The past five days have been like a fuzzy, lopsided dream, the kind where you wake up sideways on the bed with a drool puddle under your right temple and lingering questions about your choice in low thread count sheets and large grandma undies. I just spent a long weekend at my high school reunion in Palo Alto, which consisted of buckets of binge laughter, high-end tequila sipping and touchstone rubbing. The story is not as simple as a typical reunion night of familiar faces and nubby nametags. It’s about being moved from the power of the past and the possibilities of future friendships and fresh cocktails.
Palo Alto, California is my hometown, the place that informed my human laugh track, from my very first steps to my very first words. My father was a professor at Stanford and with that position came an idyllic life of tall, green trees, public school perfection and a melting pot of magic. From pre-school through the first year of high school I lived a grand life of unsupervised, outdoor antics, reckless bike riding, spontaneous sports and crazy boy crushing. When I turned fifteen my parents had the brutal task of telling me that my dad had gotten a new job in New England and we would be moving to a place I saw as a mysterious land of pilgrims, prostitutes and prison.
My life would soon go from solo, slow dancing to Journey B sides wearing 501’s and checkered Vans to being wrapped in wooly winter coats and an itchy blanket of tears. While I did my best to adapt to the Boston ethos of girls tiptoeing in white pumps with tube socks and boys groping in Sergio Valente jeans and velour sweaters, my heart ached for the California sun and the girls and boys of my youth. For the remainder of high school I spent all my summers and spring vacations with my best friends from California and racked up monumental, one-sided phone bills trying desperately to live my interrupted high school life through a princess telephone cord and a fading Polaroid of good times and bad hair.
Cut to the 25th reunion of a class I didn’t even graduate with and poof, the time machine went sideways. Nothing could have prepared me for the three-day onslaught of wistful, wonderful wack-jobbery and down home shit fits of belly laughs. To start with, I had a hotel room BY MYSELF for three days and nights and no responsibilities other than eating Westin pillow mints for breakfast, showering lying down, brushing my teeth with hotel shampoo and drinking booze from the bathroom water glasses that tasted like Pine Sol and twinkled with vending machine ice.
From the moment I walked into the lobby it was on like Donky Kong. My friend Francesca, the killer cruise director, had it all right and no wrong. She and her equally awesome roommate Bronwyn, best friends who took me under their hot wings and allowed me to fly wing woman in their flight path, made sure that our rooms were next to each other so not a second was wasted on room to room walking or elevator riding. They stocked their room with fancy tequila and chocolate almonds and drove the ship of fools like Captain Hook on great crack. Within minutes of arriving I was outside in a pool of chlorine and corporate urine surrounded by a group of ladies I have not spent time with since Reagan was a bumper sticker and lopsided perms were a first class ticket to heavy petting and handy J’s.
Kathy began the party by spilling white wine on the pool deck and giving out the best updates on names I hadn’t heard since Spicoli ordered the pizza and Mr. Hand gave it away. By 5 p.m. we had all received a text from Asa saying that the keg party would commence at 9 p.m. at his house. A joke it was not and by 9:02 p.m. we were driving down the main street of my youth singing “White Lines” like Grandmaster Flash’s left testicle in a vice. Fireman Dan, our designated one-way driver, took every turn like a racecar rookie and sang every note with the conviction of a Catholic choirboy. Each turn of the wheel and rev of the engine brought back a familiar place, a different bike route and a better view. By 9:45 p.m. we were playing quarters and guffawing to AC/DC while sliding down memory lane. By midnight the furniture had been rearranged and the keg was two times lighter. By 2:30 a.m. the host was hurling upstairs and by 2:31 a.m. the wife of the hurler was understandably punting the throngs of post teens out of her lovely, beer-soaked home and wondering how to get the smell of regurgitated Budweiser out of a once crisp Brooke’s Brothers button-down.
The next day consisted of greasy food, a sweaty workout and a nap that would soon fold into another round of rapture. At 5:31 p.m. Bronwyn, Francesca, Kathy, Zena, Brenda and I were in room 554 as I held tight to my 80’s iPod, leatherette leggings and fresh glass of Mexican madness. By 6:00 p.m. we were channeling the Madonna better known for rubber bracelets, not man-boy boning. And then finally at 6:45 we were walking into the reunion and into a trance I’ve waited 25 years to fall into.