Sunday, September 13, 2009

PSHS 20 Years Later: "I Forgot How Good Looking I Was!"

Sorry I haven't updated my loyal following (Hi Mom) since my last post -especially since my surprisingly fun 20 Year High School Reunion last month. First off, I had completely forgotten how extremely good looking I was until I saw my 1989 yearbook pic again...
Well, let me start from the beginning. As I had mentioned, my high school buddy, Matt Kern and I flew up in the Cessna. It was Matt's first flight in a small plane but he did great. We were 'wheels up' at 4:30 and landed at Stafford Regional at 6:30 after an easy, uneventful flight. Our Toyota Yaris rental car was waiting for us as we taxied to the ramp.

Matt and I changed clothes at the FBO (a general aviation terminal). I wore my famous stone colored Andy Griffith 'Matlock Suit' - about the closest I get to looking like a true Southern Gentleman. And Matt (who incidently won the 'Best Dressed' superlative back in '89) was looking pretty smooth in his khaki linen suit.

Stafford is about 10 miles South of Montclair and it's an easy drive up I-95. Except for the part where I-95 is pretty much bumper to bumper 24/7/365. It took us two hours to fly 240 miles and another 30 minutes to go 10...

We got to Montclair about 7:30 (about the time the party was supposed to get started) and we were both a little nervous -but for different reasons. I think I was nervous because I wasn't really sure who would be there. The decision to go was last minute and I hadn’t done much prep work. Also, since I've only kept in touch with about 3 people out of 450 from High School I was starting to feel like a bad friend (especially since I think I was a pretty good friend to just about everyone during my 4 year tenure). Matt on the other hand was probably nervous because he is never the first to arrive at a party and wasn't sure how to tell me that we needed to kill at least another 30 minutes before making our 'grand entrance'.

So, we did what felt normal. We stopped at 7-11 where I got gum and Matt bought a back of Camels. Then we drove around my old neighborhood, checking out my family's old house at 15803 Moncure Drive and then went over to our friend, Andy Jumbercotta's parent’s house, unannounced of course, after all, we were in the neighborhood and we spent most Saturday evenings coming or going, why should this Saturday be any different. Andy lives in Wilmington too but he graduated in '88, a year earlier.

We knock on the Jumbercotta's door and I think we woke up Mrs. J because she had no idea who we were. So I said, "Hi, we're from the Washington Post and we would like to ask if you are satisfied with your delivery service?" (side note, as you should expect, I was the paperboy for several years and this was my opening line for all of the 'non-subscribers' on my route - I knew they didn't get the paper so this gave me a quick intro into why they should start, it would be at least 4 weeks before they connected the dots and by then they were thrilled with my superior paper delivering skills)

I quickly, introduce Matt and I and she is quickly all arms with hugs, hellos and rowdy laughs. She invites us in and starts collecting things for Matt and I to deliver to Andy and her grandkids back in Wilmington. As we wait in the living room it's like a time warp. I am beginning to realize that although a lot has changed for me over the past 20 years, some things (and people) have not.

It's about 8pm at this time and I am looking up at the evening sky as we head down Waterway Drive toward the Club. Matt and I couldn't imagine being at this 'thing' past 10pm at the latest so with the full moon and the clear sky we neglect to find a hotel room and begin making plans to fly back to Wilmington later that night getting home by midnight. We could sleep in our own homes, waking up 'fresh' on Sunday morning.

The Montclair Country Club was built in the 1970's and looks age appropriate. We park next to Wes Stearns car. I knew it was his because his name is on the license plate. Wes is one of my greatest friends, I was in his wedding, his Father is the one who told me to get into the real estate business (which, even after this past year, I am still grateful). Wes' car is a new 700 series BMW.... I am rarely impressed by cars, but this moment of arrival stands out in my head because a Yaris is a very, very small car and looks quite underwhelming next to Wes' black sedan. But I'm glad Wes and Lisa will be at the party and I relax a little.

I put on my suit jacket, spit out the 3 pieces of gum I was gnawing on, look over at Matt, take a deep breath and walk up the steps into the banquet room at the Club.

I kid you not - as I walk past the blue and white balloons and open the doors, the DJ is cranking some Milli Vanilli, "Blame it on the Rain". I remind myself to remember the irony for my next blog post and I take another deep breath. I am nervous, uncomfortable, it's starting to feel like the first day of school again and I'm afraid I won't know anyone (except for Wes and Matt of course).

As I approach the sign in table and prepare to "state my name", Christi Hart quickly says, David Spetrino for the 'name checker person'. I worked for Christi Hart's Dad at the boat dealership (first commissioned paid sales job I had when I was 16). She married her High School Sweetheart, Randy Dingus - she was and still is cool and she looked exactly the same. I breathe a little more.

I am handed a set of plastic cups, a 'memories book', and a paper name tag with my '89 picture on it. I place my name tag on the Matlock suit and looked down at myself of 20 years ago. I don't know why I didn't smile in that picture, I mean I got my braces off in the 10th grade, I just looked so serious. If I was going to be memorialized in that high school image I could have at least cracked a smile!

Matt's just ahead of me and heads straight to the bar. If we're flying back tonight there is no drinking for me so I quickly search the room for a familiar face. There were probably about 75 classmates there, 2/3 with their spouses. Most everyone looked familiar but it would be hours before I could retrieve their names from my memory.

Sidebar: If you watch Seinfeld, you will recall an episode where Jerry doesn't like to greet or be greeted with a hug or a kiss. I have no idea what it is, but I too am extremely uncomfortable hugging and air kissing people that I am not directly related to. It's not a germ or perfume thing, I just don't go out of my way to touch people beyond a handshake. It must be a 'personal space' thing -who knows. Actually, Kathy and I have been discussing my personal aversion at length because some of our good friends are excellent greeters (Steffen Kuronen, Jonathan Rowe and Chris Reid come to mind) and I need to start doing a better job of greeting their spouses.

So, back to my story, I take it upon myself on this night, the night of my 20th High School Reunion to pretend like I am a sophisticated man and hug people I haven't seen in 20 years. I think I am willing to do this because the next time I am likely to see most of these people will be in another 30 years and odds are my awkward hugging skills will have been forgotten (after all, we will be in our late 60's and too busy showing everyone pictures of our grandkids)

I begin to enter the room and the first person I see? Corinna Boyd, my dream-girl-crush from 5th grade through 8th grade. So I hugged her.

We only 'went together' for about 3 hours in the 5th grade during a field trip to the Hirshorn Museum. I had used my pet sitting money to buy her a really cool green click pen from the gift shop. I knew she was just using me to make John Pfeiffer jealous that day but as we sat next to each other on the bus that afternoon I didn't care.

I was so certain that just because I couldn't roller skate backward, she would still see my other incredibly redeeming qualities and we would eventually be together 4-ever. You know me, I can be a little extreme at times. You can probably imagine what life was like for Corinna for the 4 years as I was professing my love (and supplying all those mix tapes) Corinna married Vince Natale from our High School too, she looked exactly the same.

I look toward the bar for Matt. Everyone knew Matt in High School, for a non-jock, he was extraordinarily popular. I was probably just slightly above average in the popularity contests but having Matt for a best friend added to my street cred and I was always grateful. Matt was doing fine with his signature Jack and Coke and surrounded by a handful of our good friends. I started to head that way when I hear, "Oh my god, David Spetrino!" I turn to my right and it's the Laura Collins.

So I hugged her too.

Corinna was replaced in the 9th through 11th grade by Laura Collins. I can't believe it; I am living my entire broken hearted high school career in the span of about 10 minutes. We loaded each other up on our lives over the past 20 years. She is married, lives in Chicago "you have to visit" and is a busy stay-at-home Mom. She looked exactly the same.

And within a few minutes after arriving. My high school reunion reminded me of my cousins Matt and Mark Thrift. My brother Jon and I only have two cousins that are our age. They live in Californina and we see them about once every 5 years. Whenever we all get together, we would talk about school or work or something predictable but after about 10 minutes it's like a switch is flipped and we pick up right where we left off. Joking about our other relatives, quirky parents or the funny things that happened the last time we got together.

That is what this reunion was like, like no time had passed at all.

I was feeling horrible that I hadn't kept in touch with some fun, great, amazing friends. My focus had always been on the future, the next deal, professional goals, and family obligations. Everything took precedence over High School people (especially once I got to College) but the guys I hadn't seen since Mr. Malone's history class just picked up where we left off. Reminding each other about all of the stupid things we used to do. The laughs and memories just began to flood the room. I talked with people I went to FIRST GRADE with. I talked with everyone in the room. Guys I hadn’t seen in over 20 years came up to me and reminded me of things I had completely forgotten about - and it was terrific.

My suit jacket hangs on the back of a chair and my shirt sleeves are rolled up. My legs hurt from standing and my face hurt from laughing and smiling. It's obvious we weren't going to 'blow out of this place early’, it's after midnight. I text Kathy and let her know that I would be flying back in the morning.

I’m hanging out with Jeff Powell who is an absolute riot. Mainly because he never, ever spoke, but when he did, he was hysterically funny. Jeff says we need to go to Heather Schwetje's house and play some beer pong after we did donuts in Theresa Theroux's (his high school girlfriends), front yard with the Yaris. (Jeff and I were in drafting and architecture for 3 years in High School and he is the ONLY one in our class that actually became an architect). And he looked exactly the same.

I may be tired but it is obvious we are a long way from 'good night'.

Five of us, including Jeff, pile into the Yaris and head over to Dennis Burkes' Mom's house right around the corner. It's the same house that Dennis grew up in. She was gone for the weekend but had a refrigerator in the garage full of beer and several platters of snacks for us to work through. About 15 of us sat in the kitchen and pieced together the last traces of our High School lives. The ridiculous rumors, the innocuous secrets, all of the things that were never said about each other back then but didn't matter one bit now.

It's past 3am. I feel like I am living a Dan Fogelberg song as the night winds down and the regret of having lost touch with the people who remember me from "back when". These guys were so much fun to hang out with. How could twenty years have passed by so fast?

These were the guys that remember me for things like the skateboard ramp in my backyard, the guy who had a full time job at age eleven, the guy who wrecked his cars a lot, the guy who DJ'd the dances after the football games, the guy with the crazy girlfriends, the guy who wasn't afraid of the things he probably should have been. These guys were so much fun to hang out with - and still are - but I know it's time to go. We all promise each other we will stay in touch, but I know as soon as I get back to my real life the more important obligations will quickly take over.

Matt and I get in the Yaris and head back to the airport. We decide we'll sleep in the car until the sun comes up and then head out. We park on the ramp next to the plane. The place is silent, the only movement is the green and white beacon that sprays over the windshield every few seconds. Matt is asleep within seconds. I should be tired, I need sleep, but the seats in the Yaris only recline about 3/4 of the way. I grab Matt's linen suit jacket as a pillow and finally doze off.

The sun burns off the fog by 7am. Matt and I are airborne moments later and enjoy a quiet Sunday morning flight across Southern Virginia and toward the Coast. Back in Wilmington we shake hands and promise to get together soon. My good friend Matt, who literally lives less than 10 blocks away, I see him maybe once a year.

My day picks up right where I left off just a dozen hours earlier, kids, chores, paperwork, phone calls with just one exception. I logged onto my Facebook account and 'friended' everyone I could from the Class of '89.

1 comment:

Wes Stearns said...

Very nice - don't forget where you came from and don't forget your friends! It was a great reunion and don't know many people who fly their own plane to a reunion, but only "The Art of the Deal" carrying Polk's class, Mr. David Spetrino! Enjoyed seeing you and you still look good Old Man!