by Charly Mann
Almost everyone I know has gone to at least one of their high school reunions. If you are my age and have recently attended one of these events the first thing you noticed is how old everyone has become. You will also see that most of the men are balding and fat, and surprisingly most of the women are in good shape and still fairly attractive. Many of the men I have run into seem uncomfortable and have insipid conversations about sports, investments, and their careers, while the women for the most part are outgoing and talk about their families and current interests and usually ask me about mine.
While I always love to see or hear from old friends from my childhood and high school days, I wish there were a way we could have reunions with friends from each year of our adult lives. As we change careers, work our way up the corporate ladder, or move, we lose touch with so many wonderful people. I think that while the friends we had in high school and college were nice, the friends we make in the real world are usually more similar to us and therefore more interesting to reconnect with.
Me with "lost" Chapel Hill friends. From left to right: Harry Clements, Charly Mann, and Lizanne Fisher from 1979. At the time Harry was the owner of the Paradise Records chain. Before that he had been CFO of the Record Bar. Today he is a partner in the Childress Kline commercial real estate development and management company.
I often wonder why I have lost track of so many of the friends I made in the last 40 years. Was it that they all stopped liking me, or did I lose interest in them? It turns out that most of our "lost" friendships have nothing to do with this. Instead, they are the fallout of a natural limit uncovered by recent anthropologist research which found that human beings can only handle a maximum of 150 relationships at a time. Beyond that number, the critical neocortex part of our brain begins to malfunction. As a , we naturally drop some old friends as new ones come into our lives.
I would like to pay tribute to a handful of my former Chapel Hill friends who were purged from my friendship database.
A smiling Lizanne Fisher making her dinner at my house in the summer of 1979
Lizanne Fisher was a real estate agent for J.P. Goforth in Chapel Hill in 1979. I had a large house off Whitfield Road at that time and a mutual friend, Harry Clements, told me what a fascinating person Lizanne was and that she needed a place to stay. I let her have a room which I believe was rent free. In return I had the pleasure of befriending one of the most ebullient and delightful people I have ever known. She later left Chapel Hill and became a highly successful real estate agent in Washington, D.C.
Betsy Moore and her always present smile in my den in Chapel Hill in 1985
Betsy Moore and I were good buddies for more than five years in the 1980s. She would often come over to my house where we would play tennis, and I would regularly watch her favorite show, Cheers, with her at her apartment on Thursday evening. We also had lunch together on a regular basis and sometimes went on day-long driving trips to places like Southern Pines and Pinehurst. Betsy was the sweetest person I ever knew and also the cutest. The last I heard she had become a pastry chef and moved to Virginia.
Christi Owens of Chapel Hill in 1983 at 18 years old
After working more than a decade in the music and video business I decided to try teaching and got a programming degree and was hired as a Professor of Computer Programming at Durham Technical College in 1982. I loved being a teacher, and many of my favorite students were also from Chapel Hill including Christi Owens. Christi came from an illustrious Chapel Hill family. Her father developed Estes Hills and other neighborhoods in town, and her mother, Patsy, and her friend Anna Darden ran an avant-garde upscale women's clothing store between Chapel Hill and Durham. They lived in a large house on Rosemary Street near where it intersects with Boundary.
Christi loved The Wizard of Oz, and I had a friend of mine make a chocolate red slipper birthday cake for her in 1984
Christi was the first student to give me an apple, and we soon became good friends. She often came over to my house after school where at 3 p.m. she would religiously watch her favorite show, General Hospital, then featuring the wedding of Luke and Laura as well as staring a young and beautiful Demi Moore. Christi was passionate about The Police and Every Breath You Take seemed to often be playing when we were together.
Lori Stephens and Charly Mann at Temptatons Bakery in Durham in 1982. They were located across from Brightleaf Square and had the best chocolate truffles in America.
Lori Stephens was an enormous ball of energy with a fondness for the outrageous. Her father was a gynecologist in Durham, and she grew up in Hope Valley. In 1978 and 79 I was dating her best friend, Laura Kreps (who grew up on Oakwood Drive in Chapel Hill and whose mother was then Secretary of Commerce in the Carter administration). Lori and I became good friends and she stayed in one of the rooms in my house for awhile. She and I had several wonderful trips together; one to Southern California, and another to New York City. On our return flight from our New York trip Lori may have had a little too much to drink. In those days rolling stairs were brought up to an airplane when it landed at Raleigh-Durham Airport. My tipsy friend fell from the top of the stairs all the way to the ground, but was so relaxed at the time that she got up laughing and without a bruise.
Angela Cason in Chapel Hill shortly after graduating from Yale
Angela Cason moved to Chapel Hill in 1984 after graduating from Yale with a degree in English to work for her sister Lee White's advertising and design company. Angela was an extremely brilliant and curious person, and after just a few hours of conversation could penetrate into the soul of another person. She gave me a copy of her favorite book, The Phantom Tollbooth, that I still occasionally read sections from. A few of my favorite passages from it are: "So many things are possible just as long as you don't know they're impossible," and "What you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do."
Angela is today the CEO and President of Cason Nightingale, an advertising and marketing company located in New York City.
I am fortunate to have a marvelously eclectic collection of former Chapel Hill friends – some were artists, some business people, several were lawyers and doctors, many were musicians, two were philosophers, and quite a few were bohemians, yet each was an individual with a warm heart and a gentle spirit.
What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. or the crisp October nights. No, our love for this place is based upon the fact that it is as it was meant to be, The University of the People.