Friday, August 1, 2008

Dunkirk Travelogue 2008 - Part 3

Who's That Girl (Who's That Guy)

We got back to the Clarion hotel from dinner with the family at 9:20pm. I took a quick shower and got changed. While my wife did the same, I got our son set up for some time on his computer (playing one of those online games he does). By 10:30, she and I were ready to head out the front of the hotel, cross Lake Shore Drive and join the already in-full-swing party at Walleye Willie's.

Now, the bar gets its name from the walleye fish which can be caught in Lake Erie. From the front, it appears rather interesting with a full glass window on one side and a second floor pool room. The entire back is enclosed in a high wooden privacy fence. That actually allows for the bar to spill out onto the open porch in back and then further to a grassy area that also has a sand volleyball pit. When you come in to the front door, there is a bandstand along the front window and also a small room off to the one side for sitting and such. When we arrived the band for the night - a Beatles cover band called "Beatle Magic" complete with costume changes for each set - was already setting the loud mood for the night. While it was 60's music instead of 80's, it still worked to take us all back in time.

As I was getting my wife and I a soft drinks from the bar, someone on the stool to my left bumped into me. When I turned, the person started to apologize and then got a good look at me. He said, "Hey, Martin, I bet you don't remember me". Without missing a beat I said, "sure I recognize you, Chris Bomasuto". He smiled. I probably hadn't seen him in 25 years but I would know him anywhere. That would set the tone for the night. We talked for a few moments while I waited for my sodas.

After that, we made our way through the crowed floor looking for my old crew - the folks I hung out with during the later part of high school and after when I came home from college. Along the way, I ran into Rob Gloff and his wife Cindy; Rob and I grew up on the same street two doors apart. Rob hasn't changed one bit since high school. I also ran into Rich Corsi who as has changed very little in 25 years. Our brothers graduated together and were very close friends. We talked briefly about that. I got welcoming hugs from Ellen (Zielinski) and Stephanie (Stanton) too; they were close friends in high school and still are today.

I finally found my group - Kimberly (DeRider), Dianne (Moch), and Lynette Kuhlman were all there with great big hugs and welcomes. I had talked to them online and over the phone since the 20th reunion. We sort of found a good spot to hang out and catch up, just on the edge between the bar and the back patio and in the center. It was also the perfect to survey the flow of the crowd and the faces. There was quite a bit of "who is that talking with so-and-so?" and "behind you, to the left, isn't that...?". Eventually we'd figure it out after some debate and the occasional assistance from another party.

Gary Worosz (who coordinated most of the reunion events for the weekend) caught my eye and came over. I had to wish he and his wife Liz a happy anniversary as this night fell on the night they wed sixteen years prior. I chatted a bit too with John Nalepa, another person I hadn't spoken with since the last reunion. Robert Lugen came by and insisted on us drinking a toast with him (I'm still not quite sure the actual wording, but "Lubs" was in such a festive mood that I just went with the flow).

Of course, I had to say hey to folks who have been regulars for years the Yahoo Group which I moderate for our classmates. We talk online all the time but it still good to see them in person, to hear their voices, etc. This would include folks like Denice (Schmatz), Margaret (Madigan), Lisa (Schrantz), Deb (Yacklon), Ryan Corbett, and Katie (Knack) - who actually graduated with the class of 84 but we allow her to "crash" the group as our official underclassman mascot.

There was a lot what I like to call recognition across the way too. You know, where you glance around and catch the eye of a face you are pretty sure is familiar. They then see you, you both have that moment of "ah-ha" and then make your way towards one another to catch up. Had a lot of those that night including with Mike Formanovich, Mary Lou (Lajewski) and Lisa (Miller). Some folks I barely recognized at first glance like Rich Kaus and Kevin Worosz - that is until someone connected the faces to the names. Of course, another part of the challenge was that it wasn't just our classmates hanging out at Walleye Willie's that night. There were a lot of folks from town, some who graduated in the years before or after us as well as some who never even went to Dunkirk High. So, even if you saw someone you knew talking to someone else, that second someone might be someone you never met in your life. That's what made the night so challenging.

I also had an idea of who I'd be seeing at the main reunion event tomorrow and who I would not. A number of folks who live in and around town still had not signed up for the Saturday day event for whatever reason, so catching them out at the bar on Friday night was a good chance to take a few moments to reconnect. A lot of folks for the most part looked the same, just 25 years older. The guys maybe lost a little hair or had put on a few pounds. Usually with the girls it was changes in hair color and length that made the identification a bit more of a challenge. But if you looked, really looked, at the faces - the eyes and such - or heard a voice over the loud music of the band you were able to get that spark of recognition that was needed for the memories to come flooding back.

There was a lot of pictures taken that night too. A number of folks had their digital cameras and would snap off quick group shots as folks were talking and catching up. A lot of smiles in those photos (gotta love digital pictures - by the end of the weekend there we plenty posted on our class Yahoo group).

My wife and I only stayed for about an hour and a half Friday night, due to having only five hours sleep earlier. I would have liked to have stayed longer to visit but I knew I was starting to be walking-dead. Still, we made the most of the time and knew that we'd see at least 29 of the classmates (plus spouses and families) the next day. From what I heard on Saturday, we missed some line dancing (a little Electric Slide, any one?) and some rather interesting encounters between folks. Some folks stayed out until 4am or 5am. God bless them. That's the time of day I usually get up; I cannot fathom being up and partying into the wee hours of the morning any more like that. I'm getting old and really enjoy my sleep while it is still dark out. ;)

(to be continued...)

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