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.

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