Sunday, June 13, 2004


It is a coming together, literally speaking, a recreation of previous union, and for these twelve hundred, it is a kind of homecoming. Though they are of different classes – the fours and the nines, this year, as NMH reunions serve the somethingfifth and somethingtenth graduation years – they all have some great association of this place, a year of their life at least, and as much as four for some, spent on its tradition-steeped brick and landscaped lawns. This was the “grand year” of ’54, and they got all the attention, but this was also the first year that students I had taught and known and lived with came back, and it was damn good to see them.

I work reunion because it’s fun to talk to people who care so much about this place, by which I mean the alums, of course, but also the more-recently graduated kids who come to work minimum-wage jobs driving the older generations around on golf carts, and the suit-and-tie folks at Alumni Development who hire us all. Also because it’s freelance work: they pay me 18 an hour to sit in an auditorium Saturday morning, riding herd on the wireless mic while the Head of School appeals to head, heart, hand, and wallet. But mostly because it’s fun to be part of it all.

Last year when we lived in the dorm members of the class of ‘48 would kidnap me every time I left my apartment to check on them, plying me with mostlygin and hardlytonics and then, once I was loosened up, grilling me about changes afoot and “what the school is now,” by which they surely meant does the place still instill moral values, hold students to high standards, teach students to live and learn and like it?

The year before, some kids who had been kicked out of the class of ’87 and never graduated held an anti-reunion clam-and-lobster bake just down the block, at the house of a coworker and friend whose son was one of the ungraduates, and we were invited; after we got blitzed on the lawn, a bunch of them crashed the official party back in a dorm on campus, stealing car keys and starting fistfights, and the cops had to be called.

Friday I spend all morning attending upon the technological whims and demands of workshop leaders in “Alumni College,” an often frantic circus of sparse audiences listening to self-selected alumni speechifiers and lecturers talk about themselves, their work, and their passions: Reiki, Rockclimbing, Astronomy, Architecture. I was, happily, able to spare fifteen minutes of a beer tasting hosted by my favorite microbrew, Dogfish Head Brewery, which was still local-only when we discovered it down in off-season Rehoboth, Delaware a few years ago. New favorite beer of all time: Dogfish Head’s Au Currant, sadly a seasonal just past its season.

Last night I crashed the five-year’s party…beer on the grass and the best five hours I’ve had in a very, very long time. Some highlights, w/ names confirmed by the ‘99 Yearbook early this morning, despite head-throbbing hangover.

Mark – filmmaker working for the production company that makes Angels in America, kept introducing me to people as “the guy who first showed me the breadth of possibility in moviemaking.” I remember Mark as a film noir kind of guy with a creative edge and a goofball demeanor, the kid who spliced a 45 second girl-on-girl Penthouse video shower scene into his Music Video assignment (Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher), a surprise compounded by the fact that my teaching was being observed by a dean that day. He remembers me as a mentor and spark, an iconoclast who challenged his assumptions about life, the universe, and everything. Funny how that all works out.

Sam, the muscular California surfer whose mother insisted on sleeping in his room the night before graduation, turned out to be a pilot, and looks like a movie star version of…a hotshot pilot, almost a Val Kilmer cool but with an even more defined jaw and tan. If I was gay, I’d be in love – this kid is HOT, a chiseled ken doll. We found ourselves similar-minded; must have talked for an hour about everything from independent learning models and zen lifestar navigation to drinking games and teengirl fashion.

Spent some time, too, jawing under the trees outside with Chip, a kid who’s been back more recently, as his brother only graduated a year or two ago. Tall and awkward, never fully recovered from a mugging on a school term abroad, almost kicked out of school in the middle of winter break for lying his way back into the closed dormitory, where he was later found making fake IDs with his computer, a color printer, and a laminator. Poor Chip: his mother’s class of ’64, and he’s class of 99…so he’s doomed to forever be at reunion with his parents. Luckily, it didn’t keep him from the beer. Or from the non-alum friend of cute, blond, tanned, and now Hollywood/ San Fran Blair, who incidentally I think may have been following me around.

And Biff, Joshua, and Justin, three of our five student leaders in my dorm that year. Back then, they couldn’t have been more different, and each has matured into some slightly more responsible version of what he was in the first place: Joshua, once the quiet supportive one, now consults for the health care industry; Justin seems to be floating but has been back to teach; Biff, the uberjock who kicked in a trash can…looks like an ex-football player; I didn’t catch what he’s doing these days, but I bet it’s going to be car sales or real estate. As with all of their class last evening, we spent most of our time together recounting the worst of their adolescent stupidity, and the far-stupider escapades of their stupid adolescent friends and classmates sadly not attending. Turns out they and the others under their care were crazier than I would ever have thought, smoking pot on piled snowbanks outside their dorm windows throughout the winter, slamming their drinks down fast and hard so as to minimize the chances of getting caught mid-sip, deserting friends under the influence of their first mushroom trip. Glad they made it through.

Others, too, of course: Damen, David, Laura, Michael, Blair and her friend; Geeks, Jocks, fly girls, cuties; a dozen half-known and twice as many just faces from a long-ago crowd. Five years out, and though young men and women, adults all, fresh out of college and on their way to conquer the world – though friends, where once they were charges – somehow nonetheless unchanged.

It was one of the great parties of my life. When I left, they were still going strong, playing “cups” on the ping-pong table.

And now, it’s summer.

posted by boyhowdy | 10:37 PM |

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