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.

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