Return to the Prep: Part 1

"I think when you're 18, your personalities conflict, and then you meet up 10 or 15 years later and the playing ground is totally different and you're fine...of course there were nerves going in. But half of it was the buildup everyone else put in on it."

- Shannen Doherty on returning to 90210

iona reunion invite

The way I see it, there are two kinds of people who attend their 10-year high school reunion.

First, there are those who have stayed close to their hometown, their roots, and welcome with open arms the chance to see familiar faces from the past, regardless of what they've achieved over the past decade. The second group, on the other hand, accepts the invitation to return to their alma mater in hopes of subtly showing off what they've achieved since stripping off the cap and gown and bidding adieu to the lockers and lunchmeat.

And then there's me: a sucker for nostalgia, slightly masochistic in his curiosity and simply looking for a reason to escape the palm trees and paparazzi for a while and return to the East Coast for some autumn foliage and hometown glory.

Iona Prep

To prepare myself for Iona Prep's Class of '98 Reunion I visited the school's website to get a glance at any changes I could expect. New to Student Life was a No Cell Phone Policy which was strictly enforced for the classes of '09, '10, '11 and '12 (Just typing those years now seems really bizarre to me). Ten years ago I couldn't fathom the concept of texting and developing a "CrackBerry" addiction. Ten years ago, laptops were a grand luxury bestowed upon the select few who mastered standardized tests and were destined to be shipped off to the Ivy League school of their choice. Now, it appears that anyone can slip a Powerbook into a messenger bag and browse through iTunes during free periods (hooray for Wi-Fi!).

My first journey through the wonderland known as the Internet took place in the school library during my sophomore year. One of my earliest Web memories was visiting the site for Independence Day to watch the countdown to the movie's opening weekend. I had finished my lunch early enough to run down to the library and grab a computer terminal before the usual crowd rushed in (Dorkus Maximus, party of one).

Hacking into each other's e-mail accounts was also a practice we perfected in between classes. There were days during senior year when a friend and I would read another friend's e-mails from an unknown sender (Obviously, names are being withheld for the sake of those with whom I may still keep in touch). The messages referred to a sordid summer that we had never known about. There wasn't anything jawdroppingly scandalous about them, but it was usually an interesting read. We were 17-year-olds after some shits and giggles.

Sometimes the library would be disrupted by the shenanigans from the jocks, meatheads, and stoners of Iona Prep - or, as I like to call them, the IQ-Challenged Posse. Poor Nancy Forrest, the librarian who had to endure the torment of the footballers who pulled practical joke after practical joke every afternoon. The worst was when Senioritis kicked in during the spring. The catcalls and spitballs had evolved into monkey screeches and chair-banging. Shedding her quiet and timid senior-citizen persona, Mount Forrest finally erupted, and a dominating disciplinarian emerged, silencing everyone in the room. "Enough!" she bellowed, and right then the marrow in my bones would freeze. The woman could have been a dominatrix for Hitler under those cardigans and plaid slacks.

Our headmaster, a moustached mullet-wearer with a voice comparable to a used-car salesman on Vicodin, would usually be called into the library whenever it got out of hand. He'd call out some names from his list of usual suspects, and those unfortunate souls would then spend an hour with him after the final bell rang at the end of the day.

The 2:41 Club was the name for those students who never stayed after hours to participate in extracurricular activities. They were the ones who ran out of the building at 2:41, the final bell, and were never seen again until the the next morning. They were the loners, the nobodies, the invisible freaks...and I had been one of them up until the end of my sophomore year.

I had been in the library during lunch period trying to get a headstart on my homework (Melrose Place was a two-hour that night) when I was recruited by the persistent Ricky to join the school's successful Forensics team. This was in the fall of 1996, a time when the words "college," "future" and "involvement" were thrown around to scare us into joining extracurriculars and building an impressive record for those selective universities that would further shape us into outstanding members of society (they don't call it a prep school for nothing).

iona prep forensics 03

Involving neither cadavers nor fingerprint dusting (which is the usual impression), Forensics dealt more with playwrights and extemporaneous speaking - a.k.a speech and debate. I leaned more on the speech side, Oral Interpretation to be exact. I was given some prose and poetry to recite for judges at small local tournaments, coached by Mr. "I Love Denim Jackets" Sloat and Brother "I Love Theatrics" Cavet. My prose selection was "Here There Be Tygers," a short story by Stephen King, and for my poetry portion I recited several works from the late and great Shel Silverstein. I learned how to master diction, how to perfect subtle arm movements and how to alternate the pitches of my voice when playing several characters at once.

Those of us in OI would make patients with multiple-personality disorders look like amateur Muppet actors.

By the end of my junior year my prose and poetry readings had taken me as far as Albany (The State Tournament, in which I won 2nd Place) and Baltimore (the Catholic National Tournament, in which I placed in the top 24). Looking back, the Baltimore experience was a lot like the Hollywood rounds of American Idol - except there wasn't any melodramatic weeping...and most contestants were obsessed with Tennessee Williams and Newt Gingrich. And just like Idol, everyone got along, especially with those on rival teams from other schools. Of course, once we got back to our hotel rooms, we talked about them behind their backs and ripped on how cheesy their deliveries were, how awful their tones sounded, how horrid their hair looked with that secondhand wardrobe.

We were a bitchy lot.

I look forward to reliving some of these memories come October 4. I'm keeping the expectations low, realizing that there can never exist a reunion quite as superfabulous as Romy and Michelle's. I will not search for redemption in a three-way dance to the strings of "Un-Break My Heart". Likewise, I will not be whisked away in a helicopter while my former enemies are blown away into the bushes, tupees flying over the parking lot (I didn't have enemies - everyone freakin' loved me).

I'll go with an open mind, knowing that I may learn a little more about myself in addition to the fellas I haven't seen since that momentous summer of '98. I'm sure there will be promised efforts to keep in touch, exchanges of business cards, photos taken for the alumni newsletters (and Facebook albums). But I also can't help feeling that it may just be a fleeting experience, one that may quickly be forgotten, or one that may deliver closure for some and new opportunities for others.

We shall see...

Ooh, will you look at that. It's almost 2:41.

Gotta run.


"I invented Post-Its."


Jenny said…
Ha ha - I invented Post-Its.

Where are you in the picture??

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