It is easy for me to dwell on negatives. As I have written before, the fictional character I am most like is Eeyore. This has been a problem most of my life. As time passes, things and events and eras are distilled to simpler and simpler elements. Instead of the nuanced layers that truly characterize a life, it is like we compress and archive the events. It reminds me of when I use iPhoto on the Mac. I separate all my pictures into "Events." So everything is compartmentalized into these separate folders. But then you have to pick one photo to be the thumbnail "key photo" for the whole event. One picture that when you are scanning the hundreds of folders will jump up and grab your attention - jolting your brain into a remembrance. That is what I do with the eras of my life. High school is filed into a folder, with one picture popped up. So as I kind of skim through my memories, that one thing is all I think. I feel like, for some reason, a negative picture has been assigned to high school.
What I discovered at the event itself was the flood of wonderful memories that came back. It could be the reunion version of "graduation goggles," where the only thing that a person can remember is the good stuff. But for too long, I have forgotten a lot of those positive memories. Instead of an excruciating walkthrough of the details of an evening that either a) you were at or b) you could care less about, I instead will share some of the fond memories I have of my friends. I have taken some pictures that I will include. Now, they are from my iPhone, so they may not be the best. (Not that I am criticizing the iPhone. God forbid that happens.) If my pictures suck, I will shamelessly snag one from someone's Facebook page. And not credit them. [I am withholding last names because I don't want to unintentionally violate anyone's privacy - or what is left of it after Zuckerberg gets done trampling all over it.]
Mitchell and I were in so many classes together, you would think that we had done it intentionally. I guess it was a good thing that we quickly became good friends. From our love of Billy Joel to singing the same part in Chorus, we had a lot in common. The thing I most remember, though, was movies. In previous posts, I have talked about how I was not allowed to watch movies very often. As I got into high school, I was allowed to start seeing more films. Mitchell became one of my best movie buddies. He always had passes to the local Cinema and Drafthouse. But he also introduced me to some very important films - Godfather, Highlander, Die Hard, and Hudson Hawk. "Whaaa???" you may say. How dare I include Hudson Hawk in that otherwise illustrious list? Admit it, we all have guilty movie pleasures. This expensive Bruce Willis flop was ours. For some reason, Mitchell and I loved Hudson Hawk when it came out in the theater. We rented it several times on video. It was stupidly hilarious (much like Arnie's Last Action Hero). Watching movies with Mitchell was one of my favorite activities - some for the movies, some for the time spent hanging out.
Tiffany was one of my very best friends in high school. We hung out a lot, talked a lot on the phone. She went with me when I got my ear pierced. But, her friendship took a severe hit that day when she didn't try to talk me out of getting my ear pierced. (Haha) Tiffany is/was very smart, kind, and funny. She also was very ballsy. Our school was not a very large high school. For example, we only had four AP classes offered at all. Our sports offerings were pretty pathetic. And the ones for girls were even worse. (Remember Title IX wasn't really enacted in regards to sports until after we graduated from high school.) So Tiffany tried out for the boys' soccer team. And she made it. And she played. I always was very impressed at the guts required to do that. Tiffany really meant a lot to me through high school and I appreciated her friendship throughout.
For much of high school, people thought Matt and I were twins. Actually, they thought he and his twin were twins. They thought I was the pathetic guy who followed them around all the time. We hung out so much. I would go play video games at their house. They would come play pool at my house. We went to church together. His dad owned a body shop around the corner from my house, so it made our hanging out even easier. One of my strongest memories with Matt was when we got in a wreck together. He was driving his car, which was specially painted and everything. It had been raining and we were driving down Dixie Highway. The person in front of Matt slammed on his brakes. Matt couldn't stop and our car slid into the guy. I had always heard that you close your eyes when you get in a wreck. But that wasn't true. I had my eyes open the whole time and saw the hood crumple up towards us. I was terrified. I had already been very hesitant about getting my license; the wreck made my fear even worse. Matt was obviously very upset about his car. But a couple of days later, he came over and made me take him out driving - forcing me to get back into the process.
Glen was another member of the Forest Hill chorus mafia - along with Mitchell, Tiffany, Matt, and a bunch of other people in this post. Glen and I got along great. We both had strong religious convictions and were in a lot of the same classes. Glen could sing lower than any teenaged boy had a right to sing. I was stranded up in the tenor section and he was booming this bass across the room. He also could grow a beard in like fifteen minutes. It was ridiculous. He would shave on Friday and then show up on Monday looking like Zach Galifianakis. You may not think that is impressive, but to a teenager that was HUGE. I had this lame little teenager moustache and Glen was the Bounty guy. He also was a cheerleader. Again, that may seem like a blight on his record. But our school was Bizarro World. In our school, the cheerleaders were superstars due to winning and placing at three straight national championships. Our football team was horrible. And our chorus was very well regarded by the students thanks to its consistent awards and the involvement of many popular kids. The other really important thing about Glen is that he introduced me to The Princess Bride movie. He tried to get me to watch it for months. I ridiculed him for liking a girl's movie. When I finally gave in and watched it, I realized it was one of the best movies ever.
One of the oddballs in this introspective, since he was not in chorus. Matthew was my academic rival in high school. He was first in the class for most of our time in school. I was second. And I wanted to be first. It was an epic battle that literally went down to the final grade of the final class. One of my biggest regrets through high school is how much that chase consumed me. As I have realized later in life, high school class ranking doesn't matter in the least. Matthew was a very true friend - something that everyone who knew him recognized and appreciated. I also was envious of his dedication and hard work. To me, the chase for class ranking was something that I needed to prove myself. I found my identity in my grades. But for Matthew it was just the natural outcome from his supreme commitment to excellence. I was inherently lazy and it took great challenges to get me motivated. Matthew was one of those challenges and he brought out the best in me. I always admired him, and I still do as he continues to work hard and be excellent.
Hey, its another chorus member! (For an activity I was only involved with for part of my senior year, it sure had an indelible impact on my life. To be fair, I hung out with all of these people before I joined the performing arts department.) Sam and I were off in the tenor section together. Our choral group performed a lot - including in Washington DC at the White House. We had a lot of rehearsals and appearances. I would drive Sam home a lot from those events. He was another person who contributed to my video game delinquency as we played Street Fighter at his house. One of the best stories I remember about Sam involved music, but not in chorus. I have always had a (annoying) habit of singing songs wrong. I have a rare ability to come up with strange lyrics on the fly that rhyme and make sense. Must be the writer in me. Anyway, one time we were driving along on Okeechobee Blvd and some dumb song came on the radio. (Were there any other kinds in the early 90s?) I changed the song up and he didn't expect it. He started laughing so hard that he had an asthma attack. He didn't have his inhaler and I was worried it wasn't going to stop. Now that I think about it, that story wasn't so funny. Must have come across differently to my 18 year old self.
Another one of my academic rivals, except this one stretched all the way back to junior high school. As you may have noticed, I didn't have a lot of success in sports. So the classroom became my playing field. I loved participating in academic games, brain bowl stuff, all that. I also wanted to get academic awards. People like Matthew and Brian (and Mitchell and Adam Traill - who wasn't at the reunion) got in my way. I have no clue if any of the others took this stuff seriously, but I most certainly did. He was one of my intellectual competitors. Ironically, though, Brian was the closest I ever came to a physical confrontation as well. I have never ever gotten in a fight. Most people mistook my massive girth for strength and so they figured I could hurt them. At one flower party (don't ask), Brian was mouthing off about how awesome the Florida Gators. I hate the Gators. I am a Hator. So I said something about wanting to smack that talk out of him - which I might have mentioned doing after the upcoming game. At the first flower party (again, don't ask - we had a lot of those for Homecoming), he found me out in the street and asked me if I still wanted to fight him. I had never even heard that question before and in a quavering voice answered in the negatory. He said good and walked away. We never talked about it again. Well, until Saturday night. It was a ridiculous blip on the radar of an otherwise good friendship. But it still makes me laugh.
This is one of those classic reunion stories of how people change - in this case me. Ian literally signed my senior yearbook, "Well, we weren't really that close." True enough. I thought it was a strange way to sign a yearbook, but it was accurate. It was strange, though. Ian was in chorus with us (of course). He was good friends for years with a bunch of my friends. But, for some reason, we didn't connect like a lot of others. At the reunion, as I sat and talked with Ian, I realized that he is one of the nicest people I ever met. He is kind and genuine. He works with special ed elementary children. And, truthfully, I can't imagine anyone who is better suited for that profession. I had a great time talking with him and wish there had been more opportunity to chat. It's funny how we change as people and the things that were so important kind of drift away. I think my having kids, teaching kids, working with schools, working with parents has forever altered how I view things. And I appreciate a man like Ian. We could use more of him.
El Presidente. It is kind of funny. We are all 38 years old. We have careers (well, most of us), families, successful lives. But no one was taking control of the reunion planning until Liza stepped in. Liza was our class president. "What year?" you may ask. All of them. From seventh through twelfth grade, every single year. I don't know if anyone even ran against her after the first few. I asked her the other day if she had expected a high school position to be a permanent fixture. She told me, "Well, that's what you get when you elect a Cuban as president. They think it is a lifetime position." Ha ha. Seriously, though, I can't even imagine anyone else in that spot. She has a natural charisma that people follow. In our senior year, I was class Vice President and got to work with her a lot. We had known each other since seventh grade, had some classes together. The thing I appreciate so much about Liza - then and now - is how she makes every single person feel special and important. She went overboard trying to get every person involved in the reunion, just like she tried to get everyone involved in school. That is a special person. As you can see, she is pregnant. And I am confident that she is going to be a tremendous mom.
Another choral compadre. We went to high school and junior high together. She was a good friend. But the reason I included Kristie is something she did at the reunion. I had posted online that I was going to be blogging about the reunion. I'm always nervous about writing, I was nervous about the event. I'm a nervous Nellie - or a nervous Davy. I was sitting at the dinner table and Kristie walked in with her husband. She came right over and said, "I am waiting for your next post." Yes, I mentioned that story in the second installment of this series. As a writer, those kind of encounters are vital. Having someone seek you out to and encourage you means the world. So, I am expressing my thanks to Kristie. I enjoyed getting to chat with her and her husband. I hope the series has been worth reading.
This is far from an exhaustive list, but it is a sampling of some of the people who have meant a lot to me over the years. And I hope that I can continue to rebuild my relationships with them - and others. Tomorrow I will finish this series by talking about some of the changes in West Palm Beach itself. Some of those were bigger than I could imagine.