Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What was your best day at Woodson?

I'm getting tired of reading my own words, so I want to try something different.

I'm not going to post anything else until Saturday or Sunday, because I want to see if I can get those of you who are faithfully visiting this site to speak up. When you comment, you can establish an identity, or if that's a pain, blog as anonymous and just include your name in the post.

What I want to know -- and I'm not going to start you off with my own -- is what was your best day at Woodson. Most of us were there from September 1963 to June 1967. You can pick any day except one. It can't be graduation. I don't want to hear that your best day was your last one.

Let's have a conversation.

I'll add my own later.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Because somebody had to do it

Once a math nerd, always a math nerd.

I don't know if any of you went through the back of the memory book from our recent reunion to figure out where members of the Class of '67 are living.

But I did.

There were 498 addresses listed for members of our class, and amazingly, only one of them was outside the United States. Lauren Koskella, come on down! Or come on up from your home in Mexico.

As might be expected, there are more Cavaliers living in Virginia than anywhere else -- 247 of us, just below 50 percent. It didn't surprise me that 39 live in Florida and 23 live in Maryland, the next two largest contingents.

Actually, the first states that made me wonder were the four in Indiana and Idaho. I've been to both of those places. Three in Kansas was boosted by the Abrahamsons in Lawrence, but someone else also chose the state that stretches almost forever from east to west if you're driving from St. Louis to Denver.

Not that I want to put down anybody's home state. I myself live in the state that was compared to a bar of granola (get rid of the flakes and all you have are fruits and nuts), along with 17 other classmates.

Surprisingly, there are six states where none of us live -- Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota. Of course there are 300 of us unaccounted for; maybe they're all hanging out in Biloxi or Fargo.

If I've learned one thing in 40 years, it's that this is a hell of a big country.

Still working through the pictures

Still a few more of Gail's pictures to go, this one of folks hanging around the bar.

I recognize Susan Spell Abrahamson from the dress.

I figure I'll get through these in the next couple of days. If any of you want to send me more, I'll be happy to post them.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Please sign our guestbook

Look on the right side of the page. We now have a guestbook. Please sign in the next time you visit.

I knew you, but I can't remember how

One of the interesting things I noticed at our reunion recently was that I remembered quite a few people from their names and their yearbook pictures, but I didn't remember in what context I had known them.

I have only kept in touch with two people from our class in the 40 years since we left Woodson, and one of them didn't graduate with us. Gary Oleson was one of my best friends, and Tracy Antley was with us for three years before her military dad was transferred.

Some of you I knew because you were, well, famous at Woodson. I actually saw one person who I had seen in the news. No, not O.J. You probably remember that our own Lee Millette was the judge in the Washington sniper case.

Then there's movie star Mike Willis, airline captain Mike Morton, and I think someone who was the emporer of Togo. Or maybe he owned a Togo's franchise. I can't remember.

But it was exceedingly odd to see Helen Roberts, who I couldn't have recognized in a year, and to know from the picture on her name tag that I had known her.

Editor's note: In the Biblical sense?

Not me. I didn't even know what the Biblical sense was at that age.

Some of us were obviously scarred by high school. Nothing made me sadder about the reunion than reading Jeff Newman's entry in the memory book, unless it was all the people I would loved to have seen entries from who just weren't there.

I knew Gail, Carol, Jennifer and a number of you in high school, but for the life of me I can't remember how or why. As for the lovely Dale and a few others, they were way out of my league in 1967.

It's funny. Forty years ago, we all probably had a lot to offer to each other that we never gave. I've seen posts here from folks who are amazed to learn that people they thought had it together in high school were just as scared and insecure as they were.

I was stunned to read Stacy Delano's post about her lousy time at the prom. I thought I was the only one who went with someone I had absolutely no chemistry with, but I suppose there were more than just the two of us.

Actually, it doesn't matter how we did or didn't know each other then. It's now and moving forward from now that matters, and that's one of the reasons I started this site.

I'm looking forward to getting to know all of you.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Friendship is what matters most of all

Note to readers: I wrote this as a newspaper column in 2001. I think it still resonates; I hope you get something from it.

It has been a long, long time since he’s seen his friends, the friends he grew up with.

Whenever he thinks of them, he remembers a line from the playwright Tennessee Williams, who said it first and best in “The Glass Menagerie:”

“Time is the farthest distance between two places.”

He left home to find a new home nearly 20 years ago, walking away from the people and places of his youth to try and find something for himself as an adult. Twenty years later, living on the other side of the country, he knows what he has found and knows what he has lost.

It has been more than 30 years since he and his friends grew up together in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. They shared their dreams. They talked as children do of wanting to change the world, to make a difference, to be great men. Now middle aged, most of them would be happy just to be, well, happy.

The four friends grew up within 10 miles of each other, two the sons of military men and two the sons of federal employees. Government is big business in Washington, and before the dot-com boom, the odds were pretty good the best jobs in town would be government jobs.

Only one of the four lives there now, and he traveled far from home several times only to return. He’s worked in south Florida and west Texas, but now he’s home again as producer and sidekick of a new radio talk show. He used to dream of being Larry King, and now he’s happy just to be part of the game.

The other three live a long way from where they were young. One went to Oklahoma and then to Colorado; he’s a golf reporter for the leading newspaper in his part of the country. Another went west to go to film school in Southern California, and is still hanging onto the dream of someday selling that big script and buying a house in Malibu.

The third was a wanderer, traveling from state to state working in the newspaper business before finally finding a home outside Los Angeles. He lived in seven states in 10 years before settling down, and the wanderlust still tugs at him every so often. He figures it’s in his blood.

Only for a very few of us do things work out exactly the way you dream them when you’re 17. Most of us drift along, changing our plans when need be, trying to do the right thing and usually settling just for not doing anything wrong.

It’s funny. When you’re a kid, you dream of people shouting your name from the rooftops, but by the time you reach middle age, you find you’re happy just being able to sleep peacefully at night.

The first of the four friends already has turned 50. A second will follow this fall and the other two will reach that milestone within the next two years or so. For many men, that’s the age at which they start seriously considering their mortality. It has been said that the first time a man thinks of his own death is when his father dies, and for the Virginian and the Coloradoan, that day already has come.

But dreams die long before people do.

The Virginian was married for more than 15 years. He and his wife tried to have children and couldn’t. Eventually they drifted apart and were divorced. She moved back home and he’s alone.

In Colorado, the sportswriter is still single. The women come and go in his life, but he’s still looking for the sort of relationship his parents had. “Leave it to Beaver” stuff. A real happy home. He knows time is running out, but he doesn’t want to give up.

In California, the would-be movie mogul keeps waiting for that big breakthrough. There’s big money to be made in Hollywood, but except for a year as a staff writer on a soap opera and a few scripts for nighttime dramas, he hasn’t seen it. He’s living la vida pobra in the land of la vida loca, raising a family with good values on a budget that doesn’t often balance.

The wanderer looks at life from the other side of 50, wondering about the years that are passed and worrying about the ones to come. His days as the young hotshot are long gone, and he finds himself remembering things he never thought he would.

“Don’t trust anyone over 30.”

“Hope I die before I get old.”

Sometimes he smiles at the thought of it all. Were we ever really that young? Were we so arrogant that we never considered the possibility of gray hair, sagging bellies and slowing reactions?

Of course we were. If there’s one thing it’s impossible to consider when you’re young, it’s how it will feel to be middle-aged or old.

He remembers once asking his mother when you start to feel different, when you start to feel deep inside that you have changed.

“You never do.”

His perspective is still somewhat limited, but he understands her now. There are times he feels a thousand years old, but other times when he still feels 17.

Sometimes he thinks of reunions, but he knows it wouldn’t be the same. Something about being able to get back to the place, but not the time. He thinks it was Paul Simon or Harry Chapin who said it, but he’s not quite sure.

He sees his friends one at a time once in a while, but he knows the four of them will never be together in the way they were 30 years ago.

Life is a series of arrivals and departures. We lose people along the way, and if we’re lucky we find others. But true friendship, like rock and roll, never really dies.

And say what you will, but there is nothing in the world more important than friendship – not fame, not wealth, not even happiness.

If you’re lucky, you have friends who love you.

If you’re unlucky, you rarely see them. Instead, life becomes a constant struggle to bridge time, the farthest distance between two places.

Photos, photos, photos

I've been dreading posting this one, but since Gail went to the trouble to take it, I figured I'd better.

Yes, this is me, someone who probably could have eaten the high-school me.

Boy, did I get old.

How about yet another photo?

Somehow I can just picture these three young ladies standing in front of a locker in 1967, talking about the upcoming prom or graduation.

I'm really disappointed in retrospect that I didn't bring my own camera to shoot some pictures; then again, I didn't even think to bring pictures of my two amazing kids to show around.

Since I've got the controls of Webflight 67, you will get to see those pictures eventually.

More still to come.

Sure are a lot of Gail's photos

A few classmates and at least one guy who was way too young to have been part of our class.

It's funny about the spouses who were present. My good friend Gary Oleson didn't bring his wife, who is significantly younger than he is.

I was disappointed that I didn't get to meet her, but I certainly can understand her thinking.

"I don't want to hang around with all those old people. ... Oh, honey, I didn't mean you."

It's strange. There are still times that deep inside, I have all the feelings and insecurities of a 17-year-old. I remember asking my mother when that changes. She told me it never does.

I hope she's wrong. There's a good chance I'm going to be a grandfather next year, and the last thing this world needs is a 17-year-old grandfather.

Still more Gail pictures coming.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Number four in the MacLeod portfolio

Well, we finally made it to the reunion.

I think there were three yearbooks in play at one table or another, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one who lost mine decades ago and was eager to see it.

Hey, what about all those little cutouts of our senior pictures on the tables?

I never found mine.

Hope some of you had better luck.

It's wonderful to get to live your dream

Mike Willis told me he wasn't our Class Clown, even though I had thought he was.

That's all right, though. I'm sure there are plenty of you who got to live your dream, but most of us probably weren't as visible as he has been. Even though I'm going to have to watch them again to see him, Mike has been in all sorts of movies and television shows I've seen and enjoyed.

Jeez, he was even in Cecil B. Demented, that great John Waters movie in which Melanie Griffith got to go even more over the top than she usually does.

"I am ready for my closeup, Mr. Demented."

I certainly hope those of you who still live in the Washington, D.C., area have made it downtown to see at least one of his performances with the Woolly Mammoth theatre company. I haven't, but I've got an excuse. I live in California.

Plenty of people don't like being in front of an audience, but I think it's one of the biggest rushes there is. I only did a little acting myself -- at the community theatre and college level -- but I've been on television a couple of times and I know how Mike must feel.

If you didn't know it before, check him out in movies like "Tin Men," "Pushing Tin, "Men in Black" and others.

Mike Willis was a great guy in high school and I couldn't be happier that he's getting to live his dream as a working actor.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Three down, a bunch to go

Here's another one of Gail's great pictures. Pretty soon we'll be through with the football game and on to the reunion.

One thing I've come to realize is how much it was my loss not to have made the effort to become friends with you folks in high school.

Of course, most of us are different now than we were then.

Nicer, I think.

Let's start talking about you

Enough about me.

Over the next few months, on this blog and on the other two that I hope you'll visit, I will be trying to maintain your interest. That certainly doesn't mean writing about myself and my family all the time.

I want to know about YOU.

Let's start with something interesting, something more than just where we live, what we do and what has happened to us.

What's the most wonderful place you ever visited?

The picture tells you mine.

Now let's hear from y'all.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Jon, Sully will remain forever young

There's only one place in the world that brings tears to my eyes just by being there.

The Wall.

For most of us in the Class of '67, there was nothing that shaped our lives as much as the Vietnam War.

Two of us died there.

I never knew Mike Sullivan, but I knew Jon Rumble to say hello to. We both lived in Mosby Woods, and we ran into each other from time to time.

A couple of years ago, when I was writing on an earlier blog, I did a Google search to see what I could learn about Jon's death. I saw a tribute site in which a friend of his from the war had posted something; his e-mail address was included and I wrote to him.

Don Dark told me that by the end of 1968, he and Jon had both realized the futility of the war, and all they were concerned with was protecting each other's back. Don still regrets that on a day he was called away to do something else, his best friend died.

Forty years later, he still remembers and he still grieves.

Most of the rest of us in the Class of '67 grew up and grew older. We lived through Watergate and disco, Reagan and the Challenger, Clinton, Bush and 911. We lost our hair and got fat, our kids grew up and had kids of their own.

Not Jon Rumble and Mike Sullivan. Their hopes and dreams died with them.

The rest of us will age and go on Social Security. We'll one day look back at long lives with either satisfaction or regret, but they won't.

Jon and Sully will remain forever young.

Another one of Gail's great pictures

Damn, I wish I had gone to that football game.

I see Bill, Darla, Carol and a bunch of other people I either don't know or can't make out. They seem to be having a lot more fun Friday night than I had reading "Who Stole the Funny?"

By the way, it's a pretty good book. Who would have thought Robby Benson could write?

Thanks, Gail.

More to come.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The first in a series of images

These photos, presented for your edification, are courtesy of the ever lovely Gail MacLeod. We'll put one a day in for a while.

Forgive me for the lack of captions. I didn't make it to the football game Friday night.

More tomorrow

There were funny moments, too

I wonder how many of you remember our Class Night.

I know a number of you listed Coach Paul "Red" Jenkins as one of the teachers who had a big effect on them, and he was our faculty advisor our junior year.

Now I spent 16 years as a sports reporter, the first two of them at the old Alexandria Gazette, and I remember that other coaches felt Red's flaw was that he got overly emotional during games.

Do you recall that when he came out and spoke to us on Class Night, talking about what an honor it had been to work with us, he broke down a little and started crying? And that then he asked for a moment to collect himself and he walked off stage?

With Coach Jenkins out of sight behind the curtain, someone popped a paper bag and someone in the audience -- I always thought it was Mike Willis, but maybe not -- said in a solemn voice, "Coach Jenkins has just committed suicide."

I remember most of the guys laughed their heads off and most of the girls tried to get them to hush.

It may have been the single funniest moment at Woodson in 1967.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tears and fears and feeling proud

Just a few thoughts before we fly:

Reading Rande Barker's post, and spending two weeks before the reunion trying unsuccessfully to convince another old friend to come, I find myself ineffably sad.

You see, I felt some of the same doubts. I'm 40 pounds heavier than I was in high school, and I didn't have that many good friends in our graduating class. Most of you were people I envied for what seemed to me your easy confidence in navigating those years.

I told Dale that I had never gone out with anyone in our class. Her response was perfectly true.

"You never asked."

Of course she was right. I looked at my yearbook pictures for the first time in 36 years and realized I was a nicer looking kid than I had ever imagined.

Heck, I thought I was a troll.

Rande, I was in the band, so I saw the majorettes all the time. You were so incredibly beautiful back then, and it would have been wonderful to see you no matter what. I'm sorry you couldn't make it.

Ditto to so many of the rest of you.

Did we all get nicer over 40 years or did we just come to the realization that nobody gets out of here alive and we might as well love each other?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Cavalier spirit never dies

Hey, y'all.

Yeah, you. Some of you I saw last night -- and was very happy to see -- and some of you didn't make it to the Hyatt Regency, to Arlington or even to the East Coast. Some of you are no longer with us, but let's be reasonable. You're not the ones I'm trying to reach.

This is a blog, not a seance.

Inspired by the lovely and vivacious Dale Morgan and the efforts she has put into all our reunions, I've decided to make the Class of '67 the gift of a Website. My motive isn't entirely unselfish; I'm hoping that some of you will discover and become frequent visitors to my other two blogs.

As you'll see, on the verge of decrepitude and retirement (not that there's anything wrong with that), I'm trying to change the world.

What I'm doing here is putting together a place where folks can meet and comment regularly about their lives, their kids (legitimate and otherwise) and most of all their memories.

Many of you know me. Some don't. Some of you doubtless wish you didn't.

I'm 57 years old -- 58 in December -- and living in Southern California. I write for a living and I have an amazing wife and two spectacular children. Of course I'll post pictures from time to time and you'll humor me.

What I'll do once a week or more is post something to give all of you a chance to respond. Any time any of you would like to post an essay, a topic or just let off some steam, e-mail it to me and I will post it for you.

So let's get going.

Why don't we start with y'all posting your thoughts on the reunion.

Discuss among yourselves: Eggplant, egg or plant?

Editor's note: Mike, you're not half as funny as you think you are.

Sure, but they don't know that.

Editor's note: They will.