I was handed a flyer about the reunion, which was at the Red Lion in Hotel Circle. I asked if people from out of town would be staying at the hotel. I was told that the event coordinator there got fired because of this event. They were assured that blocks of rooms would be saved for them. That person didn't realize there was a convention and no rooms were available. The hotel ended up helping them out with rooms at another place.
When I showed up the following week for the actual reunion, I took a look at the poster board showing the 33 classmates who had passed away. Out of a graduating class of 654, I didn't think that was too many. I glanced at my senior yearbook last week and two close friends, Kent Cottle and Jeff Cox, had both died. And their photos are right next to each other.
While I was looking at photos from old newspaper clippings, I saw a guy getting a drink. He had long black hair, and I said, "Are you Charles, the turkey guy?" He laughed and said, "How did you know?" I didn't want to tell him that, at the party, there was a debate as to whether he was Chinese or Japanese. He was the only nonwhite person I'd seen.
He had a few interesting stories and told me that later in the evening he would be playing a flute that he made himself. He makes them out of cedar, and he played a beautiful song that had bits of poetry between the sections of music he played. Someone later told me it was a Native American flute. They said, "He also teaches Zen golf." I asked what that was, and nobody at the table seemed to be able to explain it. Someone said, "You try to imagine you are the ball, going where you want the ball to land." I said, "Maybe I'll see if he can help me with miniature golf. I need help getting past that windmill."
The party had a Hawaiian theme. I asked Donna why she hadn't chosen a '60s theme, and she said, "This is cheap and easy to do." Randy, a good-looking guy who all the girls said was quiet back in high school, told me they had done the '60s theme previously. "This way we don't have to wear a suit."
There were hula dancers, one of whom was from their graduating class, and sisters from later years at Clairemont High. The band consisted entirely of former Clairemont students. Phil told me, "I thought it would be better than hiring a band or some DJ. I know a lot of these musicians, and they're really talented. We have the Eldridge brothers, who play with Rockola, plus Rob Lawrence, and Gene Rochambeau, who works at the Reader. He was in a lot of great bands, like the Noise Boys and King Biscuit. We have another guy that plays with Jose Sinatra."
Right before the band played, the MC was asking who had traveled the farthest for the event. One person had come from Quebec. He asked if any couples were high school sweethearts. Four couples raised their hands. One said they had been married 36 years, to which another asked, "How is that possible? You didn't get married in high school." I thought it was adorable to see these four couples, who looked so happy together, after 35 years of marriage and 4 additional years of high school together.
I had heard earlier that Randy had moved more often than anyone else. One woman said, "He's lived in probably 35 different houses." When the MC asked who has lived in the same house the longest, Phil raised his hand and said he had lived in the same house since 1961. Someone yelled out, "Aren't your parents sick of you yet?"
When asked who had the most kids, someone yelled, "Illegitimate or legitimate?"
There looked to be about 200 people here, and I asked Donna about tracking down people. She said, "We have to use the telephone book, word of mouth, and sometimes their parents still live in the same houses. We can track people down that way."
"Is it easier with computers now?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, that has made things a lot easier. There were still almost 300 people we couldn't find."
She then introduced me to Scott Keeling. He recently retired from the Secret Service. He's had details guarding every president from Nixon to Clinton. The stories he told were fascinating. He showed me how he can get someone out of a room without making a scene. He asked for my hand and started to shake it while twisting it in a weird direction. It was painful, and he said, "I just smile, shake the person's hand as I'm walking him out the door, and ask them to come with me." I looked at the bartender and said, "I bet he can kill me with just his pinky."
He then showed me how to frisk someone without them even noticing what you're doing. I don't think I got the technique down, though. I tried it at a bar the next day, and a woman slapped me.
Since he spoke Spanish, Arabic, and French, he was often on details with heads of state from other countries; the Secret Service doesn't just protect U.S. officials. The Secret Service also deals with counterfeit currency. He said, "I was involved in the biggest bust since we've been dealing in currency, since 1865. We caught a guy with $22.6 million."
He told me the Secret Service worked with money before they began protecting presidents in 1901, yet now they are more associated with the latter, probably because of countless movies. I asked if the Clint Eastwood film In the Line of Fire was accurate. Scott said, "Oh, yeah. I trained the woman they used as a consultant."
Scott also said, "If the President is coming to San Diego, we fly the limos in from Washington that will be used to drive him around. They are bulletproof, and even if the tire is shot out, we can get them up to 55 miles per hour."