Below is a transcript of the inspiring speech I will give to a graduating university class, if ever invited. In it, I lay out a step-by-step blueprint to early success based on my own first summer after college, a time that helped shape me into the adult I am today. (Note: most of it requires living with your parents.)
Good news. Contrary to the many celebrity graduation keynotes you can find on youtube, you don’t need a big dream. You don’t need to know what you love to do.
Just know that bartenders make tons of cash. They are rich people, and you need to be one.
Take the Columbia University bartending course, as if it’s anything but an excuse to get drunk in a classroom setting, and as if that degree will get you anything but laughed at by bar owners.
Buy a Mr. Boston cocktail book and memorize recipes for drinks no one will ever order, like a Pink Squirrel.
When you’re done working on your tan on your parents’ terrace, it’s time to squeeze in some job hunting. Don’t worry about leaving the house during the afternoon. This is 1991, there’s a thing called the VCR and it can record All My Children, One Life To Live, and General Hospital for later. (What? It’s not 1991 anymore? Well, some of this advice may be out of date. But the underlying principles are timeless. )
Dress up in a floral-print dress and giant, fake-gold door-knocker earrings that even Salt ‘n’ Pepa would be shy to wear. Cruise up and down every avenue in the city in a pair of flats that make your feet sweat, handing out a “bartending resume” that you’ve filled with one waitressing gig and some academic awards you won in college.
Finally get hired by an awful bar on the Upper East Side called Cody’s Texas-Style Bar & Grill, where the owner, Bubba, says, “Know why I hired you? Because you ain’t got nice nails. It shows you’re willing to work.”
Don’t tell him your not-nice nails just show that you consider getting a manicure too much work.
Serve Jaegermeister shots to groups of girls who live 5 to a studio in a nearby apartment complex called Normandy Court, which is nicknamed “DORMandy Court.” They wear scrunchies and frosted lipgloss. They like to yell “Woo!” after every shot and sing loudly and drunkenly to Steve Miller Band. “If you want my apples baby, shake my tree-ee-ee.”
Make not nearly as much as you thought you’d make bartending. Come home reeking of cigarette smoke, because it’s 1991 and smoking is still legal in bars and restaurants.
Get fired supposedly for giving a free draught beer to the bar back, but really for being a slow and shitty bartender.
Be glad you were fired because now you have more time for your true summertime calling: Amsterdam Avenue Bar Ho.
Before 1990, Amsterdam was a stretch of men playing dominoes, crackheads, and bodegas selling dusty bags of fried plantains. These days, it’s a strip of college-y drinking spots for people not cool enough to go downtown. For now, that’s you.
Buy a never-ending supply of “going out outfits” consisting of scoop-neck body suits that snap at the crotch, bootleg jeans, and shoe boots. These are cowboy boots that only go to the ankle and have a stretchy part. Make sure you have them in black, brown, two-tone, and a useless green.
Divide your nights between two bars on the strip:
Wildlife, where you mooch flat diet cokes, flirt with scuzzballs, and dance to “Brown Eyed Girl;” and Perfect Tommy’s, where you mooch flat diet cokes, flirt with scuzzballs, and dance to Naughty By Nature and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.
Do dirty things in romantic destinations like “next to the ice machine” or “on the pinball machine” with owners of these bars, because you think there’s no one more powerful and sexy than a human who owns a bar.
When these bar owners ignore you forever after, keep coming back and pining after them like it’s your job. Maybe you’ll make them jealous by making out with their bar customers.
Stay out till 4am or sunrise or however late you have to stay to kiss someone. If you don’t kiss someone, the night is a failure.
Walk several times a night from one bar to the other, through the gauntlet of panhandlers. One, named Gumby, can stretch his lip over his nose. One guy wears a picture frame around his neck and says “I’ve been framed!” One asks for contributions to the United Negro Pizza Fund. Two or three compete to use the joke, “You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to help a fella.” One is an animated, Chinese deaf guy, who has long stringy hair, wears bellbottoms, and makes loud grunts while he says what seems to be only obscene things in sign language. He may not be asking for money.
When your parents ask what you’re doing all night every night, say “networking.”
When your dad asks if you have to dress “like an 11th Avenue hooker,” say yes.
Sleep till 12pm every day. Spend the afternoon doing cardio at the neighborhood Jack Lalanne gym, which goes by the un-PC nickname “Fags over Dags” because it’s full of gay men and above D’Agostino supermarket.
Take an evening nap so you skip dinner and have plenty of energy for networking. You can chow on your parents’ heart-healthy cereal when you come home.
And that’s about it. Good luck in life!
What did you do your first summer out in the world?
What advice do you have for today’s graduates? It can include time travel to last century if you want.
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.