September 26, 2011

Coming Back

I don't sense a clock ticking away my time. In a couple of years I guess I will hit a milestone, age-wise, but the idea of 60 never bothered me any more than 50 or 40 or 30 did. I'm way too philosophical or usually drunk to let that get to me. What are you going to do about it anyway? Nothing. The best thing to do is get there with your personality and self-respect still in one piece. The numbers just don't scare me. It's funny because in my twenties I thought they would, but it turns out they don't. So there's that.

I do look at the fact that I've wasted a lot of time doing nothing and haven't accomplished nearly anything I've set out to do beyond being proud of my daughters and convincing my wife to hang around long after she realized how boring I actually am; but once you have grand kids some things don't seem as important as they may have at one time. Suffice to say I am who I am and I'm comfortable in my own skin, as pock-marked and saggy and gray as it is.

Anyway the 40th Reunion is over and I will have a lot of time back for myself.

But it was the Friday thing - the private party outside the general reunion, that may have been my own personal "best thing ever".

I put together a party for Bob Cetera, a teacher we had back in our school days who ran our theater department. I tracked him down, heard him gasp when I called him up more than eight months ago to run the idea by him and set up a date for the event. Then I went to work finding his people - his kids, the students from that era - with enough time to get them all together so we could give him a little fuzzy.

Because mostly of Facebook the core group of people who were involved in that old group were easy enough. The harder ones are not on that social media or went so far afield that there were times all I wound up with was yet another dead end.

Well think, RW! Hey it turns out I know a small group of anonymous hackers who can find anybody if they really wanted to. Gee I don't really know who that might be (hums, taps fingers, rolls eyes at the ceiling). Anyway I contacted some folks and at first they gave me the dreaded "NYPA answer" (Not Your Private Army), but a couple of them remembered stuff I did with and for them in the past and said they'd take a couple minutes in the chase but that was it. AND THEN It turned out I didn't need to call in that chit at all, because on the exact same day they said they found her, the one person I was looking for fell into my lap one week before the event just through the contacts I'd developed doing the normal shtick. That's pretty much my life in a nutshell though.

So the effort to find that "one person who was going to be the cherry on the pie" ended up being overkill, but it is kind of cool to think that a couple people I've never met tried to helped me out. But you know - hell - I figured if they can pop Wikileaks into the public they can find anything or anybody. Turned out it didn't have to be that dramatic. It also turned out the one "big get" of the party only lives a couple of suburbs over. Basically down the road for God's sake.

Talk about feeling like a dummy.

Anyway I'm talking about one particular woman who left a huge impression on everybody before she transferred to another school back in those days. We'll just call her K___ T___. Probably of all the people he had as students she was the one that left the largest impression if only because of what she always brought to the game. That's not discounting anyone else at the shindig - he was overjoyed at every name I mentioned when I told him who was coming. Didn't have to jog his memory at all for anyone. Knew them all as mentioned at the snap of the fingers with the same affection as any other.

I had him come over an hour before the other guests arrived. I wanted him to settle in but I also wanted to monopolize him until I had to go be the host. As we sat there talking and I reviewed who was coming, within twenty minutes he mentioned K___T___'s name just in a general sense of reminiscing. And here's where I want to show you how that happened so you can kind of get why the whole thing was making me so giddy...

I told him I had a surprise for him but didn't give any more information than that. As we talked he or I would mention a name of someone from that program and I'd say "oh yeah I forgot to tell you, he's going to be here tonight." And his eyes would pop. Then he would try to remember an incident or another and I would say "oh yeah, that's so-and-so." And he would say "that's right!" And I'd tell him, "oh yeah, she's going to be here tonight as well." And his jaw would drop. But when her name - this "big get" I was keeping hidden - came up I clammed up. Didn't say a word. I may have even put my hand over my mouth and made like I was rubbing my nose or something just to keep from blurting it out.

So the guests started arriving and it was a wonderful night for him, I'm pretty sure. After all these years - I don't think any of us had any contact with him since we graduated, or at least it was very limited - as each person would come in a new round of hugs and handshakes began.

And when she walked in, I was standing next to him and I said "Bob you remember we were talking about K____ T____ before?" And he said "Sure." And I pointed with my chin and said "she just walked in."


Came off perfect.

That was a good moment, but it's not to say that every last person who showed up didn't mean just as much to him as anybody else. Of course that's why we like him.

Okay so it was only high school. Compared to the big wide world not really anything special beyond the memories and involvement of those people from those days. Meaning not much more to anybody but us, as kids. Few of us tried to be serious about the performing arts after it was over. One of us, Rocco Sisto has been in Carlito's Way and Donnie Brasco, Matlock, The Sopranos and much much more (but truth to tell he was only on the periphery of the group in school and didn't get serious about it until much later) and no I couldn't get him. Another of our group has a son who stars in a theater company off-off Broadway. But, really, none of the rest of us has done much in the way of that line of work. I did try to get into it before I got married but, you know, it's very telling - you could be really really good in high school but when you get to the real world... well... the real world smacks you right in the head. Suffice it to say Malkovich wasn't impressed and we'll leave it at that m'kay?

The thing of it is this party we had Friday was probably one of the top three or four things that ever happened, in amongst all the other stuff I ever worked on. I enjoyed the planning and the organizing a lot. All during the prep I wondered if he ever thought we forgot about him. He's had some heart problems and some surgery and all. I've been out of high school forty years. You know what I mean. I never saw such a together crowd of people - few of whom stayed in close contact with one another either, by the way. Not a wallflower in the bunch, of course, being AHCtors and artISTES.

I've been assured by everyone who was there - and I mean every last person - that it was a top moment for them as well. So there it is. One more "cast and crew" party. I think we did some good.

Of course my "big get" probably thinks I'm a stalker now or something. I probably sent one email too many. Probably fawned and gloated over the accomplishment too much (like, dude, she's right down the freakin road, what's the big deal already for God's sake?). But you know what, those who don't take chances wish they'd have tried when it's too late, with nothing to show for it but a great big regret. So what the hell. I'm glad we didn't let this opportunity pass.

And, in all honesty, the general class reunion I helped organize that came off the following (Saturday) night was fun, and I managed to not make too much of an ass of myself or say too much stupid shit... mostly. But it was kind of pale and anti-climatic for me personally, considering the night before.

I wasn't the only one who didn't want Friday to end. At least that's what people kept telling me.


Clicking the pictures will make them huge!

Left- The cast and crew with the honored guest at far left.
Center- For regular readers here the guy on the left of this picture (Hal) is the actual creator of "Farco Barnes." There's Joanne and my wife on the right.
Right- Anna (in the yellow) is the one who's son is off-off Broadway. Then Donna, Mike and Dennis.

Left- Am I gloating too much with my "big surprise" on my right arm? Yeah probably. Cathy and Jim on my left. But I also think I take the worst pictures in the world so move along... nothing for you here.
Center- You know the man in the dark jacket as "sligo". We just call him Mike.
Right- The Boss (on the right) beside his wife who is holding Kathy, all standing next to Cindy on the far left who - as it turned out - was the only person I really needed to find the one person I felt like I worked hardest to get. Thanks Cindy.


sybil law said...

The night before the reunions is typically better, I think, than the reunion itself. Still - yours was even better because of all your effort and ideas! Well done!!
You all look fabulous, btw. Really!

Gino said...

i see old people.

B.E. Earl said...

Kathleen Turner was at your reunion!

(I'm just gonna assume that's who K_____ T______ was)

Glad everything went according to your mad plan. Kudos.

Brian said...

Congrats on getting that done! Glad it was such a resounding success.

sligo said...

powerful, people, it was powerful...

Kel said...

Really cool to see this side of you Dad :) love it.

Rick Behnke said...

I came across someone with a similar name, so just for fun I googled "Robert Cetera Teacher" and up came your blog with your post about the man who (I assume) was my old theater tech director back at Glenbard East 1966-67.

Sorta looks like him, anyway. Of course I only sorta look like myself from those days. I was glad to see him lloking so good.

RW said...

Same guy. He took over the department after being tech at East.