(Four of THE most amazing friends you could ask for–like it or not. L-R, Kathy, Me, Tina, Alan, Retta – August, 2011)
March 15, 1997 is a day that lives in infamy–at least for five people.
It was the day me and my irritable bowls walked up the stairs in terror to the hallowed halls of Chicago’s famed Second City at 1616 N. Wells Street for my first day of improv class. Kathy and I had been friends five-or-so years and had talked about going to Second City for the previous couple of years. I could never have guessed what I wound up finding there. Aside from learning the “rules of improv”, I found my tribe.
For the most part I’d grown up feeling a bit of an outsider/loner in high school. But I remember in spite of how different all of our backgrounds were how quickly I clicked with this group. I’d finally found my clique! And we ruled the school as the A-List, “the most powerful clique Second City has ever known.” Legends in our own minds, but that made it no less sweet. Saturdays for two-and-half years became what I lived for–and not as much about learning improv and prepping for shows, but to see these friends of mine, who so easily became family to me. It didn’t take long for Saturday morning or afternoon classes to bleed into all day hang-outs at the bar across the street, or packing up the gang and heading over to Bucktown for a CDR (“Casa De Retta”) party. My apartment sat empty and lifeless for most Saturdays in the late 90’s.
(From a reunion at my place in 2007. It was the first time we’d all been together in a few years. I think this photo is one of my favorites because a) I’m obviously the star and b) it illustrates that “you have to go through me to get to them.”)
(A true representation of our dynamic.)
(One of several photos shoots we did while still attending while still attending Second City.)
It’s been 15 years since we came together as a group, and it hardly seems possible that I haven’t known them all for so much longer. It may sound trite, but I’ve laughed with–and at–them, and I’ve cried with them. We’ve celebrated birthdays, weddings, and births. They’ve offered me unwavering support–not just in the wake of Ken’s illness and death–but always. I’m sort of in love with this group, and am so proud of–and grateful for–my friendships with each of them–that they’ve endured and remained as rich as they were since we met 15 years ago.
Happy anniversary, A-Listers. You rock my world. (Consider the restraining order my gift to each of you.)