Here is something I recently enjoyed—my 50-year high school reunion. Hoo boy! “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” (Erroneously attributed to Groucho Marx. But whoever said it probably had been to his 50-year.)
We had a graduating class of 1100, being of the Boomer generation in the San Fernando Valley. About 185 of us made the reunion. I had a grand time seeing old friends (some I’ve known since elementary school) and catching up. It was also a chance to see how some of our graduating class award winners made out.
Most Likely to Succeed, Paul, certainly has filled the bill. Yale Law School and a partner in one of the biggest firms in the world. He works out of their London office, specializing in international law.
Class Clown, Steve, is still a good friend and the most spontaneously funny guy I’ve ever known. Example: We had a Vice Principal at Taft named Mr. Gibb. Not much for small talk. One day he walked by Steve and me, said nothing, nodded, and moved on. Steve leaned over and said, “He’s got the gaft of Gibb.”
Steve has gone on to a successful career in TV comedy writing. Even more, in a fascinating turn of events, he became personal secretary to Groucho Marx near the end of the legendary comedian’s life. Steve put his account of those years into a memoir, Raised Eyebrows, which is about to become a major motion picture starring Geoffrey Rush as Groucho. (Your humble scribe makes a minor appearance in the book. I am a letter saver. Back then we actually wrote letters on paper and sent them through the mail. So when Steve asked me if I had any of his letters to me during the Groucho years, I was able to send him about a dozen, which helped him fill in some gaps.)
Sad, of course, to see the additions to the In Memoriam page. People I laughed with, went to Taco Pronto with, played basketball with.
All of which puts one in a reflective mood about this time we have on Earth. It’s good to think about that from time to time, even when you’re young. Maybe especially then.
In the movie City Slickers, 39-year-old Mitch Robbins (Billy Crystal) makes an appearance at his son’s school career day. Having just been demoted at his rather thankless job, Billy tells the class:
Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so fast. When you’re a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, “What happened to my twenties?”
Your forties, you grow a little pot belly you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still loud but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway.
Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two in the afternoon, lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering, “How come the kids don’t call?”, “How come the kids don’t call?” By the eighties, you’ve had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can’t stand but who you call Mama. Any questions?
Which makes me wonder, if I could go back in time, what would I tell my high school self? Three things.
First, don’t be disappointed. Lots of men lose their hair.
Second, take more risks. Not stupid ones. Not life-might-end ones. Just do more things that take you out of your comfort zone. Especially if it involves real estate.
Third, don’t give in when somebody tells you that you don’t have what it takes to do something. Even if that person has a Ph.D. If you want something bad enough, go for it and find out for yourself.
Now over to you. Have you been to any of your high school reunions? What would you tell your high school self?