After bitching about my high school reunion for like six months, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised by how well this weekend went. There were a lot of things that were just as I expected — a few that were as bad as I expected — but I think I have a new perspective that’s going to make these things easier in the future.
Or maybe I’ll just start freaking out again in four and a half years. We’ll see about that. Here’s the rundown:
Friday’s deal was the classmates-only cocktail party (at UA, we’re nothing if not exclusive) on the patio at the Varsity Club. We — Uncle Crappy, Juan, HP and Roy, fresh from a flight from Switzerland via Chicago — arrived around 8 and found that a good number of classmates were already pretty well lubricated. I headed to the bar, grabbed a Goose Island red ale and dove in. This felt like the five-year reunion did — everyone I talked to mentioned how bizarre it was to be there. Very happy to see one ex-girlfriend, who had returned from California for the weekend. Another couple friends who I spent a lot of time with in Athens but had since lost track of. Dirt Merchant, who makes a living JUMPING INTO THE MIDDLE OF FOREST FIRES, whose perspective on life is about as solid as it gets. And then there was The Ex, who seems to have relaxed a great deal. That was one of the biggest potential headaches going into this weekend, and it never even seemed to be an issue.
I was having a good time —good enough that I left the Varsity Club about 30 minutes later than I intended to go pick up The Wife, who was hanging out with Fred and Ethel. And I apparently missed the Good Stuff. Juan said the class A-List, which had pretty much congregated in one corner of the patio, moved en masse to the bar and proceeded to feed each other shots. Lots of grab-assing among the jocks and other odd behavior. A return to the locker-room shit that most of us hadn’t experienced in two decades.
Yeesh. Those guys shouldn’t be allowed to congregate and have access to alcohol at the same time.
Friday’s excesses tended to slow down things down — at least for a while — on Saturday. After a stop at Juan’s, we visited another friend who held a pre-party in her backyard. Two really cool things here: Our host’s father was tending bar, making killer cosmos with tequila instead of vodka, and the stack of photographs displaying our best high-school exploits — as well as some goddamned hideous prom pictures (Uncle Crappy wore a pink tie and cummerbund to match The Ex’s dress — and, apparently, Kewyson’s outfit as well. Guys, here’s a good rule: No matter what your date is wearing, you absolutely cannot go wrong with a white dinner jacket. You can, however, go wrong wearing anything pink.). The pix were perfect: Stuff from parties, from hot tub sessions at Kewyson’s house (where there was no parental supervision for our entire senior year, I think) and served as the impetus for a lot of hysterical conversation prior to heading to the reunion.
Let me make one thing clear. I’m on record as HATING the location of our 10-year reunion, at the old COSI museum downtown. And the fact that the 15-year reunion was at the new COSI was one of the big reasons why I didn’t go to that one. This time, the folks who organize our reunions did an excellent job. Moretti’s, a restaurant in Tremont Shopping Center, was a great choice. Space indoors and out, plenty of room to move around. And, thank God, we could smoke in the courtyard.
And it was … nice. I had longer conversations with people I spoke with Friday. Talked with some people who I just ended up sitting next to, at dinner or on the fountain in the courtyard. A couple of old teachers showed up. The northerners finally got to meet Mrs. Mrs, who seemed to handle the introductions to her newfound extended family pretty well. And Roy’s Boy, making his just third-ever trip to the United States, handled immersion in an Upper Arlington-Fourth-Of-July-Class-Reunion Weekend with an incredible sense of humor. I don’t know how much Roy had to explain, but he did a stellar job taking in a ton of stuff that simply couldn’t have translated well.
I had a brief conversation with our class’s alpha male, and spoke for a minute with the quarterback, who was sitting at the registration table. Our Carolina boy made the observation that he spoke with us because he had to. Probably true. And The Wife never followed up on her threat to douse the quarterback with a sticky cocktail. Probably for the best, although it would have been veerrrrry funny.
More about The Ex. At one point I went inside to get The Wife and me another round and came back out to the courtyard to find The Wife and The Ex talking with each other. And if that doesn’t make you pucker, boys and girls, nothing will. But I found they were just, you know, talking. It was fine. A metaphor for the entire weekend: Getting worked up over what turned out to be nothing.
And the food was really, really, good. That’s a nice bonus, especially since at the 10-year reunion I couldn’t even find the food until it was nearly freaking gone.
We went back to the pre-party house for a post-party. There were White Castles, thanks to Everyone’s Favorite Coochie Doctor, who, um, forgot to eat while we were at Moretti’s. A little more silliness, and then we went home and collapsed.
Sunday was a little more relaxing. Roy’s mom made brunch for our group of friends, and on Sunday night we took in some music at the home of our favorite Columbus rock ‘n’ roll stars. Very nice. Monday was a bit of a hassle: parade (but NO FLOAT, for crying out loud), trying to meet people along the parade route and then heading to Aunt Mary’s for the annual Fourth of July party. We couldn’t stay long because we had to head back to Pixburke, but we had a nice time nonetheless.
* * *
That’s what happened. Here’s what it all means, according to what I scribbled on a cocktail napkin fairly late during Saturday’s main event:
The circle: old friends, old girlfriends, people I don’t see nearly enough — not nostalgia, but the people who made me who I am. Good stuff, much better than I expected. Cliques still intact — a little cross-pollination but mostly stay w/ your group, jocks and blondes, etc. Not that different but inconsequential compared to 20 years ago.
The word “inconsequential” is probably the most important thing to remember there. Some of the stuff that seemed to be pretty goddamn important back then just isn’t a big deal now. What is important is the people, and not just the folks I see fairly regularly, but everyone who bumped in and out of your circle during that time. That’s where we come from, folks, and spending a little time with those people, at least for me, is a healthy way to get in touch with some of the stuff that makes up a person’s core.
And finally, I learned this, the secret to enjoying the reunions to come: Worrying about the dynamics of the actual reunion is kind of pointless as well. Father of Uncle Crappy attended his 50th high school reunion (“Out of the north, come the polar bears…) the same night as Uncle Crappy was attending his 20th. The following morning, while comparing notes, my dad said something like, “People are finally starting to leave their circles at our reunions and talking with everybody else.”
Christ. My father is still seeing the same stuff at his 50th reunion and I was worked up over my 20th? OK. Note to self: Tone down the expectations a little bit and have fun.
HP and I had a conversation towards the end of Sunday’s party at the rock stars’ house. It’s about friends. I’ve always been skeptical about reunions because of my contention that I see most of the people I want to see pretty regularly. That’s the real eye-opener of the weekend — there are more people than those in my immediate group that I was happy to talk with, and while I wouldn’t seek a lot of them out in the years between reunions, I’ll be just as happy to see them in 2010.
And I know that I count friends in Sacramento, Chicago, somewhere in Idaho, New Jersey, Switzerland (and Denmark, via Geneva). Columbia, Cleveland and, of course, Columbus. I knew that already, for the most part, but this weekend was a nice reminder.
I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t have much of an opportunity for some Gonzo reporting on this weekend’s events. Or maybe it’s not that the opportunity wasn’t there, but that somewhere along the line I came to accept what this weekend was for. Christ, I don’t even have much of any consequence to complain about. I’m still going to be grinding my teeth as the next reunion approaches, but that has more to do with me. All the other stuff? We’re good.