Just returned from what used to be a sort of annual trip to Vegas with old college buddies, put on hiatus for the past two years for all kinds of good reasons. But the reason’s for going I think out weigh staying home and saving some cash. It’s important to keep connections to your friends and this is one good way of doing so. The details of the trip are so mundane compared to the bad old days that if you’re looking for that, don’t bother. And I wouldn’t tell anyway. I could have titled the post “I just got back from Vegas and my butt hurts”… from bowling, you dirty minded people.
A little background on this group. When I got out of high school, I had zero desire to head off to a 4 year college, nor did I have the best grades. Delta College (a community college) in Stockton was the destination, with a hazy goal of finishing in 2 years and taking off to wherever I could get in. Fortunately, I enjoyed History and Political Science, got involved a little bit and somehow was accepted to UCLA. But not UCSB, which is a good thing and a story for another day.
In any event, not knowing anybody in Westwood and having never actually been on the campus, I took a trip down, found an apartment with 3 random dudes and settled in. They had a party before school started, it was a boring train wreck and out of desperation, I wandered the apartment complex looking for the other party that I could hear. Met three guys there, told them we had a keg back at the lame party, they came along and turned out they knew some of my friends from Lodi. One thing led to another, I went to fraternity rush at their house, found out that this particular fraternity did not believe in hazing and all of that crap, I got invited in, moved out of my apartment asap and lived in a frat house for 3 years. It’s important to note that as a transfer, I didn’t want to deal with some punk 19 year old kid yelling at me, making me drink whatever he handed me, etc. So the non-hazing, no BS, you can move in right away thing really appealed to me. Intramural sports teams, help with what classes to pick, a tolerant attitude compared to other fraternities, assistance in getting jobs on campus, all of that came with this fun group of 70+ young men. More to the story another time but suffice to say, this is a group of dudes that I grew up with in many ways.
Fast forward to a year ago, when one of these friends lost his father after a long battle, after overcoming his own health scare a few years prior. Then two months ago, another friend lost his very healthy and fit dad to a series of strokes, at age 62. Remember, all of these friends are age 40-44 at the most, so we’re not that damn old. And just in the past 3 years, I’ve seen guys my age pass away for any number of reasons.
So the idea of bringing a few of us all back to Vegas, some who haven’t been in years, to pick up our friends spirits (he lives in Vegas now too) was a good idea and my lovely wife told me to go, before I even asked. I don’t deserve her sometimes. And I dig Las Vegas.
Makes me realize how fortunate I am to have had great experiences with people who continue to be good friends after 20+ years and who are solid citizens (never convicted at least). I got lucky to get into UCLA and bump into three guys at a party and I’m not happy that it’s beginning to take people passing away for us to get together but sometimes that’s how it works out.
Steve Martin, talking on the 92nd Street YMCA pod cast that I listened to this morning, (Funny People, download his and George Carlin), spoke about a friend who had lost both parents in tragic ways and told SM that “if you have anything to clear up with your parents, do it now”. Good advice.
A last word on this rambling post: These great experiences I had in college make me want the same for my kids. But the reality is that the costs are becoming so out of control that I worry if we can afford to send one or both to a UC or CSU, even with our decent incomes. How can it be that a middle class family will struggle mightily to send their kids to college, perhaps even sacrificing their own retirement/future in the process. My parents spent about $10k a year for 3 years on me. Not easy as they were both teachers but much more doable than $30k per year at a UC right now. Makes me angry and sad, I hope that I can at least provide the opportunity for my kids to attend the school that they want to go to/can get into.
So that they can meet good people, develop great friendships and have a support network of friends that they can count on in rough times. That’s perhaps even more important than the degree they get at the end of college.