It now costs $63 to take a cab from Bradley International Airport to Wesleyan University. Five years ago it cost only $50. I attribute this discrepancy to the War on Terror. I used to take cabs on that route quite often, either to the airport or from it, alternately heading back home to Denver or to college in Connecticut, because my peers were usually too busy freeing Tibet to give me a ride. But I never really minded. I did some of my best reflecting in those cabs. And I hear China's going to give back that country any day now.
On those rides, I'd sit quietly for a half-hour and watch the passing scenery — the Connecticut River, the old Colt 45 factory (the gun, not the 40), pathetic old Hartford where poor Mark Twain sunk his fortune — and think about any number of things. I'd reflect on the past semester, plan for who I'd see back in Denver. Or if I was heading back to school, I'd formulate elaborate scenarios for the semester to come. How this time around, that girl would pay attention to me. How this time around, I would start writing like I was supposed to. College is a weird time in any kid's life, an ever-swinging pendulum between feelings of doubt and omnipotence, like you could crush the world in one second, then be crushed by it the next. But when you're a weird kid to begin with, those feelings are magnified.
And sitting in my $63 cab last Friday evening, those feelings came over me like a tsunami. I was heading to my five-year college reunion, back to the school where I'd spent four years and where I had not returned since the day I graduated, and all of a sudden I was nineteen years old again, ready to pop with anticipation at all the things to come and wondering, above all, how the fuck people live in this type of humidity.
Wesleyan was draped in its finest red-and-black banners, groomed and scrubbed to New England liberal arts school perfection — an effort no doubt intended to provoke donations from the legions of alumni returning for reunion/commencement ceremonies. I checked in, got the keys to the dorm where they'd put the class of 2002, and found that I was one of the first to arrive. So I unloaded my bags and headed to Neon Deli, eager for the Jen's Buffalo Cutlet that I'd been craving for five years. Sandwich in hand, I headed back to my dorm room — only to realize that I'd left my ATM card in the machine at the deli.
"You won't be able to get it back until Tuesday," they told me.
I was leaving Sunday.
Wesleyan 1, Adam 0.
But then night descended, the class of 2002 arrived in droves, and there were plenty of opportunities to even the score. Wesleyan is small, about 3,000 students, which meant that my class had about 750 students. While that number sometimes felt suffocating while I was still in school, it made for a perfect reunion. Because while you don't know everyone's name, you know most faces, and so wandering in the mix, it was easy to stumble up to anyone and ask, "How do I know you again? Oh, yeah, what are you up to now? Me? Glad you asked. I'm one of those androgynous lady-boys who twirl in ribbons like goddamn morons in the Cirque du Soleil. And, yes, I have turned homosexual! Very homosexual."
Lying at reunions is half the fun.
But you can't lie to your friends, and so I met up with a bunch of them, and we drank irresponsibly and irretrievably as we spoke truths long into the night. Drugs were everywhere.
Saturday went like this: Woke up, bagel and coffee from Neon Deli, then off to Indian Hill Cemetery because it is beautiful and because I'm a morbid fuck and because that's where I used to sit and brainstorm the shitty screenplays that I wrote. Saw two cardinals and a blue jay. Score. Next toured the amenities my school has added since I left: brand-new gymnasium and weight room; brand-new, state-of-the art Film Studies building where Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire the Slayer, was talking nerdy about sci-fi. My sister is obsessed with him and would have killed me if I didn't see at least a few minutes and report back. Hung out on Foss Hill and watched hippies be hippies, then made sure everything was good to go for my show.
That's right: I was performing at my own reunion. You didn't think I would attend just to attend, did you? My God, how plebian. Yeah, Wesleyan found out that I'm pretty much the greatest comic in at least a three-block radius in Denver, and they called me up and said, "Hey, Adam, would you please do us the honor of sharing your witty urbanity with the elite minds that inhabit Wesleyan University?"
And even though that story is not true — I vainly contacted the university and set up my own show — the point remains: I had to make sure everything was good to go.
My show was at a fraternity house, and when I entered that choice venue, I found the steak-head frat president inhaling whippets with some buddies in his room, utterly fucking clueless as to what was going on. I reminded him of the numerous e-mails we'd exchanged, reminded him of how the school had set this up and it was in the weekend's program so it would really behoove him to make it work, and slowly his drug-addled mind began to understand that he should get off the couch and help me. That "help" consisted of pointing out a P.A. system, apparently left over from the 1904 World's Fair, that would not serve my purposes whatsoever. There was no microphone. The show would be a cappella.
Well, what about booze? I asked the steak-head. Do you at least have the booze you promised? Comedy works best with booze; that's why most clubs have a two-drink minimum.
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"Bro, we're totally out," he slurred. "Crazy night last night."
Long story short, I bought six thirty-packs and hid them in the frat's fridge. When I returned that night to a packed house — around 150 people there for the show — I found that the frat boys had drunk only two of the thirty-packs, which left enough for me to give a great performance. A good time was had by all: They laughed, they were offended, and then, as the show ended, fireworks started on the main hill, and we all made our way to the tent party. We debauched like the reckless college kids we once were — and I pretty much still am — and danced and shouted to a cover band belting out "Living on a Prayer." I basked in my pseudo-celebrity status as people came up to me and talked to me about the show, and then it was late in the night and, as far as what happened next...well, a lady never tells.
Then it was morning, and everyone was hugging goodbye, and some were crying, and it was like we were graduating all over again, and again, way too soon. The cliche that the more things change the more they stay the same kept rattling around my skull as I rode in the cab to the airport. There I had to wait for a bad patch of weather to clear up over our nation's capital so I could fly to Dulles, then back to Denver. Eventually we took off, but not before I'd worried about how I'd miss the flight and probably have to catch a cab to a hotel for the night and take a plane out the next morning. I wondered if I would have enough cash. My only means of attaining more was still stuck in an ATM back at Neon Deli.
And the ride to the airport had cost me $63. To see a slide show, click here.