Had an odd and strangely surreal and beautiful experience over the weekend. I went to a reunion. But not a school reunion. Well, maybe, but a different sort of school. The school of my early 20’s, the school of young adulthood.
Somehow, my old roommates from when I was 20, with a little Facebook magic, managed to pull together about 50 people to come back to Richmond, VA (my hometown) for a weekend celebration of………what? That I’m still trying to figure out.
Back in the day my friend D. was the man. Along with his partner G., he gave parties, beautiful, elegant parties. Themed parties where everyone dressed like it was 1927, complete with bobbed hair, black tie and tails, cigarette holders. Pandora’s Box starring silent movie star Louise Brooks would play on the television while we all mingled about, pretending we were Gatsby. Or Daisy. Or Clara Bow. Or Gloria Swanson.
D. threw LOTS of parties. Always packed with people because he created fliers and passed them out at the dance club where we lived. I say “lived” because we went there to dance, drink, socialize and generally make fools of ourselves literally 6 nights a week. D.’s parties were spectacular – always cocktails (never beer), fabulous lighting, and he’d place huge bowls full of Benson and Hedges 100’s all around the apartment so whenever somebody wanted one, all they had to do was reach over. The consummate host.
We dressed to the nines more often than not because the surroundings required it. The apartment was SPECTACULAR – like you’d just walked into the Vanderbilt estate. Beautifully painted eggplant walls, polished brass window latches (because he removed and stripped them by hand), antique sofas reupholstered in black silk shantung, Egyptian artifacts, oil paintings, the works. Very Rococo, but it worked. I loved living there. Moving in from my split level suburban shithole was like moving into the Metropolitan Museum. I had an antique armoire in my bedroom, and every time I walked out to make coffee in the morning, I felt like I should be wearing a silk robe or an antique peignoir. A friend once remarked he could never live in D.’s apartment because it looked like a museum. “How can you EVER relax?” he asked. But I love museums. Of all the places in the WORLD I’m most relaxed in a museum.
So why did I go to this reunion? Why does anybody go to a reunion? To brag? To satisfy that morbid curiosity that says, “I wonder how everybody LOOKS?!?” Isn’t that why? But I didn’t need or want to do any of those things. I just wanted to see them again. To give them a big ol’ hug of thanks. To see my old roommates, my very first roommates as a matter of fact. Other than living with a boyfriend which turned into a DEBACLE that sent me running back home, I had never lived away from my parents. D. and G. were the friends who first taught me to be, and to live, as a free adult. Free from parents. Free to make mistakes and fall right on my ass drunk and learn that most times you have to pick up your own damn self because most of the time no one is going to be there to hold your hair.
They didn’t even know they were doing it, but just by living with them, by being in that environment, they were teaching me it’s okay to fall on your ass sometimes. More than that, they accepted me for who I was. At a time in my life when I felt like less than NOTHING, completely self conscious and dorky, ugly, and beyond shy, they simply said, “Come on in! Live with us! You’re welcome here!” I’ve never forgotten it. And because of that they are, and always will be, good friends. How could I NOT go?
What were we celebrating? In a weird way I think we were celebrating the fact we had even survived that time. The substances, the casual sex, the shit we did back then? It’s pretty damn lucky all of us not only came out the other side of that 1980’s black hole, but came out well. Some of us own businesses, some of us have kids, 401K’s, nice cars, nice houses. And all of us, at least the ones who showed up this weekend, seemed happy. And damn did everybody look fucking great! We fell into old routines, refilling our glasses with vodka and tonic, picking up the cigarettes right where we left off when we quit back in 1992. It was as if time had stood still. Or at least turned back just a little. Except for the gray hair. And the laugh lines. And the beautiful crinkles around our eyes. Crinkles we had EARNED by god.
Talked about this with another old friend that night – someone I hadn’t seen in literally over 20 years. We marveled at how well and happy everyone looked and at how there really weren’t any horror stories when there should be. When you think about all the shit we got away with, there really should be. But we were all there. And all okay. Imagine that?
Were there stories? Maybe there are and I’m just choosing not to remember them. Or maybe all the drugs have washed away my memory. That’s completely possible. The more I think on it, there were a few. But they weren’t good friends, close friends. Well, one was. I still tear up when I think of Russell and how we lost him way too young. And I’m sure there are others. I bet if we all started hanging out again, we’d remember them. Think of them. But tonight wasn’t about that. It was ultimately about celebrating the ones who were here. Who had made it. The very fact D. and G. are still together (25 years!) gives me a warm glow of hope. Too cool in my book.
And of course these days, when you think of all the things “the kids” are doing at FOURTEEN, it makes the partying we did in our 20’s look pretty innocent. Sure didn’t feel like it at the time though. I remember D. remarking once at how it was a good thing we weren’t rich, or at least one of us would end up DEAD from the 6-day benders we used to go on.
Back then we even had a schedule – we’d come home from work, eat, nap, and then get ready to go out – never before 10pm. And every day had its own specific club. Can’t remember them all. Do remember Wednesday was reserved for Russian Quaaludes at the Bus Stop, then on to Fielden’s (an after hours club) for more dancing, drinking, and general misbehavior. Other nights? Maybe The Pyramid – then on to Fielden’s. Sneaking into Rockitz by sending one person in, then recreating the stamp she got on our own wrists with ballpoint pen to save some $$$.
Sunday brunch might be the Texas Wisconsin Border Cafe, or this other place upstairs from it that served hot dogs and drinks for $1 – sitting out there on Sunday afternoons, getting tan, talking about where we’d head to that night. All those places up and down Main Street and Floyd in the Fan where we’d drink pitchers of beer, nursing our hangovers, discussing where we should go out. The only nights we didn’t go out would be Monday, possibly Tuesday. A girl needs her rest after all.
Those were heady times. No obligations other than to get to work each day by 9am. And to somehow pay off that credit card bill. And that car payment. And rent. Maybe some food.
Why the Black Celebration album image? This was our soundtrack. Sure we played other stuff – Bowie, the Cure, the Smiths (LOTS of the Smiths), Erasure, some house music. But we always came back to Dave Gahan and the boys. Every single time. Black Celebration lived on our turntable for weeks on end, providing the background noise to so many parties.
Depeche was on the turntable last night in fact – D. still has that turntable, and finally hooked it up once again. The strains of “Drive…..drive anywhere,” and “Route 66” really take me back to those times. I can’t say they were the BEST of times. They were good times. They were important times. I learned a lot then. We lived through a lot then. All of us.
D. and G. are even living on the same block where I used to live shortly after moving out. It’s a long story – I still blame myself – for being too much of a party girl, for relying on them too much to pick up pieces I really needed to learn to gather my own damn self. But going to their house on that block last night brought it all back. I lived just over “there” from where they live now, my sister and her husband lived just “there” when they first got together in 1990, and two other good friends lived right around the corner. Yeah, I’m waxing a little nostalgic. But it truly felt like coming home. To a place you know like your own bed. Your own pillow. A place warm and safe and full of old friends. What’s better than that?