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

This is NOT “Pumpkin Spice” Weather

The last few mornings have started out the same way this week. I wake up on an inflatable mattress in my living room, I look over at the clock and I see that it is barely 9am. Then I roll over on my back and I look up at God and I wonder “at what time in the next few minutes will I start to uncharacteristically sweat today?”

Now I know what you must be thinking. Why Christian, would you be sleeping on a $35 Coleman blow up mattress when you have a perfectly comfortable six hundred dollar Sealy posture pedic queen size bed in your bedroom to sleep on? The answer is simple. There is no air conditioning in my bedroom, and we’re in the middle of a horrendous heat wave in L.A. and there is nothing I can do to change it.

Literally, there is nothing I can do other than set the A/C to 72 during the day, and 76 at night. Now, I know 76 degrees seems pretty comfortable, but when it’s 8:53 in the morning and I’ve made coffee and taken out the trash, and I’ve already started to prematurely drip of perspiration during those short 16 steps to the garbage chute, I’m turning the air conditioner on because it’s only going to get hotter today if it’s almost 80 degrees by 9am.

Time check: 9:13 am, 81 degrees Fahenheit. Yuck.

I figure I’ll head to the grocery store to stock up on some cooling products like watermelon and Gatorade because I know I’m going to need to hydrate and keep myself liqui-fied if I’m going to make it through this awful, awful day.

Now, I’m sure there are some of you who would kill to live in California and perhaps my complaining is falling on deaf ears. I get it. It’s normally really nice here almost every day, but these past few weeks have be excruciatingly difficult to endure. Lets not forget, this part of SoCal is pretty much a desert, followed by 20-25 miles of a tropical oasis called Los Angeles. Then the ocean.

End of Oasis.

So now, my whole schedule has to change just because of the fact that it might reach 100 degrees in “paradise” today.

I can’t walk to the gym because by the time I get there I’m too hot and tired to work out. If I do attempt to push myself during my elliptical training, then I’m faced with the daunting task of walking the mile back home in hotter temperatures than when I started. I don’t sleep very well in this weather, so I’m irritable, tired, and I feel like someone is slowly drying me out from the inside with one of those shammies you use on your car after you wash it. This weather is just sucking all the life-water out of my body.
So I make what I think is a great decision to head to Ralph’s for some liquid contraband, followed by what turns out to be a terrible decision, which is deciding to walk there.

It’s hot. With each step I feel my the muscles in my legs losing irrigation and I wonder if I’ll even make it to the grocery store without shriveling up and dying on the way there. With the sun beating down on my head and my body, I can’t even appreciate the fact that I might be getting a little tan on this walk to the store because I start to realize that the UV rays are so strong today that they may just bypass my epidermis and head straight for my blood stream, boiling it and me over onto Hollywood boulevard.

I see the Ralph’s a couple blocks ahead, and by some grace of God I make it there only to realize this trip is going to cost me an additional ten cents because I didn’t bring my eco-friendly reusable shopping bag. Oh well I think, that dime I found last night on the floor of my apartment will make up for this.

I walk into the store and I am greeted by a waft of cool air to my face, and the sounds of commerce in background soundtracked perfectly by the self checkout lane. I head to the produce section and pick up a personal watermelon which is on sale this week for $2.99 each. I grab one of those, and few bottles of electrolytes, and then I remember that tub of delicious hot salsa I had last week and I think to myself, perhaps I should pick up some dip and chips because maybe the only way to combat the heat outside, is to make my body just as hot inside? Does that even work? I think I’m going to find out.

I head to the self checkout, but before I make it there I see this one item that is just glaring at me from the seasonal aisle. There it is in all it’s mid-to late year glory, making a mockery of everything that has been going on outside in the 100 degrees of hell that I call my life. I can’t even believe that I see those two words on ANY label of ANY product at ANY time in this store. “Pumpkin Spice.”

Pumpkin fucking spice? Are you kidding me? This is NOT pumpkin spice weather outside! I don’t want to see anything relating to the Fall if I could buy an egg, crack it on the blacktop outside in the parking lot, and have breakfast ready for me in 90 seconds. You want me to buy pumpkin spice cupcakes? Give me a fucking break.

I know what happens next. I look around the store and suddenly I see bags of trick or treat candy falling off the shelves, just waiting to melt on the way back to the car. I see bottles of beer with their seasonal orange labels that advertise how they crushed up pumpkin seeds and filtered their hops and barely through them only to make the BEST pumpkin spice beer there is. It’ll all starts hitting me at once.

I’ll get home and I’ll turn on the TV and I’ll start seeing those ads for Halloween Horror nights at Six Flags, and those pop-up costume shops will start appearing in strip malls all over the Southland where old Blockbuster Videos used to be. It’s all so premature but that won’t stop Starbucks from jamming Pumpkin spice lattes down my throat, even though we all know they taste like shit!

It’s pushing 101 outside, yet everywhere I look advertisers are trying to tell me to think that it’s a cool 72 degrees and I should be wearing long-sleeves and getting my non-existent kids ready to go back to school. I’m not buying it. It’s only the beginning of September and there are almost three weeks until the Autumn equinox. It’s still goddamn summer outside and technically inside too, otherwise I wouldn’t need the air conditioning on from 8:45 in the morning to 11:57 at night!

Even though I’m a little bit pissy, slightly uncomfortable, and extremely edgy, I pick up the box of pumpkin spice cupcakes because A. I know they’re probably really good, and B. they are the last box left. I have a decision to make, and I make it in about 18 seconds. I know it doesn’t feel like Fall outside. I know there are no leaves on the ground, nor is there any rain in sight. California has two seasons: Summer, and the other one. That other one could easily mean, rain, snow, sleet, gloom, heat, wind or tranquility, at any time of the year with no rhyme or reason as to WHY. Is this the product of El Nino, or is it the feminine version La Nina? I don’t even fucking know.  What I do know is that I’m about to trick my body into thinking it’s Fall by purchasing my first pumpkin spice product of the year.

Regrettably, I grab the last container of seasonal cupcakes and I head to the self checkout. I purchase a bag for ten cents, and I proceed to buy my share of fruit, Gatorade, and an item that I don’t feel should be on the shelf right now, but I understand marketing and in some ways I’m a slave to it too. They got me.

It may be hot as hell outside, but when I’m eating these cupcakes in my 74 degree living room in a few minutes, I’m just going to take a bite and close my eyes and pretend like it’s cool and crisp outside and I’m back in New Jersey in the 1980s where right around this time every year I was getting ready for school and I would put away my shorts and t-shirts, and replace them with jeans and three quarter sleeve raglands. It’ll be good, I tell myself. It will feel like it’s really Fall, maybe. After all, football starts tonight, and that is one element of Autumn which I wouldn’t mind if it comes any earlier. Go Eagles!

I put my items in my paper bag, put on my sunglasses, and check my phone.

It reads: 99°F,  (feels like 97)

Oh ok. I’ll be fine then because it only “feels like” 97 degrees, and that temperature is so much more cooler than 99. Thank God for sarcasm. It’s the only thing aside from Thursday Night Football and these cupcakes that is going to help me get through this heat wave.

Man, how I miss sleeping in my own bed. Maybe next week.

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Jason & Efia (Part 2)

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Tasha and I woke up the next morning, and it would be an understatement to say we were a little hung over. Still, we made our way to the free coffee and continental breakfast bar and met up with a few of the guests and the wedding party. Most of them were there, except for Nicola who was still nursing her hangover in her hotel room. I grabbed a coffee and went outside to revel in the beautiful weather, and as much as I was looking forward to eating something free, I kind of wanted a breakfast sandwich which was not an option at the hotel so Tasha, Dave and I decided to take a drive into town past the area of last night’s post rehearsal dinner crime scene and onto the outskirts of the FSU campus.

We drove past a place called Zaxby’s which apparently is like the Chi-Fil-A of the south, and arrived at a well known college haunt called “Bagel Bagel.” Pretty much everything is served on a bagel there. They had pizza bagels, lox and bagels, & bacon, ham and turkey bagels.  After I incinerated the roof of my mouth from my breakfast sandwich, we all headed back to the hotel gym where Tasha and I would attempt to sweat out some of the alcohol from the previous night, while Parr and Chad sat in the hot tub enjoying the warm Florida weather in October. Shaun had to go to Jos. A Bank to pick up his tux which hopefully fit well, V.J. was shit out of luck when it came to acquiring a better fitting vest, and I believe Swift found a pair of pants which is evident in the photo below.

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(From L to R: VJ, Swift, Parr, Nut, Chad, Gary, Me, Shaun)

We headed over to the Golden Eagle Country Club and were ushered into a room upstairs. We all sat at a big wooden table as Chad broke out his binder and went over his duties as the minister of ceremonies. This was Chad’s second go around marrying two of his friends, so he was definitely a little more comfortable than P-Nut was, being that A. Chad had been here before, and B. P-Nut hadn’t.  There were some chips and sodas and sandwiches in the room, but no one was really eating nor talking a lot, probably due to the fact that we were all pretty lethargic and still feeling the effects of last night’s boozefest.

I can’t imagine what goes through the mind of someone who is about to get married in an hour.  Perhaps their whole single life flashes before their eyes? Perhaps all the moments leading up to this day come rushing back as they’re overwhelmed with emotion and nervousness, or perhaps they’re just so excited and overjoyed to finally be able to say “I do” to the love of their life in front of all their friends and family that they find it hard to communicate their feelings, or maybe they just want to be still and contemplate the next few hours in the hopes that everything goes right. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to have that moment in my life, but right now the only thing going through my mind was how dehydrated I was, how happy I felt for my friend on his wedding day, and how I wish I had gotten a hair cut before I flew out for the wedding because this mop on my head closely resembled an unkempt piece of shit.

I’ve always had an issue with my hair, that issue being that I spend far too much thinking about it. It’s amazing to me that we put so much emphasis on dead protein filaments growing out of our head, but ever since 3rd grade when I idolized Jon Bon Jovi and used to spend fifteen minutes in the morning sculpting and “mousseing” my hair, I’ve always felt the need to want it to look cool. Was I succeeding in that quest that afternoon when P-Nut and Efia were about to get married? Absolutely not. On the other hand, P-Nut was having no issues what so ever. His hair looked like a dirty blonde mane, perfectly textured and styled to resemble the crest of a wave breaking on the Jersey shore. Mine looked like a dirty pile of hay sitting in a puddle in the streets of Philadelphia after a long rain storm, but as I had to remind myself, it wasn’t about me that day.

The wedding party met up with the wedding planner who went over the procession one more time and made sure that none of us screwed it up but especially, none of the groomsmen. I was the first to proceed down the grassy aisle with bridesmaid number one on my arm, which meant that I would be the groomsman furthest away from the Groom, or according to my theory, the worst friend. Wait, is it possible that this was P-Nut’s way of getting back at me for being a dick to him in high school? I don’t think so, but did he even want me to be in his wedding party at all?  Come to think of it, I don’t remember him even asking me to be a groomsman. I recall a few months back he told me he had something to talk to me about, so when I called him I basically assumed I knew what it was and when he answered the phone I said…

“Hey P-Nut, I would love to be a groomsman at your wedding.”

That statement was immediately met by an awkward silence. I think there was a issue with having an equal amount of bridesmaids to groomsmen, but eventually, it all got sorted out and the six groomsmen and six bridesmaids made their way to the “shore of marriage” before the man and woman of the hour proceeded down the aisle.

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P-Nut in his tux and perfect hair looked pretty good that day, but let’s be honest, Efia looked better. She was decked out in a gorgeous white gown, smiling ear to ear reminiscent of a classic Hollywood beauty as her father walked her down the aisle to meet “Jason” at the alter. I had a thought… What is it like to give your daughter away on her wedding day? I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a daughter, let alone multiple daughters, or what it must be like to go through the process of getting married and having to give these daughters away, but I would imagine by the time you got to that point in your life as a father, you’ve gotten past all that.

The minister of ceremonies, a.k.a. Chad presided over the formal tradition between his best friend and Nut’s beautiful bride to be. As he began to speak and reminded us all of why we were gathered there today, he was being slightly overshadowed by one of the children at the wedding who was not completely behaving themselves, and may or may not have started talking and screaming during the part where everyone was supposed to be contemplative and quiet. Chad continued on, but after a couple more outbursts, P-Nut’s mom took it upon her self to remind her grandson exactly where they were, and what the appropriate behavior was.

“Zip it! We’re in the middle of a beautiful ceremony!” She said.

I looked over to Parr the way Jim from the Office would look into the camera when Dwight said something ridiculous…or at least I tried to look over at Parr, but since I was all the way at the end of the line of groomsman, and he was at the other end, I’m not sure if he saw me. Regardless, Chad continued on with the reading of the vows, and then I started to hear weeping and crying. At first, from my vantage point I thought it was coming from where the guests were seated, like maybe a cousin or a mom was just overwhelmed with joy and couldn’t contain themselves, but then I realized it was coming from the same plane that I was on, a little further down the line right where the Bride and Groom were standing.  Aww, that’s sweet I thought. Efia is getting all teary eyed on her special day. Only thing was, it turned out it wasn’t the Bride who was crying tears of happiness, it was the Groom.

My initial reaction was at some point later during the reception we would all bust on P-Nut for balling like a little girl at his own wedding, cause that’s what guy friends do who have known each other for twenty plus years. I imagine Gary would grab a few napkins and hand them to P-Nut after the ceremony and tell him that “these are just in case you get a little too emotional on your honeymoon,” and we would all have a laugh and no harm would be done. However, in the moment as I watched one of my best friends cry during one of the most vulnerable and happy moments in his life, I got to admit, I was kind of envious.

Look, I’ve definitely gotten emotional and teared up a bit during a touching part of a movie, but I’ve never cried tears of joy. I don’t know what it’s like to be so in love with someone and happy to be with them that in the moment, I’m unable to hold back the water works streaming down my face while I look into the eyes of my soulmate on my wedding day. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve cried before, but not because I was happy, it was because I had lost something, or someone. I cried when Tasha and I broke up all three times, and I cried when our cat Jose died, and most recently, (and I can’t believe I am admitting this in my blog), but this past holiday season when I was sad and depressed for many reasons, I found myself listening to the EDM song “Leave It All Behind” by Dash Berlin.  It was Christmas Eve, I was alone in my apartment, and I was incredibly moved by the lyrics that apparently hit too close to home that I ended up balling my eyes out and breaking down on the floor of my kitchen while the song played in the background. Go ahead, you can laugh. I know it’s pretty funny when someone sheds a tear to “electronic dance music.”

Tears of sadness are a common thing, and there have been many times in my life when I laughed so hard I cried, but I don’t know what it’s like to be so affected by the love I have for someone else that it causes me to shed tears of gratification. I can’t even find the words to describe what was going through my mind that day, but I knew in that moment how much P-Nut really cared and loved Efia, and how for most of my life I’ve been missing that feeling and longing for that connection with someone. Truth is, I never busted his balls for crying at his own wedding. When the ceremony was over and he and Efia were officially husband and wife and everyone was smiling and clapping, the only thing I felt for my friend was a complete and total sense of pride and respect. If I hadn’t said it before, at least he knows how I feel now.

All the groomsmen and bridesmaids were now subject to the part of the wedding where we were secluded like prisoners from the drinks, the apps and everyone else at the wedding to engage in the arduous task of taking pictures.  The groomsmen had to wait while the Bride, Groom and the parents of the Bride and Groom were getting their pictures first, followed by the bridesmaids, then the groomsmen, then finally all of us together. I took it upon myself to grab some beers for us while we sat around and waited for our time to snap a few memorable moments. You can see in the picture below how Gary made use the groomsmen gift we got from P-Nut while we were waiting for the photographer.

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Also below you can see how horrific my hair looked that day.

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After the pictures, we were all announced to the ballroom full of guests by our legal names, except for Parr, aka Joseph T. Carr whose was announced to everyone who could hear the Emcee butcher his name…..

Now, making his way into the ballroom is ‘James’ T Carr.”

Yeah, that was it. Here comes our good ol’ friend “James.” How do you mess that up? Sure, Joseph and James are similar, because they both start with the letter J, but clearly one has an extra syllable plus a different vowel in it. As the kids used to say back in 2012, THAT was an “epic fail.”

After the wedding party was announced and all of our duties were completed, we all found our seats, got settled in, ordered a drink and then hit the buffet. Ahhh, the buffet. I think I went back twice that afternoon for more food. I must have had two helpings of the shrimp and grits because it was excellent, an extra large potion of the lobster mac and cheese, and I’m pretty sure I threw some greens and chicken in there, but it was pretty much all carbs all day for me. There was a lot of southern home-style food at this spread which is what I would expect from a wedding that took place in the panhandle of Florida. The food was great, the drinks were being drank, but I gotta be honest, none of us were really pounding down the alcohol, especially Nicola who was a few seats away from me and Tasha at the table, definitely still hung over and apparently “on water” that afternoon.

That’s me and Tasha speak for not drinking alcohol in case you didn’t know. It came about two months ago when we were at the Golden Nugget in Vegas, and we were pretty buzzed and I noticed these two girls sitting at the bar who could have been hookers, but could have also just been “randos” who were just on the prowl, but they looked suspect to the former. Anyway, I leaned over to Tasha and said to her.

“Watch me freak these girls out.”

Then I told the bartender “we” wanted to buy them a drink. He came back a few minutes later and told us their reply was “Thank you, but no thank you.” Apparently one the girls already had a drink, and the other one was, as he put it, “on water.” Is that anything like “on ecstasy” or “on LSD?”  Tasha and I started cracking up because I’m sure those chicks thought we were making an indecent proposal, but the truth is, we just like to fuck with people we don’t know when we’re drunk. Try it sometime. It’s pretty fun.

Anyway, we were on alcohol, Nicola was on water, and P-Nut and Efia were on the dance floor, while Chad stood in front of them, and asked for us all to quiet down as he raised his glass of champagne and gave a heart warming speech to the newly married couple. You might remember Chad from getting married to Mary in a past blog entry of mine, and you might remember P-Nut from such past speeches as “Diarrhea of the Mouth at Chad’s & Mary’s Wedding.” If you don’t, you can always go back and read “Chad & Mary (Part 2)” to recall some of the things he ineptly said to the Bride, the Groom, and the room full of 200 plus wedding guests that day. In the meantime, here we are three years later and Chad was finally able to give P-Nut a little payback as he toasted his friends, while bringing up the wedding speech within a wedding speech.

At this point, the wedding speech retribution was accomplished, life had come full circle, and it was time for the Bride and Groom to unknowingly predict the next two singles who were to get married. Efia stood in front of a small gaggle of single ladies, and on the count of three, she tossed her bouquet into the air over her shoulder, and into the hands of…. Tasha. That’s right. Tasha caught the bouquet, again. She caught it at CJ & Shauna’s wedding too, but I didn’t remember it happening until she told me two weeks ago after I wrote that entry. So there she was on the sidelines, bouquet in hand as all the gents gathered on the dance floor behind P-Nut and waited for him to wind up and enthusiastically toss the garter over his shoulder, and into a dwindling group of single men including me and three of my single friends. It was pretty much not a contest at all. Gary, Parr and Shaun were standing behind me and to my left, each with drinks in their hands which unequivocally gave me the advantage in catching it, and anchored to my right was an older gentleman in a blue flannel who had either changed clothes, or just wondered into the a wedding reception that day.

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That’s me with the garter in my hand raising it up over my head after catching it like I just won the Stanley Cup, and that’s Parr, Gary, and Shaun, with their drinks in their hand and a look on their faces as if to say, “Of course he caught it” because as it turns out, it landed right in front of my feet on the dance floor. I had to pick it up.  P-Nut isn’t the most athletic guy I know, but also in his defense, a garter don’t make for a very good projectile.

So I caught the garter, and Tasha caught the bouquet for the first time in the five weddings we attended together. I knew this would eventually happen. To be honest, I was happy it was her who I was forced to humiliate myself with in front of all of P-Nut and Efia’s friends and family for next few minutes. In classic wedding tradition, she sat in a chair on the dance floor, and I got down to business. With careful meditation I assessed the situation, took the garter in my teeth and applied said garter to her upper right thigh with precise precision and calculated accuracy. It even might had tickled her a little bit, and it definitely made for a good show.

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After looking at the pictures of the wedding, the reception, and the ones later on in the evening when a teenager named Brandon tried to teach us all how to perfect the “Gangnum Style” dance, it really brought me back to a joyous and wonderful weekend in my life.  Almost three years ago, I had gotten a speeding ticket at the start of the weekend, Tasha and I were flat broke and living together in a one bedroom apartment in L.A., and we didn’t know what raw deal life was going to hand us next, yet we were able to let all of that go for awhile and be a part of the start of Jason and Efia’s new life together.

This wedding was like a milestone in my adult life. I wasn’t the one getting married, or giving a heartfelt humorous speech to my friend on the dance floor. I wasn’t about to go on a honeymoon to Hawaii, nor was I making the last payment on a diamond ring I bought almost two years ago. However, I felt like I had grown up a bit that weekend as I watched yet another one of my best friends from high school start a new chapter in a novel new life with someone they love. Love is the only word I know where I can use all the other words in the English language to try and describe it, but it still can never be truly defined.

I may not be able to fully comprehend P-Nut & Efia’s love for one another, but they caused me see love in a different way, a way that I could define for myself.  The events of that weekend made me cry just a little, and laugh just a little bit louder because it reminded me of how even though life may stress us out or make us ask why, at the end of the day, if you have someone you can come home to and you care about them more than anything else in the world and they tell you “everything is going to be ok”.… then you love someone, and they love you, and you’re the luckiest person on earth.

I’ve loved Tasha as my girlfriend before, but situations change and now we love each other in a different way. She’s still the first one I go to when I feel anxious about where my life is headed, and she’s still the only one I talk to truthfully when I’m feeling down and depressed. Sure, I may not have cried at my own wedding like a little sissy boy, (just kidding Nut!) but I do understand what it’s like to love someone in my own way, and I think for now, I’m ok with that.

Yeah, living with Tasha over the next year was a little difficult, I’m not gonna lie. We argued at times, we wanted to kill each other a lot, and neither one of us got laid much at all. We were working together on this project that we really believed in, even if the synopsis of our partnership and the logline of the show still had some room to grow. Trust me, to put yourself in an position where you sleep a foot away from your ex, but on a separate bed, and split cable, power, and water bills each month, but still take separate showers shows that you must really love someone, or some thing enough to put up with those awkward and unaccommodating moments.

I may not understand crying when you’re happy love, but maybe one day I will. I know that Tasha and I share a love for each other, even though it’s different from P-Nut and Efia’s or Chad and Mary’s or different from the love that you share with your spouse or significant other. And I know what you’re thinking…..how could you live “the married life” within the same four walls as your ex-girlfriend and NOT sleep with her.  Am I right? Believe me, I STILL hear that question, and the answer STILLl is it just never happened. But you know what, it’s alright if you don’t believe me. I wouldn’t expect you to fully understand “our” love.

When we all got back to the hotel, the wedding party sat around in the lobby drinking a few beers and eating pizza that I bought for everyone. We were all a little tired, yet somehow, still a little hungry and to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the four hour drive back to Atlanta the next day so we could catch our flight home. I honestly wished we could have stayed a little longer and spent more time with our friends. As I’ve gotten older, and as my single friends have gone the way of the dinosaur, I’m starting to realize that there aren’t many more of these weddings left to go to. I guess that’s why I had a hard time saying goodbye to everyone that afternoon.

Dave and Shaun had to catch their flight, Parr, Gary, Desiree and Nicola had a long drive back to Jersey, and Chad and Mary had to pack up their stuff and their son Bastian and head back home. Sure, I know I’ll see them all again soon, but logically the next time we’re all together it will most likely be for someone’s wedding.  It certainly won’t be my wedding, even though the perfect unmarried couple caught the bouquet and the garter that afternoon. I guess sometimes life is bittersweet.

Tasha and I made it to the airport the next afternoon by driving exactly what the posted speed limit was the whole way through Georgia. It was a nice drive, and it only took us five and a half hours to drive 261 miles, plus I saved some money on the flight by flying in and out of Atlanta. What about that speeding ticket I got at the beginning of the trip? Well yeah, that part sucked, but I eventually did pay it when I got back home. No speeding ticket was going to negate the fact that I was honored to have been a part of my best friend’s special day.

On the airplane ride back to Los Angeles, I smiled to Tasha, put on my headphones and sat back in my discounted seat while I fondly recalled the events of the weekend, as I just kept telling myself  “I saved some money on the flight.”

Next Wedding: June 10th, 2015

Follow on Twiter @CMarc333

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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

Chad & Mary (Part 2)

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I woke up the morning of August 21st 2009, the day my good friends Chad & Mary were to be married. Right off the bat, things were hectic. Tasha had lost her cell phone the night before sometime after the rehearsal dinner and before we took a cab ride home from the Pour House in Collingswood.  Tasha and “crazy bitch” Melissa left to go back to Philly where Melissa lived to get ready for the wedding, and I had to make my way over to Chad’s house with the rest of the groomsman to get dressed together in some sort of wedding day ritual. I also had to find a hotel room for the four of us to stay in the city that night. Turns out, I booked a wonderfully priced four star hotel room located in the heart of Center City, just a few blocks from the where the ceremony was going to take place, but across town from where the reception was being held. Thanks to Hotwire, there were absolutely no changes allowed to the reservation and no refunds given. Oh well I thought, I guess we’ll just have to find a way back to the hotel later that night. What I didn’t know was THAT particular ride would end up almost killing me, Tasha, “crazy bitch” Melissa and Parr, but we’ll get to that later.

Parr and I jumped the gun a bit and got dressed at his house before making our way over to Chad’s where we met up with the other seven groomsmen who were wearing shorts and tee shirts when we arrived. Chad was obviously nervous as hell and was waiting for his xanex to kick in, a mood altering pill he got from one of the groomsman Jason Kamieniecki, (Kam-in-NECK-ee) otherwise know to all of us as “P-Nut.” That’s P-Nut at the far right of the picture below, and his xanex would come into play later on in the night at the reception but for now, just remember to associate P-Nut with xanex and you’ll be fine. And now, in order from left to right, I’d like to introduce Chad’s groomsmen… Ronen, Me, Parr, Mike T, Chad, Adam, Chris Rock, Brian, and P-Nut.

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We looked pretty damn good if I do say so myself, but there was still so much more that had to happen before we got a chance to take such a great photo. Being a groomsman carries a lot of responsibility. Not as much as the best man, but being that Chad was impartial to the idea of singling out one of his best friends to put that label on, some of the best man duties fell upon the other groomsman who were somewhat responsible and close to him, or in me and Parr’s case, already dressed.

Chad gave us the task to bring the wedding rings over to Mary’s house to give to them to Amy Holt, the Maid of Honor. In classic Christian and Parr fashion, on the ride over we got a pretty funny idea into our heads and decided we just couldn’t hand the rings over that easily. Our plan was to show up kind of somber and sad, and tell Mary that Chad had decided that he couldn’t go through with the wedding after all. Albeit was a pretty bad joke, but one our friends would know to expect from me and Parr, so we went through it anyway. We pulled up to the house, got out of the car and walked up to the door. The door opened before we even got there, and then Parr and I put on our best game face and followed through with our ruse.

“Uhh, Can we talk to Mary?” I said.

“Why, what’s wrong?” Amy asked.

Amy was the Maid of Honor, a good friend of Mary’s and one of the only ones who was dressed at the time. She told us Mary was still getting her gown on and couldn’t come to the door. So we had to deliver the “fake” bad news to Amy.

“So, we just came by to let you know that uh……the thing is…”

Parr stuttered through his improved script, but I could tell he was about to laugh so I jumped in and said with a straight face…

“Chad can’t go through with it.”

Amy’s face went blank, and then she threw up her arms, and exclaimed in a “matter of fact” kind of tone.

“I knew it!”

That was all we needed to hear before we lost it and started cracking up and Parr had to inform Amy and the rest of the bridesmaids that had made their way to the front porch that we were just kidding.

“You assholes.” Amy said with a smile.

“I knew they were just kidding.” another bridesmaid said from the doorway.

With that, we apologized, handed the rings off to Amy, and made our way back to Chad’s house to get our shit together before the limo came to pick us up, but not BEFORE we decided to stop at TGI Friday’s in Marlton for a drink while still wearing our tuxedos.  That was classy.

All seven groomsmen and the Groom are riding in a long black stretch limo heading west on Route 70 towards Philadelphia. Chad looks like he’s about to puke. He’s pale and uneasy, and his nerves are not being combated by the dose of xanex from earlier. It’s at this point that Parr decides to tell Chad about our joke from earlier and that seems to ease his mind, but not before we decide to stop at a RadioShack along the way to pick up a cable we could use to plug Chad’s i-pod into the stereo of the limo so he could put on his favorite songs to hear on the way to his wedding. I was a little edgy too for some reason, but unfortunately the limo didn’t contain any beverages other than water to ease our pain meaning it did NOT contain any beer or alcohol, just some fancy glasses and a whiskey decanter that looked like it had something growing in the bottom of it from the last people who rented the car. Regardless, we eventually made our way over the bridge to Philly, rocking out to Refused and Avail and arrived at the church on time.

The ceremony was beautiful, and everyone in the room was enamored at how gorgeous Mary looked walking down the aisle. I got to say, I had known Mary for many years prior to this evening and she was always pretty, but there was something about her that day that just totally took my breath away. Not only could I feel the positive energy in the room, but she was beaming, and I knew this was the beginning of something wonderful for the two of them. I was really happy to be a part of it, and for the second time in my life I stopped to realize how much something like a wedding can really make us all believe in love again, even if some of us have never had the opportunity to find it. I knew their love was real and clearly, Mary and Chad did too. The whole wedding took about forty five minutes between the standing and the sitting and the procession and the reading of the Gospel from the book of John. Catholic weddings have a much needed religious element to them, and growing up in an Italian family, I’ve always thought that added a level of charm and tradition to a wedding. Mary and Chad had opted to write their own vows to each other which I kept hearing him recite to himself in the limo ride over. I like how couples now do this when they get married. It’s a way of making the wedding their own, and it resonated with me, and as I walked arm in arm down the aisle at the end of the ceremony with Dan Levy’s wife, I spotted Tasha in the crowd and gave a her a smile as she took a picture of us.

After the homophobic priest finished with his duties and the ceremony was officially over, we all had to congregate in the back of the church for the next fifteen minutes or so while everyone got organized about making their way over to the reception. I met up with my friend Gary, who I hadn’t seen in a long time and we caught up a bit with our friend Jenna who we had known since high school and was now living in Maryland. Eventually, the groomsmen, plus Mary with a cake on her lap got back into the limo, and we were driven to the Cescaphe Ballroom in Northern Liberties for the reception.

The first thing Parr and I did when we got out of the limo was what anyone would do when you are a member of the wedding party and had just witnessed one of your best friends get married….we headed straight to the bar for a drink. Ironically, as we were ordering our dirty Ketel martinis from the bartender, a server came around with a tray full of pre made drinks. Again, as anyone would do when you are a member of a wedding party who just witnessed one of your best friends get married, we grabbed two pre made martinis off the tray, downed them, then turned around to grab the two other martinis we ordered from the bartender before tipping him nicely. Then, within eight seconds of taking our first sip from our second drink, the wedding planner had to pry us away from the bar and corral us both into the hall to take pictures with the rest of the wedding party who looked shocked and a little jealous that we walked in with full martini glasses in our hands.

“Where did you fuckers get those?” One of the bridesmaids asked.

“From the bar outside.” Parr said with a smile.

We spent the next forty five minutes or so taking pictures with the Groom, taking pictures with the bridesmaids, taking pictures with the other groomsmen, taking pictures with the Bride, and then finally, after about 3000 or so pictures, we were eventually let loose into the reception hall where we had to be announced by name as we strutted through the banquet room onto the dance floor to pose with the Bride and Groom for, you guessed it…more fucking pictures.

By the time we got to our table for dinner, between the drinks and pictures, and the fact that I had no food in my stomach, I was little drunk. However, that didn’t stop me from ordering some more alcohol to celebrate the union of my two good friends with the rest of my table while I put my order in for a medium filet mignon. There was a lot of stuff going on during dinner. People were coming up and saying nice words to the Bride and Groom, the parents were applauding and crying and toasting and everyone in the place was having a great time.

At our table it was me, Tasha, Parr, Melissa, Gary, his girlfriend Desiree, (who Tasha would accidentally refer to as “Destiny” at another wedding three years later,) P-Nut, his girlfriend Efia, Steve, who had no date with him by his own choice, and Jenna and her husband Tim. Ronen, who was sitting at another table was currently in the middle of the dance floor with the microphone making a speech and toasting Chad and Mary. It suddenly hit me at that point that I needed to get up there and say something nice in front of everyone too. I was a little nervous at first, but when Ronen was done, I jumped up out of my seat and grabbed the mic.

I stood in the middle of everyone eating their chicken, steak or fish, took a deep breath, and in a slightly alcoholic state of mind I gave what I thought was one of the most heart felt speeches using the kindest words I have ever spoken to my friends on their special day. What was it exactly that I said you might ask? I have no fucking clue. Seriously. I got back to the table before the applause stopped and I turned to Tasha and I asked…

“What did I just say out there?”

“You don’t remember?” she asked.

“Nope.”

I replied as I grabbed my vodka diet coke and took an enormous swig. And the truth is, I really didn’t remember. I knew it was about a minute or less, which is the perfect amount of time for a wedding speech AND an actor’s reel, and I knew I said some nice things about Chad and Mary and some things that made people laugh, and I knew that there is this one picture of me making said speech in which I feel I look pretty genuine. Truth is, a picture tells a thousand words, and what this picture says to me in less than a thousand words is that I love Chad and Mary, and I wish nothing but the best for them.

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“Well,” Tasha continued, “You did good, drunkie.”

She smiled, then we toasted our friends and then all of sudden the room got really quiet as Jason, aka “P-Nut” made his way up to the deejay booth to grab the microphone and make his toast to his best friend Chad, and his new bride Mary. Then, something terrible happened.

The next few minutes were probably the most awkward and uncomfortable amount of time that the guests at the wedding all shared that day. P-Nut, who I love and who is definitely a best friend of mine, but also definitely NOT one of the best public speakers I know, was rambling on and on with his curdling speech for what felt like an eternity. It’s funny how I can’t remember much of what I said when I was up there, but I definitely remember P-Nut starting his speech by reminiscing about that one time that HE and Mary had gone out on a date, which coincidentally also happened to be right around the same time in 2002 when Mary started to date Chad….and it just got worse from there, if that was even at all possible.

Clearly at this point, the xanex had taken over P-Nut’s mind, as the drug was currently forcing him to regurgitate one of the most agonizing monologues in the history of weddings, while simultaneously making all 200 guests bare audio and visual witness to the most uncompounded case of verbal diarrhea, EVER. Someone had to stop this kid, NOW!

I glanced around at the horrid looks on people’s faces and did the only thing I knew that could end this moment in time, while concurrently saving all the wedding guests from any more excruciating dribble. I stood up, and in what could have been the the middle of P-Nut’s elongated speech, I put my hands together, and exclaimed…

“Alright! Jason Kamieniecki everyone!”

All 200 guests in the banquet hall ripped up in applause with me. It was like I acted out the scenario of what they all wanted to do, which was put P-Nut and everyone else out of their misery. Come to think of it, perhaps their applause was more for me putting an end to P-Nut’s speech than it was for P-Nut’s speech actually ending? Perhaps they were one in the same? Regardless, P-Nut made his way back to our table and didn’t make eye contact with me for the next hour and a half. I love that kid, but believe me, it HAD to be done. In fact, I would do it again if I had to, and I’m sure Chad and Mary would be just as thankful to me a second time, as they were that night. Now, with the food and speeches out of the way, the music started playing and I grabbed Tasha’s hand and hit the dance floor.

The next hour was an absolute blur. I remember dancing with Tasha for a bit, then dancing by myself in what was later described to as me as a solo New Kid playing the role of a one man sweaty Backstreet Boy, cavorting and picking up change on the dance floor, while Tasha picked up my cuff links, tie tack, and other pieces of my tuxedo that were being flung off of me at a rapid pace. Even though I had opted for the damage waiver when I rented the thing, she still found every accessory of my tux and put them in a safe place for later. I was drunk, happy, and definitely sweating a lot, that’s for sure. There is one picture of me and Tasha someone posted on Facebook back in the day which I immediately untagged myself from because of the fact that I looked like a well dressed puddle of sweat. My face was flushed, and it looked like I had just gotten out of a pool while still wearing my $175 tuxedo shirt, tie, and jacket. I don’t remember the throwing of the bouquet or the garter, and I don’t remember the entire room of desserts that was just a short walk around the corner. Truthfully, my only regrets that night was that I never visited the dessert room, and I regret stepping on Tasha’s foot at some point in the night on the dance floor.  Sometimes the latter happens when you’re drunk, unaware of your personal space, and you wear size twelves.  Sorry Tash.

I do remember bumping into my old friend Bezanis. I remarked at how thin he was for someone in his mid thirties, and I would later come to find out that Bezanis “may or may not” have had a slight prescription drug problem at the time. That was neither here nor there. What I did know was that he was my only Greek friend back in high school, and before we all went our separate ways, me him and Parr used to hang out a lot. But, if you put me, an Italian with a short temper, and Bezanis, a greek with a short fuse in a room together for a long enough time, we’ll probably end up killing each other. He’s very loud and very boisterous, and due to our naturally competitive nature and cut-on-a-dime type personalities, it was no surprise that at one point back in 1996 we ended up getting into a fight over a game of Mortal Kombat. After I lost for the third time, I told him to “watch his back” and then I didn’t talk to him for a few days after that because basically, I was an idiot and had too much pride.

Regardless, after catching up a bit, and being as how none of us drove to this wedding, Bezanis offered to give us a ride across town to the hotel where the after party was going to take place. Angelo’s date had disappeared that night, which was good for us cause there would be more room in his Beemer since he was transporting me, Tasha, Parr, and Parr’s girlfriend at the time, “crazy bitch” Melissa to the hotel. The car ride that followed was the most tumultuous twenty minutes of the whole weekend. It poured rain, he hit a curb, almost hit a car in front of us, drove up on the sidewalk by accident of course, and yelled the entire time. It was definitely crazy, but still funny in the end mainly because of the sole factor that we did not die. Tasha, who was riding in the backseat of the car and who luckily had my cell phone with her, ended up shooting about a minute of this nightmare car ride after all of the bad stuff had happened, but before the arguing and poking fun had yet to happen. You can see the video here.

As you could tell in the video, I was pretty drunk, but what you couldn’t tell from the video was that I was also extremely thankful to be alive. When we arrived at the hotel, Mary sat there in the lobby with the ghost cake from earlier and this is when she told me about how her and Tasha both had picked up all of the pieces of my tuxedo while I was sweating and dancing an hour or so earlier.

“Thank you two so much.” I slurred.

Hey Hayden, watch me ruin these tuxedo pants.” I said to one of the bridesmaids.

“No Christian, what are you doing?” Tasha exclaimed.

“Relax, I got the damage waiver.” I replied.

And with that statement, I decided now would the perfect time to dip my finger into the cake, and then proceed to wipe said finger which was now covered in butter cream icing onto my $175 tuxedo pants, just because I could. (Take that, Men’s Warehouse.)  In my defense, I was pretty drunk, and I didn’t really care about the pants now that the wedding was over, plus I feel like the night was coming to an end.  Eventually, and without the help of Bezanis, we made our way back to OUR hotel and passed out for the night.

I woke up at 6 in the morning in a pool of sweat. The sheets on the bed were soaked with a subtle mix of perspiration, vodka, and diet coke. Tasha literally thought I wet the bed. I  thought I pissed myself, but then I realized that it was just the remnants of the night before being flushed out of my system naturally. I decided to walk around Philly for an hour before everyone else eventually got up and we checked out of the hotel. It was raining, it was cold, and I was hungry. We stopped at a Chik-Fil-A back in Jersey before dropping off Parr and his crazy bitch, then we took it easy for the rest of the night before we had to catch our flight back to L.A. the next morning.

At the airport the next day, Tasha and I had a couple beers and waited for our flight to board. We talked about all the events that had happened, and reveled in the fact that this was probably one of the best weddings we had ever been to. We also talked about the state of our relationship, and how neither one of us really knew where we stood with each other. I was still happy to be able to introduce her to my mom and my sister, and I was elated that my friends accepted her and really took her in as one of our own. I was grateful to her for coming out to the East coast and taking care of me when I was wasted and couldn’t fully take care of myself, and I was happy for my friends Chad and Mary as they embark on a new chapter of their life together, and I knew that it wouldn’t be the last time we were all together for a wedding.

As for me and Tasha, we had been with each other for a couple of years, but the last six months had been extremely difficult to endure. Where we stood after this trip, we didn’t even know. We did know, however that less than two months away we were invited to the wedding of Shaw and Heather, two good friends of mine who I had worked with at the Grill on Hollywood back in Los Angeles, and of course, Tasha was my date. Just then an announcement came over the loudspeaker at Philadelphia International airport.

“Now boarding United flight 643, nonstop service to Los Angeles.”

Tasha and I grabbed our bags, and headed back to the west coast.

Next Wedding: Wednesday May 6th, 2015

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C&M wedding collage2

The top:  The Bridesmaids, The Groom, The Bride

The middle: Mary, The Guys ( Me, Adam, Ronen, Gary, Parr, Bezanis, P-Nut (kneeling) Me & Tasha

The bottom: Parr & me, Desiree “Destiny” & Gary, Mary and the Ghost cake

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