Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tempus Fugit, Part Uno

Greetings avid readers.  Since my last post I have discovered I have at least 2.  Woo Hoo!!

Once again I have been negligent in my devotion to the blogosphere.  Plenty has happened since my last post and I have many subjects to write about.  The common theme among them is that time has been zipping by at a much higher rate of speed than I thought possible. But then I don't really think about time very much so to have it disappear is nothing new to me.

I recently had my 40th high school reunion.  In reality it has been 41 years since my graduation but it seems nobody could get it together to hold a reunion last year. I went to my 10th and 20th but I was in the midst of my divorce for the 30th so it's been 21 years since I have seen the vast majority of my fellow HS alumni. 

When I found out about this one I was determined to go.  For the sake of privacy I am not going to name the school or give out my classmates last names but I think I can get the gist of my experience across without those bothersome details.

My experience with high school was different than most folks.  My parents uprooted us and we moved to a new town when I was in the middle of 10th grade. It was a real jolt to leave behind all of my old friends and have to relearn the social niceties of making new ones.  Not that I am introverted or anything but I had my comfort zone and now I was being dragged out of it. 

The new school I went to was a much smaller one than the one I left and most of these people had known each other for most of their lives.  It took awhile but I got involved in activities and soon I was an accepted part of the social structure.  Not a bad group of folks but I had no really deep connections.

The one guy from my graduating class that I connected with was Glen. We were involved in band (we both played trumpet) and he was my doubles partner on the tennis team. He lives in northern California but he comes to New York every couple of months and we get together for a few drinks and dinner when he does.  He was a Major in the USAF, navigating B-52's. He has business cards that say "Specialized in air delivered thermonuclear explosions up to 1.1 megatons '. Pretty cool.  I always thought of that line from "Piano Man" when he entered my brain.  Except Davy was in the Navy.  And Glen retired.  But I digress.

Glen told me about the reunion and I was excited to hear about it.  It turns out it was being held at the restaurant we always went to for our "dates".  I got in touch with Rich K. who was organizing the party and made sure to send in my check to reserve my spot.  In a moment of nostalgic reflection I also donated $100.00 to a scholarship fund that our graduating class had created.  Now I was committed to the event and my excitement started to grow like a fungus. Who would be there?  What were they doing? Where were they living? Would they give a damn about my showing up? Tell me man, I'se gots to know (bonus points if you know what movie that's from).

On the appointed date there was a deluge of biblical proportion.  At least where I live.  On a good day it was 45 minutes to the restaurant but it took almost 90 minutes to get there because of the rain.  I was bummed because the reunion was only going to be 3 hours long.  I got there, parked and ran inside, excited by the possibility of reconnecting with my youth.

When I got inside the first person I saw was Annie. By coincidence she was one of the first girls I introduced myself to when I started at the school.  I also asked her to senior prom and she was very kind and gentle in her rejection. Ah, the story of my youth. She looked great and gave me a big hug. She had a huge smile in HS and she still had it at the reunion. What a start. 

I got my name tag and started to mingle. Of course Glen was there in his flight jacket. He was talking to Mary Ann. Mary Ann always had a very elegant sense of style and this night was no different.  She looked great in her blue dress. Hello, hello.  There was Peter, who was our class president, and Bill B. the AV department Alpha Geek. The three of us were in Spanish together senior year.  It was quite the good class. Our teacher was very hot (en fuego baby!) and not too heavy on discipline. Peter was once caught blatantly cheating on a test and she still gave him a passing grade. We also managed to learn some Spanish. (Me llamo es Andres. Como esta usted?).

Then the familiar faces came fast and furious. Bill L, Rich M, Steve D, Chris C (but not his brother), Steve M, Joe S, Bill G, and so many more.  Old memories came back as if they were from yesterday. Jim G. reminded me that I had reminded him that we were the only two 3 letter athletes our senior year.  Yes, Dr. Tape was quite the athlete in those days.  Hard to believe it to look at me now.

It was great finding out what was going on in everyone's lives.  It was also nice flirting with the ladies, some of whom looked better than they ever did. I found out that one girl had a huge crush on me back in the day.  How I wish I had known!! However it was still quite the ego boost.

After a bit I started to realize how many people didn't show up. I graduated from a small school by Long Island standards.  We only had 245 kids in the grade so every no-show was obvious. Why didn't they come? I really wanted to see them too.

Among the missing were many that I had great interaction with.  Ron and Mike from the wrestling team, Louie who played trumpet with Glen and me. Susan and Jane, the two prettiest girls in my homeroom, who along with Mary Ann once accompanied me to a Met game. Lee and Mary who also went to Sun Tan U (I mean Miami). Jim and John from the tennis team and Pierre, my physics lab partner.

But what really struck home were the names of my classmates who couldn't come because they are no longer with us.  I had known that a few had passed on but it turns out that 18 have died.  It is still hard for me to wrap my head around it. I mean, we aren't old.  Not that old anyway. We are supposed to be living la vida loca. I was surprised at the number and shocked at the names.  Mike who was captain of the track team, Steve from acting and tennis, Ginnie the feminist, Jody the cheerleader who I thought was soooo pretty,  Most died of disease. Brain cancer seemed to be unusually prevalent.  Maybe there was something in the water. But Joey became depressed after his mom died and took his own. They all struck me very hard. But the one that is the hardest is David who I knew had died.

David and I went to Miami together and we often flew on the same flights to and from school. We drove back to NY in my car once. You learn quite a bit about someone when you are stuck in a car with them for a day-and-a-half. We saw each other around campus quite a bit and we ate lunch with each other every once in a while. He almost got us thrown off a plane for rolling a joint on his seat tray while we were taxiing on the runway.  But that's another story.

I had always thought David was gay and he came out at Miami.  Coming out changed him in many positive ways. He was able to be himself. He found acceptance and happiness, things that had been missing for him. He dyed his hair a weird blond shade and he started dressing better. It was quite the shock when I found out at a Miami Alumni function that he had died of AIDS.  AIDS wasn't very well known or understood at that time and I guess it was the price many paid at the beginning.

During the reunion Rich K. focused on how that at our next reunion in 10 years (or 9) we will be in our late 60's and the list of departed classmates will be even longer. It kind of reminds me of Yom Kippur when Jews pray to be allowed to live another year. Who will be inscribed in the book of life?  Who will make it and who won't? As I age (not very gracefully either) I find this issue on my mind more often. Maybe I have to take the time to think about it.

"Don't need a watch to waste your time, oh no, oh no" -- John Lennon