When my first wife died, leaving me with three sons, ages 6 through 15, I went through a lot of changes. It’s a very different universe when you wake up as only one person after 20 years of being part of a marriage. As kind of half-ling, I began to search for my own identity, which brought me back to thoughts of our time at college together, and those times even before I’d met her. Back when there was only me.
I began to look up old friends, people I hadn’t seen in 20 years or more. At first, as a matter of simple notification, reaching out to those I thought would want to know of my wife’s passing. The Internet made it easier and as I gained some facility in my investigations, I began to search ever further, outside our “monkey circle” of friends. Lost names and faces from the time before times came back to me and I continued to hunt. I didn’t really want to rekindle all those relationships, just find out what happened to everyone. To have a chance through their words and voices to see if I still recognized them. Maybe just to find out who I was, or had been. I know you can’t go home again, and I certainly couldn’t go back to college. Both are just strings of fragile and transitory moments in time and relationships.
Life is so fluid, at least mine is. Places aren’t even recognizable without the people who once populated them, the events that permeated the time and the thoughts that filled our minds. This is what makes going back to a remembered place so unsatisfying. It’s just a location, soulless and unfulfilling without the light of the “once was.” I’ve tried but, even just 5 years later, sitting on the Wall was empty without being offered a quick toke in passing to share with Bernie, Joe and various others, listening to their musings of the day and feeling the warming of the bright sunlight of late spring. Would I go to my next class or just soak in the rest of the day, seeing where it led? Today, that wall is just a cold uncomfortable seat, in front of a nondescript brownstone on a busy street in Boston. Reality has moved on, and so has the college.
I have reconnected with quite a few people, and there are a few out there yet who I haven’t reached. I found those re-connections enormously satisfying, and was surprised by the amount of people I went to school with who had actually gone on to succeed in their chosen fields. The favored “encouragement” of those times was “Yep, he ended up selling furniture in Weymouth, you should call him and see if he’s got any openings.” Emerson college was primarily a communications school, one of the few at that time. It is, and has always been, a tough field to succeed in. However, being surrounded by creative, driven people was a very heady experience, so I’m not surprised my thoughts drifted back to those happier more powerful times.
Once the school’s disjointed campus and rented rooms were graced by Carol Burnett, Spaulding Gray, Jay Leno and Henry Winkler, however we were gifted with the likes of Steven Wright, Dennis Leary, Michele Gillen, Eddie Brill and a veritable Who’s Who of today’s entertainment industry. Some of them are familiar faces, out in front of the crowd, and some of them work behind the scenes. Although, most sport impressive IMDB listings.
I must admit that although Emerson was a relatively small school, it was still a big place. We all traveled in different circles intersecting only occasionally. I believe that half of the people I touched base with only dimly remembered me, and that was mostly due to my name. I’ll have to thank my parents for that someday, I certainly didn’t think much of it at the time.
One of the people I’ve never managed to catch up with is Eddie G. I actually did know Eddie pretty well, although I would never say we were close. But he was memorable and has always been one of our fellow classmates that we just kept hearing about. First he was writing at the Comedy Channel, when it was young and fresh. Then he was writing and producing shows. During one of my researches I found out he put out a yearly Christmas tape of collected works for his friends. The Christmas songs you don’t hear on the radio, like a rendition of “All I want for Christmas is you,” by Foghat. One collection is even available on Amazon.
That matches what I clearly remember as a quirky creator with eclectic tastes reminiscent of a late fifties Jazz musician. The smooth, muted brown sport coat or jacket with a silver G-Clef on the lapel and the neatly trimmed “soul patch”, always a little apart from our jeans and tee shirt crowd. Thoughtful, funny, friendly but somehow older or more nuanced than the rest of us. Maybe it was just that his angle of view on the world was just a little different.
The real trouble with reconnecting with some of my fellow Emersonians is the imagined danger of disappearing in to the wanting throngs of followers. Maybe that’s just in my own mind, but I don’t even want to seem like a “wanting throng-er.”
Which makes the key question, how do I approach the Emmy winner and key writer for “Two and a half men” and “Big Bang theory?” He’s not on Facebook or Linked in, or at least I can’t find him, and I don’t see any comments or entries on the multitudinous digital forums and publications. Which leaves casual email out. I’m thinking Christmas card.
Some people are hard to find, even with great practice and facility on the Net. Eddie was, even after I found out how to spell his name. I wouldn’t be surprised if Eddie didn’t even have a computer, I remember his stereo in school was actually a Hi Fi, great speaker though. I can imagine that he values his privacy greatly, so I better go back through this piece and “soften” the clues.
However, with a little creativity I did find a real estate listing and that gives me an address and some pictures. A small window into what his life has become. It would be interesting to hear how it got there and some thoughts of where it’s going. It can’t be the same, as it was so long ago, but it would be fun to “touch base” for a few moments.
We all loose so many people in time, friends, acquaintances, sometimes even family. Reality’s flow just carries them away to other times and places. We don’t mean to let it happen, and can’t preserve moments against the will of the tide anyway. But it’s enlightening to catch up once in a while, and deeply satisfying.
Copyright Prentiss Gray 2011