Jun. 3rd, 2005 11:29 am
slyvermont: (Monet)
[personal profile] slyvermont
Last weekend was my 25th College reunion. I’ll put most of the write up behind a cut, since [ profile] unzeugmatic is probably the only person who will want to read this (and it is very long).

Speaking of him: last year he described returning to Brown as a variation of the musical Brigadoon
(he called it Brownadoon in his LJ). How true.

For my non-Brown friends: since graduating, I’ve returned every year for its commencement/graduation weekend.
A group of us have been doing this every year since 1982 – at first a very large group (more than 25 of us), now a much
smaller one. In the beginning, we acted like college students, throwing a big party with lots of alcohol. As we married and had kids, the nature of our gatherings changed. What’s amusing is that most of the people who return for this weekend weren’t even the people I hung out with when I was in college. But I’ve made new friends. We call ourselves the “Generics,” or “the reunion without class,” and our symbol is the bar code. Remember all the generic food items of the early 1980s? That’s where the name comes from.

I realize this is somewhat odd; perhaps I’m holding onto a piece of my past unnecessarily, since everyone else has moved on. I had doubts this year – why do I keep going back? How do you end a tradition? But then, the moment we started driving along Benefit Street on the way to Brown, all my doubts faded. I still love Providence and Brown. It’s changed a lot since I was there I talk about that in my write-up), but the energy remains the same. Traditions exist for a reason – they can revitalize the soul.

The rest is behind a cut.

We arrived later than usual, given that it was my 25th. The first event I got to was the dinner before Campus Dance, where I chatted with several old classmates, including Dolores McDonaugh, Janet Polstein, Penny Dineen, Doug Edwards. Had people hug me who I didn’t remember at all – which was very very odd.

Then it poured. Sheets. Luckily we had a tent, which we didn’t get kicked out of. When the rain finally stopped, we walked quickly through the green (which was almost deserted) and went to bed.

We were staying in a triple in West Quad, despite having requested a double and a single. Poor Caroline had to share a room with us. We piled bookcases on top of desks to create a barrier.

Saturday I went to a forum on the American Musical, which was just so-so. Wished I had gone to another one, tried to get in but it was full. TPTB may be trying to kill the forums, but they seemed as popular as ever this year.  I went to the bookstore, where I saw Martha Buckley (who again tells me that I got her her first job, at Citibank, where she still works. Amazing the things that some people remember that I don’t remember at all. I guess we were looking at a list of recruiters and she asked me about Citibank and I said something positive so she decided to interview with them.)

At some point this weekend we tried to remember how many stores on Thayer Street were there when we were at Brown. Brown Bookstore, Store 24, Avon theater, Army/Navy store, maybe one or two others. The flower shop vanished last year. College Hill bookstore just died. Change is good, but this seems excessive. And then there are all the changes that Brown is planning, all the new buildings. The campus is going to look very different in 10 years, and I worry that it is losing its neighborhood feel.

Moving on: At the class picnic I talked to Betsy August and Sharon Wolfson – probably the two best conversations I had all weekend. We talked about being a doctor, how tough it is now, how they would do things differently, how their Brown experience was so different because of it – even deficient.

Oddest moment that I didn’t actually see: Someone started talking to Caroline as if she were me. Very very strange. I have no idea who it was.

Then, off to Cary’s. Bill Leiserson’s son Nick was there – class of ’09. (So was the rest of his family.) I talked a lot to him about his college application and high school experience. He didn’t want to go to Brown, Billy made him apply, and it was the day on campus that sold it for him. We talked about cheating, drinking, and other things that turn parents’ hair gray. He seems like an exceptionally good kid, smart and nice – although apparently his main extracurricular activity is theater, so the whole thing could have been an act for his dad’s friends.

Phil Kaplan and family were there too, but I didn’t talk to them much – Rich did. Ann Mandi was there, as was Liz (who had just come back to the US from China on Friday, and so was seriously jetlagged – but brought 3-layer bars anyway). The Sheinmans and the Shiffres, of course, and Bill. Oh, and Irv with his two daughters. He’s going through what seems to be a nasty divorce from his wife. Hilary, who had a baby named Maggie earlier this year, didn’t come, but I saw pictures. Cary seems OK about all this, but who knows. The main thing I get from Cary is that he loves his job and the kids he works with. And he loves watching TV.

Back to my reunion: Sunday morning we had a seminar on success, the changing definition of. Two women, who abandoned traditional career paths for something more offbeat – and Jon Klein, head of CNN. Jon felt decidedly uncomfortable. Here we are talking about how many of us have abandoned the more linear concept of success, moving up the corporate ladder – which is pretty much what he did. But he’s so witty and engaging, he was a great presenter.

Marched down the hill – with the Generics (soon to be the Geriatrics). My class gave me crap, but tough. As usual, it was a very emotional experience – I always get tears in my eyes. It is the best part of going back, and whenever I think that I’m not going to keep doing this I march down the hill and think, how can I not come back. This year, large donator Sidney Frank rode a golf cart down, which was unusual. Other firsts were two bagpipe contingents and a large black Ford car that was there for no apparent reason. There were lots of people marching, and the whole thing seemed to take forever – we started down the hill at 10:30 and didn’t finish until about 12:15 (and when we were walking up the hill the alumni were still marching through the graduates). (And the whole graduation on the green ended at 3pm, which seems incredibly late to me, since the department ceremonies come next. For the graduates, the day goes from before 10 am to after 5pm, which seems excessive.) For future reference, if the schedule stays the same brunch is at 12:30 – and Steven better come back because there was no sweet bread or other yummy pastries.

Oh yea – they moved the Generic signpost to after all the reunion years, alongside the “miscellaneous classes” post. We moved it to where it belonged. A staff member wanted to move it back. Irv protested. She protested. Irv said, “we’ve been doing it this way for 24 years and we’re not going to change now.” She said, “well, you could have said that nicer, but OK.”

Brunch was a sad affair. Bill, Cary, Irv and two kids, Rich and I. We gave a hat to Lisa Loeb (we never saw Phylicia Rashaad, and Lisa came into the lounge on her way out and had a bagel with us, so we decided to give her a hat. It was a good thing. She wants to start her own Generic.) Here’s the picture to prove it:

Casertas pizza, then home.

Brown did change things this year, with the three instead of four-day schedule. I didn’t go to the president’s talk, which was Saturday around noon. The AD field picnics were an hour later as a result, which meant an hour shorter, and took place at the same time as Baccaleureate. It felt very very odd to go to the march the day after Cary’s party, and not have brunch. Starting the march later was nice, although then it takes up so much of the day. For my reunion it was ok, since I’m not terribly close friends to anyone. But the whole weekend was truncated. It works well if all you want are short conversations with lots of people (hi, where do you live and what do you do). But if you want to hang out with your best friends (which is what Rich’s reunion is like and what we like to do with the Generics) then the shorter weekend is disappointing.

As for next year: it’s the Generic 25th. We’re talking about what we can do to get some recognition/attention/whatever.

And now, for pictures:

Bill gives hat to Lisa Loeb.

Generics gather. OK, I didn't take pictures this year. My bad.

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