Last night I was invited down to Paddy's for a mini class reunion. Ok, not so much an organized class reunion but one based on the love of a local band, Pondering Judd, that is shared by several of the characters within the graduating class from SHS, 1988 (man, now I'm dating myself).
James, who was my latch-on friend from the first minute I walked into the new school in 7th grade, has been trying to get together for drinks since I showed up at his grandfather's funeral several months ago. James and I have that kind of friendship. One without time limits or without that uncomfortable nervousness that develops when there is time that has ticked by without reaching out to each other. We both know that those minutes/hours/weeks/months between connections have no reflection on how much we care about each other. But, with life the way life is, finding a time when we can both say "I'll be there" with definitive certainty can be tough to coordinate.
So, when he and I talked two weeks ago to nail down a night that we'd both be able to commit, we chose last night and found out subsequently that PJ was playing at the old Officer's Club and chose it as our meeting place. When I called him yesterday afternoon to confirm that my truck repairs had managed to leave me 20 cents to rub together and that I could definitely go, he mentioned that several of my old school friends would be there as well.
The band gave it's predictibly rocking sets outside on the deck beneath a huge canopy to prevent Martimus from passing out. Success. Goose, with his wide toothy grin, nailed down the baseline with the other three bandmates sounding meshed and melded. While intermittently singing along to "42", "Slim", "Losing", "Three Towns Down" and "Red House, Red Truck, Red Neck", we all reconnected, laughed, picked on each other and begged for Shipyard t-shirts. Being the sober one, I didn't land a t-shirt but I got something better: time with lost friends.
James and I didn't get much time to chat. I showed off pictures of Bam-Bam and told a few stories about him but both of us were also busy visiting with other members of the Judd congregation. At one point, Gags, my dearest friend my junior and senior year in high school, came over to visit from another table. He's beautifully salt-and-peppered and hasn't lost a lick of his sense of humor. He proved yet again that he's obsessed with the roundness of his own ass and his penchant for breaking out into an English accent. He's still quick-witted, easy-going and still gives long, strong, memory-filled hugs.
When the set was over, a few of us moved on to Testy's huge new house. The blue margaritas and belly laughes continued there until well after 2 am. My stomach and cheeks are killing me today from the hysterics I was in for hours on end. The conversation was an incredible mix of nostalgia, loss of family figureheads and anecdotes about our kids.
In the years since I left high school, Tall Boy and I have accumulated several incredible friendships. Couples that we spend the majority of our gatherings with: trips, birthdays, days at the lake. Their gifts of sharing life with us is something that I am continually thankful for. I know that if I ever needed anything at all, anything, that I could pick up the phone and call either the husband or wife in these couplings and they would be right by my side. There's an indescribable comfort in their spot in our lives.
But spending time with the P-Judd fan club last night was mayhem based in history. Driven on memories made, stories recalled from that time in my life that existed before Tall Boy and Bam-Bam. It's a warm and familiar place before life took over, before I was one of the wounded , before jobs and mortgages and hectic schedules. At one point in the evening, just after Testy left Gags standing in the parking lot of Paddy's and I offered to drive him back to the house, Gag's turned to me and asked how things were for Tall Boy and I and I told him that we were excellent. We haven't always been but we are again, excellent. His answer gave me confidence that I've been able to return, at least a little bit, to who I used to be.
"Good, I'm glad to hear that. Because you deserve it, Hero, you always have.".
I love you too man.
Gags: My "I Go Back" track: In the Still of the Night by Whitesnake. Small Road camp and silver pick-up. Canoing the lake. Me, you and C-brother. "Play the na na na na song". Takes me right back.