The Long Solo Ride – 3700 Miles on a Speed Triple: Part V
The all years’ reunion for Minnetonka High School is held every four years. It began in 2002, which was the 50th anniversary of the opening of the school. For the class of 1965, thanks to the tireless Sharon, there was an additional treat – a three hour boat cruise on the lake for Class of ’65 alumni and assorted spouses. When we gathered at the marina in Excelsior for the cruise, Sharon had printed up stick on name badges for all, with the graduation pictures. This was very helpful to me, as I was not able to identify everyone on sight as I had Charlie the previous day.
The cruise was fantastic. Sharon had set it up with a cash bar and a buffet of fantastic sandwiches and shrimp, encouraging people to “mingle” and not get stuck in place at a sit down dinner. I had dozens of conversations with old friends and heard a lot of stories about me in high school that I had long forgotten. Most of these people seemed to have photographic memories, while I had moved away and left the past, even though it was happy, in the past.
I am not sure something like this could take place in the Seattle area. I’d never heard of a high school with an alumni associate, complete with glossy quarterly magazine. The school has a wall dedicated both to a staff hall of fame and a student hall of fame. The majority of my classmates had never moved very far away, and even many of those who had seemed to be in very close contact with everyone they grew up with. As I’d never been to a reunion, I was often a bit lost. Susan was terrific, and enjoyed lots of short conversations with friends from my youth, who were all warm and gracious and welcoming to her.
I had a chat with my brother in law’s partner about this last week. He grew up in Indiana and feels that this retention of high school contacts and memories is a Midwest thing.
In any case, the boat cruise was three hours of mingling and chatting and listening to fabulous stories. All of them were positive, and most were funny. I suppose it’s natural that only those with positive memories would want to return for such events, but even so, getting over 100 people (including spouses) onto a paid boat excursion 49 years later is really impressive. I recall that there were just over 400 in our graduating class.
My oldest brother graduated #1 in his class of 1960. My second brother graduated #2 in the class of 1961. I was #96. I exclaimed to my parents that they must be proud that all three of their sons had graduated in the top 25% of their respective classes. As they had spent years wondering at the disparity between my standardized test scores and my actual grades, they were not all that amused….
One of my friends from childhood was Gary Mosiman. He reminded me of a fond memory, in a surprising way. When we were in grade school, ever winter recess was spent in massive snowball fights, which were allowed back then. High banks of snow pushed up around the parking lot by the plows made natural forts. The two “teams” in those days were the Indians vs. the US Cavalry. My mother, in a fit of genius, sewed a yellow stripe down the outside of each pant leg of a pair of jeans, and I had – Cavalry pants! Gary told me that those pants made him virtually sick with envy every time I wore them. He begged his mother to make him a pair, and she refused. I had no idea.
I also spent some time with Jerry Marquardt. Jerry and I had combined our lives several times in different ways. In 7th grade we ran against each other for class president. I won, and I was told the reason was that some of the kids from Jerry’s school did not like him, and voted for someone they did not know at all instead. Whatever the reason, being the President of the 7th Grade Class was fun, and also got me the chance to meet and spend time with Olympic Champion Jesse Owens, so I am very glad Jerry lost!
My senior year in high school the basketball coach watched me in gym class one day. I was a mediocre or less player, but on that day I was hitting every shot I took. He asked me to turn out for the team. I knew I was WAY out of my depth, but gosh, when the coach asks you… I was one of those cut from the team, and should have been, but the team won the state title, so I can always claim I was cut from the best team in the state that year! And by the way, this was before the complexity of ranking by size. There was no A or AAA or 4A classifications – just one team was the champion – Minnetonka.
During tryouts I lasted long enough to take part in a scrimmage. I was to guard Jerry, and he dribbled down the court looking at me with a silly smirk on his face. I could hear his thoughts in my head – “I may go to the right, or to the left, or just straight over the top of you, but it makes no difference because you can’t stop me.” So true.
In the state title game, the opponents decided to slow down the high-powered MHS offense with a full-court press. The way you beat a full court press is with a lot of quick and accurate passes. You do not give the ball to your all-state guard and let him dribble around and through the press. Unless it was Jerry. He destroyed their full-court press all by himself.
At the end of the game the best looking cheerleader rushed up and leaped into Jerry’s arms, and my jealousy soared. Three years later it got worse. I was sharing a house with four other guys, and three blocks away Jerry and his gorgeous wife were in their rented house. In the driveway sat a brand new Triumph Bonneville. Envy doesn’t begin to cover my emotions.
Years later I learned from Jerry that the Triumph had been stolen when it was two months old, and that he and the cheerleader later divorced. There’s lesson in there somewhere. I suppose.
Jerry was my lab partner for Chemistry. Because he had exceptionally quick hands, whenever we needed a piece of equipment for an experiment he was just as likely to snatch one from another table than to use one checked out to us. When it came time to check in our stuff at the end of the year, I was shocked to see we had multiples of almost everything! Jerry just smiled.
But the best story is one I was delighted to hear that Jerry has been telling people in the same way I have for 49 years. One day in class the teacher was back in his office. I was sitting on the lab counter for who knows what reason, when we noticed that the tall chrome water faucet was leaking at its base. I put my hand on the top of it and wiggled it back and forth and said “Jerry, this is loose.” At that moment the pipe fractured at the base and came off in my hand! The stream of water shot straight up to the ceiling and then sprayed out and rained down on the class, who were screaming and running for the walls. In panic, I tried to stem the gusher by placing my thumb over the pipe. Now the water was shooting out sideways, giving me a nice wet crotch for my efforts. The only part of the story I did not recall was that the teacher dashed back into the room and yelled “Marquardt!” because he assumed Jerry was the culprit for this disaster.
After three hours of socializing both of us were utterly spent. We drove back to the Inn and woke up the next day still exhausted. I learned something here. For all the years I worked in the motorcycle industry I would occasionally lead groups of customers on rides lasting from three (most of them) to five to nine days. I had a terrific time on all of them, and nothing ever went seriously wrong, but I was always useless for a day or two after – totally drained of adrenaline. I always assumed it was due to the stress of riding a motorcycle far and fast for several days, and in fact I was a little worried about my stamina for this trip. Turns out it was not the motorcycle at all, but the strain of being social and nice to everyone and trying to make sure everyone was OK and having a great time that was so debilitating.
Saturday we planned a relaxing morning, and drove into Minneapolis to Lake Harriet, a small body of water that contains a walking track all around it and a bandstand and concession stand at one end. I have fond memories of attending evening concerts there as a child, and a couple or romantic dates in college. I would rent a canoe, eager to show off my prowess and a canoeist, and the young lady and I would paddle around listening to the concert and gorging on some delicious fresh taffy. I lifted the entire scene for my novel Mourning Ride, but placed it in a fictional town in Kansas.
Like everything else, it had changed a lot. The bandstand was all new and rotated 90 degrees. My musician older brother told me that evening of one big improvement. The old one had the musicians facing directly into the sun, and there were many pieces where the director could not be seen at all!
I will probably use the current one in some fashion for the current novel, so in a way it is good that it is different.
Back to the motel for an outstanding lunch outside a local spot, and then a brief rest to prepare for the evening.
We left early to drive to Minnetonka High, where a shuttle system of buses has been set up to deliver celebrants to the event. Arriving in Excelsior before the event opened, we adjourned to another outside eatery downtown and had a fantastic light nosh. As we watched the hustle and bustle, it occurred to us that this was the whitest crowd we had ever seen. We were surrounded by tall and quite good looking men and women of all ages, especially the women. I may be biased there. Eventually we decided to count the non-whites, if we could find any. Eventually, two black people strolled by, and then a family of five Asians. That was it. Amazing.
We arrived as the event was just starting. It was held in a long rectangle of lakeside park down a ways from the marina of the night before. Inside there were several large tents and a schedule for 30 minute time periods for two year grouping of alums to meet up. Expansive lawns provided standing room for several thousand people aged 20 – 85.There was also a huge tent selling MHS t-shirts and even used football jerseys. These were tempting and reasonably priced, but since I had never played for the team I decided that would be stupid.
Although I’d played center on offense and center linebacker on defense through 9th grade, and been a co-captain in 9th, when my grades for the fall quarter came home my parents abruptly retired me from football. In hindsight, that was for the best.
And then things got decidedly weird. My brother Jim is 4 years older than me, and I had not seen him since my wedding day – in 1972. Estranged from my father, Jim also stopped communicating with me. No good explanation was ever offered. I sent him Christmas cards and letters for 25 years with no response. When my father moved back to our area when he was about to die and knew it (so he could be closer to me), Jim never offered any words of support or anything else, and allowed me to deal with the funeral and all the attendant horrors of dealing with my father’s 5th wife, who was a real piece of work. He has never seen or spoken to my 39 year old daughter and 36 year old son. I had sent both of my brothers (eldest brother George lives in Auburn, California) an e-mail several months ago to say that I would be riding to the reunion on my bike, the dates I would be there, and my phone number. George replied that he was not going this year, although he had been to the one four years ago. No response from Jim.
During my years at Ride West BMW I was paid a couple of visits by my classmate Nancy Carlson and her husband Bob Manders. They would be visiting relatives in Bellingham, and would drop by Ride West on their way through Seattle with doughnuts for coffee and amiable conversation. During one of these sessions I learned that Nancy and Bob were good friends with Jim and his wife Judith! I explained our family dynamic, which probably sounded weird – because it is.
As we strolled across the lawn we ran into Nancy and Bob. Nancy told me that Jim was there. She had asked him if he had seen me and he responded with “No. He’s been in town three days and has not even called me.” At that point Susan blurted out “That’s total bullshit!” She immediately apologized and was mortified, but I laughed as I told Nancy that I had sent my brother my phone number but that I did not even know his. She asked if I wanted her to take me to see him and I declined, explaining that I’d played this game for forty years and that I was done.
We moved on to the tent where the Class of ’65 was to gather, and as we approached Susan elbowed me and said “That’s Jim!” Remarkable she should pick him out, as she had not seen him in 42 years either and he looks quite a bit different. And not all that healthy, really. We chatted for a few minutes, but I was really uncomfortable even talking to him, and I realized I had a lot of rage inside me that I’d been glossing over for years. We broke away and wandered off.
After a few minutes I felt badly. I would probably never see him again, after all, nor hear from him, and surely I should take his picture and make more of an effort. I left Susan in an unconscionably long line at the beer tent, and soon found Jim at one of the food vendors. I took his picture and we chatted, quite amiably, for several more minutes.
After that the event began to lose fizz for me. I had already spent time with most of the old friends I had wanted to see. Class President Don Mark (I gave him nomination speech) had gone on to a fabulous and storied career, and was rumored to be in line for a seat on the state Supreme Court. We enjoyed some time on the Friday night, but he did not think he would be able to get away from other commitments to attend Saturday. As it turns out, he did manage to get there, shortly after we left. A shame.
We were “socialed” out, and also needed to get up before dawn for Susan to catch her flight home. As for me, I was eager to get on the bike and not talk to anyone for a while. We chose to amble over to the shuttle bus stop.
Jim again! He had also used the shuttle, and was waiting for the same bus. We chatted all the way back to the school, and as we debarked asked if we would like to go somewhere to get a beer. I was confused, but really, what kind of a jerk would say no to that?
We followed his lovely Audi A4 (with a stick transmission – some family traits are stronger than others) to a restaurant and had some nice dessert.
On the way back to the motel, Susan felt this had been monumental, and now everything would change. I disagreed, and predicted nothing more would be heard of it. We shall see. As a last point of oddness, when I got home I decided to be a big boy and sent Jim an e-mail thanking him for waiting at the tent for us. No response from him, but Judith wrote back to say she was sorry she had missed us and had hoped to get together Sunday; not realizing we were leaving. Since I’d sent our itinerary to both of them months before, the event ended as it started – with me confused.
Back at the motel, we did some packing and reflected on a wonderful weekend. With all of that – it was time to go home.
Coming in Part VI Heading Home
David Preston Copyright 2014