(This letter is best experienced while listening to this exact live version of Stephen Kellogg’s songs “Milwaukee” and “Roots & Wings”. If you are a slow reader, loop it. You are welcome)
Happy graduation. Apologies for the delay of two weeks. I was being held for ransom by The United Federated Forces of the Symbionese Liberation Army and when Patti Hearst starts talking about power to the people, she never shuts up. That, or I was trying to nail down the perfect additional rap bands for you.
I find it odd that we celebrate this particular thing that literally almost every kid that does not end up in prison at 17 is able to accomplish. Especially geniuses like you. Nonetheless, I will celebrate it along with you because I am always up for a good party. Given that the devil is not wise because he is the devil, the devil is wise because he is old, here is my collective advice to you at high school graduation. If you have any questions or need clarification on any of it, just let me know. These are not stack ranked or in any order of importance. They are stream of consciousness, like Hunter S Thompson’s writing. Here you go.
Always be up for a good party.
Read everything Hunter S Thompson wrote, starting with “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” then” Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail” all the way up to 2016’s “The Last Conversation”, published after his death. Anyone wanting to understand politics ought to read all of Hunter’s books. Everyone with an IQ over 140 like you is required to read all of Hunter’s books. There are thirty-three, so start now.
Don’t be afraid of makeup. Makeup can be fun. Back in the 1990’s when the Stone Temple Pilots were in San Diego every other month for a show, we would give me some damn smokey eyes for the shows and I’ll tell you what. Those blue eyes our genetics made will POP with some damn mascara. So don’t be afraid of makeup.
Or traditional gender roles and such.
Speaking of which, be an ally to the disenfranchised and dispossessed at all times. Whether the person being disenfranchised is being so because of religion or gender or sexual preference or their race, always be an ally to the disenfranchised and dispossessed. If you believe in that Catholic heaven thing, quite literally the ONLY thing that will get you into heaven is being an ally to the disenfranchised and dispossessed. You know who has had it pretty damn easy for several thousand years? Guys like us. White men. You know who has had it pretty tough for the last few thousand years? The disenfranchised and the dispossessed. So, use that power you have that we got for free by being born white men and help out those who did not get that “get out of jail free” card. Plus….like I said….heaven. Ticket right in, my man.
Be kind. Especially with the ignorant. You are super bright and the ignorant can wear you down, so take a deep breath when dealing with the ignorant and remember that when you go home, you’ll be you and…unfortunately for them…they will still be them. If you look at the normal distribution of humans, 100 is the average IQ. That means that 2 standard deviations are to the right and the left of 100. It does not mean that everyone is 100. Heck no. Half are below 100, and it shows. Be kind to those people, too. Especially to those people. They cannot help it that they are dumb and they will be the ones saying the most ignorant things. Like “well the southern rebel flag is about history, not about being racist”, which is maybe one of the dumbest thing anyone can ever say. That flag embodies racist thought and 99% of those who display that flag are racists.
Never own anything with that racist, ignorant southern Civil War flag on it. It symbolizes slavery and certain humans wanting to own other humans. Full stop.
When you run into an obstacle and need to think through it, three surefire ways to work your way through it are:
- Listen to Warren Zevon songs. All Warren Zevon songs.
- Hemingway books. Really anything Hemingway wrote, including his magazine articles. Reading Hemingway helps you think better. The three best books to read to think through something are “The Sun Also Rises”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “A Farewell to Arms”
- Poetry. Read it out loud to yourself in the car or in your room or under a full moon. James Joyce, WH Auden, William Butler Yeats, Johnny Keats, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, ee cummings, and Percy Shelley. Neruda. Blake. Shakespeare.
Never, throughout your whole life, stop listening to Warren Zevon, reading Hemingway novels or reciting poetry aloud.
It was encouraging to hear you are into rap. As you explore the genre, do not forget the ones who got us to where we are today in the rap world. Make sure you explore the following:
- Big Daddy Kane
- DJ Kool
- A Tribe Called Quest
- Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five
- The Beastie Boys, especially the early stuff and especially the short tune “A Year and a Day”. When you play “Year and a Day”, say to your friends “my godfather, Uncle Dan, can throw ALL these rhymes perfectly and they will doubt you, yet your statement holds true.
- Slick Rick
- Master P
- Ice Cube
- Dr. Dre
- Wu-Tang Clan (Wu-Tang forever!)
- Geto Boys
- Digable Planets
- The Fearless Four
- The Roots
- Eric B and Rakim
- Lauryn Hill
And The D.O.C. Find some old school D.O.C. ,man. It is hard, hard, hard to find and well worth the search. The D.O.C. was amazing and then he did a bunch of E and got in a car wreck and ruined his vocal cords. That man could flow and rhyme.
Speaking of drugs. If Mother Nature did not make it, it will probably kill you. I have a lot of friends in my close circle who never did any drugs. There is really no need to ever do drugs. As you may have heard, I did a LOT of recreational drugs but only the ones that Mother Nature made. The best place to be high is at home on your own couch with three big pizzas and a two liter of root beer in front of you. Take a pass on all of the drugs that Mother Nature did not make and always always always pass on heroin, even though Mother Nature made the poppy. I have never tried heroin and never even thought of trying heroin in an experimental fashion. Heroin will kill you. Weed will make you eat those pizzas and then fall asleep on the couch.
If someone you are interested in romantically offers you heroin, run. Even if she is a super model with an Oscar, and Emmy and a Nobel Prize.
Make sure you watch all the Kevin Smith movies, all the way from “Clerks” to “Dogma”. “Dogma” is my favorite, for obvious reasons that will become clear when you watch it. Also, watch everything that was ever made for “Robot Chicken”, every single episode of “The Whitest Guys You Know” and every episode of “The Kids in the Hall”. Learn every word to the “Dinosaur Rap” video from “Whitest Guys You Know”. Here, I’ll get you started:
I’ll only spit this one time so let me take it slow
I started to get high about an hour ago
But then the buzzer rang, I looked out the peephole
It was a whole bunch of raptors, and they just won’t go
I stepped back and the knocks I just tried to ignore
Thought I was safe, but they knew how to open doors
And without even asking they just came on in
They started smoking my weed and then they called their friends
An Allosaur is in the corner trying to pack the bong
Hot boxing in the john with a Pteranodon
Now a Compy and a Steg-o starting to get it on
But I can barely move because this weed is the bomb
Ankylosaur is making s’mores and eating Lucky Charms
Pterodactyl took my whole bag of Pepperidge Farms
T-Rex just went and set off the fire alarm
And now he can’t get it out because he’s got little arms…….
Wherever you are, find a good therapist. I have gone to therapy every year since I was thirteen and it has been one of the best long term investments ever. Therapy is like having a guitar instructor or a piano instructor or a golf instructor, even when you know how to play golf, the piano or the guitar. The impartial feedback loop is what you want from the instructors and the therapist. When you find a great therapist? Keep him or her forever. I had Ellen in San Diego the longest. She was brilliant. She saved my life and changed my life. Find a good therapist and stay in therpay until you kick the bucket.
Fall in love a lot. There is no shame in falling in love often. Love is a huge amount of fun. If anyone says to you “oh, there Gavin goes….falling in love again”, reply to them “yeah…lucky me.”
Some time on a date before you are thirty, do this. Memorize the passage at the end of “Perks of Being a Wallflower” and take your date out to a field and bring a boom box and crank up David Bowie’s “Heroes” and look her in the eye and recite that last part of “Perks”. Man, that is a good date. I just want you to know that I was in a bad place before I started high school, and you helped me. Even if you didn’t know what I was talking about or know someone who’s gone through it, you made me not feel alone. Because I know there are people who say all these things don’t happen. And there are people who forget what it’s like to be 16 when they turn 17. I know these will all be stories someday. And our pictures will become old photographs. We’ll all become somebody’s mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening. I am here and I am looking at her. And she is so beautiful. I can see it. This one moment when you know you’re not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you’re listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.’
Get lost. Go on short and long road trips without plugging any data into your phone. Just go and get lost. I have found the most amazing things getting lost.
Be a feminist for life. We Mulligan-blooded love and respect women and remain utterly shocked and dismayed that they are paid less and are ridiculously underrepresented in Congress.
Visit as many foreign countries as you can all over the world. Go alone from time to time and get lost there. I got lost in Nepal for three days once over near the Indian border and it was magnificent.
People will hurt you. Get good at forgiveness. I was super bad at forgiveness until like four years ago and wish I had gotten good at forgiveness by twenty-five. Getting good at anything takes practice, so you’re going to have to get hurt a lot to get good at forgiveness. Fortunately for you, conflict is inevitable in all relationships (friends, family, work, love life) and you’ll get to practice it often. Be intentional about getting good at forgiveness.
Red wine with meat, white wine with fish. I have had $12 bottles of wine that taste as good as $300 bottles of wine. When you find those, buy a few cases of that $12 wine.
Science says I will not physically be here when you get engaged and married, so here is my speech on that, well in advance. And remember, I did not get married until I was thirty-eight, so don’t rush into anything. Take your time. Just like tattoos, make sure you understand that forever is forever. It is challenging to wrap your head around “forever” before thirty. Fourteen to seventeen seemed like forever, but thirty-five to fifty-five is way more like forever, but not exactly forever. Eighteen to ninety-seven is forever. What may appear to be a forever true love at twenty may not be a forever true love at twenty-four. A lot changes between twenty and twenty-four. A lot changes between forty and fifty-three.
Back to the marriage advice. It is better to be kind than right. Learn when to shut the hell up, especially when you are choosing to be kind instead of being right. Whenever I think back to any fight I ever had with someone I loved, whether it lasted ten minutes or ten days, I regret not stopping the fight in the first three minutes. A successful marriage is all about having honest discussions about money and children, supporting the hell out of one another, being a best friend when it is hard to be a best friend, and knowing how to fight properly together. I am a big fan of marriage. I have admired it from afar for decades and love watching the good ones.
When you screw up, apologize. The only way to apologize is this three step process:
- I’m sorry
- I’ll try to never do that again.
- Shut the f*ck up.
Mostly, be kind.
Congratulations on your graduation, happy eighteenth birthday, and I love you.