumber, then pray. Never try to figure out a plumbing problem on your own. Just don’t. DIY is a recipe for D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R, and perhaps D-I-V-O-R-C-E (apologies to the memory of Tammy Wynette). Seriously, just take your busted pipe elbow into Hardware Sales with a look of desperation and they will take you to the piece you need, which you could have found on your own in about four or five hours. Don’t forget the pipe dope or tape.
Make peace with the horsetail. You must accept this. It’s not going away. Like health care middlemen and the common cockroach, it’s been here for a billion years and will be here for a billion more after the Earth has shaken humanity off like a bad case of fleas. Qualifier: Yes, it’s ugly. Much of life is ugly. Get used to this.
Do not make peace with the blackberries, nor English ivy. We are in the middle of a war for survival that could still go either way. Three words: Machete, welding gloves.
Find the source of the river. Our piece of the planet is defined by our drainage, and that is the Columbia River. Sometime when you have a week or so of days to spare, drive east until you hit it and then follow it north to where much of life as we know and love it begins. Hint: You’ll need a passport and a decent map of Alberta. You will also thank me for this later.
Rethinking wearing a toque to a job interview. The international sign for I-didn’t-have-time-to-wash-my-hair is not a good impression, no matter how you try to dress it up. It just screams sketchy. Possible exception: Interview for sales at tocque vendor.
Eschew anthropomorphizing. A whale or bear or moose does not need a clever name conjured up by the tree-hugger parent of some precocious fifth-grader, usually for convenient assignment of human values. They are animals, species of perhaps higher order than our own, with their own needs. You do not know what a whale thinks, or what it wants, beyond being left alone.
Be open to the possibility that your strongly held beliefs are wrong. For instance I’m already having strong second thoughts about the moose. So it goes.
Read. Not on your stupid phone.
Self-edit your socials. This one is mostly for young guys: Round up all visual representations of that super-cool old Honda Civic with the “sport muffler” that makes it sound like a gas weed wacker, and which you have tricked out with spoilers, fins and ghastly LED twinkle lights. Destroy all of these. You will really, really thank me later.
Volunteer. Kids’ groups. Food banks. Park projects. Trail maintenance. Tax prep. Sidewalk shoveling. Lawn mowing. The list goes on. It’s a lot to ask to pay it forward before you even get paid, but Karma credit accumulates with compound interest. Our over-privatized and under-compassionate country needs your able hands. Its citizens won’t forget a kind deed.
Be nice. Especially to parents and mentors. Their knees hurt so they are crabby, but as you will someday learn, they're basically on your side.
And just to repeat: For the love of all that is holy and good, keep right except to pass.