Sunday, May 24, 2020

world of a king

I am no fan of Stephen King. 

I have read a bunch of his books, though admittedly, not the really long ones. I read Carrie and The Shining and Gerald's Game and.... oh, I don't really remember all of them. What I do remember is that I was disappointed by almost every one of them. Stephen King is a terrific writer of the middles of stories. They are compelling and inventive. The writing is decidedly descriptive. One can almost picture the events unfolding on a movie screen.... which, I believe, is King's intention. The "meat" of King's tales are truly engrossing. However, he has a hard time wrapping things up and arriving at a satisfying ending — especially after such epic plot lines. After investing quite a bit of time reading King's indulgent, often intricate, novels, I have felt cheated by the so-called "pay-off" of most of them. (The one exception is Thinner, his 1984 book released under the "Richard Bachman" pseudonym.) 

My literary relationship with Stephen King ended when I completed The Regulators, which I read after finishing Desperation, its companion piece meant to read at the same time. When I turned the final page of The Regulators, I closed the book, dropped it to the floor and sighed. It was then that I decided to never waste my time reading a Stephen King book ever again. That book should have ended at several different points, but it stretched on unnecessarily for countless pages of mystical back-story nonsense. I could wait to be through with it.... and with Stephen King. I decided right then and there, never to entertain another Stephen King-penned volume again. (Don't start recommending this book or that book... because I am not going to read them. I'm just not!)

Funny thing.... I enjoy some movies that are based on Stephen King books. I love The Shawshank Redemption (based on Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, one of four novellas included in the 1982 collection Different Seasons), although the ending of the movie is way more satisfying as compared to the ambiguous conclusion of the original story. Stand By Me is another of my favorite Stephen King book-based films. (It, too, is based on The Body, a selection from Different Seasons.) Again, there are differences between the book and the movie. And, again, the film is more concise in its message. The majority of Stephen King movies are just as disappoint as their source material. (I won't include The Shining in this comparison, because they, essentially, tell two completely unrelated stories.)

Just this week I was scanning the offerings under the "horror" category on Netflix. After scrolling past countless, blood-splatters posters for obscure slasher films (I love horror movies. I hate slasher movies), I stumbled across a film called Horns starring Daniel Radcliffe. I like Daniel Radcliffe. My wife and I just binge-watched the TBS ensemble anthology comedy series Miracle Workers. The show was hilarious (Season two was better that season one) and Daniel Radcliffe was a delight. The synopsis for Horns looked intriguing, so I watched. It was tedious. It was a non-linear, overly — and unnecessarily — atmospheric mess. Radcliffe and the supporting cast (familiar screen faces like Kathleen Quinlan, Heather Graham, James Remar) were all good. Too good for the script. They all looked as though they were trying their best, but were being dragged down by the heavy-handed premise. At just a hair under two hours, I felt like I had invested an entire day into this disjointed adventure that couldn't decide what exactly it wanted to be.

Horns, I later discovered, was based on a highly-touted novel by one Joe Hill. Joe Hill — it turns out — is the nom de plume of Joseph Hillström King, the eldest son and middle child of Stephen King. And let me tell you... the poison apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I should have known immediately, as the entire set-up of Horns smacked of a Stephen King story. There was the close knit group of misfit friends depicted in flashback sequences. There was the camaraderie that can only be experienced in a small New England town. There were dark secrets of youth that smolder and eventually manifest to weigh heavy on the lives of the now-adult friends. There was an awful lot of slow-motion and unexplained, other-worldly manifestations. And there was plenty of gratuitous gore. It was the kids of It and the kids from The Body and the quirky formulaic townspeople of Derry, Maine all rolled together in Daddy's signature style. Did Joe rummage through the wastepaper basket by his father's desk looking for castoffs to crib for his own career?

Eh... what difference does it make. I was sucked in. But, as The Who once warned — I won't get fooled again.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

celluloid heroes

I have been watching Turner Classic Movies pretty much since its inception in 1994. On April 14 of that year, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) broadcast the 1939 epic Gone with the Wind as a fitting debut into the world of classic cinema. From that point forward, the cable channel has shown thousands of Hollywood's beloved films, as well as numerous examples of forgotten features. Of course, there are films that enjoy regular showings, based on perennial popularity and fan feedback. Stand-bys like Casablanca, Some Like It Hot and Citizen Kane are shown often. Very often. Popular actors are seen in some of their popular and less-than-popular films, offering viewers an interesting glimpse into the high and lows of a particular performer's career.

What is intriguing about TCM is how many young fans are regular watchers. Considering the overwhelming majority of the films they show are from before 1955, you'd think there would be exclusive appeal to those who are more than a few years into collecting Social Security. But that, apparently, is not true. There are an awful lot of fans that are many years my junior. (I am almost 59.) They are passionate about films that were produced when their grandparents were kids. They are enamored by actors who passed away decades before they entered kindergarten. 

As it gained popularity, TCM began to branch out. In 2010, the first annual TCM Film Festival was presented in Hollywood. The four-day event was hosted by Grauman's Chinese Theater and Grauman's Egyptian Theater, where some of the most-beloved of Hollywood's films were screened for attendees as though it was a religious service. The event drew more and more folks with each subsequent year. During each year's festivities, attendees were interviewed. They were usually dressed in some period clothing that reflected their favorite era of cinema. Twenty-somethings sporting styles that predated their parents presented an interesting, if not anachronistic picture. These fans gushed with delight as they spoke about movies — all movies — like they were their children. Not just the famous movies, but many obscure films starring long-forgotten actors. Actually,  it seemed like they loved every movie, as long as TCM deemed it "classic".... or at least "old."

I love movies and I love interesting tidbits about movies, but I wouldn't classify myself as a "film buff." There are a lot of famous movies that I haven't seen and there are a lot of famous movies that I have seen but don't like. And while I'm "true confessing," there are some very beloved actors that I don't care for at all. A majority of TCM devotees treat all movies from the so-called "Golden Age of Hollywood" as indisputably perfect and required viewing for everyone. And everyone must love each and every one of them.

Recently, I watched three movies on TCM. I came to these movies in different ways, including indirect recommendations and "why have I never seen this?" All three star famous actors, but not necessarily their most famous role. The first was The Hatchet Man, a 1932 pre-Hays Code film. The Hatchet Man is a cringe-worthy seventy-five minutes that shows Hollywood at its racist and demeaning best. It stars Edward G. Robinson, fresh from his star-making turn in the gangster tale Little Caesar. The cast also features 19-year-old Loretta Young and a slew of English actors. The problem is that The Hatchet Man is a story about the Chinese community in San Francisco. While there are plenty of Asian extras roaming the streets, all of the principal roles are played by non-Asian actors in exaggerated make-up and costuming, spouting lines peppered with alleged "ancient Chinese philosophies" in preposterous broken English. The film also features the uncredited Toshia Mori (who is Japanese) as Robinson's Chinese secretary. She is the lone Asian in the cast with a speaking part, albeit a small one. Unfortunately, she is the target of a remark that is both racist and misogynistic in the same sentence. The interesting, sometimes brutal, story sadly takes a backseat to the blatant bigotry. Hollywood viewed Asian culture as a mystic novelty, an attitude it was unable to shake until.... well.... never. I found this film difficult to watch. While the acting was good, the story was thin and clunky in its telling.

A few days later, I watched the 1949 classic film noir The Third Man. I had heard great things about this movie and I wondered why it took me so long to see it. The Third Man consistently shows up on many critic's "greatest" lists, topping the British Film Institute's list of the "Greatest British Film of All Time." That is a pretty big deal. The film stars craggy Joseph Cotton as an American writer who arrives in post-war Vienna to meet his friend, the mysterious Harry Lime. While ringing the bell at Lime's apartment, he is informed that his friend is dead. This unfolds in the first five minutes. A jarring set-up that lays the foundation for what promises to be a wild ride. It is not. It is standard cloak and dagger that has been parodied a zillion times. The action is packed with knowing glances, shadowy figures, two-timing allies and abrupt, unexplained and unnatural changes in personalities. Plus there's a surprise that you can see coming a mile away. Director Carol Reed was obviously influenced by German expressionists, as the cinematography copies The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as though it was shot with a piece of carbon paper behind it. The "look" of the film seemed more important than the story. At the film's conclusion, I honestly felt cheated.

Finally, I watched Ace in the Hole, a 1951 gritty Kirk Douglas vehicle that was Billy Wilder's first foray as writer, producer and director. This film was a mess in its initial release. At the last minute, the studio changed the title to The Big Carnival without consulting Wilder. The advertising poster is very misleading in its depiction of Kirk Douglas being trapped and in danger. He is not. That is apparent almost immediately,  so that's not a spoiler. Just after its release, Wilder was sued by a screenwriter for plagiarism. All that.... and it bombed at the box office. The story is a none-too-flattering account of media sensationalism and manipulative greed. Douglas is slimy and arrogant and he chews up every last bit of scenery. Co-star Jan Sterling is a stereotypical Hollywood "dame," a one-dimensional, underdeveloped character just there for the men to bounce lines (and slaps) off of. The rest of the cast are stock characters — the unflinching newspaper publisher, the bright-eyed eager photographer, the dim-witted common people. Six years after this movie, screenwriter Budd Schulberg would pen A Face in the Crowd. It is a much better, much darker, much more subtle presentation of essentially the same concept. I actually fell asleep a few times while watching Ace in the Hole, but I found I really missed nothing. That speaks volumes in the way of film editing.

When I talk to people about movies, I am enthusiastic about the ones I like. But, I will recommended films only if I think a particular person will like a particular movie. I don't say "You'll like this!" just because I like it.. However, some TCM fans and those who fancy themselves "film buffs" seem to like every movie they see... even if they don't really like them. They just think they're supposed to like them. I won't criticize you if you don't like a film that I like. That doesn't mean the movie is bad. It just means that we don't share the same opinion on every movie. With that thought fresh in our minds...

Although I won't make any friends with this admission, I will continue my confession. Two of the films I alluded to earlier — Casablanca and Some Like It Hot — are not my favorites. I have watched them both and I don't like either one. I am not a fan of Marilyn Monroe or any of James Dean's movies either.

Oh and I've never seen any sequel to Rocky or The Godfather. Can we still be friends?

Sunday, May 10, 2020

say goodbye to hollywood

I love the "Golden Age" of Hollywood. I am a big fan of  the Turner Classic Movies cable channel. I am fascinated by the scandals of the movie business circa 1930s through 1950s. I savored each and every salacious, albeit equivocal, page of Hollywood Babylon, Ken Anger's sleazy collection of tales from Tinsel Town's seedy underbelly. And, of course, you know about my unnatural obsession with dead celebrities. So, when Mrs. Pincus and I came across Hollywood, a new limited series that just premiered on Netflix this week, we anxiously dove right in.

First blood.
In 2018, multi-award winning "triple threat" Ryan Murphy, the driving force behind the recent hits Glee and American Horror Story, signed a five-year deal with Netflix, setting a record as the most lucrative development deal in television history. Hollywood is the first entry in fulfilling his contract obligations. I have not seen an episode of Glee, but, based on what little bit I have seen and heard, I was not the target audience. As a longtime fan of the horror genre, I watched the first episode of Season Four of American Horror Story: Freak Show. I found it sprawling, unnecessarily atmospheric and tedious in its storytelling. I don't think I even finished watching the full hour. Oh wait, I did... because I remember angrily snapping off the TV when Jessica Lange began anachronistically singing David Bowie's 1971 hit "Life on Mars" during a scene set in 1952. I relented and gave the series another chance. I watched the sixth season of American Horror Story. This one concerned weird goings-on near the site of the mysterious 16th Century Roanoke Colony. I watched all ten episodes and hated every one.

The following year, the Fox Network touted a new limited series from the mind and pen of Ryan Murphy. This one was based on the storied rivalry between two of Hollywood's most iconic actresses — Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, and appropriately entitled Feud. Being a sucker for this type of thing, my wife and I watched... and we loved it. It was trashy and mindless with over-the-top performances from Susan Sarandon and Ryan Murphy regular Jessica Lange. When it was over, we didn't want to to end. I concluded that Ryan Murphy is the "Stephen King of TV trash." (Where as Stephen King is the "Stephen King of movie trash.") Murphy, like King, writes great "middles" of stories. He just doesn't know how to end them, so the endings seem rushed, usually falling flat on its face and well short of expectations. However, Feud worked. Maybe because this story was already written for him... with an actual ending. Murphy was able to concentrate on the tawdry details to embellish an existing story and not be bothered with how to wrap the whole thing up. It was predetermined by the source material.

We're okay now.
Admittedly, I had some trepidation about investing time in to watching Hollywood. I am not really a fan of the majority of Ryan Murphy's work. But the synopsis of Hollywood was compelling. So, we decided to give the first episode a trial viewing. If we liked it, we'd continue. Well, we liked it and continued. Actually, we plowed through all seven episodes in two consecutive evenings. We really liked it. And, frankly, what was not to like? It was trashy, garish, gaudy and — surprisingly — well acted. The actors — a great blend of veteran talent and up-and-comers — were all thoughtfully cast.  The sets and production were meticulous and stellar. The storytelling was typical intertwined "soap opera," but that's what drew us in.

On Saturday, we watched the first four installments. Afterwards, my wife and I cautiously read some comments on various social media outlets, careful to avoid any spoilers. I was surprised by the mostly negative reactions I read. So, I stopped reading, deciding to watch the remaining episodes before passing a full judgment. On Sunday, Mrs. P and I wrapped up the series. We really enjoyed it.

Hollywood is piece revisionist history. I don't think that a good portion of the viewing audience understood that. I think it was presented as a work of "historical fiction," with real historical people mixed with and interacting with made-up characters. Based on a lot of the comments that I read, the concept was not apparent enough to those who expected something different. At first, I was bothered by some historical inaccuracies, but once I "got it," I was more forgiving with the liberties that were taken.

Alongside the comments from folks who missed the concept, were angry rants from those who were going to be offended by Hollywood. Hollywood indeed had a message. Those who were offended by the manner in which the message was presented were going to be offended no matter what. They wanted to be offended. They tuned in to be offended and they were not going to be disappointed. Perhaps they also missed the concept of "revisionist history." Or perhaps they just don't want someone else speaking for them, even if they share the same ideals.

I cannot speak for anyone but myself. I enjoyed Hollywood. It was not the greatest story ever told. It was pure, mindless entertainment. It was not a documentary, nor was I expecting it to be. If the successes and failures, injustices and righteousness, highs and lows of Hollywood strike a chord with you... or if you just want to be entertained, give Hollywood a chance... and draw your own conclusion.

Don't take it from me.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

enough about you, let's talk about life for a while

Look, I don't want this to become the "quarantine" blog, so I'd like to make today's post the last one on that subject... at least for a while.

Like you and your neighbor and your co-workers and everyone else across the country (and still in most parts of the world), I am at home. In my house. It's where I have been since March 12. That was the date that I left my place of employment with the computer from my desk, with the instruction from my supervisor to begin working from home as of the morning of the 13th. Since that day, I have ventured out of my house for approximately forty minutes each day to walk around the block with my wife. Twice, during the past seven weeks, I occupied the passenger's seat of my wife's car when we made a delivery of some grocery items to my son's house. We pulled up in front of his home. He popped outside, his face swathed in a makeshift face mask fashioned from a bandanna. He opened the rear hatch of the car and retrieved his items. We had a brief conversation with him as he stood a good seven feet away from us. Then he retreated back into his house and we started for home. We made no physical contact.

My wife is the designated "real world" liaison for me, as well as the extended family that are sequestered at her parents' house a few blocks away. She has graciously volunteered to do the shopping for both of our households in an effort to keep everyone safe. And that's our life. We do what we do and will continue to do what we will do until the concern subsides. And it will.

During this time, I have steered clear of most news broadcasts on television. I will watch a little bit of local news to get information I may need about business closures or changes in hours. Sometimes I'll wait for a weather forecast, but otherwise, I skip that news too. Most news programming has become "doom and gloom" and speculative reporting. I hate news stories that begin: "Well, what if..." That is not a helpful news story. That is the basis for a Marvel comic book.

Mostly what I see on the news is complaints. Complaints from Mrs. and Mrs. Average American who have been inconvenienced by a deadly virus. I understand that staying confined to your house is difficult, but considering that death may be the alternative, I don't see it as that terrible. I've heard people complaining that they can't go to a concert or a ball game or the movies or a restaurant. They complain about having to work from home. They complain about Zoom online meetings. They complain that the supermarket doesn't have that bread that they like. They complain that they can't have a barbecue in their backyard.... although some people complain about it then defiantly have a barbecue anyway.

Really? Really!?!

Thousands and thousands of people work from home every day. Some people have lost those jobs that required them to work from home (myself included). You are being asked to honor these precautions for your own good, for your own safety and well being. Yes, some people need to be guided in this manner. They need to be told how to be safe because a lot of people have no common sense. These people are the reason that chainsaws come with warning labels that caution against grabbing the blade while it's moving.

The ones I find the most upsetting are the heavily-armed angry mobs flocking to the state capital buildings (my own state included) and screaming about being inconvenienced. They don't want the government telling them what to do. (They have no problem with a big, invisible, omniscient being who lives up in the sky telling them what to do, but that's a story for another blog post.) Is it really that difficult to stay home to avoid dying? Is that really a lot to ask?  Are your rights really being compromised?  Y'know, if you die, you'll have no rights at all. If you die, you won't have to worry about staying home or not being able to golf or get a haircut or social distancing. If you die, you'll be six feet away from everybody. Permanently. 

To date, two hundred and forty-thousand people have died as a result of this pandemic. Quit complaining. It's selfish. May I suggest that you suck it up. Stay home. Wash your hands. Shut up. And stop being a cry baby. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

stand back stand back

As the days and weeks of quarantine bear down, people are trying to remain upbeat and optimistic, while coming to the realization that things will be different once the safety limitations are relaxed. Surrounded by the same four walls — day in and day out, thoughts turn to returning to the office, attending a concert or sporting event, even shopping in a store that's not a supermarket. These thoughts can sometimes do wonders to ease a cooped-up mind.

There is something I am looking forward to "on the other side," as they say. 

There are two people in the world — the entire world — that I feel comfortable hugging and kissing. Just two. Considering that the current population of the world is around seven and a half billion people, that is quite an exclusive club. Those two people are, of course, my wife and my son. I don't like to hug and kiss anyone who is not my wife and my son.

We know things will change and previously accepted behavior will be altered by what we are experiencing during our time of "social distancing." When health experts determined that maintaining a distance of at least six feet from another human was essential in keeping the coronavirus at bay, I was ecstatic. When the practice of wearing a face mask was introduced as an additional precaution, it was like a dream come true. I am secretly hoping it will become the new normal when this thing is over.

My wife is a friendly person when it comes to hugging and "cheek-kissing" family and friends and even friends of friends. However, I often find myself awkwardly shuffling my feet and averting my eyes when I know I am next in line after she has exchanged embraces with someone whom I obviously don't want to, which, as we now know, is pretty much everyone. I have hung back near a front door or in a parking lot next to our car, hoping desperately to be able to weasel out of a presumed obligatory hug with someone I don't want to hug. It has nothing to do with my level of like or dislike I have for a particular person. It just makes me uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. There! I said it! It's not a personal thing. It's a human thing.

So here we are. Still stuck in our homes. Still under quarantine while a heretofore unknown threat ravages our planet. I just remain hopeful that soon — very soon — I will be able to emerge from seclusion, mingle with people and not hug them.

Oh, things will be better.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

behind the mask

I am writing this in the middle of my fifth week of "working from home" as a result of precautions being taken to "flatten the curve"* of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, due to the hands-on nature of my job, there is not a lot of work for me to do at home. I have been on "stand-by" for five weeks. Two weeks ago, I did a reworking of a layout that took me all of an hour. Otherwise I have wandered around the confines of my home during most of this time, going downstairs to the kitchen. Upstairs to the den. Over to the bedroom. Back to the den. Back down to the kitchen. I'm starting to realize that my house isn't as big as I thought it was.

My only respite from "workday" boredom is an afternoon walk with my wife. Mrs. Pincus normally works from home, maintaining her eBay business from a home office on the third floor of our house. (Yeah, I go up there, too... sometimes.) Every afternoon, we set out for a stroll around the block for a little fresh air and exercise. We have been doing this for over a year. My previous job allowed me to be home by 4:30 in the afternoon, but circumstances of my current job — which is an hour's commute — leaves Mrs. P to traverse the sidewalks of Elkins Park alone. I have only been able to join her on weekends — until the majority of the nation's workforce was sent home in the middle of March. Now, I accompany her daily and will do so for as long as this home quarantine lasts.

Rules, suggestions, guidelines and mandates have changed regulatory throughout the course of this decidedly uncertain situation. The governor of Pennsylvania, who, like a select number of other state governors, has assumed a position of reassuring authority and calm out of necessity. Regular briefings on current state policy are broadcast on local television and on the state's website offering pertinent information to help and guide the residents of my state through this mess. As would be expected, things change. What was once accepted policy could do a complete one-eighty a day later. Just last week, it was strongly recommended that face masks be worn by all Pennsylvania residents when leaving the house, after initially being told the contrary. Instructions on how to fashion a suitable face mask out of a bandanna are readily available all over the internet. My wife, who has been self-designated as the liaison to the outside world, does the shopping, prescription pick-ups, banking and running of small errands for me and her parents. She is the sole representative of the extended Pincus clan that leaves the house to venture further than the perimeter blocks. Before each trip, she puts a colorful bandanna in place, secured with elastic hair ties encircling each ear. When she returns home, she carefully removes the cloth and drops it in a laundry basket in the basement (yeah, I walk those steps sometimes, too) for later cleaning. Then she proceeds to thoroughly was her hands, humming "Happy Birthday" or what lyrics she can remember from the theme to "The Nanny" as presented in a recent YouTube video featuring Fran Drescher. When we go out walking, I wear one, too.

Since this most recent mandate regarding the wearing of face masks, I am surprised by the amount of people we pass on our walks — from a socially acceptable distance of six feet — that are not wearing them. In reality, I see more people not wearing a mask or some sort of facial covering than those who are. I also see a lot of people not practicing "social distancing" (another of those phrases*), stopping to talk to a neighbor and standing close enough to grab an arm or touch a shoulder. We see folks walking dogs, passing other folks walking dogs, stopping to converse while their pets sniff each others asses — yep! their owners are that close. What is wrong with these people? Oh wait.... I know! We live in a time of "The rules don't apply to me." I know we all hear the same warnings, it's just some people think those warnings are for everyone else. Other people have to follow those rules. They can't possibly mean me! After all, I'm me! My wife tells me she sees the same thing in the supermarket. She has witnessed people closing up the temporary, but clearly-marked, six-foot delineations put on the floor. She has had people reach right across the bridge of her nose to get an item on a shelf. A guy even picked up a pair of sunglasses my wife had dropped, despite her loud pleas of "Please don't touch them," his ungloved hand continuing to wrap around the lenses. Oh, right!  Sorry! You can touch them! I didn't realize it was you!

Look, I don't know how long this pandemic will last and how long we will have to maintain this cautious existence. No one does. I just keep envisioning a post-apocalyptic world as depicted in so many movies. Sinewy hollow-faced men and women roaming the streets in ragged clothes with an appropriated rifle strapped to their backs, collecting scavenged scraps of survival from steaming, picked-over spoils, strewn across the decimated landscape. It's a worrisome image that I hope I never see.

But — goddammit! — those men and women better be wearing masks and keeping their distance.

* If I may stray from my point for just a second (as I often do), there are certain words and phrases that I have come to loathe as specific hot-button topics trend in the news. Media outlets tend to stick these words and phrases into every report, no matter how applicable it is to the current hot story. Over the years, the constant repetition of words like "Iraqi" during the days of Operation: Desert Storm and "Lewinsky" during the infamous Clinton scandal drove me crazy! More recently, "quid pro quo" was quickly replaced by the current "flatten the curve" — a phrase that is slowly losing its meaning as it is repeated over and over again on a daily basis and repeated by people who just heard it repeated on a news broadcast. 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

and I'm never going back to my old school

High school was not a pleasant experience for me. I hated every minute of it and anxiously awaited graduation, knowing I would never have to see those godforsaken hallways and classrooms again.

I got married five years after I graduated from high school, the first of my friends to do so. (Incidentally, I was pegged to be the last of my friends to get married.) A few months after my wedding, I received an invitation (at my parent's address) to my five-year high school reunion. Instead of tossing the invite to the trash, I — surprisingly — held on to it, actually considering attending. This was totally out of character. I hardly kept in touch with any of the few classmates that I considered "friends." But, the more I thought about it, the more I really wanted to go to this reunion. So, I replied in the affirmative and enclosed payment to cover my new bride and myself.

I should have skipped the reunion. I saw a bunch of people that — for four years — I hoped I would never have to see again. The ones who bragged about their accomplishments in high school now bragged (and likely exaggerated) about their accomplishments as members of the working world. C'mon now! Not everyone could possibly be an executive vice-president in charge of something-or-other, could they? My wife, who did not attend my high school, sat for most of the evening and talked to my friend Scott. Scott was an usher at my wedding and Mrs. Pincus had just seen him a few months earlier. I believe they talked about the wedding. At the end of the night, I swore — swore! — I would never go to another high school reunion again.

Around 2005 or so, I received an email from a high-school friend, one whom had been to my wedding, but with whom I didn't stay in regular contact. She told me about this "thing" on the internet called "Facebook." She explained that it was sort of a social interaction website that allowed the exchange of messages and pictures among connections. This was at a time when MySpace was thriving and I was pretty active on MySpace. I didn't see the need to join another social website. I do recall briefly perusing some photos and names from my past and immediately thinking: "This is not for me." But, I must have been curious enough, because I signed up for a Facebook page, although absolutely do not remember doing so. I have a "fan page" on Facebook, to which I contribute regularly. Recently, I must have changed some hidden setting on my personal Facebook page, because I receive friend suggestions on a daily basis. I see names that I haven't thought about in years... decades! Just this week, I received a suggestion to join a Facebook group from my high school graduation class. Like a common stalker, I clicked on the link.

There they were. A collection of names and faces from my past. Representatives of a dark, cringe-inducing time, suddenly released as though I cracked the lid of Pandora's box. The familiar names were accompanied by photos of older, grayer versions of those snotty, loathsome members of my graduation class. The messages all began with: "Remember when we...." and "There was that one time..." There were recent comments about a reunion (the 40th!) that was held in November 2019. Most were shallow sentiments from people whose greatest lifetime experiences occurred between 1975 and 1979. There was even someone suggesting a reunion of those who attended my elementary school. The thought made my skin crawl. I closed that window on my web browser as quickly as I could. 

Look, I know that I am in the overwhelming minority. I know that most people love high school reunions and long to reminisce with classmates about the carefree times of long ago — a time when corporate deadlines and family obligations were non-existent. I know that a lot of people kept life-long friendships and feel very comfortable "living in the past" and lying about their present.

I don't.

I have moved on and don't like looking back. With few exceptions, those that I currently consider friends are folks I have met long after I was handed my high school diploma. High school is not a fond memory and I would rather not associate with a bunch of people who sing its praises with dewy eyes and secretly wish for a time machine.