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My fellow Members of the Menlo-Atherton High School Class of 1981,
Greetings! How are you? It may seem like a tired cliché, but where the heck has the time gone? Somehow, three dynamic decades have passed since we roamed (and in a few cases, like mine, “stalked”) the halls at Ravenswood & Middlefield (or was in Ringwood & Middlefield, or was it both?). A milestone reunion gives us an opportunity to take stock of our lives to date, recall some fond memories, and keep the “less-fond” ones appropriately buried.
We were all different then. We are all different now. You are who you were, but then again, you aren’t.
We had a shared life experience. We witnessed a interesting era of social, economic and political change. Our group of several hundred teenagers spent some formative years together, perhaps not always united, but nevertheless together.
The music from our formative high school years is pretty special (EFW, MJ, Journey, Kansas, Bee Gees, Styx, Stevie Wonder, Springsteen, Commodores, The Clash, Elvis Costello, Parliament/Funkadelic, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dire Straits, Teddy Pendergrass, The Scorpions, AC/DC, Devo, B52s, Blondie, The Cars, etc.), at least in my opinion, was at least as dynamic as the legendary next four years would be (Prince, Madonna, Kool & the Gang, U2, The Police, REM, The Gap Band, Human League, Def Leppard, Culture Club, Cameo, Duran Duran, Men at Work, Thompson Twins, Depeche Mode, Midnight Star, etc.). There are literally dozens of songs I hear that immediately cause me to think back specifically to high school days. Call it out with me: “FREE-BIRD!”
Our 1980 Junior Prom theme was “Dance the Night Away” by future arena-rock super-band Van Halen… and we sure did, rocking the Holiday Inn Palo Alto despite the claustrophobic eight-foot ceilings. The theme song for our Senior Ball (technically it was the 1981 “Junior-Senior Ball” since we combined to save some money) was “The Best of Times” by Styx and for some they were, for some they definitely were not.
The headlines read
These are the worst of times
I do believe it's true
I feel so helpless…
Like a boat against the tide
I wish the summer wind
Could bring back Paradise
Let’s get real here - we are not promising to “bring back paradise” (that would really cost you!), but whether these are the best or worst of times for you, we hope the “summer wind” of our upcoming reunion either will help raise or stem the tide. Your life may be great, your life might suck at the moment, but there will be people at this gathering that genuinely care about you and how you are doing. That is not a scenario we encounter frequently these days, at least I don’t. Where else am I going to get someone to sing a karaoke duet with me of the classic ballad “Reunited” by the immortal combination of Peaches & Herb?
Bottom line: Come to the reunion. Just show. We know it may take some effort to arrange. Just do it. At this gathering, you won’t have to lie about your age, you won’t have to make up stories about where you grew up (assuming you have “grown up”), you won’t have to “position your career” or try to impress anyone. We all had different backgrounds, different family situations, different friends, different talents, different interests, different bodies and, in some cases, different hairlines. Not everyone can look exactly the same, like Jim Dowley.
Personally, I am facing some interesting challenges, trying to get a start-up finance company up and running. Things were definitely more comfortable financially for me ten years ago than they are today, but on the other hand, I am now fortunate to have a wonderful. tolerant wife and two beautiful children that have tipped the life balance more toward bliss, if there is such a thing! Wow, how one’s life can change in the course of a decade!
Some of us are fit and healthy, some of us are sick and tired. Some of us are unemployed, some have struck it rich financially or otherwise. Some play lot of golf, some have never picked up a club. Some of us have thrown clubs – pretty far too..and into lakes! Some of us found true love, some of us have not done so….at least, not yet. Mistakes were made, successes took place. Times changed. We changed. It’s all cool. We’re okay, you’re okay.
1981 seems like so long ago. Prince Charles and Princess Diana were not even married yet. And yet, some of our memories are still fairly fresh. However you look back on your M-A experience, we can probably all agree that it has been a while. Pretty scary when a cheesy, nostalgic time-warp reunion movie from 2010, Hot Tub Time Machine, actually involves a high school class considerably younger than we are… or was it a college class in that film? Who knows, my memory isn’t as sharp as it once was…
There may be some old wounds, but we hope they have healed. Seeing old friends can be excellent personal therapy. Despite the decades of life-path divergence, let’s be reminded that we are not strangers. We have a unique commonality of experience. It may have been by chance and geographic proximity, but the fact remains that we were young together. We viewed Dave Landes’ lily-white buttocks together, which was traumatic for some. So what if it was for four fast years or even for just six months. I remember friends who were at M-A for just a year or two – and we are back in touch due largely to the double-edged mock-miracle of Facebook. Some of us attended kindergarten, elementary school and junior high together. Don’t choose to forget! Forage through those memories and feed on them!
Is it expensive to attend a first-class reunion event on the San Francisco peninsula in 2011? Heck yeah. Everything is expensive these days (except the public library, which is a steal). Gone are the bargain days of the 1981 M-A Senior Picnic ($4.00), 1981 Senior Breakfast ($2.00) and 1980 Junior Prom ($15.00 per couple) There is a lot that goes into a well-planned, appropriate event in more “modern” times. It involved nearly wedding-scale planning and execution. Trust me, this isn’t going to be your typical backyard BBQ with Uncle Al. Turn off your DirecTV for a month if you need a few extra bucks. Sell some stuff you don’t need on Craig’s List to fund an afternoon of frolicking fun you will long remember. (Football dudes – we promise you won’t be required to “frolic”!)
I look forward to seeing all of you that can make it. I am hoping Steve Winn will remember my name this time! Speaking of making it….let’s be grateful that we have made it this far. Some of our most beloved classmates were not so fortunate. We miss them. I am sure they will be with us in spirit.
Kelly Porter’s spectacular home in Los Altos Hills is worth a visit in its own right. Hell, Kelly himself is worth a visit – the guy is hilarious as well as smart, quirky, warm-hearted and handsome. He put an extraordinary seven-year effort into restoring a unique residence and managed to accomplish his goals in stunning fashion, furnishing it with period furniture and décor. It is a masterpiece of the style period. By the way, I feel fortunate to count Kelly as one of my close friends today, even though we were fairly friendly, but not particularly close back in high school. It is through Kelly’s remarkable generosity that we are able to have our 30th reunion take place at a truly unique and special venue.
Speaking of evolving friendships, Charlie Jammer and I knew each other a bit at M-A, but since our 20th reunion in 2001, we talk on a regular basis and arrange occasional get-togethers (“Jammer-J” even attended my wedding in ’02!). Who knew we would share a passion for late-70s and early-80s music? Perhaps no one in our class has faced more formidable challenges during his or her lifetime, but we could all learn some lessons from Charlie’s ever-cheerful and improbably optimistic attitude. He will be at the reunion and I expect it will be one of the highlights of his year. He still raves about the experience he had at the 20th we pulled off back in ‘01!
While there is a not inconsiderable cost associated with attending, there is also a less well-defined cost of “not attending”. Don’t pass on this one, people. If you really want to come, but need some help, please let us know and we will put you in touch with High Class Reunions who is managing an Angels program that might be able to help make it a bit more possible for you to attend. Certainly if your decision not to come is entirely “voluntary”, then there is not much we can do at this point. The Menlo-Atherton Class of 1981 Reunion Committee has endeavored to create a fun and meaningful experience for us. Please, please don’t miss out. We know it isn’t a trivial decision to attend from a cost standpoint, but we believe it will be well-worth the expenditure. Important: If you act now and register to attend, you will still be able to get the “early-bird” discount of $100.00 through this coming Monday (vs. $110.00 if you put it off…don’t!)
In hopes of seeing each and every one of you on Saturday, July 23, 2011, I remain enthusiastically yours,
Jim (Still “Jimmy” or “Rutt” to a precious few)
James B. Rutter
Senior Class President
Menlo-Atherton High School, Class of 1981
P.S. A few more comments on the upcoming reunion gathering. Putting on a first-class event requires a lot of things to happen and we don’t always realize just how much. I personally looked into this issue. In addition to an amazing gourmet BBQ, iced tea, lemonade, and delicious desserts, the cost of your $100.00 per person early-bird ticket goes into less obvious things like the professional staff handling check-in, set-up, clean-up and tear-down. Would you really want to serve as a “volunteer” for those duties?
There will be transportation by shuttle service to and from the event. We have to supply a professional bartender for a cash bar (that obviously augments the chest of ice-cold beer probably stashed in your trunk and cans likely snuck in inside your pants). For safety purposes, there has to be a professional lifeguard stationed at the Porter pool.
A reunion event also requires decorations, yearbook photo nametags, linens, flatware, cups, ice, etc.
The reunion company offers hotel rooms with special group rates. Payment plans are available.
Don’t forget the cost of entertainment & music, advertising, printing, mailings & postage, financial and administrative work. The reunion company is providing special certificates for an awards ceremony.
The reunion company thoroughly researched our class and managed to locate and notify over 90% of our former classmates, which is pretty impressive. That required some serious effort. They have also provided us with our own class e-mail address and web page, provided on-line address updates and on-line registration and payment processing. As they say, “There’s no free lunch” and “You get what you pay for”. Modern life is what it is. We honestly don’t think you will be disappointed.