I had no idea who this Dave guy was or why he was catering the wedding, but everybody seemed to speak highly of him. And supposedly he was famous too, as they made it their business to remind me of the fact whenever they said his name. Famous our not though, I gotta admit, the guy makes a pretty mean pulled pork sandwich, an excellent choice for the reception dinner; so good, that I eventually found myself also referring to the man as “Famous Dave” whenever the subject of his food was brought up.
Naturally, we found ourselves seated at the table with the largest aggregate of liquor stashed in the middle. While Sean and Wes were main proprietors, our contribution was fair and modest, making sure there was more than a sufficient amount of ingredients to make a night’s supply of Old Fashioneds. Much was needed as well, for a round of toasts were about to commence.
The crowd quieted in tandem with the fading of background music as Maggie stood at the helm of the wedding party’s table, microphone in hand to deliver the first of a long string of toasts. Hers was sweet and sentimental, no need for a funny anecdote or long story to describe the friendship between her and Beth or the special bond shared between Beth and Blake that had strengthened their own bond of friendship. It matched her style quite well.
Billy was up next and followed Maggie’s lead with a sentimental toast of his own. His words about Blake and their friendship were touching and from the heart, and he couldn’t have been happier that Blake had found a girl like Beth to spend the rest of his life with. We responded to the uplifting and impressive toast by lifting our glasses and joining him in a well-deserved “cheers.”
“Well, I’m the father of the bride,” started Beth’s father with the full expectation that words of wisdom would follow. “I… I produced her…”
“Cheers,” all of us replied with spurts of laughter, followed by a good sip of liquor in response. The toasts continued, some funny, some heart-warming, and some requiring a heavier intake of alcohol than others.
“Meet me and Gretch over on the lawn after the mom and dad dances,” whispered Bill during one of the toasts. He wouldn’t hint to why, a bit concerning as sneaking away could very well come off as rude, but curious of what it exactly was that he had devised, I did as I was told. As soon as Blake finished his dance with his mother, I made my move.
Spread out across the lawn was an equilateral triangle, each leg approximately 15 feet long and made up of three full cans of Keystone Light. Bill handed me a dart and sent me a nod, for we both knew exactly what I was supposed to do. Out in the distance was a lone can of Keystone Light, one waiting for my company.
Bill, Gretch, and I each stood over our designated can with a dart in hand, each of us taking turns sending one in the other’s direction. The game’s competitive nature requires a great deal of patience and concentration in order to drive your dart successfully into your opponent’s beer. The consequences of holding ownership to a pierced can are severe. Not only do you loose the game, but you are also called upon to pop the top and shotgun your beer as punishment for losing.
Many rounds had passed, and yet, other than a couple of close calls, no cans of beer had been pierced. A simmering of determination sparkled in my eyes as I held the dart up to my face, the sun shinning a quick sprinkle onto the knurled steel gripped between my fingers, pointed directly in line with the can below Gretch’s feet. Her persistent taunting would prove paramount to her failure, a cockiness that caused her to overshoot several times. I blotted out every distracting image in my head, setting up a calculated effort to send the dart to its final location. Perhaps for once in my life, my engineering degree was actually about to pay off as iterations of equations derived from the laws of physics ran through my head.
Ok, with an even trajectory and the force of gravity accelerating at approximately 32.2 ft per second squared, that means with a straight shot I’ll have less than a second until this dart reaches the ground. If I tilt the trajectory upward, that buys me a little more time, and being that the center of mass is placed in the front of the metal tip coupled with the tendency to follow a parabolic curve, the dart will naturally be pointing down towards the ground upon impact. Provided my aim is precise, I say a velocity of 18.34 feet per second at an angle of about 25 degrees should just about do it…
My arm pushed forward and the dart left my hand, sailing through the air and down towards the beer can. Gretch’s arrogant smile turned to a frown in direct proportion to the position of the dart, itching closer and closer to the can, the milliseconds feeling like seconds and the seconds feeling like minutes, until—
“Pfffff.” The dart penetrated the can, sending a fountain of beer up into the air and spraying in all directions, including Gretch’s feet.
“OHHHHHH!” Bill and I cried, for it was a truly impressive shot, as is the case with every successful shot made in beer darts. Gretch, however, didn’t quite share our enthusiasm. Her mouth was shut at first, as exceptionally deep and heavy breaths went in and out through her flared nostrils, giving way to a rising fury much above our level of comprehension. Her eyebrows dipped down and her face turned beat red, shaking and radiating heat like a nuclear bomb within seconds of detonation. As the pressure built to unsustainable levels, the whites of her teeth became exposed, gritting them like a rabid dog forcibly starved. A shot of panic surged through my spine as her head tipped back and she stared up towards the sky. With a pair clenched and shaking fists, she let out a deafening scream, the source of so much anger and frustration that a lifetime of punch cards couldn’t sustain the damage it would cause; an anger and frustration that could only leave her mouth as—
“Heheh Gretch that means you have to shotgun the beer, haha.” I couldn’t help but egg her on over my most outstanding accomplishment. “You better hurry, don’t keep the game waiting, heehee! C’mon, you can drink faster than that! You shotgun beer like a girl, heeheehee hohoho hahaha—“
A soft release of pressure resonated near my feet, sending my gloating to an abrupt stop. My eyes peered slowly down towards the ground, resisting as much as possible the image I feared would appear. A dart had impaled the can, sending a geyser of beer shooting up into the air. I took another slow peer up towards its presumed origin. Bill stood 15 feet away and delivered a sharpened grin in my direction. My feet lost all feeling, causing a drop to my knees and a solid gaze up to the heavens for an answer. How could this happen? How did he—Why… Why—
A steady beat resonated down to the lawn from the tent above. The reception area had been transformed into a dance floor, one being utilized by a select few party guests who had the rare ability to muster up enough courage to dance without the assistance of alcohol. It was a group mostly made up of babes, a group that looked more and more enticing after each shotgunned beer and each Gary. The combination of heat and humidity presented an unfavorable environment to the human body however, where even the most modest of movement would result in excessive perspiration, something I was trying to preclude as much as possible.
“We ran out of beer…” said Bill with a look of concern smeared across his face. The lack of beer though wasn’t the real issue. We were well capable of walking up to the cooler and grabbing a few more rounds. He was however fully aware, as was I, of my compulsive tendencies when it came to music and the effects it has on me, having survived a night with me at the 1029 karaoke bar. It consumes me like a drug, making my body move in ways beyond the moral capacity that any God-fearing man can tolerate. But there was no choice in the matter. More beer had to be procured, and walking past the dance floor bustling with hot babes and hot beats was a risk we all were forced to take.
A familiar drumbeat pulsed through our ears on our way back from the beer cooler, heavy on the hi-hat and bass drum. “I know this song…” I told Bill right before the lyrics came on board accompanied by a low-pitched horn section.
I stay out too late…
Got nothing in my brain…
That’s what people sayahay, mmhmm.
The lyrics sucked me in, casting its evil spell to draw me onto the dance floor much like the wicked witches did in the movie “Hocus Pocus.” Bill may have tried to stop, but his words, his actions, anything and everything said was blotted into the black hole recently formed inside my head. My legs moved side to side, my arms swung left to right, and my fingers began to snap to the beat. I opened my mouth and words came out, matching the ones coming through the speaker.
But I keep cruisin’, can’t stop—won’t stop movin’, it’s like I got the feeling
In my mind sayin’ it’s gonna be alright!
As soon as the chorus hit I was twisting back and forth with a full 180-degree rotation, my knees bending, my torso lowering closer to the ground, my limbs dangerously flying in random directions and my head shaking back and forth as directed by the song.
Cause the haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate
And the fakers gonna fake fake fake fake fake
Baby I’m just gonna shake shake shake shake shake
Shake it off. Shake it off!
The music had taken full custody of my body, for I was no longer capable of controlling any physical movement. I remained in a foolish jiggle the remainder of a song, a mix of Chubby Checker’s “Do the Twist” and the fluid hip motions of “Teach Me How to Dougie,” but by the end of the song, it was a solid mess of body parts flinging themselves about the dance floor as she repeated the hook of the song.
Shake it off, shake it off (you got to…), shake it off, shake it off!
Luckily I wasn’t the only one caught in a foolish twist of limbs, as a handful of little girls joined me with their own version of shaking and stirring, their fingers spread, wrists limp, and arms, legs, and head flinging about, just like me.
Just as soon as it was over, believing that the spell had come to a close, another familiar song hit the floor, starting with its signature horn intro that directed everybody into position. A larger crowd gathered, both men and women this time, for the effects of alcohol were starting to kick in and give everybody their much-needed liquid courage. And as for me… it just wouldn’t let me go.
“Young man…” there’s no need to feel down, I said, “Young man…”
The entire dance floor stood with their legs spread and knees bent as if they were riding an imaginary horse, or as the Japanese would say, “kiba-dachi.” One hand was placed on the hip, the other pointed in front, moving across their field of vision like a controlled water sprinkler while voicing the words of the song, a combination we all had been anticipating since the song’s introduction. After our outstretched arms had made a full wingspan across our bodies over the course of a line, the process repeated itself with the opposite hand as the verses continued, until 5 blaring quarter notes led us into the chorus.
It’s fun to stay at the…
My hands motioned the shape of each letter as it was announced in the song, a procession of moves that everybody flamboyantly participated in. Heck, even Bill and Gretch joined in! I love it how a couple of simple notes, a percussion beat, and voice mixed together can get a group of people to think the exact same thoughts and let loose, with an end result of a smile on everybody’s face. It’s actually a pretty extraordinary feat if you ask me!
The sudden presence of a slow song cleared out most of the dance floor except for a few predetermined couples. As it turns out, when forced to choose a sole partner of the opposite sex to dance with, it’s not just a couple of timid and hormone saturated Jr. Highers that aren’t willing to take a risk. Not me though. Hey, if I have to wait 15 years for a boundary babe, who says I can’t enjoy myself from time to time? That’s my motto.
I scoured the edges of the dance floor, flooded with an abundance of babes. So many to choose from, but how can I? I mean, I don’t want to make the wrong—
That’s when I saw her; her head down and shoulders slouched, on her way to one of the empty tables to wallow in sorrow if I had to guess. In any other circumstance I would’ve just ignored the situation and stayed the course to execute my initial plan, but there was something about her dejected demeanor that suddenly sent a sense of guilt through my body. That if maybe for once in her life, somebody might actually ask her to dance… and all it took was a good lad to perform a good deed. Then maybe, she just might—
What are you doing? Stop it! This isn’t your problem! Just walk away and move on! But I couldn’t move on. I mean, she just looked so miserable over there, and perhaps I was the only person capable of turning it around. Every time I looked to make a move towards the congregate of babes, something kept holding me back, my conscious equipped with a dagger, continually stabbing at my heart. In a way, I kind of wanted to—
“What the heck are you even talking about? I can’t do—I don’t want to… no, I won’t do it! Screw her, she’s not even worth it. And man, Ayn Rand would be pissed! In fact, she’s probably rolling in her grave right now with all the bull crap going through my head! What the, why are you so freaking nervous? You don’t even like her! What in the world is going on?”
A disappointment to Ayn Rand or not, I just couldn’t shake the remorse that was eating away at my insides with nothing but my selfish motives keeping me from making the move. Maybe it was the spirit of the 4th of July getting to me, but whatever it was, it just wouldn’t let go. I guess I was still a human being… that maybe, I had a soul after all…
“God, I can’t believe I’m actually going to go through with this…” I took a deep breath, an even deeper exhale, and approached her, preparing myself for a world of backlash afterwards and mustering up all the courage that could be gathered through my short stroll across the dance floor.
“…Hey Gretch… Would you like to dance?”
Yea, me and Gretch danced… so? Who cares? I know we danced too, because the photographer snapped a stupid picture of us (sorry, but I’m not sharing the photo. I look kind of fat in it). And geez Louise did her face light up like the 4th of July fireworks show later that night.
The stupid song seemed to drag on and on too. It was ridiculous! And of course, everybody else seemed to take resplendent notice to us. Beth mouthed a big ol’ heart-melting “aww” while dancing with Blake, who gave me an elated thumbs-up, of which I responded with nod of appeasement. A half of turn later put me right in the line of sight with Bill, who smugly stood with a growing grin on his face. I just shook my head in annoyance and looked away. That didn’t stop him though from making a stupid comment afterwards.
“Move over Boundary Babes,” he said to me with a stupid chuckle under his breath.
“Oh come… freaking… on…”
When you see a faded sign at the side of the road
That says “15 miles to the—”
Any potential disruption caused by my dance with Gretch was quickly forgotten once the famous phrase from the B-52’s was heard, followed by a twangy guitar rift that really got the party guests in the mood to hit the dance floor again. My body was at the risk of overheating, and provided that the sun had only begun its decent over the lake, there was still a lot of dancing left before the nights end, but this was just one I couldn’t sit out. I mean, everybody was movin’ and everybody was groovin’ baby, kids, adults, anybody with a sense of rhythm, and I refused to be an exception to that.
As the night went on, the hits continued and moved in a more contemporary direction, you know, the Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida type of songs. The music sent smooth and seamless motions from my arms, through my upper body and abs, and down to (and especially) my hips and legs, a combination of moves that had a tendency to flaunt my greatest assets. Although I found a way to keep myself hydrated with a beverage either in hand or in close proximity, the intake of beer failed to produce the same results as it usually does, as if the alcohol somehow just seeped out of my skin as soon as it entered my body. With the assistance of beer or not, the atmosphere of the wedding reception still triggered provocative behavior, some of which Sean was not ready for and reacted in a way that caused him to spill his drink all over the floor. We all rushed to take part in the clean up so we could continue to party, using the special wedding napkins which were provided to us with special instructions, “not to use for cleaning up spills;” instructions that we conveniently ignored, for spilt beer on the dance floor became a reoccurring problem throughout the remainder of the night.
I walked out of the bathroom (or more accurately the port-o-potty) in the middle of the lawn with every intention of heading back to the dance floor, when a sparkle of light flickered across the sky. Over the lake, a series of fireworks were exploding in sequence. “Oh my God, I almost forgot. It’s the 4th of July…” At the edge of the lake Coti and Sean were sitting in observance of our natural holiday. It was imperative that I join them and pay my respects as well.
Man, the older I get, the more I learn to appreciate moments like Independence Day, and I realize not only what it means to be an American, but also how lucky I am to live in such a place like America, a place that dared to try an experiment called freedom. A freedom that was fought for, a freedom of which many great men fell, dying for a great cause and believing that their lives could mean something greater for the rest of us, that there was this idea that all men were created equal under the eyes of their creator. It’s a freedom that led us to become the most prosperous country ever to grace the Earth; a freedom that realized the evils harboring in its own country like slavery and the lack of civil rights and produced warriors like Abe Lincoln and Doc Martin King who fought tirelessly to make it right. A freedom that defeated Nazi Germany, initiated the tear down of the Berlin Wall, and became the shining star on the hill, a beacon of hope for the rest of the world. It was indeed this freedom that facilitated the creation of the automobile and airplane, and eventually put us into space to land a guy on the moon. The freaking moon! A feat that no other country has ever been able to accomplish—Ever! Think about that. Going into space and landing on a giant freaking rock hundreds of thousands of miles away and coming back! Don’t tell me we ain’t the best until you’ve put a couple dudes with balls of steel on the moon and live to tell about it, damn it!
But perhaps most important of all, the one things that makes us stand out above all the rest over the history of civilization, is that we are the one and only country to ever—
“Wait, they’re playing that one Usher and lil’ John song aren’t they? You know, the one that goes ‘YEAH!’ over and ever again? Man, I haven’t heard this one since I was a freshman in college! I can’t believe—I mean, what was I saying earlier? What I’m trying to say… I wan’t to—Sorry guys. I gotta go.”
The crowd went wild at the next soulful, lyrical lead in:
“You know you make me wanna SHOUT!”
Each one of us put our hands up and let out a big “SHOUT” to match the beat of the song. Our bodies jumped left to right on each foot with our hands in the air and our heads moving side to side, a natural reaction to such an up tempo song. And staying true to the song’s structure, one among us took command and acted as the song’s narrator, a role I’ve had the pleasure of playing at parties before. But if I remember correctly, that man could’ve very well been Bill this time.
“Hey-A-Hey-A!” he said.
“Hey-A-Hey-A!” we repeated.
“A little bit softer now…” he repeated over and over again, a command that told us to get lower to the ground. Each of us did, our knees bent near our chests, yet still twisting side to side, singing and dancing as quiet as humanly possible, then going even quieter at the next segment, anticipating the lyrical change to send us back up to our normal state.
“A little bit louder now. A little bit louder now…” we repeated during our ascent back to an erect body, wiggling, shaking, and dancing in a natural and comfortable fashion as little by little the music got louder and louder.
“C’mon now! C’mon now! SHOUT!”
Once again, the uncontrollable feeling to move my body overcame and took control. And this time, the enchanting effects had spilled over to the rest of party guests, who like myself found themselves shouting and dancing with boldness. Beth and Blake were moving of course, Anna was getting down, Sean was dancing like an animal, Wes, in gentlemen like fashion danced and twirled with a few of the mom’s, Maggie was doing her thing, and Coti was dancing like she—wait a minute… whoa, I never realized—I mean, I know she’s a babe, but holy cow, Coti’s actually a huge babe! Oh no, she caught me staring—great, she saw me. Act like you didn’t—wait a minute, she’s checking out my moves—I think she’s actually impressed! This is awesome!
The shouting came to a fade and mixed in with a slower paced song. The DJ, who had been on point the whole night with his music selection, figured everybody could use a good rest before the upcoming finale, a rather logical assessment in my book. The usual couples took their places and conjoined on the dance floor while I filtered away with a number of others, heeding the implied advice of the DJ. Something caught my attention however out of the corner of my eye, something I just couldn’t shake off. It was a babe, and she was standing by herself at the head of the wedding party table. Hey, that’s Coti. I can’t believe nobody’s asked her to dance—wait a minute, could this be… my big chance? I mean… it has to be! It’s fate! Maybe I should go over and ask—heck! Yea, I’m gonna go ask her to dance!
There was an elevated sense of intrepidness to my step as I approached her. A smile spread across my face, beaming not so much with undisciplined excitement, but more from a high level of confidence. I was a man among and above men, valiant in my mission and boldly setting forth to seek out life’s purpose. I was going to dance with this babe, and I was… I… I—
I felt the sleeve of my green dress shirt, brushed by my swinging hand in caught in a zealous stride. What in the… why is this all wet? I felt further up the shirt, only to feel the same consistency of moisture and fabric. My dark green dress shirt had turned two shades of green darker and my head looked as though I had taken a dip in the lake. I looked down to check if my pants followed the same pattern. Unlike my shirt, my pants weren’t fully soaked; only enough to give the impression that I had just peed myself.
“Hey Coti… I—“ I stood as a deer peering into a pair of shining headlights, unknowingly forcing her into an encounter with me and my repulsive layer of sweat. “I wanted to know… I mean, I was going to ask you if you wanted to… never mind…”
Under the penumbra of defeat, I walked back to the bar in the basement of the mansion, my head lowered in shame, my legs dragging and arms hanging, pulled by a force further magnified by acceleration of gravity. Every square inch of my body was covered in a grotesque bodily fluid released from each pore of my skin. The warning signs were vivid and frequent, yet ignored time and time again. There was no one but myself to blame for my sodden state, a state that left me in the torment of my ultimate collapse. I simply just couldn’t keep myself from dancing.
“Looks like somebody got a little sweaty, heheh,” commented Gretch as I entered my the basement. Gee, nice observation there Captain Obvious… Bill looked at me and shook his head in disgust. Even members of Beth’s family found themselves providing commentary to the amount of saturation that had occurred through the natural process a body undergoes in order to release heat. A process commonly known to scientists as “sweating.”
“Have a little too much fun out there?” asked her Uncle. I just shook my head and repeated the traditional incantation, the mantra of error and acceptance of omission made famous by Joey Carter.
“I’m never dancing. Ever… again…
It had to be less than a minute later when a bustling piano introduction caused an involuntary reaction of cheers to bellow from the dance floor. Everybody knew, as did I that it was the beginning of Journey’s greatest hit, the single-most popular music staple in the history of wedding parties.
She’s just a small town girl
Livin’ in a lonely world
She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere…
“Screw it. Bill, Gretch, I’m goin’ back out there.” Leave it to the graceful pipes of Steve Perry to make me renege on my vow to never dance, ever again. In a body covered in a film of sweat I walked back out to the floor and flung my green shirt that had been crusted with an extra layer of salt out over the lawn, making the choice to dance in my wife beater, perhaps amongst the most inappropriate of articles to wear at a wedding. At this point though, I hadn’t a care in the world for fashion. No matter how grotesque I may be at this point, this is what I was born to do for this moment in time. To dance and act a fool; to celebrate Beth and Blake’s marriage and to enjoy myself, and in turn, bring joy unto them.
And dance I did, as did the rest of the crew. And in usual fashion, each of us belted out the lyrics to Don’t Stop Believin’. And in that moment of time, each of us actually believed that every note coming out of our mouths was matched in perfect tune with Steve Perry’s voice. And for some beautiful reason, nobody seemed to care that the person singing next to them was off pitch. We moved, grooved, and gave it our all, our voices turned raspy and our muscles swollen from a nights worth of celebration. However, it was not quite over. Blake and Jordan had one last request before the nights end…
The Cold War Kids.
Jordan took center stage, clenched his fist, and sent a mighty roar across the dance floor, singing a set of lyrics delivered straight from the heart, and next to him was Blake following his lead. Each of us watched in awe at the display of sheer jubilance shared between father and son. We listened to the excitement in their voices; felt each thrill of happiness vibrating as the music moved them around the dance floor. It was a special moment they had been waiting a long time for; a moment that brought them unbounded joy… a special moment and happiness we were lucky to witness… to experience… and join.
And how lucky we were to be there with them… to have them as friends… to get a glimpse of love, life, and liberty all in one place and one time—Wisconsin, aka the motherland, on the 4th of July. The verdict was conclusive. By all accounts, it certainly was a Wisco Wedding that we attended, a textbook example of how to celebrate love… and a perfect end to a perfect night (well… almost).
Billy, I guess you were right. The Cold War Kids are all right after all… Respect.
But they’re still no Kanye West.