Let’s get together before we get much older

Today's post is dedicated to the memory of Gregory "Ze Rabbit" Alberque.

Nj-njrphs-letter-150A business conflict prevents me from attending this Saturday's 40th reunion of the Ridgefield Park High School class of 1972.

I'm bummed for a variety of reasons, some obvious, others rather obscure.

First, the obvious ones. I'd like to see:

– Who's gained the most weight?
– Who's been divorced and re-married the most times?
– What superstar from yesteryear has fallen on hard times?
– What Bill Gates-type nerd is now raking in millions?
– How many great-great-grandmothers will be in attendance? Note: I'm still recovering from the 25th reunion, at which more than one classmate proudly proclaimed being a grandmother (it struck me then, and now, that 37 sure seems awfully young to have a grandchild; at least in the Middle Atlantic states. I'm sure it's par for the course in rural areas).

And, then, there are the less obvious things I'll miss about missing the reunion. The Class of '72 has lost more than its share of graduates since that fateful June day way back when. In fact, drug and alcohol use and abuse seems to have claimed an alarming percentage of my peers.

I was most taken aback by the loss of Gregory Alberque, who died of a heroin overdose in 1980. Greg was a very smart, very cool guy who chose to call himself Ze Rabbit. Despite his obvious intelligence, however, Greg was always getting in trouble: first with the St. Francis Grammar School nuns, then with the RPHS faculty and, later, with the village police. Greg was, as they say, an accident waiting to happen.

When I think of Greg, I think of all the things he's missed since OD'ing at the age of 26:

– The fall of the Soviet Union
– The rise of the computer and social media
– ‘Seinfeld’, ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ (Greg would have loved Walter White)
– The 1986 Mets World's Championship
– The Disneyfication of Times Square (Greg would have hated that!)
– The never-ending cases of Catholic priest pedophilia (that wouldn't have surprised him at all)
– The complete transformation of his home town from one that was 100 percent white and blue collar to one that reflects the melting pot that is America (not sure how Greg would have dealt with that).
– 9/11
– Class polarization and the rise of two separate countries within one (aka Red and Blue States).

High school reunions are bittersweet events that mark the passage of time, the opportunity to see old friends and the time to reflect on the loss of others.

One final note about Greg Alberque: I believe this is at least the fourth RPHS reunion he's missed. When I see those horrific anti-smoking commercials on TV, I always think to myself: the Ad Council shouldn't scare people with cancer-riddled, terminal patients. Rather, they should play the Greg Alberque card, and ask smokers one simple question: What will you miss? I'd like to believe Greg would have made a different choice had he known how much he'd miss.

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