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Tuesday, 20 March
Reunited, And It Feels So . . . What?

A couple weeks ago, I got a not-wholly-unexpected voice mail. "Hi Skot," said the voice. "This is D. Give me a call."

D. was our senior class president in high school (I was vice president, and pleased to be so: my duties were, among other nothings, being vice president). And this year marks my 20 year anniversary of graduation.

I stared at the phone for a while, uncertain what to do, if anything. I hadn't seen anyone from high school for, well, ten years, since our last reunion, which I did attend, and, thanks to a combination of an entirely inedible greymeat dinner and my profligate drinking, got really drunk at, mumbled incoherently, planted several unasked-for kisses on people, and then stumbled blindly home, and woke up the following morning thinking, Hey, my ears hurt! Let's never do that again.

But I called up D. anyway. D. is still a perfectly nice guy, and is a doctor. This made me feel like a tool. Let's not discount all my valuable time spent as a debt-ridden loser! I occasionally worked hard at it! Anyway, D. was wondering if I had some intel on our old grad-mates, the folks I ostensibly spent some of the best years of my youth with. I didn't.

Well, I had one. An old friend of mine had not long ago emailed me out of the blue after discovering this very blog; I provided D. with his email address. I didn't have anything on anyone else. I asked him how many other people he had tracked down. It turned out to be (at that point in time) three. "I've left messages for other people, a lot of them," he explained, "but nobody's called me back."

Oh, the mysterious allure of the 20-year reunions. Here's a group of people (small, in my case--my graduating class was around 70 strong) who are so profoundly uninterested in each other that over the years, nobody even knows where anyone went. Sounds like a party!

A few days later, D. emailed again with news of some success: a few people had called him back, and were interested in at least the abstract idea of getting together. D. also had a rather plaintive plea for help: he no longer had a list of graduates for our class, and mysteriously, the school was not being helpful with his inquiries. Did anyone have a damn class list from 1987?

At this point, I overrode my usual instinct to never Reply To All, and Replied To All my confession that I did, in fact, still have possession over all four yearbooks from high school days, and offered to provide a list of student names. Another CC'd former classmate then wrote to say, "You have the yearbooks! What spirit!" I did not point out that I didn't keep the yearbooks ("annuals," we called them) out of any sense of lingering spirit or nostalgia, but simply because as comedy qua comedy, they were indispensable. For one thing, since they were created by high school students in rural Idaho, the overall quality of these editions are stunning in their incompetence--and I am also happy to report that I had a hand in their creation. For another thing, the photos are simply shockingly funny: we were all so astonishingly ugly. Most strikingly, me. My freshman year, I resembled some sort of rodent that had been soaked in denatured alcohol and then aggressively combed; my spectacles were apparently borrowed from Martin Mull while he was on break at Fernwood 2Nite. I am also wearing a velour sort of proto-Izod-thing. Collar not up, due to uncoolness. And my senior photo--taken by my father, in an aggressively soft-focus manner, the better to obscure my puzzling, ghastly Richie Rich haircut--is not unlike a portrait of Cybill Shepherd's transsexual doppelganger.

As it stands now, the status of the reunion is unclear. There have been more respondents; D. set up some site where people can enter "Where are they now?" sorts of information, but not a lot. Unsurprisingly, I'm guessing, a lot of people have just scattered to the winds, and I'm also guessing that other simply just don't give a royal fuck.

I don't know what I'm going to do. My mom, I know, wants me to come home for a visit--it's been a few years. On the other hand, the event, if it goes forth, is scheduled to occur during my hometown's annual HUGE FUCKING RODEO FREAKOUT, in which our small town balloons from around 3000 people to around 20,000, and main street is closed for hot dog stands, hamburger vendors, projectile vomiting, random facepunchings. And parades, and of course someone suggested that we, the Class of '87, have a parade entry. I can just imagine the parade commentator: "Here comes the Class of '87! Remember them? B. has kind of tubbed up . . . that's K., we all remember him and his meth conviction . . . oh, and there's little G., who cost us the big game at state . . . looks like all his hair fell out after he knocked up that cheerleader from Riggins . . . and speak of the devil, here she is . . . "

I don't know. If it all goes off as (tentatively) planned, I'll probably go. I'll also probably make my usual fool of myself by failing to identify like ninety percent of all these people, these people who have aged another 10 years, who I never bothered to keep in touch with, nor they with me, which I assume is probably because I am a lousy creep who couldn't wait to get away from the damned place anyway, and was most assuredly not missed.

Small towns get a lot of crap, and for some good reasons: a lot of it is surely deserved. They are insular and weird and everyone is always in your shit. They are fundamentally conservative; community is valued far more than individuality. Being a hotheaded little coward, I couldn't wait to leave, and did so at the earliest possible opportunity. I immediately went to a ridiculously expensive university where I was free to invent a whole new identity for myself, which initially manifested as an Ocean Pacific-wearing, hyperverbal jackass who spoke in some sort of Martian surfer patois that I lifted mostly from my summers spent with my grandparents on Santa Monica beaches in between playing speed chess sessions with my addled grandfather. Had I tried this little experiment in personality reinvention in my home town, I would have deservedly been beaten to death with shovels. It was a hugely theatrical pose, a complete invention borne out of some weird need to present myself as anything other than what I clearly was: a pathetic hick with a gift for linguistic and kinesthetic mimicry. I doubt I fooled anybody, and it is a credit to my university friends that they didn't tie me up in oily rags and set me on fire while calling on the gods to accept this meager sacrifice.

Small towns also get absolutely no respect for their good aspects, the things that drew my parents there (both grew up in large cities); things I unfairly derided for years: the emphasis on loyalty to community; the juggernaut honesty and plainspeaking; the universal loathing for even the vaguest scent of bullshit.

I left for much different things; I didn't know at the time what they were. I was just a dumb kid bucking for something else. And I found a lot of those things, to be sure. I think. Maybe it's worthwhile to go back and see.

Confess | Skot | 20 Mar, 2007 |

Note: Comments are closed on old entries.

Comments

I, too, grew up in a small town. Midwestern-style, no rodeos, plenty of drinking and projectile vomiting. It was a nice enough place to grow up, but going back now (Class 'o '91) is strange. I still see the same people sitting at the same bar (same barstools, too) and it's a little depressing. On the other hand, they're content in their familiarity and everyone knows everyone else, so is it really so bad? Maybe not.

That kind of sounded like narration for a shitty primetime drama. Sorry.

Comment number: 012656   Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' on March 21, 2007 07:03 AM from IP: 152.17.58.16

I thoroughly enjoyed your allusion to Richie Rich's hair..

Comment number: 012658   Posted by: Sabrina on March 21, 2007 08:31 AM from IP: 70.234.232.14

I feel a midseason ABC drama coming on!

Comment number: 012660   Posted by: Kristen on March 21, 2007 10:10 AM from IP: 69.91.142.111

This is appallingly profound and meaningful. I demand you cut it out now.

Comment number: 012680   Posted by: norm on March 22, 2007 07:53 AM from IP: 163.231.6.67

I demand to see scanned photos of you from the annuals! Don't let us down, Skot!

Comment number: 012682   Posted by: Stan on March 22, 2007 09:48 AM from IP: 63.168.99.40

Stan, Stan, he's our man. Seriously, come across wit the photo.
On another note, we are the exact same age, and have accomplished, oh, about the same things, except I had help with the debt, 2 offspring. But then, I can't hold my liquor like you, and don't vacation because of the aforementioned, so....

Comment number: 012691   Posted by: Alyxmyself on March 22, 2007 06:40 PM from IP: 68.201.0.251

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