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The Reunion

June 8, 2005

"Once I was a young man
And all I thought I had to do was smile"
-Mike d'Abo "Handbags and Gladrags"

I didn't really know what to expect going into my high school 10th year reunion. You figure that people will change over time, since that is the inherent nature of people, particularly from the late teenage years to the late 20s (which is where the Class of 1995 finds itself as of this writing). But what I wasn't sure what how drastic the changes would be for people, how quickly I'd be able to recognize (or not recognize) people, and overall how the event would go.

As it turned out, it was a fantastic time. 99% of any of the high school bullshit was forgotten before anyone walked in the door to the dining hall, where the event took place.

I am getting ahead of myself just a touch, though. On Friday I flew in from Tampa, and upon arrival at BNA (the airport code for Nashville International Airport) my Mom and my sister Mary Beth were there to greet me. It was wonderful to see them, as I hadn't seen them since Christmastime. I love Tampa, but it's always great to be back in Nashville, especially since that means a chance to see family and friends.

Haiti protest
Protests against the United States, like this one, happen sometimes in Haiti.

My Dad and my brother Matt made it home from work after awhile, so I got to say my hellos to them. In the case of my Dad, he is going on a humanitarian trip to Haiti this upcoming Friday, so I was very glad to get a chance to see him and talk with him some before the trip. He was going through all sorts of planning and triple-checking to make sure he has everything that he and his group need for the trip. They're going to be installing a system to provide clean drinking water to a remote village that has never had that (and which, consequently, faces constant problems with disease).

It's wonderful that he's so willing to give of his time and energy and money to help this village out, but at the same time there's a travel warning for Americans to not go to Haiti effective May 2005. He's not going there on vacation (but who goes to Haiti on holiday??), and he'll have a translator meet them when they arrive in Port au Prince. But still, when I read things like the following paragraph, I'll feel a lot better when he's back in the U.S.

Consular Section of the United States, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Due to the volatile security situation, the Department [of State] has ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel and all family members of U.S. Embassy personnel. The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Haiti and urges American citizens to depart the country if they can do so safely.

Notice the word ordered in that last paragraph. No "please" or "we kindly request" in there.

But if there's any comfort to things, it's that Dad has been there before and things turned out okay, so hopefully all will turn out fine on this second trip. The village where they're going is very isolated and safe; it's the to and from that concerns me.

On Friday evening, Matt, Nathan Fay and I went over to Father Ryan (our old high school) for an alumni event. The Karg Boys were playing there in a special surprise concert, but because of Matt's schedule and needing to get ready, by the time we arrived they had already finished and departed for their gig later that night in Murfreesboro. Damn the luck. There really weren't all that many Class of '95 alumni there, but there were plenty of alumni from other classes, mostly older classes. I did run into Kelly Harding in the library, and she mentioned that she felt that she got gypped. I was confused at first as to what she meant, but she explained how she meant how nice the library and the fine arts center are. There's no arguing about that: the buildings look very, very nice.

From there, Nathan split, and Matt and I headed to the Corner Pub Green Hills. A bunch of Ryan '95 people were supposed to be meeting up there, and as advertised they were there. It was great getting to see some friends I hadn't seen in 10 years in some cases. Good times on that.

I've cut back on my drinking lately, but on Friday night I was downing the brew, since Matt was driving and all. I don't exactly remember doing this, but I called Josh Tenisci and left a drunken voice mail on his cell phone. Josh, who was in my graduating class, waited until too late to book a ticket to Nashville from Dallas, so he wasn't able to take part in the fun. He told me in a return message the next day that he was hanging out backstage with the band Better Than Ezra at the time I called. Not a bad consolation prize.

Saturday was even better, as that was the day of the reunion itself. Mary Beth took her SAT that morning, which now has an essay as part of it. You know, because the old standardized test just wasn't long enough. She thinks she did well on it, and considering that she has phenomenal grades in school, I think that's a great sign. I forgot to mention that she had dyed her hair red, which looked good.

Before the reunion, I met up with Ronnie Aquino and Donald Wolfe and Melanie Franklin and Brian Costner and Ryan Trent over at the Applebee's by 100 Oaks Mall, where we had a pre-reunion drink. Melanie told me the night before about her sister working as a DJ at a radio station in Knoxville, though she wasn't sure which one.

You know, I just laughed to myself thinking that the people in the last paragraph might inadvertently find this article because I mentioned their name. You'd be surprised how much that happens.

The reunion itself was a great time. They held it in the FRHS dining hall, which looked about the same as it did when I went to school there. It was brand new when I started there in the fall of 1991, so it still looks nice. Rob Philbin, who I've been friends with since first grade, was there both as an attendee and as the event's DJ. It was great to see him and to finally get to meet his wife. There are so many people I saw and so many hellos and updates that I'd be afraid that I'd end up leaving someone out if I tried to list them all on here. But it was great to see and talk with everyone, though there were some people who I really hoped would show up who didn't. But so it goes.

On Friday night, Morgan Strobel and I did a toast to David Rodgers, our Ryan '95 classmate who passed away last year. Likewise, on Saturday David's name came up in conversation a number of times. I lamented on how I wish David could've been there for it, and we shared some old stories about him.

Ashley Wells, who was a good friend of mine in high school, had some very interesting updates. Most interesting to me is that she's now working as a craps dealer at a casino in Tunica. It surprised the hell out of me, but she likes the job, and there's something to be said for that.

The reunion ended promptly at 11:30 (they were pretty prompt about that), so I took my Mom's car back to the house and caught a ride with Ronnie back over to the Corner Pub. As we walked up to the place, I received a chorus of "LLLooooooouuu!!!" from the outside deck area. In a hilarious moment, the bouncer witnessed that and let me in without asking to see ID or anything. I suppose the crowd supplied it for me.

At the Corner Pub, Vicki Garcia (another Ryan '95 grad) freaked out because she couldn't remember who I was. Everyone else out there was incredulous to her about it. "How could you not know who Lou is?!?" I knew her, but we didn't have any classes together or anything. She's a pretty girl, so of course I was going to know who she was in a class of 225 or so. But what I thought was funny was that she was freaking out so much about it. It's no big deal; that was 10 years ago. I have a shaved head and a goatee now, so I look different as a result. Plus I'm not going to pull a move like Vince Naimoli did on Michelle Jordan when she worked at Channel 10 ("Don't you know who I am?!?") I'm not that self-absorbed.

On Sunday we had this delicious steak dinner. I can't explain how good it tasted. I don't eat much red meat anymore, but that steak hit the spot. Damn, it was good. And peanut butter pie for dessert, a specialty dish that my Grandmama Blaylock makes... Delicious.

I had the last flight of the night from Nashville to Tampa booked on Southwest. My Dad dropped me off with plenty of time to spare, so I was fine on that end. But then I saw the digital sign, indicating that the flight had been pushed back from 9:40 to 10:05. Lovely. I had neglected to bring a book with me, so all I had to do was to jot down things to potentially write about in this column. The air conditioning was not working properly, so it became hot in the terminal area. The flight delay then moved to 10:15. Finally we were informed over the loudspeaker that the plane was finally leaving Chicago, and that we should be gone by 10:30.

The way it all turned out, I didn't make it home until 2 AM. That was not cool.

There's much more to discuss, including the NBA Finals (my favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs, against the Detroit Pistons), the pros and cons of summer TV wasteland, and the onset of rainy season in Tampa. But that'll have to wait until tomorrow.

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