Reconnecting with old friends over tropical fruit, cheap beer and embarrassing stories of youth

I spent the last 48 hours in the tiny town of Newton, New Jersey, reconnecting with old high school friends. It was a plan hatched earlier this last spring, at the funeral of my friend Dan’s mother. A few of us, if I remember correctly, were lamenting the fact that we didn’t see more of one another, and that, if we didn’t do something about it, we’d likely not all get together again until, like in The Big Chill, one of us had passed away. So, with that in mind, someone threw out the idea of bringing Tropical Fruit Day back to life after nearly 30 years…

Tropical Fruit Day was an annual celebration, started back during the mid-80s, where a bunch of us, at some point during the summer, would converge around our friend Rob’s pool, after having walked to the local ACME and purchased whatever reasonably ripe, exotic fruit that we could find. We’d play Violent Femmes and Rolling Stones records, and float around in the pool, sipping virgin piña coladas, and trying our best not to get dunked by the likes of Mike or Brad, who were, at least back then, prone to antisocial outbursts. At some point, Rob would inevitably pass around a tray of magazines, encouraging those of us that weren’t, like him, destined for the Ivy League, to better ourselves by reading quietly. As I recall, not many of us took him up on his offer, but it was nice to know that, if we grew tired of impersonating our fellow classmates and teachers on the diving board, we could curl up in the shallow end with a soggy copy of The Nation.

So we tried to the best of our ability to bring Tropical Fruit Day back to life yesterday, in our friend Jerod’s backyard. And, from my perspective, things went pretty damn well. Altogether, there were 11 of us from the old Newton High Class of ’86 Tropical Fruit Day crew. (A few folks couldn’t make it, as they had other plans, but we clearly had a quorum.) Five of us flew in from out-of-state; I flew in from Michigan, Dan flew in from Minnesota, Chris flew in from California, Anthony flew in from Florida, and Mike flew in from Georgia. Rob drove up from Virginia with his family. Gillian came down from New York State with hers. Matt and Anne caught buses in from NYC. And Jerod and Brad, both of whom still live in the area, acted as hosts, driving us around, letting us stay at their places, etc. It all worked out pretty beautifully. Even the weather held out… Sure, the water in the pool may not have been as warm as we would have liked it, and a few minor quarrels may have surfaced here and there, but, all in all, it was pretty awesome. Lots of laughs were had, and hugs dispensed.

I know this post is likely only of interest to a small handful of people out there, but, as I’m exhausted, and don’t feel like writing about much else, it’s all that I can manage tonight. So, if you were hoping for a post on yesterday’s big soccer match in Ann Arbor between Real Madrid and Manchester United, I’m sorry.

I should add, I know that this isn’t something every high school clique can do, as travel is expensive, and time is difficult to come by, but I’m glad that, after almost 30 years, we made the effort to come together and sit around a fire telling embarrassing stories about one another over beers… It’s good, I think, to be reminded on occasion of where you come from.

I wish I had some huge observations to share. I don’t… It was just nice to see old friends, and know that everyone’s alright. Some high school cliques fare better than others, and, thankfully, we did alright for ourselves. Collectively, we didn’t peak too early, which seems to be the fate of many in more popular high school cliques, and, even though some of us have had some setbacks, we seem to have weathered them pretty gracefully, and that makes me happy.

On a personal note, I’m touched that these fine men and women consider me their friend. It’s not something I think about often, but, of the folks pictured here, most everyone, except for me, knew one another in kindergarten. I was, for the most part, kind of on my own in high school when they decided, for whatever reason, to start asking me to do stuff, and, for that, I am eternally grateful. I’d like to think that I filled a void in their little group, as they didn’t really have a sarcastic obsessive on the roster, but, the truth is, they didn’t have to reach out to me, a social awkward transplant from the south. At any rate, I felt compelled to mention that, as I don’t think I’ve ever shared that with them before.

Special thanks to Brad for driving us wherever those of us without cars needed to be, and Jerod and Kelly for offering us their home, sending their children into their basement so that we could use their beds, and securing plentiful amounts of food. Without them, none of this would have happened.

Here’s hoping, whoever you are, that one day you might be so fortunate as to reconnect with those men and women who shared the hell of high school with you… They know you better than almost anyone else ever will.

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[note: Not pictured, in the interest of keeping this post somewhat manageable, are all of the incredible spouses, siblings, boyfriends, and children that also joined us for the day’s festivities. Not only have we all managed to survive, but we’ve somehow managed to build incredible families of our own.]

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5 Comments

  1. Anne Shapiro
    Posted August 3, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Well said! You were the first to buy your plane ticket, and once you did, I started to get excited this was going to happen. Thank you!

  2. Posted August 3, 2014 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Mark, I’m so happy that you had a good time! Some of my friends had a mini-reunion this weekend, but I couldn’t make it because I had memorial #2 (out of 3) for my friend who died recently. But to keep me in spirit, they posted some awful high school photos of me on FB, so there’s that :)

    I’m glad you have friends like that. That’s something we all need.

  3. anonymous
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I wish I’d understood when I was in high school that those at the top of the pecking order generally don’t do well in later life. It may not be true in every instance but, based on what I’ve seen in my own life, there’s no one sadder than the former high school football star. All things considered, it’s far better to be an AV tech, or a computer nerd. There’s some pain up front, but it pays off.

  4. K2
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Anonymous:

    http://jezebel.com/for-popular-kids-it-just-gets-worse-1528452387

  5. Mr. X
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Judging from this photo, it looks like at least one of you may have peaked early.

    http://imgur.com/9HiJS9p

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