Sunday, September 23, 2012

One score and five years ago.....

This past Friday, I attended my first High School reunion since the 10-year bash of 1997. Yes, we were commemorating 25 years since graduation from St. Paul's Harding High. Twenty. Five. Years.

I had planned to be out late that evening, so the fetching Mrs. Carlson and I decided to stay at my Mom's place that night, a mere 15 minutes from the party venue in St Paul's Como Park. It was also fortuitous in that the Mrs. had a get-together the next morning in downtown St. Paul. And since she was a little under the weather, I encouraged her to stay behind so as to get a good night's sleep.

I arrived at Gabe's by the Park at 7:00 pm, having already listened to myriad '80s tunes on the drive over. As I hopped out of the car to walk inside, I actually got a little nervous. While I fondly reminisce about the decade itself, the 80s was kind of a time of angst for me personally. When I entered high school in September 1983, I was all of 5' 2" and 95 lbs. When I graduated, I had shot up to 5' 11" but still only weighed in at about a buck forty five. As such, I was an easy target for guys who like to rough up kids for sport. It wasn't that I was unpopular as much I was woefully awkward and uncool. I point you to those guys who used to show up at the dances without dates and lean against the wall snapping their fingers while bobbing their collective heads to the music. No, I wasn't even one of those guys. They also were too cool for me.

Anyhow, back to Friday. I got all signed in and walked towards the packed bar area when I immediately saw my buddies Terry and Mike. It wasn't all that different a feeling from a crowded high school cafeteria when one is desperately looking for a familiar face. I sat down with the guys when our friend Mary came to join us. Mary and I go back to 7th grade. She was always abnormally tall for a girl (close to 6-feet tall even as a freshman), towering over most of her male classmates. That has a tendency to be a difficult thing for a girl to endure, but not Mary. I remember her as a kind, very sweet person. She's still that way today.

I began to mingle in the bar area when I saw Lori, one of the more popular girls in our class. A multi sport cheerleader, Lori was a very nice looking girl (I believe we kids in the 80s used the term "fox."). One of her claims to fame in school was her sister was married to NHL star Paul Holmgren, who was a member of the late '70s, early 80s Philadelphia Flyers, nicknamed the "Broad Street Bullies." I recognized Lori right away, and she still looks great!

Not wanting to isolate ourselves like in high school, Terry, Mike and I made our way to the other end of the party room, near the dance floor. We ran into a classmate named Jim. He was known as "Lenny" until late in our junior year. Apparently he and his Dad (Leonard Sr.) had a falling out so he decided to change his first name as a result. In the midst of the visit, Missy stopped by. When I was mentioning on Facebook how I was so uncool in high school, Missy commented that her and some of the other classmates would ensure I was the coolest guy at Friday's soiree. I told her that my teammates on the basketball team in 10th grade made that same pledge once after a game one Friday night. That particular evening ended with my being trapped inside my locker. She promised she would excoriate the guys responsible. Even though that happened a long time ago and I'm well over it, I thought it was kinda sweet.

A few moments later, I walked over to the table where an ex-girlfriend was standing around with her fiance. Wanda and I knew each other in high school but never actually dated. We actually got together a few months after the 10-year reunion and went out for about 2-1/2 months. The relationship did not end on the best of terms (Thankfully I met the future Mrs. Carlson about seven months later). Since our classmate Collette was also at the same table with Wanda and her dude, I decided to greet Collete first to give Wanda a heads up that I was there. When I finally got around to saying "hello" to the ex, I didn't sense any awkwardness on her part (I've been very happily married for 12+ years, so I was cool as the other side of the pillow). We all chatted for about ten minutes before I moved on.

By this time, Terry, Mike and I grabbed a table between the entrance to the party room and the exit to the outdoor patio. It turned out to be the ideal spot, as we were greeted by many of our classmates.

Twins Yvonne and Michelle stopped over. While I didn't associate with them in high school, I was always able to tell them apart. Yvonne then tried to get me on the dance floor but I informed her that I had yet to indulge in enough "liquid courage." She didn't seem to want to take "no" for an answer so I was dragged out there with beer in hand. I told her the "Dice Roll" was pretty much all I had going for me. After about 30 seconds (it seemed like 30 minutes) of that goofy dance, I headed back to our table to partake in more conversation. I was also reminded by my buddy Terry to never cross him as he shot video of that awful display on the dance floor.

About this time, Lisa showed up. Lisa was also pretty popular in high school, as she was a gymnast and a cheerleader. I specifically remember how she sat in front of me in Trigonometry class junior year. She was one of those girls who was popular and good looking but didn't revel in that status. I recall one time in class where she went to sharpen her pencil or something. Anyhow, one of our Trig classmates leans over to me and says "Hey man, I see the way you look at her. Why don't ya ask her out?" Just the mere prospect of me trying to muster more than a minute worth of dialogue with a hot chick made my heart to fall into my stomach, splashing my innards which in turn caused condensation on my brain, thus rendering me speechless. I just didn't have the "stones" to do so. However, the first thing Lisa did in class each day was stretch her arms behind her, propping them up on my desk. She then told me to lift her arms up as far as they would go and then "criss-cross" them. Apparently this stretching exercise aided in her flexibility as a gymnast. That at least told me she wasn't repulsed by me. I mean, she let me touch her arms for crying out loud!!!!!! I conveyed that story to her Friday and even gave her a little demo. In doing so, I accidentally bumped the table, causing her to spill some of her drink. Yes, even in my forties, I can be somewhat awkward. But Lisa was still as sweet as ever, just laughing it off. She now has three daughters, one of which is finishing medical school. Wow!

Michaela, Brian and Lisa

While continuing to chat with Terry & Mike, I noticed classmate Carrie Fischer at the next table. "I wonder how often she endures Princess Leia jokes," I asked aloud. Terry then challenged me to walk over to her and come up with my own quip. Yes, in some ways we still have a slight high school mentality, so I accepted that challenge. I walked right over to Carrie and asked if she would consider donning that gold bikini she wore as Jabba the Hut's love slave in Return of the Jedi. Thankfully she got a good chuckle out of that one. For all I knew she could've throttled me for asking such a thing.

Lese, Carrie and Jeana

At this point of the evening, it was about 10:00. I felt that if I were going to drive myself back at Midnight or later, I would have to stop the alcohol consumption at that very moment. When conveying this, Mary informed me that she had been drinking soft drinks all evening and that she would drive me to my Mom's place if necessary. I guess I took that as a license to continue indulging in my favorite beverages, as I started another tab once I procured a chauffeur!

I'm not going to lie to ya. From that point on, the evening was somewhat fuzzy. I do recall catching up with several classmates with whom I go all the way back to elementary school. Despite being a little tipsy, I was still able to identify Bill, Stephanie, Tom, Jill, Brian, Jon and Shannon from the Highwood Hills Elementary days. It was amazing to hear all that was going on in their respective lives, especially from the perspective that I recall each of them from when we were all about age six.

Rikk, Kelly, Karen, Bill and Heather

Shannon and Missy

Sometime after 10:00, JoAnn made her appearance as only she can. I haven't seen her much since high school except for on the road near downtown Minneapolis while driving her Humvee. I even once spotted her on the big screen at Target Center during a 2004 Timberwolves game. From all indications, she lives a very high class lifestyle and could make a very good living as a fashion model.

JoAnn, Dawn, Me and Sylvia

In one of my many trips out to the patio to say hello to the social smokers, I ran into April. I remember one time in gym class (Sophomore year I believe) we were playing on opposite basketball teams. She was a good player in her own right (a valued member of the Lady Knights) and I had the task of guarding her. I remember one specific play where she drove to the basket and I subsequently blocked her path. All of a sudden she came to a quick stop, gave me an elbow to the bread basket and knocked me back. She then laid the ball in for two. At that point I suddenly wished I was locked back in that locker. Anyhow, I mentioned how the years have been great to her, a compliment which practically put her in tears. Yeah, I've forgiven her for that humiliation on the basketball court. 

Chatted ever so briefly with Tracey and Liza. Both are grandmothers now and seem to not mind it one bit.

Finally at about 1:15 a.m., my driver for the evening, Mary, indicated she was ready to head out. As we said our goodbyes to our fellow classmates, I finally caught up with Jodi, who sadly had lost her husband to cancer just a few years ago. She seems to be holding up quite well despite what I'm sure are difficult circumstances.

As much as I would have loved to close the joint down at 2:00, I could barely see straight. Fortunately my Mom does not live very far away from Mary's parents, so my chauffeur was able to get me to my destination accurately and safely. I was able to unlock the front door and from there I stumbled downstairs and fell into bed. With Jen having a meeting in downtown St Paul at 9:00 a.m., I awoke at 7:45. As I went to the kitchen to have some breakfast (as well as aspirin) I peered out the window towards the driveway. For a split second, I had a panic attack when I didn't see my car parked there. I was still a step slow, but I quickly remembered that I did the smart thing and received a ride home. I would pick up my car later in the afternoon.

After dropping off Jen at her venue, I decided to look at Facebook and Twitter to determine if I made any incriminating and/or off-the-wall posts. Thankfully nothing too outlandish. I also checked the photos taken on my phone. Again, pretty innocuous stuff. However, I can't speak for what other videos/photos my classmates may have taken. I guess we'll wait and see.

To be honest, I had been looking forward to this reunion for a couple of years, as Lori and Heather (our official reunion coordinators) were very diligent in seeking feedback from classmates as well as providing updates. I fully expected to have a good time Friday. The evening exceeded my expectations.

Lori, Shannon and Jodi

Liza, Missy and Heather

See y'all at the 30!

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