I graduated high school in 1993. The same year the “90210” kids and the “Saved By The Bell” kids graduated. The hottest song out was “That’s the Way Love Goes” by Janet Jackson. Slick Willie Clinton had been commander-in-chief for all of five months. Justin Bieber wasn’t even born yet.
The school I graduated from, Brooklyn Technical High School, is one of a handful of “elite” high schools in New York City. Back in 1989, when I started my freshman year, there were only two other elite high schools in NYC: Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant, in lower Manhattan. To hear those other schools tell it, Tech was the runt of the litter. To hear us Technites tell it, fuck those guys.
A few facts about my high school tenure as it relates to pop culture: one of my schoolmates during my freshman year of 1989-1990: one Talib Kweli Greene, who was soon to drop the last name and go on to become rap royalty (he transferred out prior to the beginning of sophomore year.) Our most famous alumnus? Lou Ferrigno. Tech was the basis for the hit sitcom “Head Of The Class.” The video for E.U.’s “Da Butt” was filmed in my high school cafeteria (a year before I attended.) A constant presence during my high school career: “Da Butt” video and major film director Spike Lee, who lived in the same neighborhood as my school, opened a retail store called Spike’s Joint directly across the street, and could often be found running errands locally. One of my fondest high school memories has to do with the time our gym teacher, Mr. Math, encountered Spike as he was taking us on a run through Fort Greene Park. Mr. Math spoke in two languages-gibberish, and George Carlin Jokes. He said something to Spike in gibberish, and Spike looked at Mr. Math like he had 4 heads. The rest of us either laughed or looked at Spike in the hopes that he might do something to save us from having to run a mile through Fort Greene Park. He didn’t save us. Damn you, Spike.
A fact about me: I romanticized high school reunions for the longest time. Growing up as a sitcom watcher, the idea of a reunion filled me with glee due to the myriad opportunities (emotional and hilarious) that a situation like that presents. Hell, even a recent episode of “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” made a high school reunion seem like a pretty cool place to be. When I received an email from Tech’s Alumni Association this past summer asking for help on the reunion committee, I was super excited, for about a day. Then a thought came into my head-do I even want to attend my 20th reunion?
I don’t have a lot of bitterness in regards to my high school career. Quite the contrary, actually. Those four years at Brooklyn Tech were instrumental in shaping the person I am today. It was the first academic situation I’d ever been in where excellence-from everyone-was largely expected. It was the first environment I was in where it was cool if you were a little bit different. And while I was probably way more nerdy than “different”-for a large portion of my high school career I was covered in pimples, sported a ridiculous mini rat-tail (“it looks like you have a little hard dick in the back of your head,” said a classmate once,) and dressed…uniquely (parachute pants, brightly colored clothing, peace medallions, and the like.)-it went over a lot better than it would have at my local public high school, where I would have likely gotten into fights every day. At any rate, at Tech I made good friends, learned some sorely-needed social skills, and an English teacher by the name of Mike Greenberg was the first person to indicate that I might have a future in writing, setting off a career path that I’m still pursuing almost a quarter-century after that conversation. I should give him a royalty on everything I write, but I won’t. Because I don’t know where he is. And I don’t make any money from these things. And he would probably have a conniption based on me starting the last three sentences with “because,” “and,” and “and.”
At any rate, there are three reasons I’m ambivalent about this reunion. One is distance. Not emotional distance, but physical distance. I live in Boston. I went to high school in New York. Getting from Point A to Point B would require four hours of travel by bus or train (the fact that I drive sparingly and reluctantly can be covered in another column) and is fairly unappealing. In addition, a lot of my friends from high school have split New York as well. Lea is in Rochester. Harish is in Houston. William is in fucking Greece. Greece, the country. The idea that he’d fly back to NYC just to see the yahoos he graduated with (and the person who stood idly by as he got robbed for his Mickey Mouse watch on the 2 train…sorry, dude) is laughable. As for the folks that are still in the tri-state area, it would be pretty easy to drop them a line and ask them to meet up for a drink or a dinner at some point when I’m visiting. A fair amount of my good friends from that era are still in touch via Fac…whoops, I’m getting ahead of myself.
This brings me to reason #2. We had our 10 year reunion back in 2003. I attended, and while it was nice to see some old faces (students and faculty) and walk through the halls of my high school (yes, I had John Mayer’s “No Such Thing” playing on a loop through my head for most of the event,) the fact of the matter is that maybe 60 people showed up? And my graduating class was 1,200 people. You read that right. One thousand, two hundred. 5% of my graduating class gave a shit enough to show up on a Saturday for the 10th year reunion. Will the attendance for #20 be higher? Eh, probably. Will it be much higher? Probably not. Many of us will be perfectly content to goof on each other on Facebook…
…which brings me to my third and final point: social media. I don’t know if I was on MySpace in 2003. We certainly didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. Now we do. I can send messages to and keep tabs on my best friends from that time (and even my beloved high school history teacher, Mr. Wong, who probably wouldn’t attend the reunion) just by logging in. No travel required. Anyone who wants to be in touch from that era can find me; my name is fairly unique. While something is obviously lost because we’re not communicating with one another in a 3-dimensional sense, we’ve enjoyed a relationship with a lot more consistency because we’ve remained in touch the last few years through these portals. There’s no “oh, you look like that?” surprise. No laughing at the fact that so-and-so went bald or you-know-who turned out to be gay, because we all know that already. And for the record, I’m only balding slightly on top, thank you very much.
Point 3 1/2: I don’t really have anything to prove to anyone anymore. A part of me thought that I’d attend the reunion just to prove that I’d made something of myself and I’d turned out to be a somewhat well-adjusted adult, but time has taught me that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone but myself. I think adult me has finally made peace with insecure, frightened teenage me. Besides, the fact that I do what I do for a living and write on the side would surprise exactly 0.0 of the friends I had back then. Come to think of it, I marked out my career path fairly early. Shit.
So…I don’t know. If the stars align, I still might show up. After all, I’m in NYC on a regular basis for business, and despite the low turnout, the 10 year reunion was actually kinda fun. It was nice to walk around in the gym (which still smells the same) and have lunch in the cafeteria (the food probably is the same) all these years later. It’s certainly not a necessity anymore, though. And I’d imagine that the majority of my classmates (all 1,199 of them) have similar feelings.
Yeah, Mr. Greenberg. I started a sentence with “and” again. It’s my blog. I set the rules.