Planes and trains and boats and buses
Characteristically evoke a common attitude of blue
Unless you have a suitcase and a ticket and a passport
And the cargo that they're carrying is you
I'd said I wouldn't do it;
I'd never attend a class reunion after I went to the 20th one 25 years ago. So why am I in Huntsville, Alabama, in a hotel room trying to figure out what I want to say to folks I just coincidentally happened to be in High School with from 1964-1967? Several reasons, really.
First of all, they had a sort of reunion a few years ago when most of us turned 60. I saw some pictures from that event, and most of them looked happier to be there than I would have expected.
Second, my saint of a wife has been seeing way too much of me lately since I no longer work, and I thought her seeing the house without me in it for a few days would do her good. Of course, at first she was loathe to let me drive that far by myself due to my recent health issues. But I convinced her that if riverrun could put 8,000 miles on a car by himself in one jaunt, I could manage 10% of that without much difficulty. I was also brutally honest with her in saying that I would only have a couple of hours with these folks and if she was there, a big chunk of that time would be taken up by introductions, “where did you meet, “what do you do,” etc. chit chat. Since this would almost certainly be the last time I'd see these folks, I wanted to distill the minutes down to as pure an essence as was socially possible.
Third, two E2 users were going to be there. One who lives in Huntsville came over to the hotel on Friday night to keep me company, and one at the event Saturday night who found this site on his own a few years ago. It was quite a surprise when he sent me a /msg one day saying, "You're Danny from High School, aren't you?"
Fourth, there was the health issue and not know how much longer I'd be able to
Jump in my car
Put my foot to the ground
Buy some heavy duty gas
Get new tires all around
And be headin' out of town
Where the diners and the truckers
Are a lonely man's mothers
And the gas tanks are open wide
I have fond memories of just picking up on a spur of the moment and transporting myself to another location without plans or expectations of anything aside from a change of scenery. You want to hear a story about when I knew I should be making a living as a salesman? If not, skip the next couple of ¶s.
I moved to Memphis, Tennessee, after college, in order to extricate myself from a disastrous but habitual love/hate romantic relationship
as well as the same sort of relationship with narcotics
I found myself in a city where I didn't have one friend except the young married couple who lived in the other half of a Midtown duplex I was renting. One Saturday afternoon, the young husband and I were on the back porch with about a six-pack already inside both of us at noon o'clock. My phone rang. It was a girl I knew in Birmingham, Alabama. We'd had a fairly long-standing arrangement without strings. She said, “I've been thinking about you.” I said, “I'll be there by 5:00 PM.” So I jumped in my car; put my foot to the ground. I was alone and wild. I took a 12-pack for the road and headed out of town.
Somewhere on a 2-lane highway in Mississippi I passed a cop sitting in that attack position. He whipped in behind me and I knew I was fucked. Not only was I drunk, but I was also broke. Desperation set in. I saw a little brick house off the road on the right with a long gravel drive. I hit the blinker and pulled up that driveway under a carpoart attached to the house. I got out quickly and walked to the side door and knocked. The cop had pulled over in front of the house. A woman in a housecoat and her 60s answered the door. I said, “Ma'am, I'm sorry to bother you, but I've had a couple of beers (notice how it's always “a couple”?) and this policeman is going to take me to jail unless you'll kindly allow me to come in and have a cup of coffee.” She smiled and said, “You get in here right now. That bastard used to put my son in jail. I hate him.” I stayed until he left and made it to Birmingham by 6:00.
It was these sorts of stories that we all shared at the reunion. The details were not always the same in everyone's mind, but the consensus was solid: We were some wild-ass kids. It really is amazing that so many of us had lived to the ages we were. We're all at the age now where about the only time you get dressed up is to go to a funeral. We've all had kids that have disappointed us in one way or another. We've all realized that the young hate us because we've survived the years they cannot bring themselves to imagine without a subsequent panic attack.
I got to see most of my best pals as well as a lot of folks who remembered me a whole lot better than I did them. I got to ask forgiveness from a man whom we treated awfully in High School; he was borderline retarded and we showed him no mercy. When I grabbed his hand and told him how sorry I'd been over the years thinking about what we'd put him through, he turned into an idiot savant when he said, “Oh, we were just kids. We didn't know better. But I want to thank you for saying that. It means more to me than you can probably imagine.” I could hardly help but cry.
I saw another fellow whose name tag said “Bill” but whom I knew as “Billy Paul.” He was a Gentle Ben type and I told him that his quiet confidence at such a young age was always an inspiration to me. As you can imagine, I was the loudmothed smartass, but I wanted oh so badly to learn the secret of quiet confidence that this kid became like some sort of secret sensei to me. His reply was, “Gosh, Danny. I started not to come to this thing tonight, but you saying that makes me glad I changed my mind."
Do you know how much it costs you to say these kinds of things to people? Yeah, you know.
I'd like to think that at age 17 I could have bear-hugged some of these guys and said, “I love you,” and they would have said, “I love you, too, Danny.” But that would not have been possible then. Thankfully, it was not only possible now, but it was joyous and fulfilling in a way I can't hardly describe. Our youths are
mysteriously attractive due to circumstances knowing
They will only be parlayed into a memory.
Most vagabonds i knowed don't ever want to find the culprit
That remains the object of their long relentless quest
The obsession's in the chasing and not the apprehending
The pursuit you see and never the arrest.
Lyrics from Tom Waits' "Foreign Affair" and Marc Jordan's "Mystery Man"