Alternate Titles… West Lafayette Invades Cambria or The PCH, Part Two
For the second time in six weeks, I found myself on the Pacific Coast Highway, this time for the gathering of old friends at the wedding of another dear friend. The last drive started early in the morning from Los Angeles after the 4th of July, spending fourteen hours northbound (before arriving home in Sausalito) along the beautiful stretch of open road, the mighty Pacific to my left and large green hills and forests to my right with the bright blue sky above, accompanied by my dog Taylor in the back, with Bruce Springsteen sitting shotgun. At another time, I’ll write how he told me “everybody had a hungry heart” with hope in his voice or, when that hope was crushed, that “the Rat’s own dream guns him down” only to feel that hope rise again by advising me that “you can’t start a fire without a spark”, building that hope once again into a crescendo that screamed an anthem, “tramps like us, baby we were born to run!”
But The Boss’s words of advice are for another day.
On this journey, as I drove from Sausalito thru San Francisco, thru quaint and charming Pacifica before coming upon Santa Cruz then stunning Carmel and postcard heavy Big Sur, every mile more picturesque than the one before it… As I drove south thru the most stunning stretch of highway in the States, I was accompanied by some of my best friends of my high school years… Guns n Roses, Whitesnake, Motley Crüe, AC/DC, Cinderella, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, etc. I loved classic rock from the 60s and 70s, but this weekend would belong to hair metal from the 80s. And soon I would see my friends, who were all children of the 80s.
I thought of West Lafayette, IN – home to the Purdue Boilermakers and West Lafayette High School (aka West Side aka WLHS). I thought of West Side football games and basketball games, baseball games at FOP, Von’s Records, Harry’s Chocolate Shop, TA Toms, the Winking Lizard, J&L Records, Triple AAA diner, Garcia’s Pizza, Chauncey Hill, Cumberland Elementary, Kingston Junior High, Pete’s and Pete’s Annex, Pepe’s, Skate Away, Eberle Shell, and all those places that reminded me of junior high and high school and college.
I thought most specifically of my high school; I thought of West Side. I thought of my West Side friends, some of whom are to this day, though in some cases far and away, my closest friends. And I thought of the friends I’ve made that went to West Side, attending years after me, and how close I have become with them. They were Red Devils, just like me.
We stayed at the Seaside Pines along the cliffs that dot the beach along the PCH just a couple stoplights from Cambria. We didn’t have need for a bar; everyone we wanted to be with was right there with us. Inside the gazebo near our rooms, we drank beer and wine and caught up. And we laughed. A lot. We were stopped by the hotel’s security guard to keep the noise level down. All of a sudden, we were back in high school again. The only difference between then and now was that now the kids were asleep while back then, the parents were (or so we thought).
The wedding was beautiful, literally held near the edge of a cliff across the street from the hotel, the beach about a 75 foot drop from where we stood, the sun brightly shining his rays shimmering on the wide expanse of the Pacific dotted with several surfers. A slight breeze kept the air cool. We stood around the newlyweds in a semi-circle as the couple exchanged their vows. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent much like the night before… reminiscing. I spent a lot of time with the kids, as I love to do on any occasion where and when kids are around. We spent much of our time chasing after ghosts (who left many signs of their presence in Greystone Manor, where the reception was held). My smile beamed every time I was with them, all miniature versions of their parents, whom I had met for the first time in many cases when they were not much older than their mini-selves.
I thought of those relationships growing up in that tiny bubble in Indiana shaped me to become the man I am now. How my parents and my brothers and my sister and my friends supported me, loved me, challenged me, helped me lay a foundation for all the relationships I’ve had ever since, the strength of many of my subsequent friendships a direct result of the ones I had when I was but a kid.
I wrote this on FaceBook in response to a post from one of my friends… “This weekend was a wrinkle in time taking us back to those magical moments when our entire future was ahead of us. It was great to reconnect with old friends!”
And I thought to myself, I’ll never forget the people in my life that made me who I am, who still continue to do so, cos those are some of the best people I’ll ever meet, and continue to be friends with, even if we may all be far and away.
And so I drove back a little sadder, reminiscing upon a wonderful weekend with wonderful people in a wonderful place. But I did smile… Knowing that I would see them again, and like before would just pick up where we left off, the only difference being that my beard may be a tad bit grayer.
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