Reconnecting with old friends through Facebook and instant e-mail has been re-invigorating. Like buildings with character, they are essentially the same yet wear many years of growth, change and experience, and wear it well. I look forward to maybe meeting and getting to know some of those many friends- and relatives-of-friends, because quality people are surrounded by, and then in the cycle of life succeeded by, others cut from good and lasting material.
It's unusual, but strangely true, that other than the three pranksters (Cliff, Joel, and Art) and the guys in the Mourning Disaster, I can hardly remember anyone by name or appearance from college years. I was just at work all the time I wasn't in class. I do remember spending good, low-rent, quality time in the joints on Grace Street, but with whom other than the seven samurai just mentioned? I remember five teachers, four of them fondly. There must have been a lot more...
After so many decades, I do think of high school friends and acquaintances and remember them well while wondering what ever became of them -- I doubt I'll ever find out.
The last I heard of John Charles Harris, he was leaping a backyard fence fleeing the law for draft evasion. He had one of those iconic gold-and-cream Triumph Bonnevilles, and his motto was cherchez la femme. They liked him too. Bob Freeman and I listened intently to music from each other's records, but when he went away to college we lost touch quickly. He had been born in Rome and had written a novel in high school, and had escaped from his first college to live in Aix-en-Provence in southern France, before a motorbike accident and a broken collarbone sent him back home. He knew all about The Lord of the Rings before anyone else, having a set from England. An adventurous pirate intellectual.
Mike Boyes was a sci-fi fan, a little strange, but had the nerve to name his band The Penetrators to scandalize everyone, but relented once and called them The Lamplighters to play at the school. I hope he didn't end up in a comic book store. Jeff Old was appropriately named, since he was tiny and old-looking (probably some medical condition undiagnosed at the time), but never lost his cheery demeanor regardless of the teasing from those born lucky. He was great to be around.
There's at least one class clown, right? Bill Ragland was the funniest person I've ever met. He could crack you up with just a look, and ALWAYS had a new joke. What a hoot it would be to find him again, although I'd probably break a rib laughing.
Bunny Gill was small and round, a load of fun, and had a mother who was into the psychic Edgar Cauce and his A.R.E. foundation in Virginia Beach. Their home was swallowed up in plants and cats, and everyone was welcome.
Bonnie Allen was a beautiful folk singer with auburn hair. She was one of those individuals who was so intelligent and wise you know they did well. Grayson Farner -- yes, that was his name -- lived in a beautiful house on Patterson Avenue and he and I were surely the most fervent Rolling Stones fan club in Richmond. He had an outside entrance to his upstairs room, a mysterious and stunning girlfriend named Frances Shifflett, and his parents gave him a series of astonishingly cool cars: a Triumph Herald convertible with a red top, a Jaguar XK140, then a Jaguar Mark IX, which was a limousine shaped like a giant bumblebee with foldown walnut picnic trays in the seats and purple dashboard lights. I heard both he and his mother, quite a cool lady in her own right, left for Canada to avoid the draft, but never heard another word. You'd think with a name like that, he'd be easy to look up, but no luck there.
Our own Holden Caulfield was John Brooks, whose divorced father was prosperous but older than the rest of ours. He had been in a private school in North Carolina, but was sent packing home after he and a friend were interrupted emptying out the contents of a beer delivery truck. He dressed like a New York preppie (who else had an overcoat?), and was the jaded sophisticate among us suburban rubes. He knew all about musicians in New York and San Francisco we'd never heard of. Oh -- and he had a gray 1963 MGB roadster. He drove me around on a cold Christmas day once with the top down. The sort of thing Holden would surely have done.
Time and fate may have taken a few of these people, but these ghosts remain forever young in memory.