Monday, March 28, 2005

Going Home Again

--John McEnroe

I just got an invitation to my 20-year high school reunion. How is that even possible? Just put me in a box and bury me already.

I've always managed to trick myself into thinking 1985 wasn't really that long ago. High school memories are still fresh, if a little exaggerrated. I never worried about the passing years, the gray hairs. I didn't bat an eye when I turned 30.

But 20 bleeping years? Ugh.

I never play the "I'm so old" card. I just don't feel it. Lord knows I don't act it. All a state of mind. Part of it is the fact that I, like many of my generation, purposely prolonged our adolescence. Or at least resisted getting tied down with family and responsibilities as early in life as our parents did. Consequently, my carefree days of "youth" really WEREN'T that long ago. But I feel old.

Regardless, I pulled on my adult diapers, put my teeth in and went to the site for the reunion information. Of all the respondants--forty or so--I have a strong desire to see exactly one of them. And curiosity to see a couple others. The list does not include the half-dozen friends I still have from high school, none of which is interested in attending.

Schotty, in particular, has an interesting take on his lack of excitement. He wants high school to stay high school. When he thinks of people from those days--women, mostly--he wants to think of them the way they were, young and fresh and full of promise. Not the way they might be now, bitter, fat and balding. I can see the lure of that view.

But back to the one person on that list who I'd give up both eye teeth to hang out with again. Nade, we called him, and he is/was a folk hero. Goofy as hell, in looks and deed. A constant source of entertainment. A guy for whom we mounted a grass roots campaign to get him elected Homecoming King, a title for which he could not have been more ill-suited. We got him into the Court, anyway. He was equally unbelievable as a wrestler. One look at him--his muscle definition could be benignly judged as blob-like--and you'd have no idea. But he was quick as a mongoose, had incredible balance. And strode to the mat during every home meet to the strains of Metallica's "Seek & Destroy."

He made the state meet our senior year and my crew of four road-tripped to see him wrestle, drinking Bud every mile of the way. We loved that guy, man. And when he saw us show up, unannounced, he was genuinely moved. A cool moment.

Foremost in my memory today, however, is that Nade used to host the card games. Yes, the seeds of my poker odyssey were sown way back when. You read all these stories today about how poker's popularity is ruining the youth of today. Well, guess what? It was ruining the youth of yesterday, too. During the last couple years of high school, we'd play at least once a week. Usually more often than that. Almost always at Nade's house, which, owing to his 15 or 20 siblings (I lost count) had more comings and goings than a train station. We played a lot of Pee Wee, three-card low ball with two draws. Nickels on the first two betting rounds, dimes thereafter. Marsh showing down his Ace-Duece-Trey with his patented "You wheel you deal!"

One time, I was in such a hurry to get to the game that I dinged both our family vehicles, one into the other, while backing out of the driveway. After my stern parental talking-to, I still wrangled my way out of the house and into the game.

I remember my first bad beat, the brutal change of fortune on 7th street, Jackafee's flush trumping my trip aces, a hand I KNEW I was gonna win all along. I remember a weekend in San Luis Obispo, a few of us visiting college friends there, where I bested Swaff--the one among us universally considered a shark--to the tune of $25 on Friday night. And gave it all back to him on Saturday.

I used to lose a lot, in fact. I was there for fun, for the rush, perhaps even for the illicit qualities of the activity. Surely a nice Southern Baptist boy can earn some street cred in the poker game. Yes, I sing in the church choir, but LOOK! I'm also gambling.

Old, my ass. Fine, I'm 37. If that's old, so be it. But I'm sitting here with a grin on my face, easily recalling these moments, swimming in them.

I'd love to go to my reunion, get drunk, sit across the table from Nade, Swaff, Marsh and play a little nickel-dime Pee Wee.

Or, if they're amenable, some no limit. I've been practicing.


At 12:33 AM, Blogger Bill Rini said...

I feel your pain. My 20 year is this year as well.

At 5:37 PM, Blogger chxiao said...

nice site!
My home on the internet bingo


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