Confederate Reunion

Illustration by Mike Lee

Upon my descent into the Antelope Valley for my 20-year high school reunion, “My President is Charlton Heston” pulls in front of me in the form of a bumper sticker on a pickup truck captained by an immense pair of mirrored sunglasses framed by a Confederate Army–style cap and a crowbar mustache.

I recognize the face.

My high school’s athletic teams were called the Rebels. Or was it the Runnin’ Rebels. No, that’s UNLV. But yes, the Somethingin-apostrophe Rebels. Jumpin’? Fightin’? Disembowelin’? Can’t recall. At any rate, the Apostrophe Rebels logo was a Confederate flag with a cartoon of the guy now driving the Heston-bumpered pickup truck in front of me, minus sunglasses plus full Rebel garb. Sword drawn, protecting our right to own slaves.

The sight sucks me back to the carefree days of high school, especially the 10 or 12 days that the selfsame 200-pound semiprofessional Rebel bully decided to punch my 130 pounds across the campus, proudly, at lunch, while his friends circled like vultures, cheering each punch with oblivious homoerotic gusto. “Kick his ass!” “Fuck him up!” “Kill him!”

“I remember that guy. David . . . Müller, was it? Or Moeller? You know, he’s a cop now.”

“No shit. Who’da thunk it. Did you talk to Mendiola?”

“Who?”

“David Mendiola. The guy who coined the term ‘Guamunism.’ Remember? Tall, skinny, vaguely . . . Guam-ish? He’s a firefighter now. And he’s procreated. Twice. Over there. See?”

“No.”

“Facing us, just beyond the woman who looks like a ’70s hooker, talking with that guy with the mustache. See?”

“Oh yeah! I remember that guy! He’s a cool guy! I always liked that guy!”

“Yeah, everyone liked Mendiola. And now he’s a fireman with two kids. And you guys are teachers. Everyone’s so . . . respectable . . . ”

Let the party begin. It’s at the Essex House, on 10th Street West, a bit south of Avenue I. Essex House, with its allusion to eastern England and the North Sea, is perhaps not the most fitting name for a bland desert motel seasoned with shopping music and department-store perfume, but “Don & Earline’s Motor Lodge” was already taken.

Early. Sitting in lobby writing about Heston bumper sticker. Old close friends Ron Kostas and Dave Nash appear bearing video projection equipment. Bond. Move to Lancaster Room One. Six-thirty. Cocktails served to mingling hormonal nostalgias. I’ve been talking with Charlie MacQuarrie and his wife, Becky. I haven’t seen Charlie since 1980. He’s back from Scotland, where he got a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. Now he’s an English professor at Antelope Valley College. Becky teaches, too.

The MacQuarries and I share a round table with eight others. Bread appears. And chickens on plates with carrots and peas. It’s the first food of the day for me. I’m feeling strangely comfortable and glad I decided to show up when I hear a familiar laugh and look up. It’s Bully Boy, the cop . . .

“My President is Charlton Heston,” says the bumper.

“Yeah, well my President can beat up your President!” quips a passing SUV, flipping the bird.

“Oh yeah?!” Hestonbumper retorts, catching up. (Honk.) “Well, my President has a gun! And he’s gonna come over to your house and shoot your President! Right in the head! And then he’ll be all dead and everything!”

“Will not!”

“Will too!”

(“Kick his ass!” “Fuck him up!” “Kill him!”)

***

ClassMates.com, “the largest U.S. and Canadian high school alumni directory on the net, with over 8.5 million self-registered alumni,” features simple, clean, no-frills HTML to make the task of contacting old friends and bullies a pleasant one. Basic registration — access to message boards, a way for your old mates to get in touch with you — is free; additional features (“Hi Notes”) are available for “a nominal membership fee.”

AlumniNet is another free service “intended to bring school friends together and not to verify that these people actually attended or graduated from the listed schools,” as the kindly disclaimer reads. With a membership of about 1.3 million in dozens of countries on six continents, AlumniNet might be especially useful for practicing Guamunists and others fortunate enough to have graduated from non–Antelope Valley high schools. Those short on cash might want to explore AlumniNet’s dorky Affiliate Program, wherein they pay you to sign up others (50 cents each), with $500 awarded to the Top Affiliate of the Month.

If you like keeping track of the past — even others’ pasts — stop by Leister Productions, developers of Reunion, “the family tree software for Macintosh.” Download a free demo, if you must. But then get to the real goods: a page of links to Reunion users’ pages, bland, fantastic, pathologically proud of the past.


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