Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Reunions



I missed my high school reunion again this year. So far, I've missed them all. For the first one, which was after five years, I was in New York City at the White Horse Tavern with my good friend and high school classmate Dave Todd. After a few pints of Guinness, we got on the pay-phone and called the restaurant in Louisville where our class was holding its reunion. Surprisingly, we got through and ended up talking to several old friends. I remember talking to the woman who was my first true love, and the first girl to break my heart. She was now happily married, but not to the guy she left me for. It was good to hear her voice. I wished I could be there in person.


This year, thanks to cell phone technology, I was able to call my old buddy Gary while he was attending a big reunion party. Gary was one of my closest pals in high school and it was great to talk with him again. We had been exchanging emails in the weeks before reunion and had been able to catch up a little. When I called him at the party, he passed his cell phone around so I could catch up with some of the other folks there, including the girl who broke my heart. It was such a treat to hear that honeysuckle-and-magnolia Louisville accent once again. There are no women quite as sweet as Louisville women.

My 'Ex' passed the phone to another Louisville lovely named Jane Halliday who I've seen a few times since high school. Dave Todd and I used to take road trips to visit Jane at Smith when we were both at Wesleyan. And a couple of times, when passing through Louisville on road trips with Bob Sweeney and Dan Haar, we made it a point to stop and see Jane. The last time I saw her was at Dave Todd's wedding in Apalachicola, Florida. Jane is a very talented violinist who makes her living as a musician and still calls Louisville her home.

Ray Sharp was one of the people I really wanted to see. I hadn't seen him since I watched him set the world record in the one mile race-walk at Madison Square Gardens. But thanks to the flurry of pre-reunion emails that were burning up the internet last month, Ray and I got in touch again. He was coming west to visit his parents in Tucson and I decide to drive over and see them. I had driven to Phoenix last fall and it wasn't so bad. Of course driving to Phoenix in the fall is not quite the same as driving to Tucson in the summer. Turns out it gets quite hot in the desert in the summer. Even at night.

But the long hot drive was well worth it. It was really good seeing Ray again. We seemed to take up right were we left off. Ray and I shared many adventures in those early days. Perhaps the biggest one was when we both decided to leave college and drive from Louisville to San Francisco in the middle of one of the biggest ice storms in history. We were going out to try and track down our friend Mark Bush who had mysteriously disappeared a few months earlier. We weren't sure where to look for him, we just knew he was in San Francisco. By some odd combination of miracles and dumb luck, we actually found him out there. I stayed around for a couple of months living with Ray in a small apartment in Oakland. Eventually I went back to school. Ray stayed in California to devote his life to race-walking.

While in Tucson, Ray and I visited my old college buddy Mitch at the Santa Cruz River Park 'disc' golf course. (That's Frisbee golf to you and me.) Apparently 'disc' golf involves drinking a lot of beer (perhaps to combat the stifling heat) and sitting around listening to bootleg Grateful Dead tapes on the car stereo. At least that's what we did.

I stayed at Mitch's bungalow that night amidst his collection of neo-modernist furniture, all of which are rare originals. In fact every time you sit down in Mitch's house he whips out a catalogue from an auction house and shows you a picture of a chair just like the one you're sitting in and shows you how much it's worth. Makes you think twice about spilling your beer.

The next day I left Tucson at about 4 p.m., when the temperature inside my car had reached about 300 degrees, and drove nonstop back to Los Angeles where it was a merciful 85 degrees at 2 a.m.

It's been kind of strange reconnecting with all these ghosts from the past. When I got off the phone after talking to the people at the reunion, I was a little overwhelmed. I had wanted to go back and see them all, but after talking for just a few minutes I felt like I'd had enough nostalgia for a while. Or maybe it was just harder because they were so far away and we couldn't really hang-out together.

The next week it was sweltering here. (But not nearly as hot as Tucson.) I was busy trying to make some things happen in my screenwriting career but I wasn't getting much action. I had been sending out emails and making calls trying to attract some attention, but hadn't gotten any bites. I was sure that something was wrong with my email. I wasn't even getting any spam!

About the only person who did call me was my friend Ellen. We ran into each other at a party a few years back that was thrown in honor of Lauren Lazin's Oscar nomination. I walked into the kitchen and saw this girl from my high school standing there. But it couldn't be. Ellen? It was. Turns out Ellen is in the movie business and was friends with Lauren. Ellen came to L.A. right out of college and has been here ever since. I hadn't seen her since we graduated from high school, and she hasn't changed a bit. I know everyone says that, but it's true. O.K., she's changed a little, she owns a really nice house and is a senior VP at major movie studio, but other than that she's just like I remember her.

Ellen and I had talked about going back to the reunion together, but Ellen's job tends to take her all over the world and she wasn't sure of her schedule. I, on the other hand, have virtually no schedule at all. I did however have several important meetings with a bunch of producers the week of reunion. (One of them finally did call back, by the way.)

Anyway, after Ellen called, I realized that I'd already had my high school reunion when I ran into her at Lauren's party. But instead of seeing a bunch of people you barely remember for five minutes at a cocktail party, I got to reconnect with one person and get to know her all over again. And it's been great. We have a lot in common since we literally grew up together. But we also seem to share a similar perspective that we have dubbed 'being from Louisville.' It has to do with honesty and sincerity and courtesy and integrity, and generally being nice. We never realized how rare such qualities were until we started comparing notes. Sometimes it's a relief just to have someone else to talk to who was raised properly.

I'm lucky to have friends from high school that I still consider friends today. There's something about knowing someone from that time period that gives you a real perspective on who they are. Only your parents and siblings can know you better. In fact, considering how long it's been and how far we've all come, it's amazing how many of us are still in touch and still remain friends. My friend Mark Bush moved out here a few of years ago and I got the chance to visit him and his family several times before they moved back east. It just felt good to see him. We went through a lot of ups and downs together and after all that wears away, what's left is just the good stuff.

I guess I prefer to have my reunions on a one-on-one basis. It's a little more time-consuming, but way more satisfying.

I wonder when the next one will be?

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