Gary & Desiree (Part 1)

garyand des

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

I’m sitting at Gladstone’s in Terminal 3 at LAX. Tasha and I are having our breakfast before noon which consisted of an extra large beer, a double bloody mary, an order of shrimp cocktail, and an iceberg wedge salad. We’re about to get on a plane to fly to Newark, NJ to rent a car so we can drive to Maple Shade, NJ to attend the wedding of Gary and Desiree, the last of my best friends from high school to get married. I guess technically, I’m the last of my best friends to get married, but I have a long way to go considering I’m still single and I love to attend weddings with my ex-girlfriend.

I spot some big black guy behind us who is wearing sunglasses talking on his cell phone, and looking a lot like Suge Knight, if Suge Knight wasn’t rotting in some jail cell in Los Angeles right now.

“That’s not Suge Knight.” Tasha says.

“I know.” I replied

“Looks like a guy I used to date.”  Tasha states

Hmmm…I didn’t know Tasha banged some famous black music producer before we dated.

“He wasn’t that famous.” She says. “What time does our flight leave?”

We finish up our carbohydrate free breakfast and make our way over to the gate to board the plane. I had been looking forward to Gary’s wedding for a few months now. Things in L.A. had been extremely tense lately, and Tasha and I had been taking meeting after meeting with a manager who may want to sign us as writers and make our TV show. He manages two pretty big name clients. One of them is an Oscar winner, and the other one stars in that FOX show Empire. We had just taken a week to rewrite our script to make it more edgy and controversial, and we e-mailed it to him the day before we left.

Writing and re-writing that script almost kills our friendship every time. I don’t know what’s going to happen with it, but I sure hope we can eventually reap the benefits of two and a half years of hard work and sacrifice at some point in our professional lives. Anyway, back to the story…

I had booked the flight with my Virgin America Visa card, mainly because I get points, the credit card is cool looking, and it came with a free companion ticket (to use at a later time and not THIS particular trip, of course)

Now, I particularly enjoy flying Virgin because they have TVs in the seat backs and you can basically sit there and watch movies, shows, or whatever for the duration of the 5 and half hour flight to the east coast. I’ve never flown into Newark before. Normally I’d fly into Philly since it’s closer, but thanks to some plane issue, Virgin had to take away that city as a hub, so here we are about to get on the plane to fly into North Jersey when an announcement comes over the loudspeaker.

“We would like to invite our passengers who need assistance and those flying with children to board the flight.”

Why do they get to go first? I understand the people in wheel chairs who need help, but kids? They’re smaller than regular people and shouldn’t have any issues getting into a plane. Now if it’s a newborn, I guess that would require extra time and attention. As I see a newborn board the plane, I immediately hope that baby doesn’t sit near me.

“We would now like to invite our first class passengers to board the flight.”

Great, Richie Riches get to board the flight before the rest of us laymen. We’re in row 13, so at this point we probably won’t be able to board for another ten minutes. I hate boarding the plane with a bunch of other people. They’re usually slow and have a lot of carry-on baggage that they can’t seem to make fit into the overhead compartment. At this point I’m cursing the boarding process when I hear another announcement.

“At this point we would like to invite our Virgin America Visa card holders to board the flight.”

Holy shit, this card DOES have perks! I didn’t know we get to board the flight before anybody else. Suddenly I feel special and important like business class or that baby who boarded before us. We get up, I pull the card out of my pocket and with a big smile on my face, I flash it to the ticket taker as the rest of the people in line to board who don’t have Virgin America Visa cards look at us with airline contempt.

We board the plane with ease, and settle into our six hour flight back East, then I hear incessant crying. Of course, the newborn is sitting right behind us. Time to put on the headphones and order a drink.

I got drunk on the plane ride there. We were somewhere over Colorado when I started to feel the effects of a double bloody mary and two double vodka and diet cokes on the flight. It’s a funny feeling to be drunk at 30,000 feet and not realize how drunk you are until you stand up to go to the bathroom over the Rocky Mountains and it’s even funnier when you look over at your friend sitting next to you who just spilled beer on her cleavage.

“Nice one, drunkie.” I say to Tasha.

Remembering that I eventually have to pick up my rental car at the airport and drive one hour to south Jersey, I stop drinking, go back to watching my shows and maybe even fall asleep for a few minutes.

At 8:35pm, we land in Newark Liberty International. At the same time, the landing appears to have been too much for the baby sitting behind us because it started to smell real quickly  like a dirty diaper in the cabin. After the ten minutes it takes for the other 12 rows to get their luggage together, we finally exit the plane and head to the baggage claim.

We grab our luggage, take the tram to the rental car station and I go to claim my car. When I went to make the reservation two months ago, every car I chose was close to $600 for the week, except for one. Seeing that I was taking a trip to New Jersey in July, and that I don’t mind saving some money, I decided to opt for the only car that was simultaneously less expensive, and fit the profile of someone like me driving in New Jersey in mid summer.

“Your car is located in space 42.” says the rental car guy.

And with that, Tasha and I exit the rental car place, and get into our silver 2014 Mustang convertible, and drive the 45 minutes south on the New Jersey Turnpike to exit 4.

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There are still these things called toll roads in New Jersey, so when we exit the turnpike, I have to check the ticket to see how much money this short drive costs me. Only problem is, the only two lanes open are for those who have EZ-Pass which allows you to breeze through the exits and they bill you later. I don’t know which one to go to, so I drive up to the only window that has a human being inside of it. There to meet me is a big black woman named Gertrude who I hope will take my money and then send us on our way.

“Hi, where do I pay this toll?”  I ask Gertrude as I hand her my ticket and a ten dollar bill.

She looks at my car, then she says to me in an East coast tone that totally reminds me that I’m back in Jersey.

“Baby, you got EZ-Pass!”

“I do? Sweet!” I reply.

We drive off into the night towards the Hotel ML which will now be our home for the next four days.

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Tasha and I woke up at like 6am. There is no way to get used to the jet lag that you suffer when flying from the west coast to the east coast, and there is almost no way to combat the constipation that comes with flying on an airplane for six hours either. I was suffering from both, but we somehow made our way to the gym and then headed to Macy’s to pick up a little wedding outfit.

The Moorestown Mall Macy’s sucked. I couldn’t find a shirt I liked, so to kill a little more time before we met Parr for lunch, we headed to the Cherry Hill Macy’s where I found what I was looking for in ten minutes. It took Tasha an extraordinary amount of time to pick out a dress, so we were a little late when we left the second Macy’s and headed to Honeygrow.

Parr meets us at the door and we all go in and order our salads. Honeygrow is like that place Saladworks, but on steroids. You stand in front of computer and pretty much create your own salad with whatever many vegetables, cheeses, or meats you want. I figured we’d start the trip out with healthy options because if I know my friends, the next three days will be good times, shit talking and overindulging in gratuitous amounts of food and alcohol.

We’re eating our lunch and catching up with each other. We talk about Nicola being preggers, P-Nut complaining about Tom Brady and “Deflategate,” and Gary having a son which I didn’t realize he had until just a few months ago. I remember this story that happened in Vegas last year at Parr’s bachelor party, so I begin to tell it to Tasha who was definitely not in Vegas at the time that it happened. I didn’t get more than ten words into it when she gets up from the table and goes to get a drink refill.

“Where is she going?” I asked Parr.

“Hey, I’m in the middle of telling you a story.” I said to Tasha who was five feet away.

“Oh, I thought you were telling Parr.” She replied.

I think the plane ride might have affected Tasha’s brain. Did she not remember a minute ago when I started the story with “So this one time at Parr’s bachelor party weekend in Vegas…

“Why would I need to tell Parr, he was there when it happened!” I say.

We all start cracking up and this lunch is turning out to be a great start to the weekend. Later that night I had a dinner to attend with the boys, and Tasha had a date with Mary and the bride to be, Destiny…I mean Desiree.

Tasha and I head over to my Mom’s place to say hello before “the big rain storm” happens which eventually didn’t happen until much later than expected that night. I pull up in the Mustang and honk my horn and she comes out. She excited to see me, and I’m even more excited to take her for a ride in the convertible.

“I’ve never ridden in a convertible before!” She says.

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My mom is such a cute old lady, and there was something cool about me taking her for her first ride in a rag top. We drive over to Wegman’s in the ‘Stang. My mom is getting a kick out of it and we head into the store so she can get a few things, and I can go over to Dick’s sporting goods and search for Eagles or Flyers gear that I can’t get in Los Angeles. Of course, since neither one of those sports are in season right now, they have nothing except Phillies gear, and they stink so I won’t be purchasing anything at all.

Tasha and I talk with my Mom a bit, and then we head back to the hotel around 3pm to get ready for the night. However, before we go I take Tasha on a driving tour of the places I used to live and work in South Jersey.

First, we stop off at my old apartment near Conestoga road, where I lived when I was 18 and where I got tattooed in my kitchen while my old roommate smoked a lot of pot in the living where he also slept. This was also the site of where I endured my first stalker, a 13 year old Bulgarian girl who lived in the complex and who would randomly knock on my door to hang out. I don’t know how it works in Bulgaria, but an 18 year old hanging out with a 13 year old is kind of weird. I wonder whatever happened to her?

Next, we drive past the T.G.I Friday’s where I used to work until I got fired in 1999, and the AMC theater where I had my first french kiss back in 1991 while I was watching the movie The Naked Gun with Beth Piotrowski. I wonder what ever happened to her.

Finally, we arrive at the featured destination of the afternoon, the Vineyards in Marlton where I lived from 1987 until 1994. I show Tasha the tennis courts where I used to skateboard until I got yelled at by the groundskeeper, and then I show her the window to my old bedroom which was inadvertently broken by a guy named Ian Thompson one morning when he, Parr, Bezanis, and a few other dudes cut school and came over to my place at 9am in the morning. This was back when no one had cell phones so the only way to wake someone up was to throw a rock at their window. In hindsight, I think Ian may have thrown that rock a little too hard. Speaking of Ian, no one knows what ever happened to him.

“And that’s where I lost my virginity.” I say to Tasha as I point to 4 Medoc Court.

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I had some really good times when I lived there. Looking back now, I never really wanted to uproot myself and move to Marlton in the first place, but A. I was only 12 so it wasn’t my decision and B. I’m glad it happened because I met some really great people like Chad and Parr and P-Nut and Gary who I’ve been best friends with for over twenty years. I don’t know if many people can say that about their adolescence, but it’s something I hold in high regard.

Tasha and I then took a walk to the creek behind my old neighborhood and I showed her where me, Chad, Nut, and Ryan Barbarics thought we saw the Jersey Devil in the woods, and where I used to fish for sunnies off the storm drain.

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I love where I grew up.  I wasn’t the smartest kid, the most athletic, or the most successful, but I wouldn’t want to go back and do anything differently. Sure, there were some times when things didn’t really seem to work out, and I wouldn’t want to re-live those experiences, but a part of me knows that I needed to go through them at that time in my life, and I had a great supporting cast to help me through it. Speaking of which, it was now time to head back to the hotel and get ready for the night.

The boys were all meeting at Rodizio grill in Voorhees, and the girls were going out to Distrito in Moorestown, so Tasha and I headed over to Chad and Mary’s so I could drop her off, pick up Chad, and head to dinner.

We pull into Chad and Mary’s driveway with EDM blasting in the background, until I remember we’re in a residential neighborhood and I should probably turn it down. I was back home in March for a court case and I had to spend a weekend here while I got my shit taken care of and I stayed with Chad, Mary, and their two sons Bastian and Asher. Asher is a baby, so he didn’t really remember that I was there before, but Bastian certainly knew I was coming over.

The last time I was here, I got really drunk with Mary one night and kept chasing Bastian around the house trying to pull his pants down. I know it was probably annoying to him, but we used to do the same thing to his Dad back in the day. At one point back in March, Bastian ran up the stairs to avoid my hi-jinks and then shouted down to me.

“Christian, you are so DRUNK!”

This time when I got there, he appeared to have no fear whatsoever as he ran up to me and basically pleaded with me to pants him again. It was then that I realized he was wearing a bunch of pairs of shorts like Martin in that episode of the Simpsons when Bart and Lisa get a pool.

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“Go ahead, do your worst.” He said.

“You’re wearing multiple pairs of pants dude, that’s cheating.” I replied.

Ever try reasoning with a 6 year old? It doesn’t work, however I went to pants him anyway, but he tied those pants really damn tight. There was no way they were coming off. Chad and I said goodbye to Tasha and Mary and we jumped in the ‘Stang and headed out for dinner.

Rodizio Grill is one of those places where you sit down and they come by with all sorts of meats and they give you a red and green button to either say more meat, or please stop feeding us, there is no way I can fit another piece of steak, chicken, or turkey in my belly. I park the car, and then we head inside to the bar to grab a drink.

Dave and Parr meet us there in a few minutes, followed by Steve and then finally, Gary. I immediately notice we are all wearing some version of a button down shirt and jeans, such is life in your late thirtes. Some of us went plaid, some of us went solid. Regardless, I say hello to everyone and after a another drink at the bar which Chad does not partake in being that he is currently on the wagon, we head over to our table for dinner.

Our waitress comes up to us and explains the deal of how it works at Rodizio. She’s pretty cute, but I’m here for the meat. We all order another round of drinks, head to the salad bar for an appetizer, and then the meat carvers start coming out. There’s short rib, filet mignon, turkey wrapped in bacon, pork chop, flat iron steak, chicken breast. The list goes on.

So many meats have come our way in the last thirty minutes that I don’t want it to stop, except when they brought out the chicken hearts. I’m all for trying new things, but I got to be honest, the chicken heart was pretty gross.

“Is the chicken heart going in the blog?” Parr asked me.

“Yeah, the chicken heart is going in the blog.” I reply.

It’s kind of funny when everyone knows I’m going to write a blog about what’s happening in the moment. The prior eight weddings I went to were before I posted the never a groom blog, so no one knew it was going to happen. This time though I was prepared as I took a little book with me to write down some moments that I did not want to forget happened, and one of them was about to happen.

I lost count of how many wines I had that night, but it was like close to four glasses. I guess when you get a little drunk, you start to listen to your friends and you take their silly suggestions seriously.

We turned the wooden button over to the red side so the meat would stop coming out. We were stuffed. The waitress came back over to the table, and it had been suggested I should ask her out. Maybe not even suggested, I think it’s just kind of a running joke thing that guys say to each other. She WAS really cute though but she’s a server at Rodizio grill in Voorhees, New Jersey, and I live in in L.A. This probably isn’t going to get very far.

“Do you guys want some dessert?” The waitress asks us.

“We’ll take a look at the menu.” Chad says.

“Great. I’ll be right back.” She says and then leaves the table.

“Dude, get her number.” Parr says to me.

Now, I know it’s all in good fun, and I know that I’ll probably never see her again, but there is a part of me that didn’t care and maybe just wanted the ego boost for one night. Plus, I do things when I’m inebriated that I wouldn’t do when I’m sober. I find out her name was Natasha, and I mention that my we have a friend who’s name is just Tasha, without the “Na.” She seems friendly enough and I thought to myself, maybe I’ll just invite her out to the bar next door that we’re probably going to go to and she’ll have a drink or two with us and it’ll be entertaining. But, maybe she has a boyfriend, or maybe she has a girlfriend? Maybe I’ll make out with her and I won’t ever see her again after tonight. Either way, I man up and I say to Natasha…

“So my friend Gary is getting married in two days and we were going to head over to Iron Hill next door for a drink. You want to meet us after your shift?”

“I love Iron Hill!”  She exclaims. “I know some people who work there. Here take my number.” She says.

I put Natasha’s number into my phone. Then something dawns on me. I wonder how old she is. I mean, she looks young, but people nowadays do look really young and then turn out to be in their mid to late twenties. After all, I certainly don’t look like I’m about to turn forty and I still sometimes get carded for alcohol when I’m clean shaven, but I have to ask just to make sure she’s at least 21 years old because otherwise, I’m going to feel a little weird about the whole situation, like me and the Bulgarian chick from back in the day.

“How old are you?” I ask with the slightest bit of concern.

Wait for it….

“I’m eighteen.” She says while clearing a plate. “I’ll be right back with your check.”

I think there was a few moments of silence at the table after she said that. On one hand, I don’t think she’s going to be able to drink with us. On the other hand, I kind of feel like a stud because I’m 39 and just got a phone number from a bird who wasn’t even alive the year I graduated high school. I guess it’s bitter sweet.  Finally, Steve breaks the silence at the table.

“That’s DEFINITELY going in the blog.”

We head next door to Iron Hill and order a few drinks. P-Nut meets us there, and there’s  this talk between everyone about going to a strip club that night, but Gary really isn’t the strip club type, however after a half hour of drinking whiskey and pontificating about life with the boys, my phone rings.

“Hey, what’s going on?” I ask Tasha.

She goes on to tell me that she just got a call from the manager we had been meeting with the last month and he loved our script and wants to meet with us when we get back to L.A. She also tells me that she didn’t know who it was at first so she hung up on him, then called him back. Then she adds this gem of a statement at the end of the conversation.

“Are you going to meet us at the strip club?”

I guess when your Bride to be gets influenced by drunk Tasha and drunk Mary who have been sucking down many margaritas, you sometimes end up going to a strip club in Philly at 11pm through no fault or plan of your own.

Dave was leaving town, even though we pleaded with him to stay for the wedding. Parr and Steve didn’t go go cause they had work the next day, but you bet me, Chad, Gary and P-Nut were going. After all, the girls were on their way there in an Uber by themselves. We can’t just leave them there at the strip joint in the dim lighting and lack of clothing. I was pretty drunk, but luckily, Chad and P-Nut were both on the wagon so we had two designated drivers. It had rained in the three hours since we went to dinner, but it was clear now, and the top was down on the Mustang as we piled in the car and headed over the bridge to the Penthouse Club.

There’s not much I can say about the strip club, other than it was a pretty basic strip club experience aside from the motorcycle on stage, my jack and diets costing me eight dollars, and I was going to buy Gary a dance, but there is something weird about buying your friend a lap dance when his fiancée is sitting right next to you. Not to mention the ATM fee is twenty freakin’ dollars. I love Gary, but I figure I should put that money into something he and Desiree could both use, like a gift card.

We had a lot of fun that night. Chad and Mary left first, and P-Nut would have to drive me and Tasha back to Jersey shortly thereafter, but not before I illegally snapped a photo of Tasha “paying off” the dancer on stage.

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After the obligatory stop at a Wawa, and dropping off P-Nut, we got back to the hotel sometime after 1am, and fell right asleep.  Tomorrow was the “not rehearsal dinner” and Saturday was the wedding. We needed our rest if we were going to make it through the next few days.

Part 2: Wednesday, September 30th

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