Monday, November 21, 2011

Tying The Knot, Part 7: The Day Before

I'm determined to remember the important parts of this wonderful wedding weekend even though it happened over five weeks ago. So without further adieu, let's start with the day before the wedding.

Fri. Oct. 14

On this beautiful morning, I found myself in my fiancee's car trying to find a jeweler whose coupon I have in hand. It's a coupon to take two bucks off a watch battery replacement procedure, and this was important to me because in my warped way, I felt the need to have the women that I previously dated or screwed represented as part of my wedding day, and the watch that "Shelley" bought for my 30th birthday with the money from the student loan for which I co-signed had a dead battery.

(Quickly, the other women represented were as follows: "Giselle," my high school sweetheart, and "Karen," as well as a co-worker I dated, had songs in our reception playlist that reminded me of them. Tammi, my 8th-grade crush, who I thought for years that I would end up marrying one day, also was repped by a song or two, although we never dated. "Sarah" gave me baby oil for my shiny bald head while we were dating, and I still have that very same bottle, and I splashed some on my head before I left the house Saturday morning. Also, I still carry in my wallet the ticket stub from the comedy improv show Sarah and I attended the day after I found Karen's swingers website and Sarah drove three hours just to console me. The stub is totally blank because the ink has rubbed off after seven years, but I carry it anyway. The Co-Worker Who Shall Not Be Named made a big deal of wanting cheap costume jewelry for her birthday, and I bought something for her thinking she would reciprocate for my birthday, and she did nothing. So the cheap wedding band I bought for myself was sort of a tribute to her. "Torrie" was represented by the fact that I wore one of the dirty T-shirts that I bought while shopping with her in Minnesota to the church the morning of the wedding, the "I'm Rick James Bitch" shirt. And it's very weak, but I tried to rep "Grace" by buying some vitamin water before the wedding that was branded XXX, which made me think of the nature of our one-night stand. No romance, no holds barred, just straight fuck. There was even a tenuous connection to "Adrienne," a woman I dated a couple of times but never got to first base. She was a smoker, and "Drew" gave me a congratulatory cigar before the wedding, although I didn't smoke it. And the most important women in my life, my late mother and grandmother, got a shout-out in the privacy of my home before the wedding, just a holler to let them know that I knew they were proud of me on such an important day.)

Anyway, my mouth was still very sore from the teeth removal, but I needed to eat. I was planning on picking up something soft while I was out after I got the watch fixed. So I'm driving towards Germantown Parkway, which is where most of the restaurants and businesses are here in the sleepy suburb where I now live. My mind is relaxed and enjoying the sunny weather and taking in all the feelings of anticipation that I'm having. I'm just feeling really good and blessed that I'm in this position at this point in my life. I go to Walgreens and grab a bottle of sparkling cider for the toast, since I'm not supposed to be boozing it so soon after the teeth surgery. Then I arrive at the jeweler, and dampening my pride at getting out and doing this early and arriving at about quarter past nine is the sign saying that the jeweler doesn't open until ten.

Not a big deal, I figure, because this gives me time to find something to eat and relax while eating, not just scarf it down. The first thought when I contemplated soft food was mashed potatoes, and that leads me to the KFC, which also is not open until ten. What the hell? Are we in Amish country and nothing gets opened before noon? I eventually settle on Sonic, and the softest thing I could find on that menu was the French toast sticks, which were delightful. I was thrilled to get a text while eating that said one of my guests from Chicago, my mom's best friend Barbara, wouldn't make it but was sending cash to my Paypal account. Sweet. But that knocked out a potential speaker at the wedding. My fiancee has two speeches for the ceremony, one read by friends of hers, and the other by someone I wanted to stand up for me. My first choice is Cassandra, who worked with me at CBOE during those Karen and Sarah years when I ran around chasing ass and wondering why the world hated me, and she was always supportive and helpful with advice while gently reminding me that I had no shot with her because I wasn't man enough. The woman trusted me enough to sleep with me when we attended the Kentucky Derby, and by sleep I do mean sleep, because we were never intimate. No first base with her, either. But she means a lot to me because she was telling me truths about myself that I didn't hear at the time but remembered and realized that she was right later in life. The problem with having her speak is, Cassandra had not been available for a couple of weeks. No matter how much I call or text, she wasn't responding, and I had no idea if she would be able to make it, and her name's already on the program, and I was starting to feel a little panicky. If Cass won't make it and Barb is already out, who the hell am I going to have speak?

I put that drama on the back burner and hoped that it would work itself out, and I made it back to the jeweler who took notice of my shirt that said something about Chicago and prompted him to ramble on about a hellacious flight to Chicago he once took, and yada yada yada, and finally the watch was fixed and I was back home. My fiancee's maid of honor, Judy, was now at home, and they took off to pick up some last-minute items, and I chilled by myself for thirty minutes or so after showering until my fiancee's mother showed up. Once my fiancee and Judy got back, it was time to load up the cars and head out to the church and get ready for the rehearsal. Everything's going smoothly thus far, but at this point a glitch would occur that we wouldn't realize until later.

My dad (he's not the glitch) called during all of this scrambling, trying to convince me to pick him up at the airport two hours before the wedding or find someone who will. No can do, I told him. No matter what, he was not going to mess up my wedding morning. I'm not trying to take time out to do that, and my fiancee certainly wasn't, and we didn't have time to call around to find someone to drive him like he's a foreign dignitary. He was going to have to cab it like a normal person, and if he didn't make the wedding before noon, too bad. I was willing to take bets that between finding his bags after the flight and his general state of mental and physical dishevelment, there wasn't a chance in hell that he would make it in time.

We arrived at the church a little after noon, giving us three hours to set tables in the reception area and get ready for my family, who were driving up from Chicago and would arrive sometime around the 4P rehearsal start time. Judy, my fiancee, and her mother worked on the tablecloth arrangement for a few of the tables just to see what worked and what didn't, and I took orders and drove out to Lenny's, a sub shop. I was so scatterbrained wondering what should I order for me and my bleeding mouth that I drove past the place, but I found it eventually and got everyone's order and a huge tuna salad for myself. After I got back with the food, "Jacob" and "Alice" started calling and letting us know that they were coming to the church, and once they showed up, we let them in. Jacob and I started moving tables around while the ladies continued setting tables. Somewhere in this hubbub, we started talking about all the things that my fiancee and I brought to the church in advance so that we wouldn't be bothered the day of the wedding. She brought her dress, and an iron, and other items she would need, and I brought my suit and hung it up in my dressing room already, along with my shoes, and I grabbed the presents that I would give to my family, and she has her gift for her mom, and of course we remembered the computer with all the songs because we're going to need that for this rehearsal...and my fiancee exclaims that in all of her haste that morning, she forgot the computer! So this is after two o'clock, and we've eaten, and I'm stuffed, and I'm hanging out with Jacob shooting the shit, and my fiancee lets me know that because she forgot the computer, I would now have to get in the car, drive back home, and grab the computer, and be back before four, which is when the rehearsal begins. Really? Me? Oh, and I'm still a relatively new driver, and I've never made this twenty-minute drive from the church to home, so she has to hastily scribble out some instructions for me to do this. I'm still not sure why she felt that I had to make this trip to cover for her mistake, but out I head, getting in much more driving experience on this day than I could have possibly anticipated.

This gave me an opportunity to pump some more bad '90s music on the cassette player because I'm toting a couple of my homemade tapes in the car, so that part was fun, but the trip back to the church once I retrieved the laptop was torture. It was about 3:15P when I left the house, so I was going to be cutting it close anyway, but I got on the expressway for about thirty seconds before traffic came to a complete stop. I mean, complete stop. No pumping brakes, no gas a little and then stop, I mean we were standing totally still. And it was for quite a while. Then we'd move like a foot and stop again for another three minutes. And it went like this for about a half-hour. Seriously, I had been on that expressway for about thirty minutes and wasn't even a half-mile away from my initial entrance ramp. I was so mad, but I was about to get madder. My aunt, who has always been my harshest critic (and if you read this blog from the beginning, you know that my criticism of myself is scathing and hurtful, and she's always been worse), called me on my cell, and she explained that they all had arrived at the church and were at a back entrance and were waiting for me to come out and let them in. I had to tell her that I wasn't at the church, that I was stuck in horrible traffic, and she should call my fiancee and have her let them in. Now, in no way is any of this my fault. I'm getting the laptop that my fiancee forgot, and I'm totally, helplessly stuck in a major traffic jam, but I was hoping that everyone would understand. Well, as my aunt hangs up the phone, I hear her say in a distant voice to someone right before the click, "The groom ain't even here!" I fumed for the next ten minutes. It just took me back mentally to every other time that I did something wrong and my aunt leveled every criticism she could conjure at me. I have never, ever been good enough in her eyes, and by extension, neither has anyone close to me. She responded to my long phone calls with Jacob when we were kids with the accusation that I must have been afraid of him and that's why I wouldn't get off the phone. Not that he would find me interesting enough to talk to, but I must have been a bully victim. What? And she rarely called my girlfriends by their names, always something derivative like "Chickie" or "Sweetie." They couldn't have her respect because they were with me, you see. My fiancee was no different; she was known as "Chickie" most of the time we dated before I moved down here to Memphis. Honestly, I was this close to ruining the weekend by the time I finally made it to the church, because I was ready to explode on my aunt for that little "Groom ain't even here!" comment. I took it so personal because I knew that she was chalking it up to me being irresponsible and not good enough before she knew any fucking details.

Fortunately, I had cooled off by the time I drove past the two accident scenes on the expressway and made it to the church at about a quarter past four. As I rushed into the sanctuary, sweating and stressed, I was greeted by my family and my future mother-in-law and Jacob and Alice sitting there together taking up three rows of seats, and my fiancee and the officiant standing in the aisle, and they all exploded in applause at the sight of me. How could I be mad after that? I smiled wide and greeted my family members with hugs and handshakes, and I remember how good it felt to see all of those familiar faces, people I grew up with and shared so many life experiences, and here they all were sitting in a church in Memphis, TN, all in support of me. The officiant, the great Sonia Walker, explained that they could have done the rehearsal without me or the music if I would have been even more delayed, so I was lucky to get there when I did. We did the walk-through, and I kept trying to crack jokes and dance and keep things light. I remembered that about Jacob and Alice's rehearsal. They were in such a great mood and laughing and having a good time, and I wanted to recreate that. Sonia showed my best man--who is my uncle--and me where we would be standing before the ceremony, and she would lead us out during a song cue right before the fam would be ushered to their seats. My uncle had me worried because he was having a hard time standing up just during the rehearsal. He recently had knee surgery, and it hasn't healed up well for him, so he's gimping around these days despite remaining on his bowling team. I was concerned about all the standing we would do the day of the wedding, because it's not just the ceremony, it's also the standing around taking pictures afterwards. But he said he'd gut it out. The gift-giving after the rehearsal was memorable because I ordered blackjack cufflinks for my uncle (he loves his gambling, and blackjack is his game) and steering wheel cufflinks for my aunt's husband, but I ordered them both gift-wrapped, so I couldn't tell which was which. (He drives a bus for a living, plus he's the one who took me out to practice driving, leading to me getting my license right before I left Chicago.) My aunt's husband wasn't even at the church, choosing to head to the hotel after the long drive to Memphis, so I figured I would open one of the cufflink sets and if it was the set for my uncle, I could give them to him right there a little beat-up on the wrapping but not destroyed, and that would keep my aunt's husband's gift pristine. But I picked the wrong one to open. So I gave my uncle his pristine gift while I took the other gift back home in an attempt to re-wrap it. He hung his suit in our dressing room and put our rings and his shoes in there as well.

This brought us to the moment I had been worrying about--the post-rehearsal. We canceled the dinner because both my uncle and my aunt, who were splitting the cost, were not totally on board at the concept. We're clearly not rich, we're doing so much of this wedding on the cheap, we're barely having a honeymoon, and they're being asked to cough up $500 between them for this rehearsal dinner. So we canceled that, hoping they would gift that cash to us for the wedding. But this now left the rest of the evening for me to either hang out with family, hang out with friends, or go home and spend the night before my wedding watching TV or surfing the net or something. And for some reason, I really didn't want to do that. I guess I would have felt like a big loser if I wound up sitting on my ass watching Friday Night Smackdown or something the night before I got married. So I was up for any suggestions from anyone. My fiancee jumped in Judy's car, and they headed to FedEx Forum to watch Memphis Madness, the name for the first official practice session for the U. of Memphis basketball team. This didn't really interest me, so I kept my fiancee's car and was ready to follow anyone who wanted to hang with me. Before I could ask my family what interested them, Jacob and Alice raved about those incredible ribs from Corky's that my fiancee gave Jacob the night he helped me move. He said he couldn't move a muscle in the hotel room because he was so sore, and the ribs were cold from being in the fridge, but he ate them anyway and loved them. So he and Alice were headed straight to Corky's, and then down to Tunica, MS, where their casino hotel was located. They asked if any of this interested me. Hmmm, ribs and gambling? Yeah. Hell yeah. I invited anyone from my family to come along for the ribs, but they were so wiped from the travel that they all headed back to the hotel. So it was me in my fiancee's Toyota following Jacob and Alice to a place in my city, but I had to follow them because I didn't know where it was. But Jacob did. He's the Human Atlas.

I called Drew while I drove because I knew he was in town and I figured a night at the casino would interest him. He got the address of the restaurant and exclaimed, "That's five minutes from my hotel!" So he eventually met us at the restaurant, although it took him a while because he needed a shower after getting to his hotel and immediately hitting the sack. I was still full from the tuna salad, plus the thought of a bone from the ribs hitting that part of my mouth where the teeth were pulled scared me, so I wound up eating a BBQ sandwich with a fork. Jacob and Alice ordered a banana pudding for dessert, and they let me have a forkful, and it was so good that I made an "O" face without intending to. I ordered a pudding to go intending to take it home to the fiancee but knowing deep down that it would never make it back to her. Jacob and Alice had to check in to the hotel, so they went ahead and made the half-hour drive to Tunica while Drew and I stayed a little longer in Memphis. He had to gas up the rental and then get me to a SunTrust ATM so I could get some cash. And oh, what a rental! The agency didn't have the economy car that Drew reserved, so they told him, either wait a half-hour for an economy to come back to the lot, or take this other ride at no extra cost to you. That replacement ride? A big-ass white pickup truck! I couldn't stop laughing when we went outside the restaurant and I saw this monstrosity. Drew needed a stepladder to get in the damn thing. And the interior was so roomy that I literally couldn't touch the seat behind me by reaching back. It was a nice bit of good fortune to make up for the horrible trip Drew had from Chicago to Memphis on Megabus. The woman he sat next to was very ill, and at one point she hurled into a paper bag. And it was a packed trip, so he couldn't switch seats. "I'm never taking Megabus again!" he said. That's a shame. My fiancee had a trip interrupted because the driver got arrested, and this happened to Drew, but I still maintain that I've had nothing but pleasant experiences with Megabus. I still couldn't recommend Megabus higher. They should pay me for the great advertisement.

Anyway, Drew got me to an ATM and then I parked the Toyota at his hotel and he made the drive to Tunica, where he got gas on the outskirts of the large casino grounds. I would describe it as like a tiny city in and of itself. Drew, having been to Vegas unlike me, said it reminded him of Vegas. Just street after street with casino names waiting for you to turn down that street and drive another couple of miles to the casino of your choice. Nothing out there but casinos once you drive past the businesses on the outskirts. Lots of free land waiting for more casinos and hotels to be built. The smell of money all around you. It was quite the scene. Drew and I stood out front of Horseshoe Casino waiting for Jacob and Alice. They told us to go to Horseshoe because the best slots were there. I just wanted to go somewhere I could play poker. I haven't played live poker at a casino in years, and I made money when I did because I wasn't the biggest fish at those tables. I was very interested in hitting the poker tables again, and Horseshoe does have poker tables. So after standing out front for a long time, Jacob called and said they were here, and sure enough, there they were inside the casino looking for us. Guess there was more than one entrance.

Alice hit the slots while the fellas wandered around. Jacob's not a poker player at all, so I don't know if he would have sat down at a table, but Drew and I headed right to the poker room, where we fully intended to play if the blinds were low enough. They weren't. There was a $1/$3 table that was no limit, and there was a $6/$12 limit table, and we weren't interested in either because one can lose his shirt easily in a $6/$12 game or in any no-limit game. I only took $60 out of the ATM, and I could play a while at a blackjack table if the minimum bet was something like $5 or $10. But not a high-limit poker game nor a no-limit poker game. We staggered out of the poker room and headed for the blackjack tables. Most of the tables had minimums of $15 or $25. One table in this very crowded place had a $10 minimum and no one playing. This was very odd. I've never seen a casino where the higher minimum blackjack tables had folks playing, but a lower minimum table had no one. The dealer, a middle-aged black woman, was standing there with a blank expression and the cards in one hand, in position to deal if someone, anyone would come sit down. And we three guys must have stood around that table waiting for one of us to make a decision for a good three or four minutes. Other people actually came up to the table and looked at it for a few seconds, wondering why no one was playing, and then they would walk away. It's probably one of those gambler superstitions--never start a blackjack table fresh, always come in when others are playing so you can make sure the table's on the up and up. Well, I'm not a smart gambler, so finally I told the guys "Let's sit down and play," and we took out our cash and got chipped up and started playing, and sure enough, someone else then decided to come sit down between Drew and Jacob and start playing with us. And he lost his money within two minutes, and cussed, and walked away. Unbelievable. I hope that old man feels better now that he lost his money at a table where others were playing and possibly taking his cards. But at least he didn't play by himself!

We played for about 45 minutes, all three of us staying above water but barely. Other players came and went, and some stayed for a long time. Jacob stopped at one point after winning a lucky hand and finding himself up about $100. Drew and I kept going. Then I won a hand where the dealer was showing 10 and I hit to get to 16 and decided that I had to hit again and got a 5. I immediately stood up and said, "I think that's a sign!" I cashed out up $85 and tipped the dealer $5. Drew was up about $20 at this point, and he joined me and Jacob in leaving the table all smiles to search for Alice. She was hammering away at the Wheel Of Fortune slots. It was a little past 11 at this point, so, not wanting to spend my wedding day droopy-eyed and yawning, I made the call for Drew and me to head back to Memphis. We left Jacob and Alice at Horseshoe and laughed our way back into Tennessee. I then jumped in my Toyota and drove home.

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