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twenty years out
the dreaded reunion column
by joe procopio (@jproco)
pop culture

Let the record show that I did not want to attend my high school reunion.

Exhibit A: The last time one of these rolled around, I wrote a column for a national magazine highlighting the terrible time I had. It was one of my best columns ever.

Exhibit B: 3 kids, 6 days, 1200 miles. Several "standing" diaper changes, which any father will tell you are dicey at best and any mother will ask "you did what now?"

Exhibit C: My car, my beautiful, faithful car, my mobile fortress of solitude, had just blown its engine and she needed me by her side.

Then I realized I could come up with a lot more exhibits (my foot hurts) and sucked it up and called Greg.

Greg Knicley. Best friend. Best man. Class president. The Turk to my JD. If I have to be JD. I'd like to think of myself as a Turk. Or maybe a Cox, but that's reaching.

"I don't want to go. It's going to be a pain in the ass."
"Me either. Let's not go."
"It'd be cool to see a couple people though."
"We'll regret it if we don't."
"Screw it. Let's go."

Cazenovia is a beautiful, historic, beyond-quaint little town nestled in the mire of upstate New York. To live there, you either have to have a bunch of money - I mean a bunch - or like my family did, you work there and get by. In my day, you had your "preppies" and you had your "townies." I like to think I was among the few who walked that line between Us and Them.

Or maybe I'm talking out of my ass. Maybe everyone hated me and they were all polite enough to not show it. I'm obtuse like that and it makes me a more courageous writer... probably.

So the trip was an excuse to see Greg, a couple other people I wish I had seen more over the years, some family who still live up there and, I don't know, maybe see if the mall and the school and the smattering of party spots brought back any memories worth reliving.

That intent stayed true right up until T-minus-1, when we decided we'd hit the opening cocktail hour Friday night on our way to a casino some thirty minutes out of town. Maybe grab Jim and Brook and Mark and see if they'd tag along.

It'd be fun just to buy a round without having to resort to the least fakest ID.

And then, as funny things usually do in stories like these, a funny thing happened.

We arrived at the cocktail hour and made approximately 10 feet of headway in an hour and a half.

The moment we walked in, we bumped into people, and whereas the last reunion was all "I've done this" and "I've got that," this one was more along the lines of "How are you?" and "How's life been treating you?" and, oddly enough, "You got taller."


And from my own perspective, I found myself unexpectedly not bracing myself for rambling stories about houses and golf handicaps and promotions and memberships to various country clubs. I realized I was actively listening to the people who were telling me their stories.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm a dick (even though I kind of am), it's just that... Look, if you walk into an Oprah fan club meeting you're going to hear a lot about Oprah, and if you're not that into Oprah you had better drink a lot, because no manner of tangent wrangling and conversational dropkicking is going to veer the talk too far from the gravity that Oprah will generate (there are five-hundred jokes there, so I'll just let you run with your own). And I don't hate Oprah (a little), I just know what I'm getting into and I brace myself. With Jack Daniels.

Speaking of. In the entire time Greg and I stood in that area, we never held an empty glass. In fact, I had a hard time buying a round all weekend. How cool is that?

I found myself really starting to like my classmates again - and not like like but like - to a point at which I was actually looking forward to the remaining events.

Now these events I don't plan on boring you with. The only thing worse than an Oprah convention is a play-by-play of someone else's reunion.

Suffice to say, I found it really easy and not at all out of line to replace the standard barrage of questioning with things like:

"Are you happy?"

"What would you have done over?"

"What would you like to do next?"

And I was getting real answers. Honest answers. The kind I won't even feign to relay because they're that personal. And it was cool because I wasn't a total stranger. In fact, I had known all of these people for years and years.

But I got to know them all over again.

Which was shockingly, inexplicably, and unpredictably fun and pleasant.

Well, most of the time. I mean, there's always going to be a handful of tools. And come on, you can't expect to go back to your high school and love everybody, right? Sometimes an ass evolves into a bigger ass.

Anyway, on that last night, Greg and I found ourselves closing down the party - not unlike we used to do. Only now it was at a bar, not a home-sans-parents, and we were doing strange things like tipping and not stealing glasses. And we realized that this wasn't a life-changer, and it wasn't traumatic, and it wasn't a lovefest. But it felt like I closed the chapter on Cazenovia, and even though it was no longer home, I knew Chapel Hill wasn't either. And I was OK with that.

"You know," he said, "I gotta tell you I was really not up for this."

"Me either."

"But I'm really glad I did it."

Me too.


Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

more about joe procopio


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james wondrack
8.1.07 @ 7:57a

Greg as your Brown Bear. That's funny.

Good stuff!

sherry bastion
8.1.07 @ 6:36p

Of all the witty and insightful columns you've written, this is my favorite. I can TOTALLY relate and, I imagine, so can others who have bravely attended their 20th reunion after surviving their 10th. I especially like the "I got to know them all over again" line.

You've got the touch. :-)


tracey kelley
8.3.07 @ 11:08a

I've not attended any of my reunions. Mainly because in my senior year at a brand new school, I didn't feel as if I "belonged" to that class.

I have a strong imprint of you and Knicley workin' the room.

nancy cronin
9.4.07 @ 9:28a

Hey Joe - this is helpful in my self-help process to possibly even THINK of attending the 25th Cazenovia HS reunion. I have adeptly managed to avoid them thus far.

Maybe it would not be so bad. I would definitely bring a "safety" person (like you did with Greg) with me, one with whom you can duck out the back door just in case it went terribly wrong.

Heh. Preppies and townies. What about the brains, the jocks and the burn-outs? You forgot them.

Oh and the musicians too ;-)

I liked intentionally messing with ALL those definitions in high school, and in college, much to the dismay of other classmates. Darn it, I should have written the storyline for High School Musical myself and retired by now.

Anyway, maybe it will be satisfying to see at the 25th to see how many others have blurred the lines between those old high school cliques.

Thanks for the encouragement. I'll continue with the Cazenovia Self-Help Program until 2009...!

brook dain
9.9.07 @ 11:10p

I had a good time too. Who was buying all those drinks?

thad southwick
11.7.07 @ 11:27a

Crap. I was just short of "Screw it. Let's go." Now I wish I went.

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