Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Honeymoon Of The Millennium (The Finale - Sort Of)

(Part One is HERE. Part Two is HERE. Unless I miss my guess, Part Three is just outside of these parentheses.)

People who have been together for a very long time have a sort of verbal shorthand. They can say a short phrase, or even a single word, and it will speak volumes for the person in the know.

My Father and I had one. He had a favorite joke – which I won’t tell here, because it’s extremely long and involved – but the punch line was, “Oh, him? Fuck him!” I knew the joke, so if we were in the company of those who didn't know the joke, and somebody was mentioned whom my father couldn’t stand, he would say, “Oh, him?” and I understood that the rest of the punch line followed, no matter what nice social lies he might feel obligated to tell to the people with whom we were currently.

MY WIFE and I picked up a couple of our shorthand phrases during our honeymoon.

The first came about because, from the months preceding our wedding, up until our wedding, and on our honeymoon in Boston, Hershey, and Wilmington, we had said to each other, “Well, we can relax when we get to [fill in the blank]” At first we ended it by saying “…The Parker House,” then it changed to “…Hershey,” and then to “…Wilmington”, and finally to “Well, we can relax when we get to Washington.” The idea, of course, was that we still had shitloads of bothersome details to take care of, but it would all be over fairly soon and will have turned out to be worth it in the end.

Nowadays, if we say, “Well, we can relax when we get to Washington,” it means we know damn well there’s a whole bunch more work to do and we may or may not actually get to relax when it’s done.

We picked up the other on the train between Wilmington and Washington. There’s a stop just outside of DC called Carrollton. As the train was approaching the station, a conductor walked through our car saying, “Carlton. Carlton next stop.”

A person across the aisle from us said, with great indignity, “That’s CARROLTON!”

The conductor, with a sneer and a shrug of his shoulders, said, “Whatever...”

This hasn’t become shorthand for us, so much as it has become a comedy routine that nobody else in the world would get. One of us will say something - anything. The other person, recognizing that the first person mispronounced a word or made some other silly mistake, will say, “Carlton,” and then the first person says “That’s CARROLTON!” and then the other will say, with a sneer and a shrug of the shoulders, “Whatever...”

Cracks us up every time.


Washington, DC, is an amazing city. There are the usual tourist destinations – The White House, The Washington Monument, The Lincoln Memorial, The Smithsonian – and then there are literally hundreds of other interesting places to go and things to see. Every block contains a museum dedicated to some intriguing facet of American history. You walk down any street and come across statues, memorials, monuments, markers, and other fascinating things you didn’t even know existed and which half the guidebooks don’t tell you about.

For instance, we were just strolling along, having come out of the subway on our way to take a tour of the U. S. Treasury, and we saw, tucked in behind a bunch of bushes and weeds, a memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was about the size of a large gravestone. This was the man who held the Presidency longer than anyone else in the country’s history, and probably shaped – for better or worse – the country as we know it today, more than any other President in the 20th century. It was basically just a hunk of stone with a few dates scribbled on it. It seemed so incongruous that this little piece of rock, tucked in amongst some gigantic buildings and mostly covered in foliage, was supposed to represent this gigantic figure in history.

(Nowadays, there are much bigger memorials to him. That's mostly because some politically-correct assholes wanted people to see him in a wheelchair, something Roosevelt himself assiduously avoided. Of course, Roosevelt also said that he didn't want any big memorials to him built when he died. Carlton. CARROLLTON. Whatever.)

But that’s the way it is in Washington, at least for the most part. The actual government of today is huge and yesterday isn’t.

The huge part: It takes a while to get used to the scale of things in that city. You think the government buildings in your city are big? You haven’t seen government buildings until you see them in DC. They are hulking behemoths of bureaucracy, taking up entire city blocks, their vastness making even the most dedicated liberal sure to wonder if maybe just a couple of the offices inside might be occupied by people who aren’t truly needed to keep the country running. As a Libertarian, I found their massiveness to be almost physically oppressive at times.

As for the past being not so big, that’s mostly true, too. Sure, there are the gigantic marble obelisks and cathedral-like memorials to great men of our past, but those things that they crafted, and which are supposed to be treasured and sacred, are ripped apart piece by little piece every day within the actual current government. The Fourth Amendment to The Constitution was written for some very good reasons, but try to find somebody willing to defend it with his blood in today’s Washington and you’ll likely need to take up residence for a coupe of months before you do.

(Well, maybe somebody would defend it, if the First Amendment weren’t being used as toilet paper. However, I’ve gone off on a political rant, haven’t I? Sorry about that.)

(Name a senator. Oh, him?)

So, where was I? Ah, yes! It was our honeymoon! We were relatively young, very much in love, and happy to be someplace where we could finally relax! So the first thing MY WIFE did, when we checked in to our hotel, was take a nap. I, on the other hand, being a much more excitable type (as witnessed by the bloviating above) wanted to get out and see some history right away. And I knew just where to do it, too. Ford’s Theater was only a couple of blocks from our hotel. I decided to take a walk down there while MY WIFE snoozed. The place is, after all, integral to one of my favorite jokes (“Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?”) and admission was free, which is always a plus.

It is tiny, not at all the grand building you expect that a president would have gone to see a play. I gigged at larger venues when I was a bum musician. It’s small size makes it that much more accessible as history, though. You can walk around the whole inside of the building in about three minutes. And there aren’t a hundred balcony boxes to wonder if that was the one where Lincoln was assassinated or maybe some other one. As soon as you walk in, it’s apparent.

The box he was sitting in when shot is sealed off. You can’t walk in, sit down in his chair, and pretend that you’re him. I would have liked to have done so. I suppose everybody would and that’s why you can’t. You look through a glass pane in the door leading to it, but that’s as close as you get. It’s actually better to look up at it from the orchestra seats and imagine the amazing panic that must have swept the small crowd when Booth fired his gun, leaped from the box onto the stage – breaking his ankle in the process – and then shouted “Sic Semper Tyrannus!” before hobbling away as fast as he could on one good foot. I sat in one of the seats near the stage and marveled at how empty it was. I think I was the only one there, aside from a couple of maintenance men.

Now, that’s just one of the places we went (well, that I went – MY WIFE was sawing wood, as you’ll remember.) There is just so much in that city worth talking about, that I can’t possibly fit it all in here, and especially so when considering my penchant for digression. So, I’ll give you a laundry list of places we went, and things we saw, and if I give short shrift to something for which you’d like more in-depth information, I'll trust in your forgiving nature.

The Smithsonian – It is enormous. To truly see everything in it would take a couple of 8-day weeks. There’s something for everyone, and if you don’t find the exhibit you’re currently viewing interesting, just go around any corner. We saw Mister Rogers’s sweater and Archie Bunker’s chair, among other things. The appellation “America’s Attic” is fitting. The one thing we didn’t see was the flag that flew over Fort McHenry and which inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner. It is only brought out from the darkness for viewing a few minutes at a time, in an effort to preserve it from too much exposure to light, and every time we heard the announcement that the flag was now going on display, we were too far away to get there before they tucked it away again. We missed it over and over. MY WIFE thinks they don’t really have it there, but just make the announcements to put it into people’s heads that it actually exists.

The Jefferson Memorial – We walked along the basin, by the many cherry trees, late at night. We later found that this might not have been the safest thing to do. Carlton, Carrolton, whatever. We made it safely to what some of the locals refer to as The Muffin, because of its shape. This was special for me, as I think Jefferson is probably the greatest of our founders. He was a brilliant man. Would that we had a Jefferson around today to compare in real life with the bozos asking for our votes.

The Supreme Court – We got to see the justices delivering verdicts. Not too many of the people who tour the building have a chance to actually see the Court sitting. We lucked out. We happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was quite exciting to see them file out, take their seats, and then hear opinions.

We rode the DC subway, of course. I found it both wonderful and disappointing. It is tremendously efficient and the stations are clean. However, it is the very model of how government does things. Every station looks more-or-less like every other station. There is no individuality, nothing to love. It is soulless.

The Treasury – We saw them make money. It was a heck of a good tour. I wish they had let us take souvenirs.

I went to see Libertarian Party headquarters, which at that time was located in a slum. I’ve spoken about this before, though, so I won’t bore you with it again.

And, what you’ve been waiting for, I’m sure: We ate éclairs the size of footballs.

There is a bakery inside of Union Station and it sells what have to be the most ridiculously huge éclairs in the world. They are – I am not kidding – the size of an NFL football. They’re delicious. I wish I had one now.

We were just walking around the station, looking for nothing in particular, and we passed by this bakery. Inside their display case, we saw these amazing treats. Now, anybody who knows me well knows that éclairs are probably my dessert of choice. Every year, for my birthday, my Mom has éclairs instead of a birthday cake because she knows how much I love them. When I saw these éclairs, I had a small orgasm. I had to have one.

We bought one and took it back to the hotel. I’m good for at least two éclairs at any time. On a good day, I can eat a half-dozen. This ONE took me two sittings, and I was being gluttonous even then. It was, in all seriousness, the greatest éclair the world has ever known. If it had been running for office, I would have voted for it over Jefferson himself. If I were a condemned man, I would specifically ask for one of those éclairs for my last meal. It was that good.

If you are ever in Washington and buy one of these for me, I'll have sex with you (or promise to never have sex with you - your choice.)


I’ve got to wrap this up, and it’s a shame. So many other places we saw and things we did. There’s a lovely little story about MY WIFE going out to Popeye’s to get me some mashed potatoes, but it will have to wait until another day. Likewise my hour wait in line for a five-second viewing of The Constitution.

We had a fantastic honeymoon and we got home safely. I’m skipping detail now because I have to start packing for our anniversary trip.

Yes, we’re going away for our anniversary. And, once again, we’re taking the train, only this time it’s to New York. This afternoon we leave, returning to Boston on Sunday evening. In between, we’ll have dinner at The French Culinary Institute one night (our actual anniversary, Friday) and at Peter Luger’s another. We’ll visit with MY WIFE’s brother, who lives in Brooklyn. We’ll ride the marvelous New York City Subway system because, hell, I just can’t get enough of trains. We’ll visit a couple of interestingly odd museums, and we’ll attend church on Sunday in a fantastic piece of architecture on the West Side. We’ll probably end up going to Birdland or some such for a little music.

We can relax when we get to Washington.

Anyway, here’s the thing. I have no ending to this story. This is going to sound so corny, you’ll think you could put this blog into a microwave and make popcorn, but the reason there’s no ending is because The Honeymoon Of The Millennium is ongoing. It didn’t end when we returned to Boston; it just took on a different character. It won’t end until one of us dies, and maybe (God willing) not even then.

I have been blessed beyond measure, given a gift beyond price. I am one of the luckiest men in creation. I got to marry my absolute soul mate. She is MY WIFE. She is also MY LIFE.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Honeymoon Of The Millennium (Part Two)

(The first part [Boston to Philadelphia to Harrisburg to Hershey] may be found HERE.)

We left the Hotel Hershey and reversed the steps we had taken to get there. Our limo took us back to Harrisburg, from which we boarded a train back to Philadelphia. This time, we determined to find the platform for our next train ourselves, rather than trust to possibly nefarious baggage handlers.

The trip from Philadelphia to Wilmington is a short one, thankfully. As much as we were enjoying train travel overall, we were generally exhausted. We just wanted to get to our next destination with as little hassle as possible.

Upon arriving at the Wilmington train station -

- which, as you can see, was another beautiful piece of old architecture - we hopped into the first available taxi and told the driver to take us to the Hotel Christina, where we had reservations.

The cabbie said, "So, where are you folks from?"

MY WIFE replied, "Boston."

"Are you here on business?"

"No. It's our honeymoon!"

"And you came to Wilmington?!?"

That will give you some idea of the high regard even the residents of the city hold for it.


The Hotel Christina was, no kidding, one of the swankest joints I've ever had the pleasure of inhabiting. I'd show you some photos to back up that assertion, but the place seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. I could find no trace of it anywhere on-line. Too bad. We really enjoyed our stay there.

One of the reasons for our great enjoyment of the place was its quirkiness. The layout of the hotel was slightly bizarre. In order to get to our room, we had to take an elevator, then travel down a corridor, make a left turn, go down a flight of three steps, make another turn, go up a flight of three steps, and then our door was about ten feet away around a slight bend. It was like staying in an Escher painting.

The room itself was spacious; a suite, really. We had a bedroom, a sitting room, gigantic full bath, two televisions - one each in the bedroom and sitting room - and at least one phone in every room, including the crapper. I've never understood how anyone might have a phone call so urgent that they couldn't wait to get off the pot to make it, but perhaps I lead a very dull life.

(In the building where I work, there is a lawyer's office. One of the lawyers constantly makes calls while seated on the throne in the men's room. Not only that, he spreads legal papers on the floor of the stall while doing so. Whenever I go in there and find him doing that, I make an extra effort to pee really loudly. If I have a fart handy, I release it. Then I flush at least twice. I like to imagine the look on his client's faces as they hear such things and come to the realization that the man they have on retainer for hundreds of dollars an hour is taking a dump while he's talking to them.)

The other thing that made our stay there so nice wasn't a thing, but rather a man. We called him Clayhammer. As near as we could figure out, Clayhammer was the butler/chauffeur/factotum for the entire hotel. He apparently never slept. Whenever we needed anything, day or night, Clayhammer came to the rescue.

For instance, on out first night there, we wanted something to eat. We had arrived in town somewhat late at night - extremely late, insofar as Wilmington goes - and room service had shut down. No problem for Clayhammer. He went out and rounded up lovely steak sandwiches and fries for us from some restaurant or other. When we needed a ride anywhere in the city, Clayhammer was ready to take us - and give us a well-versed guided tour in the bargain. He drove us to Winterthur when we wanted to visit it. When we left for Washington, and needed to get back to the train station, Clayhammer toted our bags and gave us the ride. We need some extra pillows? Well... Oh, hello, Clayhammer. A pot of coffee? Let's give Clayhammer a call. What's that? The phone in the hopper is on the fritz? Clayhammer!

Really, he was a wonder. And he was the nicest guy, too. He wasn't at all stiff and formal - he was quick with a little joke or two - but he always treated us with just the right amount of deference and respect. He was also very proud of his city. I made some remark concerning Wilmington's close proximity to Philadelphia, and Clayhammer bristled slightly. He told us that Wilmington was just as good as Philadelphia any day.

"As a matter of fact," he said, "we get some of the same stars in concert here as they have on the HBO!"

I've certainly made fun of Wilmington, but if I thought for even a fleeting moment that everybody from Wilmington might be as nice as Clayhammer, I'd give serious consideration to moving there.

Well, one thing might give me pause. Clayhammer was a huge fan of Kenny G. We found this out while he was driving us around the city one day. He asked us if we liked Kenny G. I was about to tell him that I thought his music will probably be an integral part of Hell should I somehow wind up there, but then I decided to hold my tongue. I'm glad I did. It turned out that Clayhammer adored the guy, and I wouldn't have wanted to hurt Clayhammer's feelings if somebody told me they'd pay me a thousand dollars for every insult I threw at him.

Clayhammer, in an effort to make our trip as enjoyable as possible - at least in his mind - offered to go home that evening and stock the car full of Kenny G tapes for our ride to Winterthur the next day. We told him that he shouldn't go to that much trouble for us, but he insisted it was no trouble at all. Well, what the heck. He was such a nice guy, and he had the general demeanor of a wide-eyed puppy, so we put up with a couple of hours of whiny sax. To do otherwise would have been evil on our part.

I suppose it's about time I tell you just why in hell we went to Wilmington on our honeymoon. See that picture above? That is Winterthur. That's why we went to Wilmington, to see it. However, we had no idea what it looked like or what was there or anything else about it, really. MY WIFE wanted to see it because she had been getting catalogs in the mail from Winterthur Gifts, and they were nice catalogs, so she figured Winterthur must be nice, too.

Yup. That's why we went to Wilmington on our honeymoon.

Now, please look at that photograph again. It is quite lovely, isn't it? It is the estate of one of the DuPonts, the wealthiest family in Delaware, and it's loaded with scads of antique furnishings and paintings and oddly-placed staircases (something of a Delaware specialty, I guess) and it is surrounded by an air of old money so thick you could cut it with a knife. The gardens are supposed to be breathtaking.

You'll notice I said "supposed to be". See, we were there in Winter. So our tour guide kept saying things like, "If this were Summer, you'd see stunning azaleas here, and over there would be wonderfully colorful daffodils and crocuses. When it's warm out, some of the most beautiful roses in the world grow directly to your right. During the peak of the season, the dogwoods bloom and the entire estate is bathed in a lovely scent of blossoms."

As it was, the place was gray and muddy, and the most outstanding characteristic concerning the grounds was the prodigious amount of goose poop available for soiling one's footwear. However, the buildings were rather nice and we did get to listen to a couple hours of Kenny G during the ride there and back, so the day wasn't a total loss.

(I often think about Clayhammer, and wonder how he's doing. He really was that nice a fellow. Not nice enough for me to actually remember his real name, but still.)


On the morning of our last day in Wilmington, Clayhammer drove us to the train and we boarded AMTRAK for Washington, DC. This was going to be our final destination, where we would spend a week soaking up history and eating eclairs the size of footballs.

(I'm not kidding. Eclairs the size of footballs. If that doesn't bring you back tomorrow, I don't know what will. See you then.)

Go to Part Three

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Honeymoon Of The Millennium

                                              Lobby Of The Parker House, Boston

When your courtship involves a Shish-Kebob Incident and your marriage was The Wedding Of The Decade, what can you do for an encore? Go on The Honeymoon Of The Millennium, of course! Boy, will you be jealous when you hear about where we went!

We went to Wilmington, Delaware - on purpose, too. I’ll tell you about that in good time. But first, I have to tell you about our wedding night at The Parker House in Boston.

I may have mentioned this before. One of my relatives invented the Parker House Roll.

(Well, of course I mentioned it before. Any little shred of gimcrack glory I can get by sponging off of my ancestors reputations, I’ve mentioned it here before. I’ve done precious little worthy of note in my own life, so I’m OK with second-hand fame. The Parker House Roll is good for a raised eyebrow sometimes. I’m also descended from Mary Baker Eddy. If that doesn’t do it for you, a relative on my mother’s side made the grasshopper weathervane that sits atop Faneuil Hall to this day. Better yet, a very distant relative was in on the fix of the 1919 World Series. Furthermore, several relatives from the Sullivan side of the family did time… uh, that is, SERVED in the Massachusetts legislature. If I could remember any other remotely famous relatives off the top of my head, I’d shoehorn them in. Maybe later.)

(Hell, I could just make stuff up. How many of you are going to do the research necessary to verify a story about someone inventing a freakin’ roll? However, I digress. Of course, I have a right to do so as much as I want. My great-great-grand uncle invented the digression. That was in February of 1869. When he finally got back on topic in March, they hung him.)

So, there we were in a lovely room in The Parker House. And we were both starving. See, even though we had a lavish spread of food at our wedding reception, we didn’t eat a single bite of it. We were too busy visiting other people’s tables, and we were running on nerves. In any case, here we were on our wedding night and what we really wanted were big juicy cheeseburgers. Most newlyweds want something else, but they don’t spend their honeymoon in Wilmington, either.

When we got to our room, I called room service. I ordered burgers and fries for MY WIFE and myself. While we were waiting for them to come, I got out of my wedding duds and had a cigarette. MY WIFE also made herself comfortable. As I was stubbing out the smoke, a knock came at the door. I opened it, wearing only my trousers – no shirt, no shoes, but it appeared I was going to get service anyway - and there were the burgers being delivered by a small Hispanic man. He bore a slight resemblance to Manuel from Fawlty Towers.

His English was a bit sketchy. I’m not sure why, but something in our conversation led me to tell him that we had just been married; that we were the bride and groom. He looked at MY WIFE, who was lying on the bed, and then at me wearing nothing but trousers, and he suddenly got this very embarrassed look on his face.

He said, "Oh, sorry! Sorry!" He bowed a couple of times as he hurriedly BACKED out of the room. I guess he thought he had interrupted our first-ever lovemaking session or something. I don’t want to know what he thought we wanted the burgers for. Maybe there’s some ancient Spanish wedding tradition involving medium-rare beef with cheese.


The next morning, we had a wonderful brunch and then saw a wonderful play at The Lyric Stage, a wonderful small theater in Boston where we've held wonderful season tickets for many wonderful years. The day after, we caught the train to Wilmington.

OK, I won’t keep you hanging. Here’s the deal. Yes, we did spend time in Wilmington, and it was planned, but our actual destination, when all was said and done, was Washington, DC. Along the way, we'd spend a couple of days in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

We had decided that we wanted to take the train, rather than fly, because we'd get to see some interesting countryside and we’d also, if we wished, be able to stop off for a day or two in interesting places, as well as Wilmington.

The first leg of the journey took us to Philadelphia. We weren’t going to spend any real time there, but we had to change trains for Harrisburg, from which we would be transported, via hotel transportation, to Hershey.

When we got to Philly, we left the train and weren’t really sure where to go for the train to Harrisburg. A Red Cap saw our confused looks and our luggage – we had a load of it, since we were on a two-week trip - so he came over to see if we could use his services. We told him that we needed to catch the train to Harrisburg. He said he’d take care of us.

He took the luggage, with us following, and he led us up into the main terminal area. We walked behind him as he went a ways, took a turn down a corridor, walked a bit further, took another turn, then another, and then down some stairs onto what, to this day, MY WIFE swears was the same platform we started on. We couldn’t prove it, though, so I gave him a tip, thanked him for his arguably dubious help, and made a mental note to check the track number the next time we disembarked from a train.

The trip to Harrisburg was very pleasant, through rolling farm country and pleasantly green – considering the time of year – fields. What was even more pleasant was the Harrisburg train station. It was lovely, looking as though it had been lifted from the 1930’s to the present with no wear or tear from the years between. After being in such a relic, we half expected to see men with pencil-thin mustaches and fedoras when we went outside. There weren’t any. There was a limousine, though.

We were being provided transportation by The Hotel Hershey. We had expected a van or something similarly utilitarian. We should have known better. The Hotel Hershey is a magnificent old-fashioned four-star behemoth. They wouldn’t send a van for guests anymore than the Vatican would send a donkey for the Pope. Instead, there was a big black limo and a uniformed chauffeur. He held the door for us. We stepped inside and made ourselves at home while he put our luggage in the trunk. We did our best to pretend we were used to such things as we rolled down the road to Hershey.

Hershey, in case you don’t know, is named after Milton Hershey, the chocolate maker. Everything in the town is made to either look like chocolate or be useful in the eating of chocolate. The street lamps (no joke) resemble Hershey’s Kisses. And the entire town smells like chocolate. I thought it was tremendous, having grown up just down the block from the Baker’s Chocolate Factory in Lower Mills. One of my fondest memories is of my neighborhood smelling like chocolate when I was a little kid. MY WIFE, however, was less enamored of the aroma. On our second day, as we were taking a walk from the hotel into town, she said, "Ugh. There’s that hideous smell again."

When we arrived at the hotel, I tipped the driver $20. That was enough to get the whole staff to treat us like royalty for our entire stay. Of course, we may have gotten the same treatment if I had duked him two bits. I think we were the only guests in the entire place. Every time we crossed paths with any staff member, they fairly much begged us for something to do. They’d say, "Is everything satisfactory, Mr. Sullivan? Do you need someone to come to your room and tuck you in tonight? Do you have enough chocolate? Shall I have a maid come up and butter your bum after dinner?" If I replied, "No, everything is just fine, thanks," they got this look on their faces as though they wanted to slit their wrists.

We did have them do one favor for us. I wanted to get a Hershey Bears (Get it? Hershey Bears? Use a Kentucky accent...) hockey jersey as present for my best man, Sean Flaherty. He was (and is) a huge hockey fan, and he has a special fondness for minor-league hockey. I asked the folks at the hotel where I could pick one up. They said that the Hershey Arena would have them on sale, but that the arena was closed. However, they called the arena and had them open it JUST FOR US.

It was a real treat, actually. We had another limo ride down to the arena. We walked around the empty building, getting a short tour, and then we bought the jersey from the pro shop. Then they locked up the arena again and we took the limo back to the hotel.

(For a student of professional sports, like me, it was extra-special. That was the building where Wilt Chamberlain set the single-game record for scoring in the NBA, netting 100 points in a game against the New York Knicks. Now I had some visual memory to put in my head with that record.)

In all truth, it was a magnificent place to stay, with lovely people and superb accommodations. The dining room was first-class and every night there was a Hershey Bar waiting for you on your pillow. There’s not much else I need to make me a happy man.

However, Wilmington was waiting. And I’m sorry to have to tell you that you’ll have to do so, too, because there’s way too much for me to tell you for me to finish this up today. See you tomorrow in Wilmington!

Go To Part Two

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Wedding Of The Decade (Again!)

I love you. I really do. And that’s why you’re getting this little bit of fresh preamble to a whole bunch of stuff you may have read before.

Last Friday, I explained to you how February 29th (Leap Day) is our wedding anniversary, and that we only celebrate our anniversary every four years. I reprinted the story of how we met and fell in love. It was a good story.

The story of our wedding is a good story, too. That’s what you’re going to be getting here, following this tedious bit of re-capping. I’ve put it out here before, but now is as good a time as any to put it out here again, don’t you think? You’ll be getting it all in one installment this time, unlike the first time when it took a week or so. You’ll still have to click through to further parts of it, but only because it would take up too much room on one page. Also, I’ve edited it quite a bit. For instance, I’ve removed a number of digressions. If you know me – and I’m pretty sure you do – then you know this pained me a lot. Digressions are my life. However, as I say, I love you, so no sacrifice is too great... blah blah blah.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with all new material. I’ll pick up the love story of MY WIFE and me where the wedding ended. Tomorrow, you’ll get to go on our honeymoon, you perverts. Or maybe I’m the pervert for inviting you. In any case, that’s where we’ll be headed. We’re married, so it’s OK for us, but you should probably bring protection.

Now, without any further ado (because I’m a-tired of a-doin’ this all) here is The Wedding Of The Decade (again)!


Most marriages begin with a proposal and so did ours. Many women tell charming stories of how their future husbands creatively proposed to them. For instance, they might have been sitting in the stands at Fenway Park and, during the seventh inning stretch...

***Felicia, will you marry me?***

... flashes onto the scoreboard while Felicia’s boyfriend, Archie, suddenly drops to one knee in the aisle. While everyone in the park cheers, Felicia tearfully says, "Yes! Yes!" and she wraps her arms around Archie, hugging him tightly.

(Meanwhile, Archie is thinking, "What the hell? I dropped a quarter here. Is she that happy for me?" while in another part of the ballpark there’s a totally different Felicia telling her ex-boyfriend, Rocky [they broke up in the sixth inning in an argument over the infield fly rule] that she wouldn’t marry him if he were the last man on earth, so he can take that cheap ring he got from a Crackerjacks box and shove it up his ass.)

Well, there was - I’m sorry to say - nothing so glorious about my proposal. It was one of the worst proposals ever. It was so bad, MY WIFE will probably be extremely embarrassed (for both of us) if I go into detail about it. So, I shouldn’t. However, I know that I can’t totally cop out, so I’ll try to put it as delicately as possible, using all of the linguistic powers at my command to make it sound more romantic than it actually was.

We had just finished doing the horizontal bop and, between gasping breaths, I said, "Hey, would you like to get married?"

(Don Juan? Casanova? Those bums have nothing on me.)

MY (future) WIFE said, “What do you mean by that?”

She was not joking. You see, for the previous 12 months I had been telling her – whenever marriage happened to come up during conversation – that I had no desire to ever get married and that I didn’t believe marriage was necessary if two people really loved each other. She had no reason to believe I had been lying when I said those things, so her question was certainly pertinent.

And I wasn’t lying when I said those things. I had, at the time, no desire to get married and I really did believe (still do) that marriage isn’t necessary if two people truly love each other. However, just because something isn’t necessary that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be nice, and the desire to get married is always affected by whom you have the opportunity to be spliced with.

My most previous relationship had been hideous. It was full of trivial arguments that escalated into full-scale shouting matches and an almost totally-at-odds-with-each-other view of what our future plans should be. Whenever she brought up marriage – which was every other day – I cringed.

Now, understand that I was no saint in that relationship. I was probably as much to blame for the ridiculous amount of fighting we did as my girlfriend was. And not all of the arguments were trivial. We had some extremely major philosophical differences and they were, in my view, irreconcilable. However, we soldiered on – an apt description, considering how much of our time we spent at war with each other – until she finally had the brains to leave me.

(She didn’t tell me she was leaving me. She told me she was going to visit some friends of ours in Florida and that she’d be back for Christmas. Then, a couple of days before Christmas, after I had spent half of a months pay on gifts for her, I received a “Dear John” letter. Nice.)

Anyway, I had been completely and utterly soured on the concept of marriage, mostly because, from my limited experience, it seemed like something that a woman wanted to force on a man much more than something a man might actually want and find pleasant. Being a contrarian by nature, the easiest way to get me to NOT want to do something is by telling me that I have to do it. So, I never gave marriage any sort of serious consideration, nor did I think I ever would.

Sometimes, though, you realize that the situation you’re currently in isn’t anything at all like the previous ones you’ve experienced. At that point, if you have any brain, you understand that the situation calls for a different approach altogether. So, I had to consider whether marriage was actually something that could be a good thing. And I had decided that, yes, it was - if you were married to the right person.

MY (future) WIFE was the right person. I had no doubt about that. And I had no doubt whatsoever that we could live together and be happy. So, would a proposal be in my best interest? Most assuredly yes, because I figured that she might not be willing to stick around if I didn’t propose. Therefore, I had been considering proposing to her for a few weeks before I actually did it. I hadn’t made any real plans concerning HOW I would do it, but I had been a musician, so I figured I could improvise.

And, although I didn’t know it at the time, MY (future) WIFE was pondering whether or not she could continue as we had been. Some time after the fact, she told me that had I not proposed she was probably going to tell me that her values wouldn’t permit her to continue our relationship without being married.

So, there you have it. I proposed, albeit in a truly non-spectacular fashion, and she, being caught totally off guard, told me that she had to think about it.

Yup. She had to think about it. Which meant that I, too, had to think about it, until she had an answer for me, which meant that I became a basket case until she told me yes or no. I had assumed that she would break down into tears of joy and immediately say "yes" - I was a catch, after all - but my expectations were not met.

(The word "catch" in the preceding sentence can best be defined in the same sense as what might be found at sea - something fishy.)

So, I awaited her answer, much as you will have to await the next installment. See you then.

(Nay! Thou needn't wait! GO TO PART TWO RIGHT NOW!)

The Wedding Of The Decade (The Finale)

If this is your first appearance at the wedding or the reception, you are really late, pal. The open bar is closed and the sumptuous buffet has all been eaten. You even missed out on the make-your-own-sundae station.

(Yes, we had one - don't you wish you were there? We had caviar, too - or, at least, so we heard. That was gone even by the time we arrived.)

As with the first part of the reception, if you need a closer look at something, click onto it - and then possibly click onto it again, maybe, though I have no idea why that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Yes, it's 2008, but that doesn't mean I have any greater insight into technology. I still consider it magic that I can't control.


Why, here are the newlyweds now! Hurray! Remember - no tinkling! They're both packing water pistols.

But... But... The last time we saw them was at the wedding and this is how they looked:

Why, those jolly jokers! They went home and changed clothes! That's why they gave us all these things to do, like anacrostics, while we were waiting for them to show up!

It seems to have kept everybody happy!

Hey, wait a minute! I bet this isn't really a Parker Brothers press release!

And isn't this thing copyrighted by King Features Syndicate? I think that's a copyrighted character from Warner Brothers, too. Oh, well - they can try to get blood from a stone if they really want to ruin our wedding 14 years after the fact! We're so happy to be married, we'll just apologize upfront! Love and kisses, big businesses!

Oh, boy! Cake!

And here's where Jim and HIS NEW WIFE, rather than feed each other cake, gave the first slices to the oldest person in attendance (Jim's grandmother, lurking in the weeds here) and the youngest person (Spooky Alyssa, the first person to know about them getting married, even though they hadn't told anyone yet - which you'd know about if you read Part Two, of course.)

And here is what is probably Jim's favorite picture from the reception. The little person with hands on hips, looking at Jim's NEW WIFE, is Spooky Alyssa. Father Vinny is immediately to the right. Scavenger Hunt Co-Ordinator, Valerie Smith-Sheehy, has her hand on Father Vinny's shoulder. The amazing Peggy Lavoie - artistic director of the tables - is wearing the red dress. Jim's Mom (who has learned far more about Jim by reading this blog than she ever thought she would or wanted to) has her hands on Jim's shoulders. Everyone else in the picture is swell, too!

But, for heaven's sakes, why isn't anyone looking at the camera? What the heck are they looking at? Your guess is as good as mine and I was there!

Here are the puzzle answers, as well as the credits.

And, thus far, they lived happily ever after!*

*unless they really DO end up getting sued by King Features Syndicate or Warner Brothers, in which case this blog is copyright 2008 by Abdullah Lipschitz.

The Wedding Of The Decade (Part Five - The Reception!)

Come on in! Have a seat at your assigned table.

What's that you say? You can't find your place card? Oh, that's OK... just choose a table.

(If you want a closer look at anything, move your mouse onto it and click. For printed materials, click again. I hope.)

Perhaps you'd like to sit at the Fenway Park table. Be careful of the green monster in left field!

The Boston Center For Adult Education table is popular with some. Yes, that is a pair of tap shoes to the right.

Perhaps you'd like to do some travelling. If so, the T table is for you! Turn on the cassette deck and hear 20 minutes of actual train sounds, recorded by the future bride while riding Park Street to Ashmont on the Red Line! Please step into the car. Watch the closing doors.

The Lyric Stage table comes with a disguise for our guests who wish to remain incognito.

The groom assures us that the Celtics will be contenders again soon, so perhaps you'd like to get in on the ground floor?

The Boston Public Library table comes with its very own librarian. Shhhhh!

Of course, the Museum Of Fine Arts table is always popular, especially with dancers from Bougival.

Or perhaps the Pitbulls table, where you'll sit with Jim's friends, former band members and softball teammates, as well as his MVP trophy and an old cleat.

Of course, you received your program at the church. Now would be a good time to look it over, so you don't miss any of the fun.

Oh, wait! It's time for The Scavenger Hunt! When you fill out your sheet, bring it to our Scavenger Hunt Co-Ordinator, Valerie, and you might win a fabulous prize!

Oh! Oh! Here come the newlyweds...

(More Fun - Right This Way!)

The Wedding Of The Decade (Part Four)

David Ortiz is too spectacular to put into words. He's the best clutch hitter of my lifetime. I saw Yastrzemski in 1967, and he was amazing, but Ortiz? He's established a new standard. On top of it all, he's a nice guy; humble and a great teammate.

Why would I interrupt this continuing saga to talk baseball - aside from the obvious fact that David Ortiz is magnificent? Well, it's the type of thing that guys will talk about at the reception. Women might discuss the beauty of the bride's gown or make fun of the hideous bridesmaid's outfits or perhaps they'll say how pretty the floral arrangements were - I can only speculate concerning these things, of course, since I don't own a vagina. Men, however, will not utter a single word concerning the groom's manner of dress - unless he got married in a kilt or something, in which case he becomes fair game and he knows it, too. No, men will talk sports.

Also, you women need to understand that, if you decide to schedule your wedding on a day containing a major sporting event, there are only two possibilities.

If you schedule the ceremony at the same time as the major sporting event, every guy in the church will be pissed. This includes your father, your brother and the groom himself.

If you schedule the ceremony to happen before or after the major sporting event, that's better. However, if you schedule it before, every guy at the reception - once again including your father, brother and groom - will be trying to find a TV to watch the sporting event. If you schedule it after, they will spend the reception talking about the sporting event. As a matter of fact, they may still gather around the nearest TV, beers in hand, and watch the replays.

The only guys the above does not apply to are your gay friends and those guys in the wedding party who are trying to hit on your bridesmaids. And if you're not hitting on bridesmaids or talking sports, it will be assumed you are gay.

Two stories that prove this:

1 - MY WIFE, prior to meeting me, volunteered to write and send out wedding invitations for a friend of hers. On the invitations, it was supposed to say "So-and-so & guest". Well, when she sent them out, she had it say that on the female invitations, but not on those going to men.

The Machiavellian idea was that this would bring many single dateless men to the reception. Then she and her friends could troll the waters for a catch.

It was a fine idea, except for one thing. The wedding happened during the World Series. Every man at the reception, dateless or not, gathered around the TV at the bar and watched the game. MY WIFE and all of her friends didn't go home with a damned thing except experience.

2 - MY WIFE and I attended a wedding reception in 2004. Nice couple, now residing in Brooklyn. The wedding reception was in October. The wedding reception was held in a suburb of Boston.

Boston. October. 2004.

The groom spent nearly the entire evening in conversation with various buddies rhapsodizing about how sweet it was that the Red Sox had come from 0 - 3 down to beat the Yankees. Luckily, his bride was also a Sox fan, so she wasn't pissed. Wouldn't have mattered if she was, though. Some things are just in the genes and if you schedule a wedding or reception at certain times, the genes will out.

My best advice, ladies? Schedule your wedding during a time when there are no playoffs happening in any of the four major North American sports. Also, no Olympics, World Cup, major golf tournaments or NASCAR championships. For instance, February 29th.


So the morning of February 29th arrived (arrove?) and we were ready. Every detail was taken care of and all of the stuff we had to bring to the hall and church - for decorating, etc. - was packed up in boxes and bags and ready to be loaded into the car for transport. A couple of very close friends and relatives had agreed to help us that morning with the actual decorating.

I loaded the stuff into my car and drove over to the Knights of Columbus hall we had rented for the reception. I would drop off the stuff with our very good friends and oversee the set-up. I took this task onto myself as a solo venture voluntarily. MY (future) WIFE was on the edge of clinical exhaustion and remained at home taking care of last minute clothing details and popping tranquilizers. I say that not unkindly. She was subject to amazingly hideous migraines and had copped a scrip to make a preemptive strike against that possibility. I was all for her avoiding migraines, of course.

I parked the car, got out, and went into the hall. I then stood there in drop-jawed amazement, not believing what my eyes were seeing.

The entire floor of the hall was covered with trash and I literally mean every inch of it. The hall had been used for a bingo game the night before and it was strewn with discarded bingo cards, scratch tickets, markers, paper plates and drink cups, cigarette butts and every other bit of detritus that could possibly be associated with a night of gambling.

After the bingo game, whoever was in charge had just swept everything on the tables onto the floor, folded everything up and gone home. Our friends and I had to actually clean the place and set up the tables and chairs before they could even begin doing the decorating.

Before that happened, though, I had to go home. MY (future) WIFE expected me to take perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes at the most to drop stuff off and go over a few details with our friends. There was no way in hell I was going to tell her about what was transpiring. So, I went home, made some sort of lame excuse about having to head back to the hall, and then did so - pissed and ready to start busting my balls cleaning.

Thankfully, MY (future) WIFE had a serious case of Bride Brain, so I didn't have to be too effective in my lying.

I went back to the hall and joined in scooping up trash - by hand. I had a change of clothes at home, of course, but the other folks were already in their beautiful wedding duds. They hadn't expected to be working shin-deep in filth that morning. But they did, God bless them, they did.

After helping to dispose of the greater part of the mess, I had to head back home to continue with our pre-wedding prep. I left everything in the capable hands of Peggy Lavoie and she, along with my future brother-in-law and sister-in-law... well, she absolutely guaranteed herself a spot in heaven, if there's any justice in this universe. She took all of the boxes of stuff, along with my hurried instructions concerning set-up details, and she did as magnificent a job with that hall as we could have done given three days to accomplish it. She set up every table with the specific decorations for that table's theme and did so with her marvelous eye for artistry. I won't show you the details yet - that will come later, at the reception - but you need to know that, without her efforts, our day would have been fairly much ruined.


Back home, we packed up the programs we had made and readied to bring them to St. Gregory’s, the church we were being married in. Our greeters (photo above) would hand one to each of the guests as they entered the church. Since we had many friends who were not Catholic, we included fairly much every word of the liturgy within the programs so that they could follow it easily and participate without hesitation or embarrassment.

After dropping off the programs, we had to go to the florist and pick up the floral arrangements, bring them to the church, and set them up on the altar. MY (future) WIFE also had to get her hair done. We both had to dress in what we were wearing for the ceremony. And I had to write a speech, too.

You see, it was our idea that we would both address our guests at the ceremony. I would give a welcome and MY (future) WIFE would say a couple of words after we were married, including pointing out that directions to the reception were in the program.

Remember how this whole story began with an improvisation on my part? I hadn't learned my lesson from that. After all, horrible improvisation though it may have been, she had agreed to marry me. So I figured I could wait until the last minute to come up with something to say as an introduction to our guests.

You know what? I was right this time.

After picking up the flowers, and while MY (future) WIFE was having her hair done, I was at home reading the funny pages of the Boston Globe. I had it in the back of my head that I had to come up with something to say, but I wasn't too worried about it. I could wing it, if need be. I came from a long line of successful b.s. artists and panic under pressure is not a trait you inherit from folks like that. As I was reading Andy Capp, Bringing Up Father, Blondie, and other fine literature sure to instill confidence in a soon-to-be-married man, I glanced down the page and miraculously found the text upon which to base my pre-game talk.

A regular feature on the comics page was the Quote Of The Day. In this case, it was from someone named Festus. The only Festus I knew was the deputy from Gunsmoke, but I assumed it wasn't him and, miracle of miracles, I was now right twice in the same day. As I later found out, he was a Roman philosopher. At that moment, however, he was a gift from God that I gratefully accepted. I clipped the quote out of the page and put it into my pocket.


Her hair now done, MY (future) WIFE was ready for the wedding. We got into our car and drove over to the church. I'd say we had at least twelve or thirteen minutes to spare before the ceremony.

At the time, I was driving a 10-year-old monkey-shit brown Oldsmobile that was not without its charms, but had acquired 10 years worth of dents, dings and other personalizations. We pulled up in front of the church and were immediately accosted by a helpful church official.

"Hey! You can't park there! There's a wedding today and that space is reserved for the limousine!"

"We are the limousine", MY (future) WIFE said, as she moved the orange traffic cones out of the way.


We waited in the sacristy, peeking outside every now and then to count the house - not unlike performers on opening night. I fingered the quote from Festus in my pocket, figuring out my opening lines.

The third person "on stage" with us that day would be Fr. Vincent McKiernan, CSP. We knew him as Vinny. When we decided to get married, he was MY (future) WIFE's immediate choice as celebrant and I agreed wholeheartedly.

Vinny was currently in residence at Ohio State University, but he had previously been a resident at the Paulist Center in downtown Boston. This is where we knew him from. He had been a great help to MY (future) WIFE during a time of great distress (prior to this time of great distress) and a friendship beyond the usual priest-parishioner relationship had developed. I didn't know Vinny as intimately, but I did know him as a kind and gentle man with a wonderful sense of humor, especially adept at punning.

(Since Vinny was from out of town, we had to get special papers to allow him to perform a wedding in Massachusetts. Conservatives want more people to get married and stay married? They want to cut down the divorce rate? Have the government get the hell out of the marriage business. If you left marriage to the religious institutions and dropped all of the hideous paperwork and blood tests and licensing and permissions and fees and other crap, more people might find it easier and might do it. In addition, most churches consider a marriage final. They don't grant divorces; the state does. Mini-rant over. Sorry!)

Vinny was ready. MY (future) WIFE was ready. The musicians were ready. The gathered guests were ready. I pulled Festus out of my pocket and walked out to the lectern on the altar. I began...

"Thank you for coming here today to join us in our celebration of marriage. I'd like to read you a quote that we've pretty much based our entire life together on."

(I had never seen the quote until about an hour ago.)

"The quote is from Festus."

(I here explained that it was not the same Festus as the character from Gunsmoke. I still had no earthly idea what Festus he might have been.)

"We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; In feelings, not in figures on a dial."

"We have tried to live our life together thus far by following these words."

(This was pretty much true, but we had never actually seen the words before.)

"Each one of you holds a special place in our lives and it is our fervent hope that you'll find the deeds, thoughts and feelings expressed today filled with love."

(Whatever the hell that means. I know it sounded good because everybody was smiling.)

Having now baffled everybody with bullshit, it was time to begin the actual ceremony. I stepped off of the altar and joined hands with MY (future) WIFE, who was giving me a "Who in heck is Festus and we do what with who now?" smile. We made our way to the back of the church via a side aisle and then followed the rest of the wedding party up the middle aisle towards the altar.

Why, here we are now!

I have to condense slightly here, otherwise I'll have to rent out space on another blog to finish. If you know the Roman Catholic liturgy, you more or less know our wedding.

Dearly beloved...

Husband and WIFE...

(A few minutes previous to this, we had exchanged a high five - somewhat to the chagrin of Vinny, I'm afraid.)

And then we went home, while everyone else...

... headed to the reception. Why did we go home? You'll find out at the reception.

(See you there in a little while!)

The Wedding Of The Decade (Part Three)

There are vast differences between the way a man's mind works and the way a woman's mind works. Generally speaking, men do one thing at a time. They concentrate on the task at hand to the exclusion of whatever else is happening. Women, on the other hand, tend to multi-task.

Guys, this is why when you are making love to your wife and you want to forestall the end a bit, it helps to do something distracting like calculating batting averages. On the other hand, it's why your wife can honestly say that, yes, it was good for her, too, but while she was moaning, she made out the grocery list in her head, noticed a spot on the ceiling that needed painting, and oh, by the way, you have to remember to pay the gas bill by Friday or the heat will be shut off.

This is why - being a guy - I had no idea that there was so much crap that had to be done before a wedding. I figured you told people about the wedding, they came, and the wedding happened. MY (future) WIFE - being not a guy - knew better. We were not unlike that scene in The Odd Couple when Oscar comes home late from work and Felix stands accusingly before him with a dry overcooked roast. Oscar says, "Well, just put some gravy on it" and Felix says, "Put some gravy on it? Where in the hell am I going to get gravy?" and Oscar says, "I thought it just comes when you make the meat."

The thing of it is, I'm such of a guy's guy I'll probably still forget half the stuff that needed to be done, even in the retelling. As the details were piled on while it was actually happening, I was completely flabbergasted.

Invitations had to be made and sent, flowers had to be ordered and placed, a hall had to be rented, the church had to be reserved, food had to be taken care of, the music, the priest, reply cards, blood tests, licenses, place cards, video, programs, photographs, a cake, transportation, rings, best man, maid of honor, ushers, bridesmaids, shoes, dresses, a tux, hair, readings, seating, vows, travel plans for the honeymoon, hotel reservations, vacation time from work, decorations for the hall, the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner, at least fourteen other things I've blessedly forgotten and, God Almighty, none of it comes when you make the meat.

Was it too late to live in sin? How bad could Hell be? I'll be set on fire and poked with a pitchfork for all eternity? Lemme think about it.


The one thing that made all of this bearable was the fact that we were both over thirty.

No, I'm not saying that age had given us some sort of insight allowing us the ability to stand back and be free from stress. What age had done was grant us some freedom from conformity. Since we were both over thirty, we would do everything in exactly the way we wanted it done. It was our wedding and nobody else's.

While younger couples sometimes follow the tradition of having the bride's family pay for much of what happens - and concomitantly have to make concessions to those footing the bill - we were old enough to forego that nonsense. We both worked, so we'd pay for it ourselves. And since we would be paying for it completely on our own, we could include anything we damn well pleased and leave out anything we damn well pleased, too.

Now, we weren't (and aren't) rich. We weren't (aren't) even in the same area code as rich. We were (are) in the same hemisphere as three-paychecks-removed-from-debtors-prison-and-maybe-by-the-time-
we're-seventy-dog-food-won't-look-too-unpalatable. As a result, we also decided that there was a lot of stuff we could do ourselves, as opposed to paying to have it done for us.


First off, being not so rich made us sensitive to the fact that many of our friends were in a similar situation. So, the first thing we decided was to not saddle them with extra expenses. Therefore, we did not make the bridesmaids or maid of honor buy dresses that they would never in a million years wear again, nor did we have ushers or my best man rent (or buy) tuxes. These people could dress in whatever way they wanted. We trusted that they would dress nicely. And they did.


We hand-made the invitations, the reply cards, the programs and the place cards, 150 or so of each. You must understand that this was without the aid of any sort of computer or computer program. It was the dark ages - 1991 and 1992. When I say hand-made, I literally mean hand-made. The most sophisticated tools we had at our disposal were a typewriter and a copier. Here's one of our invitations:

And the inside.
I had barely begun my career in voice-overs and commercial production, so I was working a full-time job as a security guard. I painstakingly did the calligraphy myself during the midnight-to-8 shift. I had never done calligraphy before, but I figured I could fake it well enough to be serviceable. I did it with a felt-tip marker, not a calligraphy pen.

Once I felt I had a good sample (which was about 80 sheets of paper into the effort, what with getting it centered correctly onto a sheet that would then be folded down into a four-sided invitation) I handed it over to MY (future) WIFE for her to do the artwork. Thankfully, she got it right on the first attempt, otherwise I probably would have had to use another 80 sheets to re-do it. Then, I inserted that sheet into a typewriter and prayed to God that I could correctly line up what I needed to type. If not, back to the beginning.

Only after all of this did we feed that one precious sheet into a copier to make the 150 or so copies we needed. We then hand-colored the leaves on every copy - no color copier available to make that an unnecessary task. Finally, we made the heart. You'll see that it is made up of two thumbprints - one from each of us. We had to ink up our thumbs and make every heart from scratch, so each invitation was unique.

Similar work went into the reply cards, place cards and programs.


I recorded onto four one-hour cassette tapes all of the music to be played at the reception. I did this piece by piece, transferring the music from vinyl records to the cassette tapes. No digital downloads. No CDs. All vinyl and all one song at a time and if I got the sound of the needle being lifted or a skip or any other glitch, rewind the cassette to the exact point I had previously started at and begin again.

I had to plan each side so that it would be as close to thirty minutes as possible. I juggled my song lists for timing while keeping in mind the least jarring transitions. I did all of this on a commercial stereo set-up - no cross-fading, no ramping up the records to speed, no input volume meters to reference, nothing. After each song was recorded, I had to rewind to where it began in order to make sure that the volume levels matched and that I had the song beginning immediately after the preceding song and had not cut off anything.

One other thing: The recording cassette deck had a broken door. I had to physically hold it shut during the entire process. This means that during any time I was recording a song, playing back a song, rewinding, or whatever involved any movement of the tape, I had to keep my finger firmly pressed against the door of the deck. The recording process took some ten hours total. My finger was sore for two days afterwards.

I hauled my entire system (including my big-ass-for-those-days 75-watts-a-side speakers) to the hall, in my car, and set it up myself on the morning of the wedding. In addition, once the reception began I had to remember the playlist so that I could be ready to change the cassettes the seven times they would need to be changed.


MY (future) WIFE contracted the musicians for the wedding itself. They were all from the church group she had been a part of - and in which she had met my mother, by the way. The lone exception was my best man and former band mate, Sean Flaherty, who played on one song at my behest. We picked out all of the religious music to be played at the ceremony. In addition, I wrote a song on which Sean would play lead guitar.

When I say, "I wrote", I mean I literally wrote out the song for the musicians; actual sheet music, which was something I had never done before. I had previously played in groups that used nothing but "head arrangements", i.e., arrangements worked out in rehearsals and never existing on paper, but only in the musician's heads. I can read music myself, but only laboriously. Thus, the writing process was very slow.

The wedding musicians, who could sight-read, were unfailingly kind to me when working in rehearsal with my sometimes slightly off-time scratchings and they took my verbal corrections patiently. The only part not written out was Sean's solo following the third verse, but I coached him on the basic form I wanted him to follow - some octave-fingering a la Wes Montgomery - and let him take it from there.

No "Here Comes The Bride", either. We would both march down the aisle together as equal partners. This wasn't some extension of a tribal rite where I'd trade three goats for my woman, so MY (future) WIFE was not "given away" by anyone, nor did I pay attention to any of that silly shit about not seeing the bride before the wedding. I'd already seen every inch of her (and liked what I saw, too.)

We would both wear our nicest clothes, but not a tuxedo or a gown. We wanted the emphasis on the religious aspects of the ceremony, not the trappings. There would be a tuxedo and gown, but... well, you'll see later.


We planned out - and either bought, borrowed, made, or otherwise finagled - all of the decorations ourselves.

We had decided to use a different theme for every guest table at the reception. There was one overall theme - what we loved about Boston. However, each table would represent one place or thing in Boston that we particularly liked. For instance, there would be a Fenway Park table; a Museum of Fine Arts table; a Boston Public Library table; etc., and each table would have it's own distinctive decorations, place cards, centerpieces and whatnot.

In order to do this as inexpensively as possible, we sent letters to every organization representing these places or institutions, explaining what we were up to and asking them to mail us back whatever they were willing to give us as being representative of them. Most were marvelously receptive of the idea and responded with all sorts of interesting little bits of booty.

We'd await the mail each day with some excitement, wondering what it would bring. The Boston Celtics, for instance, sent us schedules and magnets. From the Museum of Fine Arts we received postcards of artwork and other doo-dads. We took these items, added them to what we had around the house already, and planned out each table as its own distinctive work of art.

I'll show you more later, when we get to the reception, but let me give you an idea of what our tables looked like. As a matter of fact, see if you can guess which table this is:

Yes, that'’s right. The HEAD Table.


MY (future) WIFE pored through catalogs of party favors and ordered lots of fun things to have at each table - little spinning toy tops; streamers; those things you blow into and a piece of fabric unwinds and makes a noise, like you see in pictures of New Years Eve (what are those things called?); confetti; candies.

Most of these items came from a marvelous company called Oriental Trading. We highly recommend them.


Of course, on top of these somewhat insane Herculean solo efforts, we also made all of the arrangements with the caterer, contracted the hall, worked with the church to stake out a time that wouldn't interfere with their regular Saturday masses, did the mailings and worked on seating arrangements, rented or bought all of our new clothing, made arrangements with the florist, booked a room for our rehearsal dinner, asked certain friends and family members to be part of the wedding party and do readings and such, and all of the other mundane pre-nuptial tasks.

We made a gigantic list of everything that we needed to accomplish and, as each thing was taken care of, we checked it off. Then we added two more things that we had forgotten about.

Here is what we looked like two days before the wedding:


Finally, came the morning of the wedding.

Well, finally for us, that is. Finally for you will be the next installment. See you then. Have some fun - dress up. If you have a bridesmaid's dress that you bought for someone else's wedding and you've despaired ever since that you spent so much money on it and never found a place to wear it again, feel free to throw it on.

(Go To The Actual Wedding!)

The Wedding Of The Decade (Part Two)

Before we pick up the story, I have some words of advice for the guys in my audience. There is absolutely nothing - and I mean not a single solitary thing - that your wife will not remember about your wedding and anything that was even remotely connected to it. That's just the way it is, so don't try to fight it. It is the nature of the beast, so to speak.

You know how you can recall that ballgame you played in high school? You remember that there were runners on second and third, the count was 2-and-1, it was slightly overcast, the leftfielder was shading you towards center, and the pitcher threw a curve that hung and you laced a double down the line that made the score 6 - 5 in the fifth inning? Women do that with weddings.

I mention this because I showed Part One to MY WIFE last night and she immediately corrected five or six mistakes.

Now, I'm not going to go back and correct everything as MY WIFE picks off the mistakes. Instead, I'm going to go ahead and relate the story as best I can with my man-wedding-memory, and then if she wishes to post a guest blog afterwards, showing all of you how pitifully I recalled things, OK.

And one more thing before we pick it up again. My brother-in-law called last night and he wasn't pleased with yesterday's post. It wasn't that he had any problem with my mention of boinking his sister. He just couldn't understand why, what with all of the euphemisms at my disposal, I had chosen one so closely associated with Bob Seger.

(I had considered using "making the two-backed beast", but I doubt that would have made him feel any better.)

Oh, OK, I'll add one more thing. MY WIFE says that we were fully clothed when I popped the question. Nah.


So there I was, being a basket case all day while MY (future) WIFE decided whether or not to accept my proposal. I've never liked waiting of any kind, but to wait for an answer that will decide my future? Sheer hell.

She said, "Yes."

(Well, what did you expect? I haven't been calling her MY (almost-but-not-quite-because-she-turned-down-my-proposal) WIFE. Wouldn't have been much of a wedding if she had said, "No.")

Having received the positive answer, we now had to tell people that we were getting married. Not a big problem, really. Her folks liked me and my folks liked her. However, there were extenuating circumstances.

My Dad was in the hospital and my Aunt Jeanne, my Mom's sister, had just passed away. It didn't seem like a propitious moment, so we held off. We also didn't want to just blurt it out like a couple of silly boobs before we had some details taken care of; for instance, the date.

We tossed around a couple of ideas. October may be our favorite month, all things considered, and both MY (future) WIFE's parents and grandparents had been married on the same date in October, so we gave serious consideration to getting married then. However, when we looked at a calendar, we saw that something somewhat rare was happening in the next year and we both immediately knew it was the right date for us to get married on. It was both serendipitous and goofy, just like us. We settled on February 29th.

Yes, February 29th. February 29th is not an easy date to forget. It only happens once every four years. I'm willing to bet that every person who attended our wedding remembers the date of our anniversary. And I certainly do, so that takes care of any of that "forgetful husband" crap when our anniversary rolls around. For another thing, 29 had always been a lucky number for me. It's the number I like to get on all of my softball uniforms. And the actual date would be 2/29/92, which is certainly... something. And it fell on a Saturday in 1992. Perfect!

(We will be celebrating our fourth anniversary in 2008. If you're still coming around here by then, you should get a life. No, wait a minute. What I meant to say was that if you're still coming around here by then and you want to get us a gift, the traditional 4th anniversary present is linen. We'll probably need some new sheets by then, so...)

Meanwhile, we had dinner one Sunday at my in-laws. I liked them a lot. Bill and Eleanor were nice folks and I miss them. Anyway, there we were sitting around the table - me, MY (future) WIFE, her mother and father, her sister Victoria, and Victoria's two daughters, Caitlyn, 5, and Alyssa, 3.

You have to understand, for this part of the story, that there was something otherworldly about Alyssa when she was very young. She saw things that other people didn't. Not dead people, but she was very much in touch with some sort of cosmic force, and you can call it God or something else if you like, but whatever it was, she was a spooky little kid sometimes. If I go into a lot of detail here, it would be far too much of a digression, so you'll have to take my word for it. She just knew stuff and nobody knew how she knew.

We're sitting there eating and she asked me to pass the bread. After I did, Victoria said, "What do we say, Alyssa?" and she said, "Thank you, Uncle Jimmy."

There was a collective gasp at the table. We hadn't said a blessed thing yet about being engaged, so everybody (except MY [future] WIFE and I) got all flustered and embarrassed and started to tell Alyssa that, while I was a nice guy, I wasn't really her uncle, etc., but we figured that was as good an opportunity as we were likely to get, so we said, "No, she's right, sort of. We are getting married."

(By the way, as Alyssa got closer and closer to puberty, she lost more and more of whatever connection she had. Not that she isn't still a sweet kid - she is. It's just that now I can't ask her for some numbers to play when I go to Las Vegas and have any expectations that those numbers will turn a profit. They did for a while and I gave her 10% off the top. I should have laid it in heavier than I did. Oh, well.)

When we told my Mom that we were getting married, she was delighted. After all, she had introduced us. We tried to be subtle about it. We were at my Grandmother's house, listening to some old recordings from my late Grandfather's collection of dixieland jazz, and MY WIFE said, "Do you have any wedding music in there?" Neither one of them took the bait, so we had to spell it out.

Once my Dad left the hospital and we told him about the wedding, he was very happy also. He liked MY (future) WIFE a lot. He certainly liked her a lot more than he liked my ex. As he told his racetrack buddies after meeting MY (future) WIFE, "Jimmy's stepping up in class."

As for how we told the rest of the world? Well, whereas some folks have their wedding announcement in the society pages of The Times, we had ours in Moos From The Farm.

Moos From The Farm was a newsletter published by Stonyfield Farms, makers of fine yogurt. We had both "adopted" cows through a fun program of theirs (Susie and Sadie were their names) and we received mailings from them on a regular basis telling us how our cows were doing and other stuff pertaining to dairy farming in New Hampshire.

Well, they had a regular feature called Mooers Profiles. Remember the scotch ads - Dewars Profiles? Like those, only with cows. And the prize for being featured in a Mooers Profile was a lifetime supply of yogurt. We figured that they wouldn't be able to pass up two of their "cow parents" getting married and we were right. So, we had our wedding announcement in the pages of Moos From The Farm and got a lifetime supply of yogurt, to boot.

(The "lifetime supply" was actually a huge stack of coupons, each one redeemable for a 32 oz. bucket of yogurt, which is a big bucket. We still have a couple of those coupons and we will never cash in the last one. We figure that when we do, we will die. It is a lifetime supply, after all.)

(I wanted to include the actual announcement here, but as with so many of the treasured mementos of things in my life, it is packed away somewhere in one of the many boxes full of crap in our basement. I'm happy to report, however, that Moos From The Farm is still being published. You can find the latest issue here. Unfortunately, the archives only go back to Spring 2002, which is after we were married. I suppose this is because, prior to our wedding, it was a print-only newsletter. Yes, we became engaged in THE BEFORE TIME!!!)

You women will get a kick out of this next part. Since we were being married in February, I figured we didn't have to really do anything about it until January.

You can stop laughing now.

Oh, OK, keep on laughing, then.


(Go There Now!)