This Place Where I Grew Up.

Today, for no reason other than the fact it struck me as a place to go, I decided to venture back to the neighborhood where I grew up.

This wasn’t really an entirely planned thing, a symbolic journey, or anything of that nature. I just happen to walk for a few hours on Sundays, to give my knees a break from running so they’re good to go the other six days of the week. And I’d walked through so many areas around here—neighborhoods, parks, woods, the reservoir—that I decided I needed a change of scenery.

So, childhood it was. Back to the place where I grew up.

It’s weird driving somewhere you haven’t been in a very long time—almost 15 years, in this case—by memory alone. You begin by navigating the past, and you happen upon some alien landscape in the process. What used to be a thicket is now a Walgreen’s, and you’re no longer so sure where the creekbed may call home.

As I drove south on 79th Street and prepared to make my right turn onto Sunnyside Road, I wasn’t fully confident I was indeed headed in the correct direction. There were some familiar signs, but there was also life—business, traffic, asphalt—where it never used to be.

My memory proved correct, though, as I wound my back toward 75th Street (beat-up stretch it is) and toward the entrance of my old neighborhood.

I easily found my way toward the cul-de-sac where our home was, and decided to park there, as it is a fairly central location for walking the neighborhood.

20140810_151010

I don’t know exactly what I expected, and I’m not sure exactly how you go about painting the scene of what time does to this very specific, defined notion of the past. It’s not a novel idea—many of you have already experienced it—but getting out of my car, and looking around, everything just looked off.

Normally, when you see a house, and you have no attachment to that house, your reaction is: that house is blue, that house has white shutters, that house has plastic siding, a bay window, etc. When you return somewhere decades later, though, your reaction to these details is different. That house is wrong. That house should be blue. That house shouldn’t have those cracks in its siding.

You don’t account for the fact, I suppose, that time doesn’t pause when you pack up your bags and put the front door in your rear view. Different lives occupy those houses. Things change.

This house I once knew so well just looked so different. So empty. Thirsting for my dogs in the back yard and the clatter of my roller blades catching the edges of the driveway.

20140810_140805

 

20140810_140817

Of course, my old place fared better than most.

20140810_140944 20140810_141006

I spent as much time in that house as my own. And somebody went and effectively turned it into an old, splintering barn.

I sent these photos to my friend who grew up in this house. He said he wouldn’t have even recognized it had it not been for the mailbox next door.

Time, a few coats of paint and some regrettable exterior design choices. It’s funny what the years can mask.

I found the neighborhood particularly peculiar now, though, because of its stunning variance, not just street-to-street, but house-to-house. This wasn’t one of these new developments where you pick your choice from five models and kiss creativity goodbye. No, there was a great variety in home design, albeit most neglected through the years.

So, visiting now, there were both surprisingly gorgeous homes, well-rooted into mature lots…

20140810_142707 20140810_143357

And there were homes with batting cages in the backyard.

20140810_142712

Really, there was a distinct negligent vibe in general. If I’m being honest about it: a white trash affair. And I feel that’s not entirely assumptive on my part, based on one foray through my old stomping grounds, because I did happen upon a game of lawn darts, featuring in no certain order: shirtless man with Confederate flag tattoo on back, shirtless man drunkenly swaying in street and painting gromwells with his chew-spit, more OCC gear than I have ever before seen in one place clinging to those who chose to wear clothes that day, and a sixth-grader with a cigarette tucked behind his ear.

(I was too much of a wimp to take pictures of any of those things. Those of you who have encountered rednecks know the difference between fun-loving and salt-of-the-earth rednecks, and these guys might actually shoot me rednecks. This contingent appeared to be the latter sort.)

But perhaps most notably—and I waver on whether this is the most or least surprising element of this trip—there was the same house with the same flood of angel-themed lawn decor, occupied by the same batshit crazy lady who appeared to be north of 90 all those years ago.

20140810_144153 20140810_144154 20140810_144216 20140810_144821 20140810_144831

(She was working in her lawn, and at whatever improbable age she occupies, she still scares me just as much as she did when I was 8, so stealth photography mode activated!)

In terms of aging, the neighborhood’s transition from its adolescence into the reality of the rest of its days, I found the mailboxes and street signs largely said it all.

20140810_145024 20140810_145046 20140810_145721

 

And, of course, nature’s reclamation—a return to some vegetative state. Undone by some curious combination of negligence and shotgun landscaping.

20140810_145806 20140810_145808 20140810_150219 20140810_150747 20140810_150801 20140810_150815

And of course, there are the ghosts. Those little memories that still haunt the sensory, visible on to you. The intangible, phantom landscaping that can never be cut down, painted over or buried in the climbing ivy.

Because when I look at this house, I don’t see the house itself.

20140810_142702

I see one of those ridiculous, bulky home movie camcorders, a tube of stage blood, a fake butcher knife and my grade school insistence on directing a new slasher movie every weekend. My greatest accomplishment, of course, was Weekend for Eight, which we only had five to cast with, and ended when one of our young stars ran into a wall, said “shit” on camera, and insisted we record over it so he wouldn’t get in trouble.

(Side note: I haven’t kept a ton of things from my childhood, but of all things I have kept, my screenplays are by far my most treasured. They are equally obviously-10-year-old-boy-minded, and stunningly predictive of so many Hollywood trends to follow…)

Similarly, when I look at this house…

20140810_150219 20140810_150246

I see a bully, some older kid who was much bigger than me and just an absolute dick. I actually ended up seeing him at a high school party, well after I moved away, where he was the awkward senior hanging out with sophomores. He spent a good half-hour bragging to all the girls about how he used to beat me up (I don’t even remember that happening, but whatever) all those years ago, and the extent of their unimpression was actually painfully tangible.

He died, I guess, a few years back. I don’t know how. I wonder if those people you eternalize as assholes ever really redeemed themselves along the way, and if it will have ever really mattered in your individual timeline if they did anyway.

In the end, I guess, there’s no way to really talk about time without sounding like some try-hard philosophy student, looking for some logic to measure the distance between moments so we can better understand being or having been.

So, I just have photos. Which, similarly, offer no professional standards or anything beyond personal significance.

Unloading some bonus photos…

20140810_145916 20140810_145930

Amazing how many sights I saw exactly like this. Some sort of nice-looking Mustang or Corvette in the driveway, and “realtor’s worst nightmare” smack dab in the middle of the front yard. In this case, a Corvette in the driveway, and some sort of makeshift sand pit, tire swing and hammock area welcoming you in to the humble abode.

20140810_150044

“We’ll drive you to drink.” — Indy Joy Rides

20140810_140956

House was falling apart, but damn if that mailbox wasn’t spiffy.

20140810_152231

My old elementary school, just a couple blocks away.

20140810_151748 20140810_151806

A lot really hadn’t changed at this elementary school through the years. Same basketball goals, as far as I can tell. Same US and Indiana maps painted in the parking lots, which were probably used for some activity I can’t quite remember.

20140810_152002

But the playground had changed (read: they must have demolished the old one to create this), and that honestly made me sad.

As a kid, you remember so many things about the playground. It was your escape from long division. It was where you cleared, like, a million feet from the swing at the top of your jump. It was where Matt lost his grip on the glider and fractured his head on the opposite platform. It was where the neighborhood teenagers would sneak over to smoke, and kids would do weird kid things like pick up all the butts from the woodchips and stack them in the playhouse underneath the slide so they could pretend to sell them later.

Now, it’s just so…reduced. Some minimalist, by-the-numbers, unimaginative steel construction clearly designed to keep all kids visible at all times.

(But then, I guess, it’s more the lack of digital transparency that should worry the adults these days…)

Overall, it’s not as if I had some epiphanous moment or gleaned some greater truth to share, so no real poetic ending to offer here. Just some picture, some moments, and the weeds climbing through the cracks in the sidewalk that tell a story between now and then.

 

My Five-Year Class Reunion: A Facebook Horror Story

Sometimes, you remember that life affords you stories that simply must be documented, lest they be lost to the same history that forgets American Idol winners.

This is such a story.

You might even argue, it’s the Kelly Clarkson of stories.

It’s a story of a culture shaped by social networks, of an increasing interactive irrelevance in the information age.  And this story has it all!  Cocaine.  Sex offenders.  Your mom jokes.  Meet-me-at-the-playground-after-school fight solicitation.  Life!  Death!  And a shame so thick, you’d be wise to procure an oxygen mask before proceeding.

This is the story of my five-year high school class reunion.

Did I adequately tease the forthcoming disaster?

The Facebook Group:

I wouldn’t say my high school grad class was particularly closeknit or anything.  It was a pretty normal grad class, from a pretty normal high school.  Honestly, I can’t even remember how many kids were in my class.  500, maybe?  More?

From my perspective, I had my group of friends, and I was cool with that.  College just served to reinforce that idea.  I didn’t really feel connected to anyone beyond who I chose to continue hanging out with.  I always figured that’s just how things were supposed to work.  Lose high school friends.  Gain college friends.  Get a job.  Something along those lines.

In any case, by the time I’d graduated college and gone on to become a balloon pilot (that’s another story entirely), the concept of my high school grad class was largely a non-thought.  It’s not that I didn’t care about it, or anything like that.  It just wasn’t anything I’d ever really think about.  I mean, I guess I was vaguely aware that somewhere down the line, you probably get a letter from some tryhard nostalgia addict who tries to rope you into spending one night sizing up your salary to half-familiar faces in a gym advertising runner-up banners you were never around to raise, but beyond that, high school was just something that ended in 2006.

And then I got the Facebook group invite.

(I should note, I no longer have a Facebook account.  So I can’t dig up a lot of the ensuing catastrophe here in screenshot form.  But I do have a string of e-mails documenting the entire timeline, from an auto-email comment feature I apparently forgot to disable.  Thankfully.  Because all of the evidence has since been deleted)

I’m not going to use real names here, in the unlikely event this would serve to personally embarrass anyone, so we’ll just say that a guy named Aaron A. Aaronson set up a Facebook group to reunite the class of 2006, attempting to establish a 5-year class reunion.

Relatedbackstory, and my thoughts on the concept of a five-year class reunion.

In theory, the idea here was to establish a common time and place where interested folks could catch up, a few years removed from college.  We’ll come back to this part of the story later.

But where things got interesting wasn’t in the spirit of the group, but rather, in the proverbial comments section.

A lot of people decided to use this group to post their status quo: what they were doing now, what their life was like, whether they were married, had kids, etc.  And that went about as expected.  A bunch of people I vaguely remembered, if I remembered them at all, wrote about what they were doing.  They few people that did remember them responded.  There wasn’t much spectacular about it, other than the fact it was accomplishing over a social network what the intended reunion was supposed to accomplish in person (summarily, why the concept of setting up a high school reunion over Facebook is an utterly dreadful idea).

One such classmate — and one I knew well, at that — didn’t really care for everyone’s banal updates.  Quote said classmate, who we’ll call Tim Pinkman:

“the only posts have been glory success stories? are we reading the same endless stream of emails? i see far more fail than anything else. two kids at 22? salon school? thank god for everything? i live in bumfuck indiana? i dont think so. at least [name redacted] is doing well, thats really the only person i wanted to know about. if he didnt make it i would have lost hope for all 900 of us. good to know sprinting through the halls all those years with his entire locker on his back actually paid off. good for you bro.”

(And another aside there…last I heard, the redacted individual there is actually doing very well, like, joke’s on you well.)

Responses were mixed at best:

“what did you do again?”

And from a certain individual we’ll call Joe Heisenberg:

“I just don’t think anyone should judge anyone, in their past, present, and future… If you don’t approve of their lifestyle then don’t respond or take a second glance. Some people would be happy to have two beautiful children, or beings hairstylist. If that is what someones dreams, hopes, aspires to be then more power to them and I’m happy. I feel we are all still very young ad being alive and a functioning part of society is a success for us all. Just saying undone think anyone should be judging or downing anyone or anything people have done. Truthfully I feel like all of our class has taken life by the balls and made the most of it. Whether that’s parents, enlisted men and women, teachers, etc. I think for being five years out of high school everyone that I’ve heard so far, has learned something very valuable since graduation. Things you couldn’t learn in a classroom, or from a teacher but life experiences. Which is the best experience of all.”

A moving counterpoint, indeed, eliciting a fair amount of support, but also prompting this response from a certain Jake Fring:

“I gotta side with Tim on this one. He was never judging anyone in what he said. A lot of these statements on this page so far haven’t been all glory and success. I feel like a lot of people are being fake and over exaggerating (imagine that). I can’t speak for Pinkman, but what I think he’s saying is that when people were in high school, their plan wasn’t to have a kid(s). Joe: it’s great that you have a kid, but did you intentionally have a kid or did you pull out a little late? No one who has a kid is going to be like, “I had a kid and it sucks and is hard.”. It’s great that people have children and I’m sure that for the most part, most of them are good parents, but I can guarantee you that when they were walking across the stage at graduation they weren’t thinking about how many kids they were going to have in 5 years. He’s not judging, he’s saying what half the people in this group are thinking, but don’t have the balls to say. I bet at least half of the statements on this page are either completely bullshit or embellished. Life isn’t perfect for me right now. I’m on house arrest until February 26, I moved back into my mom’s house a couple months ago, but I’m at IUPUI and should be done with school soon. I miss a lot of people from high school, but I think this group is kind of dumb because the only people I give a shit about that went to high school with us I’m still in contact with. Can’t wait to see all the hate mail reactions to my two cents, but I honestly don’t give a fuck because a lot of you didn’t like me in high school and probably still don’t. This wasn’t meant to piss people off, but I always was good at getting under people’s skin 😉 “

And before you could even say “well, that elevated quickly…”

“Now see that didn’t upset me jake but you don’t know one thing about me… Sorry that for you being selfish your whole life has gotten you to where you are. I on the other hand planned to have my child. Sorry that’s such a crazy thought. I have been with my fiancé going on four years now. We made a conscious decision together, not oops! Pulled out to late. I feel immature people such as yourself that are self detained, snobs should for once not look at something from how you wish your life would have been or how everyone should have lived there’s. I’m sure there are a lot of people who look at what you’ve done as a failure, and in your own heart and mind you know whether that’s true or not. Me I don’t give a fuck about you nor have I ever, nor does anyone on here that I’ve heard from. I didn’t attack Tim or you, I simply stated a fact, or my opinion of the facts that no one should judge anyone. Plain and simple, now you are on here judging what I did. Sorry jake Fring I don’t live at home, I have my own house, own cars, live on my own means … Yes a have a year old but I planned to and wouldn’t change my life for nothing, when you walked across that stage did you say man in five years I’m going to have nothing to show for and still be a pompous asswhole. No, you had hopes, dreams, ambitions, so why didn’t they happen jake? Everything that’s happened in my life so far, I’ve planned or if surprises arises I handled them accordingly with god. My life wasn’t all roses, but I’ve learned a ton about respect, patience, loyalty, love, god, what are parents meant back then and still say to us now … What being a parent is, what the real world is like. So instead of attempting to use me as an example I think you should have put your own story up there instead of dogging someone elses. My life is perfect, I have a beautiful amazing daughter that I planned, a house, cars, dogs, cats, a fiancé… Etc. Need I go on… What you doing with your life, in and out of jail and now back home with mommy… Sounds like you have a ton to be judging about. Maybe not… I mean those 40 year old dudes that still live with their parents aren’t cool. I mean seriously.”

Jake didn’t take too kindly to this response:

“Is this the same Joe Heisenberg from high school that I’m thinking of? It can’t be… That loser wouldn’t try to clown me. That’s the kid who once asked me in ASL if I wanted to go do cocaine in the bathroom with him and [redacted]. Bro, you got in trouble for doing coke when you failed a drug test and then fuckin snitched on your so called friends and denied it. Anyone who’s doing is cocaine by 16 is on the fast track for success. I don’t know which is worse, being a coke head before high school is over or becoming a registered sex offender. Does your future wife know that you’re a pedophile. That’s right folks, a few years ago this kid who’s living the “American dream” had sex with an underage girl from Noblesville. Didn’t you go to jail for a little bit because of that? That I’m unsure of, but I’m sure your kid will look up to you when he/she realizes you’re a pedophile. In and out of jail? The reason I’m on house arrest is because I got a DUI, and the only reason I am on house arrest is because it was either that or jail. The only time I’ve been in jail was when I spent the nite in the drunk tank for partying a little too hard. I doubt I’m the only one in our class who has ever been in the infamous drunk tank. And yes Joe, you’re right, I live with mommy, but how many kids live with their parents while they’re going to school? Think of how many kids we went to school with who live on a college campus in a house or apartment that their parents pay for? I’ll have my degree soon big guy. Did you go to college? Oh yeah, you went to Ball State for a semester when I was there. I remember you got kicked out of the dorms one of the first weeks of school for smoking pot in your dorm room. What a scholar. Then you rented out the bottom floor of a house that YOUR PARENTS PAID FOR. If I recall, you dropped out of school at semester though, so don’t clown me for living with my mom while I’m earning a degree. You may live in a house now and own cars (which I highly doubt), but if I dropped out after one semester of college, I would probably have enough money saved up to pay for a place. You may think you have it good now, but I’ll take the college degree any day of the week. It’s awesome if you intended to have a child, but I doubt that’s true. It’s also awesome that you’re engaged, but what happened to the girls you used to date. [Redacted] and [Redacted] were both pretty tight, and I’m sure the young innocent girl you had sex with to earn your sex offender status had potential to become attractive WHEN SHE GOT OLD ENOUGH AND BECAME LEGAL, but what happened with this one? She looks like she fell from the ugly tree and hit every single branch on the way down. Good work buddy. So you may have it better than me right now, but wait until I have a degree and a real job before you ever try and embarrass me. When your kid gets older, you can sit he or she on your lap and tell them how you were a coke head in high school, or how you snitched on your friends, but make sure you tell him or her that you’re a pedophile so they can warn their friends before they sleep over at your house.”

At this point, a certain Carl Weathers attempts to step in and play peacemaker, attempting to find the “off” switch before “on” reached full Donkey Kong level:

“Jake and Joe both….really guys…is it really necessary to sit here and bash each other..I was friends with each of you at some point and we all have our struggles…just do your thing and be happy doing it. Set goals for yourself and don’t stop till you reach them. If you have a family good for you! Love and cherish them because at the end of the day they are the only ones that really give a fuck..finishing school? Good for you jake..I am happy for every single one of you that is trying to be successful at something…if you are sitting on your ass doing nothing its not too late to change….my life has been great so far and I regret nothing….just be thankful that you have made it to the age of 22…if you all remember there are a few from our class who are not with us anymore…be thankful for what you have and fuck everybody else!”

Our pal Jake agreed, and it looked like show over at this point.  Nothing to see here, folks:

“You guys are right… Lol sometimes when provoked I take things a little too far. I got nothing but love for most of you guys. Carl: you’re right.. We should be grateful to still be alive considering that not all of our class is still with us. [redacted], [redacted], [redacted] and whoever else we’ve lost: not a day goes by that not only myself, but many others in our class think about you guys. We miss you. I’m not sure if I’m going to be at the reunion, but I hope that everyone is doing well and is as happy with their choices in life as I am.”

But Joe was having none of it.  You know that part in Donkey Kong where the little flames start coming out of the barrels and climbing up ladders to hunt you down?  Yeah.  This was the Facebook conflict escalation stage of that:

“Dude do you hear yourself what kind of person at the age of twenty two or twenty three says shit like this… For real this was in high school…. jake does that include That you were one of, if not the biggest addict I know! Even your so called friends were telling me about you and your drunk ass!!! Im sorry you couldn’t learn enough from experiences such as [redacted]. Alcohol kills bro when you get behind a wheel. If you can’t call anyone and can’t stay where your at either call a cab or stay in your car. It isn’t worth it to risk it. I may not like you but I’d never wish death or injury or worse hurting someone else on anyone. All I’m going to say is, I dont want another one of our classmates gone bc of a mistake that could have been avoided. It’s been 7 years today that [redacted] died and I don’t go through one day without thinking about that night and wishing we hadn’t done things differently. So please don’t drink and drive. With that said. Jake you are an immature prick. All that stuff you just mentioned was in high school. Last time I checked that was way more than 5 years ago. I never got in any trouble when I got caught, nor did I snitch on anyone…You are right in high school I tried and did things I’m not proud of. I was reckless irresponsible, partied way too much, tried to make sense of everything with the wrong things(drugs) and didn’t take education as seriously as I wish I would have. How many others did the same including yourself. I really don’t know what all the animosity toward me is? In my first post I didn’t mention anything about you. All I said was dont judge anyone live your life be happy. But my post must have made such an impression you had to mention my life and child. You don’t have one and when you do you’ll understand what I’m about to say… You mention my child or my fiancé again on here or ever again I will come find you and you will regret anything you ever said about me or my family. So again jake think about what you are doing. You are mentioning my daughter and my future wife. Someone i’ve known my whole life, that I love and loves me… Something you know nothing about… so go on get that degree I’m not a hater… I don’t hate I congratulate, but before someone who is on legal house arrest comes at me talking shit, when I’m in no way in any trouble with the law and haven’t been since I got off probation over two years ago for the instance you’re talking about at the BSU dorms. Go fuck yourself! And as I said previously no one on here mentioned you, gave two fucks about you or wanted to hear your opinion. Not that mine matters much but I gave a general opinion, and you brought my one year old daughter, and my fiancé some one you’ve never met. You are by far the most immature person I’ve ever met. So if you’re not conpletely full of shit… Go online and research that statement of me being a registered sex offender… Which every state has to post those… And see if I’m up there… Again jake go fuck yourself. Youll prove me right and again therefore prove that You are jealous about what i Have and you wish you had…You live at home with your mommy and daddy… Which actually surprising a lot of people are out on there own… And have kids. And there own cars, and such but yet I do and jake can’t take that bc his mommy and daddy have spoiled him and paid for everything for him, even all his mistakes. You are talking shit about my family jake… I’m going to pray for you, That you someday realize what kind of horrible person you are, and ask god for help to change you And your heart. I’ll pray everyday for him to change my heart not to have any antagonistic thoughts against you… And to forgive me.”

(Let’s take a moment to explore the dichotomy between these two statements in particular — “You mention my child or my fiancé again on here or ever again I will come find you and you will regret anything you ever said about me or my family” and “I’ll pray everyday for him to change my heart not to have any antagonistic thoughts against you”)

So where does threat level orange do from there?

Threat level red.  I mean, who wants to wait a whole week for the next Gossip Girl, anyway?

“Hahahahahaha… I’m an addict? I would love to know who told you that I was an alchy, because none of my friends associate with you. The only friend of mine who used to associate with you is [redacted] and that was when me and him used your gay ass to get smoked out in high school then clowned you behind your back and trashed your hole in the wall crib you left at BSU. Lol everyone I’ve talked to since my post has called me laughing agreeing with me, but it’s whatever. I’ve even got props on my facebook page. I don’t know why… All I did was simply state facts about some douche bag. I’m spoiled? Yes probably a little bit, as many kids in Fishers are. However, you drove around a Z3 then a Beamer and got to take that wake boarding boat out on Geist all the time. I had a badass whip too, but let’s not act like you are not spoiled. I paid for my lawyer and house arrest as well. Why would a broke college student get his own place before they graduate?? I’ll wait until I get my degree and have a badass job and then get a real house. Clown me for living with my mom all you want, does not bother me one bit. You may not be a registered sex offender, I don’t know, I’m not going to waste my time looking it up, but I do know that that shit happened… You fucked that underage girl from Nobletucky. I heard from multiple people pedophile. Am I supposed to be scared of your threat towards me? Lol come find me Joe and I’ll say everything I’ve posted on here right to your face and then beat your ass like [redacted] did. The only reason you got shitty and created this whole mess is because I called you out for your kid being an accident. It’s great you have a son and honestly, you’re probably a decent dad, but let’s be real, you busted your nut early, or the rubber snapped, or you just plain didn’t pull out in time. Lol that’s all I was saying, but come find me Joe. Until February 26 I’ll either be home or at IUPUI. I would love to end the facebook talk and look you in the eye and clown you to your face, and then beat the shit out of you in front of anyone who wants to see it go down. I invite this whole group. Why are you even in this group? You aren’t friends with anyone you were “friends” with in high school. [redacted], [redacted], [redacted]…. I’m still close with all those dudes you used to consider your boys. They don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, nor do they care. Lol just quit digging yourself a deeper hole and do us both a favor and shut the fuck up and go chill with your kid. The invitation still stands though… Come find me like you said you were going to. You know where I live. I won’t regret it either, trust me. I would love nothing more than to beat the living shit out of your puny punk ass. Day or night, please, I’m begging you, come make me regret what I said. I’m glad you’ve settled for what you have and you are happy. Most people wouldn’t be in your situation, but at least you’ve convinced yourself that your shitty little world is a good life. Later loser, don’t forget to come find me… I’ll be waiting to see if you keep your promise you one semester burnout pedophile.”

(One Semester Burnout Pedophile is a German metal band waiting to happen, by the way.)

At this point, NATO forces start to arrive:

“this crap is ridiculous – – jake and joe you both took things way too personally – -”

“boy did this shenanigan get out of hand”

“Shit just got real.”

“…this is AWESOME.”

“this facebook group is the most entertaining shit out. bravo everyone. maybe i WILL come to the 5 year reunion. keep up the awesome work”

Unfortunately for the peanut gallery, this argument was quickly deleted, and both members booted from the group.  Because you’re not allowed to come to a five-year class reunion if you come to murder, not mingle, although it could be argued being murdered at a class reunion would be preferable to being mingled at a class reunion.

But that didn’t mean the fun was over.  No.  It was just getting started!

Let’s refer back to good ol’ Tim’s note that kicked this all off:

“the only posts have been glory success stories? are we reading the same endless stream of emails? i see far more fail than anything else. two kids at 22? salon school? thank god for everything? i live in bumfuck indiana? i dont think so. at least [name redacted] is doing well, thats really the only person i wanted to know about. if he didnt make it i would have lost hope for all 900 of us. good to know sprinting through the halls all those years with his entire locker on his back actually paid off. good for you bro.”

To which an apparent hair-stylist replied:

“… I’m just stating this out there, but isn’t Tim’s mom a hair stylist?”

She may as well have walked the softball down center plate:

“I’m just gonna throw this out there, but weren’t you the ONLY ugly cheerleader?”

AND THERE IT IS, FOLKS!  High school, in 14 words.  The rare moment where one question, one Facebook post, summarizes four years of your life.  Because if we’d learned anything about ourselves in the five years since we’d last called each other classmates, it was probably that we weren’t much different now than we were then.

Jerks were jerks.  Jocks were jocks.  Nerds were nerds.  Dumb kids were still dumb.  Smart kids knew better than to comment in the first place.  And in the end, it was never more apparent that adulthood isn’t necessarily some status simply granted by the passage of time, and time has an amusing way of amplifying our high school selves, as much as we’d like to claim we’re so different now, so grown up.  It’s really just a new haircut and plus-or-minus 40 pounds that differentiates us.

A new haircut…or a rap career.

If I can step down off my soap box, though, and get back to the story, it was around this point — with the flame war on full display, and no one’s life choices safe — that the group administrator decided to start deleting posts and banning even more people from the group.

What started as an online attempt to catalyze a high school reunion ended up something like the digital equivalent of a DMX concert.

It was glorious.

Fremdschämen:

You might think that was it.  Story’s over.  On to the next social media trainwreck.

But you would be wrong.

Remember, the initial goal of this Facebook group was to set up a five-year class reunion.  Now, again, I’ve voiced my thoughts on the idea previously.  To each his own, but nobody’s really changed enough in five years to make class reunions interesting, and the very concept of Facebook makes high school reunions largely irrelevant these days anyway.

Seriously, high school reunions used to exist so people could catch up, see what their former friends were doing, how they measured to past peers.  It was basically a free self-esteem boost to know that the token class jerk was stuck in a dead-end job and twice-divorced, or something to that effect.

But in the Facebook age, we already know these things.  Again, I deleted my Facebook a while back, but had I not, I would know exactly what former classmates were up to…or I could know if I wanted to, in any case.  Catching up is a button click anymore.  Face-to-face reunions are doomed from the get-go.

They’re especially doomed when you set them up via Facebook, the very platform which compromises your plan altogether.

Now, a little background information about this whole initiative.  The guy setting it up, the one I referred to as Aaron A. Aaranson earlier?  I’d never heard of him before.  Ever.  Normally, I’m one of those guys who has a pretty good memory, can recall a lot of things about even elementary school.  But this guy?  No.  Face wasn’t familiar.  Name wasn’t familiar.  For all I knew, he was going reunion Serpico, and fitting in like an undercover Steve Buscemi.

So if I was already opposed to the idea of a five-year reunion, and I had no clue who the guy orchestrating it was, then the third element is what really nope‘d me the hell out of there.

Bowling.

Look, I don’t want to be critical of someone trying to do something for the greater good.  But bowling, guys.  Bowling!  The idea was to set the reunion up at a bowling alley, renting private lanes, having food catered, an open bar, etc.  Now, I won’t pretend to live somewhere that has the market cornered on cool, but a bowling alley?

What were the after-party plans: lazer tag & mini-golf?

As the only thing I hate more than small-talk is bowling, it was an easy ‘no’ for me.  But 200 or so brave souls did indeed RSVP to attend.  A date was set after a bit of discussion, and this improbably get-together looked like it was actually destined to happen.

Allow me some horrible narration here: once the flaming had died down in this group, and the reunion discussion had pretty much settled — this all occurred within maybe two weeks of each other — I just got bored and forgot about the whole thing.  No one was accusing anyone else of being a drug addict or sexual predator anymore, nor bashing each other’s moms, and I had no plans on attending the reunion, so there just wasn’t much to hold my attention.

I may have forgotten about this whole event completely were it not for the power of Reddit.  Sweet, sweet Reddit.

When particularly bored and around a computer, I enjoy browsing Reddit for stories.  It gives me ideas for my own works of fiction, and it allows me to vicariously experience the joy/pain/utter humiliation of others.  Because who doesn’t want to share in the universal de-pantsing of our fellow man?

One day, I came across this item on AskReddit:

For my high school’s 5 year anniversary, one enterprising student made a facebook group and went through the yearbook, adding everyone he could possibly find. About 630 of the roughly 700 students from our graduating class joined the group and started in on how everyone was doing, where everyone was living etc. For the actual IRL get-together invite, about 150 people said yes and 300 or so said maybe. The guy who organized it rented out a private room at a bowling alley, paid for a bartender and got a ridiculous amount of food and such, as well as having all 4 yearbooks and putting together a DVD of random videos from sporting events, plays, funny skits from the school news, everything. This guy went all out.

On the day of the reunion, 5. People. Came. The guy who organized it and his girlfriend (who wasn’t even in our class), myself and a friend, one random person who I recognized but never spoke to, and another guy who actually worked at the bowling alley. Quite possibly the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. The look of defeat on the guy’s face was crushing. I’ve never felt such vicarious humiliation in my life. We ended up just getting drunk and bowling a few games before the black cloud of shame left everyone silent and my friend and I left abruptly.

And to Aaron, if you read this, everyone in our class was an asshole anyway. Sorry bro.

Guys, that was my high school reunion!  Guys!  Guys, are you seeing this?  Guys!

All of the facts check out.  Names checked out.  Yup.  That was my high school reunion, which I had completely forgotten about until stumbling across that item on Reddit.

And what a fitting end to perhaps the worst-executed high school reunion in the history of high school reunions.

At the same time this is as poetically-perfect a conclusion as exists, I felt really bad for poor ol’ Aaron.  He was just trying to do a nice thing.  He wasn’t the bad guy in any of this.  I don’t know who he is, but if I ever crossed paths with him down the road, I would totally buy that guy a beer.

That said, this is why you never organize a reunion on Facebook.  And this is why the best reunions are, essentially, “hey, some of us are meeting at [place with sizeable bar] on [date] — feel free to come if you want, pay for your own drinks”.  You never make the upfront investment on your reunion without advance dollar commitment, as in, cash-in-hand certainty.  Also, your best bet is to do this somewhere where you don’t look like an ass if no one shows.

But Aaron chose a bowling alley, and hedged his bets on the better angels of a collection of folks who had largely used the invite as a platform for summoning demons.

I doubt anyone missed much.  I guess the Redditor was right: everyone was kind of an asshole anyway.

I Am The Sixth Wayans Brother

Recently, I’ve had a startling revelation.

I am the sixth Wayans brother.

Now, can I prove this?  No.  Can science disprove this?  Yes.  But I have evidence beyond science.  I have evidence that goes deeper than DNA, that speaks louder than blood relations.

I have Scream If You Had Idle Hands Last Halloween.  A screenplay I wrote at age 10.

Now, if you’re just stumbling across this blog, if you’ve never had the misfortune of calling yourself my acquaintance, you probably aren’t aware of my writing history.  While I could provide several examples, a multitude of prodigious efforts (that proved not-quite-so-prodigal post-grad), I always like to go back to my brilliant parody/comedy I wrote in fifth grade, some time between Johnny Tremain and getting suspended for getting in a recess fight with a kid named Tremaine (the most conveniently clever, true prose I’ve ever committed to a blog I’ll probably abandon.)

I’d look to, if you’ll allow me the indulgence, share some excerpts from this script that surely prove I’m the missing Wayans brother.  After dissecting this, you’ll arrive at the same conclusion I have and be convinced that I should be an executive producer on White Chicks 3.

MELANIE (O.S.): Jim, what’s taking you so long?

JIM: Just putting on some eye drops to make my eyes all better.

MELANIE (O.S.): You had weed in MY HOUSE?

JIM: No, it was just the chlorine from your pool.

MELANIE (O.S.): Jim, I don’t have a pool.

JIM: Then what’s that big lid and hole with water in your backyard?

MELANIE (O.S.): Oh, you mean the septic tank?

-ZOOM IN: Jim’s nauseated look at the arrival of this information-

Now, this works on a few levels.  Heady stuff for a fifth-grader.  You’ll notice that I combined drug and poop humor into one exchange of dialogue.  It didn’t take me six minutes of exposition and “character development” to accomplish this.

It’s also funny because Jim apparently “had weed.”  I assume the implication is that he smoked weed, but perhaps he ate it.  I can’t be sure.  Of course, it’s irrelevant, because Jim is erroneously assumed to have “had weed” in the first place.  You see, he went for a swim.  Only, OH SNAPS, he accidentally dove into the septic tank!

Quality potty humor.  Appropriately, my TV is on in the background as I write this and just had the most messed-up diaper commercial I have ever seen.  Some sort of contest where babies actively try to crap their pants so much that it creates some sort of feces-inflated diaper cocoon…to the applause of a live audience and three judges that I can only assume are ex-cartoon celebrities forced to go the FOX panel route.

I digress.  Let’s continue with the Wayansing.

MELANIE: Now, Jim, I’m gonna try to hit the hand…..

JIM: Don’t do it, Mel, please!

-SLOW MOTION: Melanie swings the bat backwards-

-The glove quickly hops off Jim’s crotch-

-The swing continues forwards and smashes into Jim’s crotch-

JIM: OOOHHHHHH! (squeaky) that…..hurt.

Now we’re on a plane of humor solely reserved for America’s Funniest Home Videos.  Crotch-smashing.  Instant, no-longer-baby-making comedy.

I probably should clarify that the glove in question is an evil glove possessed by whatever evil gloves are possessed by these days.  It’s actively trying to ruin Jim’s chances of getting with Melanie.  Of all the godless things for a glove to do…

Moving on.

-CUT TO: Weirall High-

Hey, the name of the high school is Weirall High.  Huh?  Huh?  Do you get it?  Do ya get it?  Doyagetitdoyagetitdoyagetitdoyagetit?

A reference to esteemed poet Anthony Weir, of course.

MANDY: Go away, Ricky! Honestly, you shouldn’t be talking. You’re the only high schooler who still goes to people’s houses to trade MokePon cards!

RICK: At least I don’t sleep with anything with a pulse, Mand!

MANDY: FLUFFY WAS….

Pokemon.  Bestiality.  General promiscuity.  1999 was a rough year.

GRACE: Oh look, they got potheads at this school, too. That girl is collapsed on that bench. We can really make a story outta this.

DARREN: Come on, it’s probably some street kid. This is pretty urban.

GRACE: Oh well, you’re right, forget her. We got deaths to concern us!

Tell me you don’t want to see a movie where Mickey Rourke kills off a Marlboro, brushes his greasy hair out of his eyes, rubs the bridge of his nose and stares daggers into some rookie cop’s doe eyes before boldly proclaiming: “we got deaths to concern us.”  Exclamation mark.

This excerpt is also boldly racist in that way that could only suggest that all urban/street kids are potheads.  A regrettable implication on my part.  Clearly, all urban/street kids are crackheads.  Not potheads.

Thankfully, though, brash racism doesn’t disqualify me from the Wayans bloodline.

-The conference director leaves as a Robert Downey Jr look-alike, smiling wide, stands up to the podium-

-Several photographic flashes reflect off Robert’s sweaty head-

MEDIA PERSON 5 (O.S.):  Do you even know what this is about?

ROBERT DOWNEY JR LOOK-ALIKE:  Yeah, I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life.  This is the graduation from Drug Rehab, right?

America, and in a (much) lesser sense, Britain, I would like it to be known that I was Ricky Gervais before Ricky Gervais was Ricky Gervais.  Even though Ricky Gervais was born before me.  Think about that!  And then realize that Ricky Gervais is clearly a stage name and his real name is actually Javier Cowabunga St. Croix.  And now it all makes sense until it doesn’t.

This is also evidence that I knew Robert Downey Jr. before America just thought he was that guy that came out of nowhere to be Iron Man or something.  Not only did I know him, but I burned him.  I burned him good.  I burned him so good that he re-invented himself and came back as a successful, still-supremely-talented actor while I was left in the dust as an unaccomplished post-grad who has done nothing to back up the arsenal of accolades I’ve accrued through my adventures in academia.

I win.  At alliteration.  Broken up by my tears.

R.D.JR. LOOK-ALIKE:  Shouldn’t you be in class?

STUDENT 2:  Naw, man. We hide here and smoke pot all day.

-Robert smiles-

R.D.JR. LOOK-ALIKE:  Man, your schools are SOOO much better than ours were!

STUDENT 3:  Want a joint?

R.D.JR. LOOK-ALIKE:  I brought my own.

-ZOOM IN: Robert’s left pocket as he takes out a marijuana joint-

A marijuana joint?  Reefer Madness!!!

The amount of drug humor in this script is alarming.  Incidentally, it was probably also completely informed by D.A.R.E.  Do they still do that?  D.A.R.E?  The class that says: “drugs are bad, they make you feel really good and may provide feelings of ecstasy and euphoria and transcendental enlightenment…but they’re like really really bad, so don’t take them because you don’t want those feelings on your conscience!”

-CUT TO: MRS. DIANE TABORYU’S ENGLISH CLASS-

I wonder if Diane Taboryu is friends with Chief Lee Tamaykyayawn or Creeyate N. Ennui.  You laugh at the last example, but I actually called her last week to collect on a student loan.

But the point, of course, is that I had a way with names that would put J.K. Rowling to shame.  Tom Marvolo Riddle.  I am Lord Voldemort.  Like no one saw that coming, Miss Billion Dollar Empire.

JAMIE’S FATHER:  Why, how nice.  I hope the party is fun.

JAMIE’S MOTHER:  No alcoholic beverages, right?

JAMIE:  At Mandy’s?

-CUT TO: Jamie’s thoughts-

-Several students are having a drinking contest with three connected beer kegs-

STUDENTS:  Chug! Chug! Chug! Chug!

-CUT TO: Jamie’s reality in family room-

JAMIE:  Of course not.

JAMIE’S FATHER:  And no drugs right?

JAMIE:  At Mandy’s?

-CUT TO: Jamie’s thoughts-

-Several students are having a potsmoking contest with three connected large bongs-

STUDENTS:  Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!

POT STUDENT 1:  What else can we use for a bong around here?

-CUT TO: Jamie’s reality in family room-

JAMIE:  Of course not.

JAMIE’S MOTHER:  Well, that’s good to here.  No sex, right?

JAMIE:  At Mandy’s?

-CUT TO: Jamie’s thoughts-

-Two students, male and female, and sitting in bed with each other-

-The male student starts to slip off the female student’s bra, but we don’t see anything-

-Record-scratch interrupting sound-

-CUT BACK TO: Jamie’s reality in family room-

JAMIE’S FATHER:  Dear, I think we can trust our daughter.  She’s 15, after all.

JAMIE’S MOTHER:  Oh, all right.

Chris on a God-fearing bike, what is wrong with me?  Potsmoking contests?  Interconnected bongs?  I’m starting to think I was really raised on a backwoods California collective.  It’s the only way any of these references make any sense.

I’m starting to think this humor actually tilts the tone closer to Kevin Smith than Shawn Wayans, but I quickly redeem myself:

RICK:  Ballet is an art many homies get down with too!

Preach, Brother Rick!  It takes a nation of millions to Écarté us back.

It is a surprisingly conscious message though.  We just assume that homies don’t do ballet.  But, in fact, some do.  Some plié the hell out of their Pumas.

JANITOR (O.S.):  Oh will you two just SHUT UP and start the scene where the girl is chased around the house by an alien English teacher wielding a butcher knife who somehow manages to get pinned between something and die, only inches away from killing the girl?

JAMIE:  Well, I can’t help it.  This is just in there to increase the damn running time!

MRS. TABORYU (O.S.):  Hell, we’ve got 5 minutes till I’m supposed to try to gut you like a fish, we may as well have wild crazy sex just to make this rated R and make teens want to see it more.

Take a step back and admire the eff-you to Hollywood there.  With their crazy rated-R movies full of sex and violence that increase their appeal to younger demographics.  See, I knew that at age 10.  I knew that because my favorite movie was Starship Troopers and my VHS had some odd wearing bands around the Dina Meyer shower scene.  How did those get there?  Surely by now continually rewinding early in the morning before my parents woke up.  Surely not that way.

Well, that’s about the end of the script.  We’ve covered sex, drug and scatological jokes sufficient enough to call me Wayans.  Maybe you could make the argument that the script is actually too conscious and rebuking of the standard Hollywood system to ever feel the calloused, pimp-ring-covered-hands of production, but you can’t argue my gift.  My gift for discovering the lowest common denominator and exploiting the living hell out of it.

In conclusion, I wrote a 17-page script at age 10 that qualifies me as a Wayans brother.  So get ready, America.  I’m going to set everyone’s people back 100 years now.