Sunday, April 22, 2018

Blood and Guts and a High School Reunion

Jimmy Carter and the class of 1988, then and now. 

Jimmy Carter was president when we moved to Dallas in 1979.   I was just nine.  Kathy Acker had just finished writing Blood and Guts in High School.  I carried a copy of the surrealist novel on my flight to Dallas for the thirtieth anniversary of my high school graduation.  Acker’s novel pulsed in front of eyes as we careened through the air on our way. Sex and feeling, her novel, full of dialogues with Jean Genet, Jimmy Carter, and madness is a reminder of that raw feeling.  Growing up is never simple.  

Image result for blood and guts in high school
Image result for blood and guts in high school
Leaving New York, I think of our daughter’s 9th grade friend who hurled herself off the 16th floor of her building two days prior. 

As Caroline wrote of facebook:
On Wednesday afternoon a young friend of my daughter's ended her life. It's sad and mysterious, and today we just wished she could have counted to ten, or called a friend, or watched a stupid favorite tv series. None of it makes sense and it's been an unfortunate lesson for my 15 year old to learn about the fragility of it all and how grief actually feels when it hits home and not abstracted as our media does so well. Hug your kids tightly and remember to hear them.

Flying, I read and nap and edit Illuminations on Market Street, my novel about surviving those years.
I have an ambivalent relationship with this space, its the scene of the crime, divorce and memories.  I’m slightly nervous.

Eric picked me up in Dallas and we drove into the distance.  The blue sky seemed to expand forever, the Texas sky is always a reminder of something infinite.   We talked about beer and the dead, music and friendships, a drug here, a lost contact there, kids growing up faster than we can keep up with.   Twenty years prior when he picked me up for our ten-year reunion, none of those kids were around.  Now our kids are in high school and college, asking questions, contending with mortality and romance, faith and work.

We drive to Greenville Avenue and share a few.  He tells me about a trip across Europe with Roy and Chuck and Jen and Doug, who tended to sleep through the trains.  And did not appreciate being awoken.
What was I supposed to do leave him?
Where is everyone?
It might be you and me.

Pictures from an old girlie magazines are spewn over the walls of the bathroom, an add with Jimmy Carter, a pack of cigarettes.

Friends pour into the space, people I have not seen since Reagan was president.  Karen who left the East Coast after Columbia, Larry who played football with me and bought me a pint, Tuffy whose house was a second home whose mom was ahead of her time, Doug who offered the biggest smile, Kelly who worked with autistic kids, Beth who works with Trump, Jennifer who gave me sex advise, Erin who talked about suicide, Chris who talked about anal and grabbed my crotch, Karmi who went to Georgetown, became a nurse and organized the reunion with Karen, on and on.  Robin and I talked.  Hadn’t seen her for three decades, a little forgiveness here, a few stories there. Costas and I hadn’t stumbled into each other since the financial crisis and lost touch. It was good to laugh.

One person’s kid feels everything in the world; another’s is bipolar.  Another is learning to make money. We all had stories about the last three decades. We’d all survived a few childhood growing pains, divorces, and premature autopsies along the way.

A Bowie cover band played “Modern Love” and people danced, like it seems they only dance in Dallas, without an iota of self consciousness.

Karmi led the crew for late night dinner and Eric drove me to David’s.
Thanks’ for the ride and the friendship buddy.
David has a new friend who he introduces me to.
She’s 18 months old, smiling from ear to ear.
Beverly and Barbara meet David’s wife, daughter and I for lunch.
Barbara has outlived two husbands.  At 81, she is gorgeous.  She tells us about her grandparents arriving from Dublin and starting a life here.
Driving through Dallas, to the Inwood Theater and the Highland Park Theater where we went to midnight movies and a man hid in the attack for a decade after they stopped playing Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1984.

A lot of memories here, he comments.
Yes, but the present is a good place, I reply.

We talk about our Dads and those years, the goodbyes and hellos and friends from a decade that brought us together, linking our lives.  You only grow up with so many people in this world.  I finish my drink and he drives me to love field.
Dad used to go to this sketchy bar down here when he was fighting with mom.
That was a swingers club, notes David.
Dad wasn’t there.  He’s more a part of the Texas skies.
See you in New Orleans.
Great to see you again class of 1988.
I pick back up my copy of Blood and Guts in High School, reading about her hallucinations from a beach in the mid-1970’s, one that feels  a lot like the future we’re living now.


  1. great photos, and a great read. sorry to have missed the festivities, and wish i was there. lots of great times w great friends. safe travels.

  2. Ben you are a delight. So glad you made the trip to reconnect and share a few stories, laughs and love. I look forward to seeing you in 5 years if not before... call me if you are ever in San Francisco my friend. Be well and enjoy this crazy, magical life

  3. So what have YOU been doing for the last 30 years!!? Love you buddy!!!! XOXO E