Mortorboards and meatloaf

Soon the SOU graduation in Ashland will flood the town with misty-eyed friends and relatives, here to celebrate a surcease of years of studying and exams. I will stay above the fray and not get into the partying, which is, of course, part of the education. Knowing how to properly tap a keg in front of 40 thirsty fellow students teaches performance under pressure.

But, I digress, as usual.

I have heard many commencement speeches, most of which slather the graduates with challenges to excel and praise for good works to be done for the benefit of the whole world. Lofty phrases encourage selflessness, humility and steadfastness. Other words tossed in like the ingredients of a salad are: resoluteness, commitment, trustworthiness, faithfulness, determination, persistence and love of country. Pumped up and proud, the graduate is slipped a diploma as if it were a fake passport and after a little frisbee with the mortarboards, everyone heads off to restaurants and various parties to celebrate and welcome a mindful and well-educated adult into the economy and the world of responsibility.

My wife, Annette, graduated a quarter ahead of me at UCLA. The day before she endured the admonitions of the commencement speaker more than 300 recruiters were on campus, each fighting for a graduate to come to work for their company. Many received multiple job offers and it was common to negotiate perks on the spot, with the recruiters sounding like tobacco auctioneers. She took a good job on the spot and did not look back.

I, on the other hand, managed to graduate when a sudden downturn in the economy resulted in no recruiters showing up on campus. Well, to be fair, we few warranted no commencement speaker, but I do remember that Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks were kicking it up that afternoon, that alone might have distracted what few recruiters might have been present, aside from the undercover police who were convinced that Fidel Castro was somewhere about. I do not know where they got their information, but I saw quite a few fine cigars being smoked that day while every tree and bush was searched and frisked.

Back to the upcoming commencement ceremonies and a quick look at the myriad job opportunities that await our new grads: The first, of course, is to continue your education on the faint and distant hope that by the time you get your Masters, palm fronds sprinkled with rose petals will be thrown underfoot as your new degree is awarded, forming a trail directly from campus to the waiting limo to whisk you directly to the airport and on to your new job. You will start out as a vice-president and given an unlimited expense card, keys to both the executive bathroom, and a spacious corner office. The chances of this scenario unfolding anytime soon border on the impossible, but keep your hopes high and recall the commencement speaker's words. Do not attempt to throttle the bearer of any golden vision of the future.

Maybe a job selling paint at the Home Depot will get you by until you are embraced by Midas. Flipping burgers perhaps was not covered in your matrix of courses, but, hey, when you owe student loans and have had difficulty finding a job, someone has to get super-sized.

I wish the graduating class the best and count my hopes upon local businesses, as they can, to capture these talents and hope and pray for the best. After all, the Feds are not looking to flood these many pregnant futures with billions in bailout dollars seeking the betterment of individuals, rather the money is hurled toward the stalwart buttressing of the crew who already is sitting atop more money than they can ever spend.

Though this may not be a time for champagne and filet mignon, when times get tough there is nothing like meatloaf and a cheap beer. was last seen walking 20 dogs along the storage freight cars that split the town, urging his charges to do the right thing. Walking that many dogs can get a guy pooped.

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