August 21, 2007

Is there a more touching and enjoyable experience in life than to renew old acquaintances after many years? Tonight was one of those nights as my brother Mark and I met one of bandmates from our Top Priority band days of long ago, Jerry “Keys” Palma, for dinner and some wonderful reminiscing after 30 long years.

It’s funny how these kinds of things turn out. It’s literally been years – maybe even a decade or more – since my brother and I have even discussed our old band days. A little over a month ago, Mark (who played drums in the band, me playing bass) called to ask if I had any photos left over from our Top Priority days, as his two sons have started up a band of their own and he wanted to show them that their old man was no slouch when it came to garage band pursuits. Earlier that weekend, I had been playing CDs by an old ’60s surf band called The Sandals, who had reformed to create the soundtrack to the movie “The Endless Summer II” and recreate their original soundtrack to the landmark surf film “The Endless Summer”.

For some reason, Mark’s call reminded me of The Sandals, and I began wondering what our old fellow bandmates Keys and our guitarist Ken “The Cat” McDougal were doing with their lives, and I made a mental note to check the phone book upon my next visit back to Massachusetts. During that visit here last month, I found out that both their families still lived at their original addresses, and Mark, undertaking a search of his own, found a website link to what turned out to be Jerry’s law firm. Shortly after renewing acquaintances with Jerry by phone, I left a message on his parents’ phone and a few days later got a call from “The Cat”, who, as it turns out, lives in Jacksonville, FL and runs his own photography business. While Ken couldn’t make it up here for my August visit, we shared phone numbers and e-mail addresses and hoped someday we’d all be able to meet together for some laughs and memories.

Tonight, Mark and I hooked up with Jerry, and, as it happens in these kinds of situations, it’s amazing to watch thirty years of separation melt away in just minutes. While we were never very good as a band, we did have a lot of fun with it over the few years we pursued our craft seriously. While one could bemoan the fact that our lack of serious talent made success elusive and our music more of a hobby as anything else, it also allowed us to have more fun and be both foolish and creative with it – maybe it’s that very fact that we were more than bandmates, but friends. And it was renewing that friendship and being able to laugh and reminisce about those times that made tonight so enjoyable.

On one level, it was great to listen to some of our music again and laugh until the tears started flowing; on another there was this wonderful sense of time both passing by and going backward, melting the years away, making all our journeys all seem a little more worthwhile. We’ve all gone our separate ways, had our own life trials and tribulations, and now have our own lives and priorities left to pursue, but shouldn’t everyone have the opportunity – at least from time to time – to be able to rekindle relationships that enable you to take stock of where and how your own life journey has gone? And shouldn’t one be able to share and, yes, celebrate the fact that you’ve survived all those years with friends you haven’t seen for ages? These kinds of things truly are the spice of life, and it’s renewing acquaintances in this way that are just one of God’s little blessings that come along from time to time.

I feel fortunate and blessed indeed to be able to experience a night like this, and I’m well aware that there are a lot of people out there who should be able to be so lucky. So to Mark, Jerry, and Ken (who we were still able to talk with by phone while we shared dinner), I say ‘thank you’: we may not have been the best band in the world, but the times and memories we can still share together more than make up for any deficiency in talent we might have had.

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