Welcome to my new blog. I’m looking forward to creating a fresh dialogue with my readers as well as others. I enjoy writing, both about my new novel, Reunion, about other interesting books (I’m an avid reader, forty books a year on average, plus good magazines), amateur radio, old Porsche automobiles (356 generation), traveling, my family, and the incredible human experience we share. If you haven’t had an opportunity to read it already, here’s the first chapter of my book:
Buddy’s phone call started it. “Jimmy!” He gushed when he talked. Lots of air. I could almost feel his breath through the phone.
“Buddy, Buddy Lewis?”
“Of course,” he said. “Come on now. You-all still in Austin?”
“We had a meeting of the reunion committee last night. It’s on for September. You and Callie just got to come back for this one. It’s going to be great. Jimmy, I can’t wait! The weather ought to be good. The trees should show some color.”
Buddy the Oldies King.
“I can’t wait for you to hear my new tapes Friday night!”
The very thought started a flood of memories: crisp clear nights, familiar faces, lilting accents that to this day mark the speaker as “from there,” winding valleys with chords of mist over the creeks in the morning, unending mountain scenery teeming with the finest hardwood stands in North America. Not all the recollections were positive. Old brick buildings in a decaying downtown, declining since the mall arrived back in the 1970’s. A Wal-Mart Supercenter at the other end of town cemented the downtown’s complete collapse a few years ago.
Buddy’s phone call started our planning. Callie, my wife, is a year younger but knows the group almost as well as I do—in some ways better. She has a good memory for names and faces, and quite a few of her friends dated guys in my class. She was a really good dancer. In fact, she won the Best Dancer award for girls when she was a senior. So any reunion was fun for both of us.
That night, we got out the annual from my senior year. Eleven black kids were pictured out of 212 photographs. Back then, the polite word among the white kids was “colored.”
There must be a Ph.D. thesis somewhere on high school reunions. Ours certainly has changed quite a bit over the years. The first one was a contest of who could show off the best business card title and wear the best suit or dress. At the end of that weekend I had a pocket full of business cards—some form of “junior manager” or “administrative” this or that—and tossed them out as we left. The atmosphere at the 10-year reunion seemed to be all about achievement . . . who could climb the ladder of success fastest. It seems silly looking back.
It was at the 15th that things got wild. A girl from Florida, whom I recalled as smart but reserved, got looped and danced the pole dance without a pole. Several attendees had a continuation after-hours party. The attention to, “look at me, I’m doing well,” was ending. People started coming alone.
At the 20th, people started coming with spouse number two, or even three. On good behavior, each introduced their guest or new spouse around. No more interesting debauchery, all well behaved. Now they were all about their kids, sometimes very young kids with family number two. Inevitably, these spouses were from somewhere else and, for the most part, came because they felt they had to.
The primary cultural bonding was always the time transport of music. Buddy’s tapes would be the constant backdrop for Friday night’s mixer with lots of, “Hello, it’s nice to see you again,” while squinting at the name badges—lots of table-hopping and talking.
“Saturday night’s the big program with the meal and the band,” I said to Callie. “They’ve booked Coverall. Buddy says they can do all the oldies.”
“Is Buddy still playing drums with them?” she asked.
“No, he stopped after his heart attack several years ago. But I’ll bet they ask him to sit in.”
The next day I called to book a room.