We were the life of the party. . .

Nothing quite hits you in the gut like a country song. 
I was on the treadmill in the basement trying to find a song on the old radio to pace me. I thought I had WDVE (rock) but the tuning dial on the radio is a little off and I got a country station.
Before I could switch it back I was already three minutes in, so I thought, ah, some of it’s good.
Then I heard Chris Young and Cassadee Pope singing Think of You
There was this chain bar/restaurant back in the Cleveland area called The Pewter Mug. I would spend a lot of evenings there with my high school friend Dan B., his wife Lori and my (then) wife. Hell, we’d close the place down many nights. We knew the bartender – and older guy (compared to us) who was a true mixologist.
I’m divorced from that wife, Dan B. is going through his personal hell somewhere in Toledo and I have no idea where Lori is.
We used to be the life of the party
We used to be the ones that they wished they were
There was this place in Mentor called Spats. It was a hangout for cops, firefighters and the whole damn neighborhood. Good bar food, cheap drinks and atmosphere. I’d go there with my high school friends Frank H. (best man at my second wedding), Chris N., Jim C. and his wife Betsy, Frank’s fireman friend Tony S. and sometimes his cop friend Mark P. Through a haze of cigarette smoke, we’d ponder the mysteries of life.
Spats – about the fourth incarnation but still pretty much the same
We’d close that place down too. 
Same old bar, same burned out lights
Same people and all the same faces
So why in the hell does it feel like a different place?
Frank, Jim and Tony don’t talk to me anymore (and I can’t blame them). Jim divorced Betsy. Chris and Mark died. 
The Cavs and the indoor soccer team, The Force, used to play in the old Richfield Coliseum. The Indians used to play in the old Municipal Stadium. I spent many an evening in those places with high school friend Ed T. (best man at my first wedding), his friends Bob B. and newspaper friends Mike L. and Paul S.
So familiar it could have been us
You know how this ends, right? Ed travels in different circles now, Bob and Keith are still up in NE Ohio but I haven’t seen them in years and Mike and Paul and I lost touch over the years.
It’s like there’s always an empty space
Those memories that nobody can erase
Of how bright we burned
Well now it hurts, but it’s true
When they think of me, they think of you
There are some of those people I’ve tried to apologize. 
There are some of them I’ve tried to reconnect.
One of them, I think, fears I’ll bring up the past that he’d rather forget. I wouldn’t but I don’t blame him for thinking that.
But I guess once a time and place passes, it passes forever. Sometimes when you go back and try and revisit old times, the present gets in the way.
It works that way with friends, relatives, old wives and girlfriends.
And people change. 
And these are just friends. Don’t even get me started on family. The best excuse I have there is that more than 90 percent of them are dead. If it weren’t for my wife’s relatives, I’d have no family at all.
It’s cold comfort to know all of this also know that my weirding out ruined a lot of it too. Bipolar = thoughtless remarks, depression = invites turned down and early nights, anxiety = too much booze and stupid behavior.
Christ, if I only had had a clue.
People leave but the memories stay. And I live in the past too much. 
Most of them are still up there in the Cleveland area, just two hours away.
And I’m down in here in Pittsburgh and watch Steelers games with my wife in a basement-themed sports bar – the basement of my dreams with no one around to share it with. Work friends? Please. 
It seems like a contradiction for me — introverted, self-conscious and valuing my alone time to feel a painful twinge when I hear Neil Diamond sing and I’m not a man who likes to swear but I never cared for the sound of being alone.
Yeah, I know, I could go with that song: Pittsburgh’s fine, but it ain’t home, Cleveland’s home, but it ain’t mine no more.
Dan and I used to like Neil Diamond when that wasn’t cool. 
I am I said. To no one there.
I’ve been trying to climb back into sociability over the last year. Lots of my graduating classmates are Facebook friends. Of course, most them it’s been, what? Twenty-five, thirty years?
There was a meet-up of many of them last winter. Guys from the football team, several girls who were quite popular back in the day. I steeled my anxiety and made the trip.
Turns out I had the best time I had in years. I couldn’t believe it. 
Maybe the way things I remember wasn’t the way things necessarily were. Maybe I wasn’t such a schlub after all. 
So I went ahead and volunteered to help out with our 35thclass reunion. And I started a memories page for my high school’s graduating classes.
Maybe I can’t hang with a lot of my old crowd, but perhaps I can re-connect with the people I never knew I could. 
When you get to be of a certain age, the cliché that life’s too short become a reality. And a lot of the bullshit that meant so much one time seems so silly now. 
Maybe, just maybe, (I) we can be the life of the party again. 
Dedicated to the Lake Catholic Senior Class of 1981.
This entry was posted in good memories, regret. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s