Loving Fiercely

I went many places this past weekend. You have no idea. I’m not really interested in using navigation or mapping metaphors to describe existential stuff; of course we’re all on a journey, it’s a given, we get it. Still, you have no idea.

You can’t have any idea. It’s my life. I have no idea about yours, really. This is why we tell stories. I’m not sure why I’m explaining basics here. You understand.

What happened this past weekend didn’t struck me as likely for much of the past 16 months, which is how long we’ve been planning this. What began as your standard Facebook behavior, sharing old photos and memories with a certain group, jumped into high gear last April. A group who had worked together during a critical summer in our lives decided a reunion would be fun. I facilitated some of this, although maybe too much credit was being awarded this weekend and I got self-conscious.

Let me tell you what I did: Every Friday, for 60 weeks, I posted a reminder to our Facebook group. I began digitizing and trying to repair old VHS video of our performances from the early ‘80s, so I could post snippets to keep the interest up. I slapped together graphics and tried to be funny.

I eventually opened up the whole thing to anyone who had worked at our beloved Black Bart’s Steakhouse during our time, or even just around that time, although it ended up being just us. Us was enough. Us was perfect.

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I want to get this down somewhere, if I can. I guess that’s what a blog is for, or can be for. I’m not sure why anyone else might be interested. Then again, I’m never really sure.

But here’s how it happened, in case you ever have similar notions. We brought up the subject online. We made a halfhearted attempt to pull it off in only a couple of months, but that would never work, not with people and plans and summer and just geography. We’d never get a complete group in six weeks, not even close.

So we went back and forth, and got a consensus pretty quickly. We’ve all got calendars and we know how to use them by now. We set a date for 60 weeks in the future. Then it got real slow, for months and months. That’s where reminders are helpful.

Because there were no major plans to make, just reservations. Those of us out of state had to get plane tickets and so on; we had 19 total, and 14 of us had to travel to Arizona. These are just ordinary vacation plans, though, and pretty simple. Carve out a weekend, book a flight, arrange housing. Really simple, in fact.

Three of our group were spouses who had no relationship with the restaurant or Flagstaff, enough to liven up the dynamic but still keep the homogeneity intact. We were a family.

That’s it. I’m not sure we understood it last summer, not completely. And I’m still enjoying the glow of the moment, even five days out. I can’t really call it the best weekend of my life because you know what? I don’t keep that list, the list of favorite weekends. Never have. Too late to start.

It felt like it, though.

The best then-and-now we could do.

The best then-and-now we could do.

Things were quiet until after the start of the year, when people started buying tickets and reserving rooms. It took us a while to track down a couple of hard-to-reach people. There was some hesitation and a question about a couple of them, and we were unsure until the last moment. I can’t imagine the weekend without them now, and I don’t have to.

We mostly stayed in Airbnbs. Julie and I rented a large one with room for six, giving some of the single people flexibility, and we had five in total sleeping there both nights. It was spacious and filled with light, and after we arrived at 4pm the house began to fill up. That’s when the fun began.

If you can imagine. Sure you can. It was sunny and warm, the doors were flung open, and I spotted new arrivals as they parked. Facebook was also a big help with this, as we’d all seen photos and had no trouble recognizing each other, even though it had been decades.

Although for two of us, it was crazy time. One was a late addition and had been in contact with none of us before this began, and the other is completely off not just social media but the internet. They were baffled and it was hilarious, really, although it was odd to look at the best man from my wedding as he politely asked me to help him out with my name.

But that was quick, and again, fun. The refrigerator filled up with water bottles and adult beverages, we ordered many, many pizzas, and while there was actually no music playing, considering it was a house filled with musicians, we instead watched the videos I’d put up on YouTube from our shows way back when.

The five of us post facials. Post midnight, too.

The five of us post facials. Post midnight, too.

People gathered in groups inside and out, moving between them, lubricated by love and a little booze (possibly anxiety meds and weed, too, as we are very specific senior citizens, although I didn’t ask). We were loud anyway, and we kept that house busy until after midnight.

And it was my birthday. That was an afterthought, especially for me, but we stopped at my mom’s house on the way to Flag and she’d bought me a cake because she’s my mom. We took that with us, and I got serenaded in four-part harmony. It was the best birthday, I’ll say that. And I’ve had a lot of good ones.

And after everyone left, and Julie got to talking about a skin care regimen our daughter had helped her with, she gave the five of us housemates a facial in the wee hours. You can’t invent this stuff.

The next morning, I was up early (I was lucky to get 4 hours each night), and got a bunch of The Big Chill vibes as sleepy old friends stumbled into the kitchen in search of caffeine. Some slept in, I took a walk, and by early afternoon the rest managed to end up back at our house again, where we had a long afternoon of more grown-up conversation, about trauma, about parents, about kids, about performing now and then.

This was pretty much Saturday morning.

This was pretty much Saturday morning.

The aftermath of kneeling down

The aftermath of kneeling down

We headed for the steakhouse around 5:30, looking to wander around a little before dinner. We were allowed to go backstage again, to marvel at how small everything is, and to try to pose for a then and now photo with decent results (and hilarity as some of us, who were kneeling for the pose, had to figure out how to get back up).

Dinner was wonderful, and even though the waiters were a little cautious with the old folks, unsure of what was happening, our director is a legend at this place and we were allowed to sing if we wished, with her accompanying.

Backstage in our former dressing room. Fun fact: I’m standing on my tiptoes.

Backstage in our former dressing room. Fun fact: I’m standing on my tiptoes.

One of us, a still-terrific tenor, a middle-school music teacher, was the first up, and several others followed. Julie sang twice. I opted for the better part of valor, as did a couple of others, and it all was just fine. We tipped like drunk businessmen at a strip club. We got a little rowdy. It was great.

Back to the house for a wrap-up, some teary goodbyes, more in the morning, and then hitting the road. I wrote a column Sunday before heading down to Scottsdale for the night and a flight home the next morning.

It was bliss. It was moving and magical, and everything we hoped for and more than that, truly. I had a fantasy occasionally of how this would all play out, and I realized at some point Saturday night that it had mostly all come true.

And since I’ve taken 1400 words to say all of this, I should note my awareness that a picture is worth at least 1000 of those. Maybe moving pictures will cover the rest.



Chuck SigarsComment