Total Pageviews

Friday, August 12, 2011

Class of 1991 Willard High 20-year Reunion


Every ten years, I get roped into auxiliary duty on the Class Reunion crew. This never fails to puzzle, since my Tiger Pride is a muscle that has never been used, but then, it’s hard to say No to Tony Gray. Tony operates as some sort of central cog in the Willard social machine. He knows everybody, and lives to rile it up. While Mike West is the Class President and only student council member still on duty, Tony is sort of an honorary chieftain. If Willard were a desert province in the Congo, Tony would be the local warlord. Therefore, if you want to stage a reunion, you need access to Tony’s Facebook account.

Once we decided on a time and a place, recruiting came next. Twenty years out of high school, you have to decide if your curiosity about your classmates is greater than your apathy, your residual resentment, or your habitual inertia. The rise of Facebook made it easy to reach more people than ten years earlier, but we were having a tough time getting attendance up to the desired level. Scott Gayer became the catering lieutenant, and 75 people was what we needed to fill the bill and break even. We set up a Facebook Group and a Paypal account. The price was 20 bucks per person, which was a good deal considering that 20 bucks had been the price a decade earlier, and we were doing more this time. Still, this seemed a sticking point for some people. Being a table full of guys, we gave ourselves free rein to be dicks about stuff at the meetings. I said something like, “If somebody can’t afford $20 at this point, they have bigger worries than this reunion, like survival, so forget it.” As usual, Tony had the best quote when it came to people who kept asking how much it would be if they just came to the daytime picnic rather than the evening mixer: “That depends--if you’re just trying to get out of the 20 bucks, then it’s 20 bucks.” After assorted profanity, we finally decided that bringing food to the picnic would be admission enough.

We didn’t really know what we were doing in the party-throwing department, so Tony sent Stephanie Long a cussing text to come over and help us. This was nice because, as he pointed out, Stephanie likes to keep things G-rated. She had decorated the previous reunion, as well as making up some activities. But we were out of luck; she was busy to the max and would be lucky even to attend. Thus began a tradition of us beating our heads on the table each meeting, wondering why we could push none of this off on a female classmate. Eventually we did get some essential help from Tamara Botsford and Julie Douglas, but this did not diminish the moaning and groaning over our AWOL student council gals.

My wife’s excitement for my class reunion was growing with each day, as it drew close enough for her to plan things like what we would wear, what food to take, and which hat might best protect my baldness. Also, my friend Brad Jones was coming from Chicago and staying at our house, so we made sleepover jokes, decorating the door to the guest room with a Star Wars poster and a sign that said “Brad’s Room.” She also kept telling me how much fun it would be for Brad and I to sleep together, slumber-party style. It also might have been another in a long line of her “you are secretly gay with your friends” jokes, which need their own brand-name at this point, and say more about her deviance than mine.

We’d also entered a new phase of history, where Heather (my wife) was now decidedly pro-reunion. She’d had her 20th reunion a year before, shifting her out of a longstanding stance of “I’m so over those people from high school. They all stayed in Billings and just bumble around in their chump galoshes. (my paraphrase)” I remember this because she used to emphasize it hard enough that I felt self-conscious talking to Tony or Brad or anybody from Willard. I told her of my basically positive experience at my 10th reunion, but she still kind of dumped attitude on it—UNTIL, she found herself roped into an effort to reunite her Billings class. Theirs was only a group of maybe 40 people, so you’d think that would be an easy group to gang. Nope, they had the same problems we’ve always had—no one can agree on where to have it, how much to spend, etc. In the end, she had fun. Then I found the tables had turned, and she was gushing reunion love while I was like, “yeah, I guess I gotta go.” 

Just three days before the date, I realized that Jana Long, a classmate I sometimes see at work, was not on the Facebook list. Jana is very old-school—maybe not quite a Jamestown Pilgrim or even Amish, but easily Eisenhower-Administration old-school. It is not shocking that Facebook might not reach her, because she quite literally sews her own clothes. I point this out mainly for the eye-opening, character-building light it sheds on her character, though I’m aware that sewing one’s own clothes is macroeconomically uncool unless you’re selling it on Etsy. Anyway, Jana will have the last laugh when China finally stops sending us cheap textiles by the cubic acre. Though I never really knew her, I felt this momentary protective, instinctive agape, like “oh no, we can’t leave her out!” I took a note about it over to the sewing-shop lady who knows Jana. She said that Jana did know about it, and planned on going with Carlyn Jarvis. BUT, she said Jana was scared that she wouldn’t know how to talk to anyone, and might cry if Carlyn left her alone while talking to other people. I found this a bit of a shock. Then, as if to illustrate to us all the old-school world Jana lives in, the lady, Lucinda, who once taught at our grade school, said, “You know, Jana is so bashful.” I almost went back in time when I heard the word “bashful.”

I tried giving Lucinda some of my “reunion theory” to pass along to Jana, built on my memories of the one ten years earlier: That those who attend will tend to be level and amiable so there's little to fear; that the real outliers—the very successful and the truly defeated—probably won’t be there because they aren’t so compatible with such a relatively mundane event; most importantly,  the passing decades have a way of making us more different in looks and experiences but essentially the same in context—we all get squeezed through most of the same Play-Doh Fun Factory templates over time: school, work, taxes, kids, bills, yardwork, etc. I told her in less fanciful terms, but she agreed and said she had really encouraged Jana to go.

If nothing else, someone needed to warn Jana about Lady Gaga.

I was set to pick up Brad from the bus station on the eve of the reunion, but after various delays, it was well after midnight. Some guy had collapsed on his bus and had to be picked up by paramedics near Rolla. Luckily, there had been a nurse on the bus; unfortunately, she’d used her heroic nurse cred as leverage to use the bus bathroom as her personal smoker’s lounge. It would all be worth it when my wife became the second person to tell him he could have flown into Branson cheaper than riding the bus. As a bonus, we saw a man in a stupor splayed out on a bench on west Kearney. Whatever sort of intoxicant he’d taken on, his end result was something near the exact opposite of “the quickening” from The Highlander.

Finally, we arrived at the mixer. Right from the start, Mike West and Scott Gayer began building up the “bio scare,” in which they seemed worried about the blowback that was sure to come when certain people read the bios I wrote for them. Worried for me, that is. I had worries about a couple of those. I was thinking Melissa Richter might be displeased to learn of her numerous sex changes, but for some reason Mike and Scott seemed to think Stacy Kuhn was the one I should fear. I was like, “What did I write again?” All I could remember was an over-the-top jibe about her abandoning her student council office’s LIFE-LONG duties, but they were so worked up that I started to worry. Also, my image of Stacy Kuhn as a sweetheart-type was now in doubt.

I had some Senior Video DVDs to deliver. Only two, to Michelle Cathey Maggard and Amy Robinson Balog. I handed them off and failed in my usual way to strike up any conversation, but I didn’t get slapped or anything. So far, so good.

Right off the bat I was failing to introduce my wife to anyone, because I can only hold one thing in my brain at a time. Brad even warned me that Heather wanted to be introduced and I wasn’t doing it, but still I forgot every time. It’s what you call social retardation, or interpersonal Down’s—not to be confused with any medically recognized thing. Well, it was just my own shortcoming. Heather is actually my only credential that matters.

Brad had a different problem. He couldn’t recognize many people. He knew Tony and Chris Delozier; after that, it got tougher. He picked it up after a while, but even after I told him some, he’d do double takes: “That’s LeAnn Helton,” I’d say. “Really?” he’d say, concentrating. I was thinking Brad drank too much booze after he quit being straightedge in college.

I also told Brad to keep an eye on Jana Long to make sure she was having fun. I know we saw her talking like a champ to Jennifer Elbert and someone else. She was upright, mobile, and smiling. If she claims she had no fun, then she’s being a false and tricksy Hobbit. We saw you having fun, Jana. Don’t deny it.

Now imagine there’s an asterisk between every paragraph here, and every asterisk refers to the same footnote: Eric “Juice” Poland is bigger than life. The all-new, all-daring Juice has his own gravitational pull. We just can’t get over his majestic enormity. Plus, as if Texas were some scaled-up other dimension, he’s accompanied by a perfect fit of a wife, on the exact same scale.   They are careful not to crush mortals, fortunately. Maybe this is the secret behind Eric’s desire for Texas to secede—we’re just too tiny to be taken seriously as countrymen.

Tony was getting his wisecracks in order, and his wife Stacy already seemed somewhat over it. She had a flask full of something to help dull the pain of fending off so many Willard grads. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if she is pleased or not by Tony being a loose cannon. They also brought Chris Delozier. Maybe those two have been revved up all day. I know they played golf already, and had a pool party where Tony got thrown—phone included—into the pool by Bobby Tate.

Aaron Goddard appeared up with his wife Linda, which is awesome because it is hard to get them both in the same public appearance. Linda said she was my biggest fan, which may be true because they have more of my original drawings than anyone else, besides me. Unless each time they buy one, they throw the old one away to make room for a freshy. I was supposed to draw Linda’s family crest on a napkin, but I failed. Aaron was one of a few people with a sibling my sister’s age, a group that just had their 25th reunion. My sister said that one of her classmates had a sex change and was at the reunion with another classmate as a mate. I keep forgetting which sex was the “before” and which the “after.” Aaron didn’t know, either.

While eating dinner, I got Matt Farmer to retell a classic story from Springfield PD adventures. I always forget the zestiest details, but in a nutshell: A domestic disturbance call takes them to the home of septuagenarian Ruby, whose 30-something boyfriend, Dakota, yelled and threw a plate of peanut-butter-and-jelly “sammiches” at her. The plate broke the big picture window in the front wall; ruckus achieved, but not alleviated. Parts of “sammiches” were still stuck to the curtains. They had to take him downtown. Something else happened later where Dakota got mad because Ruby kept smoking even though she was on oxygen, so he slapped her, maybe because she was on fire. One more ride in the cruiser. Request the whole tale from Officer Farmer if you run into him.

After the story, he and his wife Autumn—whose name I just looked up because for some reason I was remembering her as a “Zelda,” which seemed unlikely—said TV’s “Cops” was in Springfield right then. They said it would be good because they were riding with some officer who was nuttier and bigger than life. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Sierra'sMom said...

You certainly are an entertainer, Mr. Woody. Keep it up! I look forward to part II.