Sunday, November 4, 2012

Still Crazy After All These Years

When I say "crazy" I'm saying how crazy it is that even though, for nearly 20 years, I'd essentially lost touch with my closest high school friend, one afternoon in Eastern Pennsylvania is all it would take to go back to the old days. Only, it wasn't going back in that typical way where we exaggerate how great something from our past really was. This was great. It was easy. It was comfortable. It was awesome.
Just like old times, only in the East
We had the chance to catch up with Mike (or Michael, as he is known in his post-high school years) and his family over the summer. A couple of years ago Stacy saw on my Facebook page (which I almost never use, by the way) that Mike was moving from California to New Jersey. Both Mike and I are terrible at keeping up with friends so at my wonderful wife's urging, I picked up the phone and called him. It was fantastic. We agreed that once he'd gotten settled in his new job and had passed the New Jersey bar we'd get together. And then he changed jobs. And then his job got nuts. But we persisted.

He was going to be back in California for 6 months for his new job, but then he'd be back in New Jersey permanently. Mike also had an extended break over the summer so we decided to meet up while he was here. We figured out that if we were both willing to drive just over an hour we could meet halfway for lunch. It was too good an opportunity to miss.

We met up for lunch and we hit the ground running. Conversation was flying every which way before we even looked at a menu. Our poor server was probably going crazy with us, but we were having fun. It definitely helped that Mike's wife Courtney is a great person. She is fun and outgoing and an easy conversationalist. She is from Massachusetts, so it turns out that best friends in school ended up marrying MA girls and moving to the East. It's kind of funny how things work out sometimes. They also have adorable twin girls who kept Thing 1 and Thing 2 busy the whole time. They loved it.

After the non-stop fun and games, but still going strong
OK, let me set the scene. Stacy and I are reasonably intelligent people, capable of discussing a wide variety of topics in a fair bit of detail. Mike is a Stanford grad (in 3 years no less!) and Harvard Law graduate. Courtney is equally as intelligent and accomplished. These are the kinds of people that our society has decided are too smart for regular folks to even approach unless they need legal defense or an answer to one of the mysteries of the universe. Mike is as I've always remembered him: down to earth and so warm and friendly. As brilliant as he is, he is a regular guy, too. Courtney is the same way. We talked about everything from movies and books to parenting and relationships. We laughed a lot and talked non-stop. Hard to imagine, I know!

And even though she tried to stay in the background, it was fantastic to see Mike's mother, Mavis. She was a fixture in my school years in California. I spent a lot of time at his house growing up and she always treated me as one of the family. And she can cook! You've never had fried chicken until you've had hers. And her seafood gumbo? Incredible. She is as kind as ever and was great with our kids. 
Mike's mother, Mavis, his twin girls and me and my Things
We had a great meal together followed by a very fun afternoon at a nearby playground. None of us knew the area so it was fortunate we found so many great places near each other to hang out.  The girls kept Thing 1 and Thing 2 running all over the place. The adults kept the conversation going interminably. And the weather cooperated beautifully. It was one of those afternoons that we didn't want to end, so much so that we were already trying to plan a time to get together again. It is so awesome that our families clicked like that. Another great thing was that even with all the reminiscing we did about our school days, people we knew, and people we've seen lately, we spent even more time talking about our lives now, complete with the kinds of deep philosophical discussions I remember from my teenage years.

Our two families after hours of food, dozens of unfinished conversations, and fun
We've already had a chance to catch up now that Mike is back in New Jersey for good now. More details about that visit will come out soon, but suffice it to say it is awesome to have someone to visit between PA and New England. Also, our GPS confirmed that we live just about 2 hours from each other. That is a very doable drive for all of us. I see lots of get-togethers in the near future!

Enjoy this vintage pic--Mike, Steve, and me on a bus in DC, circa 1988
Mark and Mike by the Numbers--The Early Years:
1. Years we've known each other: 29
2. Classes we shared in the 6th grade: 6 out of 6
3. Kitchens of burrito joints in Santa Cruz we've been kicked out of: 1
4. Basketball teams on which we've played together: 2
5. Times we chanted "he's fouling me" at a rival team member: too many to count
6. Years as drum major/band president combo: 1
7. Class rank: 2 (Mike), 6 (Mark)
8. SAT scores: let's not go there. Stanford rejected me.
9. ACT scores: the only standardized test where I beat him. He probably didn't study for that one.
10. Head-to-head chess record: as of 1993 it was all tied up (after probably 50 matches or so)
11. Silver Lake band camps: 6 (it would have been 7 if I hadn't taken a summer to go to Berklee in L.A.)
12. Times gonged in the band camp gong show: 1 (we barely made it into the chorus of our a cappella rendition of "Free Ballin'." Lyrics aside, we were really good.)
13. Score on our a cappella version of "Lean on Me" in the same Gong Show: 27 of 30 (Second place. We were robbed!)
14. Girls that came between us: none (could have been one, but I was never that serious about her)
15. Broken bones witnessed: 1, my femur
16. Broken bones not witnessed: 2, my wrist and Mike's hand
17. Thanksgivings under the same roof: 1
18. Times hustled at Bid Whist by Mike's dad's Air Force buddies: 1. It was miserable.
19. Sports in which we lettered: 6 between us (Football, Soccer, Basketball, Baseball, Tennis, Track)
20. Laughs shared: Countless
Prom 1992, just a bunch of my closest friends
(most of us aren't with dates in the picture)
Mike's striking the pose in the back

8 comments:

Boquinha said...

You know what? *I* like your best friend from high school and his family, too! I feel like I've known Mike forever. I mean, very technically, I have known him for 20 years, but you know what I mean.

I'm so happy we get to live near each other and get to know one another even better. Every time we get together with them, I'm hungry for more!

Great friendships are treasures. I'm so glad you had Mike as a best friend growing up. The kids and I reap the benefits of all the ways he's contributed to the great man that you are.

Boquinha said...

P.S. I love the list, too. I laughed out loud at #12. Nice one.

Jimmy said...

I never experienced a band camp. I feel like I've missed out.

Emily Foley said...

I love getting together with old friends. Love it. How nice for you guys!

So I have a question. I don't understand what you mean by our society says we can't talk to smart people (I'm generalizing, obviously). I don't get it. I talk to smart people all the time...?

Dr. Mark said...

Jimmy, I think you did miss out on this one. Band camp was one of my favorite summer memories for about 7 years of my life. Not only did I make great friends and really enjoy the ones I already had, but I improved my musical abilities so much just from that one week each year.

Emily, all I meant is that there are some people that are so brilliant that they sometimes get placed on some sort of pedestal or they are insulated from all of us "regular" people. I've seen people that act like if you're not an ivy leaguer you probably don't have much to contribute to intelligent conversations. I've also met really brilliant people that we should lock away in a research lab so we don't have to try and talk to them. Mike and Courtney are super brilliant and yet super down to earth, too. I hope I'm making sense. Maybe I shouldn't be talking to brilliant people after all . . .

Stacy, I love that you love my friends. It's all working out!

Dr. Mark said...

My fact checker (i.e., Mike) has told me that I got a couple of my numbers wrong. His class rank was 1. We had two valedictorians and two salutatorians, and he was one of the valedictorians (I just wanted to type long words over and over again). He also said I may have undersold myself. So, we're going to say that our class ranks were 1 and 5. Stacy thought I was 5. I remembered 6. I'll take the one slot bump.

Also, he was band president for both of the years I was drum major. So we effectively dominated band for half of our high school careers, officially anyway. The entire four years unofficially. ;)

Boquinha said...

I knew it! We're both #5! WooHOO! Vindication! I KNEW IT!!

Dr. Mark said...

You were right. :)