October 24, 2019

Dateline: Palo Alto, California

Actually, I’m just across the city line in Menlo Park, a few blocks from the great wall of Facebook headquarters, staying at my friend Vickie Rozell‘s house. I decided this year to return to my Bay Area roots and attend my 35th Stanford class reunion. The only other one I ever went to was the 10th and I was still in California at that time, living in Sacramento so it wasn’t that big a deal to go down to the city for the festivities. Steve went with me and was having quite the temper tantrum that evening about something which I’ve totally forgotten so I don’t remember a whole lot about the party other than dinner with David Kudler at a restaurant that had seen better days.

The journey here was uneventful. Planes were on time, the weather was fine, I paid extra for a Delta Comfort+ seat so I didn’t have to sit with my knees tucked under my chin for hours on end and I watched a couple of movies so MNM will have something to write about later this week. The San Jose airport is a good deal larger than it used to be back in the 80s and south Bay rush hour traffic is worse. I didn’t get in until mid evening so I haven’t made it to Campus yet to see who else turned up. That happens in an hour or so.

My memories of my four years on the farm are vivid and it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s been more than a third of a century since I was here spreading my wings as a young adult. I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had not gotten into Stanford and had gone to college elsewhere. How different would I be? The education, while good, was probably no better or worse than I would have received elsewhere. The biggest difference being a smaller student body than a big state school so big enough for a full immersive college experience and small enough not to get lost. Of the roughly 1500 incoming Freshmen in the fall of 1980, I got to know about a quarter over the course of my four years. (I’m OCD enough to have kept track). Some of them have gone on to have brilliant careers and recognizable names. Most are living relatively anonymous upper middle class existences somewhere. There are a half dozen or so who remain part of my life and who will always be part of my life, no matter where we live or what paths life takes us on. We were all thrown together in that brief period between the aftermath of Watergate and the rise of HIV for some golden years in the California sun of a nascent Silicon Valley. I think I ended up the better for it, even if I have to have the occasional skin cancer removed as payment later in life.

My mother saved all my letters home from college (and I have all of her letters to me from that time period in a box somewhere). The Stanford archives was looking for this sort of paired correspondence from various eras so I think I’ll dig them all out and send them along. It amuses me to think that some scholar in a couple hundred years might try to use them to reconstruct everyday life in the Reagan years. My contribution to history from being a pack rat.

I do have a little trepidation at heading off to campus. My memories of most of these people is of young adults, full of life and possibility and the imaginings of youth and I’m going to find a lot of folk who are on the cusp of their Medicare years, thinking about retirements and grandchildren. But that’s the way the world works and railing against it doesn’t change the laws of physics, chemistry and biology. I have a feeling I’ll come out of this weekend either enthused and enlivened, or melancholy and regretful about the roads not taken. It remains to be seen which one.

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