Last night I went to my 10-year high school reunion. Well, technically it was my 11-year, but because I graduated early, both classes forgot about me, and I didn’t get invited to either. Did I let that stop me from going this year anyway? Hell no.
When I was actually in high school, I was ready to go to college and never look back, hence the leaving a year early thing. I figured that the people I wanted to keep in touch with, I would. I wasn’t on Facebook until 2007, and in those 7 years, I started my life over in a different place enough times that even bill collectors lost track of me.
Once I signed up for Facebook at the massive urging of my sister, I found my best friend from college almost immediately. And I found that all of the people I was closest with but had lost track of, the art, music and drama kids, they went off and traveled and lived and joined the circus like I did. A metaphorical circus in most of our cases, except for Melissa. Seems I actually know a number of fire eaters.
All of us, we got scattered all over the world. My 10-year reunion passed by without my hearing about it, or giving its possible existence more than a passing thought. But when I heard about the reunion this year, I figured, these may not have been the people I graduated with – I didn’t get to share senior year with them – but I grew up with them, I was with them for the big stuff, not just the home stretch.
I wasn’t sure what a gathering like this would do to me. I tend to be a socially awkward person who isn’t good around crowds, was never what you would call popular in school, just quit smoking two weeks ago and hadn’t been drinking since then, but I would need booze to talk to people. So yeah, nerves. But you know what? I had a wonderful fiancée to bring with me, I’ve been places and done stuff, I look the best I have in my entire adult life, so screw it, I was just going for it.
And guess what? I had fun! I haven’t unlocked that outgoing side of myself in quite some time, but I was able to find that perfect number of drinks that made me awesome and pretty and funny and made everyone like me. That number was 3, because about halfway through number 4, I stopped drinking, and then Tyler had to physically get me home, inside the house and ready for bed, because I was a giggly mess of a rag doll.
So yesterday afternoon I was checking the ol’ Facebook newsfeed more frequently than normal, seeing what some of the old classmates I no longer keep in close touch with are up to, and today’s picture caught my eye.
I remember in junior high I got paired up with a boy for a project. A cute one that I had had a bit of a crush on. Being kind of geeky and hopelessly shy, when my mom was driving me over to his house to work on this thing, I had the kind of butterflies that I usually only get when I am going to sing in front of people. Sweaty palms, feeling like I’m going to pass out, that kind of thing.
I have no memory of the house, the project, or what happened next. Probably because my nerves got to a critical mass tipping point that completely shut down my brain, but I can logically assume I made a fool out of myself in some way, shape or form. After that day, I likely got distracted by something shiny and went on with my life.
Many years later, I friended said boy on Facebook, no big deal. More recently, I started noticing him posting some really spectacular photos. Then there was this one yesterday afternoon. This was taken on Chicago’s South Shore, and even though I was born and raised here, I had no idea this city could look that gorgeous.
You see those rocks? Those are what really got me about this photo.
Along the shores of Lake Michigan, there are places where the land meets the water with these huge planes of rock. I know them well. I’ve always thought that when I die, I might like to have my ashes scattered there – it’s a place that feels almost sacred to me. I feel like I became an adult on those very same rocks in Milwaukee when I was in college. In fact, I wrote a book about it. Well, not just about that, and I never finished it, only got 150 pages in, but the rocks were the seed that grew into the story.
Here are a few snippets.
* * * * *
This city, I’ve lived here for two years now. As a citizen with no car, I walk almost everywhere I need to go, taking the bus if the weather’s bad, or if my destination is too far.
These street are our playground, Lina, Nate and I. Sometimes Buddha too. He’s not much for walking.
When I was a kid, my playground was the woods back behind the old haunted house where my friends and I would try to find bats hanging in the low branches.
My playground was the bridge over Salt Creek, where we would look for bodies under the sucking mud, minnows swimming around our ankles.
My playground was the reservoir, with hill upon hill stretching into the sky, waiting to be rolled down.
Not much has changed. I just have different playgrounds.
The rocks are where our little group always come with a guitar, harmonica and pair of bongo drums, making music on our own little rock islands under the stars.
They’re the place we met an aging hippie named Mitch, who taught us the fine art of glass blowing.
The river, over off Broadway next to the bridge is where Lina and I go when our life drawing class gets an outside-the-classroom assignment – we sit on the remains of what used to be trees in the long grass, smoking ourselves stupid while technically in class.
Brady Street Liquors, waiting outside, twitching with nervous energy, scanning the block for cops, asking anyone who looked of low moral fiber if they would buy a bottle for us.
All of us, we’re still children. We aren’t yet old enough to drink, and we don’t have any money, so we still entertain ourselves the old-fashioned way.
Our playground may have grown up, but we haven’t.
* * *
‘The Rocks’, as they are called, are just that. Big rocks that mark the line between earth and water – you can fit a good two or three people on each, but we each would choose our own perch.
Most nights there are a few groups scattered along the waterline, usually too far apart to sense or hear the presence of the others – all colonies unto themselves.
* * *
She stands up, and gazes at the horizon for a moment. The moon is so bright it paints a silver chasm in the water, a path leading right to our feet.
The water bounces around the base of the rocks, trickling and flowing and dripping like notes of music in the air, perhaps disturbed by a boat far out on the lake, or some giant creature deep beneath the surface, still unknown to the people of the upper Midwest.
* * *
And that’s about all I’m putting out there for this now, because most of this story is built for more the Chuck Palahniuk sensibility than the Martha Stewart, and we don’t know each other that well yet.
But back to today’s amazing picture. Although I don’t know Jamie (the photographer and boy of momentary middle school crush) super well, he’s still one of the most badass people I know. You can usually find him jumping out of flying devices and shredding down mountains amongst other various badassery. I usually picture him jumping out of a helicopter onto the side of a mountain with a snowboard on his feet, snapping pictures all the way down to be greeted by a hot blonde with a bottle of bourbon.
Today’s Daily Inspiration picture has inspired me to finally sell my Canon Elan IIE and upgrade to a digital SLR so I can get really down and dirty with photography again. I went to the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design – yes, that’s where this story was set – to major in photography, but switched majors the second year because I couldn’t afford the supplies.
I haven’t done any real photography in years, but now that the blog is up and running, I really need a good digital camera, because my camera phone just doesn’t cut it, and I am quite over the expense of film and developing.
It also has me jonesing to do more writing. Obviously that need started about a month ago (to the day, actually!), leading me to start this here blog. But that only fulfills the non-fiction needs, I need to flex the fictional creative muscles as well, being my older, wiser, better writer of a self for this draft.
See, this is why I started the Daily Inspiration post. One image, the right image, stirs something in you. Memories, ideas, to-do’s…it keeps the fires burning. For example, this post was meant to be a couple of paragraphs, but look what happens when you just go with it.
And now I feel like I’ve accomplished something.
P.S. I need some good camera recommendations. Help a sister out!