This is my third post in continuing series about my high school memories leading up to my 30 year reunion.
This whole 30 year reunion re-connecting thing has been an interesting process. I have caught with with more people through the reunion web site and Facebook than I actually ever spoke to in my four years at Mt. Lebanon Senior High. I am getting to know many 1979 grads for the first time 30 years later. It is a weird time paradox. My only memories of them are yearbook photos frozen in time. It has been a fun experience. I was however lamenting to my girlfriend that I really had not re-connected with anyone that I had a close relationship with in high school. I was therefore thrilled when I received an email the other day from one of the 79 grads who I can look back and say was my closest friend. We hung out regularly. We even devised our own senior trip tour across the United States. I was excited to hear from my friend Phillip Buckovecky. Phil and I had kept up to some degree after graduation but from about 1986 on, we lost contact with each other.
Phil and I were part of a small group of students who took four years of Russian at Mt. Lebanon Senior High. At the time Mt. Lebanon was one the few high schools in the country offering a 4 year Russian study program. We were also in the Russian Club. I suspect most Mt. Lebanon grads will be shocked to learn either of these existed. When we were not studying Russian, we were making trips out to West Virgina to buy alcohol, cutting class to hang out at the mall and planning our senior adventure. We laughed about the fact that neither of us were part of any of the cool groups, went to the prom or had even had a date in high school. He was waiting for the right girl. I was waiting for any girl but was to withdrawn to make any kind of effort in that area. I confessed that my high school teacher crush for four years was on our high school Russian teacher Kathy(Dzik) Haines.
During our senior year Phil and I , not being part of the groups that went skiing or to spring break in Fort Lauderdale decided we would put together our own senior trip. We decided that after we graduated we would take a tour of the United States. This was before the days of American Airlines Air passes and comfy Lexus rides. We purchased 30 days “Go Anywhere” bus passes on Trailways Bus Lines. They cost $150.00 dollars each. Our final destination would be Venice Beach, California. The only other time I had traveled without my parents was when my brother Mark and I drove to Fort Lauderdale for spring break the year before. That is another story in itself. Armed with my fake Pennsylvania diver’s license that said I was 21 and 300 dollars in my pocket, we set off on our adventure.
Along the way to Venice Beach we stopped over in Denver, Las, Vegas and Phoenix Arizona. In Phoenix we put my fake drivers license to use, stocking up on as much alcohol as we could. As we left Phoenix the bus stopped at one of those Department Of Agriculture check points that look for certain types of fruit that can not leave the state due to bug infestations. Do they still do that? Of course Phil and I being suave 18 year olds thought it was a roadblock looking for felony underage alcohol purchasers. We were terrified that we were about to do hard time! In Las Vegas I saw and played my first slot machine in the bus station . I thought I had struck it rich when I won 25 dollars in nickles.
We finally made it to Los Angeles. Neither of us had ever been before. We were literally two Pittsburgh rubes overwhelmed and in awe of the City Of Lights. We knew three things, Disney World, Universal Studios and the beach, That was our agenda. Being big budget kind of guys we chose the ultimate vacations getaway, Sterns No-tell Motel. I recall that the rate was 19.95 a night. We elected to leave the lock on the dial telephone to save money. My memories of Sterns Motel can best be described as the scene from From Dusk Till Dawn where the character played by George Clooney is banging on the motel bell trying to get a room. This 90 year old guy comes out and screams “What The Hell Do You Want!” Clooney replies ” I Want A Room You Mean Old Bastard! What The Fuck Do You Think I want!!” I really think that same old man from the movie owned Sterns Motel.
Phil and I spared no expense in our dining budget. Our lunch and dinner almost every night consisted of food from a hamburger stand sitting in the median of Washington Blvd called “Gooey Louies”. Gooey’s had great burgers. Whenever I see a Quentin Tarantino movie that references the “Big Kahuna Burger” I think Quentin must have eaten at Gooey Louies and used that as the basis for the Big Kahuna. Gooeys in apparently no more. It is now a Pacos Tacos. L.A also marked the first time I never had sushi in my life. While walking down towards the pier one evening, we ran into a couple of hookers who conned us(that took all of two seconds) into buying them dinner at a local Japanese restaurant. They then laid the cost of after dinner desert on us and we realized that we were overwhlemed,overmatched and under-funded amateurs dealing with literal pros. We thanked them for the offer, lamented the major sushi dent to our budget and made our way down to the Santa Monica pier with our illegally bought Mad Dog 20-20 in brown paper bags. My senior trip with Phil can best be summed up as Gooey Hookers, Mickey and Mad Dog. I can not remember what I felt then but looking back 30 years later, I had the best time of my life. Phil and I hit achieved our goals of hitting both Disney World and Universal Studios. Niether of us had ever been to either. I have not been back to either one since.
Phil is happily married with 4 children. He is a chiropracter living in Oregon. I hope to see him soon and take him to a Mavs-Trailblazers game. After talking to Phil, I felt a lot better about my high school years remembering I did have good friends and was not quite the reject I remember. Thanks Phil.