Monday, August 30, 2010

Alan & V, Haggis & Tartan

I Do Countown: 26 Days
Mrs. Alan W. Davidson, 'V', and some guy in a tux.
Isn't she lovely? I mean, really lovely?

Weddings of Haggis and Tartan

Dear Ms. Olliffe,
I recently set up a Facebook page for my writer friends to gather and gossip. I was most surprised to see a long comment thread centered about my marital status. Some asked if I was recently married while others wondered if I had gotten remarried. Instead of addressing the issue immediately, I foolishly took the opportunity to ask for gifts of alcohol as belated wedding presents. Sadly, there were no takers. 
For the record, I would like to inform my girl-fans that I am indeed married. I thought that there would be no better forum to substantiate this than at Cathy Olliffe’s “Wedding on the Muskoka River” blog.  (Subtitled: Holy Crap!…Am I really about to do this again?)
Looking remarkably Burton Cummings at the Distress Centre
BBQ. V was no doubt bowled over by the headband
and Tom Selleck moustache.
I met my future wife while volunteering at the London Distress Centre (Americans may call this ‘Suicide Hotline’). As in-service co-coordinator, my role was to approach spokespeople for service agencies and convince them to give free educational speeches to our volunteers. ‘V’ was new to the centre and I first met her at one of these evenings.
There were no sparks and, in fact, V yammered on about some guy she was dating. One Saturday, we both agreed to help at a fundraising BBQ for the agency (my employer loaned us their large, mobile rig). It should be noted that I’m not a very sharp guy at noticing signals from the opposite sex. I suspected something was up, though, when I noticed her wearing an apron to the event that showed a goofy looking giraffe with the caption “I know what giraffter.”
The apron led us to a first date (some of you may recall I mentioned at my blog about showing up for said date bearing a dozen brown eggs). Being a typical male Davidson, and somewhat desperate, I wasted no time in proposing marriage. That was on November 21, the same date my parents were engaged back in 1961. Though I think a shotgun was present at their engagement…
Dinner's served! Sorry, Alan, I, um, grabbed a
burger on the way over... looks really good, though.
We were married in July of the following year. I had Scottish relatives attending and we thought it fitting the reception be held in a fancy restaurant where copious amounts of turnip, haggis and single malt would be served to the 50 guests. 
My best man and his wife flew in from Los Angeles, fulfilling a promise we had made to one another as teenagers to be best men at each others weddings. We were led into the stone chapel on the grounds of the Children’s Psychiatric Hospital by a piper wearing the Davidson tartan. My father even wore a kilt for the first time in his life. After a bit of coaching, he figured out where his sporran should hang. 
Who needs a DJ when you have pipes?
The only odd incident during the ceremony itself was that a small boy belonging to one of the guests crawled about the floor near the front of the chapel and began spitting into a floor grate. He then crawled over to my father and tried to peek up his kilt. “Away you go, ye wee toad. If ye dae that ye’ll be in fae the fright of your life,” he whispered at the boy, forgetting how good the acoustics were in the small building. The red-faced mother hurried over to retrieve her stray child.
During the photo session later in the park, the best man became somewhat annoying and the matron of honour came within inches of pushing him into the fountain on which he struck a Burt Reynolds-esque pose. The only thing that prevented her from doing so was that we still had to attend the reception.
Due to our advanced age, my indifference to details, and the fact that V had been married twice before we opted for a more subdued, classy reception. There was no dancing and background music was supplied by a piano player. We had agreed on a selection of songs but she was also free to take requests from the guests. V had an intense dislike of ‘The King’ so there was only one stipulation…no Elvis. Even if requested by the PM, the Queen and the Holy Father himself. If Elvis you play, we do not pay. The frightened piano player cooperated fully.
The dinner flew past with nary a hitch. Well, perhaps a small hitch. Even with the copious amounts of scotch, 37 people balked at consuming the haggis. Words like barley, onions and uterine wall were bandied about. The restaurant quickly managed to whip up something involving liver, eggplant and raw seaweed to replace the unconsumed mélange of internal organs.
The cutting of the tiered carrot cake went very smoothly, unlike at my sister’s wedding years earlier. The icing on her wedding cake could not be broken through with a thick knife, a heavy hammer and harsh words. The offending cement layer had to be chiseled off prior to serving it to the guests. How’s that for a bad omen.
The Davidson clan, including Alan's father beside the blushing bride.
What a good looking lot!
That’s the story behind our fairly uneventful meeting and subsequent wedding. I’m secretly hoping that the haggis, and the fact the old man wore a kilt, has brought us a measure of good luck. Knock on wood (*raps knuckles against skull*).
My thanks to you, Ms. Olliffe, for allowing me to clear up any misconceptions my Facebook friends may have about my marital status.  
Best wishes and fair weather to you and Mr. Webster on your special day.
Kind Regards,
Alan W. Davidson
PS. I made up that stuff about the single malt…and the haggis…and the spitting boy.

Alan W. Davidson carries on a juicy stream of interesting conversation almost daily at his cheerful Newfoundland blog, Conversations From Land's Edge. When we're lucky, he posts his fiction or his travel photos or pictures of him in a fez. You just never know what to expect when you pay a call but you're always guaranteed a smile and a good time. Alan's one of my favourite blogging buddies and Dave and I can hardly wait to meet him and V, along with the lovely and talented Laurita Miller and her family, when we travel to Newfoundland on our honeymoon. 
While I was looking for an appropriate song for Alan and V, I came across this one from Lisa Hannigan. It's not slick, but its remarkably honest beauty made the breath catch in my throat. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Advice from Ant

I Do Countdown: 27 Days

It had been a while since Anthony Venutolo and me had snagged coffee and pie. We met at the Skyway Diner around the corner because there's a saucy waitress who gives us a break at bill time and never listens too closely to the conversation. I believe she's a bit sweet on the Jersey boy but isn't everybody. It's that smouldering doe-eyed look of his, and his smooth way around the words. Like good scotch on clear ice, that's Anthony.

Not that I'm immune to his Soprano charms, but I got my own guy, a stand-up guy, and we're gettin' married on September 25. It's a small wedding, as most weddings go, but there's still a fair bit of stress involved. I think that's why I wanted to chill a bit, sit down with Ant over some peach pie and a cup of diner coffee and get his advice on getting hitched.

Anthony hasn't been married all that long. He's only a coupla years shy of being a newlywed, something the blushy waitress either doesn't know or doesn't care about. They share a life and a passion for each other and a child and I get the impression that Ant pretty much has it all, waitress bedamned.

I'm telling Ant about my brainiac idea to burn a disc of romantic music for each of our wedding guests (what was I thinking????); about me making my beloved look like a skunk when I attempted to give him a few streaks; about how I can't stop eating and I'm worried that my dress isn't going to fit and Anthony interrupts and says, "forget about it. Go to Vegas."

He then gives me five reasons why I should do just that:

1. Um .... it's frikkin' Vegas!!! It's the kind of thing everyone secretly wants to do deep down but may not have the cajones to pull off. Eff it. Do it. You'll never forget it. Where else can Elvis marry and sing to you??

2. Pick a great chapel and then brag about who else got hitched there. In my case ... some dude named SINATRA ... Oh yeah and Paul Newman, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Michael Jordan, Britney Spears, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore.

3. You could take HALF of that wedding loot... HALF ... and live it up like you've never lived it up before. Take a few special friends or family and foot some of the bill if you can. For example, on my wedding night, we all sprang for tickets to see LOVE, the Cirque Beatle show at the Mirage. Beforehand, we ate at Emeril's steakhouse at The Venetian in the glass room off the kitchen. There were no no menus. Chef just came in and said, "whaddya want..." Plus they paired it with wine flights... Expensive, but worth it.

4. Let's just say it's the perfect town for a bachelor or bachelorette party. 'Nuff said on that one...

5. You could live it up like a Saudi prince. With the economy in the crapper, rooms are dirt cheap. DIRT CHEAP. Plus I can teach you to $20 trick to get an upgrade. Let's just say, it's NEVER failed. I've always been upgraded. Some of the nicest rooms I've ever stayed at in my life were in Sin City Hotels.

If you've never read about Anthony's wedding, you must, must go to his blog, Bukowski's Basement, and give it a read. Only Anthony would get married on the same day as 15 zilllion other people and then have his photo show up in newspapers all over the free world.

Doesn't Anthony Venutolo look remarkably like Elvis?
And doesn't he look great in red?
Y'know, not everybody can pull off fringe...

Thanks for the advice, Ant. I'm pretty sure I'm not gonna take it, not with a church booked and plans made. But you were darned persuasive. I actually thought about it for a while. Maybe it was your Joisey boy good looks. Or maybe it was that Elvis dude in the red fringes. Or maybe it was the peach pie.

Two guesses what Anthony's wedding song was, and the first guess doesn't count.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Who Will Care - #fridayflash

You’re a voice on an answering machine.
A flickering Kodachrome memory on a brittle movie screen.
“Leave a message!” you say. Cheery even in death.
You smoke and spill your drink, bumbling around at a party, laughing hysterically. Soundlessly. You’re dead. She’s dead, the one whose head is thrown back and mouth is open. He’s dead, the best man at your wedding, dead far too young. You are sepia and senseless, not knowing, not knowing.
You’re a blog post, a post that hasn’t changed, that will never change, and you’re so cheery, so cheery, so cheery.
And you’re dead.
Don’t you know? I mean, don’t you know?
Who will be your voice now?
Who will make us smile?
Who will break our hearts?
Who will see this comment?
Who will care?
Don’t you know?
For Tia L. Brink.
For Jamie & Ann Eyberg.
For Chris Al-Aswad.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Laura Eno's In the House!

Laura Eno's new book 'Prophecy Moon.'
A full, rising harvest moon.
No, the actual moon, not my arse.
I kissed Laura Eno's butt.
She decided I did it better than anyone, even Sam the Future Nostalgic who tried hard, I'll give him that, and Jon Strother, who had the good sense to cry Uncle when faced with defeat. Those guys are just amateurs when it comes to butt-kissing.
Today I went to the post office because I had a package (is there a sweeter sentence in the English language than 'I have a package?' That's why guys say it all the time.)
I even had to show I.D. to pick it up. The lady said, "I know your face but I need to match it up with some I.D." She was so full of bologna. I had never seen her before in my life and while I may be a cause celebre in blog circles, I am pretty much nobody in my real life. Oh. You mean I'm a nobody in blog circles, too? Really? Oh, that was just mean. Well I may be a nobody to you, mister,  but at least I'm consistent.
I pick up the package and it's Laura's new book, Prophecy Moon. I say "squee" because that's a Laura term and I thought it deserved a little airplay in Bracebridge. A package, not only from Laura, but from FLORIDA. I'd never gotten anything in the mail from Florida before. The box had a tan, for crissakes. A real tan. And there was some beach sand stuck to the mailing label.
So there's Laura's book, in Bracebridge which, as all of us Bracebridgeonians know is in the middle of stinkin' nowhere, a zillion miles away from its creator, the Great Laura Eno. It got in a box and rode a truck or an airplane or hitchhiked or something, all the say to HERE.
Will modern miracles never cease.
But wait, it gets weirder.
On the way home from the post office tonight, me and Dave saw a full, gold, goshdarned gorgeous harvest MOON rising in the sky. A MOON. And what's Laura's book called? Prophecy MOON. I made Dave go and get the camera to get a picture of me with the moon book and the moon background. Then he took one of me mooning with the moon book and the moon background but I can't show it to you because the neighbours will see it and get jealous. Them, and the lying lady at the post office who, the next time I go there will say, "I know an ass when I see one."
If you're not as much of a butt-kisser as me, and who is, really, you'll have to go to Laura's blog to actually buy one.  She lives at A Shift in Dimensions although the box really did say Florida. Maybe she lives in Dimensions, Florida. And I didn't know you could live in a shift. I knew you could wear one, but not live in one.
And if you're homeless in Shift, does that mean you're Shiftless?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Keely Scores!

I Do Countdown: 32 Days
Keely & Derek, not sitting in a tree
By Keely Grasser

The play was worth 47 points.
The gesture was a double bingo.
This past Christmas morning, in front of my mother, father and two brothers, my boyfriend of 6 years proposed to me via a Scrabble board. I unassumingly unwrapped a travel Scrabble set, in which he had laid out the words ‘Keely will u marry me Love u Dere(blank tile).’ There’s only one K in a tile set.
A pretty creative way to propose to a geeky word nerd (and Scrabble buff).
That’s what I like about Derek. He’s full of surprises. 
At first glance, he’s a man’s man. Built like a lumberjack. Was Athlete of the Year in high school. Plays sports. Watches sports. Loves poker.
But Derek has a streak. He has a great eye, has a great imagination and is great at crafts. Planning for the wedding has brought out this creative, crafty side like nothing else.
And, in true Derek and Keely style, the planning process has produced some pretty hilarious situations. Here’s just one example.
On fake trees and robot cupcakes
Derek and I recently sat down with his aunt, a minister who will be marrying us. We spoke about the nitty-gritty details of the ceremony. But she also, as part of a condensed pre-marriage counselling session, asked us some broader questions about our relationships. One was ‘How do you fight?’ 
Pre-engagement, the answer would have been rarely. But lately we’ve had some humdingers over Derek’s wedding “projects”…
Flashback to late spring. Derek and I decided that instead of a guest book, we would have a wish tree. Basically you provide guests with pretty little pieces of paper with a ribbon attached. They write their best wishes for the couple on the paper and tie the wish to a decorative tree. It’s difficult to describe, but looks very pretty.
So one afternoon, Derek and I went on a tree-searching expedition. Never mind the fact that I come from (and most of my friends and family live in) the Great North where the tree to person ratio is 100,000 to 1. We decided we’d find our tree right then and there on the bike path system in Newmarket.
With wire snips in hand, we meandered down the path, eyes peeled for a good tree. It had to have good shape. Be a good height. Have curvy, well-shaped branches.
We found some good specimens, cut them down (likely illegally) and brought them up into our apartment.
There were some lovely trees and branches.
But not lovely enough for Derek. Instead of using a real, live tree, my beloved darling decided that he could create a better wish tree. That’s right – he felt as if he could build a more beautiful tree than Mother Nature herself.
Out of wire coat hangers and hockey tape.
I’m a bit high-strung. I realize this. But I think most of you can understand my concerns about the end product. 
So for days Derek sat in our living room, cutting, bending and shaping coat hanger upon coat hanger. Then he spent days wrapping roll upon roll of hockey tape over the hangers.
He was about half done taping when I started to realize that the contraption was, in fact, beginning to look like a tree.
He finished it up and painted it black.
I kid you not – it looks like a tree. A very nice tree with a good height, nice frame and well positioned branches. Since it’s made of cost hangers, you can also pose it, kind of like an artificial Christmas tree.
So I had to eat a bit of humble pie (while Derek gloated) for my doubts about his tree-building skill.
He proved himself once again when he built (with power saws, in our spare, carpeted bedroom) a wooden room divider for another wedding-related project), much to my initial distress.
But then came the cupcake stand.
Derek doesn’t want a boring cupcake stand. He won’t purchase one from Michaels or anywhere else. He wants our cupcake stand to be a Derek original. It’s not a matter of cost. It’s a matter of pride.
I got out of bed two Saturdays ago and turned on the coffee maker. I hadn’t even had a cup when Derek called and said he was sending me a sketch he created of a cupcake stand he intended to build. That sketch accompanies this blog post.
I was perturbed. Derek was also perturbed at my lack of belief in his idea. It was more than I could deal with first thing in the morning.
But that wasn’t the end of it.
That afternoon, Derek met up with me, his best man Urban and his girlfriend Susie at Urban’s house for dinner. I had consumed a number of beverages that afternoon so the ability to bite my tongue pretty much was non-existent at that point.
Derek had visited Home Depot and purchased the frame for his cupcake stand. It was made out of $50 worth of gas pipes and connector things. It had knobs and notches all over it. It looked like a deformed candelabra. Or a reject robot. 
Derek, of course, was as pleased as punch at it. He promised he would smooth out its homely, bumpy appearance. With clay. Or Plasticine.
Our discussion on the way home was not pleasant (not helped by my altered state of mind, albeit). 
I’m writing about this jokingly, but we still couldn’t even speak about the cupcake stand without shouting for weeks.
Derek eventually returned the robot cupcake holder back to Home Depot. In its place, He purchased the supplies to create another cupcake stand. We got the instructions from a blog written by a crafty bride and her handy husband.
Derek's sketch for a robot cupcake holder. 
This one is made of pipes, plywood and wrapping paper.
I get the feeling he’s still not pleased he won’t be able to bring his five-pronged gas pipe cupcake holder into fruition. But the compromise cupcake stand turned out great. (He now tells me he’s going to sell or rent it on Kijiji. I don’t know if he’s joking or not).
Derek’s DIY wedding accessories (and many aspects of the wedding in general) may be causing us to tiff and fight more than usual.
But maybe it is also teaching us some valuable lessons about nurturing a relationship:
The importance of having patience: I had to be patient with Derek as he attempted to build a tree with coat hangers. And he had to be patient with me until he could show me that he could, indeed, create a wire –and-tape tree that actually looked good.
Faith and trust: After the tree turned out, I trusted (after an initial fight over the gigantic size of the proposed project) Derek to create a visually-appealing and sturdy room divider. Which he did.
Forgiveness: I’ll forgive Derek for thinking that we should display our wedding cake and cupcakes on a sculpture made of gas pipes and Plasticine if he forgives me for questioning his mental abilities (while I was inebriated). 
Compromise: I really just wanted to buy a tiered cupcake tree from Michaels. For like $50. Derek wants to create a one-of-a-kind showpiece with his own hands. So in the end, we’ll display our wedding cupcakes on a Derek-created three-tier cupcake stand with a bit of flair. A balance of both worlds.
Unconditional love: I love Derek even though he’s a groomzilla that obviously has some untapped weird artistic streak that he should really explore in a non-wedding decoration related way. And I hope he still loves me, even though I’m a naysayer that sometimes (rudely) doubts his artistic and building abilities and cries (while drunk) over robot cupcake stands ruining her wedding and marriage. 
The almost finished cupcake holder. Not bad, eh?
Keely Grasser is one of those people who, once you meet, you never forget.
She is a fireball of energy, a thin line of electricity. Always moving. Always thinking. Always, always funny, but never at the expense of anyone else.
We both worked at the Almaguin Forester, where she was an award-winning feature writer and reporter and I did lay-out. She moved south a few years ago to work in the big city (something every small town girl and boy want to do and who can blame them). I gotta say I miss her around the joint. Hasn't been the same since she left.
Her wedding is less than three weeks away. On Saturday she posted this on Facebook, just one word: Eeep.
There may be longer words. Or maybe even better words. But a Scrabble player well knows there's no better word to describe the butterflies in a bride's stomach when the big day is only weeks away.
Best of luck to you Keely & Derek. 
May all your scores be high ones.
I do think this is the perfect song for people who like to spell ~
Up next: either Alan Davidson or Anthony Venutolo - both members of my 'A' team. As to who gets picked next, well, why don't you help me decide? Both good writers. Both kinda ok-looking in their own way... hmmmmmm.....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I'm Quite Overwhelmed

I went shopping on Saturday and came home to my 50th birthday party.
I had to think, for a moment, what month it was.
"Isn't this August?" I thought.
My birthday is in October.
"Surprise," said Leah, riding shotgun beside me.
I swatted her. A couple of times. But not hard. Y'know... Because.
I put the Jeep in park, in the middle of our road, and gawped at the people milling around in our front yard, on our lawn, in our garage. There were balloons on our mailbox.
I thought, this must have something to do with our wedding.
But there was a pink banner strung across the garage with "Birthday Girl" written on it.
Well, well, well.
A month and a half ago we were sitting out in the gazebo on a Friday night with our friends Leah and Vic, talking about the wedding. I was talking about stuff I still had to buy and mentioned the fact I needed a new bra. Leah said, "Have you ever been fitted for a bra?" Then she got all excited about how I should go and get fitted, and how we could make an excursion out of it and I said, Yah, we can all go down to Barrie, a city about an hour away, and go shopping.
"I'm not going bra shopping," said Vic.
"Me neither," said Dave.
"Yeah," said Vic. "You guys go bra shopping and me and Dave'll do some fishing."
Which was weird because Dave likes shopping as much as I do, which isn't much, actually, but he always comes along because, although he doesn't really like the shopping part, he enjoys the spending money and going out for lunch part.
So I said, "Wanna go tomorrow?"
"Can't," Leah said. "I'm doing something or other."
Incredibly, she got out her datebook and started leafing through it. I mean, I have a busy personal life but I don't need a datebook for it.
She was busily licking her fingers and turning the pages and saying stuff like, "Next Saturday I'm twiddling my fingers, and the one after that I've got my thumb up my butt and then you're going camping and then we're going to I forget and that leaves us August 21."
"Really?" I said. "That's ages away. You're that busy?"
"Oh yeah," she nodded and started leafing through her book again just to affirm her business.
I shrugged. "OK, August 21," I said. "Bra fitting, lingerie shopping, shoe buying and lunch. Not necessarily in that order."
Screw the actual shopping; lunch is always the best part of any shopping trip.
I woke up Saturday morning so excited about the shopping trip that I got up at 5:30 a.m. That is an insane time to wake up when you don't have to work but I was really looking forward to the day. Our other friend Lynda was joining us and we were set to hit the road at 9:30 a.m. Sharp.
Of course they were late.
And when they got there Leah was busy putting make-up on and eating cereal.
Finally we got going but I decided to pop into Bracebridge first to run an errand and you should have heard those two whining. "We haven't got time for this," said Leah, the woman who arrived late and started putting on make-up and eating cereal. I ignored her and ran my errand. Then I decided I needed a coffee and went through a listened to a little more whining about how we had to get a move on. Lynda started taking photos of things in the back seat and we were on the road for about 15 seconds before she started whining about being car-sick.
Geez, I thought.
At least there's going to be lunch.
Sears. Brassiere department. Buy one get one free special on Wonderbra. Men standing in the aisle looking at the ceiling. Women lined up to see a bra fitter. My bra fitter is short and plumpish and exotic looking. She has an accent and is very quick as she slings a measuring tape around my wide back and my tiny wee breasts.
I am, by the way, remarkably like a Douglas fir. Wide through the girth with a couple of knots where boobs should be.
So we got in the fitting room and she's undoing my bra and helping me into other bras and I had an overwhelming desire to hide myself, which is stupid when one is trying on brassieres. I think of the bra fitter as a doctor and try to be European about the whole thing, flailing my arms about like it doesn't matter that I'm half-naked in front of a complete stranger and wishing I had of shaved my armpits.
When I found the bra of my dreams she said, "Now, isn't that better than the one you had?"
The one I had had a big hole in the back. It was ratty, to say the least.
"Yes, it had a big hole," I said.
She looked at me questioningly. "It had a hole?"
heh heh
Was it lunchtime yet?
Time was marching on and so were we. Lynda wanted to go to Homesense, a decorating store way at the other side of the mall. We were all getting tired and hungry and cranky by this time. Leah complained about her knees. I complained about my knees. But we were on a mission. Along the way I managed to buy shoes for the wedding, serviettes for the wedding, jewellery for the wedding.... oh, and a pink tu-tu for our dog.
I was excited. I was getting things done. And it was now lunchtime.
I looked over at Leah. She was sitting on a mall bench, hunched over in a ball, moaning.
"What's the matter?"
"I don't feel good. My stomach's acting up."
Oh great, I thought. "Is it nausea or diarrhea?"
She just kind of nodded and moaned.
I tried on a cheery face, thinking of my empty belly. "Maybe you just need something to eat?"
She shook her head.
"Drink?" I asked.
She shook her head.
I swallowed and said what I didn't want to say, hoping she wouldn't take me up on it. "Would you like me to take you home?"
She nodded. "Yeah," she said.
Shit, I thought. I tried not to be mad, I did, honestly, but I was very disappointed. There was still one store I desperately wanted to go to and I almost felt sick myself I was so hungry. But, my friend was sick, so I soldiered back through the mall with sore knees, a dry throat and a hungry gut, trying to get to the Jeep as fast as possible before Leah shat herself in front of everybody.
We drove past Applebee's. We drove past Fran's Diner. We drove past Moose Winowski's and the Crock and Block, Kelsey's and even McDonald's. I tried to be brave but I did choke up a little bit on the way by Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Halfway home Leah said, "I think you better pull over somewhere."
"NOW?" I said, hoping she wasn't going to throw up or crap right there on the freeway.
"Soon as you can," she said, holding her stomach and looking chartreuse.
We pulled into a Wendy's. Leah went in to abuse the bathroom. I knew she was going to be a while so I said, "Lynda, I'm getting something to eat."
I ordered a burger combo. She ordered a frosty.
Five minutes later Leah toddled out of the bathroom and saw us eating. She had a, "WTF" look on her face.
"You OK?" Lynda asked, licking her Frosty and borrowing my fries.
"Just a little shaky," Leah said. "I'll be OK in a minute."
I had to pee but darned if I was going in that bathroom for a while until the smoke cleared.
Leah said, "Can I steal one of your fries?"
I said, "I thought you weren't feeling well?"
"Salty things always make me feel better when I'm sick," she said. "Salty, bland things."
I'd never heard that before. Next thing I know Sick Woman is up in line ordering french fries.
We sat. We ate. We talked. We were having a good time.
We were almost home. There were balloons tied to a tree at the end of our road.
"Someone's having a party," I said.
A few minutes later I pulled up in front of my house. There were more balloons on the mailbox. And friends and family all over the place. I swatted Leah. I kissed and hugged Dave and everybody else. We had a party. Corn, hot dogs and hamburgers, salads and a birthday cake made by Dave's sister, Carol.
I didn't each much - I had just eaten a burger combo at Wendy's a half hour earlier.
Apparently Leah wasn't sick at all - it was her and Lynda's job to make sure I got back home on time. Since I showed no sign of wanting to go home, Leah, an actress, suddenly got sick.
It was also their job to make sure I didn't eat anything.
Leah had asked me to pull over because I had gone from being too late to being too early. Imagine her surprise when she came out of the bathroom (after sitting on the can for five minutes looking around) and seeing me filling my face.
There was a great deal of subterfuge involved in surprising me. Dave and Vic didn't have a moment for fishing - they were busy setting up for the party.
Dave had been shopping and hiding stuff all week.
Vic got stuck in a parade trying to get more stuff.
They sent out invitations. They made phone calls. They decorated. They did all this just to surprise me.
And wow. I was surprised!
My birthday isn't until October 11, but we're getting married Sept. 25 and then going away for two weeks for the honeymoon. Dave figured there wouldn't be any time to plan a proper 50th birthday party any closer to the wedding - there's just so much to do. And he rightly figured I'd be suspicious that close to the day.
So, thank you Dave.
It was the first surprise birthday party I ever had.
I was so shocked I didn't even know how to respond.
Suffice it to say I am a lucky woman to have met someone like you.
Wanna get married?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Love At First Sight, 10 Years Later

I Do Countdown: 35 Days
Rob and Suzanne Learn on the day after their wedding.

By Rob Learn

Where does a love story begin?
If you're from a certain school of thought, you believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and love at first sight.
Sign me up.
It's now just a few months short of being year short of two decades ago that I first laid eyes on my wife Suzanne. She still makes my heart pitter-pat-pat when I look at her.
I was 15 or 16 and hanging out in the library of the school at the time in the magazine section where there were comfy chairs and not a ton of supervision.
And one day she came in and sat down. I was instantly enthralled. Totally, completely enthralled in the way only a hormone seized teen boy can become enthralled.
So you can imagine the romantic endeavours I set upon trying to win her affection.
I started teasing her.
She came back.
And, as things happen when she is 13 and you are 15, not much happened and before we knew it, it was summer and we were gone on vacation.
And in September when I returned to school and Grade 12, she had a boyfriend and I was heartbroken.
Well not heartbroken. But I really had to rethink things. I was certain she was going to fall for me and we would live happily ever after when I came back to start my Grade 12 year.
But come Grade 13 she still had that pesky boyfriend who was older and taller than me.
So that year I redoubled my efforts. I spent every possible minute with her and she reciprocated by doing her best to spend every second she could with me. But there was still that boyfriend she stubbornly wouldn't drop.
By the time came around to say goodbye for Christmas break it had become unbearable and I told her that I could no longer be her friend. Because. I wanted to be with her so bad that it hurt too much to be friends with her knowing she was giving her heart to this loser who didn't begin to understand how wonderful she is.
Full stop.
I'll blame my masculinity on the rather matter of factness of this epistle so far, but I'll pause now to say that my wife is beautiful. Always has been and just getting more so everyday. She's not just pretty. She's pretty pretty.
Forgive the 15-year-old in me, but there's that ass that just doesn't quit. It could have been the first thing I noticed. Alright (yeah, that's a word in my book), it was. But a fine ass does not love make. She has a beautiful generous smile, and she always, always, thinks of others before her own concerns. She is beautiful from the inside out. When she smiles you can tell that is it out of genuine happiness that comes not from a place a marketer told it should, but from the sweet spot of her soul that makes the world a better place. True beauty. Simple and honest.
So there's this fucker she's still calling her boyfriend.
When I told her I couldn't be her friend anymore there were a lot of tears and even a bit of begging for me to reconsider but not the result that either of us were looking for.
So we spent a month dancing around the issues until it came to a head when I hosted a party for our friends at the farm. She decided to come a day early to "help me set up," before everyone else arrived.
It was January, so one of the things I hoped we'd be able to do was some skating on a flooded field. She got there by bus, the late bus, and found me up to my armpits in blood and guts from cleaning up the butchering equipment after my folks had done a beef during the day.
I wasn't forever at it and she really impressed me by staying and talking to me while I cleaned up the equipment at laundry tub full of blood and flesh.
After a bit I was showered and I went out into the cold dark night with her on Dad's tractor to clean off the would be ice rink.
She rode on the fender of the tractor across the pastures to the beaver meadow under a starry sky where we cleared off the rink and then donned our skates to try it out.
Suzanne still teases me that I didn't kiss her that night.
Eight months later I proposed to her two months before my 19th birthday.
Best decision I ever made.
What does -30- mean at the end of a story?
If you work in the newspaper business, -30- means the end. There are all sorts of explanations why the number 30 is used but one of the most common ones stem from the telegraph days when this code signified the end of a transmission.
Not many reporters still end their stories with -30- but Rob Learn does. I work with him every Wednesday at the Almaguin News. He's the news editor, I'm his layout goddess, and together we somehow wrestle that big bear and get it off to press week after week. When I pull in Rob's stories I always see that -30- at the hind end of everything he writes.
He does it, I think, because Rob is a man of tradition. An old soul in a young body. I admire him a great deal – not only is he extremely intelligent, he's also a keen newspaperman - I don't know anybody who cares about his business as much as he does.
But his work ethic isn't the only thing I admire about him. I also appreciate how much he loves his wife, Suzanne, and their three sons, Jack, Charlie and Thomas. They recently bought their "dream house" - an old farmhouse that needs a lot of work but is plenty big enough for three growing boys, gardens and some pigs for the freezer. Recently he sent me a photo of Suzanne out talking to the pigs. Suzanne, by the way, really is a looker. There she was out in the barn, still looking better than most models with all their make-up and fancy lights.
When Rob sent the photo he wrote something like, "There's my girl," and you could sense, in those three words, how much he adores her.
Today is Rob and Suzanne's 10th anniversary. My hope for them is they never have to put a -30- at the end of their love story.
Happy Anniversary, you two.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Girls

I Do Countdown: 39 Days
Vic & Leah - gawd, these ladies make me laugh.

E-mail to Vicadeedoodah:
Hey Writer Dude - Are you going to write me a "how we met" and "wedding story" for my weddingish blog????? 
Say "I Do"

Imagine it, Sicily, 194.... sorry, I was channeling Sophia Petrillo.

So, there we were.

It was called a Holy Union ceremony, back in the day, not all that long ago. Marriage and wife are still words I smile at hearing. Part of me cannot believe it and the other part knows how hard the journey from there to here was. I say it with emotions that are equal parts pride, amazement and honour. She IS my wife! And we are now legally married WoooHooo!!!

Yes, this was one of many ceremonies we have had. I tell you that woman is trying for an anniversary every month. We met in one month. Trust me, that one counts or so I have been told. So, too does the small intimate thing with the two of us and a few witnesses. The Holy Union that I write about, and where we invited friends and family, counts - as does our "let's make it legal" one. How many anniversaries is one woman entitled to?

I should have scheduled them all to have taken place on the same date. Duh!

So, it was our Holy Union ceremony and people were coming. I panic when people are coming, even if it just means to our house. Cleaning and fretting, cooking and fretting... Mostly fretting. I worry about all that can go wrong. Nothing much ever does go wrong, but I fret anyways. Once, I did cook Cathy and Dave a very rare roast, but the things I fret about do not usually happen. No food poisoning, no roof collapse, no harsh judgements and disapproving glares. I just tend to think, "what can go wrong?" and then fret that it might and they will realize I am a loser and a failure. Nothing much.... I just fret.

This is our big day, nothing can go wrong, they assure me, and I fret anyways.

I am downstairs busy being the butch - all suave and calm, cool and collected. Well, really, I was busy pacing. I was fretting and also emotional about the moment. So, there I was, on the verge of tears, passing out or puking all while walking back and forth at break neck speeds. If I hurled it would be in a path. They laughed at me, put Kleenex in my pocket and plied me with Pepto Bismol and a rye chaser, all the while reassuring me as people are wont to do "everything will be fine" and "nothing will go wrong"...


My beloved was upstairs getting beautiful, as she is wont to do, or so I thought. Then it dawned on me. Where is the woman doing the feminine bride's hair and make-up? Not here???

Oh, shit! What now? The feminine bride is doing her own hair and makeup... Ok. Well, not so ok.... it is 535 degrees Celsius. Her face is liquid and dripping while she tries to apply make-up.

"It is August, you know. Didn't I tell you????"

She sends word that, though she has esthetician and her make-up is now watercolours, that they need to take care of me. She is about to marry me and she KNOWS me. Fretting is not possible now. This is some stage between panic attack and complete nervous breakdown. There is no essuring this.

The yard looked lovely, the archway was covered in flowers... and... and the sky was rapidly turning pitch black. The sprinkles began. The contingency plan was put into effect. Large floor to ceiling bay windows....We carried the archway inside.... all the while me muttering, "I told you".

Who frets for no good reason? Not me!

My urge to blow chunks is now going full throttle. It may have to do with the added stress and the fact that the more I fretted, the more those "taking care of me" have handed me to drink. As, I said, reassuring words no longer worked. They switched to what might. The weepy emotional stuff is now on the back burner. I am a half-pissed nervous wreck.

But, the rain seems to have passed us by. "Leave it," I say.  I am not moving this venue again and I am sure operating an archway under the influence is against the law.

Then, I get the word that she cannot get her shoes on... What?

The ungodly heat, her feet are swollen and her shoes will not go on.

Lord, shoot me now.

"Pass her another drink."

"I told you."

"You did not tell anyone she would get bloated feet. You are making shit up, now."

"No, I did not say specifically "swollen feet" or kidney failure, do you think it is kidney failure? I knew this was too good to be true..." gulp, swallow, gulp.....

Why had I not brought spare shoes, I thought, and a spare esthetician?

It is like a game, like quarters now instead of a shot glass and a missed shot, I fret, I drink. Plain and simple rules.

There is my future sister-in-law.

I am slurring. "Does she have her needles on her?"

No, I am not about to shoot up, but those in charge of keeping me calm might have advised it. "Give her a sedative or heroin, something, anything."

Acupuncture needles. She is a chiropractor.

My mother was almost proud. Yeah he was a she and no she was not a doctor, but her sister is!

My wife in all her wedding regalia, with her face dripping, gets pins put in her.

If the science behind the acupuncture thing works, the swelling will do down based on meridians. If not, we can hope the cartoon science does and that a pin prick pops her ass, I mean her feet, like a balloon.

The shoes are on!

Let's begin.

The sun is beaming in the windows, now.

Nothing else can go wrong... You think I fret for nothing?

The soloist begins singing, from the top of the stairs. She does not want people looking at her while she sings.

The tape playing words we spoke to each other is too low, turn it up. No, now, the crackling background is too annoying. Hey you are guest this is not about YOU. It is about US, sit there and pretend you can hear something other than "mumble, mumble, mumble...." we are feeding your asses and having an open bar, it is the least you can do.

The bride is hobbling down the stairs almost tripping over the flower girl who stopped on the descent because mom was out of sight.

Still, the bride was a vision, even with flat, sweaty hair and a melted face with fat feet.

I could feel the lump in my throat. It was not indigestion or vomit. It was pure, overwhelming emotion and adoration.

We got through the vows and the rain never really arrrived, just big sprinkle drops, we ate, laughed, we drank, we danced outside...

How could none of the panic, the stuff that you have no words for not have been somehow saved to share?

Oh, we always have the wedding video.

The singing from someplace, mumbles, the almost tumble down the stairs, the Unity candle bursting into flames, the wine glass that resisted Mazol Tov...

Oh, and the archway in front of the large window streaming in sunlight. My wife in a white dress and our friend in black with bleached blonde hair. I married a head floating in space and the service was done by a headless person.

It could not have been more perfect.

Yes, some people get mushy and teary when they recall "their day" - we die laughing.

Wonder if the wife wants to pop in a video and watch me marry her head tonight?

Hell, no! She would get emotional and want to renew our vows or something. I cannot bear another anniversary!

We call them "The Girls."
They call my fiance "Our Dave."
We call each other friends.
Just about every Friday we start the weekend off with dinner and some high stakes euchre. Sometimes we do too much yakking and not enough card-playing. Sometimes I laugh so hard that I sound like Snagglepuss, that wheezing cartoon cat.
Dinner's usually ok, card playing is generally pretty good but the best part of our get-togethers is the laughing. I think we do that best.
The Girls are playing important roles in our upcoming wedding. Leah is making our wedding cake (she's very, very good at it) and Vic, who is studying to become a lay minister for the United Church of Canada, will be performing part of the wedding ceremony. I'm grateful to them both.
A special shout-out to them now as they cope with Leah's father being ill. My best wishes, thoughts and prayers are with you. 
Vic never did tell me what their wedding song was, so I'll play this song in their honour.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can You Feel the Love Tonight, Laurita?

I Do Countdown: 41 Days
Jonathan & Laurita Miller on their big day.

Cathy, this is such a cute idea. I don’t really have much to say, but after 12 years, I guess I should jump in and say something too.  I’m so excited for you, and all the wedding talk on your blog makes it that much more fun. For me anyway. You’re probably freaking out. Breathe, girl, breathe!

Here’s my little piece for your love fest, and a hideously tacky photo we had taken. The first thing I did once we were married was make him shave off that horrible ‘round-the-bay moustache. All the fun photos are packed away in a box somewhere so the kids won’t see.

Oh, and our wedding song was “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John because that was the song that was playing when he proposed. I guess I’m lucky it wasn’t “Another One Bites the Dust."

Best wishes to you. Looking forward to meeting you face to face. 

– Laurita

He thought I was tall. I thought he was gay. We were both wrong.
Jonathan and I met during my horrific work term with the local phone company. He was the man in charge of internet support, I was the resident gopher/lackey/scapegoat. I was twenty-one and fresh out of school. He was twenty-three and already an up-and-comer in the IT biz. Our first conversation centered around the recent new theatrical release of The Empire Strikes Back and I think it was geek love from the start (well, it was once I was sure he liked girls and he made peace with the fact that I wore high heels). 
I left the company after my three month term was over. I didn’t leave with a job, but I got something better. I got a man who, on a lovely September day, took me out for some fun on the town and ended the evening with a schooner trip around the harbour, romantic music, and a ring. I was completely taken by surprise. I didn’t even clue in when we were the only ones on the boat, which was usually packed. What can I say? Laurita’s a little slow on the uptake.
A year later we were married. The wedding was horrible and anything that could possibly have gone wrong went wrong. There was no pen to sign the marriage certificate, the hotel confused our wedding with one scheduled for the next night, we were kicked out of our photography location, and housekeeping burst into our hotel room the morning after our nuptials. It was a giant mess from start to finish.
We didn’t care. We were young and stupid and happy.
We’re still most of those things.
Laurita Miller is like fresh air or a sweet song on a spring day; like clean clothes flying in the wind against a bright blue sky. She's family, she's best friend, she's sensible but with a wild streak. She writes from the heart – so well, in fact, that you always feel like she's been reading your mail. She's Canadian as they come, a Newfoundlander who knows her way around northern Ontario and yet feels comfortable in New York City. When I read Laurita's stories, and see the photos she has taken of her home, I feel like I'm watching my favourite shows on CBC, or listening to the late Peter Gzowski on Morningside, or Sheila Rogers, or Stuart Maclean. Like their voices, hers is easy, comfortable and astonishingly intelligent. Laurita is establishing quite a fan base in literary circles, especially on the #fridayflash circuit, and I'm not surprised by that at all. She is, in a word, awesome. I always look forward to what she has to say over at her blog, Brain Droppings.
When Dave and I go on our honeymoon we'll be touring Newfoundland, something we've always wanted to do. One of the highlights of our trip will be dropping in to visit Laurita and her family, as well as Alan W. Davidson and his family. Alan's promised a barbecue where we can all meet and greet and I can hardly wait!
Thanks Laurita, for your story and your photo and that lovely song. I appreciate it, I do.
I am still anxious to hear other people's "how we met stories," wedding stories, wedding do's and don'ts. If you have something you'd like to share, by all means send it to me here.
Next up: my good friends Leah and Vic Burton. Funny? You betcha...