by Jim Byrnes
A few years ago, I was going on a CBC morning radio show to promote a new album and some upcoming tour dates. All the guests that morning were given a challenge. In a similar situation it seems that a British actor/comedian/etc. had been asked by the BBC to write a letter to his 16-year-old self for his appearance on a chat show. Well, the CBC here in Canada issued us that same challenge. Rifling through some drawers at home, I just happened to find what I wrote and read on that morning. Here goes:
You had quite a summer didn't you buddy? Your first professional acting job as a company member at Theatre Impact with speaking roles in Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde productions, your first professional gigs as a musician out from behind the open mic nights and the big trip to NYC where you saw Alec Guiness, Richard Burton, and hordes of others onstage on and off Broadway. Day trips out to the World's Fair and, oh yeah, hanging out in Greenwich Village, seeing and actually meeting some musical heroes. What more could you ask for, a time to remember. . . .
But there are some dark clouds on your horizon. And I'm not talking about having to buckle down on calculus and physics these next semesters. I know you're worried about maintaining that GPA which will put you in line for some scholarship money and let you escape to university life in Boston or NYC. No, you see, last month, acting on falsified reports, the US Congress adopted the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which gives the President, without a declaration of war, the power to use "all necessary measures" to deal with "aggression" in Vietnam.
You, my boy, are in the crosshairs. In this year of 1964, they will draft 100,000 young men, in 1966 when you become eligible, the number will be 400,000. Like Uncle Sam says: I Want You.
You've got some serious decisions to make in the next little while. What will you do when that letter comes in the mail? Please remember that whatever it is you do, it is your decision. (Underscore that your.) You know right from wrong. No one else can live your life for you, it's you who will deal with the consequences until the day you die. You will be bombarded from all sides with opinions and threats, but this is your life, young man.
Remember who really loves you. Think of Mom telling you to keep that smile on your face, think of Dad giving you that pat on the back and telling you to keep your chin up and to never let the bastards grind you down. There's some real tough sledding ahead, but you'll make it somehow.
I believe in you, kid.