Going Back to Cali

Senior picture, 1992.

One of the most notable things about 2012 is that it marks the 20th anniversary of 1992. I was reminded of this startling fact a few months ago, when I was summoned to attend a reunion for people who went to my high school and graduated from it on the same day as me. This occurred 20 years ago, according to math.

Well do I remember that day! It was a sweaty California afternoon in June when more than 400 Elsinore High School seniors marched onto the football field in their rented gowns of academia and waited sweatily in line for a school administrator to hurriedly mispronounce their names into a screeching P.A. system so they could collect a document that was not actually their diploma but a voucher to redeem their diploma in the gym later on. How eager, how fresh-faced, how big-haired we were as we looked toward a future that, unbeknownst to us, would contain such unfathomable treasures as the Internet, Sisqo, George Clooney as Batman, and pogs!

That day is now 20 years behind me. Twenty years! That’s more than 19 years! If I had given birth to a baby on the day I graduated from high school, not only would I not have been the only one in my class to do so, but that baby would now be in college, probably still coasting on the fame of being the first baby born to a male virgin.

Having missed the 10-year reunion due to reasons, I was eager to attend this one and see some of my classmates before everybody starts dying off. Apart from mortality issues, this could be the last reunion we have. The primary appeal of a high school reunion used to be that it let you see how old and fat your friends had gotten, but now we have Facebook for that. Then again, Facebook is useless for getting drunk with dimly remembered acquaintances while dancing to Boyz II Men songs.

this guy
This guy.

Reunions in movies and sitcoms are usually held in the school’s gymnasium, but ours wasn’t, possibly because some of those who planned to attend aren’t allowed within a thousand feet of a school. Instead, our venue was 30 miles away, in the banquet room of an Indian casino. (What people have always said about the Elsinore Tigers is that we are classy.) I had hoped the reunion committee would select a theme that would make us nostalgic for 1992 — “Ross Perotmania!”; “Remembering the Rodney King Riots”; “Schwinging with ‘Wayne’s World'” — but they went with the more subtle theme of “This Is What the Banquet Room at the Indian Casino Looked Like When We Got Here.”

But I kid the reunion committee, who did a lot of work while I did nothing (which does make me nostalgic for high school). Everyone had a great time. I suspect that at a 10-year reunion, when the alumni are in their late 20s, a lot of people are still trying to look cool for their classmates, hoping to impress everyone with the awesome jobs they landed after college. Ten years out of high school, you still feel young. Twenty years out, nobody cares. You’re almost 40, for heaven’s sake. Everybody has changed careers or gotten divorced or been an alcoholic or killed a guy. Many of us at my reunion were gearing up for our midlife crises, which I think will be a lot of fun.

The evening’s “high” point, if you’ll pardon the pun — which I’m sure you will because you don’t know it’s a pun yet, because I haven’t gotten to the part of the sentence that makes it a pun — was when someone offered me drugs! (There it was.) I was loitering with my buddy Nick just outside the banquet hall when a fellow alum emerged from the men’s room and made a beeline for us, all smiles and backslaps. To protect his identity, we’ll call him Susan. Susan and I didn’t travel in the same circles in high school, but we were friendly to one another when our paths crossed. He looked quite different now from the way he looked back then, most noticeably because he was now very, very drunk — sweaty drunk, the kind of drunk where beads of liquor were dripping from his pores, and he could probably lick them up and get drunk all over again. He was gregarious and energetic. Susan was having a GREAT time at the reunion.

Nick and I had been chatting with him for only a moment when suddenly Susan said, “Do you want some oxy? I just took some in the bathroom!” This seemed like an odd thing to say, especially as a non sequitur.

“Oxy?” I said. “Like oxycodone or oxycontin or whatever? Pain pills?”

Susan replied in the affirmative and again asked if we would like some. Even though he had just taken some in the men’s room, he was willing to go back for seconds if we were joining him. Susan knows how to party (i.e., drink and take drugs). He assured us that the pills had been prescribed to him legally, and the way he said it gave the impression that he believed this was the only possible concern we might have. To bolster his argument, he fished the pills out of his pants pocket and showed them to us. They were in a plastic baggie, no doubt the prescription baggie he got at the pharmacy.

I’ll admit that I was slightly tempted to take him up on it. In four years of high school, not one person ever offered me drugs. I would have said no if they had, but still: it would have been nice to be asked. I was flattered that Susan — who’d been relatively popular back then, a football player and everything — was now making up for the oversight by including me. Maybe after the game I could ride to In-n-Out with him and his friends!

But I’d never taken oxycodone before, and while I could see the appeal in trying it just once for curiosity’s sake, it seemed unwise for my first time to be with a drunk, stoned ex-athlete at an Indian casino 30 miles from the town I grew up in. You really want a more controlled, familiar environment for that sort of thing. And I thought it would be poor etiquette to say, “Could I have a pill to take home with me for later? I want to try your drugs; I just don’t want to try them with you.”

So Nick and I politely declined, and Susan went on his merry way. Later in the evening he sidled up to me again to ask if I had changed my mind. I guess I really seem like the kind of person who would be fun to have drugs with! I’ll remember that for the 30-year reunion, if there is one, and if peer pressure is still a thing by then.


This edition of Snide Remarks is sponsored on behalf of Modest Needs, a non-profit charity aimed at helping “the ‘working poor’ — the hard-working but low-income individuals and families that conventional philanthropy has otherwise forgotten.” Donations made through Oct. 10 will be matched by Groupon (but feel free to contribute after that too).