Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Added Some Color To Jacob's Wedding Weekend...Literally (The Big Day & Aftermath)

Sat. May 14

A huge day in my life--it's my high school girlfriend's birthday! Oh, wait, it's also the nuptials of my best friend "Jacob" and his blushing bride "Alice." I would have to start the day behind the 8-ball. Pounce, the big black cat, was missing his mommy I guess, so he started meowing very, VERY loudly at sunrise, around 5 or 5:30A. It was so loud that I kept sitting up in bed looking around the bedroom for him. But no, he was outside the door, disturbing me and Joe, who was sleeping on the couch in the same room as Pounce. He told me later that he held down Pounce to knock off the noise for a while, but he drifted back to sleep, loosening his grip and allowing Pounce to slip out and resume the caterwauling. It was horrible. I was tired from the day before and I didn't have much sleep, but there I was, lying in bed wide awake, hoping that I wouldn't be so tired that I made a mistake and screwed up the day of my best friend. After all, I have the rings since they didn't have a ringbearer, and I also have the marriage license that they have to sign in front of me and Dana, Alice's sister and the matron of honor. If I'm not sharp, I may forget the bag with the rings and license when we go to the church, or I may forget to put the rings in my pocket when I put on the tux, or...needless to say, I was a bundle of nerves. I dare say that I was more nervous than the groom all day. Jacob seemed as smooth and unaffected as he always did, not uncaring but not overly excited about anything either. I always admired that. I can be so dramatic and sky-is-falling in my demeanor, and that gets exhausting after a while, not to mention annoying. It's who I am, so it won't be changing soon, but I acknowledge how insufferable it has to be.

So I got my tired ass up and let Jacob and Joe shower up. The plan was to get to the church straight from home between 1:30 and 2. The ceremony was at 3. We would change into our tuxes after we got to the church in order to avoid having cat hair shedding off of us all day. So after we went to a restaurant for a coffee-filled breakfast (I had to pick up the tab just as a gesture of how appreciative I was of Jacob's hospitality), they took me back home and headed to the formalwear shop so that Joe could try on his tux. 10 o'clock, then 11. The day dragged on. Then, a shot of adrenaline as there was a change in plans. We had to leave at 12:30 to walk two doors down to Mark and Dianne's house to put our tuxes in their car. Then we'd drive in Jacob's car to the hotel where he and Alice would go after the reception. This was so he could leave that car in the parking lot so they could drive home Sunday morning. Then we all piled into Mark's car, the three dudes in the back seat, me and Jacob squashing Joe in the middle, and rode to the wedding venue. The big day was starting for the groomsmen slightly earlier than we thought.

But the day would come together just perfectly. The first thing I noticed when we got out at Willow Springs was that the ass smell was gone. Either that, or I really did get used to it. I took a pic of the colorful, wonderful tent for the reception. It had been beautifully decorated. We were so out in the netherlands that I couldn't get a strong signal to send the pic back to my fiancee. But I called her several times throughout the day to let her feel a part of the festivities. Jacob took the upstairs bathroom to get into his tux first so that he wouldn't have any last-minute fumbling. I let Joe have the bathroom next because I just wanted to stay out in the auditorium and take in all of the happenings. Flowers were being systematically spread out on the floor. Chairs were being placed. I held the front door to the hall closed while Alice and her party took pics on the stairs. Then they told me that the men's room downstairs was free and that I could take my tux and put it on down there. It's a good thing, because I did a lot of fumbling putting on the penguin suit, and it took me a good half-hour. And that's before Jerry had to put on the clip-on tie for me. The last thing I did concerning the tux was to put the rings in my upper breast pocket of the coat and the license in an inside pocket. The outside pockets did not open; they were sewn closed, so not an option. The shirt had no pockets at all. That left my two inside pockets and pants pockets as my other options. And because I didn't want to fumble in my pants for the rings in front of everybody, I decided to go with the small hanky pocket and hope for the best. Then I said hi to Mark, who was still happy and exuberant despite being in a urinal, grabbed my lotion, and stepped out for approval.

Dana, Alice's sister who would be my partner as we walked down the aisle, pinned a flower on my lapel as we waited for 3 o'clock to strike. While we waited to have pictures taken, something happened that seemed to be meant specifically to make me and only me relax. I just happened to notice Jerry say something to his wife about Booker T. He's a wrestler. I mean, there's a lot of things with the Booker T. name on them that have nothing to do with the wrestler. Jerry could have been talking about the black inventor Booker T. Washington, or he could have been talking about Booker T. Washington School in Memphis, where President Obama was going to speak soon. But he said something else to her that sounded like it was from the world of wrestling as well. She walked away, then I said, "I overheard you talking about wrestling. Are you in the business?" And with that, for the next 30 minutes, all the way up until the wedding, Jerry and I shot the shit about rasslin' from the good old days all the way up to modern times. I understand that Jerry was in the wedding to stand up for his friend Alice, but Jesus, did I need him that day to help calm me down!

Then the photog led us outside to snap some pics. It was overcast and windy, and rain threatened from far away. But it held off long enough to get some good pics in. One of them had Jacob standing with one leg up on a step, Capt. Morgan style, and his groomsmen up on the step in line. Then the photog had Alice peek around a corner where none of us could see her, and that probably turned out to be a pretty cool pic. I haven't seen it yet. We went back into the building, and Jacob took his place at the altar as we went back downstairs. Alice had to come back downstairs several times, including a bathroom break that had to be excruciating for her and for those holding her train trying to keep it clean. Jacob was still at the altar onstage with the officiant patiently waiting for the show to start.

Finally, the clock struck 3, and almost on cue, the smallest of the four flower girls, an infant named Mya, started crying loudly, almost as loudly as Pounce this morning. This affected me not because of the crying itself but because Dana is the mother of all four girls, so she took Mya and tried to calm her down, leaving me wondering for a while where my partner is. I mean, Trish and Joe had taken off down the aisle, and Dana and I were next, and I didn't know where she was. But she wasn't that far away, and when it was our turn, she magically appeared out of nowhere, handed off Mya to one of the other girls, took my arm, and headed down the aisle, unflappable and cool as a cucumber. I don't remember the walk because I was so afraid of something going wrong at that moment. I do remember getting on stage and raising my eyebrows at Jacob, who quietly popped off a couple of our one-word inside jokes as a way of releasing tension. The flower girls followed us. The third oldest, Ava, flung the flowers with no regard for being delicate, which was cute in its own way, and the second oldest, Makenna, carried Mya close to her chest like a trophy. Mya, perhaps respecting the moment or frightened by all these people staring at her, turned stone cold silent. Everyone cooed at the cuteness of the moment.

Then the opening strains of "Bitter Sweet Symphony" started, and I swear to God, I had no idea that song was going to be the bride's entrance! I would have NEVER said anything out loud about how depressing the song is if I knew that's what she chose for her big day! A lot of emotions washed over me as I watched Alice and Mark stand at the doorway waiting for the right moment to enter. I was stunned by the moment, I was delighted by the beauty of the bride, and I was ashamed that I had said one bad word about her song. If you know the song, you know that the big, bombastic drums don't start until a second group of strings come in and overpower the piece, making it soar in a crescendo. This is when Alice and Mark started walking down the aisle, and everyone stood in silent reverence, and I was a second or two away from just bawling my eyes out. I'm sure Jacob was too, for different reasons. To make me feel more like a tool, she had picked an instrumental mix of the song, so those horrible lyrics I was so concerned about? Never happened. So not only was I a jackass for trying to make fun of Alice's wedding song, but I had no confidence that she or Jacob were bright enough to play a version of the song without the lyrics. And I was the best man. Sheesh. Oh, Alice was crying as well.

The ceremony was about 30 minutes. Jacob and Alice had readings in the middle of it, and Jacob pulled his off, nervous but steady. Alice couldn't get through hers and had to whip out tissue again. I lost track of the Alice Tissue-From-Between-Her-Breasts count after 4. My ring exchange with Jacob was...wait for it...flawless!! The officiant had turned to me after reading what she told me would be my cue and loudly said, as if she didn't trust me to not fuck up, "This is your cue!" So I slid my right hand into my left hanky pocket, pulled out both rings using the tip of my one massive index finger, and when it was time, I placed the rings into Jacob's palm with no issues whatsoever. I had one role to play in this big show, and I pulled it off. The biggest issue for me wound up being the standing time. My legs started getting really sore after the first 5 minutes or so, and I don't know how I lasted until the end. I thought I was going to teeter over somewhere along the way. I've never done well trying to stand still, so that was a real test. And I know, I have another test in five months. Anywho, they said I do, the bride was kissed, and they made their way down the aisle, followed by us, the wedding party. Now, I don't do weddings--my last one was when I was ringbearer for my aunt and her husband in 1987--so I didn't know anything about how the receiving line worked. But when we all got outside, Dana immediately ran over to Alice and Jacob and hugged them, then Trish and Joe quickly followed. Then I noticed all of the attendees lining up getting ready to bum rush the happy couple and I figured, you know, I think this is where the wedding party gets the first congrats in before everyone else, so maybe I should do that now.

Then the wedding party slipped back downstairs while the couple continued greeting folks. I was so happy to grab a chair and wait for that to finish knowing that I'd have to be back on my feet for the pics. Before the pics was the license signing, and the funny part there was that Dana was more than happy to take the license off my hands after it was signed, then she came back up to me 20 minutes later and pointed to her lack of pockets and told me to hold it for the rest of the night. Meanwhile, the weather had turned worse. It was very chilly and windy, and the lightest little sprinkle of rain had come in, and it stayed that way the rest of the afternoon. The pics seemed to have turned out great, the few that I've seen, but we definitely cut the session short. The bridesmaids' dresses were sleeveless, and they had these fuchsia-colored wraps that didn't help at all. So before they got pneumonia, we packed it in and headed to the tent.

The music had already started before we got over there, and of course people were already chowing down. The happy couple got a big round of applause as they entered. I was impressed that all of our salads were already waiting when we got to our big table. I was also very hungry, so credit goes to Joe for telling me that maybe we should wait to sit down and eat until the bride and groom actually sit down. Forks started clanging off of glasses almost as soon as we did all sit down, and this made me nervous because the web sites I read indicated that I would be the master of ceremonies and give the first toast at the reception, and I had zero idea when I should do this. I was frozen. But the pressure was taken away from me because Alice let me know that Dana would be giving the first speech, followed by me. That helped a lot, knowing that I wouldn't be batting leadoff. We barely finished the chicken and dry beef before Dana stood up and gave her speech. It was soft and a little shaky, but the sentiment was great. She said that Jacob was the stallion that Alice had dreamed of ever since she played dolls with Dana as kids. It was a very nice speech, even if it was hard to hear. I made sure that my speech wouldn't suffer from that problem. It may suffer from bad taste, but it wouldn't suffer from not being loud enough. "Alright!" I bellowed after being handed the mic, then I delivered my speech pretty much as I wrote it in this previous post. I had to toast with actual wine instead of the sparkling grape juice. I just felt like I had to make it real. And I have to say, that Michael Jackson joke? Big. Went over huge. I'm talking I-had-to-pause-for-the-laughter-to-stop huge. That room of lily white people thought that was the funniest thing they'd heard in forever. I felt like a stand-up act that got off a perfect line. It was fucking awesome. Jacob hugged me afterwards, then told the crowd that I'm getting married in October and he would have gotten his revenge if my speech was too off-color. He thanked me for not going into detail about the bad times in his prior relationships. I think he thought I was going to go there and tell everyone that his last long-term girlfriend had taken his dogs and his money and abandoned him in Montana and left him in bankruptcy court. Nah, I wasn't ever planning on telling his business like that. Except on this blog, I guess. Alice's speech lasted about five seconds. She thanked everyone for coming out on the best day of her life, then she shoved the mic into Jacob's chest. Jacob's speech was very poignant and detailed. He thanked as many people individually as he could remember. He acknowledged those in their families who were deceased and couldn't be there, but told us that he knew they were there anyway. He almost cracked at this point, but he held it together nicely.

From there, it was time to mingle and get ready to dance. I mostly tried to hang around the people I already knew, but at one point I had to take a piss, and that meant leaving the tent and going back to the ceremony building. On those steps, I ran into the woman who would become known that weekend as my stalker, or my groupie. (I should insert at this point that Alice warned me three days ago that someone at the wedding would hit on me because she loved black men, but she didn't tell me who.) This woman was overweight but not obese, wearing a blue jean jacket, with dirty blonde hair, somewhat tired looking eyes, a crooked smile and a cigarette between her fingers. For you wrestling fans, and Jerry would certainly get this, she looked like a female Ray "The Crippler" Stevens. That's not a compliment. She would engage me for ten minutes in talk that included the water situation in Memphis, her being a bridesmaid in other weddings but never a bride, my pending nuptials, and this ceremony. When it started getting a little uncomfortable, I made a move towards the building and said that I really gotta go, and she said, "Yeah, go ahead. Don't leak." ??? So back under the tent, right before the dancing would start at 7, I find myself talking with an older brunette woman, and The Stalker strides up besides me and sorta sticks her nose in the convo, although she wasn't saying anything. The brunette starts talking about Chicago, which she knows well, and she kept looking at The Stalker, who eventually says, "I'm from Iowa. I don't know about Chicago. Stop looking at me." Okay. The next question from the brunette to me is, Cubs or White Sox?, and I of course say Sox, and I had previously talked about living up north in Chicago near Wrigley Field. So the brunette seems perplexed by my answer, and I'm explaining that I only lived near Wrigley, I was never a Cubs fan, always White Sox...and The Stalker at this point grabs me around the neck, pulls me in, and kisses me on the cheek. Yeah. I don't know why either. She didn't seem drunk. She hadn't been overtly flirting with me before, just made me a little uncomfortable. The timing of the kiss made it seem like she was giving me support because I was a White Sox fan, but since she never said a word, I have no idea what her motivation was. Besides, don't look at her, she's from Iowa, right?? Just so weird.

Shortly after that, Jacob and Alice had their first dance, "The Best Is Yet To Come" by Sinatra. My focus now became whether there would be a mandatory dance for the wedding party, because I really didn't want to dance. I was happy for the couple and all, but I didn't need to be out there dancing in front of everybody. No one ever needs to see that. I actually read on a web site that there should be a best man-bride dance as well, and that terrified me. Alice is a sweet girl, but she's forward and somewhat aggressive, so I just imagined her trying to playfully knee me in the nuts or something as I took her by the hand. So I asked the DJ about any kind of dancing the wedding party would have to do, and he said to not worry, that won't happen for another hour. I told Joe this, and he seemed as pissed about having to dance as I was. So we stood aside waiting for this terrible burden to be placed upon us. I danced to the first uptempo song, Kool & the Gang's "Celebration," because the dance floor was full and I wouldn't stand out. Then I immediately sat down and watched all the wedding favs get pulled out--"Chicken Dance," "Beer Barrel Polka," "Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy"(??)...and while that was happening, I was alternately watching out for my stalker, who seemed to be always lurking nearby but wasn't coming towards me. The chair that I took was as close to the far end of the dance floor as possible, so she would have had to walk across the floor to get at me, and she didn't seem to be in a dancing mood.

Again, I'm not a wedding veteran, but like the dance clubs, I assume that every wedding reception features some people that make themselves famous, or infamous, based on what they did on the dance floor. We had three that stood out to me at the end of the night. One was a guy we called Justin Bieber because he didn't just look like him in the face, he chose to get his hair cut just like him. It could have been Bieber for all I know. He would have stood out just for looking like Bieb, but at one point a mini dance-off broke out during "Ice Ice Baby," and Bieb broke it down for us, doing handstands and shit, and even nailing a reverse Worm! (We watched a woman's cell phone recordings of the day's events Sunday after the gift opening, and she filmed Bieb drinking out of a plastic cup, and the liquid had a yellow-brown color to it. He's a high schooler. That footage should be destroyed immediately.) The second was Speed Girl. She couldn't have been older than like 15, and she was very thin, like future sprinter thin, and all she did all night long as a form of dancing was run sprints around the dance floor. Slow songs, fast songs, mid-tempo songs, it just didn't matter. Her form of dancing was running at almost top speed around the perimeter of the floor, occasionally grabbing someone's arm, me, Trish, Joe, whoever, and doing a three-second doe-si-doe before taking off running again. She seemed to me like she was on speed. Trish made a nose candy reference at one point. Later, she guessed crystal meth, but I said she wasn't missing teeth, so that couldn't be it. Trish said maybe she just started it. It was probably the nervous energy of the day combined with maybe some candy or caffeinated soft drinks. But man, was she a dizzying sight. I mean, she would grab little kids, like 4 and 5-year-olds, and swing them around while she sprinted! The girl seriously had no off button. "Come on! Let's go!!" she'd scream almost angrily if she came across someone who didn't want to run with her, like me. I had to lie and tell her, "Bad knees," although ironically, my left knee was swollen all day Sunday. The third and most infamous person was The Stripper. This was a brunette who came with a date, a nerdy guy who seemed genuinely embarrassed by the night's events, and they took the dance floor about three or four times within the first hour. And every time they took the dance floor, the girl danced with her date as if she was trying to freak him right there on the spot, like they were at the nastiest club in the town at 1 in the morning or something. She was grinding him, she was pumping her arms and shaking her tits, she was making that pussy pop...I actually took out my wallet at one point to check and see if I had enough singles. She performed like she was on the main stage at a strip joint. And there was a metal pole holding up the tent right there for her if she wanted to use it, but she didn't. This tale did not seem to have a happy ending; she and her date disappeared after that first hour, and Jacob reported later that he saw her in the ceremony building in tears telling her date, "I just wanna go home." Maybe word got to her from one of the more dignified guests that she was making a fool of herself, or maybe she figured it out for herself once everybody on the floor stopped dancing and started watching her. Whatever, some pre-teen girls learned some new dance moves this evening, and those moves will make them very popular with the fellas.

Then it was time for the wedding party's big entrance. For this, we had to step outside the tent and wait for the DJ to introduce us all to the crowd. The last song that came on before our intro was a Michael Jackson song from 1979, and I felt like I had missed my one song that I would be willing to dance to because I did, after all, reference MJ back when he was black. So I danced a little on the grounds for only the wedding party to see. Before Dana and I got introduced, she was huddling up with me because the wind had picked up outside, so that made me feel good. A damsel in distress (and in dis dress, lol) needed me to warm up and protect her from the cold. Her husband's a lucky man, I said to myself, ignoring the fact that, hello, they have four kids. Then we were called in, and I entered with one index finger in the air the whole time because, despite this not being my show, I felt like the king of the world with Dana on my arm. Then we did all have to dance to "Friends in Low Places," oddly enough, and we had to switch partners for like thirty seconds all throughout the song at the DJ's calling, and when I made it back to Dana, she kinda grabbed me by the neck and I kinda grabbed her by the waist, and it was all good for about three seconds until she looked over at her husband, who had not smiled all weekend and sure as fuck wasn't smiling now, and then she took her hands off and we went back to the normal way of dancing. I found that whole episode very amusing for some reason. It's like Dana started to enjoy herself a little bit and then remembered that she was tethered to the stern-looking man a few feet away and it startled her back to reality. Then we all did "YMCA," and later I danced to "Thriller" because, again, it was Michael Jackson when he was black, and that was it for my dancing adventures for the night.

Late in the evening they had a dollar dance where anyone could pay a dollar and run up and have a dance with the bride or the groom. At this point, The Stalker decided to be the very last person to pay a dollar and have a dance--with both the bride and the groom separately. And after this was over, she made a beeline towards me and said, "Are you going to be at the gift opening tomorrow?" I nervously said yes, then she said, "Great! I'll be there too. So I'll see ya tomorrow." She then leaned in face first, and maybe I'm being an arrogant prick, but I swear I think she was going to try to kiss me on the mouth. I turned to the side and she got all cheek as she gave me a big hug and left. I had never been so grateful for a white woman to not try to get with me. Trish and Joe were sitting nearby witnessing all of this, and they were quite entertained. I couldn't help but shake my head at where I was as a person now as opposed to several years ago. Before I met my fiancee, I probably would have tried to do something with that woman on this night. Trust me, I know that a lot of singles hook up at weddings just because watching two people pledge love to each other makes some feel like this is their time to find someone to make them feel loved too, even if it's for a night or a couple of hours. I would have had no problem being that guy, even though I've already acknowledged that this woman was not hot. I would not have cared. Thankfully, I don't have to be that guy anymore. Someone was waiting back home in Memphis for me, so I didn't have to chase love or tail this evening. (And as far as a woman hitting on me because she's into Mandingo, Alice told me the next day that The Stalker was not to whom she was referring. The one into black men was a different brunette who caught the bouquet. That woman hardly said two words to me. Alice guessed that maybe it was because Jacob told everyone that I was getting married after I delivered the best man speech, so she knew I was off limits. Didn't stop The Stalker.)

The night wound down and Jacob and Alice got me and Trish and Joe on the floor for their big one-two punch for a finale: "What A Wonderful World" followed by "Let's Get It On." I left the floor for "Let's Get It On" because I wasn't getting in on tonight. But that wasn't the last song. The DJ had some generic club song that he played as he broke down the equipment, then ten seconds of the Looney Tunes sign-off, "That's all folks!" I thought that sucked. Jacob and Alice had been talking about how cool they thought it would be to have the last song be "Let's Get It On," even though they may be too tired to get it on when they finally got to the hotel. But the DJ decided to play his own shit as the last song. I would have been mad at that. Plus, the version of "Let's Get It On" was sung by someone other than Marvin Gaye, and that's blasphemy. But I think Jacob and Alice were too tired to be mad. Besides, the day had been perfect up to that point. No need to let that ruin anything. Joe, Trish and I piled into Jacob and Trish's mom's car, and she dropped me back off at Jacob and Alice's house. Jacob had given me his key earlier in the day. I'm glad I had it in a handy place because I could have wrapped it up in my clothes thinking I was going to put my street clothes back on at the venue. But I was so tired, I wore the tux back to the house and stripped there. I chatted with Buddy, watched some TV, surfed the net, put my best man speech on Facebook, and fell asleep hoping that the cats would give me some peace on this fabulous night.

Sun. May 15

Not much to yak about on this day. My entire body was sore all day. The cats did indeed give me peace, but I was so tired that upon waking up around 6:30A, I couldn't go back to sleep. When your muscles are that sore, you can't even fall back asleep. So I hobbled around all day, telling Buddy that his parents were coming home soon because he was just looking at me like I had killed them or something. Jacob and Alice arrived home, and we made it over to Mark and Dianne's around 12:30P. The gift opening was fine. We chowed on Paul Bunyan's Donuts, which are such a big deal in that neck of the woods that Jacob presented them to Dianne as an offering before he proposed to Alice. I gave the marriage license to Dianne, but not before threatening to hold it ransom until Alice deleted those pictures of me getting a pedicure from her camera. I didn't have too many funny lines today. When Jacob opened his gift from me and my fiancee, a set of Green Bay Packers cups and pitchers, I yelled out, "That's the last Packers stuff you're ever getting from me!" But I was proud that all weekend, I placed the funny lines where they should be at the right times, and I didn't say inappropriate things in front of any kids. Most of my conversation was with Mark and some other adults talking about the socioeconomic breakdown of Chicago and Wisconsin and Memphis. Oh, The Stalker was there as she said she would be, but she left me alone. I lost a paper plate in the wind, and it was her foot that happened to stop it, so I was afraid of what would happen when I went to retrieve it. But all she did was say loudly and happily, "You're welcome Andre!" when I thanked her for the plate. Then, when I was moving gifts from Mark and Dianne's deck over to Jacob and Alice's house, The Stalker was standing outside the fence. "Take care, Andre," she said, "and good luck on your future nuptials!" Guess she didn't feel the spark from me, so she let it go. Whew. We had some of the wedding cake and watched the cell phone footage that a woman had of the wedding and reception, then we all dispersed to our respective homes, in my case Jacob and Alice's house. They went out to run some errands and brought back a heat-and-eat chicken and veggie pizza for supper. It was bordering on gooey how they were acting with each other, calling each other "husband" and "wife" instead of their given names. But they're allowed to be gooey the day after their wedding. Jacob and I watched the Bulls beat the fuck out of the Miami Heat, then we played some NBA on the PS3 and called it a night.

Mon. May 16

I had a couple of tasks after Jacob and Alice left in the morning for their honeymoon: Turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and make sure the door is locked when I leave. I accomplished all those tasks just as flawlessly as I accomplished my main task of handing off the rings to Jacob at his wedding. I'm still tickled that I got that right. Mark and Dianne picked me up at 10:30A and took me to the airport, both still happy and joyous. A little drama occurred getting out of Wisconsin, just like when I entered. First, that "Swiss Army" flashlight with the blades didn't make it past security. They said I could check my bag with Delta Airlines, or go to the gift shop and mail the thing to myself. I guessed that mailing it would be much cheaper than checking my bag, and I was right. I'm sure checking my bag would have been in the $15-$25 range, and mailing it to myself only cost $5.25. Then my keys became an issue. The first time at the Memphis airport, no problem. This first time trying to leave Wausau, no problem. But I had to get scanned a second time after the flashlight drama, and this time they noticed that my key chain had a Swiss Army-like connection of blades as well. I honestly didn't even think of that until they told me. So yes, a black man tried to go through an airport in the middle of Wisconsin with two sets of switchblades. It's a wonder I'm not in prison. I told them to take the key chain and trash it because it wasn't important to me. Finally, they let me on my way, and after all that, a generator fell off our plane as we sped down the runway for takeoff. That led to a one-hour delay. But don't worry, dear readers. I specifically scheduled both of my 2nd-leg flights for about three hours after the landing of my first flight because I wanted to have some time in case my 1st flight somehow got delayed. I almost fell asleep in Detroit waiting for my flight to Wausau, but it was all good. And this time, instead of having three hours in Minneapolis to fall asleep, I wound up having only an hour and a half, which didn't bother me in the least. The really interesting part is, Jacob and Alice just happened to decide to fly to Minneapolis as well as the 1st leg of their trip to San Francisco for their honeymoon, and if they would have booked the 2nd flight out of Wausau on Delta instead of the 1st, they would have been on that plane with me! And poor Jacob would have had to suffer through the thought of a generator falling off of a plane that he was about to get on. You see, Jacob's deathly afraid to fly. And I wasn't, not before this pair of flights in and out of Wausau that I took. But I found myself really fearful on both takeoffs from Wausau and from Minneapolis, and more grateful than ever for both landings. At least the rides were smooth. But I'm not flying again anytime soon, and I'm not sad about that. I met my bride-to-be at the airport, and we started sharing thoughts and visions about our fast-approaching special day.

Final thoughts? As I said in my best man speech, I'm just happy to see Jacob happy. He's been through a lot of shit with women, arguably more than me because his woman stole cash from him. And he doesn't deserve it because he's a really cool dude who doesn't have a mean bone in his body. He just lives his life his way and doesn't sweat the small stuff. I was thrilled to be a small part of his and Alice's special weekend. I'm grateful for their hospitality. I'm eager to start planning our wedding and see what elements I can steal from Jacob and Alice's nuptials. And I'm not sure when I'm coming back to Wausau, but I'm sure there will be little Jacobs and Alices running around. And I'll be happy and thrilled and emotional for them all over again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Added Some Color To Jacob's Wedding Weekend...Literally (The Prelude)

This post will have to be split into two parts because so much happened that I don't want to cover it all in one mammoth post. I've got enough blog posts that are longer than novels. This post will cover the happenings from the time I arrived in Wisconsin to the night before the wedding. And I'll do it in actual diary form! Away we go...

Wed. May 11

The morning started hectic for me because I was up late the night before packing and was moving slowly now preparing to leave. But everything came together and my fiancee began driving me to the airport. I thought I had everything I needed...and then I realized that my cell phone charger was still plugged into our bedroom wall. A stroke of good luck came my way when my fiancee gave me her phone charger. Being on the same phone plan means (at least in our case) that we have the exact same phone. That would have been horrible to not have a charger all weekend. I flew from Memphis to Detroit first because I had to get a connecting flight from there to Wausau, WI. No problems with that flight. I did a good job of keeping my sodium down in advance of flying, a little cereal in the morning and a $5 fruit bowl at the Detroit airport. I kept walking past Chase ATMs as I made my way to my departure terminal, and finally I decided that this would be a good time to take the remaining $60 out of my Chase bank account instead of waiting to close my account and have them mail me the money. I couldn't get my cash in Memphis because, of course, there is no Chase Bank in Tennessee. Yet.

It was the 2nd flight of the day from Detroit to Wausau that provided excitement, and not in a good way. I noticed a much smaller plane as soon as I entered, and I hate small planes in general because I'm such a big guy and it just seems more likely that a plane would have trouble getting up in the air and staying there the smaller the plane is. We got up there fine, but entering Wisconsin, there was bad weather in the area that the pilot avoided by flying around it, but where he flew was filled with tons of turbulence. This was the worst turbulence I have ever flown through. The plane just kept wobbling and turning sideways and dipping suddenly, and I was sitting next to a hot blonde who was showing a little cleavage, and the only way I made myself feel better during all of this turbulence was to imagine if we got word that we were going down, she would turn to me and say, "Well, might as well go out with a bang!," and mount me right there. Well, apparently this blonde knew the people across the aisle from her because after one of the more severe dips, which make you feel as if the thing is falling instantly like a damn Six Flags ride, I notice her turn to the people across from her and give a quick little silent wave. What the fuck was that? Was it a wave of "I'm OK, don't worry" or was it "I may never see you again, so goodbye"? Whatever, it was rather unnerving, and from that point, all I could think of was how much I hate small planes and how I couldn't say goodbye to my fiancee or family. The pilot eventually came on and apologized for the bumpy ride and said we should be there shortly, but not before some more bumps were coming. But they would up not being nearly as harrowing as the ones we had already been through. The blonde never said a word to me during the turbulence or after.

"Alice," the fiancee of "Jacob," was waiting at the airport as she said she would, and from there we went grocery shopping, where she kept encouraging me to buy Pop Tarts because I guess my late-night snack of Pop Tarts and soda pop left an impression on Jacob and he told Alice all about it. So I'm the Pop Tart Guy, I guess. I finally relented and grabbed some S'mores Pop Tarts. I also got a couple of bottles of pop and some ruffled chips to have with the turkey burgers she was making, and some cereal for the breakfasts when she wouldn't be cooking. Driving home from the store, we passed some flower shop that had the same last name as "Karen," and that combined with just being in this godforsaken state of Wisconsin caused me to raise a spontaneous middle finger to the place. Alice had the correct reaction of complete shock and confusion. I had to explain that situation, at least some of it. I didn't tell the whole story because that may have caused the wedding to be called off. Hard to trust humans again after hearing the whole sordid tale of what that cunt Karen did to me.

We made it home and settled in for some TV. We had to wait to eat because Jacob was working and wouldn't be home until late, and besides, Alice had some items she needed him to bring home in order to make the turkey burgers. I noticed while she made these several calls to keep adding things to his shopping list that he was rather patient with these requests. Some guys would get legit pissed at multiple calls from the woman to bring this and that home, and some guys would crack jokes about getting pissed, but few would calmly accept the instructions and continue on. That told me that Jacob had a ton of respect for Alice, because it would have been irresistible for me to not at least make a joke if my fiancee kept calling me like that. I also noticed that Alice had him on speaker phone, and it turned out that she spoke to basically everyone on speaker phone for some reason. So maybe Jacob just didn't want to yell at her knowing that there was a houseguest. I gave Alice some shit about making turkey burgers instead of real burgers, but the truth is, I could use less red meat more than anyone. And they were quite tasty. She made a dessert of ice cream topped with real fruit, which was a unique way of getting some fruit into the meal. I had this meal despite the best efforts of their three cats. (I was told there were four, but one was so shy that I never saw him all weekend.) Jacob's cat Buddy is old and set in his ways, and I remembered him from the last time I visited Jacob five years ago. Buddy liked to walk right up to your food and stick his face in it as if it's meant for him. Now, a little older and slower, he just hopped on the couch and stared at me, occasionally meowing as if to communicate to me that I needed to pay him rent for being in his house. Then there were Alice's cats, Pounce and Frisky. Pounce was big and black and very affectionate. Despite me being a complete stranger, Pounce rubbed against my leg, my hand, my arm, whatever he could get at to indicate to me that he was looking for love and wanted it right now. Frisky lived up to her name by constantly sprinting up the couch, across the back of it, down the couch, up the stairs, down the stairs, across the floor, across my lap, and anywhere else she could run. I think they feed her cayenne or something. They had a dog there as well, but not anymore, but you could tell that they had a dog because the Cubs blanket on my guest bed and some of the furniture had huge brown hairs on it that didn't come from the cats. So yeah, I sneezed a lot during this stay.

Thu. May 12

The collection of pet dander continued this morning. I laid out my blue pajamas so that they could get a little air after I showered, and I returned to the guest room to find Buddy perched perfectly on them. He either liked my smell or the silk fabric, or he just needed to mark his territory. This was no temporary sitting, either. It became a five-hour nap. (I had to thank Buddy Saturday night in a private moment for not soiling my clothes because I expected them to be damp when he got up.) The cats and I got to witness a pretty cool thing after breakfast. Alice was running around doing bride stuff, and she throws the ribbons from her bridal shower at Jacob and says that he needs to make her fake bouquet for the rehearsal using a paper plate to hold it together. He resisted the concept at first, but she pressed, and he started working on how he would pull this off while I sat there stunned that she would drop this project on his head. I kept telling him, "Don't do it. This isn't part of your duties." But he worked at it, grabbing a stapler and fashioning a holder out of the plate, and after a good hour, he had created a fake bouquet. And it looked pretty damn good. Mine would have had duct tape and Scotch tape and would have looked like a pipe bomb. And it wouldn't have been done well at all because I would have had a lot of resentment at having to do it in the first place. I'm not an architect. I don't build shit. So I wouldn't have appreciated being asked to do so. But Jacob got it done. With love and staples.

Alice left us alone after we pulled up the dilapidated wooden fence that the winter winds had battered and let us watch baseball all afternoon. Then his father, in from Atlanta, came to the area and met up with us. He treated us to dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant. It was him and his new wife, Jacob, Alice, and me. Now, Jacob's dad is a big guy. I mean, almost as big as me. And his wife ain't small either. So I imagine that this restaurant saw us approaching the front door with widened eyes and rapid heartbeats. And Jacob's dad's wife didn't let us forget how big they are. She kept bringing up how they don't socialize and go to very many places because Jacob's dad doesn't go anywhere that doesn't have a motorized chair to accommodate him. It was a rather sad dinner, actually. She didn't seem happy at all, and he didn't seem to care very much. He was busy making Klan jokes. Yes, seriously. He welcomed Alice to the clan, and then looked at me as if I shouldn't have heard that. I played along and pretended to hide under the table at the thought of the Klan coming for me. But yeah, he was coming close to the embarrassment level that my dad sets every time I go somewhere with him, and just to approach that area is saying a lot. Then, once Jacob, Alice and I were back in the car going home, Jacob breaks out with: "By the way, Alice, don't ever let me get as big as my dad." To which Alice responded: "Don't ever let me get as big as his wife." Snap! Double snap! But seriously, they were a somewhat pathetic pair. The wife sounded like she was sick of Jacob's dad overall, even telling him repeatedly how funny her sisters think he is, but she's been with him for years now, so she doesn't think he's funny at all. A picture of wedded bliss, they were not.

From there, it was on to what Wausau considers a sprawling mall but really wasn't much to speak of. But there was a place for Alice to go get her eyebrows done while Jacob and I did light window shopping. There was a Spencer's t-shirt store there, where I talked about buying some really classy tees in this blog post from years back. But despite being in Wisconsin, not a state of very healthy people, I couldn't find any tees larger than 2X. That was strange. We went to Target to look for picture frames that Alice could give her family as gifts because she had bought some but they were broken. Then it was on to a dollar store that had many of the same products that I enjoyed at the dollar store a block from my former Chicago home. I had to indulge in some Starts & Stripes pop because you just can't beat a 3-liter bottle of pop for a buck, and I had to get the chocolate wafers that I ate in the moving truck during the move to Memphis. Sometimes, nothing gives you comfort like cheap eats from your past.

Fri. May 13

Big day ahead, with the tux fitting, manicure, and rehearsal followed by dinner. But first, a little emotion. Jacob and Alice had decided on a "wine and love letters" ceremony for the wedding, which meant that they would have a bottle of wine sitting in a box in front of the minister, and they would place handwritten love letters to each other in the box, take the box home, and open the box on the occasion of their one-year anniversary. Then they would repeat the process, writing new letters and setting up a new box for the next year. Well, Alice had been nagging Jacob about writing his letter, and of course when he finally did, she wondered why he finished so quickly. But on this morning, Alice was upstairs writing her letter for Jacob, and Jacob was worried about her missing her chiropractor's appointment in a few minutes, so he called out to see where she was, and she responded that she was writing her love letter to him. Her voice sounded a little shaky, so Jacob raised an eyebrow and yelled out, "Are you crying?" Alice softly responded, "Yes." I chimed in, "I hope those are tears of joy." She sobbed back, "Yes." So that became a running gag all weekend. Any time Jacob yelled out for Alice, and she told him where she was in the house, I threw out there with a laugh, "Are you crying?" She always responded back with a slightly annoyed "No," and that would be the end of that.

Alice took off early to do her thing, so Jacob and I took our time and rolled out of the house a little after 10A. He dropped off a jar of loose change that they save up and cash in occasionally, and this time it was good for about $95. Then we strolled into the formalwear shop to try on the tuxedos. Jacob picked the tuxes as far as the length of the coat and the accessories, and Alice picked the colors of black and fuchsia. Jacob did a great job with the coats. They were about thigh high and very sturdy. An outdoor wedding in middle Wisconsin...yeah, we needed the thick coats. Jacob had about 20 minutes ahead of me to try on his tux because I had to wait for a dressing room. I got to take in some of the atmosphere during that time. It was a busy little shop, with several customers coming in and out looking excited and nervous about their own upcoming big days. I don't plan to rent a tux for my wedding, but I still enjoyed the atmosphere. When I finally got a room, I took forever trying to figure out all the little clasps and hooks, and I took a quick pic to send to my honey, but eventually I got my suit on and came out to get checked by the women running the shop. I have no idea what one of the women was thinking, but she was there in a gown that looked like she should have been at her own wedding, and it was off both shoulders and low-cut at the breast. So Jacob and I both got quite a show as she adjusted our, ahem, gear. Turned out that our coats were a little long in the sleeve, so we hung around waiting for the alterations to be made, then we hung our tuxes in the car and headed to a sub shop for some lunch. Then it was on to a nail shop for Jacob's manicure. I had already decided to go ahead and get my first mani as well, even though I didn't need one for wedding pics, which is why Jacob was getting his. So it wasn't a surprise when I sat down and had my stereotypical Korean girl do my nails across the aisle from Jacob. The surprise of the day came when we noticed Alice and her wedding party sitting in massage chairs getting pedicures, and they loudly encouraged us guys to sit in and get our feet done as well. Jerry is Alice's good friend and he was standing up on the guys side in the wedding (along with Joe, Jacob's brother-in-law who wasn't there), and he wasn't thrilled about doing the mani but felt compelled since we were already committed to it. But he and Jacob were dead set against the pedi thing. Way too feminine for our tastes. Then I said the magic words to Jacob as a double-dog-dare-ya type of challenge: "I'll do it if you do." He turned to me with a twinkle in his eye and said: "Oh. OK!" I didn't expect him to say yes to that, but I guess he felt he would have really looked like a chump if I put it out there that I was up for it but he said no. Jerry held out for another 10 minutes after that, then he relented and took off his shoes and socks as well. There are pictures of us getting manis and pedis, and God, I hope they never fall into the wrong hands. But soon enough, it was over, and Alice was kind enough to pay for our spa day. How incredibly kind. (Yes, fuckers, I did tip.)

We slid out of the salon, feet still slick inside our socks from all the exfoliating and moisturizing, and we slid into Best Buy to get a PS3 game for the big bachelor party. Stuck between the latest Madden and MLB: The Show, Jacob cited his dissatisfaction with the newer Maddens and went with the baseball game. He already had the NBA game with Michael Jordan at the house, and he couldn't wait to show me that one. A quick trip back home to gather some things that needed to be taken to the rehearsal, then it was on to the wedding venue, Willow Springs Garden. It was a 20-minute drive to a field out in the open with mountain views all around, and a small white enclosed area where the ceremony would take place, weather permitting. The weather was of huge concern all week to Jacob and Alice. They both could be caught at random times checking their cell phones for the latest up-to-the-second forecasts for Saturday, but there wasn't much good news. At best, it would be breezy with a chance of rain, and at worst, it would be windy and rainy. The weather was not my first concern when we stepped out of the car. It was the unmistakable scent of ass that hit you immediately. Yes, the place was downwind of a farm. They tried to downplay that by claiming that I'd get used to it after a while. That didn't make me feel any better, but hey, it wasn't my wedding. We unloaded the cars of the bottled waters and bottles of wine that we brought to the place and put them on a folding table under the large white tent where the reception would be held. (This proved to be a mistake. The ground was still soft from all the snow and bad weather from the last few months, and Jacob would call me out to the tent a couple of hours later to help pick up the table and the fallen bottles of wine. The table sank into the turf about four inches on one side, then toppled over from being lopsided. One bottle of booze was lost in the tragedy, but all things considered, it could have been much worse.)

There was an actual small building about forty yards from the tent, but they had been told that the stage and mini-auditorium wouldn't work because it seated 150 people and they were planning for 180. However, Jacob and Alice realized that holding the ceremony outdoors or even in the heated tent would be a possible disaster, between the smells and the cold and the rain. So they fought a little with the proprietors, but finally got them to agree to have the ceremony indoors on stage. With that, we were able to hold the rehearsal in that building with the knowledge that this was the place where it would actually happen. I kept busy peeling stickers off the aluminum pans waiting for people to arrive. Soon enough, the place started filling with people. White people. All sizes and hair colors and age groups of kind, excited, happy, warm, welcoming white people. And almost all of them had the same reax when they approached me: "...And you MUST be Andre!" And I had the same tired one-liner response: "What gave it away, my shirt?" It didn't even make sense when you think about it, but I didn't have a better one-liner for the repeated offering of, basically, "Hi! You're, like, the only Negro here!" I guess they're lucky that I'm not thin-skinned, because I could understand that whole vibe getting tiresome to someone having to go through it all night long.

The rehearsal was very loose and goofy. Literally. Jacob and Alice were wearing Goofy ears that a friend of hers sent them. They were meant to be part of the rehearsal only, along with the bouquet Jacob made. There was lots of mugging and dancing and jokes during the serious moments. No one wanted to take the rehearsal too seriously and wind up getting emotional the day before the wedding. I met the other members of the wedding party, as well as the father and mother of the bride, Mark and Dianne, whom I had to make sure to meet and get their names because the web site where I got tips on writing the best man speech told me that I had to thank the hosts of the weddings, i.e. the folks who paid for this shit. And that would be Mark and Dianne in this case. I met the officiant, a cousin of Alice's who had to stand a legit 6'3" and was an attractive woman, which made me even goofier. I have always acted at the height of goofiness around tall, attractive women because that's my natural reaction to just being near my ideal woman physically. And I know I was being extra silly because she actually gave me several raised eyebrows during the rehearsal as if she wanted to slap me. (She would say to me as she left the gift opening Sunday, "It was, um...interesting getting to know you.") We were all so silly that we asked each other quietly as we were leaving the building, "Did you get all that? Did you follow? I don't know if we got it. Oh well."

One small thing that I noticed that hopefully wouldn't be a huge deal: There were a couple of typos on the program. I noticed the officiant's name and title on the bottom of the page of participants, and her name was on the right and title on the left, the opposite of all of the other names and titles. Jacob's mom noticed on the back page that a phrase referring to those deceased who couldn't be at the wedding typed as "is spirit" clearly should have read "in spirit." Both of those mistakes were so tiny that we all hoped they wouldn't be noticed. One other small thing I noticed during the rehearsal that would be a huge deal: I caught the opening strains of "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by the Verve playing on the speakers as the sound guy tested the equipment. I said out loud but not loudly, "Who the hell's playing 'Bitter Sweet Symphony?'" And here's the reason I said that--the music is lush, the melody is soaring, the strings are exquisite, and the lyrics make you want to kill yourself. The first two lines of that song are as follows: "'Cause it's a bittersweet symphony this life/Trying to make ends meet, you're a slave to the money then you die." Boy, that's some uplifting wedding music right there! And I honestly hoped that the sound guy was just playing that song as a way to test the system and not as part of the actual program. I didn't mention it again the whole night, but I was thinking to myself that it would be a really poor use of beautiful music in your wedding if you choose to use it despite the horrific lyrics. There are a million other options.

From there, it was on to Peking Chinese and American Restaurant in downtown Wausau for the rehearsal dinner. Jacob kept quoting 35 people as an estimate and shaking his head. It turned out to be 38. And all of us waited for some food. Any food. Waited, waited, waited. We arrived at about 8:15P. We didn't get so much as an egg roll until more than 40 minutes later! He had time to tell us all about the great food they had because we all had to wait for it so long. The food was very good when it arrived. Strawberry chicken, a little fish, pepper steak, fried rice...oh, they ran out of fried rice. But our waiter, a 20-year-old guy with an IQ of 4, told me that even though they ran out of fried rice, I could order one for a extra fee. Say what?? This is the same guy who took down Jacob's mom's order of hot tea and wrote her name down so he wouldn't get confused, then didn't deliver for over an hour until she asked him again. And when I asked what drinks they had, his response was to throw his hands out to the side and tell me, "Whatever you want!" Ignoring my urge to kick him in his nuts, I said, "No, what specific products do you have so I can choose from them?" He said that they had Pepsi products, as if I should have a list with me at all times of which soft drinks are made by Pepsi. I finally settled on the lemonade. The only slack I'll give him is that he seemed to be the only one serving all 38 of us, or maybe there was like one other guy. So I imagine he was feeling a little stressed, especially with everyone asking where the fuck was the food.

Jacob gave a nice speech at the rehearsal dinner, but the web site Alice referenced to give him tips on the speech said that he should remember to thank all of the out-of-town guests, and don't forget Uncle Sid, who gave him his first pair of roller skates. So that's exactly what Jacob did, even though he has no Uncle Sid and has never owned roller skates, to my knowledge. It was awesome. Like, three of us laughed because we knew what he was doing, but everyone else was silent and very confused. Then Alice gave the wedding party our gifts from the bride and groom, and Joe became slightly confused as he pulled out a shiny, long, black object from the cardboard box. "This thing looks dangerous. What is it, a vibrator?" he said as kids in the area probably started forming the sentence "Mom, what is a vibrator?" in their heads. It was a "Swiss Army" flashlight with switchblades in the handle. I got one, too. I couldn't guess what it was before Joe because I couldn't get it out of the box before he could. Then the bill arrived, and we all became confused, and Jacob's mom and dad became dumbfounded, and Jacob and Alice became angry. A 20% tip was included for that, ahem, wonderful service, pushing the bill for the groom's parents to $990 and change!! For 38 people? That's $26 per person with tip! We definitely did not get $26 worth of food each, not with only a couple of plates of the chicken and steak getting passed around family-style, and when you consider the shitty service and wait time, that made the experience even more devalued. Jacob told me later in the car that they were told that they were getting a break on the bill because of the wait. THAT was a break? Bullshit. Alice took off to spend the night with her sister, leaving the house to Jacob and Joe and me to have our wild bachelor party. The fiasco at the restaurant wouldn't ruin the night, no sir. And wild it was. After watching some live playoff basketball, Jacob and I played one baseball game on the PS3, then he and Joe started playing a combat-style game, during which I started dozing off on the couch. I woke up, told the guys I had to hit the sack, and went to bed. I think it was about 1:45A. They didn't play much longer after that. What can I say? It had been a long day.

2nd half of this historic weekend to follow.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Best Man Speech

WAUSAU, WI--Here is an approximation of the best man speech I will give tonight at my best friend "Jacob's" wedding:

May I have your attention please? It's time to present a toast to the wonderful bride and groom! My name is Planet Dre, and as the best man I'm honored to give the first toast this evening. I need to thank the hosts for putting all this together, and that would be the bride's parents Dianne and Mark. Give it up for them! What a great event they put together, huh? Thank you guys very much! Now, I'm here because I've known the groom since we started 1st grade together in 1982! Can you believe that? That was so long ago, Michael Jackson was black! That's a long, long time ago. And in that time, we've seen each other through a lot of good times and a lot of bad times, and we've been there through good relationships and bad relationships. And believe me, the bad relationships were horrible beyond words! Oh my goodness! Now, that isn't news to anyone here. We've all been through tough times in relationships, every adult in here has been through it. But what matters isn't going through it, it's how you rebound, how you come out of it. And that's why I'm so happy to see Jacob happy with his new bride. Every time I see him and his bride together, they're so happy, they're always making each other smile and laugh, and it's so awesome to see! They are truly made for each other. So I just wanna say, best wishes, best of luck, and a toast to Jacob and his bride. Enjoy the many, many years of your new life together!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Fiancee's Toyota Almost Cost Me 48 Bucks

And it did cost me 3 hours of anguish. All because of soy sauce.

But first, a brief life update: All is well. I'm on my own computer now because the fiancee's roommate, "Jody," has moved out to pursue a truck-driving class that requires her to be in Texas for several weeks. I swiftly moved in to claim that spare bedroom as sort of a man cave, and I moved my computer in. There is a small TV that needs to be hooked up to cable, and I'll do that when I get back from Wisconsin, where I'm going this weekend to be best man at the wedding of "Jacob" and his bride. The new job is going well, although the perfectionist in me is pissed that I've made a couple of errors. They don't count because I'm in training, and the others training with me constantly have errors being brought back to them, but I'm still pissed. And domestic life is well. The biggest issue for us seems to be trying to find time and energy to get close to each other. It seemed like it would be easy since we sleep in the same bed, but we're soooo tired when we get into bed that we instantly fall asleep. The other issue is the driving issue, as in she wants me to drive more and get more practice, and I'm being a scaredy cat. But this past Saturday, she came across a situation: She was cooking stir fry and discovered that she had no soy sauce, so either she'd have to trust me to take the rice off the burner when it was ready while she drove to get soy sauce or she'd wait until I brought soy sauce back from the store. Sensing her angst at the thought of trusting me to watch over the rice, I took the keys.

This was to be my very first time driving with no one else in the car, so I was very nervous. As a result, I didn't drive to the Wal-Mart as she suggested because it was rather far away and I didn't have confidence that I'd know how to get there. Instead, I drove less than a mile to a Walgreens. That drive was two minutes of nerve-wracking, wheel-gripping fear that I would fuck up this short little trip. But I made it, and after turning into the parking spot, I jumped out (well, more like squeezed out, because this is a Toyota) and slammed the door and strolled into the Walgreens feeling like a pimp. In doing that, I forgot this one piece of advice the fiancee had told me about the car--don't slam the driver's door too hard because the handle may get stuck and you would have to call a locksmith to get back in, since the passenger's door lock was already broken. And after being told that there was no soy sauce at this Walgreens, I walked back to the car actually contemplating driving down a street I wasn't familiar with because the cashier told me there was a Kroger's grocery nearby. But first I would drive a couple of doors down to a dollar store to see if they could hook me up, and maybe they have sesame oil too, and...

Shit! Damn door is unlocked but I can't open it!! And my cell phone is at home charging up!! What the fuck do I do???

Well, I strolled right back into the Walgreens and used the store phone in the photo department to call the fiancee and break the news to her that, indeed, I had fucked up the very first time I tried to drive alone. She looked up a number for the locksmith that she needed when she did this to herself, and warned me that it cost her $25. I wasn't happy, but I knew that there was no other option. So I called, and they said a half-hour wait and a $48 charge was in my future. Pissed off, I stomped out of the Walgreens and walked to the dollar store, where sitting on a shelf looking lonely was the last bottle of generic dollar store soy sauce. I got back to the car in less than 15 minutes expecting help to arrive shortly. 30 minutes later, I went back in and called the locksmith trying to ascertain his whereabouts, and I was told that he showed up and left because I wasn't there. Well, if he did, it was during my trip to the dollar store, and that wasn't 30 minutes like the receptionist said, so they got their signals crossed. I set up another appointment and was told it would be another 30 minutes. I sat on the curb next to the car for another 45 minutes before calling the fiancee and explaining why I was still not home. She said that Jody was still there and thankfully had not left to go to the bus station and leave town as she would that night, so the fiancee was able to pick me up in Jody's truck.

I didn't have to spend $48 to open the car door because the fiancee noticed that in my two-minute trip, I had cracked the window instead of turning on the air, and she was able to take Jody's ice scraper and stick it inside the window and open the door handle from the inside. So all's well that ends well, I suppose. Except the soy sauce was crappy, and I missed a big comeback by the Grizzlies to win their NBA playoff game, and I felt lost and frustrated sitting outside for three hours next to a car that I couldn't enter. I can only pray that my subsequent experiences driving alone will be much more pleasant.