I Hated High School, So Why Do I Keep Returning To It?

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

I can’t believe that the little extra money I’ve received the last few months is going to the indulgence of returning to America only five weeks after I’d been there last. Even more incredible is that the main impetus for my quick return, aside from seeing those I care most about, is my 45 year Redlands High School (@ 70 miles east of LA) class reunion, but partially because it’s happening on my birthday!

This will mark the third one I’ve been to, and the first one in 20 years. It’s shocking to me that I’ve attended that many (or any at all), for I had a mere handful of friends at the time I graduated, a nice mixture of hippies and nerds with whom I shared the still-newfound love of getting stoned on a near-daily basis. I wasn’t a jock, I wasn’t in student government, I didn’t give a shit about being popular on campus, and that attitude helped me come to a sort-of epiphany when driving to school one day, that high school primarily prepares you to be normal.

That realization came one morning at about 7:30, and though I was smoking a joint, I was still pissed off that it was 7-fucking-30 and I was expected to function with all systems go. “I hate being up this early every morning,” I said to the radio, as it blared out The Ohio Express’s “Yummy Yummy Yummy.” An angel appeared on my left shoulder saying, “Ah, dear Brian, but you’ll have to do this in your adult life, too!” Just then another less refined angel appeared on my right shoulder saying, “Screw that, let’s get a gig where we don’t have to.” Thus the decision was made that morning that I was gonna be in show business, though it wasn’t the first time I’d entertained that notion. I didn’t actually see or hear the “angels,” (I wasn’t THAT stoned) but the story makes for a nice visual.

The show biz career DID happen, with many peaks and valleys, and in 1988, I chose to attend my 20-year high school reunion. I also offered to perform, for at that time, my solo career was still new, and enough of the reunion committee had seen me on TV to agree that it might be fun, even though none of them actually knew me. It WAS fun, and there was a nice contingent of my nerd friends, so we converged at one table. I went up at the end of the festivities, and since I really only knew a few of the crowd, I was able to treat it like any other group of strangers I usually performed for, even though there were familiar faces. I was in my element, and the response was great.

So great that when I was invited to perform again at the 25-year reunion, I was more than willing. They were offering to pay me this time, and considering that I, along with so many of my colleagues, had been audited that same year (Rumored to be George Bush Sr.’s parting shot upon leaving office, where he approved hiring 100’s of people to do tax audits in California, and to concentrate on entertainers, as the liberal show biz community was very instrumental in his losing the re-election. I have no proof of that, but I believe it, as I was socked for $4500 in fines and back taxes, while several other cohorts of mine were at the same time hit well into 5-figure penalties.), I accepted the offer.

About a month before the reunion, I had a dream that I was performing there, and no one cared. That’s almost EXACTLY what eventually happened! I sensed discomfort from the moment I got there. Some of the problems were my own doing, as I had booked another show that same night at the Ice House in Pasadena, about 40 miles away. This meant I had to go up early, while people were still finishing dinner, never fun for me. None of my close friends from the last reunion were there, and the one friend I was having a nice chat with abruptly dismissed himself with “Well, I have to go over there now,” leaving me hanging by myself until I was introduced. I went up, and dealt with general apathy and a terrible sound system for about 20 minutes, finally asking the assemblage, “Is there anyone here that actually KNEW me?” All of TWO people raised their hands. Some were clearly offended by my choice of language so early in the evening, to which I said “Well, it’s been great to be here for the 25-year reunion. I doubt that I’ll be asked to do the 30th.” I was paid right after I stepped off, and almost felt guilty about it.

I don’t anticipate that problem this time around, because through Facebook, a lot of my fellow alumni have gotten to know me better, and some friendships have ensued, mostly with people I never talked to 45 years ago. I’m also doing it for free, albeit with a few “sing-for-your-supper” type of fringe benefits.

Initially, I thought reunions were for the same group of people to get together every few years and compare notes, reveling in their various degrees of success, and I still think that to some degree. I always wanted to know who really screwed up, but unfortunately, those stories aren’t going to surface. “Yeah, I’m homeless, but I couldn’t miss coming here to tell all my better-off friends about it!” No one who had a sex change or has been in prison is likely to show. I shouldn’t be interested otherwise, but for some odd reason, I am!

I think that having performed for so many years to audiences comprised of “normal” folk has calmed my skepticism a little. I haven’t dismissed the anti-mainstream stance I was formulating in high school. There’s just a danger in being “too hip for the room,” so I shall cool it on political statements or any other judgements because a lot of the people I’ll be performing for may well read this post. I always remember Martin Mull’s quote, “Show biz is like high school with money.” With that quote in mind, I’m reminded that comedy clubs (usually defunct ones) have been known to have reunions, too. I played one three years ago!

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