It's not too late to ask the question; ‘who am I?’ Of course this simple question is still more than I can handle and it doesn’t help that it’s 7.30 PM on Thursday 13th of December 2007, and all that I know for sure, besides the fact that I’m going to die, is that I’m 57 years old, and I’m on my way to my High School’s 40th reunion party in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s not 1967 anymore.
Alice Cooper’s; ‘Schools Out’, should be playing on my I-Pod, except it’s The ORB. In the car with me are three other ‘60’s survivors. Riding shotgun is certified ’67 cadet and ex-heavy machine gunner for the Israeli army, Raymond, down from Joburg with his girl friend Esti, especially for the occasion. Because my wife is in Australia visiting her parents, I’ve elected to take my American friend, Myke S., along for the ride. Mike is born at the same time as me back in ‘50, except in California. He’s in self imposed exile, so I reckon he qualifies on two counts. In any event, ‘he aint heavy, he’s my brother’, and the evening is a ‘60’s thing.
Getting this reunion together hadn’t been easy. Email makes it easier because we’ve spread all over the globe and those of us still living in South Africa are split between Cape Town and Joeys, call it Gauteng if you want, so it’s a good thing that Stanley G. volunteers to have the party at his place in Sea Point because his house has a great garden and it’s a balmy summers night
By this time you’ll have realized that 1967 was not just the year that Chris Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplant, or the year that Israel defeated a whole lot of Arab nations in six days, the year of Vietnam, or even the year of Woodstock, it was also the year in which I matriculated, left school, exited the system, whatever.
Trying to explain what it felt like is an almost impossible task, but life was good for me at that time in ’67, before I knew what a racist was, before apartheid, before TV, before AIDS and way before computers. Hell, we hijacked a bus in Adderley street, cooked eggs for breakfast after camping the night in the school quadrangle, and we even passed our finals. Mr. Katz, aka ‘Corky’, the Principal, or chief Blue Meany, had had it in for us for a long time, but he wasn’t fast enough to catch us, for we were the uber-generation, a generation born to challenge what had come before. Now we’d escaped into the ‘real world’, we’d ‘matriculated’ and nothing could stop us, certainly not ‘Corky’. Little did we know.
About a dozen survivors, plus their partners, show up, including a teacher of ours, Mike K.. Mike, was a champ cricketer at that time and kept order in the classroom by throwing the wooden blackboard duster at anyone foolish enough to try to undermine his regime. His aim was impeccable. Thus, challenging Mike was only for the brave or the foolish. It’s neat to note that his keen wit has lasted better than some of my classmates. “Some of you”, he privately assures me, “deserve being ‘dusted’”. The food, created by my daughter’s art teacher, Gordon, is great. Stanley and his wife Cheryl go out of their way to make sure everyone feels at home. Someone keeps turning down the Mamas and The Pappas, but I keep turning it back up. Some things never change.
The mob crack some cocktails, but there are no heavy drinkers tonight, just a small group of ‘60’s survivors dissolving into a blur of joined memory and free-association based on long-time mutual experience that’s as weird as Close Encounters of the 67th kind, a place where I briefly glimpse how I’d been perceived forty years ago by people I haven’t seen for twenty years, and for a moment I feel like Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner;
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the darkness at Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."
Looking around at the faces of my old school buddies, it’s impossible not to feel some serious nostalgia. We’d all made it to the same spot, but is alienation ever complete? My impenetrable shield dedicated to dismantling harmful belief systems remains inspired by the creative impulse to install novelty into systems, even though I’m aware that I exist only momentarily as a thought tossed upon an ocean of shared dreams.
“Is there anybody out there?”