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.

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