June ’67: closing day at Brush High. Like the mornings before, Art picked me up, shot hoops in the back, and then on we went. Half-mile away Bobby headed top down to school and from streets between us came Alan and Stuart. We were, the five of us (and others), playing together, thinking alike, and moving in one direction. It was a special blend.

Commencement changed little. Emotionally—heck PHYSICALLY—-we remain conjoined. Each of us, within years, got degrees in Columbus.

June ’13: closing day of Wieder’s sojourn in Cleveland. Stu scooped him up and drove on to Champps. From Bedford, Painesville and Lyndhurst came the rest of We Five. It was a sunny day, both inside and out.

“Table for six”, I requested to a hostess only one of us would have judged age-appropriate.
“There’s only five”, Stu asserted, but I righted his wrong.
“Bob said say ‘Six’ so we’d get a bigger table.
“Of COURSE he did!” mused Alan.

Within time we were seated: five Boys Of Summer at a table for six— laughing, teasing, and in the healthiest of ways, back to the future.

Snyder faced out –go figure— and without benefit of election, assumed his 1965 position as Aleph Gadol. (We were a long way from AZA, all of us, but he plays it so well). Then we shared: both the big news, and, well, the not so big:

Wido’s book’s coming out…Stuart’s grandson was imminent…Kraut’s daughter, attending school in Bloomington, ends his “OH” with her “IU”.’’

There was talk, of course, of our high school reunion but weeks away. Would Raisinbrain show? Who knew? Bob read his email, soft, bittersweet. What about Ermine? And Goddam Will. Could we get him to come?

(My mind flashed to the last time we’d all sat with Will. Over breakfast at Corky’s the guy had just explained how he was going to retire, grab pension then go back to work. Immediately Stuart labeled him a “double-dipper” and just as instantly Will got mad, erupting like the teenaged Will. “GODDAM WILL”, Stuart howled ‘cross the booth, raising his fist with pinky and forefinger raised. “Boing!” Fenton shouted. “Don’t lie Will. Admit you’re nothing but a double-dipper”. Ah, Stuart…always stirring that pot. I thought too, specifically of the last reunion…how Will was there and for some odd reason had his shoes off and someone (No names, please), chose to hide the shoes. Why would he come? I wondered.)

And we spoke too of women, but briefly. Strikes me each reunion —Bob’s engineered five at last count—we care less and less about what some of the 60’s stars look like. “They got old,” someone noted, apparently grateful we hadn’t.

(Ed. Note 2: We hadn’t grown old. Not really. Oh, Wied’s hair’s gone and Stu’s is leaving. And one of us replaced a knee and another a wife….
But old? We’re not old. Like George said to Elaine: “I’m not bald—I’m baldING.”)

Mostly, though, we caught up. Laughed and caught up. Headlines only perhaps, but it mattered not. With friends like these, I well know, it matters not what comes out of our mouths, but what stays in our hearts.

Yes, forty years had passed. Forty years.  In the span it took the Israelites to hit Promised Land, our quintet too had travelled. For some it was geographic, for some ‘twas professional, and for others but spiritual. Still we all grew and we all learned and we all —in the most beautiful of ways—-stayed in place.

Postscript: Al went back to Portland Friday, and I drove to the airport. We were still reveling in the afterglow of lunch as we bid our adieus.

“Are you OK?” I asked as he stepped from the car. (I’d rolled down the window to hear his “Of course.”) Then my friend, my cherished friend strode away: to his world—of Oregon and the love of his life and South Africa and the passion of his life…

My mood changed but slightly as I head back east. Mixed in, just then, with the mirth of the moment was something far greater:  the gratitude of a lifetime.

3 Responses to “ALL THE YOUNG DUDES”

  1. Bobby says:

    Thanks to Bruce we have someone that can put these events into words for us all to enjoy. We all admit it, South Euclid in the 50’s ,60’s was a special place. Or, maybe we were all special and it justt so happens lived in the same neighborhood. Mark you were missed at the lunch but would have fit in perfectly. God damn Will said he’d be at reunion. Does anybody believe him?

  2. Stuart says:

    Will at the reunion? Double Boing!

  3. Mark E says:

    If I would have been invited to lunch I would have made a special trip to come in. But, like always, you forget me…………….nothing has changed in 46 years! But, I will see everyone for the reunion, I am coming in and looking forward to it.

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