Friday, December 12, 2003

Family cubed--Greatest Hits

What are the big reasons why family gets together? A death, a wedding, a major holiday.

Holidays are generally spaced apart on the calendar and weddings and deaths happen hopefully infrequently enough that you usually spread out these intense family exposures over time so as not to drive yourself or your relatives too nuts. In my family, that's a good thing.

Though my sister Melissa's wedding was planned for the Saturday after thxgiving, this family overload stuff wasn't an issue for me. I wasn't flying home until Thanksgiving day (at night), so just really one "occasion" for me. But then I got an unusual request.

My mom called on Monday Nov. 10 and told me to call my 79-year-old grandmother ASAP. My grandmother had been sick for the past 10+ years, at times very, very sick and others not so bad. But over the past few months things had been getting worse -- near constant pain, constantly on meds, getting a little more senile. Now obviously I'd want to communicate with my grandmother as much as possible, but the senility and more importantly her hearing loss made phone calls pretty much impossible. nevertheless, my mom told me to call, so I did. we talked for just a few minutes but i was able to tell her i loved her, and i think she heard me.

The next night around 10:30 p.m. PST, my mom called. My grandmother had died. Obviously, I was very sad. But in many ways I was relieved, too. After years of illness and months of painful illness, during which her diet was controlled (and shitty) and well, pretty much hell, at least her suffering was finally over.

Over the next few days my mom informs me of the memorial service plans, and I got lucky. they planned it for the Saturday before thanksgiving, which was exactly one week before my sister's wedding. that works for me.... i figure i can just take a new flight prior to the service and i'll just stay through until the wedding. fortunately, work is able to deal with this and i only have to take one vacation day. [right now my upstairs neighbors are playing this really crappy music very loudly with a rolling bass line -- they've got 20 minutes].

So on Friday Nov. 21 I set off from LAX back to Buffalo. Everything was cool on my flights except... as we are waiting to deplane from a smooth, comfortbale flight at Dulles (Washington DC) the guy in the row ahead of me (i am pretty sure) decides to pass really noxious gas. and it's great timing because we're at the gate already so the air circulating system is OFF and we're all just standing pressed against each other waiting to deplane. I managed not to suffocate, but as an atheist this is one that brought me close to praying. Quick aside, coincidentally (not ironically), one of my fave sports writers had just written about a gas passing fellow passenger he encountered when flying. last bad travel note.... on the commuter flight from DC to Buffalo my row has two seats next to each other, aisle and then three more seats. I have the aisle seat in the two-seat section, and next to me a guy who has the window seat and half of my seat. he was an unsmall man. thankfully (?) he slept the whole way to buffalo.


The memorial service was the next day. It went very well. Dozens of family and friends showed up. There were lots of tears and some wonderful memories shared. I came face-to-face with the third real regret in my life -- my failure to get to know my grandmother as someone other than my grandmother. I mean, I love her as my grandmother -- the nicest woman in the world who takes an interest in whatever weird new thing tickles her grandson's fancy. But i wish i had gotten to know the rest of her better -- the woman who exhibited more strength and courage than anyone i've ever met in facing more than 10 years of illness without once complaining or feeling cheated. She even lent me enough courage to kinda share those thoughts at the service, until i lost it and had to go sit down again.

Oh yeah, there was one f------ up thing at the service.... for some reason a maintenance crew was fixing a window outside of the church and that was just a lot loud. so a few of us went out and asked him to stop and he did. so that wasn't too bad.


The balance of my week until Thanksgiving rolled around was about indulging all my food weaknesses from buffalo and giving up a lot of my california diet rules. basically, i ate red meat again and pork. and pizza and chicken wings and hot dogs and fried fat and deep-fried fat and triple-fried fried. but it was great. fortunately, i stayed on a california body clock so i only ate twice a day, which kept the overall cal intake low so i was able to eat like shit, just not very much and only threw on like a pound or two during the week.


So Thanksgiving Day... we ate at my grandmother's house (the one who had passed away). Pretty much everyone was there, four of my grandmother's five kids and many of my cousins. The meal was fine and everything but after that things got weird. We walked through the house and started putting dibs on things that we wanted to keep. It was bizarre. I didn't want to claim anything at first, it just felt too weird to put a stake on my grandmother's property like i was some sort of looter, i felt almost criminal. Eventually I realized there was something I wanted.... these two masks that hung on the living room wall (Tragedy and comedy). When i asked for them, i found out that they were in fact gone. My mother had already moved them to our house. The other thing I asked for the "Blizzard of '77" board game, based on the worst blizzard in buffalo history. My cousin scott and i used to play it when we had to "go to grandma's." my uncles said it was cool. lastly, i decided that i wanted these two eppes (fencing foils) and fencing helmets that were in the basement. They decorated the other room where my cousin scott and i spent all our time during visits to grandma's. the basement, playing pool. no one else wanted them, so it was cool. felt weird, but i'm glad i have them. my hope is to someday have a place where they can lend the same air of invite to others in my house. IS THAT THE LAMEST, CORNIEST THING EVER, OR IS THAT JUST ME? i dunno, i mean that, but the words don't seem to be working for me. am i paid to edit and teach writing or what?


So now it's the day after thanksgiving, wedding rehearsal day. The rehearsal is scheduled for 7 p.m. and everyone is there on time, except well the bride. for some reason though not many of us are all that surprised that my sister is late for her own wedding rehearsal, besides late for rehearsal means on time for wedding, right? i think i just made that one up. Melissa hasn't shown up as of like 7:20 so we decide to start without her... woo-hooo a wedding rehearsal happening without the bride who's only like the most important person right?

Eventually Melissa shows up, but even when she got there the rehearsal was kinda incomplete feeling. I just didn't feel like it was a good sign when the pastor said "you've a few options here" or "there are different theories for what you can do here" about four times. The matron of honor, another bridesmaid and I actually did as much rehearsal directing as the pastor, at least it felt that way. The three of us decided how get the ushers/groomsmen from the back altarish area to the back of the church. My mother and I had to tell the pastor that the mother of the groom's son (groom's brother) should escort his mom down the aisle. The bridesmaid/matron of honor tandem reminded the pastor that we needed to come up with a time to unroll the runner. Eventually though we got it all figured out and had a dry run. Everything seemed pretty smooth -- although we never had a chance to practice unrolling the runner.


Actually the with the exceptions of a litany of things everything went great.

The first problems didn't arise, at least not that i saw, until just before the ceremony. I had to drive my cousin (who was passing out programs) and my two-year-old nephew, Alex, to the wedding. Alex slept the whole way to the church, then we got there and he started crying and fussing. not the best omen going.

next problem, also alex related. he was supposed to walk down behind the flower girls in his tux looking stylin and all that jazz. however, he was still crying, so my father ended up carrying him down the aisle as he escorted my sister. unfortunately alex ain't talking yet so he wasn't able to tell us his feet hurt. once he got down the aisle he took a seat, they took off his shoes and he was good to go.

next problem, the runner didn't want to unroll.

but despite those three small snags, the wedding was actually very beautiful and pretty quick, too, which was cool. chris, my brother-in-law (which is the most whacked out thing i have ever typed) was weeping after the ceremony. cute, gross, sweet, right? i admonished him for not being a man, but deep down i was really happy to see that... shows me that this was something that really meant something to him. my sister deserves at least that, right?

although i suspect that's why chris might have forgotten a cd with wedding music and the license at the church... he was blinded from the salty discharge in his eyes. oh well, luckily we had what all weddings must have the "Unofficial" wedding party member -- typically a guy who knows people in the wedding party, including the couple, very well, who is available to run errands and keep the show moving smoothly. This guy, who was very nice and cool and whose name escapes me, was available on cell phone to get all that stuff and bring it to the reception hall. thankfully he was able to take care of that stuff, because when we showed up at the photo site there was a problem.

the main hall was being renovated, so the director of the botanical gardens told us we could have run of the rest of the place. however, our photog felt like there wasn't a large enough space anywhere else in the building to get a photo of the entire 14 person bridal party. so now what? well, he proposed the steps behind the downtown art museum (where my car got busted into)... outside (where it's like 30 degrees not taking the wind into account). whooooo-hooooo! he promises to be fast. so we get there and there's another wedding party already there freezing their assess off. now the big problem with the cold, it means like two or three pictures max per set-up, and a bare minimum of set-ups. so we froze and then finished in just a few minutes.... so instead of pix taking like 90 minutes they took just like 40. but pix actually seemed to go very well and he came recommended as sharp with the camera. so here it is 4:05 p.m. and we're done and on our way to the reception hall we find out that we're not allowed in until 5 p.m. because that's when it's paid for.

oy vey. we end up at a grocery store getting food and killing time. but of course, don't we have to have another snag. we can't find chris's younger brother so chris goes roaming around the strip mall area looking for him, including in the wet grassy area on which he gets his tux pants and shoes muddy. woooo-hooooo!

but the reception i gotta say went pretty fabulous. my father and sister did really cool father-daughter dance with like twirling and stuff, who knew, huh? way to go dad. we all got into it, though for some reason i was the only one whooping loudly (as if there's any other way to whoop).

only snag of the night.... the big lesson i had to learn about how friend weddings differ from family weddings. friend weddings are a great big party, where the only person you want to make sure has a good time is yourself. now it's like baby-sitting a bunch of adults. i noticed myself always checking to make sure my relatives were having a good time, family friends were having a good time, there weren't any problems with the facility, making sure chris's brother wasn't vandalizing the bathroom or sneaking liquor, since he's just in high school. so with all that stress added onto a day of stress, i was beat. and get this it was only 8:30 p.m., and we had the hall til 11 p.m. whatever, we made it to the end it was fabulous and happily ever after has already started. let's hope it lasts til then.

for those who wanted more reception stuff... i honestly don't remember much more... except i had to go buy the scotch.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Reunion -- I love Sweet Home High!

6 p.m. Reunion starts and I am in Dulles International about to board my plane.

7:15 p.m. Plane lands, parents pick me up and we dash over the clear upstate New York highways to get there ASAP.

7:40 p.m. My parents pull into the parking lot of Rizzo's Banchetti. I see three signs taped to the door (two for weddings and one for the Starpoint HS 20th reunion), but none are for Sweet Home High School 1993. I go into the main building and knock on an office door. The manager looks strangely familiar (is that Tom C. without the feathered bangs?) and he tells me that it's around the back and to “go in the door under the green awning.”

7:43 p.m. I enter the banquet room and it's pretty damned empty, maybe 50 percent capacity? The much-touted and looked-forward-to open bar is temporarily (I am hoping) closed. Atop a lone rectangular table in the back sit four silver buffet trays: pasta, chicken, beef (?) and something else so unremarkable i don't remember it (it definitely didn't look appetizing). Some faces are the same, others are older, one is unrecognizable, but none are embarrassingly fat or no one is shiny bald. I am disappointed.

7:44 p.m.: Kerri Z. (one of three people I talk to from high school and one of two people who was supposed to save me a seat) spots me. I walk over and give her a hug as she apologizes about the seat-saving thing not working out.
“No worries,” I tell her. “I just want to get something to eat.”
I also see Linda D-T (another former bandie from the high school days, though she bailed on her inner band geek before the end of high school). She's there with her husband, who like me is overdressed (he might be the only guy with a tie). We hug (linda and I, I shake hands with her husband, Matt). it's good to see her.

Organizer Karen M., who I said I think at most two words to in six years of high school and middle school, starts to welcome me. Then feeling like I might not know who she is, pauses and introduces herself. After about a half-second of regretful awkwardness (like, it's a shame that people are intro-ing themselves) we hug and I say: “Of course I know who you are. Thank you for organizing this. By the way, I think I saw Tom C. He told me where to come. He didn't seem to recognize me.”

“Yeah, he works here. He wouldn't come,” Karen replies.

Apparently, not many other people did either. Of our 265-person class, it looks like maybe 60 in the room, and that includes spouses and guests. My friends and I didn't expect many, but this is lame even to me.

Karen leads me to the greeting table so I can get my pin-on nametag. Whooo-hoooo a chance to stick a hole in my $25 Van Heusen Outlet dress shirt, which I spent like 20 minutes picking out the night before. As I ponder the stabbing of my shirt, I notice that I am perhaps the only guy there wearing a jacket and I feel overdressed. But not bad overdressed. When the rest of the guys there seem to be wearing Dockers and Polo shirts tucked in, I feel the same kind of superiority I felt in high school for a second. OK, I'm shallow and a jerk (the best parts of living out west and growing up back east, right?).

Karen tells me that they made sure to tell the serving staff someone was coming late and not to take the food away. Kerri had relayed my voicemails of my tardiness. I am honestly touched by these gestures. (If sincerity could be conveyed on e-mail, i'd mean it here. Unfortunately when you're as big a jackass as I am most days everything sounds sarcastic).

7:45 p.m.: Lisa A. (at least that was her name in HS) makes room between herself and Kerri so that I can join them at that table. This is a good thing. Suddenly, I'm having a graduation flashback of when Linda and I got separated from all the rest of our friends during the 2-hour ceremony. I think we saved each other's sanity that day, well Linda at least saved mine. She was definitely more popular than me back then and might have been able to make do without me, though if I remember our seats well I think we both would have died a slow death.
Organizer Sara M-F comes over. Again, I've said but a few words to her as well in my whole life, but she's very nice and welcoming, no awkward pause and an actually warm hug between two people who are strangers except for sharing the worst high school name in history. She reminds me that the food awaits. I thank her. But before I head for the food I want to spend time talking with the peeps, especially Linda and Kerri.
Linda and I comment on the over-dressedness. Matt feels it, but is a better person than I am and doesn’t feel the superiority I feel over my classmates.

7:46 p.m. (don't worry the minute-by-minute stuff ends very soon): Directly across the table from me is a very familiar face, and also the noticeable debut of the seemingly-a-tad-too-early-for-this-in-our-lives-PTA mom-hairdo. It's Stacey S., a girl we made fun of for not being very full-figured in high school (at least behind her back b/c that's what HS kids do, gutlessly make fun of people behind their backs in extremely cruel ways). She's married now and honestly, looks pretty good. And honestly, I think to myself, good for her. I am glad to see that she's doing well. We say hellos and the first of many “this is what I'm doing now....” quickies is exchanged. I'm an editor at a teen paper in Los Angeles, she's a nurse and married and with baby number one on the way. Heavy. (I don't remember if uttered that BacktotheFuture reference aloud or just thought it, but i felt indebted to Marty Mcfly).

7:49ish p.m.: Hunger pains. Time to hit the buffet. I walk up and as I am about to start dishing out pasta I am waylaid (sp?) and then nearly strangled in a hug from Sabrina J., my stand partner in band since like fifth grade or something like that. I hug her back... it's cool. I hadn't seen her since like freshman year of college when I ran into her in a store or something. She's one of the top three people on my list of “wouldn't it be cool to see that person....” [none of the others showed] She drags me to her table so I end up eating with her and her husband and some random person who i don't know and barely remember. The hardwired response of “Hey, good to see ya. How ya doin?” comes out and some equally automaton response comes back.
Sabrina proceeds to show me pictures of her 7-year-old son. Holy shit!!! one of my classmates with a 7-year-old, while telling stories to the rest of the table (mainly her husband) about her living off the food I brought to band and how she hated when I was absent because it put more pressure on her in band. Oh well, there are worse things to be known as than the food guy. Btw, her son looks very handsome. I cannot believe that a classmate of mine has a kid that doesn't just look like a chubby, teary mess.

8:05 p.m.: I make it back to my original table and Sara or Karen asks me if I'd like to vote in the class survey. I tell them that as someone who just got there and missed the previous night's icebreaker, it probably wouldn't be fair of me to vote. I learn from some at our table that last night's ice-breaker brought out more people than tonight, which is kinda ridiculous considering open bar and food for $25.
Soon after the awards are handed out. I don't remember much other than Marc E. (at least a guy who claimed to be marc ebert but could have just been some dude off the street wearing his name badge) wins the award for “most changed” and is given a pink plastic purse full of pennies (get it, change?). This kid was baby-face smooth and looked about 13 when we graduated. now it's just some short, chubby dude with a goattee who has clearly had too much to drink. While accepting his award he drops really-bad-movie-comedian jokes like “try the meatloaf” and “i'll be here all week.” Once he gets back to the seat he heckles our organizers for a lame gift which he cannot figure out. Hey, at least he proved my prediction right “someone will drink way too much.”

Deanna P.-Marriednameidon'tremember, a co-organizer and someone i had a bit of a crush on back in the day, wins least changed and gets an empty pink plastic purse. she proudly accepts. It's a deserved award, she looks basically the same and I mean that as a compliment. However, when i look at the table two away from us, I see a guy who actually looks like he was unfrozen for the reunion. He's exactly the same, Craig V. (sp?)

OK enough with the minute-by-minute shit. Soon enough I end up at the bar getting my first of several free Labatt Blue's. When one grows up in WNY one loves Canadian beer. Marc E., who looks as though he's never met a keg he didn't like or a hoagie or a couch, joins me. He recognizes me immediately (hey, i was the only Asian dude in our class) and asks how his fellow “willow ridge [our cookie-cutter housing development's name] homey” is doing? you haven't gone through the looking glass until you've had a short, fat, old-before-his-time-looking, high-school-classmate impostor call you a housing development homey. Noticing his inebriation, I dispense with the “update” reply and immediately go to the one-hand-handshake, one-hand-hug guy greeting and say “of course, dude. I remember you and your football jacket.”

The other Marc Ebert highlight: he got the honor/duty/boobie prize of reading off raffle winners for prizes that i don't even remember they were so cool. When reading the numbers he said stuff like “seven-three-one-six-one-niner.” whooooo-hoooo a tommy boy joke. Suddenly i'm glad i haven't made a Romy and Michelle Post-It joke; but not b/c it would have been lame, but b/c it might have been too sophisticated.

BTW, awards that should been handed out that weren't:

Most inappropriately dressed: Jeanine K.-SOMETHING. Pale greenish colored pants with a sleeveless blouse that sparkled (sparkled, what is this, Jersey?) and was quite low-cut.

Best skin comeback: Andy K. This dude's skin was so bad in junior high and high school that we made up a song parody about it (to Surfin' USA) that led to scandal and resentment and him telling me that he hated my guts.

Biggest disappointment: No one from the seemingly most popular cliques. We told ourselves that that was because they were the ones who had gotten fat and bald so they didn't want to come. Corollary: no one came who was really fat or bald.

Timewarp moment: Stacy S. with her PTA mom haircut and Rich M., a Costanza-like stocky dude, mouthing the words perfectly to Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back while I'm trying to enjoy dessert.

Biggest missed opportunity: the friday night icebreaker. in talking to people we found out more people showed up for that and it was a mixed bag with lots of the locals. apparently they just wanted the alcohol and bar scene and not the awkwardness of the “catch-up” moments and “update speeches.”

Most surprising statistic to me: 65 percent with zero kids and none on the way. I estimated that figure would be at like half taht. The second most surprising bit of info.... one of our alums worked as someone who staged scenes for rodeos so worked up to her knees in bullshit. But that wasn't the weirdest way to occupy one's time since graduating... one dude played semi-pro football with thoughts that he had a chance of going somewhere with it. one dude, actually assembled fluid couplings for auto engines (oh wait, that was me).

Most bizarrely hilarious moment that could have stopped the world, or much much worse: Jeanine K.-SOMETHING, our previously referred to winner as most inappropriately dressed was one of the few women to take the dance floor. And continuing the grand tradition of HS, only females were shakin their thing '80s style (lots of clapping in rhythm and shoulder shaking) on the dance floor. While she's getting her groove on (and it's getting more white girl dance with each song) she catches the eye of Andy K., the previously referred to winner of best skin comeback -- acne is gone. [However, that doesn't mean that Andy has loosened up or changed that much. His posture is still straighter than Bob Jones College wants its students and he's also fashionably challenged (Dockers and golf shirt thing), and you can tell he's still a little uncomfortable around people. Actually, I should give him an award for most unlikely to be there.]

Anywayz, Jeanine catches his eye and she smiles in a kind of slightly intoxicated imitation of the Skinemax come hither look and she leans in and extends a hand inviting the world's stiffest dude onto the dance floor. Andy blushed but without turning red (at least in the lighting) and awkwardly declined to work it. While disappointment doesn't begin to describe how I felt, in hindsight I'm relieved. The universe may have folded in on itself and we all might be dead or something, had that actually happened.

Good moment for me: Aforementioned Andy K. actually talking to me and it not being #&*#^ up.

OK, all in all a weak turnout filled with disappointment, surprise, some happiness, alcohol, re-contacting with people, water going under bridges and totally worth it.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Prelude to a high school reunion

“50-60 out of 265 will show up, a good number of marrieds/engageds, a few kids (though none will be there), a divorce or two, a quiet person who got hot, hot people who fell, quite a bit of fat, some bald, some unexpected surprises (of the i-didn't-realize-we-were-that-close variety), some drama, at least a couple people on the prowl, a hook-up, a few people to overdrink and pretty much everyone complaining that things ended too early b/c they want to keep drinking.”

That was more or less my prediction of what my 10-year high school reunion would be. As someone in touch with just three people from the Sweet Home High School Class of 93 -- who also were in touch with just three people, how could we be expected to venture guesses any more specific than that? But based on other friends' descriptions of their reunions, I figured that this would be a pretty close.

August 1993: A group of about 6 honors grads from the Sweet Home High School Class of 1993 have dinner at Bennigan's restaurant in Amherst, NY on the eve of going off to college. We wish each other well and promise to K.I.T. (keep in touch for those foggy on their high school yearbook speak). Well, that largely turns into a big “yeah, um, sure....”

November 1996: Scott T., my best friend from high school, e-mails to tell me that he found e-mail addresses for Linda D. and Kerri Z. (two high school friends we had lost touch by senior year in college). He asks if I'd be interested in getting together to catch up during semester break. I'm in...

December 1996: The four of us get together at T.G.I.Friday's (where else do suburban kids go?) and have a good time reminiscing about the “old days,” sharing our own plans (all grad school) and speculating about our classmates' paths as our senior years in college wind down. Scott and I relate our run-in with a class hottie who got fat. It ignites curiousity. [Confession of character flaw that makes our protagonists more relateable-- we we're relishing the delicious possibility that people might be getting fat, losing hair, pumping gas and wearing the same clothes they wore in high school.] Our fledgling morbid curiosity leads us to make THE PACT -- come hell or high water, we're going to the 10-year reunion. (i'd like to point out that we made THE PACT and used that word some three years before American Pie came out).

Over the next 6 years: we do actually stay in touch via e-mail and try to catch up at least once a year during holiday breaks or when we happen to be in Buffalo at the same time. There is continuous reminder of THE PACT, even though at this point we're in Albany, NY; Los Angeles; San Diego; and Maryland.

The other staple activity of trips home (even when we're unable to see each other) is scoping our old haunts (like malls and restaurants) for people we went to school with, and then of course subsequent updating. Usually those dispatches were restricted to a visual assessment since we didn't actually want to talk to these people. We relied mainly on Kerri's parents to share details with her about news they heard. The news is of all sorts of varieties: kids, coming outs, jobs, engagements/weddings... whatever.

As 2002 gets ripe we start wondering when we are going to hear about the reunion., a beautiful use of the Internet, contains zilch. And living up to the apathy of our class, as much as we purport to care about the reunion, it's not like any of us would do a damned thing to like make it happen though or anything.

Late 2002: Hypotheticals become realities as the Sweet Home High School Class of 1993 Reunion Committee emerges via e-mails to those they have managed to find. There's not much info at this point, but more is promised soon. Appetites are whetted.

Early 2003: Eventually a date is set (Aug. 2), a cost is revealed ($25 if you reply by July 1) and then reality hits. I already have a March wedding to fly back to Buffalo for and I am working at a not-for-profit, how the hell am I going to afford this?

A Friday April 2003: Kerri or Linda e-mails about her growing enthusiasm for the reunion. Me, the guy who does the most reminding about THE PACT, sends out an email to the PACTees saying that I'm doubtful (to be optimistic) about my attendance. I just don't think that I can afford. I deservedly get a little heat for this.

The following Saturday: While doing layout and design for our May issue of the teen newspaper I work for, I get into a conversation with our designer whose 10-year reunion is also this summer. She tells me of the surreal experience that was her 5th, my enthusiasm is amped up. I go home, find a supercheap flight and book my ticket, only catch--I have to fly out the day of the reunion and I'll get there a little late. I e-mail the PACTees and tell them of my reversal of fortune. More e-mails questioning my wishy-washy decision making ensue (deservedly so).

The next couple months....: The speculation is ramped up high now... who's gonna attend? who's gonna look like what? Who’s doing what? who never left? who came home? honestly, the PACTees are all feeling a little smug about our stations in life. One PhD, one almost, and the other two both have masters degrees and none of us are living in the 716 (area code).

The weeks before the reunion: What do we wear? Linda, Kerri and I are wondering what would be appropriate and make us look good, too. Eventually others get curious as well and send e-mails asking what's expected? Thankfully (i wish this was an audio email so that I could melodramatize the sarcasm here), the organizers tell us that Prom Dresses and Tuxes are unnecessary. Instead, professional casual would be fine: no jeans, no shorts, no sandals. Ties, jackets unnecessary. Khakis with a nice shirt would be fine, for the guys. And a nice pair of slacks or skirt with a nice blouse or top would be acceptable for women.

My designer friend of mine in L.A. whose reunion is coming up this weekend (second weekend Aug), emails about her outfit. She wants to go punk; we brainstorm that a black bandanna would be great.

Friday Aug. 1: It's out of control L.A. vanity time. I model four shirts with two jackets each (so 8 outfits) for Scott, who cannot attend, and his girlfriend. They help me decide on what to wear. I know that I'll likely be a touch overdressed, but I figure it's better to look a little too up than scuzzy. (this might have been a case of me forgetting my area code....).

Saturday Aug. 2: The alarm goes off 5:55 a.m. for my 6:30 a.m. departure. I figure with an 8 a.m. flight, i need to get to LAX in plenty of time. FORESIGHT ALERT. The United Airlines terminal looked like a 3rd world refugee camp. You couldn't discern any lines leading to anything. A woman is ready to deck me after I cut her off while fighting my way to a courtesy agent. I ask him if there's a better alternative for people not checking a bag. He points me to a bank of computers that has exactly three people waiting for it. I'm done in two minutes and I head to the security checkpoint bypassing the woman with the dirty look. Security line moves quickly enough (considering that they closed a checkpoint while the line was actually getting longer). Flight goes great to D.C. and I am feeling good. Karma seems on my side, while walking to my gate filled with glee of someone whose flight is scheduled to leave on time, I wonder whether it would be funny to make a Romy and Michelle's joke and tell people that I invented Post-Its. Then I come to my senses and decide, Uh no.

I get to my gate and stand around waiting. And I keep waiting and waiting and waiting until after the clock moves past the scheduled departure time (5 p.m.). At 5:10 p.m. gate agent dude says we'll be getting an update at 5:30 p.m. b/c of a mechanical problem. At 5:45 p.m. gate agent dude gets back on the indecipherable PA system to announce that the flight is still delayed and something about 6 p.m. I guess he said that we'll board at 6 p.m. because we do. I call my parents, who are supposed to pick me up at 6:15 to tell them of my new arrival time 7ish, and my friends at the reunion to ask them to save me food. All I've eaten all day is something that they called a “cheese omelette” served by an airline employee. A braver/stupider thing, I've never done.

I do land on time (according to the updated schedule) and my parents are there to fly me to the reunion via empty upstate New York highways. And it's on to the reunion....

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Coldplay only in L.A.

It's been a while since I had one of those truly City of Angels' experiences, but the Coldplay concert I went to Monday night was more than just a fucking amazing show. It was a musical triumph that could only have happened in the view of the Hollywood sign (which we were, since the show was at the legendary Hollywood Bowl).

First off the show starts at 7:30 p.m. and my roommate, Scott, and I were there early unlike most of the crowd (as per usual). We were sitting next to a British 20-something woman with her mom? and these two larger dudes (in fact one was more than just large, if you know what I mean). But it was early so luckily there was plenty of space for everyone. Well, until later when two other guys move in to claim spots 103 and 104, bumping the two big dudes to seats 101 and 102. Basically meaning that the bigger dude ends up with half his ass hanging off the edge of the seat and into the aisle. he moved up to the row behind until of course those people showed up and pushed him back to the cramped seats of row 12. he even asked the two 103-104 dudes to move over into the empty seats 105-106, but they refused. too bad for the large dude. honestly, it appeared that it might come to blows, it didn't. dammit.

As the opening acts kept playing and the nine o'clock hour approached, our section (S, row 12 far far far away from the stage) started to fill up -- with other older young-people types that reeked of online retail catalog shopping (and the large dudes). however, there were still four empty seats in the row in front of us and like 6 empty seats in the row behind us.

just before Coldplay is about to take the stage (9 p.m.ish) a group of four early 20-something young women plop down in front of us. From their young age, tank tops, tight pants and low-cut garments, these girls are ready to party. The rest of our not-quite-out-of-our-youth section collectively rolls it eyes... as they bust out the cigarettes, liquor (in a water bottle) and brie cheese. (what the hell is that doing at a rock show, btw?)

then like four women roll up the aisle also, apparently youngish and partyish and lo and behold they know the four women who are rocking and rolling in front of us. so after much jockeying through the aisles and knee banging (because no one in LA stands up to let people pass, they just push their knees into the bench) they all hug in the aisle. the section rolls its eyes again.

eventually everyone takes their seats and anticipation is ramping up (to use one of my least favorite journalistic phrases). two other women (our 27ish age apparently) head up the aisle. they file in behind us (banging the requisite knees). they are trying to claim seats which are holding two dudes. after being told they were in the wrong row, the girls head down the aisle a few rows ahead of us. whoops. turns out those were the correct seats behind us. so they head back up and down the row behind us (more knee bumping).

"those are our fucking seats!" screams one of the two women, who was lied to admittedly, but still the F-Bomb seems a bit excessive. "get the fuck out of our seats!"

more eye rolling. well, eventually the pre-show drama ends and the show starts. thank something (God if you're so inclined).

they open with Politik and a hypnotoadesque light show that actually put myself and others into a cataonia. i'm not sure if Coldplay meant to do that.

Well, the show continues and it's fabulous, at least that which we were able to hear.... there were a few interruptions. First, the girls in front of us decide it's time to light up. no problem, it's a concert, people are going to smoke. but watching someone try to light the wrong end of a cigarette is really funny and distracts from listening to music a tad.

but the show continues, the band gets better and the audience of 18,000 is thrilled (especially the singing and dancing chicas in front of us). whoooo-hooo! well, then a woman behind us spills a drink on the woman next to Scott. she is pissed, bigtime. the girl who spilled the drink is apologizing, but there is just a touch of insincerity in her voice. enough to further inflame the situation. and on top of the distraction, it didn't even lead to a fight, dammit.

the show continues and the girls in front of us and actually people all around us are using their cellphones. and not just to call friends and scream "whooooo-hoooo! i'm at the coldplay show" and to hold up their phones so their friends can listen. but to have like regular conversations, that just happened to be taking place at a Coldplay show. how LA....

"i'm at the show... the band's kinda loud... i can't hear you... the show's OK... What's up with you?" thankfully someone shushed her (it's the same woman who was spraying F-Bombs). bad form. bad form. bad form. what is she doing at this concert? dammit.

this honestly, though, was just one of at least a dozen like personal cell phone calls that happened in section S. gotta love LA, right?

of course, there was far more creative cell phone use to come. the girls in front of us were holding up their cell phones with the faces facing the stage. i noticed that the girls were making sure the backlights were lit while they were holding their phones, which they weren't smart enough to reset their options to make permanent, so like every 20 seconds they had to hit a button.

"cell phones are the new lighters!" an over-excited gal in front of my roommate reveals to him. at one point the same girl asks my roommate if her standing up is blocking his view. well, the Hollywood Bowl has a great steep angle so you can always see, and to make this situation better she was like 4 feet tall. he tells her it's cool.

the girl who got spilled on though ain't buying it. She tells scott that he should have told her to sit down. HELLO! it's a freaking rock concert.

[btw, right now, i'm watching elimidate and this gross out peroxide blonde is mauling a guy in the facial area (his words) for like 1:01 (an elimidate record).]

ok, so the show continues and it's even more amazing. lead singer chris martin is spazzing all over the stage, in a good energy way. great piano, great singer, strong audience rapport. i mean even the two large dudes are enjoying the show and the bigger dude's ass is hanging off into the aisle. best part, the two people next to me never showed so there was plenty of room for everyone actually. oh well, some times life provides nice side shows.

[elimidate is making me sick right now, but of course i am watching it and loving the train wreck.]

um, what else really great happened at the show. well, the music was amazing. but by now the drama was pretty much (finally over).

then the show ends and the scene picks up again. the really loud F-bomb spraying girl starts screaming out how she "likes feeling balls" refering to the dudes near her and then she proceeds to tap away at his crotch. whatthefuckisgoingon? i've actually found a way to hate her more.

eventually after like 40 minutes we get out of the Hollywood bowl. the people traffic there is ridiculous. like one 15-foot-wide lane and 18,000 people are not a good combo. especially not when people are stopping to buy t-shirts (which I did, too).

when we get to the parking lot, we are beyond-ecstatic in words that English doesn't adequately describe not to have parked at the Hollywood Bowl. it would have been $17 and then literally hours waiting to leave. pedestrians don't care about the cars, which are just choked off by the few lanes leading out. and it's not like a huge stadium parking lot, which is usually a huge square. it's like narrow rectangles instead, meaning no where to turn around and cars stacked in rows that require people to leave in sequential order. try and follow my drawing.....


each of those equal signs is a car and if you're at one end, you're stuck.

eventually we get back down to the area near the subway station.... and as we're walking through the mall we see a familiar face.... you loved him as a frog brother, in late night HBO soft core, but mostly he's the "mouth" who loves a good truffle shuffle.

Corey Feldman. he was just on the mall talking to what appeared to be two strangers.

a perfect ending.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

My first advanced screening! X2--Greatest Hits

So thanks to the wonders of being in "the media" I got to catch a sneak-preview of X2 last night. First off, let me say that this e-mail will not be a spoiler... come on, I love you guys too much to do that to you. And for those of you who want an impression of the scene at an LA sneak preview (but not a premiere) this will try to provide.....

Short Version of this email: movie was AMAZING!! way better than the first, and i liked the first a lot. no complaints and a great ending.

Long Version:

Though the pass said the show started at 7:30 p.m., I figured it would be beneficial to get there early (sci-fi geeks can be pretty hardcore). So my roommate scott and I get there at like 5:45. We are super early, so instead I go get pizza. (and the place in Westwood actually made acceptable pizza -- a California first practically). By the time we get back to the line it's like 6:30 and it's starting to accumulate. There are probably a few dozen people ahead of us and quickly more start congregating behind.

This being LA, two people in the "biz" are behind us. He, probably early 30s, keeps affecting a faux British accent and dispensing witticims like "I invented standing line. before that people just milled around waiting for events." His female companion (appeared platonic) laughed and kept going on and on about her treatments and roles and other industry friends. Then she talked about how she was 26 and ready for the next act of her life. She wanted Act 1 to end dramatically... the dude suggested getting addicted to heroin and filming it. The only solace from that insufferable conversation was the fender bender we saw the aftermath of and Leonard Maltin (television film critic and co-host of hot ticket). Maltin is short and chubby.

Then finally at like 7 p.m. they start letting us file in. Even in a theater as cavernously huge as the Mann National we end up sitting on the right-hand section on the aisle though (so almost center). Next to us are industry types who unexpectedly run into other industry types, including someone whose film one dude was just in. They go on and on about how their short film just missed the Top 5 in some festival, but it was politics and not quality that determined their fate. They see another friend who they all know through overlapping social circles. They don't air kiss (which would have been as LA as it gets) but they do half-jokingly talk about doing a private screening in some dude's car b/c he's got his laptop with a DVD of the movie. Otherwise they're doing to get together next week or shoot each other e-mails.

Just after that convo concludes, another similar one blows up behind us... some girl goes on and on into the depths of melodrama about how she had to clean and lockup the set that day and how she interviewed film critic and columnist richard roeper (who replaced the late and much greated gene siskel). blahblahblahblahblahblah, i think that was the point of her conversation. despite the banality of it all, it was a truly LA moment.

Finally the movie (i love to bury the lead with purple prose). Great thing with sneak previews, no commercials, trailers for movies you have no interest in or any solicitations for the INSERTNAMEHERE fund.

While not a devoted X-Men comic book fan, I was definitely enough of a fan to get bored with the first movie's rather long, but necessary, exposition of the characters and basic premise. This movie doesn't offer any primers for the uninitiated, which is great. It starts strong and just gets better. By the same token, if you have not seen the first, see it.

Overall, I think this story is paced much better and bottom line, more compelling and "believeable" as a comic book story line. And this despite three writing credits on the story and three on the screenplay.

The effects throughout the movie are fantastic. From the macro battlescenes to the micro facial illustrations. The acting is super strong, especially Alan Cummings (or is it Cumming?). And each character seems very important to this movie... which I didn't necessarily feel in the first movie.

So that I don't spoil anything, I'm not going to say more unless someone asks... but it's a freaking great movie. 9.5 out of 10, only because I don't give 10s.

see it immediately!