Ruminations From the Western Slope

Ruminations From the Western Slope
Colorado River near Moab, Utah

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Class Reunion, Part 4

I spent Friday night with my friends John and Nancy high on a hill in Boulder Creek amidst redwoods and douglas firs. A thick blanket of coastal fog was already beginning to dissipate as dawn arrived quietly over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Soon I was driving the winding curves of Highway 9 toward Skyline Boulevard., then over the summit and down into Saratoga. At some point along the way, the sun broke through misty madrones and tanbark oaks as dozens of Saturday cyclists pedaled past me in the opposite direction.

I ended up at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Palo Alto. If the Crown Plaza had a familiarity to it, it was because this was the former Cabana Hotel where the Beatles once spent the night after playing Candlestick Park in 1965. I could still remember standing outside its elegant walls 45 years earlier with hundreds of screaming kids, all of us hoping to catch a glimpse of the Fab Four but destined not to. They had stayed on the eighth floor back then. I was staying on the sixth.

That Saturday afternoon the “official” reunion gathering began in the backyard of another LAHS alum at a house not far from my old junior high school. The streets still lined with gnarled pepper trees. One of those perfect Los Altos summer afternoons - warm and clear with a touch of bluish haze over Black Mountain and the coastal range. More alumni keep drifting in, and once again Hawaiian shirts were the sartorial statement of the day.

The last time I consorted with so many members of my senior high school class was on Grad Night in June of 1965. Who among any of us back then could have imagined the long and rocky road that would bring us back together so many years later? I thought about my own experiences with fate and time. Set free with a diploma to embrace the social upheaval of the 1960s. Stabs at colleges here and there. Student strikes. Human Be-Ins. Hallucinogens. Hitchhiking. The crazy, unsettling, hedonistic impulses of youth. And, finally, that lucky break.....a seasonal park ranger job in my favorite spot on earth, Pinnacles National Monument.

But the rootlessness did not end there as my work took me all over the west. The canyon country of Utah. The fogbound peninsula of Point Reyes. The spiny heat of the Arizona desert. The rugged gold country between Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen. Throughout it all, the broken marriages. Failed romances. The joyful births of my daughters. Conflicts in the work place. A summer trip to Greece. A retirement in Western Colorado. And the one, long certain love affair with the American Southwest.

And this weird physical deterioration of my body. The arthritis. The failing eyes. The loss of stamina. But, oddly enough, amid all my fellow classmates who no doubt have gone through or are going through similar maladies, I don’t even think about any of that. I wander through the easy crowd, catching up with other peoples’ pasts, watching the interplay and, in the end, feeling a part of something that is bigger than me. From the hopes and dreams of Grad Night to a kind of serene satisfaction in having made it this far, and being able to hang out once again with old friends.

Before this trip is over, I will have one more opportunity to go back in time and space. But I will have to leave Los Altos to do it.

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