Alice Graves: Groovy reunion on the to-do list

I don't actually have a bucket list, but I keep a mental list of things I just have to do before I get too old or too sick. Or too, you know, dead.

Unlike Bush 41, I don't want to jump out of a moving airplane, and if I never see the coral reefs or Stonehenge I'm fine with it.

But I have to go back to Paris, because the last time I was there my son was 10 and we ended up eating a lot of pizza. This time, instead of waiting in line for the Eiffel Tower and climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe where there is no water fountain, I'll stroll through Montparnasse, sit in smoky cafes, and stay out late.

I want to see Odessa, Ukraine, where my grandparents were born and I want to go to Lisbon and hear live fado music, the saddest and most beautiful music in the world.

And I want a grandchild, but not for another few years.

I've been able to cross a few things off my to-do list. On a recent trip to New York, my husband and I dined at the Russian Tea Room. We knew the famous red leather seats from Tootsie and countless other movies, but we didn't see any celebrities that night, only tourists in shorts asking the waiters to take photos. We wore long pants and had no camera, and if a celebrity had walked in, we would have ignored him like real New Yorkers.

A week later I was able to cross two more items off my list. I went to Boston and combined a visit to my friend Leona (we met in ninth grade) with seeing singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen on his first U.S. concert tour in 15 years.

The last time I saw him was in the summer of 1970 at the old Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in New York. I was 19 and went with my guitar-playing friend Michael.

After the concert we met Cohen, and he and Michael talked music while I stared in silent awe. Michael died much too early, at the age of 44 after a long illness, and I silently honored his memory as the concert began.

Leona and I last went to a concert together in 1969, when we saw the Band at the Fillmore East. On tap that night was also the famous Joshua Light Show, a showcase of flashing colored psychedelic lights guaranteed to blow our minds. Now, flashing lights just give me a headache. My 20-year-old son would probably laugh at its technical simplicity, but for us it was nothing short of groovy.

We were 18 then. It seems like we waited a hundred years to turn 18 so we could enjoy untold freedoms. But it didn't take long at all to get to where we are now, with 60 in our headlights.

There is something infinitely satisfying about being with someone you've known for more than 40 years. I knew her parents and she knew mine, but it wasn't until we were much older that we finally understood one another's difficult times.

In high school I was clingy and she seemed indifferent, but I learned that we all deal with the fear of rejection in different ways. Now we both can say "I love you" without angst.

After high school, I stayed in New York and Leona went to California. We had seen each other every day from ninth grade until graduation, and I missed her. We shared a language and habits, like the incredibly long walks we took while we talked about the ills of society, and the Bob Dylan lyrics we memorized. Lately I found out she missed me, too. She remembers a birthday card I sent her. She was living in San Francisco, in a less-than-perfect relationship; all of her friends were new and she felt lonely. When my card arrived, she cheered up. Someone in the world knew it was her birthday; she felt a connection to another human being, far away as I was.

After that we lost touch for several years. There was no Internet in the '70s, and long distance calls were expensive. Then one night we were reunited on a crowded subway train. Now she's talking about retiring to St. Petersburg, so we can see each other every day, as we did in high school.

That would be just groovy.

St. Petersburg resident Alice Graves can be reached at alicegraves@yahoo.com.

Alice Graves: Groovy reunion on the to-do list 06/22/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 22, 2009 4:30am]

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