Thursday, June 6, I left KC for Larned, KS to attend the three-day, first, all-school reunion. This means all classes were invited back. Larned now is a town of 4,000 people. This reunion returned it back to the population it had when I lived there: 5,000 people.
Glad I reserved my motel rooms eight months ago!
My father was the dentist at the mental hospital just west of Larned and we had housing on the grounds. One of my first jobs was working in its cafeteria. I got to know a lot of "crazy" people.
That background became the basis for Crazy About You, which I took to the reunion to sell and, wow, what fun it was. Capitalist bottom line: I sold enough books to pay for the trip. Emotional bottom line: I had so many people come to my signing to tell me they had already read the book and loved it. It doesn't get better than that.
Best buzz: my book signings were at a bar and grill recently opened by a fellow classmate (Max Galliart) who bought a building downtown (built in 1883) to live upstairs and run the business downstairs. Their 20-something bartender started to read the copy I gave Max and his wife, Donna, as a thank you. I'd never watched anybody read any of my books. It was obvious she was getting into it. The last day, when I had packed up, she gave me the price of the book and said she wanted her own, signed by me. Thank you, Reese!
I took pictures of all the houses I lived in while in Larned: three in town and two on the grounds of the mental hospital. They all looked so small! Then I realized that the psychological spaces in our memories are so much larger than the physical reality where they were created. What is happening in our psyche is always huge. The physical dimensions really don't matter. That the physical spaces, when we return to them, seem puny, make no less large the psychological events that made us as the person we are today.
Before taking pictures at Larned State Hospital, I stopped a security vehicle to tell them what I was doing. The grounds now house a prison and sexual predators unit, so security is tight. They said I needed permission from the Supt. Went to his office and his secretary told me he was out of town. She knew who I was and the book I had written and called the acting Supt. He said she needed to call Topeka. The wonderful woman did and quickly got me permission to take the photos. (I think I'll do a separate post of photos that relate to Crazy About You.)
I think one of the great things about having grown up in a small town is that when you return, not a lot has changed, so you can quickly connect the streets and buildings with your memories.
It was not easy to put this reunion together. There were a lot of naysayers. But the organizers prevailed. To see the joy of so many classmates and friends re-encountering and hugging was worth the price of admission, which was all of $35 and included a banquet.
Thank you, Dan Knupp, for this photo!