Sunday, January 04, 2009

high school never ends

date: dec. 27, 2008

author's note: this post is a pre-destined failure.  tonight was so awesome, my best writing cannot capture it.  if you get me with a good hot chocolate and plenty of room to stand, jump, and flail my arms, i may come close.

i've been looking forward to today for several years.

moving to japan when most of my friends were moving to minneapolis expanded my horizons. leaving my circle of friends, my hometown, and my hemisphere to live on my own and work among strangers from around the world caused me to open up, to be friendlier to those i don't know, and to think differently about those i do know. and, when i came back, i was in moorhead for only a few days before moving out to utah, where i met more wonderful people and had a lot of really cool opportunities. i would come home at Christmas, as well as that summer in 2001, when i found summer vacation was different than in high school. by winter of 2002 or 2003, it was apparent that there wasn't much for me in moorhead anymore; one of us had changed.  it was still home (and always will be), but only in the past tense.

being away and seeing new changes had made me think about where i had come from, and what i'd seen along the way. and with whom. while it was not without rife challenges, i loved high school, and was soon interested in seeing those people again. i wanted to see my old group of friends and tell them what i've seen, and to get to know those people with whom i was too shy to talk until the last few months of my senior year.

2008 finally came around, and i looked forward to may for my 10 year high school reunion.  and didn't hear anything. no e-mails, no letters arriving at my parents' house, nothing on the high school website's "reunion" section. it seemed i was cursed with a lame class.

as december was rolling around and i started e-mailing my high school best friend, jon, to see when he would be in town, he mentioned wanting to do all that he could to avoid some horrendous event on the 27th. all i knew about that day was that it was tim's birthday, and, last i checked, he and tim had had no mortal feud.
inquiring, he told me it was our high school reunion, and was surprised i hadn't heard already, as i actually wanted to go to the blasted thing. once again, i was reminded that i am one of half a dozen people on the planet not on facebook, and therefore, am completely out of any and all "loops."

jon was decrying the reunion for a list of reasons, despite having been by my side for nearly every awesome memory since sixth grade.  during the reunion's preceding weeks, i debated back and forth with jon, hearing his reasonings and treating them, conceding them yet still insisting we go, or ignoring them altogether.  i like to think that i knew jon well enough that i would get him to go when the time came to it.
in the midst of this, he told me that one of our other friends was going, hoping to pawn me off onto him.  i counted myself grateful to have some re-enforcement on my side, until i found out that rob, too, was avoiding this as he would a plague.
man, how did i end up with all the wrong friends?

i r.s.v.p.-ed to the e-mail address, and the reply (from a name i did not know) said "excited to see you there!" and gave me two links, both to facebook.  which did me no good, as only facebookers can facebook.

today, the day that i had looked forward to for upwards of five years or more, i found a myspace page for the moorhead high school class of 98 reunion.  there were eleven people confirmed as going, and most were girls with pages of pink and glitter.  it was looking like jon may win and i wouldn't even care.
tim let me use his facebook account to find the "real" page, for all the cool people.  90 people were confirmed, with about 60 "unsure" and another 60 "not attending."  i always thought i knew my class pretty well, yet there were a lot of people i didn't recognize.  still, perhaps i had a chance to win jon over yet.  looking through the "no goers", i found most of the interesting people.  the "maybes" had a couple notables, and the "confirmed" had, at best, and handful that i would categorize in the fringe group "might be fun to see again." i was surprised at how many people were still living in the fargo-moorhead area, and a great percentage more were in the minneapolis-st. paul area.  and there seemed to be a loose pattern that those with more artistic profile pictures (often black and white) were usually the same ones living out of state.  as a bonus prize for oddness, however, there were two girls whose last names were now "gustafson."
nevertheless, the scales were tipping against me.
further lead was added when i noticed that "if you have not already purchased your tickets for $20 [this was dated dec. 22], admission will be $40 at the door."
the anticipation that had been deflating now sputtered its last breath.

out perusing the clothing stores for clearance clothing, jon and i realized we were on the same page, just different ends.  i wanted to go the reunion to see all of our good friends from high school again, and to talk with some i didn't talk with much before.  and if those people were going to be there, jon noted, it would be tremendous, indeed.  but they weren't going to be there.  that's what he'd figured and i just learned.

i suppose that, had i started working on this a few weeks (or a month) ago, i could have rallied all the cool troops; a sort of "i'll only do it if they're in" situation, not unlike producing a movie sequel.

with plans of attending the official reunion now defunct, and knowing the real reason for the reunion--to see people we like--jon offered to call and see who was still in town and get them together.  jon called because he lives in minneapolis and still sees people from time to time.  i haven't seen anyone other than him since two friends were married five or six years ago.

it was decided we go to "the bowler" one of the f-m area's aptly named bowling arenas, catering to the standard accompanying demographic.  tim and his friends came along, too, and only one person from our high school group, but it was the best person who could have come.

jill is awesome.

jon was one of two friends in my innermost circle; jill was in the next set, and, while i can't really remember when we became friends, she was part of our state-competing "knowledge bowl" team and is one of my favorite people.

in short, tonight could not have been better.  at all.

the big dude at the counter preferred we not pay individually, so i handed him my card, and everyone else paid me.  i paid for tim (birthday) and for jill (just thrilled that  she was here) and i still think i lost a few dollars in the process, but i didn't care; i saw it as money far better spent than  were i at the americ-inn with a room of married girls i never knew.
it took me a while to find a decent ball.  i found a mighty orb christened "thunderball", but soon swapped it when the too-widely-spaced holes left me with a sore thumb and gutter balls.  it was a shame that only the three of us were on the lane, as jill and i talked as fast as we could while jon bowled, only to have one of us get up, and then the other.  still, being there was unexpectedly refreshing, being everything that i had looked forward to at the reunion: talking with old friends in the light of new changes and understanding.

well, that, and the jukebox.
i was pacing out to shoot another strike when meatloaf's "i would do anything for love" came on (a song that connoted plenty of junior high memories for me) and i looked at tim, as he has recently developed an affinity for the singer.  he smiled and pointed to lee, saying he chose it on the jukebox.
they have a jukebox here??
people handed me a few dollars, and, after lee's 12-minute version of the 1993 mega-hit, everyone was singing along to r.e.m.'s "man on the moon."  not just our group; i looked down both sides of the alley and grinned as i saw bowlers united in song (i chose it because the video has everyone singing along in a bar, and i had a little hope in my heart...).  "sheep go to heaven" didn't have as many fans, but boston's "foreplay/long time" was for me, while journey's timeless "don't stop believing" was for my brother on his birthday.  and, because we were in a bowling alley, everyone else, too.

when our pre-paid hour ended, tim and his friends went off to rock band, and jon and jill and i went off to perkins.
perkins.  a 24-hour restaurant that was the place to go in high school.  not just for me, but for my sister and brother, too.  and a good chunk of the rest of the underage student population.  driving there, i was on cloud nine, thrilled and loving this with all my soul.

the appetizer sampler has gone up in price since 1998, but they've still got vanilla coke, and i downed three drinks plus two more waters as we talked until 2 a.m.  and it was there that i realized why i loved it so much: i was me again.  i didn't know that i wasn't me before, but i haven't felt so free, so open in a long time.  because i was with people i'd know twice as long as anybody i know in utah; because i didn't need to worry about looking like i have it all planned out, no appearances to keep up, no one to impress.  sitting with my best friends from high school in perkins, i could be 18 again.  i wasn't immature or a complete idiot--quite the opposite actually.  i shed the accumulated paste of the stresses being out of college, of being single in utah valley, of not having a clear plan of my life for the next ten years--i felt just like my old boney self again!  pure, undiluted, free and clear.  like when pepsi became crystal pepsi.  
and we talked.  we talked about everything, flowing wherever we wanted, free an open, everyone having different ideas and experiences.
i could have talked until the sun came up, but jill noted that she had to be at church in the morning, and i conceded that i did, too.

a few days later, my dad asked what were the three best events of 2008.  without a second thought, i answered:
*caleb being born
*the tally hall concert in march
*going to perkins with jon and jill

my ten year high school reunion was nothing like i imagined, yet it couldn't have been better.


Natalie said...

That made me feel warm and fuzzy inside on your behalf.

CK Rock said...

Wow, I've never seen such devotion to the non-Facebook cause. As a former advocate for same cause, can I just say... it's not that bad. Come to the Dark Side!

Jack said...

I'm glad there is no charge for awesomeness. Otherwise, I would owe you many a back payment.