My “Date” Last Night

A young at heart couple…and childhood friends.

I had a date last night…and she was a varsity high school cheerleader, no less.  Any man’s dream as they say.

It was the most wonderful evening for me in close to two decades.

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Oh, her name is Mari Jo and very happily married.  Darn.  Double darn.  Her loving Husband was kind enough to “lend” her to me for our 40th high school reunion.  They both bought me my ticket to make sure I’d go to the reunion.  How embarrassing for a man of old ways.

Mari Jo and I have been friends since six or seven years of age – from around (ahem) 1960 or so.  We went to a great elementary school in the heart of East Los Angeles called 4th Street Elementary.  It still stands.  Brick auditorium, too.

She had a touch of freckles, blond hair with the slightest of curls and an infectious smile back then.  More than 50 years later, she still does.  Priceless.

True childhood friends.  The best.  No walls.  No mask.  Out in the open.

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Nearly all of us were pretty much in the same boat.  Our families were trying to make ends meet.  Since we knew no other lifestyle, we all looked upon each other for support.  I see this in hindsight now.

Mari Jo is at the left on the third row. Me? Guess.

It seems as if mom stopped by for this “May Day” dance perhaps in 1966.  Mari Jo can be seen being twirled around by another childhood friend Ralph – he’s the tallest one on the left.

Tall one on the left is Ralph. The cute blond girl he is twirling around is Mari Jo. The “Asian” in the middle… Well…

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We were all blessed to have stayed together through what we called junior high school back then.  That school, too, is still standing.  Junior high school would end up giving Mari Jo a lot of memories – both painful and happy.  One of her proudest moments…  I think she looks fabulous, don’t you?

Mari Jo was a “Tower Queen Dance” princess in 1969.

Mari Jo was cheerleading even in junior high.  She is at the far right.

You know which one is Mari Jo by now…off to the right.

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In high school, our friendship continued.  Mari Jo was a popular young lady.  She was funny, outgoing and cared about others…and she was one of our varsity cheerleaders.  Odd that bubbly Mari Jo would be one.  Are you kidding me?

She is off to the far right – it is from a frame from one of my surviving negatives from back then.

Not a very good shot (I would crop later) but there’s Mari Jo on the far right cheering on our football team.

Did I mention she was a ham, too?  She was one of my favorite candid photography subjects.  I was apparently known as the guy who always had a camera hanging from my shoulder.  While sports photography was where I exceled (with basic equipment), many of my photos ended up in the school newspaper or the yearbook.  I had taken tens of thousands of photos, then developed the negatives at the house then printed them.  And the friends I gave the prints to were happy… and that made me happy.  The plumbing was never the same after all the processing and printing.  That didn’t make my parents happy, I’m sure.

I treasured the negatives for decades…but about six years ago, my littlest firecracker Brooke decided to let the air out of an IMMENSE three tier inflatable pool full of water…  but the darn wife had put the IMMENSE pool IN the garage (where my CAR should have been) so that the kids would not get dark from the sun.  Why have an IMMENSE three tier pool bigger than Lake Erie if you don’t want your kids to get dark??

When my angelic Brooke pulled the plugs, the garage flooded – and all but one set of the high school negatives were ruined.  The prints from those precious days that survived were also gone…including my most favorite one which was a double-exposure of Mari Jo immediately after losing the football league championship game in the final seconds.

A devasted Mari Jo – and school – sobbed after losing in the final seconds.  Scanned from our yearbook.  My most favorite photo of all.

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I last saw Mari Jo later that year – 1972 – after graduation.  She was moving to Las Vegas to get married.

While we had written a letter or two soon thereafter, for the next 37 years, I oft thought of Mari Jo (and of two other childhood friends, “Fritos” and Ralph)…  What happened to her?  Was she happy?  I was so angry at myself for failing to stay in touch…

Then…  I came across a lead.  I sent off another blind email like I did for my dad’s high school yearbook; I guess that’s my MO…  and she replied!  OMFG.

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We learned of each other’s paths since parting.  But most of all, she was HAPPY.  That was all that mattered to me.  She is now happily married with two great kids…and a granddaughter!

But good ol’ Mari Jo…  She knows of my life’s recent events and she – with her good husband’s encouragement – came to my rescue last night.  If I can sum it up as best I can, she said basically you plan for life – but what happens is life.  Life is but ambiguity and dwelling does no good… to move on.

Before we met, I kidded her my hands were sweaty and that I was nervous…  like a certain escort she had one night when she was young.  She called me poop head.  Loved that.  But I was nervous.

She snuck up on me and surprised the dickens out of me… and man, it was worth it.  She looked stunning – gorgeous if I may say – but it was Mari Jo.  That same infectious smile.  From 4th Street School.  In East LA.

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Speaking personally, I had the most grandest of times…  It started with Mari Jo screaming – just a tad.  After picking her up from her hotel, I did a burn out in my car.  It was just a little scream, Husband.  Really.  Well, it was more a case of Mari Jo sinking her manicures into the ceiling.

Needless to say, she was the most ravishing one there… and she was my date!  Thank you, Husband!

I felt so good, I did the cha-cha with her…  Well, kinda.  I had forgotten how to… but the song was “Suavecito”.  An East LA favorite.  My legs hurt this morning.

I won’t go into the reasons but the varsity cheerleaders and I overall had a special relationship – and four of the eight were there!

Three of the four cheerleaders there at the reunion.

Aren’t I a lucky old fart?

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Thanks for rooting for me, Mari Jo.  You blew in fresh air and helped rekindle a smothered flame.

An old flame at that.

Love ya.

30 thoughts on “My “Date” Last Night”

  1. Mustang.Koji !!!! That was great! Great pictures. Great story. Great friendship. I hope Mari Jo sees this. I love that picture of her as well (the double exposure with her at the game lost). I’m glad they made sure you went to the reunion. It seems like it was exactly what you should have done.

      1. Hehe, you made me smile and laugh. I’m glad you had a great time. It sounds like YOU are a favorite among many. 🙂

      2. Wait….does that mean I really should have been a Queen? Or I am Queen of “delusional should be land”?

        And as far as favorites go… you are absolutely one of my favorite bloggers! And, I suspect you are more of a favorite than you know, to others! 😉

      3. OH!!!! And I meant to add on my earlier reply… I wish you would post more photos. I enjoy them.

      1. Awwwww Koji, you ARE people’s favorites. 🙂 That was nice. And I truly appreciate the “poop head”. Hahahahahaha! I really am glad you and your friends had such a wonderful night.

  2. I have never replied to a blog before but this story of ours needs blogging!! First off, that dang car of yours peeled out so fast it took my breath away…poophead. What a fun night. I can still see you doing the cha cha and me getting all tangled up with those dumb heels…should have worn chonklas. Thank you my sweet friend for the evening…the memories…the moments of true friendship that lasts in hearts..my heart..for a lifetime. Love ya Koji…. Mari Jo

    1. Took your breath away? I thought you peed in your pants… 🙂

      The evening was oh, so special. And you were the hit of the reunion I am told! Must’ve been those heels…but then again, you were the best looking gal there. I will never forget the happiness you gave me that night, Princess. Thank you…and to Husband!

  3. Sounds like you had many happy reunions all rolled into one fabulous occasion! How lovely for you both. It must have been very special. My 40th reunion was a year ago and I do regret that I didn’t go! Your photographs of elementary and high school are very special. Debra

    1. Your 40th was last year? Did you attend a large school? We had well over a thousand in our graduating class alone… I am sorry you missed it. And Mari Jo made sure I would go… Bless her heart.

  4. Koji saturday night was magical and a blessing to have been able to see friends who once were part of a small world that now exists only in the memories of our past. As adults I’m sure we’ve all wondered where everyone was and hoping everyone is keeping safe. 40 years after leaving our school family in what we thought would never end, some of us got to experience one night of reliving our childhood with friends who we all knew and loved, what a beautiful and sad day it was not only waiting for that day to come but now having it leave us so fast we can only go on knowing life’s best was shared by the few who attended. Sad when you think some of us might not ever see each other again, which I hope and pray is not so. I really just wanted to let everyone of you know you hold such a special place in my heart that words can’t even explain and to say I love all of you God bless you until we see each other again

    1. What a beautiful comment, Fritos… Really nice… and what made things unbelievable was dancing while your band was playing! How wonderful was that… You guys practiced for days, I heard…

      When’s lunch??!

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