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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Throw Your Hats Up in the Air, Motherfuckers!

Chances are, I'll never be invited to speak at a graduation.

I don't mind admitting to you that this makes me sad, and angry, and interested in the geographical coordinates of the nearest cat, whose pink nose, charming whiskers, and electric eyes I then might acquaint with my closed fist.

It takes great, significant achievement to become someone who would not only be cordially invited, but thoroughly compensated, to speak at a commencement ceremony. I mean, usually it does-- Mumia Abu-Jamal got to speak (recorded, of course) at a graduation ceremony in California and he just had to shoot a policeman in the back and in the face. That's a significant achievement, though I wouldn't call it "great". That piece of shit is, though, the extreme exception to the rule. And that's good. We can only heap praise and honor on so many murderers before the whole world starts to think we're irreprably fucked up.

I long ago came to terms with the fact that I'm never going to be a celebrity of any kind. I mean, outside of this blog, where I get to be a celebrity in my own mind which, don't get me wrong, is nice. And I didn't even have to shoot anybody!

There are precious few things about the fact that I'm never going to be a celebrity that bother me anymore, but I have to say that being denied the opportunity to address a graduating college class is one of them.

I have to be honest about why, though. It's not that I think the graduating classes of the future, or even the present, are being denied the opportunity to tune in to some great orator, because I am definitely not that. I remember giving a reading of a chapter of my book at a signing years ago, and my tongue was so thick you'd have thought I had prepped for the event by giving head to a rolling pin.

I may be a decent actor, but a great public speaker I am not. Nervous, fidgety, lacking in confidence and authority, I carefully script out every word, and grip onto the podium like it's my tandem parachute buddy.

Though I have very distinct memories of being a real cut-up at my friend Eric's Bar Mitzvah back in 1993. He moved away to Pittsburgh when we were twelve and he invited me to his Bar Mitzvah and I accepted, taking my first ever flight in an airplane. From Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. I think the total hangtime was 38 minutes. For some strange reason, Eric asked me to deliver a speech at the reception. For some stranger reason, his parents didn't intercede. I stood up in my suit and tie, holding a champagne flute filled with sparkling cider, and I proceeded to roast the kid, unscripted, for twenty minutes. The children, seated on the parquet floor in a semi-circle around me were laughing and jabbing each other in the ribs. The old fuckers were roaring.

"Okay, okay," I said, "seriously now, everybody raise your glass in a toast to Eric."

Everybody raised their glasses.

"Okay, now, put them down, I just wanted to see if you'd all do what I said."

These people thought that was the funniest fucking thing they'd ever heard in their lives. And they all put their glasses down, too. I suppose Pittsburgh's not that funny a place.

Come to think of it, you never know, really-- I suppose I could, through some incredibly ridiculous circumstance get asked to speak at a graduation. I mean, why the hell would I ever be asked to speak at a Bar Mitzvah? There is absolutely no reason that ever should have happened. But it did.

I wonder which of my personalities would come out were I asked to speak at a graduation. Would it be me, or Mr. Apron? Would I go on some verbally abusive, masochistic rant, or would I be sentimental and make some inept attempt at pathos and inspiration? I suppose it's possible that, if I were feeling particularly skilled, I would make some attempt at merging the two. I'd definitely write the speech the day of, because that's kind of what I do, even if it's really important.

Especially if it's really important.

Not that graduation speeches are especially important. I know they're really built up in everybody's mind, but that doesn't make them important. It just makes them built up. And things that build up generally aren't good. Take arterial plaque, for instance. And rage. Or... a blocked colon.

I fantasize, sometimes, about what I would say. There are lots of funny things to say to people who are sitting there in their caps and gowns, the perfect rubes they are.

"Okay, let's be honest: raise your hand if you're naked under that stupid thing? Two hands if you're naked and shaved."

Yeah. That's one of the things that would be funny to say. But you can probably only get away with that shit if you're Jon Stewart.

Happy Graduation, Motherfuckers. You can't have my job.


  1. I auditioned to be graduation speaker at my high school and lost to the guy who beat me in a student body election the previous year by saying "vote for me, I'm not a girl" in his election speech.

    Instead, I got the runner-up spot, which was to speak at the senior dinner, where everyone paid more attention to stuffing their faces with spaghetti than to me. (I don't blame them.)

    I think it was my basic message of "get over yourselves, there's more to life than high school" that set me back. Ah, well, I didn't give a fuck about 97 percent of those people, anyway.

  2. "Vote for Me, I'm not a Girl." That was Obama's main platform, wasn't it?

    Hey, Mrs. Apron and I are "going on holiday" in Ireland in late August. You should give us free room, board and internet access! If you do, I'll let you be the runner-up speaker at a shitty spaghetti dinner.



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