Jason & Efia (Part 1)

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It’s the 18th of October, 2012. Tasha and I are sitting in our rental car, pulled over to the side of the road just across the border between Georgia and Florida. It’s about 8pm, the sun set a few hours ago, but there were these bright flashing red and blue lights in my rear view mirror that I couldn’t ignore anymore. Why? Because they were beaming from a police cruiser who had just stopped me for speeding less than twenty miles away from our planned arrival at the Hilton Garden Inn in Tallahassee Florida to celebrate the wedding of our friends Jason and Efia.

“Here you go.” The man said as he hands me the ticket.

“Thanks officer.” I say regrettably.

I wonder why I said that.  Why would I thank the officer for just putting me $225 into debt, which ironically was almost the exact amount I saved on our plane tickets by having us fly into Atlanta instead of Tallahassee? Some times you make decisions in life with the idea of saving money, and sometimes it backfires while you’re driving down a single lane highway in the backwoods of the south, trying to make up for lost time by going slightly above the speed limit. This is how the wedding weekend started off for us, but that would be just one of a few minor hiccups along the way. It could only get better form here, right?

I’ve known Jason since I was a sophomore in high school, but neither me nor any of our friends actually call him Jason. His nickname since his freshman year at Cherokee High School has been “P-Nut.” He got this nickname from that one time when he shaved his head and someone remarked at how closely he resembled the shape of an actual peanut. The name stuck, and to his credit he really embraced it. He even went so far as to wear a necklace with a gold nameplate charm attached that had “P (diamond) Nut” on it back in the 90s when Z-Cavaricci was cool, and sweater vests over turtlenecks were all the rage. I can’t blame him for that. In fact, I was kind of jealous because if I could have had a nickname stick that was cool and didn’t offend me, I would have done it too. But let’s be honest, who wants to spend $120 to get a gold charm with the moniker “Chris Da’ Lips” on it? Certainly not me.

People were pretty hard on P-Nut back in the day, myself included. I mean, we all used to bust on each other, but I met the kid in Concert Choir so I couldn’t bust on him for that. It’s just that teenage dudes break each other’s balls a lot. It’s a rite of passage to be made fun of by your best friends at your most awkward and graceless phase of adolescence. Nowadays, if you were to post some of the stuff we used to say about each other on the internet, it would be considered “cyber bullying.” I swear, America is turning into a country full of overly sensitive, self-righteous idiots and pussies, but that’s just my opinion.

Out of all of us, P-Nut took it on the chin more than anyone else. However, regardless of how many tasteless jokes I made at his expense, P-Nut grew up to be one of the most loyal and selfless friends I have. When Chad and I got locked out of our car (for a second time) in the parking lot of the EDC festival in San Bernadino, P-Nut was the guy that drove all the way from Los Angeles at 3 in the morning to pick us up and bring us back home.  A year later, when my ex girlfriend dumped me in a public restaurant right before Thanksgiving and I was balling my eyes out, it was P-Nut who gave me a hug and told me everything was going to be ok. He’s always been there for me when I needed him, and regardless of all the shit I put him through, I’m the lucky one because he remains as one of my best friends ever. With the exception of killing someone, I would do anything for him. In fact, I might kill someone if I knew I would get away with it, but I don’t think P-Nut has enemies like that. I’m grateful for having someone like him in my life now, and even though this trip started out with a five hour drive through the backwoods of the south and a speeding ticket, I was really happy to be able to be a groomsman at his wedding and be part of what I hoped would be the most happy day of his life. At around 9:15 pm EST, Tasha and I pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, got our room and went to bed.

The next morning, everyone started to arrive for the wedding. The rehearsal dinner was later that night, but today all the groomsmen still had to pick up our tuxedos, go to the wedding rehearsal and make sure that everything went smoothly. All of P-Nut’s best friends were there. Rounding out the groomsmen were me, Parr, Gary and Chad who was not only in the wedding party, but also the wedding aficionado, or minister of ceremonies. I’m not sure what the official title is, but I thought it was pretty cool that Chad, one of Nut’s best friends was marrying P-Nut and Efia. There was Shaun, who is Parr’s younger brother and who also lived out in L.A. with me and Nut, and then there was V.J. who was a good friend of P-Nut’s for years who I think lived across the street from him since middle school. Then there was Swift who I didn’t know at all, but he seemed liked a pretty good guy and clearly he was winning the coolest name of the year award. I would imagine in that same competition you would find Swift at the top, and probably reality show sex tape entrepreneur Kim Kardashian and her once talented sell out rapper husband Kanye West’s stupid baby’s name North West in dead last.

Yep, all of P-Nut’s best friends were there to partake in this wonderful day….except for one. Normally, I would just out this person at this point but instead, I’m going to give him a fake name. Why? Well, recently I was subject to a lot of negative criticism for using someone’s first and last name in a past blog post who apparently didn’t like the fact that I wrote about them. That person also sent me a private e-mail where they proceeded to insult me and my blog by calling it a “half-wit-garage-band-wanna-be-Hunter S. Thompsonesque-revisionist-self-exploratory fable about love, liberty and whatever else ‘I thought I was doing’” (I don’t know about “liberty” being a theme in this blog, but I really do like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)

This person also pompously stated that they were “kinda famous” and accused me of defamation of character while informing me that they would be taking legal action against me if I didn’t immediately take down the post. In my defense, and according to the opinions of a few of my good friends who read that post and enjoyed it, I didn’t do anything wrong which is exactly why I chose not to take it down. It’s not a crime to say you didn’t like someone back in high school, is it? I didn’t think so. It’s not defamation of character to recall how you used to have a silly nickname for someone, right? Obviously, the real crime here was this person’s inability to recognize a quintessential example of what we call satire. When writing a fictional short story based on actual events, a writer may some times have to exaggerate the circumstances to make it interesting, relative, or funny. So, with all due respect to the person who e-mailed me, GET THE FUCK OVER YOURSELF.

Anyway, getting back to P-Nut’s groomsmen, and to avoid any threat of being sued in light of the events that took place recently, the fake name I will use for the best friend who was M.I.A. from P-nut’s wedding will be “Boner.” I looked around for Boner, but I didn’t see him anywhere. P-Nut went on to tell me that Boner had some things he had to do and that he just wasn’t able to make it. Ok, I guess I could understand that. I mean, we all get older and get busy with our lives and certain commitments can’t be ignored and sometimes, we have to compromise. It’s just that I always thought that we would be able to make time for our best friends when they get married, especially when you are given three to four months advance notice. It was weird because me, P-Nut, Chad, Gary, and Boner were pretty inseparable for many years, especially early on when no one else had a license except for P-Nut who used to drive us to shows and to the diner, and NEVER asked for gas money, but  I’m positive Boner probably had a huge project he was working on that weekend, and I’m sure he regrettably told P-Nut he wasn’t able to make it because of those reasons, whatever they may have been…… But come to think of it, Boner wasn’t really known for telling the truth a lot back in the day. Oh well, his loss. I just hope out that of respect for his friend, he at least sent P-Nut and Efia a wedding gift.

After all the groomsmen arrived and were accounted for, the girls went to the liquor store to stock up on the booze, while the guys went to Jos. A. Bank to pick up our tuxedos. There we were all trying on our outfits in the dressing room together. (Well, not “together” more like all together in separate dressing rooms )  Mine fit pretty well. The pants were a little baggy, but apparently the M.C. Hammer drop crotch style was one P-Nut was going for. Plus, in retrospect I was a little fat at this wedding so I appreciated the extra room. Parr’s fit good, Chad’s was alright, but that’s where all the satisfaction with the tuxedos ended. Swift didn’t have pants with his tux, V.J.’s vest wasn’t even big enough to button across his chest, Gary was missing a key element and Shaun’s tuxedo was missing in action. We had all been fitted months ago and paid for the rentals at the same time, so I don’t understand how on earth a big company like Jos. A Bank could fuck this up so bad. Should have gone to Men’s Warehouse.

Needless to say, P-Nut started stressing out and needed a drink to calm him down. Only thing is, P-Nut doesn’t drink alcohol, so after some of us got our tuxedos and some of us didn’t, we all headed to a bar around the corner to have some beers, some apps, and calm our friend down as we tried to ease his pain through what we hoped would be a successful alcoholic contact high. The look on P-Nut’s face made me think otherwise. I get it, he wanted everything to go smoothly and who doesn’t want that on their wedding day? I could only hope that the rehearsal and dinner would be stress and drama free for all of us, but more importantly, for P-Nut’s sake.

We got back to the hotel and chilled by the pool for a bit while we told our sorted story about the amazingly horrendous customer service and incomplete tuxedos to our ladies. There was Chad and Mary, Parr and Nicola, Gary and Desiree and me and Tasha. Our friend Dave was there too, but unfortunately his wife Gwen couldn’t make it. It was at this point that the ladies pulled out the following: an enormous gallon jug of Stoli vodka, a bottle of whipped cream flavored vodka, a liter of Jack Daniels, a case of beer, and various mixers including tonic, diet coke and red bull that they picked up from the store while we were out getting our tuxes.

“Who the hell is gonna drink all of that?” I asked.

“We are!” Mary said with a huge smile on her face.

It appeared the girls had started pre gaming quite early that afternoon, but little did they know that we would be still be drinking late into the night after the rehearsal dinner until one of us couldn’t drink anymore.

We all piled into our cars to made our way over to the Golden Eagle Country Club in Tallahassee for the rehearsal. I got to say, out of all the weddings I have been to, P-Nut and Efia win the award for the most beautiful, gorgeous, and therefore “best” location ever. I will probably put up a separate post when this blog is completed with the top ten categories and the winners of each, but man, when you have a large open grassy field that is adorned by swooping trees and decorated with a make-shift alter and carefully placed white chairs and rose petals in sunny Florida, with perfect weather next to a flowing stream as you say “I do” to the love of your life, how can anyone compete with that?

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We spent the next hour at this stunning location, with P-Nut and Efia’s friends and family, and our semi-buzzed lady dates, all while being carefully directed and scrutinized by the woman of the hour, the wedding planner. Planning a wedding is something no one really wants to do. It’s a huge task to make sure everything goes right, the location is perfectly set-up, and nothing is left to chance so that is why you hire someone to take care of all that. I’ll say this about the wedding planner… she may have been strict, but overall she did a really great job with everything especially because part of her job that evening was to show the bridesmaids and the groomsmen where to walk, where to stand, and of course, when to shut up. It may or may not be true that at some point during the rehearsal one or two of us groomsmen were not really paying attention and perhaps got yelled at for sneaking in a beer, not listening when we were supposed to, and just basically being a royal pain in her ass. However, after forty five minutes of rehearsal, and after one uncomfortable moment when I might have snickered to myself while one of my friends was getting scolded at by the wedding planner, we were released into the wild to convene at a place called Food Glorious Food for dinner. You can check out part of the special menu below.

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We couldn’t be seated until the Groom arrived, but Nut was nowhere to be found for awhile. Then he finally showed up with the dreadful news that he had locked the keys in Efia’s mom’s car and had to wait for AAA to arrive to either jimmy open the door, or open it using a spare key.  I don’t pretend to know what method they use, but when a frantic Nut arrived at the restaurant, we finally, we got our table, and we did what most people do immediately when they sit down to a rehearsal dinner, we put our drink orders in.  Then we waited, and waited, and waited some more for the drinks to arrive. The waitress did come back ten minutes later to take our food order, but she didn’t have any beers, cocktails or wine in her hands.  I mean, rule number one at rehearsal dinners is simple: don’t deprive the alcoholics of alcohol.

Eventually, drinks arrived and we made the smart decision to order another round  as soon as they did and BEFORE the food came out.  In true form, the food was glorious, the drinks were flowing, and after we were all done with dinner, I decided to stir up some shit.

One of the jokes my friends and I constantly make to each other is to poke fun at the heritage we were born into. For example, Parr and Shaun are Irish, and me and Dave are Italian. So I am naturally subject to many friendly insults that may include the names, “dego” “wop” “guinea” or the classic term “Pasta eating, sweaty olive oil loving hairy greaseball Italian.” I take it with a grain of salt because I love my friends, and I know it comes from a place of respect and no one’s feelings really get hurt. That night however, Parr and Shaun were beating up on me and Dave pretty bad, so I pulled in some reinforcements.

There were a few little ones running around the restaurant that night. They were sons of P-Nut’s sister Tina, and Efia’s sister Heidi. I had known Tina since high school because we were in the same homeroom since freshman year, and her son Ryan and Heidi’s son Barron were coming over to me and Dave and asking questions and talking and just acting like inquisitive little kids. Then, Dave and I had an idea of how to get back at Parr and Shaun for ragging on my Italian background. Here’s what I said to them.

I’ll pay you a dollar, to go over to those two guys over there, pretend to pose for a picture and when I say so, start saying “dirty mick” over and over again. Can you do that for me?”

“Give me the dollar!” Barron said.

And with that, I shelled out two bucks and sat back to watch this onslaught of insults unfold. They took my offering, went over to where Parr and Shaun were sitting, pretended to pose for a picture and then proceeded to insult my Irish friends over and over again. You can see the video here.

Just a little harmless fun between friends right? I mean, I hope neither one of the kids grow up to be prejudice against Irish people, but if they do, now we all know the catalyst that started it all. After dinner, the parents went back to the hotel to relax, and the kids (meaning us) headed to a bar in town where our friend Lisa from NJ just happened to be working. I thought it was kind of ironic that out of all the cities in America for P-Nut to have his wedding, it just happened to be the same city in which Me, Parr, Gary and Shaun knew one of the bartenders from way back in the day. The name of the bar eludes me right now, but it was near the FSU campus so the place was packed with college kids dancing and binge drinking with those red solo cups in their hands. We all did a shot to celebrate our friends marriage, and we then spent the next hour or so drinking and talking and taking pictures, and just having an all around good time.

Not since Chad’s wedding had all of my best friends and I been together. I was happy to be there with everyone and I was even impressed that P-Nut made his way out to the bar even though he didn’t drink alcohol considering tomorrow was his big day. I thought about how the trip started out with me and Tasha being pulled over and getting a speeding ticket. None of that seemed to matter at all. I don’t even think I told anyone about that until right now. You know, I’ve realized that as I’ve gotten older I’ve looked forward to moments like these with my friends. We had been there for each other for half our lives, and there wasn’t a memory from high school or the years after that didn’t include one or all of the people in this room.

I had sat with Gary in Olga’s diner for years drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes while playing gin rummy. I used to cut school with Parr and go to Denny’s for breakfast then drive to New York just for the hell of it. We all used to congregate in Dave’s basement on summer nights playing NHL ‘94 on his Super Nintendo, or you could find us hanging at Chad’s house till 3 in the morning eating Doritos and drinking all of his soda and Snapple. I used to buy Shaun and his friends alcohol when they were underage, and P-Nut and I drove down to Disney World four days after I came back from my senior trip to Disney World just because we could. I don’t have one memory of my high school days without these guys, and even if I could remember one, I probably didn’t have as good a time as if I was with them. I am proud to know them and I am glad to know they all have found a lady to compliment them.

Chad and Mary are a perfect couple and had married two years back at an epic celebration. Gary and Desiree are a perfect match for each other and I would think eventually will get married soon, and P-Nut had found a perfectly sweet and beautiful girl in Efia and he did the right thing by asking her to marry him. Parr had finally found the perfect Italian woman to compliment his Irish personality, but at the moment none of us knew where Nicola was. And then there was me an Tasha, the perfect anomaly of the group.

Speaking of whom, a few minutes later I saw my ex-girlfriend/multiple wedding date and partner in crime come up to me with a concerned look on her face.

“What’s wrong? Where’s Nicola?” I asked her.

“I’ve been in the bathroom with her and Destiny.” Tasha stated.

You mean Desiree?” I said.

Right, Desiree. Anyway, Destiny and I think Nicola might have had a little too much to drink.” She said.

“How so?” I asked.

“She looked a little sick, so we took her to the bathroom and then she proceeded to tell us how much she loved Parr and how she was going to have his babies one day.” Tasha said.

“That was sweet.” I replied.

Yeah, but then she puked in the trash can” Tasha said.

I don’t think we were going to make last call. It was time to leave the bar, go back to the hotel, and get some sleep.

Part 2: June 3rd, 2015

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All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

CJ & Shauna

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2012 was a weird year. For the most part, things were getting financially tight for me and Tasha, the world was supposed to end sometime in December thanks to Nostradamus and the end of the Mayan calendar, and Tasha and I had TWO weddings to attend this year within two months of each other. The first was another quickie California wedding for my friend and former boss, CJ and his fiancee Shauna. The second was for one of my best friend’s from high school, P-Nut and his long time girlfriend Efia,  however THAT wedding was going to be taking place in Florida and two months later so I will get to that one next week.

I met CJ a long time ago when I was working at the Grill on Hollywood. He was the manager of a place called Koji’s which was next to the Grill where we all used to drink after work, and not really pay for our drinks. After a year or so, I noticed CJ stopped coming in to the Grill so I just assumed he didn’t work there anymore. Two years later, I had quit the Grill and I started bartending at the Wiltern Theater on Wilshire and Western. When I got there, there was an “interim” manager, meaning they hadn’t hired anyone permanent to run the bar yet. Then low and behold, one day during my second shift while I was stocking the ice at one of the bars, I turn around to greet the “new” bar manager and as some strange stroke of ironic luck would have it, I see CJ staring back at me.

Christopher John and I worked at the Wiltern for about two years. He was the manager and I was his bartender/assistant manager/right hand man/party boy. CJ and I ran the bar, and got away with a lot of shit. To protect my privacy and CJ’s, I won’t go into details about some of the crazy nights we used to have, but let’s just say when you’re coming home at 5am on a Wednesday night after working since 5pm, you start to realize that this lifestyle can’t go on forever. In November of 2008, CJ was relieved of his duties at the Wiltern, and about three months later, I was taken off the schedule as well. Guilt by association.

Regardless, that was four years ago, and CJ and I had both cleaned up our act, moved to different parts of southern California, but had also remained friends. He was working in finance, living in Orange County with his beautiful fiancee and her son, (that’s right) and I was still living in Hollywood, sometimes working commercials and hanging out with my best friend/ girl I broke up with almost three years ago. Nobody else from the Wiltern days was invited to CJ’s wedding that afternoon in August, so I felt kind of honored that I made the cut. Then, when Tasha and I pulled into the venue in Orange County where the wedding and reception were being held, something dawned on me. We didn’t know one fucking person at this wedding OTHER than the Bride, the Groom. We had been invited to the engagement party a few months earlier and met some people but I didn’t really remember anyone’s name, or what they do, or what their relation was to the Bride and Groom.

“We’re gonna go in there, get a good seat, have some drinks and dinner, maybe some cake, and then split ok?” I said to Tasha

“Yeah sure. I hope they have good food. I’m starving.” She said.

“Me too” I replied.

All we wanted that afternoon was to see two people who really loved each other get married from a good perspective without the sun blazing in our eyes, have a few drinks, some food, maybe dance a little bit, and then drive home because that’s what you do at a quickie California wedding. Not to mention the part that we didn’t know anyone, plus neither of us were really in the mood to drink a lot thanks to the two and a half hour drive down on a Saturday afternoon in major traffic on the I-5 where we must have passed six or seven cops who had recently pulled over some sketchy characters. I wanted to pay my respects to my friend, but Tasha and I were pretty broke at this point, and we couldn’t really afford to get them a great wedding gift, or pay for a hotel if we happen to get a little too drunk that night. What a difference a year makes.

The ceremony took place outside at a Country Club adjacent to a golf course in Orange County, so occasionally we would spot people driving past the ceremony in golf carts. Seemed kind of weird and intrusive to me, but what do I know? I guess CJ and Shauna didn’t mind, or maybe they really enjoyed golf and wanted to incorporate the sport into their wedding. There were about 150 guests there, and Tasha and I took a seat at the end of the aisle next to one of the three foot glass cylinder vases filled with water and submerged flowers. I got to say, I was pretty impressed with whomever came up with that design, and to compliment that, scattered up and down the aisle were white and yellow rose petals. I gotta give CJ and Shauna an A for visual stimulation. No other wedding to this point had such a simple, and clean floral design. It was enough to make me take some pictures of it.

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We chose the groom’s side, since we were more familiar with the Groom than with the Bride. I never really understood the whole picking sides thing at weddings. I mean, you’re there to celebrate the union of two people, so why do we have to pick sides like we’re in some gang war?  It never made sense to me, and I feel like this aspect of weddings should totally just be abolished. Anyway, The ceremony started as CJ and his groomsman walked out to the song “The Imperial March” from Star Wars. You, that music they play whenever Darth Vader enters the frame? Ominous indeed, but still kind of comical. Good to know CJ had a sense of humor about all of this. Then Shauna came out arm in arm with her Dad, perfectly tanned and smiling ear to ear as her eyes met her soon to be husband. Then, Shauna’s little boy came up and joined them at the makeshift alter as they all took part in a very odd tradition that I have never seen at a wedding before.

They each grabbed a handful of sand from a dish, and simultaneously poured it into a vase signifying the union of these three souls together as a family. I remember turning to Tasha and giving her a strange look, but I mean who am I to question what acts of love and partnership they choose to do on their wedding day? It’s THEIR day and even though I had never even heard of such a random act as pouring fistfuls of sand into a bowl together as a family, maybe this was their way of being able to include Shauna’s son into the ceremony. This was the beginning of a new life for Shauna and CJ, but it was also the beginning of a new life for all three of them. I guess the phrase “Like the sands of the hour glass, so are the day of our lives” really comes into play here.

The minister then started reciting the vows for the Bride and Groom.

Chris, do you take this woman to have and to hold, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health….”

Hold the phone a minute, I thought to myself. Who the fuck is “Chris?” And then it dawned on me.  Even though I’ve always know him as “CJ” from when he lived in L.A., all of his friends and family in Orange County call him Chris, which technically is his given name.  Personally, I can totally relate to that because before I moved to Seattle in 2000, I was also known to all my friends and family as “Chris.” When I got a job at an Olive Garden in Lynnwood, there was already another server named Chris who worked there, so the manager asked me if I preferred to be called Christian to differentiate between the two of us. I kind of liked it.  It kind of gave me a new identity, even though technically it was my full first name. In the past, I always associated being called Christian with doing something bad, because when I was younger, it usually was screamed at me in a state of anger and frustration by my Mom when she caught me doing something I shouldn’t have been doing. In fact, she would yell “Christian Marc” at me which was my first and middle name and also exactly what I changed my legal name to back in 2002 when I finally got sick and tired of my having a horrendously misspelled and mispronounced last name follow me around since I was six years old when I knowingly signed up to have my step-father adopt me and took his last name so we could all be a family. The Komuves family. I mean, what the fuck kind of last name is “Komuves” anyway?

So when “Christian” was born in Lynnwood Washington in July of 2000, I just rolled with it and now everyone I know who I’ve met the past 15 years knows me as Christian. Of course, when I go back home to NJ for vacations, weddings, or most recently when I had a court date, (and no I will not elaborate on that) all my friends still call me Chris. But that’s fine. It’s not like I don’t answer to it and besides, that’s how they remember me. What am I going to do, force someone to call me Christian who has only known me by Chris for the past 24 years? Gotta pick your battles in life, and that’s just one that isn’t worth it.

Meanwhile, CJ and Shauna had said their lovely vows to each other and were announced as husband and wife. Every one in the wedding party processed down the aisle and into the back where I assume they all were forced to go to take a multitude of pictures, while the rest of us guests were ushered to the other side of the reception hall for cocktail hour. I chose to “take it easy” that night and just drink wine. I wasn’t really feeling the traditional dirty Ketel martini, so I got Tasha and I two glasses of chardonnay and we sat by ourselves at a table and looked around at all the people we didn’t know and in an observatory way, pretty much just started talking about them.

There were these two guys who seemed out of place at the wedding. (or right at home depending on how you look at it.) It was weird because they were dressed EXACTLY alike, as if they coordinated together before they came. Their outfits consisted of tucked in pastel colored button down shirts, white pants with black belts and flip-flops. Fucking flip-flops?!?!

Can I just go off on flip-flops for a second? Why do men INSIST on “dumbing down” their outfits by wearing a horrid, pathetic excuse for shoes? First of all, it’s not safe to have absolutely no cover over your feet at a wedding just in case someone drops a glass, or a beer bottle breaks near you. Second of all, it doesn’t make sense to pair a $60 Calvin Klein shirt and a $85 pair of Tommy Bahama pants with a $5 pair of flip flops. Third and most importantly, NO ONE WANTS TO SEE YOUR UGLY FUCKING FEET!!!!

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I hate feet, but I tolerate them. Women wearing stylish sandals to a wedding is one thing. Dudes wearing cheap Old Navy flip-flops with their unkempt toenails and gross feet sticking out is enough to make me vomit. It totally takes me out of the moment of life, and BY THE WAY, wearing a $3000 watch like this dude did in that picture DOES NOT make up for the fact that you put absolutely no thought into your shoes! Oh, but you think they’re comfortable? Ha! Tell me how comfortable it is in ten years when you’re at your podiatrist wondering why your feet hurt and he tells you that you have to get an operation because you’ve basically been walking around barefoot with no arch support for half your life. Look dudes ages 25-45 who should know better…the only place you should wear flip-flops is at the beach, or at a pool, and guess what? We’re not at either one of those venues right now. Put on some god damn shoes.

I was able to ignore the Jimmy Buffet twins for a few minutes and mentioned to Tasha that I was really really hungry and we should focus on the important part of cocktail hour, the food. Speaking of which, where was the food? Twice I think I saw a server or two walk by with some mini crab cakes and chicken satay sticks, but there wasn’t an area where food was openly laid out for guest consumption. I was starving, and Tasha was starving and this second glass of wine was hitting our empty stomachs pretty hard and I just kept wondering, with all these guests and golf carts riding around in the background, where’s all the fucking food? Pretty soon, it was time for the announcement of the new Bride and Groom. We found our place card, and went inside, stomachs empty to cheer and greet the new couple.

And now, Mr. & Mrs. Christopher XXXXXXXXX!” The Emcee cheered into the microphone

As CJ and Shauna made their way onto the dance floor, everyone was clapping and hooting and hollering. The announcement of the wedding party and the Bride and the Groom reminds me of a pep rally from high school. You know, when you’re all assembled in the gymnasium and it’s homecoming week and the football team is announced and all the cheerleaders are like “BE-AGGRESSIVE! BE-E-AGGRESSIVE!” It’s kind of fun, and cool, but what I was really looking forward to was the part of the night where we could order our meal and eat. Did I mention I was starving?

Our menus were in front of us and we had three choices. Chicken, Fish, or the “Surf & Turf” Oooh, that last one sounded awesome so of course both Tasha and I opted for the latter with a salad. As I reached for one of the 6 rolls on the table of 8 guests, I noticed the other couples looking at us a little strangely.

“You guys aren’t from around here, huh?” The one dude said with a smile.

Not from around here? I mean, technically he is right considering we were from about forty-five minutes north of “here,” but it’s not like we’re in the Old West in the late 1800’s dressed in a life preserver like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, while everyone else is dressed like they just stepped out of a Clint Eastwood film. However, Tasha and I have a natural way of standing out in a crowd so I could understand the reasoning behind what he meant.

“We’re from Hollywood.” Tasha said.

“I knew it!” You guys look like you should be on TV. Or brother and sister. Hahahaha” He laughed

Great, the brother and sister comment. Is that supposed to funny, or is that supposed to be a lame attempt at an incest joke? It’s kind of weird to hear that joke when you’re sitting next to someone who really does really kind of look similar to you, but then you remember that you’ve had sex with them so the whole idea of the sibling angle kind of creeps you out.

“Not related but we’ve been on TV for a minute.” I said.

“Yup.” The gentleman exclaimed. “How do you know Chris?”

Who’s Chris? (Oh right, CJ) Here’s where I had to edit part of my back story with CJ because I didn’t want to come out and say oh I know Chris from his party days in L.A. cause I knew there would be more questions as this guy and his wife seemed to be infatuated with drilling me and Tasha all night. Not in a bad way, but in that way where you feel like these people will talk to you all night, and then recall to their friends later about that time they went to a friend’s wedding and sat at a table with these two Hollywood types that they could have sworn were related somehow. He was a nice guy, but the food couldn’t have come at a better time. The server put my plate down in front of me, and my eyes widened as I looked down at what I thought was going to be a plate with an enormous amount of surf and some well endowed turf on it. Then, reality set in.

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Look, I’m not trying to be a dick because I know that food and drink costs a lot of money at weddings, but let’s be honest…. that is NOT a lot of food at all. There’s three thinly sliced shrimp, two “knuckles” of steak, and some asparagus stalks held together by a circle of cucumber. The flowers were a nice touch, but news flash: I can’t eat flowers. I smiled at Tasha as her plate was delivered and with my teeth clenched I leaned over to her and asked

“Is this it?”

I think so.” She replied.

So with that, we dug into our “California sized” meal and I finished the whole plate in under five minutes. It was really good…for an appetizer.

“Can I order another one of these?” I asked the server.

“Sorry, we only have enough food for as many guests as there are.” she replied.

I was kind of half kidding, but that didn’t stop our new friend across the table from offering up his plate to me. I smiled, and then declined. Yes, I was still hungry, but I have a policy of not eating food from someone else’s plate unless I have known them for a long time or if it’s football Sunday at the bar and I claim the “community side” rule which is when one of my friends orders a sandwich or breakfast burrito and I believe it necessary to steal a handful of tater tots or french fries.

As the light from outside started to dim, and the cake came out, I watched my friend Chris…I mean “CJ” get his face stuffed with a handful of icing, while standing there with his new wife and son. It made me really glad to see him so elated on his special day, because I remember all the years when we worked together that I could tell he wasn’t very happy. I had to reflect on the moment for a minute because when I knew CJ, he was single, and living the party boy life in Hollywood, and even though he acted like everything was cool, I could tell back then that perhaps I was seeing him at the loneliest point.  He hated his job, and he had a few girlfriends here and there, but none of them were anything of a high quality woman that ever swept him off his feet.

It wasn’t until he left the Wiltern, moved back down to Orange County, got his shit together, and somehow was lucky enough to meet Shauna at a boutique store while he was shopping for a present for his mom’s birthday that it all clicked for him. Sometimes that’s how it happens. I remember seeing him a few months after he told me he was getting engaged and how he was really positive about these changes he had made in the past few years, and how stress-free his life had become and I found it really interesting that his hair grew back after he had lost most of it while working up in L.A. Stress is a really strange and odd animal that can alter and overtake parts of our body without us even knowing it. It made me happy to see him happy. When it comes to friendships, isn’t happiness all we really want for each other?

As Tasha and I sat in my car in the parking lot of a Carl’s Jr. off the 5 freeway eating a burger and french fries, we talked about the wedding and how for the first time, we were the odd couple. I remarked at how gorgeous the ceremony was, even if I didn’t understand certain parts of it. Then Tasha got really quiet and I could sense something was wrong. The two of us had been working together on a new web series the last few months, with our end goal to eventually make it into a Television show, and things were starting to make sense, and we both believed that this idea was going to be our ticket out of stress and poverty, and into the world of legitimate career success and financial freedom, but we weren’t really close to that just yet.

“I’m not going to be able to make my rent payment next month.” She said to me with despair.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I can’t afford my apartment, my bills are piling up, and I can’t write anything new because I’m stressed about money.” She stated.

I may not have said it before to her, but I knew all too well exactly what she was going through.

Yeah, me neither.” I said as I took a sip from my diet coke and then squirted some more ketchup on my fries.

“What are we going to do?” She asked.

And that’s when it hit me. There was only one thing we could do to combat this current state of affairs and it involved putting an end to our financial woes by cutting the knot on the noose that is closest to our necks. The only thing that made sense that would at least absolve us both from having to worry about money for a short time was if we pooled our resources, left our pride and privacy behind, and Tasha moved her  queen sized bed and all of her belongings into my one bedroom apartment so the two of us could split all the bills and at least give ourselves a fighting chance to breathe for a while while we try to figure out what happens next. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it was the only option that made sense.

“So, when do you want to move in?” I asked her.

Next Wedding May 27th, 2015

Follow on Twitter @CMarc333

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

cjshaunacollage

Rob & Allison

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It was July 23rd 2011, almost two years after Tasha and I would attend another wedding and things were definitely different this time. For starters, we had broken up for good at the end of 2009, and I had moved from my no parking, postage stamp size of a studio apartment in Los Feliz,  to what was a much bigger one bedroom “mansion” in my mind, with two parking spots, a pool, and a closet that takes up one entire wall of the bedroom. Tasha had moved into her own apartment not that far from mine around the corner, across the freeway off of Gordon street & Sunset Blvd. We lived about five blocks from each other, so even though we weren’t a couple and weren’t living together anymore, we were still friends who saw each other on a regular basis and apparently, always went to weddings together.

Look, she’s a great date to these events because she’s cool, she drinks, she dances, and she doesn’t make too much of a fool of herself because that role is usually reserved for me. However, because this was another “work based” wedding and I didn’t want to make an ass of myself in front of anymore people, I was definitely on my best behavior. There was to be no excess alcohol consumption, no pot smoking, no sweaty dancing, and to my knowledge, there were no prescription drugs being consumed that day. Personally, I don’t get the whole prescription drug things anyway, and the LAST place I was going to indulge in any sort of illicit activity was a wedding where many of the guests were people who had the power to hire me in the entertainment industry. Let me explain…..

At this point in my life, I hadn’t had to work a “regular” job for the last two years. I had a few national commercials running that were keeping me in good spirits, and my bank account well above the danger zone. (Thank you Miller Lite) It’s amazing how in the commercial world, you can work one or two days, and somehow make enough money to live off of for the next six or seven months. However, it’s not like everyone at this wedding was doing as well as me. The fact is, most of them were doing A LOT better.

I met Rob and Allison through Tasha, who met them through the cut throat and competitive world of commercial background acting. For those of you who don’t know what “CBA” is, just watch any television commercial and instead of looking at the people in focus, pay attention to the people OUT of focus who you don’t really pay attention to in the first place. Those are commercial background actors, and there are a select handful of people out here that make a very good living off of it. I’m not one of them anymore, but for a short time between the years of 2010 and 2012, I did have some moderate success being booked for work on a few dozen commercial background jobs, which can be extremely lucrative depending on the amount of days you work, the amount of spots that are being filmed, and of course, the amount of hours that you spend on set where you are pretty much not really “working” at all. Sometimes, if you were like me, extremely lucky and in the right place at the right time, you may be able to parlay that $342 background day player rate you get for walking back and forth on the streets of DTLA for three hours (and spending the other 5 hours reading, sitting or grazing from the craft service table) into an on camera principle role, otherwise known as an “OCP,” otherwise known as an upgrade, or in layman’s terms, the people in commercials who say things, are in focus, and make a lot more money.

The qualifications for this job are pretty simple. You need to be in the union, somewhat good looking or “charactery”, always on time, dependable, and of course a HUGE kisser of people’s asses who book the talent for the commercial. It’s all about who you know, who they know, but most importantly, who knows you. I’m not going to go into too much more detail about the backstory, but let’s just say that during Rob and Allison’s wedding, I literally looked around and thought to myself….If I needed to cast a scene at a wedding for an insurance company commercial that took place at a southern California ranch, outside in the middle of July and the specifications for talent were good looking 25-45 year old caucasian and ethnically ambiguous males and females, I would have cast everyone on the guest list at Rob and Allison’s wedding.

This was a quickie wedding for me and Tasha, meaning that we got dressed, drove to the wedding, attended the beautiful ceremony and reception, had a few drinks, some food, danced for an hour or so, and then drove home later that night. There was no staying over in a hotel, no pre-gaming the night before, and no drama ensued that fueled me to write a blog entry about something that “may or may not” have happened which “may or may not” have caused some people who attended the wedding a little discomfort when reading about it six years later (and threatening to sue me over it.) Rob and Ally’s wedding was all business, beautiful people, and love. One might even say that it was the perfect “California wedding.”

What’s a California wedding you ask? Well for one thing, they are always held outside because the weather here is gorgeous. The guests are usually in the entertainment industry, or work relatively close to the industry and there are some light “healthy” appetizers served with some local wine and beer before the dinner. Speaking of the dinner, when it comes to that point in the night you either have a “buffet style” spread with a few choice meats and vegetables and salads, or you get a menu with your choice of multiple proteins, soup and salad, then finally a light yogurt or fruit based dessert. There are not a lot of potatoes or cheese related items and one more thing…. ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING BREAD!!! None.  Why would you want carbohydrates at your California wedding? Carbs are NOT cool out here. Personally, I disagree because I LOVE carbohydrates, so when and if I get married, you better believe there will be bowls of Goldfish crackers all over the venue, and different types of garlic, focaccia, and pumpernickel bread with multiple french rolls on the tables next to a plate full of salted pads of real butter. I’m from the East coast so I’m going to get my guests fat, and give them something to soak up the alcohol.

Regardless, Rob and Allison had the perfect wedding. Weather? Perfect. Wine? Perfect. Ratio of attractive men to attractive women? Perfect. Even the sunset which I KNOW they couldn’t have planned out, was fucking perfect. They were even fortunate enough to have won a wedding package by Choura Events that year, a very highly regarded event planning company in SoCal so you know, everything turned out perfect.

Even though the traffic in L.A. sucks on a Saturday (and every day before and after Saturday) Tasha and I arrived somewhat on time and said hello to some of the guests we knew, before quickly grabbing two seats in a row with the least amount of sun blazing in our faces. It was really hot that afternoon, and for some reason, Tasha and I both chose to leave our sunglasses in the car which was about 200 yards away from where the wedding was happening. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to go back and grab them before the wedding started, so while we sat in the gorgeously decorated backyard park at the at the Grapevine Arbor in San Gabriel, and watched two of our friends who were definitely meant to be together forever exchange their vows and enter into holy matrimony, we had to simultaneously shield our faces with from the UV rays of the sun using our wedding programs. Luckily, by the time the newly betrothed couple said “I do” the sun had moved behind the largest tree and the stone wall which secluded the wedding guests, and shielded us from any more exposure to excessive and unnecessary vitamin D.

After we watched two of the most good looking people I’ve ever met get married, I headed straight to the bar for two glasses of wine for me and Tasha. It was then that someone snapped the legendary picture above of the two of us, where Tasha looks beautiful in her yellow spring dress, and I look dapper in my blue button down, black vest, and the tie that I got earlier that morning at the Ross around the corner from my apartment which coincidentally matched Tasha’s outfit. It’s not the first time she showed up at my house wearing similar colors as I was wearing, and it wasn’t like we coordinated our outfits the night before. But I guess when you know someone long enough you start to have similar thoughts, likes, and matching choices of wardrobe. It wouldn’t be the last time that this happened either. In fact, it happened just last week.

I was so glad that I got my wine first because after about three minutes of sampling some appetizers, I saw that the line to the bar, (yes, just one bar) was about 45 people long. Then I noticed something completely out of place at this wedding. On the table of apps next to all the healthy choices was a salami and cheese plate, and a basket overflowing with an assortment of crackers and breads. Holy shit, this is what I had been waiting for.

Christian! Don’t fill up on cheese and bread.” Tasha said to me.

I guess to some extent, she was right. I didn’t want to gorge myself on delectable, silky smooth cheeses and crispy stoned wheat crackers when there was a buffet lurking in the distance. I could see them setting it up, but I was unaware of what exactly was going to be on the menu. In fact, no one knew. This was one the first weddings I went to where I didn’t have first hand knowledge ahead of time of what I was going to be eating for dinner, and believe it or not, I was ok with that. Seeing as how everything else at Rob and Ally’s wedding was planned out and perfect, I appreciated this one subtle element of surprise. It was also a surprise that I was slowly and carefully sipping my chardonnay during cocktail hour. This was a new concept to me, that concept being to have the ability to pace myself and not totally over do it with the ingestion of free alcoholic spirits and appetizers. Also, I never really liked drinking white wine until this wedding. There was something crisp and refreshing about drinking an ice cold glass of fermented white grape juice in the middle of the San Gabriel Valley on a very beautiful and warm day in July. Currently it is gloomy and cold in Los Angeles as I write this, but I get the feeling that I would still somehow benefit from a cold glass of wine right now. I’ll be right back….

Before cocktail hour ended and we were seated at our respective tables, I snapped a few pictures with the lovely ladies and gentleman I was conversing with. Looking back at these pictures, I could tell it was a little warm that afternoon because in some of them it is clear to me, and no surprise to my readers that I was sweating a little bit. The chard was helping to cool me off, but alas, nothing was going to help me look good while I was wearing that terrible mop-top style of hair I had chosen during that time in my life. Sometimes, I look back at old pictures and I wonder to myself, “What the hell was I thinking?” I mean, I love the outfit I chose, the tie, the vest, and the shirt, but what was going on with my hair? Sadly, as you will find out in a future post it wouldn’t be the last time I wore bangs and had a horrible hairdo at a wedding.

Next up on Rob and Ally’s wedding docket was the grabbing of the place card and then proceeding to said table with your date. I haven’t touched on this part of any wedding before, so let me just chime in here for a minute. I know the soon to be Bride and Groom decide who sits where and who sits with who at dinner, however I recently found out through my friends Parr and Nicola who just got married last year, about the horror stories of having to spend hours upon hours trying to place the right people at the right table together.

For instance, you don’t want to sit “Billy” at the same table as “Danny” if Billy used to date Danny’s wife before Danny and his wife got married. You also don’t want to seat “Sharon” next to “Michelle” if Michelle and Sharon used to be friends but because of some ridiculous disagreement back in 2007 they hate each other now and haven’t talked in 8 years. You can’t have all the cool people at one table, and all the degenerates at another, and you definitely cannot put a bunch of known religious God loving Republicans at a table full of atheists and Obama supporters. It just doesn’t work. My heart goes out to the people who are getting married this year who have to deal with this dilemma.

However, nothing like that happened at Rob and Ally’s wedding, or at least not at our table. I went to grab the place card, but it was more like I couldn’t find the place card at first, until Tasha found it, and then we all stood around with our other friends comparing and discussing which table we were at and who we were sitting with, until it was realized that no one we were conversing with at cocktail hour was sitting at our table at all. I guess we were going to have to make new friends.

We were all seated at our corresponding tables waiting to be called to enter the buffet line while the weather was still perfect, the wine was still flowing, and I had been able to dry out a bit from my unlikely bout with excessive perspiration. Tasha and I were at table 16 with our friend Tara and her husband, and a few other people Tasha knew but I didn’t. Kav, our friend from cocktail hour and from working commercials was at table 17, and Amy and Melanie and most other people we knew were seated at other tables in the dining area, in what was an obvious attempt to spread out all the cool people to make sure there were enough to go around.

Ha! I must be at the cool table because I got Chee and David and Fiona sitting with me. Who you got?” Kav said to me from about four feet away.

“I don’t know everyone at my table, but you’re not here so obviously I”M at the cool table.” I said with a smirk.

After a little friendly bickering and arguing, we got in line to get our dinner. This was very reminiscent of when we are all working a commercial and we stand in line in front of the food truck to be fed breakfast at the beginning of the day, and then lunch after six hours of work. Sometimes the job goes long enough to require a “third meal” but they don’t have time to stop to eat and/or the catering trucks are already gone by that point. Here in lies the glory of what we in the commercial acting world call “the meal penalty.” That’s when you get paid “x amount” of dollars the first half hour, which then doubles the next half hour, and stays at that double rate for every thirty minutes until the production breaks for a second lunch, OR you get wrapped from the job. I won’t say how much it is, because you will probably shit yourself with envy, but let’s just say after an hour and a half of meal penalties, you and your loved one could probably go out to dinner at a 3 star restaurant and enjoy two glasses of ”not the house” wine, an appetizer, two mid priced entrees, and split one dessert and still have money left over for a 20% tip.

Yep, sometimes, it’s good to be a member of a union….unless of course you expect that union to actually help you to find work, go after your unpaid residuals, or be able to fight for anything worthy like having both SAG and AFTRA jobs you work count towards your health care qualification and pension fund. However, they’re really good at paying us for not being able to eat.

We entered the buffet tent, and I got to be honest, I found it pretty difficult to actually see what I was spooning onto my plate, but by the time I got into the light and back to my table and ate, I was pretty satisfied. I remember some choice meats, asparagus, rice and couscous, and an assortment of steamed vegetables. I don’t remember any pasta, but I don’t think as an Italian from the east coast I would have indulged in a pasta dish at a wedding taking place on the west coast. Tasha and I talked a little with our table and with other friends who came over to our table, which apparently made our table the “cool table.” If people come to YOUR table at a wedding, then chances are you must be pretty cool.

After dinner, the music came on and I watched Rob and Ally share their first dance together as Bride and Groom. Even though I didn’t know them as well as some people at the wedding, I was smiling and I was happy for them as I was finally able to see for the first time that day how much these two people really loved and cared about each other. To be honest, I probably would have been able to see the love in their eyes during the ceremony if MY eyes weren’t being blasted by an overzealous amount of sunshine earlier in the day. Regardless, Tasha and I enjoyed a short amount of dancing and picture taking with fake glasses, and moustaches, before we partook in the well wishing of the new couple with a champagne toast followed by the eating of cupcakes. Cupcakes are the new thing at weddings, and what a wonderfully smart idea that is. There is nothing like giving your guests the choice to be able to stuff three or more different flavors of baked goodness into your mouth while washing it down with a crisp glass of bubbly.

Rob and Ally took the mic on the dance floor and it was then that I knew it was time for the traditional throwing of the garter and bouquet, which was my cue to get as far away from the dance floor as possible. I made my way back to the photo booth, behind all the action of the wedding with a few other people who had the same idea, and who ended up bumming cigarettes off me the rest of the night. I wasn’t dating Tasha anymore and I don’t think either one of us needed the added stress of yet another wedding tradition being forced upon us that night, especially since everyone at this wedding probably thought that we were still an item. So we passed on the future marriage premonition, and headed back to the dessert table to eat about three more cupcakes each. What? They were really good cupcakes.

As the sun started to set on Rob and Ally’s big day, Tasha and I wished the new couple well, said goodbye to our friends and walked to parking lot to go home. We took off the targa top from her Honda Del Sol, and drove back to Hollywood with the warm summer wind blowing in our hair. The wedding was perfect. It was a gorgeous night full of beautiful people and delicious food and drink, and we had the foresight to behave ourselves just enough so that we could avoid any drama and controversy and were able to get home from San Gabriel without getting a DUI.

As we headed back home I found myself talking with Tasha about the state of affairs in our lives. We talked about how pretty Ally looked in her dress and how things were going well for all of us. We talked about how we may not have had someone special in our lives like Ally had Rob, and Rob had Ally, but at least we had each other. We had enough work coming in and enough money in the bank, and we were looking forward to our week long road trip to Vegas, Utah, and Arizona coming up in the next few weeks.

Honestly, we couldn’t really complain. But as the roller coaster ride of life in Los Angeles would have it, things wouldn’t be on the up and up for very long. Things were about to go back to a time and place that we never thought we would have to re-visit. Things were about to get too close for comfort. Truth is, things were about to get weird.

Next Wedding May 20th, 2015

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All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

roballycollage

Heather & Shaw

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Less than two months removed from Chad and Mary’s wedding, Tasha and I had another union of two beloved souls to attend. My friends and co-workers Heather and Shaw were getting married in Ojai, California. The story of how they met could and should be the premise to a romantic workplace comedy. Heather and Shaw had worked side by side together at the same restaurant as me for the past 6 years. We were all bartenders at the Grill on Hollywood, and some time around the moment I met her, Heather swore to me and to everyone else who would listen that she was going to marry Shaw and have his baby.  And sure enough, after both of them had broken up with their respective exes, and dated for a couple of years, it was announced that they were going to get married and start a life together, one which everyone knew would eventually happen. They truly were a Hollywood story and I’ve got to give it to Heather, I admired her determination in pursuing Shaw, and in some ways it was inspiring to me that two people could get through the years when things weren’t perfect, the sometimes dramatic state of working together, and their past exes that almost stood in the way of their happiness. But when you love someone, none of that really matters. Love will always find a way, and it did on October 10, 2009.

Tasha and I were invited to both the rehearsal dinner AND the wedding, even though neither one of us was actually IN the wedding party. Lucky us, right? So on a Friday afternoon, we drove up to Ventura, dropped our stuff off at one of Tasha’s friends’ house where we were staying, and got dressed for the dinner. For some ungodly reason I had only brought two button down shirts for the weekend. One was a powder blue dress shirt that I was planning on wearing to the wedding because it matched my suit and tie, the other shirt was this fire engine red form fitting piece from Express I had bought way back in 2004 when I think the store was still called “Structure.” Tasha took one look at it and exclaimed with skepticism…

“Are you really going to wear THAT shirt?”

What choice did I have? I had only packed one other shirt, and I couldn’t wear it two days in a row cause that would just look stupid, like I wasn’t classy enough to own TWO different dress shirts. So, I regrettably buttoned up my stop sign colored shirt and we headed out to Suzanne’s Cuisine for the rehearsal dinner. I was really excited to go to the wedding, but also excited because I had just gotten my first medicinal marijuana card, and I was prepared with two joints to smoke out my friend Rus and whomever else would like to partake in such a pre-wedding ritual. However, I probably should have known by now that me + pot + weddings are just never a good mix. Somehow, in the most entertaining way for the other guests at the wedding, this prophecy would eventually come true later that night. But before all that happened, we would arrive slightly earlier to the restaurant than we needed to, even before the Bride, Groom, and the wedding party would get there. I love being early, but I wouldn’t say that “being early” was a theme that would continue for the rest of the weekend, but we’ll get into that later.

Tasha and I had been to a couple weddings together already if you include the time where we met and subsequently where my ass almost got kicked for dancing with her. It was that night when Shaw gave me the greatest advice in the world to pursue Tasha, and I was totally grateful for that advice, regardless of the fact that we were currently kind of not really a couple anymore, but still living together like white trash whores. I mean, she is a great person first and foremost, and the perfect date to bring to weddings. It’s just that we couldn’t seem to figure out this “relationship” part of our scenario. However, that didn’t matter that much as we were here to enjoy the company of others, and witness the union of Shaw and Heather, two people who I always knew were meant to be together.

Heather and Shaw opted for the open bar the night BEFORE the wedding, meaning tomorrow would be a beer and wine festival. I got myself and Tasha a drink and then we all sat down at our assigned tables to have dinner. I was seated at a table with a few friends I used to work with at The Grill, including my old GM, Dmitri. Dmitri and I had one of the strangest relationships ever. He was just one year older than me, but it felt like a decade was between us. He was very strict and methodical in his style, and of course a big Tiger Woods fan, who everyone knows is the whitest black guy in sports. He even teared up a bit nine years ago when it was announced that Tiger’s Dad passed away. Also, that last fact may or may not have been embellished for effect. I do remember that Dmitri was a great manager first and foremost, and he expected the best from people and commanded respect, but at the same time, he was kind of a dick to me sometimes and it was extremely tough on my ego when I worked there. Albeit, I was the sometimes insubordinate, loose cannon of the bartenders back then, and since Dmitri loved to micro manage everyone at The Grill, it was no surprise that I was one of his favorite employees to intimidate on a daily basis.

Luckily, I didn’t work there anymore, and neither did he. Unluckily, he was seated two spots down from me at the dinner table, so when he saw his place card and Tasha, my date sitting next to me, he immediately struck up a conversation which may or may not have been pretty passive aggressive. I came to expect getting my balls busted from Dmitri on a regular basis, and to some extent, he was very well behaved that night, and I think just a little inquisitive as to how I could get such a pretty lady to date me for almost two years. We told him the story of how Tasha and I met, which included highlights from Christine and Joey’s wedding, whom speaking of were sitting just a couple tables away. To his credit, Dmitri behaved himself pretty well that night, and we all did end up having a nice conversation that eventually gravitated towards the exotic choice of the “stop sign red” colored button down shirt I had chosen to wear. No one else was in bright colors, probably because they all had the sense to wear black or pastels to a rehearsal dinner, unlike me. At one point, it seemed like Tasha and Dmitri were all buddy buddy and had teamed up to mock my outfit that night, but I got Tasha back.

After I had finished my steak, and before the dishes had been cleared, I noticed one small piece of meat left on Tasha’s plate that had gone uneaten. Tasha was engaged in conversation with someone else at the table at this point, so I decided that it was such a shame to waste a gorgeous piece of filet like that, so I gave it a new home when she wasn’t looking, in my mouth. About ten seconds later, Tasha turned around and looked at her plate, which was now empty and then turned to me and said.

“Did you just eat my last piece of steak?”

With my mouth full and still chewing, I gave the only response that could justify the robbery I had pulled off. In a matter-of-fact tone I simply stated to her.

“It was filet mignon. Can’t waste it.”

“I know. I was planning on eating it myself, jerk.” She said.

And with that, our plates were finally cleared and the entertainment for the night began with a few nice speeches, and a healthy dose of Heather’s favorite pastime, karaoke. I met up with Rus out in the parking lot who was a good friend of mine, also a  Philadelphia Eagles fan, and from the same town in NJ as me, although we didn’t meet each other until we were introduced through his soon to be wife Dara who also worked at The Grill. Rus loved pot so he and I sparked a joint near my car right before I saw someone approaching us and I started to panic. Not “panic attack” panic, just regular panic that flows through my mind and body when I feel like something I’m doing may be inappropriate in some way. I mean, I didn’t work at the Grill anymore, but Rus still did, and I didn’t know if I should hide the joint, or offer it to this person who did work there and may or may not have been higher up on the totem pole than Rus and I ever were.

“Hey.” this person said.

“What’s up?” I asked.

Can I get a hit off that?”  

And with that, I partook in toking up with a good friend of mine, and my old co-worker, BEFORE I decided to sign up to sing karaoke in front of everyone I knew and had worked with the past 5 years. What could possibly go wrong, right?

I came back in the restaurant, and flipped through the song book. There were a lot of songs I didn’t know how to sing, so I wanted to choose a song that I knew the words to, was special and meant something to me, and one that I could dedicate to Tasha so if everything else failed, at least I had good intentions from the start. I stopped flipping through the book around the letter C, and picked the song “Round Here” by Counting Crows. I know most people don’t necessarily like Counting Crows, but fuck them, I LOVE that band. I have almost every single album, and on a more personal note, the band holds a special place in my heart as tracks 1-7 on their fist album “August and Everything After” were playing in the background way back in 1993 when I lost my virginity. That’s about a half hour-forty five minutes of music, so yeah, I lasted that long my first time.

Heather was currently belting out what I think was a Britney Spears song, and I was up next so I made my way to the bathroom to splash some water on my face and gain some confidence. I had NEVER sang karaoke before that night, and I still get kind of self conscious about doing things like this even though I had THC/ alcohol courage in me. My heart was beating a mile a minute because I was really nervous about embarrassing myself in front of most of my friends and all of their family. As I looked at my flushed complexion in the mirror, which ironically matched the shirt I wore that night, I knew I either had to go out there and totally nail the song vocally, or just completely go for it and commit myself to the song, regardless of what I was hearing in the monitor. Being as how I had not sang in front of an audience for over 10 years, and I had never sang karaoke before in my life, let alone in front of a room of people I knew, I chose the latter.

My performance that night was legendary. Not so much because of the stellar vocals or the fact that I stayed on key when singing the song, because neither of those things happened. Let’s just say, I put forth the effort, but I was definitely not making it to the next round of American Idol. What did happen though is that per my plan, I totally “devoted” myself to the song, and belted out one of the most memorable three minutes and thirty-nine seconds of the night. I could tell my voice was cracking and straining when I hit the high notes, but by the end I definitely had everyone’s attention, regardless of the fact of whether or not it had to do with how horrendously jarring that rendition of “Round Here” truly was, or the fact that I had the microphone in one hand, and Tasha’s hand in my other during some sort of indie-college rock serenade. Tasha was definitely laughing while everyone else’s jaws were on the floor. Not so much for how great the rendition was, but moreover because of the fact that I sounded like a whaling dead animal being amplified by a microphone while wearing a beet colored shirt.

After my performance, I received a modicum amount of applause, and was approached by my friend Asher who patted me on the back for fully committing while he simultaneously slipping me a dollar bill into my shirt pocket like a stripper. Seeing as how I didn’t want to endure any more embarrassment, or cause any more embarrassment to the soon to be Bride and Groom, about a half hour later we left the party and  Tasha and I headed back to Ventura to Tracy’s house where we were staying for some much needed sleep before the wedding tomorrow.

The next afternoon in the car went something like this.

“I’m sorry.” Tasha said to me for a second time.

I know.” I replied. “It’s ok.”

We were headed to the wedding which was about a half hour drive from Tracy’s house. The wedding started at 1pm according to the invite, and according to the clock in my car it was currently 1:07 and we were going to be late. I hate being late. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, and even though Tasha was apologizing for taking a little too much time to get ready that morning I knew driving on that one lane road at thirty-five miles an hour we were just going to be late to the wedding. There was nothing I could do about it at this point, and what was the use of arguing or getting upset? I just wanted to get there.

As we pulled into the packed parking lot of The First Presbyterian Church of Ojai at around 1:15pm, I didn’t see any wedding guests milling about outside. Not a good sign. My fears had manifested. We were going to walk in looking like assholes while the wedding was already happening, maybe even after Heather and Shaw had walked down the aisle already. I so did not want that to happen, so we got out of the car, locked the doors and ran into the church to find it full of wedding guests sitting in the pews dressed to the nines talking to each other. By some stroke of luck, the ceremony hadn’t started yet. It was either luck or it was the fact that they held up the wedding by fifteen minutes like they hold the doors at a Broadway show or a play in Hollywood. Nothing really starts on time anymore, and I was definitely thankful for that.

We took a seat in a pew in front of Christine and Joey, and about five minutes later, the wedding began. Heather looked amazing as she walked down the aisle  I had never seen her so happy before in all my life. And Shaw looked like an uber stud up there, smiling ear to ear while watching the love of his life walk towards him beautifully decked out in her all white wedding gown. This was one of those moments in life when I knew in my heart how much Heather and Shaw had loved each other from the first moment they met, and how many obstacles they had to overcome before they could get to this point. I was really happy for them, and I may have even gotten a little teary-eyed during the ceremony, especially when Shaw was reciting his vows to Heather and got a little choked up himself. But that just showed me how much they really cared and loved one another.

One of the main reasons I enjoy weddings so much is that it proves to me for a moment in time and hopefully for an eternity that love, no matter how difficult to define is truly real and does exist. I don’t know when or if it will find me again, but I was grateful that I could feel it and see it that afternoon in Ojai at their wedding.

We spent about a half hour after the ceremony taking pictures and talking with the other wedding guests outside the church before we all loaded ourselves onto the complimentary shuttle service that brought us to the reception. The reception was held both indoors and outdoors at the Ranch House. Indoors was reserved for the wedding party, family and close friends, and the rest of us freeloaders were seated outside with a view to the inside where all the important people where congregating. It was beautifully decorated, and every table had a different movie for it’s theme. There was only beer and wine offered at Heather and Shaw’s reception that afternoon, and I have to say I was initially disappointed that I couldn’t get my classic dirty ketel martini that afternoon, but ultimately I understood.

If I haven’t stated this before, weddings are expensive, especially the catering/beverage part. I don’t know how much exactly because I’ve never gotten married, but I would imagine between the endless appetizers, the cases of wine and beer, renting out the location for the rehearsal and the reception, and the cost of dinner for all the guests, it adds up. Not to mention the fact that the married couple is paying for a wedding planner, and paying the salary of every catered employee walking around with mini chicken pot pies and coconut shrimp on a platter. Speaking of food, Shaw and Heather had some deliciously choice appetizers at the reception, but I wasn’t surprised at such a high quality of food from a couple who met at a fine dining restaurant where a perfectly cooked filet goes for $45-$50, and a glass of Pinot Noir will run you about $14.

Now came the time for the wedding party announcements, that point in the night when everybody turns around and watches each bridesmaid and groomsman enter the dining room floor, all leading up to the announcement of Mr. and Mrs. Shaw Jones. As they came through the wooden gate which surrounded the patio of the restaurant, I snapped the perfect photo of the new Bride and Groom, capturing them in a moment in time that I feel needs no words to describe. It’s the one at the top of this entry.

We were all seated at round tables with little tents that had the different movie posters attached to them like I mentioned before. I don’t remember which movie me and Tasha had, but I think it was either “Pretty in Pink”, or “Some Kind of Wonderful”, two classic 80s movies I loved. Me and Tasha and the rest of our table were also really happy that we didn’t get seated at the “Titanic” table tent table for obvious reasons, but then again, that table was inside where the A-listers were. Over at the C-list table was me, Tasha, Jason, who I think spent the night lamenting about his failed relationship with a girl who was coincidentally at the same wedding, OR lamenting about how he wanted to ask out one of the girls who was also at the same wedding. Next to Jason was an empty seat, and next to the empty seat was some rando blonde girl who none of us knew.

Don’t get me wrong, she was really sweet and wore a red flower in her hair, but for some reason made the ominous choice to wear a black dress to the wedding. I mean, if I’m going out to the club (which I do soooo much of) or to a nice dinner, I wear black because it’s cool and slimming, but out of all the events we as humans celebrate, the most joyous and happiest event IS a wedding, which she was currently at, NOT a funeral where black is the norm. Oh well, to each is own. At least she didn’t wear white. That would have been a total fashion faux pas.

For dinner, we had butternut squash soup, which was all the rage back then, and then I think prime rib for the main course which was topped with a peculiar orange sauce that I really enjoyed. After dinner and dessert, which I believe was a mass collection of gourmet cupcakes, of which I had about four of, Shaw and Heather made a truly noble and humbling speech thanking everyone for coming. There was a short time when Tasha and I tried to dance on the smallest dance floor in the history of dance floors, but ultimately, we gave up because it was hot as hell in that room, and we kept getting pushed off the four foot by four foot wooden square and had to dance on the grass in the dark which just wasn’t the same.

As the sun set in Ojai, the rest of the night was pretty mellow. I think after the last two weddings we attended, Tasha and I appreciated the more classic experience of Heather and Shaw’s wedding where at least on OUR end, nothing really crazy happened. No one grabbed anyone’s ass by accident, no one made any ridiculous speech that warranted interruption, and no one almost drove us to an early grave by jumping the curb on the streets of Philadelphia.

What I really appreciated about the weekend was that I saw this whole wedding play out from all the way back in 2004. I knew them both from the start before they were a couple and when we were all working together at The Grill. Then a few years later, I knew them in a different way when they WERE a couple and I returned for a short time to work there again. Then the next time I saw them, they were asking for my address to send me an invitation to their wedding. It’s like I was there through three different stages of their life together, BEFORE they even started their life together. I like that. I like that things may have changed in every stage that I knew them, but regardless, I knew that they were meant to be. Like I said before, this was a romantic comedy in the making, and one with a happy ending like we all want to have in our life.

On the ride back to L.A. that night something was plaguing my brain. I didn’t know where I stood with Tasha. Where was our happy ending? Hell, where was the part of our story where I knew that I would be with her forever? Truth is, I didn’t know that. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the next few months, or how things were going to play out in our “relationship” if you could call it that at this point.  Something had to change, because I swear if one more person at Heather and Shaw’s wedding had told us WE should get married and have babies I was going to rip my hair out. How could we get married when we sometimes couldn’t even be in the same room as each other?

Look, I knew me and Tasha were meant to meet each other. I’ve always known that, but maybe we had a different path to go down. Were we meant to be? Perhaps, but perhaps not in the traditional sense. What if “meant to be” for us doesn’t necessarily mean falling in love, getting married, having babies, and living happily ever after? There is nothing wrong with that scenario, but what if our “meant to be” means something totally different? What if it means something bigger than what we could even comprehend at the time six years ago?  Regardless of all these thoughts in my head that night, we definitely had time to figure it out, as it would be almost two years before Tasha and I went to a another wedding together.

Next Wedding: May 6th, 2015

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All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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