Stephen Jenkin’s angelic voice faded as the cycling of a V6 engine came to a stop. We climbed out of the Benz at the edge of the mansion’s estate, receiving more sets of impressive looks from arriving guests doing the same. Bill and I gave our suits a few straightening tugs and Gretch did the same with her dress, and with our heads up, posture straight, and each stride hit with perfect poise, we made our way up to the mansion.
A drink accompanied the hands of each of our friends, prompting a visit to the wet bar as to be in conformance with the rest of the party guests. “If you want, I can make you guys an old fashioned to go with your Keystone Light—Oh… hey, Billy…” He stood behind the counter fixing a drink of his own, his presence a surprise to us all.
“Hey what’s up guys?” he said to us. “Man, last night got a little wild. I wasn’t mean to you guys or say anything stupid did I?”
“Well, we kind of got into it over Kanye West…” I reluctantly replied. The reminder was likely to bring up contention, something I was hoping to avoid before the wedding’s festivities began, but nothing less than an honest answer was what he deserved, even if we were fighting the day before. He was a groomsmen after all.
“Oh man, I’m sorry. You know what I say: to each his own. That’s my motto. I’m not a big Kanye fan by any stretch, but if you are, I have nothing against that. You know me, I would never say a mean thing to anybody.” His apology was sincere, and in my book, fully acceptable.
“You know, there was a little drinking going on, and people say things they don’t mean, and it just got a little out of hand I think, that’s all. I tell you what, after the ceremony is over, I’ll make you an old fashioned.” We shook hands and added a smile to console our differences.
“Alright you guys, we’re going to start any minute now,” said Maggie having just ran down the basement stairs. That was our cue, for nobody was allowed to see the bride in her wedding dress before the start of the ceremony, and for good reason too. With drinks in hand and sunglasses over our head, we joined the rest of the guests on the lawn and took our seats for the ceremony.
Blake stood at the alter waiting for Billy and Coti to make their way past the rows seated guests and accompany him. The unforgiving humidity set by the red summer sun resulted in large patches of sweat left under the armpits of the wedding party’s dress shirts, a common theme that was to be shared by the rest of the male party guests, including yours truly.
Next came Maggie, the Maid of Honor, escorted by Jordan, Blake’s son. At 9 years old, he performed the important, yet demanding role of best man, and an appropriate title it was, for his manners and maturity were far above and beyond that of the rest of us, and only he was capable and deserving enough to walk a babe like Maggie down the aisle. Thus, he truly was, the best man.
Jordan took his spot next to his father and Maggie stood opposite of him while a classical tune continue to play and spill out over the glistening lake, a most perfect backdrop for a wedding, minus the few passing pontoon boats unaware that such a special occasion was taking place. With Blake standing amongst the company of friends, family, and the most important people in his life, the stage was set. All the required members were present, all except for one, whose grand entrance was only a few, long seconds away.
A jazzy brush drum roll sounded followed by a few strokes of a piano, a rhythm and melody that was instantly recognized, as it was the introduction to one of the most beautiful songs ever written (second only to Jewel’s “You Were Meant For Me, and possibly a couple of Kanye West beats), a song I had listened to every day for months while delving into the literature of Ayn Rand (quite an excellent pairing)—a song of which you can’t help but think about holding close the most lovely of babes among babes. Norah Jones led in with her signature soft and graceful voice, “Come away with me, in the night…” and a procession of guests rose to their feet. “Come away with me, and I will write… you… a song…”
All eyes turned to the bride clad in a stunning white dress, her elegance on full display. Walking side by side with her father, Beth made her way down the aisle and joined Blake. Standing together, hand in hand at the alter, they looked into each others eyes, millions of thoughts rummaging through their heads, a million thoughts that by some miracle of life, may just happen be congruent within the short distance between them, a lifetime of knowledge, memories, and love shared between two individuals. Thoughts of which neither me, Bill, Gretch or anybody else in attendance could possibly know or would ever know… all we could do is sit back and wonder with thoughts of our own…
The Palouse was in its typical Fall transitioning period, unsure of whether it was suppose to be warm or cool that early October Tuesday in 2006, much like the young emo kids struggling to find their identity. The day’s events were exceptionally vivid, for The Killers had just released their new album “Sam’s Town,” the much-anticipated follow-up to their debut album “Hot Fuss.” After my purchase from Hastings in Moscow, ID, I immediately rushed over to Connie and Bill’s apartment, for my house in Pullman was far too long of a drive for me to listen to a CD I had been waiting months to get my hands on.
Emily Dokken answered the door and informed me of three important issues. 1: Bill and Connie were still in class. 2: she had to take a massive dump. And 3: I could hang out with her friend Beth until Connie and Bill came back. Little did I know at the time that Emily’s half-hour outing with the toilet would mark the beginning of a friendship, sort of a blessing in disguise if you ask me.
From that forced encounter on that early Autumn day in Idaho, and with the help of a few Chach Chugs, multiple Moscow outings, and a road trip or two, our friendship grew and blossomed, to the point where we eventually discovered a coveted admiration evolving from our family upbringing—The Green Bay Packers.
Fast forward to 2010; a time where Lady Gaga ruled the airwaves, half the country was going nuts over a terrible film called Avatar, the Shi— uh, I mean Seahawks’ (for some reason I mess that up, every time…) fan base was still limited in size, and I was about to take a temporary position working for the Navy in Washington, DC. Before I was to embark across the country however, there was one last important matter to tend to: the Packers were scheduled to come to Seattle to play the Shi—er, Seahawks (there I go again), and being that game tickets were still decently priced at that point in history, Beth and I made it a point to go to the game, even if it was only preseason.
“By the way Beth, I’m going to bring my friend Cambray. I hope you’re not mad, she’s kind of a boundary babe,” I told her through text.
“That’s fine. I’m going to bring my friend Blake.”
“What the… Who the heck is Blake?!?! He better be a cool guy or else!” I threatened. And soon enough, I would meet this Blake fellow and find out just how much of a cool guy he actually was…
Readers note: in an effort to remain factual, upon my writing of this, I just remembered that the Packer game was actually the second time I had met Blake, but the first time I met him involved him running out of the shower in nothing but a towel, and that story’s not as good. Besides, the Packer game is where we actually got to know each other, so if it’s no difference to you, I’d like to talk about that time instead.
Beth brought Blake to the rendezvous point to meet Cambray and I before the game. In my Belltown apartment across the street from the Space Needle, we made our preparations for the evening’s festivities, for it was dangerous territory we were walking into, making it rather imperative that we gather the appropriate supplies for the mission ahead. I made everybody take a few rounds of shots before leaving, but it was Blake who stepped up the game up by convincing Beth to hide a Ziploc bag full of rum in her shirt, a move that encouraged Cambray to follow suit. Although a bit jealous over the fact that he came up with the idea, it was still a strategy I was most impressed with, and from that point on, I had a feeling that Blake and I were going to get along just fine.
The walk to Qwest Field (now Century Link) was filled with dirty looks and heckles. Apparently, not only was having a giant wedge of cheese on my head considered terrible camouflage, but it also wasn’t much of a popular look on that particular day. Lucky for us we were equipped with a sufficient amount of booze and good conversation to keep the two-mile trek fresh.
“Beth tells me you went to Asotin High School. Did you know Danny P?” asked Blake.
“Yea I know Danny P! Me and him go way back!”
“Nice! We went to the Gorge together for Sasquatch a few years back.”
“What?! I love the Gorge, and I go to Sasquatch every year! It’s probably my favorite place to go actually. You probably know Moody too if you know Danny.”
“Oh yea, I know Moody. That guy shreds on guitar.”
“Dude, Moody’s been my best friend since the third grade! That’s awesome!”
Our conversation got a little carried away, for we seemingly forgot about Beth and Cambray who were several strides behind us. For what it was worth though, it looked as though our acquaintance was quickly turning into a friendship. That friendship however, and the respect it garnered came under jeopardy when we heard the singing of the national anthem beyond the stadium walls, a signal that our arrival had been a late one. To add to the dire circumstance, I had to go to the bathroom… really bad.
“Hey, why can’t I relieve myself and show my patriotic support all at the same time?” I asked myself. The question was a valid one, and I couldn’t find any objection within me that told me not to, even though I only took a few seconds to think about it. So in total support of America and all of the blessings she has given me, I entered the porta-potty and belted out the lyrics to the Star Spangle Banner, a song that has always filled me with pride and jubilance every time it’s been played, while all at the same time taking a whiz, a move that further rendered our presence as suspect.
Unfortunately for Beth, Blake and Cambray, that was only the beginning of my obnoxious behavior, as I couldn’t help but notice every passing Packer fan through the halls of the stadium and acknowledging their presence with at least a high-five and a favorable comment. And I do have to say, the Packers had a rather plentiful showing, even though they were in foreign territory. The excitement held deep inside all of us to see Aaron Rodgers and company play in person was evident. With me though, it was just too great to keep bound, and I let it show in the most impudent of ways.
“You know, the University of Washington did a study and showed that those cheeseheads cause brain damage,” the man next to me said as we took our seat. It was the first of many jabs we were to receive from Shi—Sea… Seahawk fans (c’mon man, get a grip on yourself) in the form of curses, raised middle fingers, and a pointed finger slowly sliding perpendicularly across a tensed net, all by gnarly looking dudes who could easily play convincing roles as homicidal maniacs in one of those crime dramas on TV.
“Well, that’s because UW did the study. You have to go to WSU if you want it done right,” I replied, a surprisingly quick and witty response.
“Wait, you went to WSU too?” asked a woman in front of me. She was 38 years old (probably around 43 or 45 now), a Seahawks fan, and she had already fallen in love with me. So naturally I talked to her. I can’t help it! I kind of get a kick out of older babes hitting on me (although she looked babe enough to me, Cambray insisted that she wasn’t, but for all intents and purposes, and for the fact she was flirting with me, we’ll refer to her as a babe anyway). “…I dare ya to stand up, point your arm and yell ‘First Down,’ the next time the Packers get a first down.” Easy.
“FIRST DOWN!” I yelled, pointing my hand in the direction the Packers were marching after the next play was over, a notion that made my new 38-year-old love laugh hysterically. The move wasn’t exactly well received with the other fans, as two black girls (only calling them black to provide an accurate description that will help differentiate them between the other characters in the story, and that’s it. I know some of you out there get all worked up about that crap, so I figure I’ll add this disclaimer. Gosh, the things you have to do to cover your buns against the PC police these days…) whipped around and shot me dirty looks. “What?” I said, shrugging my shoulders and sending a sheepish look back their direction. “I love my team, what can I say?”
As what happens with every outing where alcohol is consumed, the trips to the bathroom became very frequent, and each trip back included a bunch of high-fives to Packer fans and a beverage in hand that would cause me to repeat the vicious cycle. “I’m getting a beer, what do you want Cambray?”
“I’ll do a Roman Coke.”
“Uh… I don’t think they have those. Are you ok with a regular one? I can’t imagine that they’d be that much better imported.”
“No, you see, you get a Coke, and I’ll make it a Roman Coke when you come back.”
“I don’t get it? You’re not even Italian, let alone Roman. How can you make a Roman Coke?”
“Just… get me a regular coke please.”
“That’s all you had to say! Coming right up!”
A few minutes passed and I returned with a beer for me and a Coke for Cambray. “Here you go,” I said to her while handing her the bottle. Immediately she began taking sips then adding her secret stash of alcohol to it. “Oh, you’re mixing Rum and Coke, why didn’t you say so? Wait, it’s Rodgers, and he’s rolling out. He’s passing and… TOUCHDOWN!” We ripped and roared, but the celebration was short lived. The two black girls whipped around once more to deliver another set of dirty looks. Oh great.
“Zack, those girls really like you,” said Blake. “They’re just acting tough, that’s all.”
“I don’t know man, they look like they’re pretty mad every time they turn around.”
“But that’s the key. They keep on turning around, just for you! Trust me…”
A few series later, the Seahawks scored a touchdown. My 38-year-old lover made me give her a high five and the rest of the Seahawk fans cheered on… all except for two. In an unprecedented move, the two black girls whipped around once again, and with them came the same pair of dirty looks that had disturbed us several times over.
“What? You guys did a good job and I’m clapping for you! I like you guys, and I want to like you! We can be friends, I know we can!” My radiant smile and exuberant personality was just too powerful for them to repel, and a smile began creeping up on their face, growing larger until it turned into a couple of laughs. “See, I knew we would be friends!”
A few seats down Blake nodded his head in approval with a big smile on his face to give me a message. “Told Ya!”
The 4th quarter was nearing an end with the Packers ahead and in total command of the game, drawing an exodus of fans from the stadium in order to beat the traffic rush. The two black girls gave me one more set of dirty looks that quickly turned friendly, each of us sharing a hug before parting ways. And sadly, it was time for my 38-year-old lover and I to say our goodbyes. We were never to see each other again, for the future tension between our two teams would never allow it, but she forever sealed our fate that day with a kiss on the cheek, a kiss I will hold dear to my heart for the rest of my life. I guess not all Seahawks fans are bad after all…
When it was all said and done, it was just Beth, Blake, Cambray and I left to watch our team march onto victory. They stuck with me through my vociferous outbursts, unruly behavior, and took the brunt of dirty language, inappropriate gestures, and heckles delivered on my behalf, all with a smiles on their faces the whole time. Eventually we made an exodus of our own up to Capitol Hill to celebrate with friends, not all of who were Packer fans, but who would certainly recognize and rejoice in the accomplishment nonetheless.
During that walk up the hill, I couldn’t help but look at Beth and Blake and reflect on the day’s events, having just learned a great number of things that night. 1: The Packers were going to win the Super Bowl that year (which they did, beating Pittsburgh 31-25). 2: I had made a new friend, one who had easily earned my respect. And 3: Beth and Blake were the real deal, and I had a feeling that this was going to be one that lasted a long, long time.
My 38-Year-Old Lover even took a picture of us at the game!
A great man (but not a particularly wise man) by the name of Forrest Gump once said, “I may not be a smart man, but I do know what love is…”
Love is a funny thing. We see it all around us, written in books, shown to us in movies and TV shows, and sung through beautiful renditions created by the likes of Norah Jones and Jewel. The word itself gets thrown around freely between friends and family all the time!
Yet, I don’t think we truly understand it, or even how to spot it, even if it’s staring us right in the face. Ask a thousand people what love is and you’d get a thousand different answers. But somehow, in that moment where you’re standing next to somebody, that one person out of a million that somehow can read your exact mood as if they have access to your mind, the one who can erase every pernicious thought built inside your head with a simple gesture of a smile, that one person who you would unequivocally travel to the darkest reaches of the Earth for, your body musters up a single feeling that blots out all other possible feelings; a feeling that grinds the brain into a pile of mush, leaving the heart to do the talking, an organ void of rational thought. You’re stuck with a feeling of complete submission, the equivalent to a giant black hole that within a moment’s notice sucks you in and doesn’t allow you to escape, an unconditional emotion that will never falter, no matter what hardship or tragedy arises. It’s an emotion stronger than the rest, one that conquers and endures till the end and whose simple essence by itself nearly proves the existence of God.
You’re left with the feeling of love, a love that’s impossible to understand, but perfectly known. You know, because the person standing next to you is feeling the same exact thing.
It was love that was on display in the heart of the motherland, and it was their love that was shared with us that afternoon through a set of heartfelt vows delivered emotionally. A love expressed not only between them, but also towards Jordan. His presence strengthened their love for one another, created an inseparable bond that would not be broken, a special type of bond called family. And on that day, they would officially become one.
And though that love was shared and celebrated amongst us, it was only a glimpse of what was actually between them. And how could it be anything more with such a complex subject? It’s no wonder that love is the one feeling that’s celebrated with such a grandiloquent occasion like a wedding. But even the most spectacular, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian types of weddings can even come close to providing the justice love deserves. It’s just simply not possible! So as humans, we do the best we can, and celebrate and rejoice at the phenomenon, that for a moment, we are part of something bigger and more powerful than any material object or selfish desire; something bigger than our good looks, Mercedes-Benz, the Gran Tetons, Steel Reserve, punch cards, Bar Tender Babes, Seahawks Babes, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, Packer Babes, Farm Babes, Boundary—uh, I won’t go that far, but the list goes on! And in the end, we get to be a part of love, something well worth traveling 2500 miles for, something we can either look back and remember a time years ago where we were up with the same exact feeling, or something that we can someday look forward to with a wedding of our own.
We watched in delight as Beth and Blake were pronounced husband and wife. Their love was sealed with a kiss, and Bill, Gretch and I joined the rest of the guests with a set of raucous cheers. Each one of us in attendance had a reason for being there, had the honor of being a part of their lives in some special way, to help guide them to this moment. Some were friends who had gained trust and respect from years of sticking together through the best and worst of what life has to offer, never turning their back when terrible decisions have been made, and having the ability to say the difficult things that nobody is willing to say or make the tough decisions that nobody else is willing to make. Others were family, integral people in their lives that spent years helping to mold them into the people they have become, no matter how hard it could be at times.
For me, I was just glad to be that person who could put a smile on their face and consistently make their lives better simply by being the person I was meant to be. That maybe, through the help of a Packer game 5 years prior, I played a part in making love come to life, whether it was love at first sight, or love that was always there, waiting to be discovered.
And who knew that 5 years later, what started with the Green Bay Packers would come full circle and end in Wisconsin, the motherland and rightful home to the greatest football team ever to grace the Earth. That alone was enough to celebrate.
And celebrate we would, for it wasn’t the end, but merely the beginning. It was the beginning of a life of full of adventure, wonderful people, and everlasting memories for each of them. And what better way to start such a celebration than with a reception filled with best friends and family indulging in an overabundance of boisterous dancing, fireworks and alcohol? I don’t know about Bill and Gretch, but that was a plan that I couldn’t wait for; a plan that I was definitely onboard with…