Yo! Yeah, you! With the sideburns. Get over here. I’m talking to you. What are you staring at? You never see an old man in mom jeans before? I may not be a slave to fashion but I sure am a horticulture. That’s a joke, kid. Aw, shut up!
Listen up, Burtie boy. This is the Ghost of Things to Come. You’re 18. You survived half of the 60s, you’re a college freshman and you think you have the world on a string. Not so fast, stud. It’s gonna get mighty interesting from here on, interesting in the Chinese sense of the word. Violent interesting. Fear and loathing interesting. What’s left of your innocence will bleed out on a hotel balcony in Memphis and the floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles in three years.
You get to be a writer, hotshot, just like you wanted. Some of the stuff you’ll write you’ll like a lot. Other times you’ll adopt the pen name of Tod Louis, which is an anagram for “I sold out.” You can’t bullshit a bullshitter, right?
Take care of that ticker, kiddo. It’s about to be made into a piñata by your One True Love. Some time later down the pike it’s going to be medically broken open so it can be spiritually broken open. But you’ll heal from both kinds of wounds. Get married, adopt a kid fairly late in life, more or less lead the middle-class existence you love to belittle now. At one time or another almost all of us become Tod Louis.
You’ll notice I’m not getting all sentimental with you, Burtie boy. I’m not pretending to be a tough guy. I earned the right to be tender, and it cost me plenty. I just don’t take myself that seriously, and you remind me of me. Let me boil it down to this: You’re better than you thought and you’re worse than you thought, but you mostly manage to stay a mensch. That’s not a cheap compliment, kid. You do good.
I’d tell you more, but I know how much you like surprises. Now smile, squirt. I’m gonna take your picture.
Photo: I cheated. This is an actual picture of me but I was 20 when it was taken.