13 Going On 40 

Racing from a birthday bash to a reunion

Boy am I excited! I'm going to my 40-year high school reunion this weekend. Imagine that ... 40 years. Dang. Fooor-teeee-yeeeerz. Hmmm. Hardly seems possible. Where did all that time ... I mean, what the hell have I been ... er, what was I saying?

Uh, let's see now. I was going to tell you about ... uhhhhh, I almost had it there ... just give me a sec ... uhhhhhh ... oh, right! Boy am I excited! I'm going to my 40-year high school reunion this weekend. And if you can't understand why I'm about to wet myself over a class reunion, think about this: I haven't seen some of these people since the 30-year reunion! Yeah! And before that, it was the 20-year reunion.

As a matter of fact, since we graduated, I can count on one hand how many times I've seen some of them. Most of them, actually. And just because we spent our high school years detesting one another and the last four decades avoiding each other ... well shoot, that's no excuse not to stay in touch.

So if this week's column seems a little rushed, it's because by Saturday, I have to get my Dockers dry-cleaned, get a decent haircut, buy a new car and drop 30 pounds.

And if things weren't complicated enough, I've just been made aware the Boise Weekly is also celebrating an anniversary this week. Thirteen years old. The big one-three. I vaguely remember what it was like to be 13, and all I can say is, if typos in a newspaper are like zits on a teenager, the Weekly is doing a hell of a lot better than I was at the same age.

The deal is, I get a call from Bingo-as in "Mister Barnes, the person who pays me to write stuff"-wondering if I'd care to contribute to BW's stroll down memory lane. As he explained, "Cope, you've been with this paper longer than anybody. You probably know stuff nobody else knows. You're like one of those bristlecone pine trees sitting up on a windy hilltop, watching the world go by as it just gets older and older."

Well, crap, how could I turn him down? You know how accommodating we old bristlecones are. Besides, it's true. I've been around BW through three different owners and enough managing editors to field a softball team. And I was all set to take a stroll down memory lane, anyway.

Only, the memory lane I was all set to stroll down was a column about Meridian High, class of '65. Fast Eddie Felton, "Snots" Burbulunksi, Big Billy Williams, Little Billy Williams, the Murgatroid twins, that scrumptious Betty Badaboop, our class brainiac Melanie Hoffenwinkensteinenbaum, suave Thurston Howell, Clumsy Jim and Lumpy Bob ... holy cow, am I looking forward to seeing those guys.

And never mind that they stuck me with the nickname "Vomitorium Cope" just because I threw up in Mr. Claxon's history class that time. Never mind that the jocks used to put cherry bombs in my lunchroom goulash because I lettered in pep band, or that to get myself to the senior prom, I had to agree to ride in the trunk of Richie Cunningham's Falcon while my date rode up front with Richie. Never mind that they all told me the graduation night kegger was 20 miles the other side of the Idaho-Nevada line.

That's all behind us now. Innocent teenage high school hijinx, that's all it was. I doubt anyone even remembers those things. Except me, of course. And I am a very forgiving person. Or at least, I hope to be by this weekend.

But that's not what I'm going to write about this week, so I'd better change memory lanes while I still have some space left. Trouble is, where I actually attended Meridian High full time, my experience at BW has been as an occasional observer. See, every week, I drive my babies into the BW and put them into the tender arms of kind people who raise them into fine little opinion pieces. Don't ask me how. I know less about how a newspaper is put together than I know about geometry. And in 1963, I flunked geometry.

Still, my memories of high school and my impressions of BW have something in common: In both, I am surrounded by young people. Young, hopeful people. The first day I walked into the Weekly offices with a stack of submissions under my arm, I couldn't help but notice I was old enough to be father to everyone who worked there. The staff has rolled over many times since then, but the median age has remained essentially the same. One young and eager person moves on to other things and another young and eager person takes his or her place. Writers, artists, editors ... Dave Madison, Cynthia Sewell, Anna Webb, Nicole LeFavour.

Andy Neuman, he was my first. Andy's moved on to distant places, so I'll probably never know if he truly liked my columns, or if he was simply short on material. (I only know that early in the paper's life, I'd get a frantic call from an editor the night before deadline, asking if there was any way I could convert my opinion into a feature article because somebody hadn't finished whatever they were supposed to have finished.)

Bob Speer, Larry Regan ... or Andy Hedden-Nicely. The paper was Hedden-Nicely's idea. He was also the person who tried to convince me I could turn out one of these things a week. I told him he was nuts. I told him there was only so much a person could write on a subject, and that there were only so many subjects to be written on. I still think I'm right, but Andy is a hard guy to tell no. When he gets excited about something, he's like a bag of microwave Orville Redenbachers in full pop.

Scutro and Putz, Sarah Kuhl, Bingo and Sally, Nick Collias ... in each and every one of them, I have sensed and continue to sense an earnest desire to improve the world through their work, and a belief that such improvement can only be done with an honest and truthful understanding of what's happening around us. It has been my fortune in my middle years to have been associated with such energy, dedication and hope. That's one of the reasons we are so prone to hold high school reunions, don't you suppose? ... to remember those days when we all thought we were going to shake the world into a better place?

Speaking of reunions, I gotta run. I made an appointment at Shadow Valley to learn just enough about golf to convince some old school rivals I make enough money to have weekends free. And Bingo, after I said those nice things about the paper, would you mind if I told a few people I'm the CEO of the Boise Weekly? Purdy please? I mean, this'll be my last chance to impress these guys.

At least, until the 50-year reunion.

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