This is the weekend of my 40th High School Reunion. The class from 1971 of Woodrow Wilson in Tacoma gathers this Saturday nite in the newly remodeled Cheney Stadium. Tickets are $35-$45 dollars in the same structure where general admission to a Tacoma Cubs Triple A baseball game was a mere 50 cents in’71. Considering I am much closer to the finish line than the starting blocks, this event has given me pause to consider just a few other memorable changes that have occurred since we flipped our collective tassels into a warm June sky.
The ’58 Chevy Belaire that I filled with gas on the way to the ceremony drank leaded petroleum priced at under 3o cents per gallon! A basic burger at Herfy’s (one of my first paying gigs!) was a quarter (30 cents with cheese!), as the accompanying shake and fries brought the dinner tab to about a buck-including a 2.9% sales tax!
That decade, our greatest source of worry was in a place called “Nam”, and some of us walking the aisle that night would (some unwillingly) be called to settle the conflict that produced no winners, but plenty of losers. A man named “Tricky Dick” insisted it was the right cause to fight for-then he resigned in shame… as the choppers lifted our final troops out of harm’s way in Saigon. Some of the greatest heroes that emerged from that conflict were the very guys I faced on baseball diamonds and hardwood gym floors growing up…heroes that are still haunted in their minds by a conflict that has never called a truce!
Two years before graduation, I experienced two life-changing events…I sat in a drab hospital room with my father and watched a man step onto the surface of the moon-and, I witnessed rock and roll royalty, in the form of Jimi Hendrix– live in Seattle, and found my career passion.
Today, we can’t escape the ringtones and downloads constantly beckoning, but are members of the last generation that still got out of our chairs to change channels on the television, and many of us remember the world grow up in grainy, wavy, black and white.
For me, it’s not the rising prices and sinking integrity of society today…the most hard to endure is the loss of our collective innocence. Time was, a mass murder or catastrophic weather event would freeze us in our tracks-we would actually stop and ponder the gruesomeness-actually FEEL the grief and pain inflicted on unsuspecting victims. Today, the sheer volume of horrific news has rendered us numb-almost incapable of rustling up any feelings of care or compassion for those afflicted. It seems almost like we have borne witness to an over-flowing saturation level of disaster, that any subsequent event just doesn’t carry the impact that would bring about the requisite tears or grief. Instead, like a punch-drunk fighter too long in the ring, we stumble forward in anticipation of the next crushing head shot. Many no longer have the will or strength to protect themselves-and therefore are totally incapable or unwilling to protect others in more dire straits.
This weekend I will relive memories, and again see familiar faces gone too long…that is the stuff reunions celebrate. Truth be told, I’ll spend the time honestly wishing for a working time machine.