Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Grosse Pointe Bill

I guess I have trouble taking the whole reunion thing seriously. A few years ago, when Council Rock High School began collecting alumni information on the class of '88, I listed my career as "CIA Dentist." It's still in the book. While that might have pleased me -- and it did -- it also virtually guaranteed that I remained hidden from anyone who might have been trying to locate me using that method.

It wasn't a dismissal of those people, mind you, so much as it was a rejection of the whole idea of memorializing a time period in my life that I'd pretty much like to flush down the memory hole forever.

Let me explain. Since I was 17, I've kept a fairly regular diary. I am fascinated by dreams, and tend to record them when I have time. After I graduated from college in 1995, I recorded more than 300 versions of the same dream. The details are slightly different each time, but the plot is basically the same: I am my current age, and though I've graduated from college, some academic police force has discovered that I didn't properly graduate from high school, and I have to go back (at my current age) to complete either German or trigonometry.

I'll leave thorough analysis of that dream cycle to the team of psychoanalysts who treat me on a regular basis, but suffice to say it's a dream about anxiety, and anxiety and high school were the yin and yang of my teenage existence.

Not all of it was bad, of course. I didn't mean to lose touch with everyone. But prior to the advent of facebook, that's exactly what happened. As of 2007, I had fallen out of contact with everyone I knew in high school, baby and bathwater.

That brings me to the present. The Friday after Thanksgiving was the eminently miss-able 20-year reunion of the 1988 senior class of Council Rock High School in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Apparently, some kind of fight broke out, but this is what happens when your graduating class (908 people) is larger than some towns in Iowa. Saturday was the much more important reunion of the Bill Behun Comedy Team, a group of my friends that formed senior year to perform comedy and skewer the pretensions of one Bill Behun. Even by the usual standards of teenage pretension, Bill Behun was a colossus: He wore suit jackets and jeans, sported John Lennon-glasses and had his hair in a ponytail, and despite a clear lack of evidence that he was born in England, would regularly utter British-isms like "'lo love" and pronounce "schedule" like shed-yool. Nonetheless, Bill was something exotic in our suburban world, and he had a knack for wooing the kind of brainy girls I swooned over in high school. I can't speak for the rest of the group, but even while throwing darts at him, there was a part of me that envied his ability to carve out such a rich identity (even if some of it was made up) in that unforgiving environment. It was probably more than a bit cruel, but when we performed, we adopted his uniform, and while it was not our chief reason for being, Bill provided an umbrella for our self-referential and absurdist brand of comedy.

I admit to feeling some harbingers of anxiety Saturday night as I approached the home of Brian Klaus, the leader of our group and the one responsible for getting the reunion together. I feared there was one of three ways this was gonna go down:

a)An orgy of lame nostalgia-tripping "Remember when we went to Olga's Kitchen, and everyone ordered stuff that began with Olga's name, like Olga Burger, Olga fries, Olga Cola and, for dessert, Olgurt? Yeah, that was pretty funny, wasn't it? Good times."

b)Awkward attempts to bridge lost time "So, you're an actor, huh? That must be fun. Here are pictures of my cherubic children."

c)A dysfunctional meltdown. The group included three former couples who used to date, a bunch of strong-willed guys who experienced creative tension even over the question of which fast-food joint to eat at, and Bill, always something of a wild card.

Like everyone else, I am happy to report that none of that happened. I had a big goofy grin on my face the entire time, and it came from actively enjoying these people in the present, not from rehashing the past. Although that was fun, too. We watched the film we made during the cusp between high school and college, titled
"The Last Temptation of Bill." The movie is really quite horrible, but fun to revisit in a "Rocky Horror" kind of way (I am looking at the camera in every single fracking scene I'm in! I have to believe my acting has improved since then.) In addition to five of the six members of the BBC (sans the elusive Gary Schwartz, Orlando's "champion of the underdog."), real Bill and movie Bill (the wonderful Jeff Cothren), there were several people who played roles in the movie and a couple of newcomers.

I had forgotten how funny we all were -- funny in very different ways -- and how enjoyable it was to riff of each other. It was interesting to see all the ways we've changed and haven't. But mostly it was just fun. Despite it all, I'm still a pretty shy guy. At most parties, I'm eyeballing the door after the first hour. This one, I didn't want to end.

Hopefully, we can make this happen again before we're 58, although the 40th reunion of the BBC in the year 2028 sounds kind of funny too.

This post is brought to you in amazing triple-blog format. See Brian's posts here and here, and Jeff's here.