Wow. I am fully whelmed. Not merely whelmed, certainly not underwhelmed, fortunately not overwhelmed; I am completely, perfectly, and fully whelmed from my high school 30 year reunion weekend activities and interactions.
I had the best 30 year high school reunion experience imaginable – and I have a pretty good imagination. If I found the event boringly underwhelming, I was prepared to write lies about former classmates hooking up in men’s room stalls to add spice to my recounting of events, but the interactions I had were wonderful in their own right and will suffice in their retelling. I will say that there was one rumor so salacious that I was nearly overwhelmed by simply considering whether it could be true or not, but out of love and respect for the subject of the rumor, I won’t repeat it here…but it rocks, true or not, trumping any departure from reality and truth I had considered.
On Thursday, I met my best high school friend Christina Lang in the baggage area of the San Francisco airport. We hugged, went outside so she could replenish her nicotine load, then went back in to collect her bags. Can I just say that women pack way too much shit, or the things you pack weigh way too much?
Years ago, when I smoked, I loved Noc Noc, a bar in the lower Haight of San Francisco, because you could smoke inside. I have never done heroin, but I also thought Noc Noc would be a great place to do it. Drippy organic shapes, odd textures, and couches that are really mats on the floor and wall are just a few of the stand out features that differentiate Noc Noc from it’s neighboring bars.
Christina flew in at a time that put us at odds with north bound rush hour traffic, so instead of joining the stream, I took Christina to Noc Noc. Sadly, for her, smoking is no longer tolerated. Happily, for us, they had happy hour beer prices. Ra’Mat, Noc Noc’s owner and bartender was friendly and fits his establishment well. I am glad it remains in the area.
Fortified, we drove to Santa Rosa, making great use of the carpool lanes, and I tried to introduce Christina to Guy Fieri’s cooking, or style anyway, at his Tex Wasabi restaurant; but the restaurant is closed for restoration. Instead we went to Chevy’s and ate appetizers in the bar, washed down with shots and beer.
Christina and I reminisced, remembering back 30 years, to when the restaurant we were in was called Sourdough Rebo’s. 30 years ago, Christina and I, as high school seniors, cut school and were lunching at Rebo’s, complete with alcohol beverages, when the waitress brought Christina another drink. When we were puzzled, not having ordered the drink, our waitress explained that the drink had been bought and sent by another table. When we turned to see who sent the drink, I saw my mother raising her own drink to Christina. I was not surprised to find, later that afternoon, my mom was not happy to see her 18 year old son cutting school and drinking a margarita.
After dinner, we checked in to our one night only hotel, the America’s Best Inn (formerly the Ramada) on Hopper Avenue.
Christina and I have been friends for a very long time, and have shared numerous rooms, platonically, in several states. I am not a big fan, no, wait, I loathe sleeping clothing. When with Christina in the past, I slept in a swim suit or shorts. For this trip, a once in 30 year event, I found, purchased, and wore Raiders pajamas. Christina’s pajamas were not as amazingly cool, but fit her personality well, composed of an over indulgent use of the color pink.
After watching some television, mixed with conversation, I fell asleep, and commenced to snore. Christina said I answered a question she had asked, and quite literally was asleep and snoring within three seconds of speaking. She thought I was joking, but with panic at having forgotten earplugs, quickly realized I was actually asleep and the snores, now ascending in volume, were quite real.
Christina woke me up, and I offered up my iPhone, set to iPod mode. Christina found that random songs from my musical library, played at full volume, were superior to mere earplugs when trying to battle my snoring.
On Friday morning, I awoke much earlier than Christina, and read for hours before inviting her to wake up and put her feet to floor to begin the day. I walked the entirety of the 100 yards that separated our hotel room from a neighboring Starbucks for a pair of large coffees.
As we were going to be eating lunch shortly, we skipped breakfast (If you have seen pictures of me, you know that is a sentence not written often – I like breakfast like Hobbits like second breakfast).
We drove to the Dry Creek Store and stocked up with sandwiches, cheeses, salami, salads and waters, packing what we could in a mini cooler. Next we drove to Preston Vineyards in the north end of the Dry Creek Valley.
Christina and I tasted a Sauvignon Blanc, Madam Preston (a white Rhone varietal blend), Carignane, L. Preston (a red Rhone varietal blend), Zinfandel, and Syrah-Sirah. Christina prefers whites and settled on the Sauvignon Blanc to buy a bottle of; a red lover, I loved both the Carignane and L. Preston, and purchased a bottle of the L. Preston. I was sad that fresh made breads were not available for purchase, but soldiered on stoically. We grabbed a basket filled with bocce balls, our bottles and glasses and our picnic cooler and made our way to the picnic area next to the bocce courts.
The day was beautiful. Perfect 81 degree temperature, blue skies, flowers, vegetables, herbs, olive trees, and vineyards, all grown organically adding color and scents. Christina and I ate our sandwiches, sipped our wines, and I taught Christina to play bocce.
I love Christina, and while she can get a ball from one end of a court to another, she will never join the Women’s Professional Bocce Tour. Christina is a greatly skilled actor, gets paid for doing it, while I am but a mere clown when given a stage; so in our variety we make the world more interesting.
In a short while, we were joined at Preston by Nancy Howard and Rachelle Merian.
Note: with great respect to the lucky men who married the beautiful and talented women of the 1979 graduating class of Piner High School, all names of the women of our class will be their maiden names. Are we cool, Misters Iannios and Albini?
Anyway, Nancy got a glass of red and Rachelle drank water, and I showed the girls how to play bocce.
Another note: all of our 47 or 48 year old female classmates are, and will always be, girls to me.
Rachelle split up the practiced team of Christina and myself and paired me with Nancy and herself with Christina. It has been written elsewhere that Nancy Howard may just be the most interesting woman in the world, but to her list of accomplishments can now be added Queen of Bocce.
Rachelle captured my favorite picture of Christina and me while at Preston. Thank you, I love it and you.
Next we were joined by Shannon Smyth and Tim Vigil, and shortly after Nancy and Rachelle departed, Bill Towner arrived.
There was more wine tasting and conversation than bocce playing, and the entire afternoon, spent with friends, was wonderful.
Christina and I, sadly, had to leave, as we needed to drive to the Flaming-O Hotel and Resort, check in to our room, and change clothes for the cocktail reception.
Upon checking in, and lugging Christina’s extraordinarily too heavy luggage to our room on the elevator free second floor, Christina found that our room was not equipped with a smoking balcony and one short phone call later we were moved to the other end of our building.
Christina and I dressed for the cocktail reception. I got to break out a totally cool (it’s my story, so I get to to say it’s cool) seersucker suit with alternating chalk green and white stripe, burgundy shirt and gold Jerry Garcia tie (I completely forgot that our school colors were burgundy and gold). Christina, after accidentally matching my yellow shirt choice for our day in wine country, matched me with a purple and gold color combo cocktail dress and shoes. I will say that we may have overdressed for the event, but at no time did I feel overdressed – just damn good looking with a gorgeous date.
I hesitate to try to begin to chronicle the interactions that we had with each of our classmates, because I know I will forget someone and then I will feel a less worthy scribe. Suffice it to say that I loved that so many people showed up at the lounge of the Flaming-O for a reunion eve cocktail reception.
I was thrilled to see my cousin Lorenda Rossi, who continues to be a total babe (clearly she shares no blood with me); Susan Ward, who is the only woman in our graduating class that I will acknowledge openly is more intelligent than I am; our complete Senior class cheerleader squad; and of course Nancy.
Not long ago, Connie Fiori wrote that she was having difficulty telling the good-guys and d-bags apart. That stuck with me, because there are always, sadly, a few douchebags out there, masquerading as good guys.
Friday night, while Christina and I were at the cocktail reception; Nancy was with a group at dinner, and a complete and total douchebag said something horrifically insensitive, rude and insulting to her. I won’t say what was said, or by whom, but I didn’t say word one to him at the reunion the next night and gave him the stink eye when I did see him briefly. If he weren’t so large, I would crush him like a Formicidae insect.
Hungry, not having eaten since our picnic lunch, Christina and I travelled to the nearby Lyons restaurant where I ate a truly revolting Chicken Alfredo special. Refueled, we ventured back to the cocktail reception, but the noise of the night’s band, Crossfire, and the ever increasing crowdedness in the lounge drove us back to our rooms by 11:00 PM to rest before the next day’s events.
Saturday morning, after waking, Christina and I headed across the street to Hank’s Creekside Cafe where I had coffee, the fresh milled wheat pancake special with a side of homemade corned beef hash. Simple quality ingredients make for a great meal.
After breakfast, I switched into orange swim shorts and white shirt, and headed down to the pool to read. During the day, I was joined by Tim Vigil, Keith Lewis, Dave Giffiths, Curtis and Beverly Allsop, Doug Duffield, Rachelle Merian, Nancy Howard, and Christina Lang. I didn’t swim, I didn’t read much, but I got in lots of fun conversation and a couple of spicy bloody Marys made by Chuy, the lounge bartender. The pool gathering broke up shortly after 5, giving us about an hour to get changed for the reunion main event.
I quickly changed into a classic black suit, black tie, shined black shoes, french cuff white shirt, Obama cuff links. Christina, in a much more leisurely fashion, changed into a beautiful black Calvin Klein dress with gorgeous black high heels with sparkly accents. I had to play Bob Mackie (Cher’s most famous clothier), forget I’m a straight male, remember Christina is married and I like her husband, and help her double stick tape the décolletage of her dress above and to her strapless black bra. I did this only after failing to find Rachelle or Nancy in their room after running down the hallway to ask for their help instead. I performed what was the oddest task of my week. Christina did indeed look beautiful.
Christina had wanted to sit with Rachelle and Nancy during dinner, but when I arrived earlier to check us in while Christina was finishing with her last minute finishing touches, Connie Price (and her husband Joe) asked me to sit with her.
I went back to the room to collect Christina, had our pictures taken by the official photographer, and mingled.
At dinner, I decided that I would enjoy cigarettes that night (only the second time smoking in 2009), and while I was outside, some weird interplay unfolded between Christina and another table mate. Christina was described to me as confrontational, but before things could escalate or turn odder still, the table mate in question was scooped up by their spouse and they left the event.
I know Christina was neither confrontational or hostile, and the only real weirdness of the evening passed quickly, although I may jokingly refer to Christina’s ongoing hostile behavior in the future. Somehow word got out, and Christina was jokingly chided the next day for her ways.
I loved everyone and tried to see everyone, but I was shocked that there were people I did not see and I know that there are many who I had no chance to talk with. I wish we had at least another 12 hours, seriously.
Among my stand out favorites were Janet Bertino who eschewed the dress up aspects and showed up in a bright orange t-shirt; I now love Janet for her fearless fashion sense.
Another note: speaking of fashion sense, over the weekend, more than one classmate shared their remembrance of a pair of bright yellow pants I wore in high school.
I loved Todd Grames’ facebook text suggesting that I might meet an 8:00 AM group Saturday to run. Perhaps my best laugh, among many, over the weekend.
I loved seeing Melanie crash the room, as a class of ’81er she was rocking her young chick status.
I loved seeing Dean and his incredibly sweet and perfect wife Mindy.
Still another note: Dean, a practicing preacher, was the perfect person to ask the religious question of the night: Did Lee Ann and Sourette sell their souls to the devil to look so remarkably unchanged by time?
I loved seeing Julie O’Keefe, and her husband Buck.
I loved seeing Stefanie, one of my serious elementary school crushes. I hope to dance with the brides at your wedding – soon.
I am a little in awe of Brian Teager. Brian, your poem was beautiful.
I loved seeing Christina, who was nervous about not knowing anyone, deflect a troubling event with aplomb and have a terrific time.
At one point in the evening, Kim Finitz was giving out awards; you know, most children, farthest distance travelled, longest career in porn, longest marriage, etc. When Kim finished, I got the microphone and made two toasts.
With some personal friends in mind, I asked everyone to think of those from our class who couldn’t attend our reunion, because of passing, accident, distance or economy, and instructing everyone to raise their glass, we drank to absent friends.
Next, I raised a glass to Kim Finitz who singlehandedly pulled off the best reunion event imaginable. Kim did a magnificent job and has the love and appreciation of our entire class. The toast was met with a roar from all assembled, and Rachelle came up and presented Kim with a beautiful vase full of long stem roses, suitably ribboned in burgundy and gold.
The evening ended all too soon.
On Sunday, we packed and readied ourselves to leave the Flaming-O. Before leaving, Christina and I joined Rachelle, Nancy, Keith and Dave for Sunday brunch.
After brunch, Christina and I drove south to Cotati to pick up my 12 year old son from his grandparent’s house, where he spent the weekend, and take him home to Ukiah, by way of Windsor’s Riverfront Regional Park, where the last reunion weekend event was being held – a picnic gathering amongst the redwoods.
It was great seeing everyone who attended the final event. I had a chance to see some of the pictures that are now up on facebook from the reunion events, and a wonderful “in memory” video tribute to our classmates who have passed on that Todd created.
The only real bummer of the weekend was how cold it was in the shade of the redwoods. We did not stay as long as I would have liked, because it was uncomfortable. I can’t say my son Charlie was bummed, he didn’t really want to hang out with what he considers to be old people.
I dropped my son off at home in Ukiah to begin the homework he forgot to take to Cotati, and continued with Christina to Willits, where I dropped her off at her sister Susie’s house. With a hug and a kiss of my best friend, my reunion weekend ended.
I was amazed at how young my classmates are. I could see the spark of fun and life and youth and joy in each one. I love you all and thank each of you for an amazing reunion weekend experience.
I have come back to this post and edited about a dozen times. I notice that a phrase is inelegant and fix it, or a sentence confusing or ambiguous and clarify it. Sometimes my first post even includes an embarrassing misspelling and I clean it up during a subsequent read.
This blog entry had over 100 reads in the first two hours it was up, and now has over 300 reads, so I felt I should try to make the effort to have it best reflect my reunion experience.
I have added content to my entry, something I haven’t done before.
I reserve the right to come back and further edit more into or out of my piece.
I want to say, but separate from the main piece, that I almost didn’t attend my own class reunion. I was almost, foolishly, scared off by someone who didn’t even come. Somewhat ironically, I wish the person who almost scared me off had been able to attend.
When I asked everyone to raise a glass to absent friends, in my thoughts were Joe Menth who passed the night we received our yearbooks, Ron Pipes who had work and distance issues that could not be overcome, Michelle Hampton who was at once my catnip and my Kryptonite, Bob McLean who with all the heart in the world had too weak a heart to travel, and two friends from our Comstock junior high school days who did not stay with us through to graduation at Piner: Gregg Stebben and Michelle Roney. With over a hundred graduates holding dear their missed absent friends in their own mind, I am sure that we included everyone.
I can not begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this reunion weekend. Reading over the chronology of what transpired gives you, the reader, a glimpse into the experience. I imagine that you can appreciate that I enjoyed myself. Magnify the enjoyment you imagine I experienced ten fold, and you may start to approach an accurate appreciation of how good a time I had.
I am immensely glad that I attended my 30 year reunion.