Three Weddings and a Tour de Donut

My wife and I attended three weddings in three consecutive weekends this summer: in Indianapolis, Cleveland and Austin. If hanging out in a suit in blistering Al Gore summer heat and navigating the social complexities of that American ceremony don’t seem scintillating enough for you let me just say this: I was able to witness a priest having a meltdown, see bats dropping guano on a wedding head table, observe how we are all doomed if anyone notices our waistlines at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum, and deliver a reverse love wedding toast. So there…

Indianapolis

Very good friends of ours, he is Canadian and she is from Spain, decided to repeat their vows in a full Catholic ceremony as the first time, around six years ago, had to be a civil ceremony. The wedding was at three o’clock. We got there at 2:45 and realized that most of the guests as well as the maid of honor (the bride’s sister) and the groom’s mother are not even yet in the building. Knowing typical Spanish punctuality I feared we were in for a long afternoon. I wandered back to the entrance where the re-groom is very calm and we chatted. Not so much the priest who, by several verified reports, was actually throwing things in his office just down the hallway, furious at the delay. He then went to stand at the entrance and was talking loudly as he crossed parts of the ceremony off the list… ”we’re not doing this, this is going, if we don’t start in five minutes this is coming out.” He was pissed and hell bent on exacting liturgical revenge.

The wedding started at 3:30 so I guess he kept some stuff in. The very first recitation did not trigger the volume and zest from the congregation’s response so the priest stopped and said in a very annoyed voice, “we have been waiting now for over thirty minutes so we are going to do this right.” He started over. All the Catholics in the church jumped to it at that point, I can tell you that. His opening remarks basically centered around the theme (if I remember correctly) that only drug dealers or whores get married in a civil ceremony — and don’t even think about that ceremony being valid in the eyes of God. But then his argument stalled a little when he had to explain that in the Catholic Church this Divine Redo is called a “Validation.” Really? After all the not-so-subtle lecturing about a secular ceremony, this is what we are doing? Let me tell you, nothing invokes the spirit of God like a ‘validation.’ It was so…oh, what’s the word, what’s the word?

The bride was beautiful, the ceremony came to an end. As I walked around the church dodging small talk which was breaking out all around me (unfortunately, I am fresh out), I saw the pamphlet that you are seeing here as well. No, this is not a joke; I was accused of Photoshopping it but I clearly don’t have those types of mad skills. I was so knocked out by, shall we say, this rather pointed direct approach for requesting funds — particularly the outstretched hand — that I immediately grabbed a handful from the display thinking, this is some church.

At the reception I was seated next to the priest, or at least his chair and name card, as he never showed. I was actually disappointed as I had worked up a whole host of questions for him that I guarantee would have kept the conversation moving along briskly.

At the reception we did hear the conflicting lateness excuse saga: it was the bride’s sister according to the mother of the groom…no, it was the mother of the groom’s fault according to the sister. Over drinks I learned that in Spain when a couple sends out wedding invitations, say at 3:00, the guests will actually call the couple and say, “Great, when are you really getting married? Oh, about 5:00.” One of the Spanish guests said she could not count the amount of times in Spain where she sat through the wedding in front of the wedding she was supposed to be at. What fun.

Hmmm…the sister is Spanish and the mother-in-law is Canadian. I’ll let you decide.

Cleveland

The wedding the following weekend was at a lovely, extremely rustic setting with the ceremony held in a field and the reception in an 1870’s barn in Akron. Very popular for weddings, the reservation needed to be made a year and a half ago. Who could have predicted back then that it would be about 95 degrees with similar humidity at five PM? Other than Al Gore, that is.

Earlier that day my wife, Valerie, and I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland or what all locals simply call “Rock Hall.” As we lined up waiting for it to open, I looked around and it was not exactly a patriotic feeling that coursed through. No, it was not. What I realized was that almost everyone in line looked either a little damaged (Sixties, freeze-dried, as in…things did not go exactly to plan with the bonus of some derailing physical complication type of vibe) or good ol’ American obesity gone wild. Not plump, not carrying a few extra lbs, but more like “how in all that is Holy can you actually navigate a sidewalk?” That type of obesity.

You cannot compare generations…. or so I am told but I don’t know why the heck not.

Look at the general populace in the early 1940’s, zero in on the men. Compared to today we know that culturally/historically they are more racist, more anti-semitic, less tolerant of anything you would care to name: women’s rights, different religions; they’re homophobic, xenophobic, so on and so on. Not all of them, of course, but statistically take a random sample and select one of them to put on a long cross country flight in a chatty mood as a seat mate and you are probably willing to defect by the time you are flying over Des Moines. However…

A certain Evil Doer in Germany popped up and there was a specific need for the general United States male population, not the highly trained and capable volunteer subset forces of today, but the draft of every able bodied American male to kick some ass, trudge through two theatres of war in incomprehensible conditions, learn to fly airplanes and a thousand other complicated things very quickly and basically save the world. If the identical circumstance happened today I might have to take the under. Of course I haven’t scoped out Berliner waistlines recently either so who knows?

I am looking at my brethren at the Rock Hall and as many waddle in line to get their color coded wrist bands I am thinking, as an example, if there were any extraterrestrials also lurking in line, studying our culture, they would now report back to headquarters: “don’t even bother bringing the heavy stuff, this will be over in the first quarter” or whatever sports variation slang ET’s use to denigrate the opposition.

So this thought contrasts nicely with the exhibits once we are in: basically a pulpit of great artistry and horrible personal lifestyle choices. Which are neither random nor unrelated. In the U.S. an artist is treated only slightly better than a drug dealer and in Europe it’s better but not much. So the required mindset to get here is one that says, I am going to absolutely risk everything for music, “I am all in.” This is the necessary outlook and the “stars” in Rock Hall are the miniscule few that had this attitude who actually made it through to the other side.

But that does not mean that once success and money flowed, sensible thinking magically appeared. The personality that could function looking at life’s diorama with no safety net and absolutely no Plan B is exactly the artist that will blow through a million dollars, be irrational in all things logical, financial, matrimonial and pharmaceutical. If you are a huge, huge star for some reason you might even tragically call it a day at age 27…Morrison, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Amy Winehouse, and I am sure I am missing someone. (Actually, I miss all of them.) That’s a phenomenon or coincidence that I would like to understand better.

Looking at the clothes at Rock Hall you also realize that the British Rock stars are physically diminutive in stature: not the Beatles but definitely the Stones and others. Jagger’s clothing is hysterical. I am thinking about this when I wander in front of the Everly Brothers (Wake Up Little Susie) display.

“Val, I yell, “you think Mick Jagger was small, check out these black dance shoes of the Everly Brothers’, they’re tiny!”

Val comes over and reads the placard. “Yes, John, maybe that is because they wore these shoes when they were eight years old” and walks away. A guy behind me snorts and I knew what he was thinking, “God help us defend our Terra Firma with idiots like this running around.” I couldn’t argue. Fair is fair.

Early evening we got to the wedding and thankfully it was the shortest ceremony in history. Everyone was baking in the field. The bride was either crying huge non-stop tears of joy or her face was melting; I was very close and still could not tell. There were a million groomsmen and bridesmaids. One of the groomsmen was very short, very wide, and at age 22 already starting to lose his hair. Based on the unequal number in the wedding party he was the last to leave the front, escorting two stunning bridesmaids, one on each arm. I was right on the aisle and as he walked past he gave me a big s*** eating grin. I had time to respond, “Enjoy it, this will never happen again” before he passed. Hot weather apparently makes me cranky and realistic.

The evening progressed and started to cool but only, as we all now know from this summer, only slightly. The bride’s cousin is getting his Doctorate in studying bats, which came in handy as coincidentally there were rows of bats hanging upside down on the east side of the barn under the rafters 30 feet or so directly above the long head table. Before dinner the cousin gave a quick overview of the bats at hand. During dinner I noticed he would periodically raise his arm and point at the hanging bats, who were still in repose. Only later we found out that he was alerting those at the head table that the bats were sending down guano as their toast of the day onto the wedding party, who from all reports never noticed… Ah, champagne and young love.

Austin

It is very hard not to have fun in Austin, all of its clichés are true: it’s an oasis in a fascist state and a very fun college town with great restaurants and entertainment. What is less widely known is that almost in the center of town is “Barton Springs” which is a natural spring-fed, big-ass pool/canal, great for swimming, that offers up year-round water temps of a constant 65 degrees. With ambient temps approaching 100 degrees its attraction cannot be overstated. I swam every day.

My niece Molly’s wedding is our third consecutive wedding in three weeks but this one boasts family on my side so I know it will be sarcastic and fun. The rehearsal dinner has a guest list of some seventy people and is held on the second floor of some very nice, not even remotely neo-hipster restaurant.

Austin has a lot of hipsters but at night it is awash in University of Texas coeds presenting as expensive hookers; impossibly short black skirts, very low cut tops. Hysterically, the women are totally nightclubbed and made-up where the guys look adolescent-doofus in their uniform of jeans and collared, long-sleeve untucked shirts, their hot fashion set-up. The contrast is not kind.

The rehearsal dinner is loud, crowded and high energy. Once dinner is winding down the toasts — speeches really — begin, and there are a ton, almost completely from the Groom’s side. He has an extended family so that is a big part of it; there is a lot to say and a lot of people to say it.

Apparently they are very excited to welcome Molly into their family: that was a warm and an oft’ repeated theme. There is a fairly long speech read by the biological mom of the groom reading a decree by Governor Rick Perry celebrating the nuptials. That is interesting, I guess, but I lost the thread almost immediately of both the narrative and how they happened to have an honorary anything from the Governor. Plus, he’s a total tool so I didn’t work that hard to catch up. But while everyone is being very kind and gracious in their remarks, the speeches and toasts are getting more and more precious. I realized we had been sitting there for quite a while when my sister Mary, mother of the bride, leaned over to me and said, “I am begging you to get up and say something.” I grab my brother, Ted, and the microphone and up we go. This is almost verbatim:

I want to thank Molly for allowing us to come up here because it’s fairly widely known that I have never cared for her personally.

Molly is 28 years old and was the first grandchild so if you can do rudimentary math…I can’t but I had time to figure it out ahead of time…you know that 1984 was an unbelievably important year to my family, a year we will never forget.

1984… the Cubs were up two games to none on the San Diego Padres and all they had to do was win one game and they are in the World Series but no…they go to San Diego and lose three freaking games in a row . Unbelievable…and oh yeah, Molly was born.

Molly has both a great career in education and a real gift for it. She is a wonderful teacher. And honestly, my brother Ted and I do not feel we have gotten nearly the credit we should have for sending her down that path. In fact we get zero credit, which is just not right. (Ted zealously agreed.)

It was my brother Ted and I who patiently worked with her the night before Molly’s first day in Kindergarten. We got her to embrace education that very night as we tirelessly drilled into her the saying that would get her safely all through grade school. Ted, will you please — and this is absolutely true — share with everyone what we taught Molly to say to her teacher the first time she was called on?

Ted grabbed the mic, ‘I don’t know any voodoo so call off your dogs…I don’t know any voodoo so call off your dogs.’

Molly had it down. We had her saying it with passion and the right inflection. It was a thing of beauty… which is how Molly fell in love with education”

The response from the dinner guests was actually pretty good considering the demographics. And it was all true.

Tour de Donut

After three weekends in a row of eating and drinking more than normal the body craves exercise. How fortunate it was that the Tour de Donut bicycle race was the very next weekend in Staunton, Illinois, near St Louis. This would be my third Tour de Donut.

My first Tour fifteen years ago had about 200 cyclists. I remember that they introduced the winner of the prior race with a bullhorn before the start — he was just a few bikes down from me. He’s waving to the crowd like mad, he has a crappy bike and is noticeably overweight and I am thinking how the hell did he win a 34 mile bike race? Oh yeah, the Tour de Donut…

The deal is that you bike like mad for ten miles, check in at the first station and eat as many glazed donuts as you can. For every donut they take five minutes off of your time. You then ride ten more miles and do the same thing, then finish off in pretty rugged hills for the remaining fourteen. It is not impossible that the previous year’s winner’s time suggested that he actually finished before he left. I saw him at the first station and he had about ten donuts in his glazed hands, compressing them down Wonder bread style into one very dense pre-Big Bang, heavy matter donut orb which he chomped down in just a few bites.

So in 2012 the count was up slightly from 200 riders to 1,600 riders with one cyclist flying in all the way from Guam for the race. Same 34 miles, but now the donut prep count was up to 6,000. Two separate small towns are very jacked about the Tour with people lining the streets, beating red plastic cowbells as you rode through them, apparently celebrating competition and love of cycling as well as early onset diabetes.

Some riders are very serious on their zero body fat frames and $5,000 bikes and don’t even look at a donut, as it is not required, but that is not the normal drill. It is the Tour de Donut for God’s sake. Someone flew in from Guam for this.

By our second Tour my friend, Jay Stobie, had figured out a key advantage: take a second disposable water bottle filled with frozen milk. By that first critical stop ten miles in it is now just very, very cold and ideal for washing down that initial wave of three or four glazed donuts. Happily they are light like Crispy Crèmes: cake donuts would have been all over the highway if you know what I mean.

Like any sporting event there continues to be technological advancement. Our next Tour de Donut will see us sporting latex gloves, as handling sticky, melting glazed donuts in 90 degree heat does not lend itself to crisp cycling. We more than wasted our donut gift time just trying to get rinsed off. But that is next year. This year we still dazzled with the frozen milk. Climbing a hill after the first stop I was riding next to two guys who were relating how they struggled getting the donuts down. I gifted them the frozen milk water bottle concept and they were ecstatic.

“That’s genius! We’re going to call you The Milkman!”

The Milkman… I kind of liked that. Probably because I sense it is much nicer than whatever nickname they will give me next year after they see me putting on those latex gloves.

2 thoughts on “Three Weddings and a Tour de Donut

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.