I'm not sure why, and I've said it before, but my high school class is unusually close to one another (maybe some special chemical escaped from one of the chemical plants that year??) After our thirtieth reunion last year, Byron Tully, screenwriter and poet, sent this ode that I felt summed it up...
We don't need no stinking website.
We're a gang, not a club.
If you weren't there, you can't join.
If you were there, you can't escape.
We are too old for grudges.
We are too wise to grow up.
We smoke and drink in the parking lot,
not by the pool.
We have been wicked and foolish beyond belief.
We are now close and compassionate beyond reason.
The years may come and go...
but class is never dismissed.
E-mail has helped us all stay in touch. Here are a few from this past week, triggered by Barry Cofer, who just recently took up sky-diving:
"As I see the birthday wishes every so often I wonder who has hit the Big 50 and who is closing in. I have a message from us to the young people we encounter...'Don't mess with the old farts. Age, skill, wisdom, and a little treachery always overcome youth and arrogance!' Everyone have a great week, and if the 8 track, turntable, or cassette player are still working, give the Tokens "The Lions Sleep Tonight" a spin and see if that don't throw you back to Jr. High (or farther) for 2:43."
Mark Snell, former plant operator, current graduate student:
"As 50 nears, my mind drifts to Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. This poem reminds me of Garner State Park...
To the River Otter
Dear native brook! wild streamlet of the West!
How many various-fated years have passed,
What happy and mournful hours, since last
I skimmed the smooth thin stone along thy breast,
Numbering its light leaps! Yet so deep impressed
Sink the sweet scenes of childhood, that mine eyes
I never shut amid the sunny ray,
But straight with all their tints thy waters rise,
Thy crossing plank, thy marge with willows grey,
And bedded sand that, veined with various dyes,
Gleamed through thy bright transparence! On my way,
Visions of childhood! oft have ye beguiled
Lone manhood's cares, yet waking fondest sighs:
Ah! that once more I were a careless child!
Bo Melanson, tongue in cheek as always: "Thank Gawd...9 months before I can get my AARP. Finally cheap hotel rooms and those Medicaid supplements I have been looking forward to."
Scott Gray, who entertained us last week by sending out class photos from elementary school: "...I put my 8 tracks and player out to the street about 2 weeks ago. It was tough, but they were taking up space in my garage, and I hadn't played them in years. Boston, Steve Miller Band, and Lynerd Skynerd...I've got them on my I-Pod now...I like the poem, Mark. It will go in my Garner file."
Patti Stringer-McPeek, "Friends Forever" since 4th grade: "I am enjoying my last 22 days of NOT being 50! I got my AARP stuff in the mail last week. Sent it back unopened and wrote across the envelope "Not old and not retired - YET!"
Gina Clark-Painter, 2nd grade teacher, eternal teenager: 50...OMG...I am soooooooooo far from that age!!!! I am 36 years old...and I always will be...don't you all think that is a good age????? Hey, I still have all of my Donny Osmond albums...and I still believe he is in love with me!!!"
Teri Stefka-Lamance, who hasn't aged a day herself in thirty years: "...As we get older, remember how MARVELOUS EVERYONE looked last year at the reunion. I was amazed that no one changed from high school a bit, they just got better...Happy B-Day to all of the Half of a Century People this year."
Cindy Karisch-Myers, another friend from the time of single-digit birthdays: "I ended up at Garner this summer. Yes, it has changed. It will never be the same. I got lost leaving the dance - you had to park in a different parking lot... But the memories will always be there. That they can't change!!!
Byron, parodist extraordinaire, topped it off with this: "As 50 approaches for me, I have booked reservations on a large barge traveling slowly down Denial. Mark, you are far too literate for this group. And for me. So I have taken the liberty of adapting "To the River Otter"...
(Historical note...the Crosby Stomp was a regular Saturday night dance at the American Legion Hall in Crosby, Texas. We had to take the Lynchburg ferry across the Ship Channel, drive through Highlands and Barrett Station to get there. Note to all parents, children, ministers or former teachers of any of us that might be reading this - this is totally a fictional work - all Byron's imagination! And remember to "compare and contrast" to Coleridge's poem, above, as you read it, as we were all taught!)
To the Stomp (parody by Byron Tully)
Dear native hall! wild hamlet of the pissed!
How many nefarious-fated beers have passed,
What dazed and missing hours, since last
I skimmed the gravel pavement along my cheek,
Puking my beer in chunks! Yet so weak
Stink the sweet scenes of adolescence, that mine eyes
I never open amid the next morning's sunny ray.
George Strait with all their beers they dance around,
Neon lights and tobacco smoke or dip or chew to spit,
Sawdust floor, scraped with various boots,
God what am I going to tell my parents! Holy shit,
Visions of detentions! oft the result of such a romp
Who really cares, feeling for her thighs;
Ah, next reunion, let's meet at The Stomp!
(Mama and Daddy helping me get ready for the Stomp, 1976)