Sunday, November 1, 2015
I flew up to New Jersey over the weekend for my 35th High school reunion. It was held at an expensive restaurant called La Jardin (1257 River Rd, Edgewater, N.J.) just south of the George Washington Bridge. The best thing about the restaurant was its view of upper Manhattan which sparkled at night. Something about the place made it feel like a mob run establishment. Perhaps the equestrian theme hinted at race bets that had been rigged. Classmates gathered in the bar area to welcome people as they arrived. I recognized a few faces but was lost as to who people were most of the time. I might have insulted Barbara Kim Silber when I couldn't recognize her. I tried faking recognition, but that got old fast. We each got a name tag with the yearbook photo but even that left me a bit confused. A classmate bragged about how much money he was spending since life is short. I lost interest and went to sketch.
Another unique thing about the restaurant was that it had menus that glowed when you opened them up. I'm not sure how that was done. The reunion food was fairly decent but certainly over priced and it is in no way authentic French cuisine. Dinner at this place will set you back 65 to 75 dollars. The party gradually migrated from the bar into the reception room. Mylar balloons in the school colors, orange and black were over the fireplace along with elementary and middle school class photos. I wasn't in any of the photos. Near the entrance door there were photos of the 5 classmates who had died since graduation.
I blocked in the sketch as people chatted. About six different classmates told me that they had just driven past my childhood home at 363 Knickerbocker Road. My family used to carve over 200 pumpkins which mere illuminated on the front yard. I constructed a coffin with a Dracula puppet that would rise up and a dancing skeleton for the porch. This Halloween display used to stop traffic and police often came out to keep the chaos under control. A ghost was rigged up to fly down towards passing cars. It was constructed with a volleyball and a sheet. A brick was taped inside the ball to get the ghost to fly down the line faster. When the brick broke free, we decided that a more leisurely flight would have to do.
The invitation asked that we refrain from wearing jeans and I packed some nice shoes and pants for the occasion. Jefferson Boone Williams was the most unique classmate at the reunion. He ignored any dress code, and wore a tattered old hat, jeans and had shoulder length hair. I wish I had hair that long, hell, I wish I had that much hair. Anyway Jefferson is a fossil collector and he runs a business called Super Sonic Geophysical. He is one of the geologists who investigated the 4,000-year chronology of earthquake disturbances within the uppermost 19 feet of laminated sediment of the Dead Sea to determine the exact date of Jesus' crucifixion. He discovered that Jesus, as described in the New Testament, was crucified on Friday April 3, 33 A.D. Jefferson's daughter is an artist and is dreaming of becoming an animator. Jefferson gave me a fossilized Sand Dollar. I tried to refuse it, but he insisted.
The great thing about sketching is that people approached me, so every few minutes I'd chat with classmates one on one. In a large group , I can't even hear individual conversations especially with the loud background music. Some people, I did recognize, like Cari Kelly and Susan Hemberger who lived a block away from me in Tenafly. Elizabeth Lee said the sweetest things claiming I was always good natured kid in high school. John Keohane ran a raffle for swag bags. My number didn't come up, but it would have been a pain packing that stuff for the flight back.
Just like a wedding reception, the dance floor heated up after everyone had eaten. Susan Hemberger was on fire on the dance floor. Organizer Debbie Thompson had her niece taking pictures. I can't wait to see the group photo so I can figure out who I had met that night. Don Holmes who had been my friend from middle school through high school sat next to me. He had also been my best man at my wedding at the National Arts Club in NYC twenty four years ago. Once when he visited me in Orlando he showed me a photo of a woman he was dating. The photo was of him and my nephew's wife. He claimed that she met him at clandestine locations. My wife got quite upset and called family to find out what was happening. After Don left to go back to New Jersey, he called me on April 1st. The photo had been an elaborate April fools joke executed a week early. After that, I didn't talk to Don again. He was at the reunion however and as I left he asked for forgiveness. He didn't recall what he had done but he knew he must be to blame. I said I'd "friend' him on Facebook, but I haven't done that yet. I'm not sure if I should. Is a reunion a place where retribution and forgiveness are mandatory, or is it a brief look back at a time I coasted through under the radar.