Dear Devin,

Having neither wealth nor wisdom to pass on to you, herein lies my legacy: music recommendations. Yes, my life is that sad.

And Out Come the Wolves by Rancid is one of the greatest albums of all time. As you grow up, people may challenge this, so practice saying, “F the White Album!” The “F” stands for friendship.

Below are the songs included in the enclosed CD and the life lessons you can learn from them. I’ve removed all songs that include swears. Please come get those from me as soon as you are old enough to do things behind your mom’s back.

The 11th Hour: This song begins “Hey little sister”, which is cute because your mom is my little sister. This is an inspirational song, telling us, “Do you know where the power lies? It starts and ends with you.” So the next time you don’t want to clean up your little plastic bowling game, remember the power to do things lies with you. By the way, everyone hates that little plastic bowling game.

Roots Radicals: In this song, Lars Frederiksen takes the 60 bus out of downtown Campbell to find his good friend and fellow gang member Ben Zanotto waiting for him on the bus. Lars joined this gang when he was eleven years old, so when you’re eleven, be sure to thank your mom for crafting your life so that you don’t have to join a street gang.

The most impressive part of this song is that two adolescent gang members are organized enough to know when exactly to arrive at two different bus stops so that they will meet on the same bus. Aspire to similar greatness.

Time Bomb: At fifteen years old the subject of this song gets taken to the Youth Authority Home, so when you are fifteen, thank your mom for not sending you to kid jail. And now you know kid jail exists, so watch your ass.

Olympia, WA: This is a song about being in New York and wishing you were in Olympia, Washington instead. However, at New York Rancid shows, all the fans shout out “New York City!” and pretend this is our anthem, instead of it being about how New York sucks and people would rather be in the Pacific Northwest. Whatever, like that’s even a real place. The lesson here is to not believe states exist until you’ve been there. The government lies.

Lock, Step & Gone: I don’t know what this is about, but it’s a Rancid song, so I’m going to assume it’s about how Capitalism oppresses the working class into a poverty they can’t escape. The lesson here is to overthrow the government. Don’t tell your mom I told you to do that, but definitely get on that.

Junkie Man: I don’t know what this is about either, but there’s some spoken word in it by Jim Carroll. Go read some of his books. I think you’d like them. If you’re reading this in the future and I’m not dead yet, come on over. I have a copy of The Basketball Diaries signed by Jim Carroll. You can’t touch it though.

Ruby Soho: Let me relate my personal experience with this song, which is much more inspiring than the lyrics. The summer I was 18 I lived in a motel, and one night the room adjacent to mine blasted this song. The line “having a party up next door but I’m sitting here all alone” was especially appropriate, as I was alone listening to people having fun next door. The next day I complimented my mohawked neighbor on his music taste, and he in turn complimented my Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt. Later that evening my mohawked neighbor stopped by, and we had tea. It was some of the best tea I’ve ever had, especially since I was 18, and my experience with tea was limited. The moral of this story is, always invite strangers into your house.

Daly City Train: This is where I got the name Jackyl, which I use when I pretend to be male online for reasons I will explain to you later. This song is about how you shouldn’t shoot up heroin in the bathroom of a train station in San Francisco, but really, you should be able to figure that one out on your own.

She’s Automatic: When a boy and a girl like each other very much, sometimes they go to a club together and dance, and afterward they get tea. Pay attention to the lyric, “She asked me if I would stand by her side. Like glue I would till the end of the night.” See that? Until the end of the night. That’s how you make a promise. One day at a time. Don’t get married.

Old Friend: This is a song about how you shouldn’t go to Cleveland. I went to Cleveland once, and I can assure you this assessment is correct.

The War’s End: Officially there’s no apostrophe in this song’s title, and that has been bothering me for seventeen years. The lesson here is to always double-check your punctuation, even if you think you’re too cool for punctuation, because no one is too cool for punctuation. This song is about a boy named Sammy who left home because his mother didn’t like the music he listened to. While the song makes Sammy leaving home seem like a good thing, I bet you he ended up as the dude doing heroin in the bathroom in “Daly City Train”. So don’t run away from home. If your mom doesn’t like your music, just hide it. You already know how to use an iPhone better than she does.

You Don’t Care Nothin’: “Hey girl you better please take a look around, explore your heart, and find out for yourself.” I always thought this was a nice sentiment. Instead of hating people, wish that they could become better people through self-reflection. Or just write songs like this where you call them out using their full name.

As Wicked: This song briefly describes people in horrible situations, including a five year-old alone in a park and a little girl whose best friend is dead on the pavement. At the end the narrator decides he is “a lucky man”. So the lesson here is optimism. Were you abandoned as a toddler? Are you carting around a friend’s dead body? Then life is great. Shut up and eat your vegetables.

Avenues and Alleyways: The lesson here is, “He’s a different color but we’re the same kid. I’ll treat him like my brother, he’ll treat me like his.” Also pay attention when they yell out “Oi! Oi! Oi!” and start doing that whenever you can.

The Way I Feel: This is what you tell people when they accuse you of selling out. “You say that I’m different. The only thing different is the way I feel about you.” If you hear people accusing Rancid of selling out, don’t say anything. Just hold them down until I get there, and then tell the cops we were at Chuck E. Cheese the whole time.

In the years to come I will continue to send you Rancid CDs (minus the swears) for each album, albums the band members produced, all my bootlegs, and the band members’ side and solo projects, even the drummer’s. If you ever decide you don’t want to listen to these CDs, try to remember how many times I sat on your floor, played puzzles with you, and listened to that song about Elmo riding his bike, you little bastard.


Aunt Valerie