Friday, September 12, 2008

One For All and All For One

Did you watch the YouTube video I posted in yesterday's entry? If not, you MUST go back and take a look before proceeding..

Okay, did you watch it? Don't lie, now! Wasn't that a great video? The person that put that together did such a great job of capturing just the right scenes and right expressions to match the music. Well, if you weren't as wowed as I was by it, sorry.. but I loved it!

Watching the video afflicted me with nostalgic melancholia. First, it brought back feelings of much younger days when I faithfully watched the Monkees, and when they actually looked like that. Even though the scenes in the video were all scripted, it is still like looking back on the good old days - were I Peter, Mike, Mickey or Davy, maybe I would watch that and remember what the day was like, the particular feeling in the air, or some other event that happened when that scene was filmed.

Secondly, I could just as easily fit the faces of my high school buddies and me in there instead of the Monkees.

When I write many of these blog entries, I transport myself back to those times and begin writing as a first-hand observer, picturing the same things I saw back then and, more powerfully, feeling the same feelings and emotions I had when these things happened. I am there. I start grinning or grimacing and am truly reliving the moment.

For those of you who read these entries and receive some sort of vicarious pleasure from it - thank you for reading and if you enjoy what you read, all I can say is it is my pleasure, I'm happy you are here.

Instead of four Monkees, there were five of us monkeys. Besides me, there were Duane Kamei, Rick Fukamaki, David Ritchie and Robbie Karatsu. I haven't quite thought of exactly what to write since I do much of this on the fly, and so I apologize in advance if it happens to ramble on.

My first meetings with them were nothing unusual, except for David.

David went to Audubon with the others, but moved into Fairfax's district so I didn't meet him at school. I would see him at Dorsey every now and then when he played hooky, but most of the time it was off-campus. The first time I met him was at Duane's house. I was actually kind of frightened by him because he seemed like a wild person. He had long hair, a lot longer than the rest of us, and he talked in a very loud, aggressive way. I kept my distance from him since he didn't act like a "typical oriental," but it didn't take too long for that ice to break. David is the kind of person whose bark is worse than his bite, at least among his friends. After all, he never did break Rob's neck (or mine, for that matter) after his threats to do so.

There's already specific entries about all my high school buddies elsewhere in this blog and there'll be more coming. Watching the YouTube video with the Monkees nostalgia just reminded me of them. I thought of whether any of us have a corresponding Monkee, but I don't think so.

I do recall, however, in 1977 when Star Wars was breaking box office records, we had a discussion as to which of us would play each character in the movie. David, who was living in San Francisco at the time, declared in no uncertain terms in a letter to me the definitive role assignment: Duane and I had been arguing the merits of each of us being Hans Solo. David's answer: Sorry buddy! Duane is more like Hans Solo. You are Luke Skywalker. Actually, inside of me I agreed with his assessment. Hans was the guy who got the girl and was more worldly and flamboyant. Luke was more down-home. But I liked the fact that Luke possessed an uncommon inner strength.

David went on to say he was Darth Vader, Rob was R2D2, Rick was C3PO, and Cindy (Azuma) was Princess Leia. Actually that was pretty accurate. With Duane and I once again vying for Cindy (which is another blog post somewhere down the line), David was on the money.

I must add, though, a couple of years ago I related David's Star Wars casting to an old friend from high school, someone I hadn't seen since our Dorsey days. This is how she responded:

I think you would make a better Hans Solo... Luke is too serious and predictable, more like Duane. Hans Solo is more easy going and you were never really sure what he was going to do. Which is more like you ... I remember that you were always fun to be around and very unpredictable. I remember them to be happy times.

That really surprised me (most plesantly) when she wrote that. I never really thought she paid much attention to me so it was nice to read her take on it. Duane, if you ever read this: So nyah!!! I will withhold the person's name who wrote that to prevent retribution upon her from Duane, since he is now an attorney.

Are you familiar with the 1982 movie Diner? Here's a brief synopsis:

Set in 1959, Diner shows how five young men resist their adulthood and seek refuge in their beloved Diner. The mundane, childish, and titillating details of their lives are shared. But the golden moments pass, and the men shoulder their responsibilities, leaving the Diner behind.

The theme of the movie reminded me of my own experience with my high school buddies. Bob's Big Boy on La Cienega was our "Diner." During the movie, one of the characters made a statement about their relationship that struck me. I wish I had the quote exactly, but I'll have to paraphrase. This was said in the context of the hovering prospect of each of them spending more time away from the group with their girlfriends, as well as in going their separate ways as a result of graduating and growing up.

The one guy said something like, "Man, we have stuff between us that no one will ever know. It's just for us and no one else." In other words, no matter what any of them wound up doing, no matter how close and intimate they got with their respective spouses, nothing would ever take the place of the times they had together. I wish I had the quote because he said it so well, but you get the idea. That's how I felt about us.

Years after I had gotten married and we had all gone our respective ways, I still had dreams of us cruising on a weekend night and feeling so secure and comfortable in that dream because we were all together.

Well, those dreams faded away and even though all but Rick live in close proximity to one another, I last saw Rick, Duane and David at Rick's 50th birthday bash in 2004, and Rob when the two of us got together for lunch about a year after that. Now it's merely a matter of exchanging Christmas cards.

How do I feel about that? I'm not sure. I know when I saw Rob, it seemed he really didn't want to talk about the "old times," as if that was all behind him now. I've always thought that no matter how old we got, when we got together we could just settle right back into where we left off because of that Diner-like bond between us.

I didn't really feel that at Rick's party, though. Rick, Duane and David all had their kids there, and we all had our spouses. I felt like with all that going on, plus the other people at the party, it wasn't an environment conducive to us really sitting down and being Diner-like, or Bob's Big Boy-like.

My fear is that if we did have that conducive environment, would it really be like I thought, that we could pick up where we left off, or would it have a sheen of reserve or formality on it? I suppose one of us should pick up the phone and take the first step. Maybe it's that fear that holds me back. Would it still be one for all and all for one? After all, that was then, this is now.


















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