Friday, January 23, 2009

Getting the Band Back Together

17 years is a long time, even in Dog Years. But 17 years was exactly the amount of time that had passed since many of my high school friends and I had crossed paths back on graduation night in 1991. Back on that special evening, we all dawned caps and gowns and zoned off as boring speakers reminded us that for all that we had accomplished in our short 18 years of life back then, that the real adventure was just beginning. For most of us, we just wanted to grab our diplomas and head out to the Senior Party. Looking back now, those stiff and nameless speakers were definitely onto something. Even though my friends and I had been separated by so many years, time zones, and continents; we each had an adventure to share, a path that had been chosen, and stories accumulated.

Chalk up another kudo to technology innovation, for if it was not for the recent advent of Social Networking, none of my friends and I probably would have exhausted the effort to track one another down. But with Facebook gaining popularity, reconnecting, at least on a virtual level, was just a click away. Virtual was good but I figured the guys and I could do one better. I joked with all of them, via email, as I began to organize a Meet-Up. I started by saying,

"I know it is rather Old School and extremely 20th Century, but what do you guys think about setting aside the mouse and keyboard and actually meeting up?"
The guys responded with a fury and said they were on-board and encouraged me to put it together. The timing was perfect, as I was coming home to the US and everyone was still around from the recent holidays.

We decided to meet up at a place called Grand Central Bowl. which during our day was a dumpy, smelly, run-down bowling alley. Today however, this place has risen like a phoenix from the ashes and has transformed into the hippest watering hole in Portland. Guys started showing up one-by-one and the years between us were slipping away with each passing minute and with each raised glass. We shared stories of where we all ventured to after high school, talked about families, kids, and impending new arrivals. We even talked about classic characters, personalities, teachers, and of course hot chicks from back in the day.

Some of us had grown taller since graduation, some grew a bit side-ways, while some had lost hair, and others were just sporting their hair in new places. What was great for me personally, was that none of these guys had changed their core being. They were the same guys that had been brought up by hard working parents, had pulled together and sweated on the athletic field or court together, and had always put the team ahead of themselves. It was fantastic to still hear each of them speak in this manner and see the glimmer in their eye when they shared a moment about their kids and families.

Even though the Meet-Up was fun and a big success, there were still a few guys I hadn't seen or who couldn't make it. My friends, Mike and Jamin, were two guys I had just recently got back in touch with and it worked out great that during another business trip back to the US, I was able to grab lunch with these two and reconnect. Mike always had the sharpest wit back in school and we had volumes of inside jokes we had created over the years. As we broke bread around the lunch table, it made our sides hurt from laughing as we reminded each other of one-liners or pranks we had played. Jamin and I had continued our friendship past high school when the two of us were reunited as roomates while in college. I swear Jamin spent 90% of that year we were roomates sporting a velvetine robe, which we referred to as a "smoking jacket" in order to try and class it up a bit.

None of us wanted that lunch reunion to end. I kept asking Mike if he needed to go back to work. He just grinned and said no one was going to care, as his boss was out of the office today. A classic response from the same guy that coined the phrase during a miserable summer job back in high school,
"I'm not going to call in sick... I'm going to call in quit!"
As Mike, Jamin, and I headed out to the parking lot after what had turned into a three-hour lunch, we joked that if we were back in high school we would have surely burned rubber out of the parking lot. I smiled and pointed to my rental car, which just happed to be a Ford Mustang. As I belted into my seat and pulled to the corner of the intersection, I waited until Mike and Jamin were behind me. As the light turned green, I hammered the gas pedal to the floor and smoked the rear tires of the Mustang leaving a blue-ish fog in my wake. I got the big "thumbs-up" from Mike and Jamin and knew that the kid in all of us was still alive and well.

Reconnecting was the best thing that has happened to me in quite sometime. I've spent a lot of my time creating new memories and new adventures, but sometimes it's a lot of fun to take stock in where you've been and more importantly where you are from. Old friends help remind you of that, they keep you honest to yourself and to your values, and they also inspire you with what kind of great men they've all turned out to be.


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