Wednesday, August 31, 2005

How Soon Is Now: The 20th Class Reunion

As promised: the gory details. It’s everything, I suppose, a twentieth year class reunion is supposed to be. There are those memories you cherish and those you’re reminded of why you never bothered to keep in touch over the past twenty years. What’s utterly amazing is that some of the bad harbingers remain with some, making it “entertaining” to watch grown ups act with such petty memories.
And new resentments were created too, as one clique member decided to become the “reunion police” and monitor every outburst, touch, and drink of choice with the eye of a Block Mother.
A Block Mother was some kind of crazy community service program from the seventies in which every few blocks or so, a sign was placed in the window of a participating house, indicating that a stay at home mommy was available. Call it a safehouse from bullies and other childhood dramas as you’re on your way home from school. The program died out long before most Mommies took down the signs.
How did we look? Twenty fucking years old. It was easier on the eyes to see those that managed to keep in contact with one another but hell on those that we hadn’t seen in decades. It was clear that some made a very consorted effort to prepare for the event. As for myself: fuck first reprise impressions; I wore an Iggy & The Stooges black tee shirt. Check the photo of our old asses in the hometown paper. I’m the one on the lower right corner. The photographer took away my Stoli and limeaide right before he said “Cheese.”
The first night many of us converged on an old watering hole by the river. When it was hip, the place was essentially a hole in the wall fairly cool place to start the night. In the ensuing years, the new owners decided that the beer garden was a waste of precious square footage and turned the area into a shitty supper club that booked karaoke on the weekends. The bartender and staff, once a reliable source of drugs, sex, and entertainment now consisted of rude society floaters hell bent on keeping up with your own drinking pace.
Brief flashback that I just remembered: the place, which featured a cartoon rat on the outside painted sign, used to employ a forty-five year old skank who wore tight Gloria Vanderbelt jeans and sparkly blouses. She was a great waitress, and just about the time you were getting shitty, she would start doing this slutty dance at your table while taking your drink order. It was funny, scary and sad. It was embarrassing if you happened to be entertaining a girl and were on the verge of getting somewhere with her. No, there’s nothing like the sways of a middle aged woman who’s trying to remain relevant with the opposite sex to break the mood of a young couple trying to play chess.
Digression ended…
Present day supper club also contained several desperate middle aged women, and men too, I suppose, but the guys had more of a “I’m drunk beyond retarded” faction. I stayed a little buzzed and sought out Bernie Kozar. On the second attempt I succeeded. Trouble was, I had to endure a drunken “my life is shit” soliloquy while we smoked near the dumpster in back. “If a cop comes, you’re eatin’ that thing. It would fuck up my child custody if I got busted with a roach.” I agreed to Bernie’s conditions and got lit enough to endure another round of memories like the corner of my mind misty water colored memories of the way we were.
Bad choice.
The girl who was advised earlier by the reunion police that she could not drink Jack and Diet Coke decided to break the law and drink Jack and Diet Coke. By midnight, she was asking me for a ride home when she clearly needed a lift. I selfishly declared that I would drive her home in a little bit and somewhat soberly suggested that some people were leaving at that time and would gladly assist her. I never said I was a designated driver. She hung out and kept bugging me for cigarettes even though I refused every request. The last thing I need is for some drunk chick vomit all over herself from a headrush nicotine overdose simply because she hasn’t had a Montclair since ’92.
When they eventually did last call the place, she again asked for a ride. I made my way through the clusterfuck of departing patrons and waited in the car for my friend to exit. With even a few more Jack and Diet Cokes under her belt, we waited and, appropriately, The Smiths’ “Hatful Of Hollow” played in the cd player. Suddenly, she’s all up in my personal business asking about the SLF, acting sincere about my happiness before admitting “That sucks. I was hoping to make out with you this weekend. Just kidding! No, I’m not.” By this time, I’m getting pissed about my friend’s delay and my desperate need to have him save me from the girl who drank too many Jack and Diet Cokes. He came, we dropped her off, and then made a few more drinks at my parent’s deck.
The next night was definitely more of a “Let’s see who can talk the loudest” kind of event that again mixed alcohol, memories, continuing alliances/feuds, and “this is what happened to me since we last saw each other” dialogues. We found out who was in jail, and agreed the first person in our class to get knocked up was Renee M. She was thirteen when she had her first child. She conceived another before she graduated. She didn’t make it to the reunion.
Dead Mothers, domestic abuse, methamphetamines, jail, divorce, marriage; No subject was taboo and the sheer amount of information was sometimes overwhelming and/or tedious. But fuckin’ a, I’d do it again. We all drank like champions. Or put another way: we drank like this would be the last statement of our youth. The final night proved to be too much for my friend who declared “You see, I’m in a bad place here” seconds before passing out in the back yard of my parents house. It was true: I had done the same thing 20 years prior and remember the dew on my face, the dogs barking from the paperboy morning delivery, and the burn marks my vomit left on the grass. Good times. Damn good times, as David Lee Roth would say.
Swear to God: this was the only photo I took the entire weekend. Go figure…

Monday, August 15, 2005

Working Title: Slut Gets Back Together With The Asshole

Without getting into another “shit, I’m really old” self-deprecation, let me honestly tell you that my 20th year class reunion is this weekend. What was high school like for me? Was it tortuous? Did I contemplate suicide? Was I picked on incessantly? Not so much. In fact, it was pretty cool. It was exactly like the movie “The Last American Virgin” and all of the hot chicks eventually dropped the nice guy and returned to the same dude that originally knocked her up.

For better or worse, you’re reading the exploits of a fairly popular former Senior class president who seemingly adapted well in all social cliques and cultures. That’s not to suggest that there was a helluva lot of diversity within my small town high school. There wasn’t, but we had the obligatory amount of minority of ‘em to make us “worldly.” We also had an above average ratio of mouthbreathers, which makes me very empathetic to minorities and all the bad experiences they may have had with rednecks. In the whole scheme of things, what keeps me down to earth is the understanding that, even though a place like New York City may be infinitely cooler than anywhere in the state of Iowa, I’m sure there are more rednecks there than anywhere in the Hawkeye state. This was proven in the 2000 census. Look it up.
So I’m feeling somewhat nostalgic as of late and a little concerned because I have a sneaking suspicion that the people who’d I’d really enjoy seeing this weekend probably won’t be there. There is the knowledge that my best friend in high school is flying in tonight and that in itself makes everything pretty bitchin.
Then there’s the knowledge that, as amiable as I am, there were a lot of times in which I wasn’t very nice to people. Some people probably received the wrath of my teasing more than others, but I don’t think it ever got to a Columbine level. In fact, there was a lot more vicious teasing happening during my first year of college than what took place in high school. I could be wrong. A lot of weed was smoked back in the day. If the Trenchcoat Mafia shows up at the reunion this weekend, you’ll know that I totally underestimated my recollection.
To tie this shit into something of a musical posting, I’ve decided to include five life changing albums for me during those salad days. The rules are simply this: the following albums made an enormous impact on me during the years I was in high school. Feel free to laugh all you want. Most fuckers that do typically have a “Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em” or something equally awful in their own collection.

5.) INXS-“The Swing”
I remember spinning this record incessantly. And even today, it holds up pretty damn good. This was pre-“Need You Tonight” Inxs, and better in my opinion. I really don’t have any revelations for you to go back and re-examine this release, and it certainly wasn’t a gateway album for me by any means. I just remember playing the fuck out of it at parties, makeout sessions, and cruising. There were times in which I thought the lyrics were deep, but time has made me smarter. There’s still better than most shit that kids listen to today, but that’s just middle age talking.’
4.) YAZ-“Upstairs At Eric's”
Yup, the guy that was in the original incarnation of Depeche Mode and who later fronted the even gayer Erasure, hooked up with his tubby girlfriend who had the voice of an awesome soul singer and made….soulfully cold dance music. You hear this shit on commercials nowadays, but back then, this stuff couldn’t get played on commercial radio. So how does British electropop make its way into the bedroom of a Midwestern hetro cracker like me. Two words: Hip Chick. A relative of a high school friend came to our Godforsaken town one summer from an uber-hip location. She brought a cassette of this album and we threw it in the boombox at some pool party. We all thought it was pretty awesome and we immediately welcomed her to our innocent small town by stealing the tape from her when she got too drunk to care. The tape made the rounds to at least six people and each one of us proceeded to make shitty dub copies of it. By the time Yaz’s second (and final) album “You & Me Both” was released, a nice contingency of hip music fans lined up to buy it at the local record store chain in the mall. I’m betting that, for one week, the band Yaz outsold Def Leppard.
3.) BLACK FLAG-“Damaged”
Holy shit, what a groundbreaker. The story goes like this. A friend of mine was shipped off to the Northeast to attend an upper class prep school. Getting kicked out of that prep school was one of the best things that happened to my musically. With his return, he brought crateloads of punk records and cassette tapes of a low wattage radio station in Boston that played punk rock during the evening. Soon after listening, I was suddenly versed in lingo like Flipper, The Avengers, Christian Death, Fear, and a rare Unicorn records copy of Black Flag’s “Damaged.” Sure, I had the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys beforehand, but this one was frighteningly agro. And when I followed up with reading of the Flag vs. L.A.P.D. fights that continually took place in L.A. (and supplemented it with the commercials included on their “Everything Went Black” album), I knew that this was probably as real, raw, and scary as it gets. Some quarter century later, it still is.
2.) THE SMITHS-“Meat Is Murder”
We were bummed out. We were in speech. We were trying to impress girls. Well, everyone that either wasn’t already a girl or a homosexual. They listened to the Smiths too. It started with examining a chick’s tape collection during speech contest. She had the obligatory new wave shit including New Order, Depeche Mode, and probably a fucking Bronski Beat album. Then she had a tape with the badassed cover art for “Meat Is Murder.” It was already on the b-side when I asked her to play it, which meant that the American album owners were in for a little bit of “How Soon Is Now?” to start off the second side. It technically wasn’t supposed to be on the album, but it turned out to be a hit over in the U.K. and Sire Records decided to capitalize on it here in the states. It worked. The sound of Johnny Marr’s hypnotic guitar and Moz’ lyrics ‘n phrasing had me convinced that this band was the only band that understood how miserable life can really get. And when you’re 17 years old, it’s cool to understand that.
1.) THE POLICE-“Synchronicity”
What the fuck did you expect? Everyone had an ear for what these guys were going to do next. I mean, they were followed like they were The Beatles, for Christsakes, at least by those who understood that rock and roll music could change your life. U2 was probably the other band like that, but when you’ve got retards clamoring how awesome “Under A Blood Red Sky” is, you get a little resentful. The Police were full fledged Gods by “Ghost In The Machine,” and secured their supergroup status with “Synchronicity.” Fuckers marked the date when the album was supposed to be released and I know of one guy that actually got an excuse to be late for school just so he could be the first one to buy the album when Disc Jockey opened that day. Then he brought the cassette to school so we could all try to figure out what the hell the song “Mother” was all about. The album marks the first time Sting fully addressed dinosaurs, and we knew something was up with him.

Honorable Mention has got to go to U2. Out of sheer spitefulness, I didn’t include them. The fact is, they probably rate higher than Inxs, Yaz, or even Black Flag and they definitely penetrated a lot more of the youth in my hometown than any of those bands. It started when “I Will Follow” was included in the movie “The Last American Virgin” and everybody got a pee boner trying to find the album it was off of. “War” was played incessantly when it was released and I remember my Mother walking into my room as I was singing like Bono during the song “New Year’s Day.” Totally embarrassing. “Under A Blood Red Sky” brought them to the mainstream, and a girl I used to date swore that she could be seen in the accompanying video. She’s the one in the read sweatshirt. “The Unforgettable Fire” became a favorite lovemaking soundtrack album to another girlfriend, so again, I’m forced to admit the importance of this pompous little rock outfit from Ireland.
I’ll follow up with a post on the 1985 class reunion soon.