I’m proud of you for surviving high school as a thoughtful and caring kid. You are perceptive, probably more than you realize, and that, my friend, makes you really interesting. At this jumping-off stage of your life, the most important things I can tell you are 1) character counts and 2) make your own barbecue sauce.
Character — You’ll always have ups and downs. You’ll make a lot of money or a little money or a lot and then a little … whatever. What matters through all of that stuff is who you are. Are you the guy people turn to for counsel? The one whose honesty and good sense folks have faith in? It’s what I admire about your mom and dad, by the way. When Bill and I played golf, he always had to interrupt the game to take a call from someone who needed to check in. What an incredible compliment. Being of service — what can be better than that? And you see it with your mom and the people she helps, takes in, listens to. My mom and dad had that same streak. My dad was a tough customer in some ways. He had a big old stubborn streak and got himself worked up into high moral fever. But that’s a good thing. He cared. He didn’t let things slide. After he died, one of his former college students — the guy was now in his 40s and a professor himself — talked to me about how, long after school, he would call up my father to ask him “big picture” questions. Do I cross a picket line? Do I do the political thing or the moral thing? So there’s Bill getting calls … and there was my dad getting calls. Hmm. The only time I saw my straight-laced father a wee bit tipsy was when his university gave in to demands of student protesters over something. He was outraged at this abandonment of principle. And my mom was the most straight-forward person you could ever meet. She saw the good in people and she believed in helping out.
Me, I was never the most gifted person. Not the smartest, not the best athlete, not the most good looking guy in the room, although I know that’s hard for you to believe. So I knew early on that whatever I got I was going to have to earn. I can’t say I killed myself working in high school — sorry, I know your mom would like me to tell you something more inspiring! But in my working life I did bust my butt and I also had same that sense my mom and dad did, and that your parents do, that it mattered who you were and how you acted. I’m not saying I did everything right. Nobody does and I sure didn’t. But most nights I slept just fine knowing that I’d been honest with people, hadn’t taken advantage. It’s good stuff. You do that too, OK?
Barbecue — Now this is really important. Make your own sauce. Sure, buy a bottle of something if you have to for emergencies. But BBQ sauce is a place where you can stake your claim on a taste and show people who you are. You need:
— White Vinegar
— dijon mustard
— minced green onions
— lemon juice
— really finely diced celery
— beer can be good
— whatever other spices interest you, depending on what you’re cooking and what mood you’re in. Do buy Jamaican jerk flavor in case the mood strikes.
Not telling you how much to put in. You mix things up, taste, and add. OK, I will say go easy on the ginger and be liberal with the honey. But that’s all, not another word out of me.
Jake, it’s a great big fascinating world out there. Go get it with enthusiasm and integrity. Make your own sauce.