You CAN Go Home Again – Tommy’s High School Reunion, Day 1
You’ve all been waiting for it.
And it’s finally here, the complete recollection of all events that transpired at and around my ten-year high school reunion in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Broken up into three separate entries. If you haven’t read the pre-reunion blog, you can do so here:
So, the night before I was supposed to leave (which was a Thursday), I didn’t get any sleep. This always happens every time I’m getting ready for a trip, and usually when I’m wrestling. I’m amped and excited and I usually check and re-check my bags several times because I always forget at least one item that I’m going to need. I actually made the mistake of packing some of my wrestling gear, thinking I was wrestling this weekend also. My friends were actually disappointed that I didn’t just show up in my gear and to be honest, I wouldn’t have worn it because it’s just too damn hot in Havasu to be walking around in Hello Kitty spandex.
My friend Mitch – who is barely awake – picks me up wearing his beatnik shades, looking like a coffee shop barista in the 90s, and we go to get my rental car. Because rent is due really close to the time I get back from the reunion, and I don’t have a major credit card, Mitch was letting me use his to avoid having a huge amount held on my card (just in case they didn’t authorize a release in time for me to pay rent). We go to Enterprise, which I had reserved with a week ago, and when we walk in, there’s two guys hitting on two girls who are trying to rent a car. These girls don’t even seem remotely interested in these guys, and one of them is forced to work with me and Mitch and, you know, do his fucking job.
Right away, the guy has fucking attitude. Since Mitch and I are both not morning people per say, we are in no fucking mood. First, because Mitch is using his card, he has to now be on the rental plan… which is an extra $10 a day for the three days I have the car. Then he informs me I need to bring in two paper bills to prove I live in Vegas because both Mitch and myself have out-of-state licenses. What? How the fuck do tourists get cars then!? Mitch asks if we can just pull up our bills on our phones through the utility websites. We’re told no. Then we’re told we have to buy insurance… not optional… and an extra $25 a day.
So Mitch and I leave to go get some utility bills from my apartment up the street, but along the way Mitch overhears one guy tell another that my rental is not even ready (despite me coming in on time to pick it up at 10:00 AM) and it’s not clean. When we get to the car, Mitch tells me I should check out Budget instead because he always rents with them when he travels. We learn there’s one right by my work (which I have to be at in like, thirty minutes).
Because I didn’t have a reservation, my rental wound up being $200 instead of the projected $90 I had with Enterprise. Since I was going to be charged $200 anyway by Enterprise for their bullshit additions, I just went with Budget because their customer service was friendly, their debit card policy was easier, and they only needed to see one bill and actually said Mitch could screen grab his and send it to her work email so she could use it.
I wound up renting a Chevy Sonic – in red, a color I didn’t pick. My reaction was, “You want me to get pulled over, don’t you?” When I got in the car, I realized another cruel joke was being played on me. There was a touch-screen digital radio but no fucking CD player.
Kill me! I was stuck listening to the same shit for the whole trip… to my surprise, I learned Jesse McCartney is still relevant. I guess dreams do come true.
After I got the car, Mitch went off for a hair cut and I treated myself to Starbucks and went to work. I was in a good mood, not because of the trip (since I had just been raped by two rental companies without dinner, foreplay, or lube) but because I was loopy from no sleep. Work was kind of slow and my boss, Eric, asked, “How are you going to drive in this rain?” Somehow, in the five minutes I was in the kitchen washing silverware, a torrential downpour took place outside and we started getting hail!
But did that stop people from coming in to get bottomless fries? Hell nah! Why is it that when it’s raining, people decide to go out to eat? What’s wrong with you people!? In any event, I made a whole $16 for working for two hours because it was that slow and everyone else wanted to stay longer. Me? I wanted to leave early so I could hit the road before dark since I’m so night blind. Unfortunately, I had to wait for the rain to let up a bit at work, run out to the car, blaze home, and wait another hour for the rain to stop so I could safely get out of Vegas.
While waiting, I repacked for the third time… unsure of what to wear to the reunion dinner for the next night and picking three different combinations of outfits. Once the sun started shining, I fed the cats, threw my bag in the car, and zoomed to the freeway. I was nervous as hell but kept reminding myself that I had first driven on a freeway in Los Angeles all the way up to Santa Clara for a wrestling show… I’ve got this. Of course, my grandmother (aka Packy) wanted to know when I was arriving and I told her six. She seemingly understood (we’ll get back to that).
The drive was pretty relaxing and for myself, it was nice to be going somewhere where I wasn’t wrestling, where I didn’t have to kiss anyone’s butt or impress people, and where I didn’t have to rely on anyone for rides and such. It was freeing and the drive really helped me clear my head about certain things. Once I hit Searchlight, I realized I was starving and grabbed a small cheeseburger from McDonald’s. Unfortunately, when I first stopped, I parked at the wrong place and was like, “Wasn’t there a McDonald’s here?” I walked through one whole building before I realized the actual one I was looking for was a block over.
When I walked in, I heard Billy Ocean’s Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car and instantly thought of Brad & Jenna “CeCe” Ebert, so I texted CeCe about it as it’s our inside joke.
After that, I bought myself one of those fancy $1 fortunes from the machine reminiscent of the movie BIG with Tom Hanks. Sadly, I didn’t wake up thirteen or a size 24, but got a great fortune which I decided to keep:
Your future life will be very sunny.
I see init a chest full of money.
Be free to spend it as you see fit.
Because there will be plenty more of it.
You are a fortunate person. You were born under a lucky star and that will carry you safely through all your ventures. In time your love life will be something for the world to talk about. You will be extremely happy. There will be those who envy you and try to harm you. Just really learn who your true friends are and all will go very well with you. Your lucky stone is ruby.
That made me pretty happy and after having a small meal, I sped through Searchlight and hit Havasu early at 5:10 PM. But of course, Packy calls to interrogate me: “Where are you? You should be here by now.”
Woman, I said six. So I told her there was a lot of traffic and decided that I was going to drive around now and would not pull up until six just to make my point, LOL. I hadn’t been back to The Hav since April of 2010, when I went for Robi’s funeral… which is a huge fucking fiasco that I will write about at some other time. In any event, despite my grandmother still living in Havasu (and a few of my friends such as Dan Broderick and Jeremy Arnold), I’ve had zero inclination to return.
The city seems so much more quaint now that I’m older and it truly is a great place to raise a family, retire, and eventually die… but if you’re single or have big plans of becoming famous (like me), it’s not for you. After checking the GPS, I discovered my grandmother lived all the way on the south side of the fucking city. She lives by the big orange McCulloch ball. You know you’re from Havasu when someone mentions the orange McCulloch ball and you know what they’re talking about. For those who didn’t grow up there, the two main streets in town or North and South McCulloch. McCulloch Realty has an office on the south side, as you head out of town, and it’s topped with an orange globe. When we were kids, you knew someone lived far if you drove by that building.
Even though I had just driven almost 200 miles, and have driven farther to wrestle, I was whiny and annoyed that I had to drive “all the way to the south side.” LOL. In actuality, it only takes ten minutes… if you go thirty over the speed limit (which I did, because everyone drives in Havasu like old people have sex… really slooooow). It doesn’t help that there’s nothing to look at.
It also doesn’t help that Havasu is the Black Hole of Calcutta and that I had zero reception for most of my trip. But then again, it was kind of fun being off the radar and getting all my texts and notifications when I would hit one sweet reception spot. It was calm and relaxing, even at my grandmother’s, which is where I stayed.
When I was growing up, Packy (my grandmother’s nickname, and east coast slang for “liquor store,” which is fitting) lived across the street from my elementary school, Starline. She lived in this tacky and gaudy pink house and had thirteen cats (not an exaggeration) and one dog named Sassy that was blind, deaf, and had two teeth. What I don’t understand is why she still called for or yelled at the dog, whose name should’ve been Helen Keller. As if spending time at my grandmother’s after school wasn’t interesting enough, she had her brother – our Uncle Johnny as we called him – living with her and he had Down’s Syndrome (something that I think he faked so he wouldn’t have to talk to her).
I was really dreading staying with my grandmother, but in all honesty, her new house is much nicer, she only has one dog now and no cats, and Uncle Johnny passed away years ago so it’s just Packy and her boyfriend John (who is the same age as my mother, ick!), living at the house. John was super cool and asked me how Vegas was treating me and my grandmother, in typical Italian fashion, tried to force feed me. She was a little upset that I wasn’t eating much, mainly because I’ve gotten used to eating six small meals or snacks throughout my day instead of eating one huge meal since I got into wrestling. I tried explaining it to her, but she felt I was making excuses and didn’t like the sub she bought for me.
To be perfectly honest, my grandmother is a sneaky fuck. She’s always tricking me into eating things I don’t like. One year, when I was eight, she made spaghetti on Christmas Eve at her house and made squid. What she failed to tell me – who hates seafood – is that she cooked the squid in the marinara and she knowingly fed me squid pasta. It was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever put in my mouth, and that’s saying a lot considering the people I’ve dated. Another time, she made chocolate chip cookies and put nuts in them, knowing I hate almonds, peanuts, etc. Then there was the time her sister Betty – who I hate – fed me candy cane after candy cane one Christmas until I went into a diabetic shock (keep in mind, I’m not even diabetic).
My family is evil and it’s not funny when you fuck with my food.
Since Laura, Diana, and most of my friends were at the Homecoming football game at our old high school, I decided to chill with my grandmother for a couple of hours and catch up with her… I told her how my mother (her daughter) is becoming more and more like her; and then I also told her, “Mom says you’re shaped like an avocado and she’s worried that you’re going to live so long that you two will be the old mom and daughter couple at Denny’s eating breakfast, and no one can tell who is the mother and who is the daughter since you’re so old.”
That had my grandmother rolling with laughter and crying. Later on, I got chewed out on the phone by my own mother:
“Your grandmother just called and complained that you don’t stay at her house long enough… I asked her why she doesn’t just say something to you and she told me she forgot because she was *grinds teeth* craving avocado.”
Of course, while chatting with my grandmother, she had to pose the question, “Do you have a special friend in your life.” I responded in kind…
That’s when I also excused myself to go to the bathroom… and when I went to the bathroom, as I’m holding my Johnson and peeing, I notice that my grandmother – who has taken to wearing wigs – had left her newest wig laying out in the open on her bathroom sink. After peeing, I really wanted to wash my hands, but I told myself, “Wait, let me take a selfie.”
The photo went viral on my Facebook – to the point where people at my reunion (who aren’t even on my Facebook) were talking about it – and has since received more than 100 likes. I took the photo and sent it to my mother, who was having dinner at Chili’s with my sisters and spit her margarita everywhere. Packy wasn’t even aware I took the photo until I re-added her to Facebook and she saw it (she didn’t even recognize that it was her bathroom at first).
You’ll notice I said I “re-added” my grandmother to Facebook. She asked why she couldn’t see my stuff on her timeline anymore and I told her, “Because you thought George W. Bush was sexy, so I deleted you because that’s nauseating.” Since we were on the topic of sex and dating, my 73-year-old grandmother asked me if Asia was seeing anyone, I told her yes and that she was being really good and not giving up the goodies. This exchange happened shortly after:
PACKY: “Good… that’s how it was during my day.”
ME: “Woman, sit down. You shouldn’t be talking about tradition… you beat up your husband’s mistress in front of Mom in your own house and married into the mob.”
PACKY: “That’s what women did back then.”
Around 9:30, I decided it was time to brave the outdoors and go meet everyone downtown for drinks. And by drinks, I mean Tommy drank overpriced, watered-down soda while everyone else did shots and had beer. Driving on the highway in Havasu is fucking terrifying, mainly because there are no street lights and you can’t see anything. My rental car was also so sensitive that the doors had to be slammed hard to be closed all the way… I was not aware of this and my interior lights would not shut off so stupid me actually drove part of the way with the interior lights on until I realized what was wrong (it’s Havasu, you can drive in the middle of the road and people still wouldn’t say shit).
I also learned my rental – while lacking a CD player – had a camera in the back to help me when going in reverse which came in extremely handy on this trip.
After about twelve minutes, I made it downtown. Laura texted me to tell me that the reunion committee had set up some drink special at Martini Bay, which was not even part of the Bar Crawl itinerary and really annoyed the fuck out of me. I’m not a club person, but I like a good dive bar. But, for the sake of my bestie Laura and our other friends (such as Diana), I put on my game face and went down to Martini Bay.
It was bougie as all fucking hell. I don’t know who these people are trying to fool, we’re in Havasu, and they’re trying to pass themselves off as Vegas. There was a karaoke piano bar thing going on, which just annoyed me because in my mind I was thinking, “Stop trying to be Don’t Tell Mama, you’ll never be like that place.” For those who have never visited Downtown Vegas, Don’t Tell Mama’s is a really cool piano bar that is extremely popular. As I waited for Diana and Laura to show up, I ran into Liz La Rue and Stephanie Waverka from my graduating class.
Stephanie was voted Best Physique in our class, and she still looked the same; like she hadn’t aged a day in the last decade. Liz looked the same as well. We caught up on current events and Liz was the one to bring up me being a wrestler which had Stephanie all in shock. For a brief moment, my phone got limited reception, but just enough to receive Laura’s text that she wasn’t feeling well and her throat was a little sore, but that Diana was going to meet me. I had expressly asked what time everyone was meeting up and told them if I wasn’t having fun or that they were late, I was heading elsewhere because I didn’t want to be at this annoying bar. I decided just to head out anyway with Stephanie and Liz to the Bar Crawl, knowing that Diana would make her way there eventually.
I will say though, when I got Laura’s text, I was like…
So, downtown Havasu has a few bars, but the main ones everyone goes to are Mad Dog’s (I didn’t go in there once, it looked closed), McKee’s (yawn), Flying X. (I don’t get the name, it’s a fucking country saloon), BJ’s (aka Hot Mess Hall), and Desert Martini, just a little dive with a pool table, shuffleboard, and a strict “cash only” policy. Naturally, we go to Desert Martini because no one wants to go to BJ’s and get stabbed with a screwdriver (which has happened).
At the bar, I was visited by Julie Moya, a friend I had in my Industrial Tech class who refused to go to the banquet but came out for the Bar Crawl just to find me because she knew I was coming. Julie, who is happily married, had come down from Kingman (where she now resides) with her husband and her lesbian friend and was introducing them as her “husband and wife,” which definitely turned a couple of heads. If you’re on my personal Facebook and thought I was going to be trouble, magnify that by three and you have Julie, LOL.
While at the bar, I reminisced with Julie about the classes we had together. Industrial Tech was a course that meant every quarter we would rotate into a different skill-level class. One class was electronics where Mr. Meyer talked so low he had to use a microphone to teach class. We played on computers and did nothing of note except help film announcements (once, me and Madeline filmed announcements and she just sat there like Garth from Wayne’s World and left me high and dry to carry the show). Another class was wood shop, which I vaguely remember because I was terrified of breaking a nail, getting a splinter, or cutting off a finger. The third quarter class was drafting, where I usually got A’s despite the fact that I never used a ruler to measure anything or to make perfect lines, but still managed to do so. The fourth class, and the most interesting, was auto shop, which I took seriously because my stepfather was a mechanic, I kind of knew a bit about cars and Julie and I laughed over the memory of when our unruly class made our teacher, Mr. Crone, go out into the garage to cry. While crying, he started up all the test engines and had some Jack Daniels, which he always kept hidden in his office (the worst kept secret in the school).
While laughing with Julie, I heard a girl go, “God, don’t be so gay.” Jen “Legs” Ballistrea then put her arm around my shoulders, making her presence known. Jen and I then began sharing stories, and I recalled the time her mother came in for a student-parent day. My mother couldn’t make it so Packy was sent in her place… for years, everyone thought my mom was ancient because of that. I walked up to Jen’s mom, who was an officer in Havasu at the time (she has since retired), and I mentioned she knew my mom. When Officer Ballistrea asked who my mom was, I told her and said, “You strip-searched her after she beat up my stepfather’s mistress.”
My soon-to-be-stepfather and mother were on a break, so he had a dalliance with some trashy broad named Kim. He ended it (or so my mom thought) and got back with my mom and Kim got a restraining order after my mom kicked her ass (carrying on my grandmother’s mistress-beating legacy). Then Kim broke the restraining order, coming into my mother’s work to instigate a confrontation, went home, and had her friend beat her up, and framed my mom. Jen’s mom had the honor of stripping my mother down.
Did I mention that my revelation about my knowledge of this to Jen’s mom was in the third grade?
Other patrons in the bar from our graduating class were Kyle Bernaby, who said nothing to me, which is fine, I had zero interest in talking to him to be fair (we actively clashed a bit in high school). There was also some dude named Hank who knew me and was friends with Jen. I recognized him but never knew who he was in high school or now because we didn’t have classes together, no mutual friends, but I had seen him around campus. Later on, I had asked Laura who he was.
ME: “Jen was hanging out with some guy named Hank…”
LAURA: “Yeah, Hank Lawrence! You know Hank Lawrence.”
ME: “No, I don’t. Do we hate Hank Lawrence?”
LAURA: “No, we like Hank Lawrence.”
Eventually, as I started losing interest (because the bar was kind of dead), I decided to check out BJ’s. I instantly regretted it and left after two minutes because I had an instant headache and felt like I was on a bad acid trip. When I returned to Desert Martini (which is right next door), all my friends began showing up at once! I turned to Jen and mentioned that I had asked the Broderick Twins if Austin McMinn was coming… and as soon as I said his name, he came walking in.
In our group of friends, Austin was super tight with the twins, and Stephanie was “one of the boys.” The four of them mainly hung around each other… meanwhile myself, Laura, and Madeline were our own little trio who would join in with them. Austin, like Liz, Jen, Julie, and Stephanie, looked the same and I mentioned being surprised to see him. As it turns out, while he was randomly visiting his mom, he had thought the reunion had taken place three weeks prior and just happened to be there purely by coincidence. While we were catching up, I yelled at him for denying my Facebook friend requests, LOL.
While I hung around Austin, Jen, and Hank (by this time, Julie and her “husband and wife” had gone next door to brave BJ’s), Diana showed up (along with our really good friend, and my first BFF and the first person non-relative I came out to, Teressa Thye). Bree Lyn, Rachel Mannix, Ren Allsup, and Sabel Diskin showed up as well as Aaron Fudurich, who I lost the Performing Arts Award to my senior year (I am still sour about losing to a junior from BAND! LOL, but I told the story to his beautiful wife and she got a kick out of the diva tantrum I threw when he won, LOL). Around this time, Jen decided to yell in the bar, “GUYS! THE SHORT BUS IS COMING!” referring to a few guys from school who never grew out of their sophomoric behavior.
I also ran into Kat Quill, who I had known ever since my days at Starline and whose mother was our school librarian. Kat nearly fell off her chair laughing when I was talking to Austin.
ME: “So how are the kids!?”
AUSTIN: “They’re getting huge! Can you believe I have a nine-year-old?”
ME: “No, I can’t… you’re old. How’s uh, the ex-wife and her gum-to-tooth ratio?”
Austin’s ex-wife – and the mother of his children – always had a bit more gums than teeth. While I apologized for even saying that about the mother of his children, I felt it was too good of a question to pass up. All Austin said was, “Oh, you noticed that too? I thought it was just me.” Boom. I then asked Austin where the fuck the twins were and Austin said Dave and Dan “got their wires crossed” and thought the Bar Crawl was the next day.
ME: “I’ve been telling them since freshman year they need to learn how to fucking read!”
AUSTIN: “Dave says his phone isn’t getting any service.”
ME: “He doesn’t need to call anyone, there’s only three places we could be!”
The rest of the night went by in a blur as I hopped from table to table, chatting with everyone. Austin caught up with Stephanie, Jen had to answer numerous questions from classmates about her divorce (where the ink wasn’t even dry on the paper yet), and everyone else just kind of weaved in and out to see who they could find next door. Finally, I decided I had to check out this Flying X. place and when I went outside I ran into Jeremy Arnold which was a delightful surprise.
When I was younger, I had been friends with Jeremy in middle school and we always talked about going to a wrestling school and being wrestlers, LOL. Since then, Jeremy’s always been one of my biggest supporters and he’s the guitarist for the band soul eXistence. As it turns out, since he knew I’d be in town and participating in the Bar Crawl, he came out looking for me since he wasn’t going to the dinner. We talked his band, his family, my wrestling, and he asked my favorite match, which isn’t really question I get asked a lot.
I had to think about it and decided my favorite match I’ve been in was the match where I won the Women’s Championship from Sierra Rose… it’s just such a wonderful memory, it had a great promo, and it just holds a lot of special memories for me. After that, Liz, Stephanie, Austin, and myself went to Flying X. and I was already annoyed that it was a bit of a walk there. The bar itself was like a modern saloon and pretty neat (eventually, Kat and her husband and Julie and her crew, along with Allison Knight, all joined us).
The best part about that experience though was that Liz got trashed. Somehow we had gotten on the topic of dick size. Liz then mentioned a disappointing experience with a three-inch dildo and then started off one of the most bizarre stories ever.
LIZ: “So me and this one girl, you know, I hadn’t really done anything with a girl at that point, we decide to go and travel together. So we go to this place called Minnesota…”
This placed called Minnesota?
She made it sound like a hotel off of Route 66, and her sardonic delivery just had all of us rolling, but the clincher came when, with a straight face, she says…
LIZ: “No guys, you don’t understand, it was fucking real.”
The rest of the story involved something about the strap-on sliding out multiple times and her leaving it behind for the cleaning crew because she was traveling and didn’t want people pulling it out of her bag at the airport. All night, myself, Austin, and Stephanie just kept saying, “Guys, it was fucking real.”
When the bar closed up, myself, Kat, her husband, and Austin went out for breakfast at Denny’s. Kat – who wasn’t even drunk and who grew up in the fucking town – then posed the dumbest question ever as we were heading over there…
KAT: “Which Denny’s are we going to?”
AUSTIN: “How about the only fucking Denny’s that’s been in town and in the same spot for the last 30 years?”
After breakfast, and after convincing Austin to go buy slacks and to come with me, Dave, Madeline, and Laura to the banquet dinner, I went back to Packy’s at around three in the morning and crashed in the guest bedroom… not entirely prepared for the amount of hilarity that was going to ensue in just a few hours…