Amherst Magazine

Marsh Peters Would Like You to Be on the Reunion Panel

But first, he has to get something off his chest.

By Sarah Miller ’91

Dear Class of 1991,
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Hey, Marsh Peters here, your trusty 20th Reunion chair, writing to see if I can wrangle any ’91-ers to appear on a Reunion panel. But first, I just have to get something off my chest. Can you believe it’s been 20 years? It seems like just yesterday we were arriving on Throckmorton Quad with our Macintosh SEs, Co-ed Naked Lacrosse T-shirts and Doors posters—you know the one where Jim Morrison looks like he’s going to climb down off the wall—not to mention our hearts and minds full of dreams. I wonder, did some small part of me know, even then, that my dream was to turn Southeast Asia into what is, essentially, a giant cell phone kiosk?

Perhaps I will never know.

As Reunion approaches and I battle with Suzanne Van Allen ’86 to see which of us scores the Whippoorwills for Saturday night, I can tell you what I do know: I went into communications because communication is what I value most about the human experience. Of course I am talking about like-minded thinkers sharing groundbreaking ideas. Because what I love best about our class, above everything else, is all of you. And if you’re anything like me (you went to private school or a select public school in a suburb of Boston, San Francisco, New York or Washington, D.C.; secretly loved the Spin Doctors; made a weeping toast with a mid-priced Zinfandel the night Obama was nominated; married late, deeply regret it but share this with absolutely no one; and waver between feelings of thrilling grandiosity and annihilating self-hatred) then what you love best about Reunions, other than blacking out, is the way that Reunion panels give us a chance to be together as a class and to share our unique perspectives on important issues.

Actually, before going forward, let’s unpack this word “unique.” I know you’re all sitting up straight now, like Harriers with the scent of fox in your noses, saying to yourselves, “This word applies to me. I have a unique perspective.” But I’m going to gently suggest this has less to do with reality than with your unconscious response to our alma mater’s powerful brand. Anyone who took Comp 2 should remember Professor Blumenthal and his baritone admonition echoing through magnificent Walpole-Wilson Hall, “Unique means precisely that: there is only one.”

Please look carefully over this list of Things Our Class Has (way!) More Than One Of: Someone who lost their job in publishing pretending to be interested in the Internet; someone who got tired of teaching in an underfunded public school pretending to think charter schools are not late capitalism at its most insidious but “really interesting”; someone who used to build buildings out of wood and bricks pretending they’d rather build them out of recycled shopping bags, for less money; someone living in another country who spends all day buying vegetables at outdoor markets. What else? We don’t need any more panelists who want to talk about sailing or boats. I don’t care if you paddled around the North Pole, alone, in a hollowed-out moose carcass. Finally, we do not need anyone who wants to discuss turning Southeast Asia into what is, essentially, a giant cell phone kiosk, because we have that covered.

One more thing: When contacting me, if you find yourself using the phrase “transitioning from X, and getting really excited about the possibility of Y,” perhaps you should not be writing, because I will be reading these at work, and if I am already drinking, I may start laughing.

Which reminds me—confidential to the ’91-er who wanted to have a general panel on “Women in the Workplace”: The Class of 1978 called; it wants its Reunion panel back. And to those of you who’ve written in saying that you’re freelancing, my heart goes out to you. We do have some folks working on an unemployment panel, tentatively titled “Who Moved My Cable?,” and I promise to find room for it somewhere. Maybe a basement classroom, near a bathroom with poor ventilation.

As Reunion Chair, I am so pleased to have the chance to get to know better those of you I already knew a little. Or, as we say in Ngaju Davak, Kháwy Baw Wâo Pháa-Sǎa Ung-Kit Dai Dee. I’m just kidding. I don’t speak Ngaju Davak. That’s from BabelFish. I think it means “Where’s the bathroom?” Oh, I can actually answer that: It’s right next to your panel.
Go, Purple and White!

Marsh

Sarah Miller ’91, the author of Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl, lives in Nevada City, Calif. This essay was adapted from an article published in April on the humor site McSweeney’s Internet Tendency (www.mcsweeneys.net).

Image © 2011 JMiguel Davilla c/o the ispot.com