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Commencement 

To assembled friends, family, professors and students, The Observer bids you welcome. It is that time of year again, time to pregame with a little Kentucky sippin' whiskey and waddle to the lectern for this, our 15th commencement address. God save the Queen, viva la France, Make America Graft Again and so forth, and so on.

Our dear, dear graduates: It is good to see you there in your mortarboards and spiffy new gowns, smiling with anticipation or sleeping off the toll of years as Your Distinguished Speaker rambles on. We do hope you listen. It's a tough old world out there, and what good is language if not for passing on advice that might keep your ass out of cracks we plunged into once?

Own a convertible at least once in your life, even if you have to hock stuff to get one. Yes, they're loud, and cold in the winter even with the top up, and you'll never get used to showing up places wind-burnt with your hair looking like you commuted there through the wind tunnel at Lockheed-Martin. But the summer nights, my sweet. The summer nights way out past where the city lights stop, top down, gliding along under the moonlight, radio on with no particular place to go. They write songs about that stuff.

When ending a relationship, resist the urge to take the 51st way to leave your lover, which is what the kids call "ghosting." For all those old farts long since past your meet-market expiration date, it's the practice of making the person you're dating think everything is going right fine until the point you cut off all contact. No texts, no calls, no hastily addressed letters saying that you've been kidnapped by Somali pirates or decided to take that job in Tonga. Just silence. While The Observer has never experienced that our ownself, we can't quite think of something more cowardly or terrible. So be an adult. Pick a public place, and buy two cups of coffee in which the cream swirls like trouble. Hover there in the awful, uncomfortable gulf of silence that settles about the salt and pepper shaker between you before you fill it with the truth: That sometimes the only way forward is a fork in the road.

When cooking hot dogs in boiling water, let those suckers plump, then — and you're going to think Your Old Pal crazy here — put them on buns, then put the assembled dogs back in the bun bag, tie it shut, and let 'em sit for five minutes. Steams the bread with that wiener water, brothers and sisters, and there's no finer taste outside the ballpark.

Above all — and this is a dead horse The Observer has beaten for many a year now — understand that your choices don't have to be everybody else's choices and vice versa. Let the Glocksniffers have their guns, as long as they don't shoot up the joint. Let those in need of an abortion get one, because nobody makes that choice for fun. Let the religious folk worship whoever or whatever they like, up to the point they get legislative about it. Let the atheists make their own heaven or hell right here on earth. Let the prudes do it dull with the lights off. Let the hedonists get up to it with consenting adults all the livelong day. Until somebody puts a hand on you, your happiness or your goodies, let and let and let some more. If it's truly a sin, God will handle it without your assistance, thanks. Tolerance of others and their decisions, as long as those decisions don't physically harm you personally, is at the heart of not being a dick. And another thing: No, it doesn't count if you believe somebody is "harming the fabric of society." There's no such thing. Just the brackish soup of your own bugaboos and prejudices. Don't. Be. A. Dick.

Well, that's it, graduates. Rock bottom of the advice barrel. Go forth and multiply, or not. Be happy. Take your vitamins. Get outside once in a while and don't forget to breathe when the pain comes. Life is damn short, and there's truly no time to waste. Dearest class of 2017, you are dismissed.

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