Here’s a knee jerker for you nostalgia buffs — beware of reunions! They’re hazardous to your mental health and won’t do your liver any favors either.
I recently participated in a reunion of sorts that ranked up there with all get-togethers I’ve experienced over the years. It took place at Tiny’s in Santa Fe, a noble watering hole originally located in a darkened recess on lower Water Street.
Tiny’s was evicted from its downtown location 20-plus years ago when the city’s fathers sought more parking spaces. The restaurant moved to a new location far from the maddening crowd, away from the swank art galleries, jewelry shops, posh hotels, and other tourist traps, and it became a favorite hangout for capitol insiders.
At the new Tiny’s last week this gang of old timers huddled, brought together because they once had frolicked on the playing fields of the state capitol going back nigh onto 50 years. They were at one time or another on a first-name basis with political icons in New Mexico like John and Ed, Franklin and Fabian, Bruce and Dave.
Four of the reunion guys worked at one time or another in Santa Fe as reporters with United Press International, a whimsical footnote in the history of the American Fourth Estate. Only one continued on in journalism throughout his career.
Also included in the gathering were a retired appellate court justice and a guy who drafted bills for the state legislature for 30 years then retired and wrote a 700-page novel. Both these felons were forgiven their sins at the reunion, but were told to wear ski masks the next time they met.
Those who had their UPI hearts on their sleeves could be spotted by their common lack of self control, but they offered warm greetings to the judge and the legislative scribe anyway, because they got a salute in return, which is unusual for anyone with a reporting background. The history of the four UPI Neanderthals went like this:
• No. 1 was a retired lobbyist who left UPI to become a public relations man for a governor and then a Santa Fe college. He finally cast aside all logic and became a flack for oil and gas interests, and between jobs wrote a New Mexico history book and grew an Abe Lincoln beard. It all seemed like the right thing to do at the time.
• No. 2 was a retired federal employee who left UPI for the Newhouse chain of newspapers but ended up working in Washington. I don’t know what he did for the government, and I didn’t ask. I have a fear of federal employees that I might be done away with to the strains of “The Third Man Theme” if I discover their secrets.
• No. 3 was a retired newsman who started as a copy boy for the Denver Post and later went zipping through both wire services and the Albuquerque Journal like a burrito to an Oklahoma tourist. His most memorable moment was when he was kidnapped by al-Qaida terrorists in northern New Mexico, but that’s another story.
• And finally there was me, the guy with a checkered past who left UPI to go with the Denver Post, then launched a variety of endeavors aimed at making a million. Instead I spent most of my time coveting the Sunday collection plate with lust in my heart. But back to the reunion.
One day one of the guys who shall remain nameless — he knows who he is — realized his long-time Santa Fe buds were rapidly slipping away to that Great Pressroom in the Sky, and soon he would be left alone with only distorted memories. That prompted him to organize this group of has-beens to meet at Tiny’s for lunch and once in a while to snag an old comrade from out of town as comic relief.
I attended one of these meetings as such a guest having left the fun-loving capitol more than a dozen years earlier for the warmth of Portales, which appealed to me at the time because it was losing population but gaining widows. You think of those things when you’re an old geezer looking for Valhalla.
But the reunion was fun. The mists of faulty memories parted like the Red Sea, and war stories and metaphors flowed like cold beer up Clear Creek Canyon. I had only one complaint — my fellow revelers had aged just like I did. It was disturbing.
But I’m going back someday for another reunion if everyone is still kicking. It’ll be fun to see those guys again and talk over the good old times. Besides, I want to find out which smart-aleck slipped Viagra pills in my coat pocket.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales.