Greetings, students, faculty, parents, esteemed colleagues, and other deluded dipshits. I hope you’re all as drunk as I am. If not, some kid’s got six cases of donkey piss hidden under a Snoopy blanket in his Ford F-100, license plate BRGUZLA. It comforts me somewhat that Coors Light remains the preferred cheap-thrill high for area adolescents. And I dunno if that warmth I feel within is nostalgia or flea-market tallboy bilge water escaping my body in a most embarrassing fashion.
I am honored — nay, ecstatic — that Greater Albany Public Schools, or whatever you hillbilly con artists have the audacity to call yourselves these days, has selected me to speak before you and perhaps inspire you with my feel-good logorrhea of buzzword clichés and gasbag piffle. Luckily, the check cleared this morning, so I’ll be on my best behavior.
I know many of you out there are undressing me with your eyes. I’m flattered, but stop it. The rest of you find yourselves standing in ridiculous clothes at your first true crossroads, asking, “What do I do with the rest of my life?” Well, if you’re totally awesome, you’ll never know the answer.
So relax. Go to college. Let it hit you like a closet full of water pipes. Get all that uptight angst out of your system. Some of you will discover the Grateful Dead. Others will find Bob Marley. Still others will think them both played out and hit the harder stuff, like Gil Scott Heron, and feel real fucking special. But you’ll all have one thing in common: being insufferable bores, barking the usual tropes of social activism until your doofus flesh paunches into middle-aged mediocrity. Hey, but I ain’t casting judgment, no, sir. Been there, done that. In fact, here’s part of a poem I wrote when I was 19, playing social peekaboo from behind a pair of superfluous round-rimmed glasses and reciting filched Rimbaud over the taut bellies of impressionable coeds:
Your lies satisfy me not
Your explanations are a blind road to Fuck
The tongue that aids your every word is an accessory to treachery
To behold your offensive form is to taste the cancer of fascism
I shall not quaff from your filth-laden stream
Until you cosign for that Dodge
Well, I see by the unlined consternation on the 76 valedictorians and 30 salutatorians seated behind me that I’ve lost you. Like you were listening, anyway. Why, it wasn’t even 20 years ago that I too was a fresh puss ’neath a mortarboard, plunked down right over there, in the gymnasium’s most holy spot, watching lips on high move uselessly, all the while imagining how cool it would be to edit the whole ceremony into a righteous video for Pink Floyd’s “Time.” The only excitement came when I and a couple of row mates made a friendly wager over at which point in her speech the octogenarian Daughters of the American Revolution rep would hit the floor, dead. She made it, and so did we — barely. For a day supposedly brimming with excitement and anticipation, I’d rather heartily suck a razor-blade lollipop than graduate from high school ever again. Jesus Christ, I’ve attended livelier text-font seminars.
But hey, man: it’s just one of many symbolic rite-of-passage rituals you’ll endure in your lifetime. And to be honest, with its shared illusion of interclass harmony and a hopeful future, this one’s pretty all right. Tonight, in a sentimental intoxication fueled by memories of Can’t Hardly Wait and Superbad, you may right a few old wrongs, create a few exciting ones, or perhaps interact with someone outside your usual stratosphere for a change. And who knows? Maybe you’ll bond with that person while puking into the begonias together. It’s the perfect end game, what the high school experience is all about.
As you can see from my weary beard and hunched shoulders, I am an adult. And as an adult, I am obligated to give you a few parting pearls of wisdom I’ve accrued in my adult-ly travels. So I stayed up all night plumbing Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and What Would Google Do? for inspiration. Therefore, kids, my advice to you is that the only way to truly comprehend the hidden differences between the sexes is to successfully give and receive the love that is within each and every one of us. If that fails, do what you do best and link to the rest.
But most importantly, make the time of your life your whole life. Don’t let it end here. Go home and retire your mortarboard. Burn it. Offer its ashes to Satan. Scrub that accumulated, soul-killing hierarchal filth off your body till you sparkle anew. Honestly, in life’s vast and wondrous sprawl, high school ain’t even a weekend. Or a sick day. Or even an afternoon nap. Once you’ve reached my age, it’s often a series of barely remembered events that, according to the evidence, somehow involved you. So put that bullshit behind you tout de suite. Then pack your bags and scream into the future, fists and feet forward.
Thank you, fuck off, Godspeed.