Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The more things change … or what does this song mean?

This past weekend, I attended my 15th high school class reunion.
As in, 5 more years and it will be 20.

As in, we actually sat and made plans for 20, because (like most adults) we recognize that 5 years really is not that long of a time and in fact seems to be a shorter and shorter time as we all become increasingly busy, busy, busy.

I didn’t attend my 10th reunion, so I actually hadn’t seen many of my former classmates since Graduation Day 1993. Okay, maybe there have been a few rogue sightings here and there, but for the most part – my adult life has been fairly high school friend free. This wasn’t by design or anything. I liked my peers. But my life sort of went a different route when I headed out for Nebraska the August after graduation, and I haven’t had the time to really “look back” since.

We had a very small class, attending Lutheran High in its heyday like we did. 17 classmates get to know one another extremely well over a four year time period. By the time we left the hallowed halls of LHS we knew precisely what made each other tick, and what made each other explode, laugh, cry and, you name it.

The entire experience was thought-provoking. What I have mulled over most is, why do people attend reunions?

Well. I can tell you what was not motivating me ...

I didn’t attend my reunion out of some odd sense of curiosity, although I admit that I was somewhat curious to see where life had taken my old chums. And I didn’t attend with some bizarre and juvenile agenda to prove my worth (isn’t it in Romey and Michelle’s High School Reunion where Mira Sorvino’s character claims to have invented the PostIt?), although I was bestowed with the 1992 Homecoming Superlative for “Most Likely to Succeed”, which is an awfully intimidating title to carry with you into your reunion.

I went … well, why DID I go? I hardly go out at all anymore, so to take the time to get all gussied up, arrange with Papa to Syd-wrangle and head out to Winghaven for J.Bucks on a Saturday night suggests that I was fairly motivated to attend! …

I went because I am sort of weird when it comes to “old times.” You know the tune, Auld Lang Syne … well, the words always make me sort of weepy. That idea of remembering people who meant a great deal to us “way back when” … Of keeping a sense of one's past and the relationships of that past as a vibrant and important treasure in one's future ... or how is it that Harry talks about the song in the movie, When Harry Met Sally, “What does this song mean? My whole life, I don't know what this song means. I mean, 'Should old acquaintance be forgot'? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?”

Yes. Something like that.

Actually Baz Luhrmann says it really well in his well know “Sunscreen Song”:

"Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.”

I think that’s why I went to my high school class reunion. These were people who knew me before. Before what? Well. Before absolutely everything! It was the “me in the rough”, the awkward me, the uncertain me, the me who kinda-sorta-maybe-thought she had the world by the tail, but was scared to death to shake it and find out she wasn’t really all that much to yell about.

For some people, returning to those who knew you before you “were” is probably cause for loads of insecurity because they worry that – maybe – they STILL aren’t. I’m not trying to say I am something – but I’m on the way. (And I hope, dear reader, that you are, too!) And reconnecting with people who walked along the road with me way-back-when adds depth to my still reaching roots. And I like that.

All in all, it was a fun evening. Nothing spectacular, nothing tremendously “significant”, but I won’t forget it. Looking around the table I was truly struck by how we all retain pieces of our younger selves. Yes, we all were different. Older. Grayer. Less hair. More weight. Lots of kids. Career oriented. But I also saw flashes of who we were. Certain group dynamics returned after just a short while. Mannerisms and tones of voice and senses of humor were pretty much intact. It was like this odd out of body experience – with our younger selves hanging back on the fringe of the room watching the older models enjoy a meal together.

And I think we liked what we saw.

The Class of 1993: (from left) Matt Peters, Amy Edinger, Brenda Barbieri, Christine Walsh, Matt Kramer, Erin Trinklein, Jon Frecks, Amy Linnenman, and Gretchen Staude

Monday, June 2, 2008

NPR vs. Pop Hits: Defining the Day at Drive Time

So, each morning I haul my gear to my trusty MINI Cooper: carefully organized briefcase, purse with cell phone, lunch bag (or if I am feeling particularly flush, a few bills tucked into my side pocket), tumbler with my current Starbucks fave blend (which right now is the bold flavor of Komodo Dragon), security badge … and off I head for the 35-40 minute commute into the city.

In the course of this early AM daily grind, two decisions are made to which I am paying more and more attention as these two decisions seem to predict the day that follows.

First decision: how to get to work?

Am I in the mood to get there quickly – eschewing scenery and willing, even, to spend a few additional, treasured drips of petrol for the faster route? Well then, it's 94 straight up to Interstate 70 and into the heart of the city for me.

OR do I want the moderate route, but shorter mileage? Do I feel okay with starts and stops and patient enough to wait through traffic lights? Well then, Page extension across to 1-70 and into the city via 40 – complete with the beautiful view of morning sun cresting the trees along the edge of Forest Park.

But perhaps, I am looking for the "total experience" – in which case, take the above route, but exit at Kingshighway and wind down Shaw towards my South City destination – taking in the stately townhouses lining the outer limits of the Botanical Gardens, admiring the commitment of the early morning joggers and taking stock of the neighborhood, wondering what it would be like to live “in the city” in a place like this.

Each route is different and my willingness to select it seems to say something about my frame of mind as I begin the day. It’s a simple choice – but a telling one.

Second decision: what to listen to?

Most people don't know this about me, but I actually dislike being asked about my “favorite” music – or really my favorite anything for that matter. It all depends! Most mornings, it’s NPR. I like listening to NPR. Like most Americans who enjoy the programming, I enjoy being informed, but - again like most Americans who tune in - I secretly like to feel smart. And NPR is smart radio. So on many mornings, it's Steve Inskeep for me … news with Carl Kassel … etc.

Other mornings, it’s NPR at the top of the hour for the news from Washington and then it’s a mad channel surf through pop radio – with the top 40 turned up loud and vibrant. And let me tell you, I've given some fantastic pop performances behind the wheel of that MINI!

And sometimes it’s a favorite CD, carefully and deliberately selected before I leave the house – Josh Groban or Amy Grant or Harry Connick or Preservation Hall jazz or … And there’s doubtless a method to the madness of these choices as well.

And some days. There is just. Silence.

I can’t help but notice how these two seemingly innocuous, routine decisions have a fortune cookie like prescience about how the day unfolds. I’m left wondering, could I make a different, deliberate choice to force the day? Let’s say I am feeling stodgy and direct (natural choices would be NPR and the direct route to the office), could I force upbeat and whimsical (electing for let’s say an old CD from the 1990s and the Shaw Blvd drive)?

I don’t think it would work.

Maybe it all means relatively little. But it’s been an intriguing pattern to “just notice” … and I doubt I am alone. Basic choices influencing basic attitudes. Not necessarily a “new” concept here, but fun to consider.

Hmmm. I wonder what would happen if I rode my bike and listened to folk tunes?