Monday, July 25, 2005

Thomas Wolfe, you can kiss my ass...

The weekend before last, I attended my high school reunion. It was spread out over three days, a cocktail party Friday, actual reunion Saturday, and BBQ on Sunday. I really liked this idea, giving you a chance for small-talk recon the first night, which would determine your social circle for the rest of the events. (How high school is that?) I arrived Friday with some trepidation. After all, I hadn't seen any of these folks in more than twenty years. Within minutes, I got incredibly freaked out, almost panicked. It always takes me awhile to adjust to the return to my NM past, and this thing threw me those feelings into overdrive. For the first time in my life, I needed a drink to steady myself.

In time, some of my (former) better friends began to show up, the beer did its thing, and I started to have fun. Looking around the room, I recalled that in school, I had pretty much liked everyone equally. Of course I had my closer friends and as the night wore on, it was with them that I began to settle. It was funny the things people remembered about me, most of which I'd long forgotten. Stranger still were the old scores. Many still seemed bitter at our buzzer beater loss in the championship basketball tourney (my girlfriend at the time had attended the school who beat us, and I never seemed to hear the end of it). I overheard many guys apologize for fights they'd had in Jr. High. Weirdest of all were the sheer number of my classmates who have college age children. One classmate is in the Air Force and outranks her 19 year old son.
I had a lot of fun trying to find the face I once knew inside the face sipping booze before me, morphing back and forth. It's like the friends I once hung out with were now stuck inside these bodies quickly declining into middle age, many wearing fat suits like in some Eddie Murphy film.

When the party finished, many of us went to Fiorillo's, which I remember being an Italian restarante, but now had after-hours dancing. It was a serious redneck scene, pickup trucks everywhere. The DJ was as bad as I've ever heard, in our honor (horror) playing nothing but 80's pap, most of it undanceable. One friend pulled me onto the dance floor, but how the hell do you dance to "Crazy Train?" I simply swung my hair around, and it was days before my cervicle joints stopped aching. As the night approached two, I had lots of fuel, but most of the gang was pooped and heading home. Am I really as old as they?

Saturday was more formal with round-table dinner party seating which broke the organic flow of the night before. Everyone sat with friends and seemed to camp. I started getting a bit bored and slightly bummed out, so I went outside and watched lightning terrorize the valley, yet again getting lost in the sky. I felt in a place of transition, wanting to look forward, not back. I was of course sentimental about old times, but for me they seem so long ago and were no more impotant than what has come since. Maybe it was the lack of connection I sensed, which I often get while hanging around people who haven't travelled much, not that there's anything wrong with it. (Although, with our current Foreign Policy, maybe it is.) Or maybe it was my slight envy at the warmth between those who had stayed on in this little town of 4000, people whose world view may be smaller than my own, yet they know the fine print incredibly well. Cue Gary Snyder and his "Place in Space."

I mentally came back to the reunion during the awards. It was a no-brainer that'd I'd win for "person who travelled the farthest to attend." But I also won for "person you're happiest to see." So I stand corrected. Even after twenty years absent, the connection is still there. I myself raise a glass. I'm incredibly glad that I came.

All night I alternated between caffeine and wine, but couldn't feel the effects of either. Christina J. kept pulling me into her hotel room, sharing the secret stash of wine her father makes. This seemed to finally do the trick and near midnight, I got my groove back. Blurred memories remain. Ronnie's story about being a guard at the state pen, and another classmate, now an inmate, being terrified to make eye contact. Yvonne in tears while talking about my losing Ken-chan. Later, upon hearing that I teach yoga, she began to do poses, the look of concentration on her face mixing with her drunkenness, me in hysterics. My foresight that former "nerds" (who I liked as much as anyone else) would have the most interesting lives. Geoff G.'s incredible memory of those days, and his sweet nature which hasn't changed a bit. Talking to Nina in Vegas on a borrowed cell phone. Crazy dancing to impossible music with Mary Beth. Sarcastic joking and Prince references felt like old times with Patricia. Overall, spending time with Robert S. was perhaps the highlight of my night.

Because Mary Beth lives near my place, she gave me a lift. It was now 4 a.m. On the way home,
we saw her family prepping the Sunday papers in the parking lot of the Iga. It was funny to get handed the paper personally, somewhat like the final scene in "Bright Lights, Big City" where Michael J. Fox eats fresh bread at dawn. Resting in the peaceful aftermath of a turbulent night out.

I fell into bed, and a few hours later, exhausted, I started the long drive to Santa Fe for a week of yoga teacher training.

On the turntable: Ani DiFranco (mix)
On the nighttable: Rick Fields, "The Code of the Warrior"

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