East Bay Commencement Address, 2001 

Laziness, I predict, will soon bring a renaissance to the East Bay the likes of which we have not seen in a long, long time.

I gave a very bad graduation speech once. It was in 1991, in Kansas City, and the Shawnee Mission East High School bleachers were filled with thousands of proud parents and grandparents and sweaty little kids. The stage was set, and here's what I did: I stepped up to the podium and mumbled, running my sentences together like a herd of panicked gazelle. Worse than my delivery was the actual content of my speech, wherein I quoted poetry and tried to deconstruct the phrase "the real world."

My mom has a copy of the video she shot that afternoon, but we don't watch it very often. But with all the caps and gowns I've been seeing around lately, I can't help thinking about that speech. And how, if I were to do it all over again, I would choose a much better theme. And a better audience. And it would run something like this.

Our Big Problem: Laziness
Fellow East Bayers, I greet you and extend to you the word that there are things cooking at the Hotel Ibiza. You know the hotel of which I speak--it is conveniently located near the Oakland airport's long-term parking lot. It used to be a motel, and a sad one at that. But new owners have painted it purple and given it new life as a hotel [wait for laughter]. I have heard that there is good, loud house music in the hotel's bar on weekends, with bacchanalian dancing until late. There might even be superstar DJs, but I cannot be certain of this. As soon as the hotel returns my call, I will tell you more.

The news of the stylish resurrection of the dowdy motor court is heartening to me, because business travelers deserve a comfortable place to rest, and, should the mood strike them, a place to freak one another freely on a dance floor. All without the inconvenience of having to drive somewhere to do it.

"Does this convenience not make for lazier business travelers?" you might ask. [reflective pause] Yes, I say. It does. And to my mind, this laziness is a thing of boundless inspiration. [longer pause] Laziness, I predict, will soon bring a renaissance to the East Bay the likes of which we have not seen in a long, long time.

Laziness Defined
The process of becoming lazy is not an easy one. We in the East Bay are a can-do people. We are mobile and active, long accustomed to driving, BARTing, and ferrying ourselves to where the action is. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week: we troll for fun wherever we can find it.

All that must end.

In order to bring about the East Bay renaissance I envision, we must become far more slothful in our commutes and much less ambitious in our weekends. No more hopping from San Francisco club to bar, bar to club, catching the first band on and the last train home.

No, in order to build the sort of critical mass necessary for things to really start heating up in the East Bay, we must re-learn the long-lost art of giving up and staying put. We need to be so wearied by the thought of going to the Bottom of the Hill that we instead settle for shows at the Stork Club and the Ivy Room. Or taking in a pleasantly early night of open-mike antics at the Bison Brewery.

We in our laziness must frequent chic jazz bars such as the 5th Amendment to overflowing. We must let our general apathy fill the barstools of the Port Lite, and the backyard tables of Papa Buzz Café. Some might say there is no live music at Papa Buzz. To which I say: Okay, true. But Papa Buzz is a friendly place, and our standards are now lower for this kind of thing.

With our nearly inert bodies casting weakly about the East Bay for something not too taxing to spend our money on, entrepreneurs and city liquor licensing boards will begin working in frenzied tandem to bring us the live music venues and jewel-bedecked dance palaces we deserve. At which point we will forget all about those exhausting pleasure-commutes of days gone by. We will do this because we will have become a proudly lazy people, and it will be beyond us to do anything else.


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