Sunday, July 26, 2009

Crescenta Valley High Class of 1989 reunion

Our class gift, a sign at what was once CV High's main entrance.

Some people think of high school as either the worst times of their lives or the best (in my opinion, if it’s either – assuming one’s out of high school – that’s pretty sad). To others the time seems to slip by quickly, with barely a notice. To me, high school was probably the most formative era of my life. It’s where I discovered my interests in publishing, law enforcement and civic affairs. It’s where I developed my personality, my humor, my knowledge base.

Right: Me at my high school graduation, June 21, 1989.

Last night was my 20-year high school reunion. The Crescenta Valley High School class of 1989 was gathered back together at the 94th Aero Squadron restaurant in Van Nuys.

What’s scary to me is not that this was our 20-year reunion, but rather that it’s been 10 years since our 10-year reunion. I had thought the first ten years went fast, but the next ten went even faster. Time seems to pass at an exponential rate.

My 10-year reunion was one when I felt much like I did after graduation itself – a time full of hope and potential. I had recently graduated from college, was freshly engaged and had a good entry-level job in the career of my choice. The future was wide open. Ten years later, I’m, after some employment setbacks, in an even worse career situation than in 1999 and will soon start grad school -- the third time I’ll be starting my education again after thinking it was finished. The time has flown by and I again feel as if I need to start my life (at least I’ve still got the great wife).

I’d been hesitant about going to the reunion, honestly. My wife Claire was unable to attend, so I’d need to go “stag.” The one fellow member of the CVHS class of 1989 with whom I maintain regular contact chose not to attend (most of my high school friends were in different class years). Therefore I would be going on my own – a daunting proposal, as I am not one of the more social people you would meet. But I also knew, high school being among the most-important times of my life, that I would regret not going, even if only to turn a page on a long-over part of my life.

The trepidation had built to a crescendo the past couple weeks, and I didn’t really know why. Were the opinions of these people – most of whom I had not seen in two decades – still important to me? I decided to find out.

It turns out that about a third of our class, which was about 350 strong, made it, along with various significant others and a couple fresh babies (and about five more in various bellies). I ended up being able to recognize about half the attendees without nametags, which I thought an accomplishment because my mental images of these late 30s-something people were stuck on their 16-year-old forms.

Our class president, Michelle S. (for their privacy, I’m not using my classmates’ full names except for those with a high public profile) was among the first I saw and not only did she look great, but the whole setup reminded me why I voted for her in the first place. A table of memorabilia lined the wall – old photos, programs from football games to awards ceremonies, cheerleader sweaters, etc. The well-anointed buffet table beckoned with a generous spread and the al fresco dining overlooking the busy general aviation runway of Van Nuys airport was inviting. She even got the weather to cooperate.

Because I came alone, I could fill any empty seat and was able to sit with a bunch of folks with whom I didn’t generally hang out with at CV. It actually worked out well.

For the second straight reunion, I ended up sitting at the same table as Cristy Thom, who later gained fame as Miss February 1991 and later showing off her considerable talents as an artist. I had a minor crush on her in junior high (she had the 80s Madonna thing going on before I had even heard of Madonna), but we got along like oil and water – even getting into a minor scuffle in the seventh grade. But the last couple times I’ve seen her she’s been as sweet as can be. I guess we’ve both grown up.

John Baker and Cristy Thom
Me and Cristy Thom

Besides Cristy, I was at a table with Tom T., Marc L., Tim P., Sadie L., and Victor R. (who probably was one of the first friends I made in the first grade at Fremont Elementary, although I doubt I exchanged more that a couple words with him since 1979). People seemed genuinely interested in my roundabout life story and I found theirs’ interesting as well.

Sadie L. and I had our longest, most-substantive conversation since the seventh grade. After the mandatory “you look good” comments were exchanged, we mutually came to the conclusion that only the “beautiful” people came to 20th reunions (very few folks were without hair or unusually overweight were in attendance). I think we liked the idea, as it appealed to both our egos.

I had the longest, more interesting conversations of the night with Allen A. and his wife Angela. Allen was a recent immigrant when the alphabetical closeness of his name put him directly in front of my in history class. It was a genuine pleasure seeing how he’s developed. Angela also recently finished an MPA program at CSUN, so she was able to give me some tips and allay some of my concerns about my upcoming program.

It was a pleasure seeing everybody, especially the following folks for the following reasons: Fred K. and Steve H., who are both actively working for Uncle Sam; Kim F., one of the first people I met at Fremont and saw all the way through; Kevin G., whom Rob and I got into a knockdown, drag-out fight on a summer night in the middle of Foothill Boulevard but harbors no ill will; Kurt R., whom I met on my first day at Rosemont Junior High and whose humor remains intact; and Bob J., one of my oldest elementary school friends, who continues to work in the railroad business. (If I saw you and didn’t name you, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy to see you.)

A lot of people didn’t go and their absence was disappointing. But I really did appreciate the chance to catch up with those who did attend and I extend my greatest respect and admiration to all my classmates, whether or not they made it to the reunion.

As I noted, I had some anxiety going in. But those worries subsided rather quickly once I got there and I quite literally felt a bit sad when I had to leave (had the big drive back to San Diego ahead, so I lit out about 11:30 p.m.). I am very glad I went and had a good time. Whether high school was the best of times or not, it was probably the most influential part of my life and it felt right to acknowledge it. Our senior prom theme was Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time.” While we can never get that moment back, it’s nice to be reminded it was there.

Edit (July 29, 2009): Can't believe I forgot to mention how proud I was of my classmates that the dance floor remained empty until "White Lines (Don't Do It)" by Grandmaster + Melle Mel was spun. My old school mates went "old school!"

Kurt R., Bob J. and myself.

No comments: