(Editor's Note: Kirk MacDonald and Steve Susman planned the Aspen Mini Reunion. Kirk observed that a smaller group made for a very different experience than usual — and one which all attendees appeared to enthusiastically endorse. Over a period of three days everyone was able to get to know each other, and instead of having to use banquet facilities, all meals were workable in private homes or the small public spaces of restaurants. Aspen was a spectacular venue, and Steve and Ellen Susman's generosity was the key to success. Take a look at the pictures: everyone is obviously having a great time!)

"Autumn in Aspen"
by Bill Wheeler
Belvedere, CA
November 15, 2006

In the haze of a long and enjoyable ride down from Park City with Kirk and Lee Anne MacDonald, our Yale Mini-Reunion co-hosts, we arrived at the home of our other co-hosts, Ellen and Steve Susman, in Aspen. I complimented them on their magnificent white home immersed in glorious fall colors. Then I discovered I was talking to Ellen and Steve Danetz, the Susmans' houseguests. Aha, that is the essence of reunion; moments of confusion followed by the warmth of rediscovery. On the eve of one's 45th Reunion it is forgivable, in the first moments, to suppose that you had arrived at your father's reunion. But if we are lightly touched by time, the weekend would prove that the vigor of our minds and the strength of our bodies were undiminished.

Don't misunderstand me: all the men are still handsome, all their women are still beautiful, and all their children, particularly those that went on to Yale, are well above average.

From our first glass of wine on Thursday, October 5th, in the luxurious Little Nell Hotel Wine Room at the foot of the ski slopes (and owned by Yale Corporation member Susan Crown), to our parting on Sunday morning, our days were full.

On Friday morning we, the men, met for breakfast and a round of low-key show and tell. We spoke plainly of our routes up, down or around the ladder of success... as associates, partners, senior partners (we were a bit heavy on lawyers), volunteerism, growing families, and productive lives. We talked of religion, first principles, Thomas Jefferson, vibrant experiences, the demands of our times. Too bad the Bush administration wasn't taking notes. The intimate venue and manageable number of participants was a quite successful change from a larger number, lecture-style get-together.

The stalwart group prepares for their trek   Complete Photos

Then, having resolved most of society's problems, we turned from the cerebral to the physical and joined our wives for a hike in the crisp autumn air high up along the Hunter Creek. Unexpectedly, except to our hosts, when we broke out of the conifer forest, the magical old silver mining town of Aspen lay at our feet. The signature aspen trees massed in the vales and couloirs; they shimmered lemon yellow, bright decorations against the dark outlines of Ajax Mountain and the bowl of other 11,000 footers leading down the Roaring Fork valley to the Maroon Bells and beyond to snow-capped Mt. Sopris. An informal, well-deserved and reviving lunch at Little Annie's followed.

The centerpiece of our reunion, Friday night dinner at the Susmans' lovely Aspen home, was delicious. After dinner in the glow of fine wine (I'm so glad the Class of 1962 has become a such solid supporter of the California wine industry), Biggie Moore's fine guitar and ageless voice carried us back to the great and familiar music of our time: the Kingston Trio, This Land is Your Land, songs from his adventures in Africa and, naturally, teary-eyed Yale favorites to end the evening. The songs we sang had meaningful lyrics and singable melodies that moved the spirit, free from the cacophony of hard-rock, rap, and hip-hop. Wait a minute! I'm beginning to sound like an oldster.

Biggie entertains the crew   Complete Photos

On Saturday morning, we met again for breakfast, but this time it was the women's chance to speak. At first this seemed like a dangerous innovation, but the women, skillfully led by Ellen Susman, knew how to talk better than the guys did. Their stories were more revealing, more heartfelt, dare I say, more meaningful. They fleshed out their challenges, not simply with their husbands (and we, I had thought, were perfect), but with childrearing, career obstacles and ultimate triumphs. Their stories not only were more moving, but they presciently prepared us for a new reality coming soon in our lives, the emergence of Speaker Pelosi and a new roll of the political dice. Might be that we will need to spend more time listening to our women if this breakfast was any example.

In the afternoon, some hiked, some biked; but I joined Phil and Donna Lobstein for a splendid round of golf at the Snowmass course. We both began strongly, but by the ninth hole, it was clear that Phil was pulling away, and some of my wheels were falling off. It was then that I discovered that Phil had been captain of our Yale golf team. What a joy to play with a champ and, at 6,500 feet, a cardiologist to boot!

Our joyous Mini ended with another gourmet feed Saturday night at Poppies, an old Aspen favorite. Steve and Ellen Susman's choices were again superbly vindicated. We said our goodbyes, made easier knowing that we may see each other again in June next year.

How lucky we are to have lived the preponderance of our lives in a period of American positivism and prosperity, and to be able to rekindle friendships made at Yale in the blossom of our youth.

(Bill's e-mail address is skyhigh2@aol.com.)

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