Chapter 17: I’m Never Dancing… Ever, Again… A Wisco Wedding Part 4

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—

“GAAAAARRRRRRRRYYYYYYYYY!!!”

“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—

“GAAAAAAARRRRRRYYYYYYYY!”

 

***

 

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…
YMCA!

 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—”
LOOOOOOOOVE SHACK!

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.

“Oow-whoaoao-whoa!”
“Oow-whoaoao-whoa!”

“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…

IMG_1577

***

 

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.

Chapter 14: A Wisco Wedding Part 1

The private drive was long and winding with trees and brush draped over its paved surface. Each of us looked around in wonder under the protection of the Benz, wandering deeper and deeper down the road of the unknown, a path that grew denser and darker the further we drove. Minutes passed and questions over our progress rose, for the path had no guarantee of sanctuary, if there was ever an end in existence. We continued however, having faith in Beth’s directions, hoping they wouldn’t turn us into another horror story statistic.

As quickly as we had been encompassed by darkness, a bright light overcame our despair, one sourced from the sky, a friendly presence that was thought to have departed long ago. A great, acre-long lawn surrounded a mansion, and beyond it laid home to a lake hidden just within the limits of Muskeego, WI, the backdrop for Beth and Blake’s wedding. We parked the car near a basketball court and made our way through the grand residence in search of our soon-to-be-wed friends, passing through an expansive deck area consisting of a large gathering of adults, swimming pool, and a custom built table with a gas fed fire pit in the center, the solid flame rising from an even spread of black pebbles similar to the fire pit seen at the Surly Brewery.

Through the mansion we went, passing a state of the art kitchen and the mansion’s foyer that housed a giant crystal chandelier, making our way down to the basement where an arcade machine and full-sized wet bar lay, a welcoming home for our hefty procurement of booze. With beers in hand, we made the trek through the vast lawn and down towards a group of bikini clad babes and topless hunks sitting at the edge of a dock, accompanied by a set of wave runners, a jet boat, and a water trampoline shining under the golden rays of summer. Our faith in Beth had been rewarded. As it turned out, her family was loaded.

“What’s up guys?” greeted a dripping wet Blake having just come off a fresh ride on the wave runner. “Beth and everybody else are hanging out on the dock. C’mon back and take the waver runners for a spin!” We took the first part of his advice and made our advance onto the dock to reunite with Beth, whose eyes grew with delight upon our arrival.

“Oh my God! Zack! Bill! And… oh… Gretch…” welcomed Beth, eventually making her way over with hugs.

“HEY!” said Anna who was sunbathing on the dock, her voice heightened, being that we had just snuck up on her. “Sorry that my butt’s all sticking out.”

“Oh that’s ok. I don’t really mind,” I replied. It was true. For some reason, I actually didn’t mind at all!

“What’s up Coti? Whoa, Maggie! What’s goin’ on? Hey dude’s, my name’s Zack…” I made the obligatory rounds that are required upon one’s arrival, saying hello to some familiar faces and introducing myself to some unfamiliar ones. There was Coti, a member of the wedding party and certified babe, and Maggie the maid of honor, who was also a babe; in fact, one that’s considered to be among the most respected from the Lewis-Clark Valley! And honestly, I don’t think anybody has ever had a single bad thing to say about her, ever! Not even from Gretch (and that’s really saying something)! I can’t even remember how many times I’ve asked Gretch to stop talking trash behind Meagan Mills’ back (a subject matter that’s really been upsetting me as of late, and I really wish she’d stop). And don’t even think about getting her started on the subject of Ben Woodward unless you have a couple of punch cards you’re trying to get rid of…

There was Wes, who turned out to be a pretty awesome dude, and Sean who really liked to party, and who also knew my sister somehow, of whom was later able to convince him to slap me in the face (not cool Emily). There were peeps from Minnesota, visitors from Idaho, and a couple of natives of Wisconsin, everybody from all around our favorite states!

And then… there was Billy…

Billy was a groomsman, an admirable position at any wedding, and our acquaint relationship seemed to start off on good footing… that is, until I used “Kanye West” and “Musical Genius” in the same sentence. Tension immediately came to a head at the mention of the rappers name, and it didn’t let up as I expanded on his cultural significance and the idea that he was the artist of our generation. The sullen look on his face and the sour tone of his voice gave me the impression that his disagreement on the issue was quite ostensible. Unfortunately, it was to be a prolonged feud, lasting all throughout the wedding weekend, much longer than anticipated.

“Holy Mol—Kassie, I haven’t seen you in ages! I didn’t know you were going to be here!” I said, rushing across the deck to greet her. Any debate involving Kanye’s generational influence could wait, as I was much too eager to catch up.

“Hey, how the heck are ya?” she asked. “I moved back to Wisconsin… I’m a farmer now!”

“No way! Wisconsin? That’s like, my favorite state! So what kind of farmer are you? Dairy and stuff?”

“Actually, organic.”

“Hey, that’s pretty cool. I can dig that!” Through my peripherals, I noticed Bill rolling his eyes. The reason, I couldn’t say. Maybe he had something against farm girls, who knows? It was no matter, for I was able to ignore it for the time being.

Kassie and I conversed for a while longer, talking about the organic farm and hitting up the important Wisconsin issues of the day, a subject matter that always led to the current state of affairs surrounding the Green Bay Packers. “Yea, I gotta make my way out to a game at Lambeau this year. It’d be really awesome if I could make it out to their home opener and watch them exact revenge on the Seattle Shi—“

“Me and Gretch are going out on a wave runner,” interrupted Bill. “You wanna take the other one out?” His question seemed to come out of nowhere, but the wave runners did look enticing, and I’m never one to say no to a friend.

“You’ll have to excuse me Kassie, but we’ll have to catch up a little later,” I regretfully told her, for fun was calling my name. I jumped up, grabbed a life jacket, and hopped on the wave runner opposite of the two siblings.

“I thought you said you hated organic food?” asked Bill, sending a little sassiness my direction.

“I don’t know, I’ve been thinking about it, and really, it’s not all that bad. Heck, it may even be good for me in the end!”

“Yea, I’m sure,” he replied, shaking his head while starting the wave runner. I did the same, unsure why he was being so sassy, but then again, if I had to ride on a wave runner with Gretch, I guess I’d be a little sassy too (I mean, talk about a boring ride…). The motors gave a nice kick and we blasted off across the lake, our wakes breaking the shine off the water from the setting July sun.

Something had gone awry, the observation coming after a couple cruises around the lake, where I had been preoccupied with performing all sorts of cool waver runner tricks for everybody: cookies, driving between boats and jumping off their wake—the whole bit! It looked as though Bill and Gretch were stalled in the middle of the lake. “You guys alright?” I asked from a distance, as I was rightfully concerned. I focused in on Gretch, who seemed to have this stupid grin growing across her face. “Strange… Why would she be grinning if they’re stalled—what the?” Two closed fists shot towards my direction, followed by a raised middle finger on each one. “Flipping me off—are you kidding me?”

Bill suddenly gunned the throttle, and a dumbfounded look of panic was released, sending Gretch’s brush of disrespect to an abrupt end. With her eyes wide, jaw opened, and arms a flailing, her ill-mannered gesture had turned into a disgraceful attempt to combat a sudden acceleration, one that would ultimately prevent her from staying dry. Serves her right!

I whipped my wave runner around to scope the scene. “You guys need some help—oops!” The curving motion of my wave runner’s sent a giant wave right into Gretch’s face. “Gee, didn’t mean to splash ya, heheh. C’mon Bill, let’s ditch this lame pool part and shoot some hoops! Look out Gretch—whoops, not again, heheh…”

***

“What’s wrong?” asked Maggie upon our return from the basketball court. It was a slow and hesitant walk across the dock, my lowered head a dead giveaway of gloom—a precursor to the humiliation that was about to be on full display…

The court was smoldering, for Bill and I couldn’t help but sink in shot after shot, unable to miss a single basket even if we tried—and it was supposed to be an easy in. “Alley Oop,” I cried out to Bill standing at the apex of the three-point line. I took a couple of lunges forward, gaining momentum as to meet his pass midway in the air. His trajectory was high… too high. With all my might, using every muscle in my leg, from the calf all the way up to the gluteus maximus, I lifted off the ground. Every effort used to project my body into the air seemed to be constricted by my water soaked, skinny jeans. But suddenly, there was freedom, a full body spread as an orange sphere fell into the palm of my hand. My legs scissored and I thrust the ball back into the air, watching it settle into the basket before my return to the ground—success.

“Bill, did you see that—“ I paused as my hand brushed past my leg, feeling a gap between the continuity of jean fabric. I tilted my head slowly towards the problem area. “Oh… no…”

I spread my left leg, exposing the giant gash in my favorite pair of cut-offs, a special pair that had honorably served through two tours of the Sasquatch Music Festival. It had been the second favorite pair of pants that I had ripped in recent years, the first also from playing basketball at a wedding, coincidentally.

Gretch immediately released a giant giggle, a nearly perfect rendition of the kid brother in the Christmas Story after he sees Ralphie in the bunny suit. “Shut up Getch,” I snarled, but it was no use. Her uncontrollable laugh continued to reverberate across the lake, no matter if it were as equally embarrassing as my exposed undies. The shame however, was not universally felt.

“It’s ok,” said Kassie. “You’re in Wisconsin. Nobody really cares about that kind of stuff.” It was a voice I could trust, being that it came from one who was well versed with the culture and customs of the land. “Besides, you’ll forget all about it by the time you eat a few burgers and brats.”

“Hey, we had burgers and brats yesterday!” Bill and I looked at each other like we had just scored a date with a Victoria’s Secret Model, even against Gretch’s foolish giggling that was still going strong. “Well what are we waiting for?” I said, sensing the seductive aroma of beef product through my nostrils.

IMG_1556

Beth, the bride to be and I chillin’.  Go Pack Go!

***

“You know, this isn’t the first time I’ve ripped my pants playing basketball within a day of a wedding,” I explained to the group sitting around the table with the fire pit in the middle, each of us in satisfaction with an influx of burger and brat inside our stomachs. “I ripped a nice pair of leather pants sinking in a lay in against Collin Morlock during a game of one-on-one right after Jill’s wedding!”

“So why were you playing basketball in leather pants?” I knew the question would come up. It always does every time I tell the story (something I’m starting to find quite annoying as a matter of fact).

“I was just wearing them at the time, I don’t know! Ever since I saw that 2Chainz video with Kanye wearing them, I’ve always wanted a pair of my own, and so when Collin and Joey Carter asked me to play basketball out of the blue one day, I—“

“Kanye!?!?” burst a voice out of nowhere, its rapid response catching me off guard. I looked straight across from me to its source. It was Billy, and he was giving me the ol’ stare down. Not again.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t lie. The guy’s a musical genius. There’s no other way to put it.”

“No he’s not—are you crazy?”

“Dude… My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the single greatest album since Thriller, and Yeezus??? That album will literally blow your mind.” The intake of information was so enormous and mind-blowing, that he was literally rendered speechless, much like the first time I had read an Ayn Rand novel. Before he had a chance to speak again however, I took a different approach.

“Hey, everybody has their different takes on style, and that’s ok. You don’t have to like him, and I can respect that. But you can’t deny that the man’s an artist. There’s nobody else like him out there, just sayin’.”

Billy wasn’t amused, and the Kanye insults continued to fly, and of course, I continued to defend. “…Oh yea, well what about the Cold War Kids? Do you like them,” he asked. I hadn’t heard that band’s name in a long time, so his choice to use them as an example caught me a little of guard. Regardless of their current popularity though, anything short of a favorable answer would end in catastrophe. Lucky for us (although not a huge fan), I had nothing against the Cold War Kids.

“…I can rock with them,” I said back to him with a nod of agreement, not the exact answer he was looking for, but enough of an answer to ease the tension. “I’ve been to a concert or two of theirs, and they put on a good show. And I kind of like that one song about the hospital beds!” He sent me back a nod of approval. “Good, we’re making progress,” I thought to myself. “Just keep this going, and don’t say anything stupid...“

“Of course, he’s no Kanye West,” I said with a shrug of the shoulders and a turn of the head. “But hey, nobody’s perfect…” Whoops—slip of the tongue!

There was no over-reaction to his order, no rising of his voice, just another cold, hard stare to press his softly spoken command. “You can leave…” The rest of the table joined in on an awkward silence, each with a shiver of unease shooting through there cold spines, as if they had sensed the rotten smell of death brewing in the air. I could see it in his eyes, the morose state of his face—he was serious, and there were no witty anecdotes to save me, not even one involving Gretch. I hadn’t the slightest clue of how I was going to get out of this one with my pride intact—

“Can I tell a fairy tale?” asked a soft voice at the end of the table. All eyes redirected towards it—a little girl with golden, curly hair holding a staff with a clubbed end that was twice her size.

“Why, I’d love to hear a story,” said Anna while she helped the little girl up onto a high stool, taking her rightful position as head of the table. For the moment, it seemed as though our feud had fallen into suspension, for neither Billy nor I had the gall to deny this adorable little girl from telling her story, thank God. With our undivided attention, she clasped the clubbed end of the staff and began the telling of her epic tale.

“Once upon a time, there was a princess, and she was very pretty. And she had a pony. One day, she met a prince, and then the prince asked her to marry her and she said yes. The prince and the princess got married and moved into a big castle with a beautiful garden and they lived happily ever after. The end.”

The story was met with thunderous applause, all of it well deserved. I feared however, that it meant the standoff between Billy and I was to resume. It certainly wasn’t out of the picture for Billy to garnish enough support behind him, for he was a groomsmen after all, and Kanye West isn’t always the most popular figure among certain crowds. I mean, neither was Jesus, but that didn’t stop him from being right. “Would you like to hear another story?” asked the soft-spoken little angel. How could we say no?

“Once upon a time, there was a pretty princess, and she lived in a pretty castle with lots of horses. One day a prince came to the castle and asked her…”

The stories went on and the day grew dim, and by nightfall our little princess had tuckered out, her final departure requiring the assistance of her parents—our signal that it was also time for us to conclude the day’s festivities, for the real party was just around the horizon, and believe me, we needed all the rest we could get. “Does somebody want to drive my car back to the hotel?” I asked, knowing I probably could’ve driven myself, but not wanting to take any chances since alcohol consumption was involved. Hey, we made it this far; ain’t no way I’m screwin’ this thing up now!

“Don yu eve werr bout it! I’ll drive bak to us the hotell…” slurred Gretch while stumbling towards the car.

“Thanks, Gretch, but I don’t know if that’s such a—“

“I don’t mind driving you guys,” said a voice from behind. “I haven’t had anything to drink all day.” I turned around to discover it was Kassie, thank God. “Anna will drive your car to the Holiday Inn where we’re staying since I’ll have to drive my car back there anyway. We’ll switch cars, and I’ll take you to the La Quinta where you can check in. We go up to the room, drop off the bags, change, then we drive back to our hotel to hot tub before calling it a night.” It was a full proof plan, and I liked it… I liked it a lot!

***

“Hey, this is one of my favorite David Bowie songs,” said Kassie as we pulled out of the Holiday Inn parking lot. The horn intro of “Young Americans” marked the beginning of a lengthy journey back to our hotel due to its non-intuitive location and the complex of roundabouts that sent us in multiple wrong directions.

“Hey, it’s one of my favorite’s too,” I said, my voice growing with excitement. “You should’ve seen me at karaoke the other night,” I went on, naturally leading into a brief recount of our road trip. Bill and Gretch remained relatively silent throughout the car ride. I guess they weren’t up for a little conversation, which I found odd. Usually I’m doing everything in my power to get those two to shut up!

“Where are you guys going after the wedding?” she asked.

“Those two are flying to Montana, and me… I—I have may have some family, but… gee, I guess I don’t quite know yet…”

“Well, if needed, there’s always room at the organic farm. Just let me know if you need a place to stay.”

“Yea, you know, I’ve always had this fantasy about living on a farm…” I wasn’t lying when I said it either. I must’ve seen it in a movie one time, an old farm hunk and his old farm wife sitting on a bench swing at the end of the day, thinking about life and looking upon its sustenance during a sunset, giving thanks to God for the gifts that have been provided… you know, that kind of stuff. So I was pretty eager to grasp the whole organic farm experience if it indeed came into place.

We drove through the parking lot of a dilapidated strip mall, the once hopeful source of commercial capitalism nearly dwindled down to a ghostly remains. The heart of the strip mall, a 90’s Movieplex, served as its constant source of beating life, and even that was nearing an inevitable doom. “Are you sure we’re going the right way?” asked Kassie.

“That’s what Google Maps says. Follow this road a little farther maybe, passed this Applebee’s.”

A quarter mile later we rounded a corner to find the La Quinta Inn and Suites shinning in all of its neon glory, tucked into a corner next to the highway overpass. It was no Holiday Inn, but then again, it was no Motel 6 either—something we could live with. “Let’s check in and get this party started!”

***

“Room 421. Take a left and go down the hall. The elevator is to your right,” said the receptionist while handing us our keys.

“Thank you miss,” I replied. “You ready guys? Elevator’s this way I think.”

“Maybe we all should just take the stairs,” said Bill. I twerked my head and narrowed my eyebrows, a natural reaction to such a silly comment.

“Why would we take the stairs when we can just—“ Bill notioned over to an unsuspecting Gretch using an exaggerated tilt of the head and an obviated wink.

“You know, after what happened in Des Moines and all…”

“What do you mean Des Moines? I don’t remember anything—“ I took a quick look at Gretch, unable to control my grin. “OH YEA—uh, I mean, yea… I hear ya. Yes, I agree, let’s take the stairs. Me first!” I took running start to the staircase. “Oops, forgot my suitcase. Look out guys—“ I turned back. There, Kassie stood next to my suitcase with the same look of confusion I had given Bill a moment ago. “…You know, on second thought, maybe we should just take the elevator…” Bill stood in shock, his body positioned in a way that suggested he was using everything in his power not to strangle me. There was a strange vibration coming from his red-hot face, staring me down with a pair of eyes glowing with fury, acting like he had been delivered the ultimate betrayal, that a sacred vow of brotherhood had been broken between us… that he was staring at the reincarnation of Judas… “What?”

After dropping off our suitcases and making a quick change into my Speedo, we were back on the road, navigating through the maze of parking lots and roundabouts that separated the La Quinta from the Holiday Inn where Wes and Sean were out front waiting for our arrival. “What’s up guys?”

“The pool’s closed,” said Wes with a look of regret, sincerely bummed out and unable to fully lift his eyes from the ground. We felt his pain, for the same feeling of disappointment came over us as we drove past the dimly lit poolroom. His statement only confirmed that our hypothesis was correct. “…But we can still party…”

Wes led us up to the 4th floor and knocked on his door—no answer. He knocked again. “Don’t you have a key?” asked Gretch.

“Yea, but for some reason, it’s not working…” replied Wes, the knocks now turning to fist bangs with his lower lip tucked under his front teeth to gain leverage. “Wait a minute… this might not be our room…”

“Maybe we should bail,” whispered Kassie. I couldn’t help but agree, for the situation had devolved into every man for himself. We booked it down the hall, through the elevator and then to her and Maggie’s room, where I plopped on the couch with a giant sigh of relief—the coast was clear.

“Oh man, get this… so we came back and met up with Wes and Sean, and they were all ‘let’s go to my room and party,’ only it wasn’t his room, so we booked it, and I don’t know what happened to those guys, but Bill and Gre—wait… what happened to Bill and Gretch?” I whipped out my phone and texted Bill, my thumbs twitching across the screen in a frantic fashion.

“Is everything ok?” asked Maggie.

“Theoretically yes, I mean… I think Bill will be fine,” I said while dialing his number, my patience reaching its threshold after not receiving an immediate text back. His number went straight to voicemail. “I mean, we traveled all the way across this country together, so what’s a little time apart? But Gretch… she’s in this strange city all alone, and I just don’t want to see her… I just hope she doesn’t… I guess I’m just a little worried about her, that’s all…” I paused, noticing I was surrounded by a slew of funny looks. “I mean, it’s not that I’m ‘worried’ worried—no, I’m not worried about—Well maybe—It’s just… I’m worried about her because I’m worried about me, ok? Look, if she’s out there getting in trouble and stuff, I’m automatically guilty by association, and I can’t have that! No way, not in Wisconsin… I just need to find them, that’s all I’m trying to say, and if I don’t—“

“Well how about we give her a call?” suggested Maggie in a clear and calm manner. Her wealth of common sense continues to astound me to this day.

“Ok, yes, let’s give her a call.” And just like that, Maggie found her number and gave her a call. I continued. “All I’m trying to say is that I have a reputation to uphold, and it’s my responsibility to make sure it stays intact. Therefore, I have to keep her in check, no matter what; you know what I’m saying? I won’t let her—“

“Her phone must have died, but it sounded like they were going to get some food last time I talked to them. Don’t they have an Applebee’s around here or something?”

“…Applebee’s??? Dear God… I’ve gotta go…”

***

The door opened with a slow creep before I slouched into our room at the La Quinta, expended of all energy for one day. It had been an hour since I’d seen their faces, searching high and low between the Holiday Inn and the La Quinta, including each of the hotels themselves, Applebee’s, and a couple unintentional trips around the roundabouts. Bill stood opposite of me, neither one of us uttering a word; his pissed off look a mirror image of mine. We walked passed each other and to our beds to act as a pair of dead corpses; no direct eye contact was given. Gretch shuffled over and turned off the lights without our input. Apparently, she was in a bad mood as well. A mutual agreement was met that we were to pass out that night with nothing less than a grumpy mood.

Bill clicked the roof of his mouth with his tongue like any annoying, pretentious speaker does, before making an annoying, pretentious statement; a very unprecedented move at the time, but I was all ears. “Did you have fun making out with the farm girl?”

That was it. He had pulled the last straw, and I wasn’t in the mood to take his facetious attitude. “Are you kidding me? Are you freaking kidding me?” I smacked him across the body with my pillow. “POP!”

“You do this every time… Every time!”

“Yea, well you deserve it. Every time!” I took another swing. “CRACK!” Bill began to chuckle. “Oh, you think that’s funny, do you? BAM, SMACK, BOOM!”

I beat him into the bed as an Alabama man would his children, using any excuse to give his kids an old-fashioned belt whippin’ after coming home in his drunken stupor. “What do you have against farm girls, huh? POP!” Gretch lay there like a slug—it was her only defense.

The beatings continued and the turning point, the fine line between a child’s laugh and his desperate cry had been reached… and surpassed. Bill lay in his bed howling in pain after each blow, unable to utter the word “stop” between his gasps for air and his constant screams of pain. I however, could not distinguish such a moment, for my mind had been too far obfuscated with anger to understand the meanings of right and wrong. The darkness further muddled my head, until there was nothing but my animal instinct, commanding me to pound Bill into a jelly of disgrace, a sorry excuse for a man, all so I could hear him beg for my everlasting, omnipotent mercy—only to tell him “No” after his submission and proceed with another round of blows, much more merciless than before.

Yea, I whipped him, so? I whipped him good! I popped him, and I beat him to feed my satisfaction, one that was no longer understood, one that could never be fulfilled, the fierce contact between his body and the swinging pillow only providing a glimmer of false hope, just enough to deliver the next blow, and the next… and the next…

They say by the time I was over, I could no longer lift my arms for I had swung so hard and so repeatedly. I had blacked out with rage, to which my body eventually shut down, forcing itself back into bed with a subconscious thought in limbo, a wonder if the actions taken were ground for terminating a friendship. I could only pray that the pain delivered to Bill’s body was enough to shut off the brain receptacles that retain memory. It was our only hope, and we still had a full day until the wedding…

God help us all…

Chapter 11: Young Americans, Part 3

We bolted into the 1029 like a couple of mobsters ready to take over joint, a decently populated dive for a Wednesday night. The bar tender watched as my imposing figure marched to confront him, my new Surly Brewing Co. crew cut sweatshirt of the Boundary Babe’s preference serving as the primary draw of attention, and with a snap and point of the finger, I set my demands. “Surly Furious and an Old Fashioned. Here’s my ID, here’s my credit card. Leave the tab open… it’s my birthday.” Prudent in his drink preparation, the bar tender handed me the ammunition set to aid us on our next mission and sent me to the DJ booth with my next set of demands.

The DJ and I had a blunt, yet cordial conversation, of which we discussed my requests and concerns, and she assured me that she would continue to perform her DJ duties with fairness and balance throughout our tenure. I had full confidence in her, as the importance of this night was clearly conveyed. Minutes later, a beautifully plucked guitar rift filled the room, sparking the attention of the Boundary Babes. They were well rehearsed in the sequence of notes, as it was their official theme song. I stared directly at them, pointed, and then motioned with my head to make their way towards me, a bold move no doubt, but I was in a bold mood and willing to take risks. “We’re up!” Despite a slight hesitation in the response, they willfully joined me on stage seconds later, for there is no challenge too daunting for a Boundary Babe and no duty worth forgoing, as long as it spreads the pure and elegant spirit of the Boundary. So far, the DJ had not let me down.

 

 

Jewel – You Were Meant For Me

 

I hear the clock; it’s 6 AM…

Our voices faded into the opening verse, their soft tones harmonized to create a soothing picture of a calm lake, its surface so still that you would actually consider the possibility to walk across it. On either side is a thick and impenetrable wall of trees only navigable by a specialized individual whose proficiency lays within the familiarity of the landscape, leading to another untouched body of water, a chain linkage of land and lake that spans for 100’s of miles. Through the morning mist rising below, a narrow boat structure slices through the water, sending a subtle ripple across the lake, a gentle greeting from the visitors. They are welcomed to become one with the environment, to be free of the impurities plaguing the modern world, a small plot of Earth where the stresses of work, politics, and drama of life are simply non-existent. If there were ever the existence of heaven on Earth, it would be found within the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota.

I never put wet towels, on the floor anymore cause!

Dreams last, so long… Even after you’re gone!

Together, we rejoiced over its existence, a trio of passionate voices in jubilation from having been immersed in such a pristine atmosphere; having the privilege of setting foot in such a sacred part of the world. A congregation of widened eyes looked upon the display, struck with bewilderment at the picture being painted before them. “How could this be possible? The babes—that makes sense, but how is it that such a burly old hunk in a Surly crew cut sweatshirt be capable of this—the voice of an angel?” The confusion was clearly understood, for the demonstration was indeed beyond comprehension, and not even the most perfect rendition sung by Jewel herself could even come close to mirroring the beauty laying deep in the northern woods of Minnesota. The answers were plotted out in front of them however; all that was required of them was the will to explore.

You were meant for me… and I was meant for you…

Thunderous applause lit up the room, the crowd graciously responding to the battle cries of their courageous leaders standing above them. We looked at each other with satisfaction, knowing that we had created inspiration in the young souls sitting before us. An ignition had been set to venture forth and discover the majesty beyond the Boundary; a performance so well executed that even the likes of Mike Gibson could not resist its call for exploration. It would be a long time before any of us could reunite with Boundary, but guided by the voice of Jewel, we knew deep in our hearts that we were always destined to return.

It is said that the prettiest girls live in Des Moines Iowa. Jack Kerouac obviously hadn’t spent enough time in Minnesota.

 


Bob Seger – Night Moves

“Bill,” the DJ announced through the loud speaker. Bill strutted his way up towards the stage, shooting me a smirk along the way. He must have had a good one up his—wait a minute? There’s no way he—I made my song requests—how the hell did he sneak—the DJ broke her—what’s the big idea!? 

“Zack!” he hollered over to me with wave of his hand, inviting me to join him as a duet. It was a flattering gesture I’ll admit, partially settling my previous offense, but I stayed back, my pride forcing me into defiance.

“This one’s for you Jay!” screamed Bill at the top of his lungs, his eyes rolling up towards the ceiling and his finger pointing in the same direction. A familiar set of guitar chords entered and Bill lowered his head in preparation for his performance.

I was a little too tall, could’ve used a few pounds,

Tight pants, points hardly reknown…

The classic tune never fails to bring back memories, those of a great man, a walking party, a guaranteed good time, and above all, a friend. This was Jay’s song, his story embedded inside the raspy blues of Seger’s voice, a reminder of the wild nights at Cinco, his down to Earth personality, and how personable the man was after a long and heavy night of partying. He’d want us to show these people what it was like to share a sandwich and talk philosophy with him on a Saturday afternoon. He’d want us to tell a crazy story that involving alcohol of which disaster and jail time were barely avoided. And most of all, he’d beg us to fill them with his spirit, the full embodiment of Moscow, Idaho. He was Jay, a man, a legend… a brother (See the Jay Blog).

The lyrics consumed me like a drug; once I start, there’s no turning back, and now, I had a duty, a yearning desire I could not overcome, no matter how offensive Bill’s actions were. I wanted to resist, for Moscow had been brought to other cities before and the results were devastating, a dangerous mixture of chaos and destruction (Bill can tell you about a little place called Calgary). The experience is almost always overwhelming, and most aren’t capable of handling the behavior. But tonight, something was different. A hand was guiding me, telling me that indeed, this was our calling, to bring to Minneapolis the Moscow experience. Bill held his own for the time being, but ultimately, he wouldn’t be able to complete the task alone; it was much too difficult to be performed by oneself. He would eventually need help, and the only barrier standing between me and the other microphone was my ego.

“Workin’ on our night moves,” another voice came through the speakers. Bill looked over and smiled at a friendly face. The friendly face smiled back and followed on with the tune.

Tryin’ to make some, front page drive-in news,

workin’ on our night moves…

It was the spark of confidence Bill needed to once again bring about the voice of an angel—my Angel Boy. I backed him up as he continued through the song, movin’ and dancin’ and singing his heart out, making it his purpose to for the next three and a half minutes to turn Minneapolis into Moscow. It was his show now.

The music came to a slow, and we both lowered our heads, our voices humble as we sang the bridge, willing to shed a tear for our late, great friend.

I woke last night to the sound of thunder…

how far off, I sat and wondered…

Started hummin’ a song from 1962…

Ain’t it funny how the night moves…

We looked up to the ceiling once again, an unnatural force guiding our eyes upwards and speaking to us. Its power seeped into our eyes, slowly consuming our minds as preparation for the fury that was about to strike down upon the 1029; a fury we were absolutely unaware of.

“…With autumn closin’ in…”

The reprisal of the opening guitar rift built into a climax, where Bill and I stood tall amongst the patrons at the 1029, a crowd who seemed to be frightfully engaged with our progressively intensified number as if a live exorcism was being performed right in front of their very eyes. Our feet subconsciously moved us back and forth across the stage, our arms swinging and heads swaying with the deepened rasp of our voices, building and building as a preparation for the grand finale. The pleasantly rough tone of our voice turned from blues to black, a seamless transition of what would become a harsh sequence of screams and howls growing harder with each passing second, unable to abate the progress that the existential spirit moving inside of us had set in motion—moving, growing, creating a monster so strong it could no longer be held by the physical bounds of his cage!

“LORD I REMEMBER! LOOOOORD I REMEMBER! AHHHHHUH AHHHHHH!” It was a loss of fear, of physical consciousness. The lyrics belted out from the top of our lungs, two young tribal warriors in wild celebration after a great sacrifice, our primitive dance an uncivilized display of carnage and lunacy. The words leaving our lips were those of a long lost language of grunts and screeches, only translatable to those with the same power of spoken tongue. It was official. We had completely lost control of our minds.

“OHHHH YEAAAAAA! NIGHT MOVES… UUUUUHHHUUUUUUUHHHHH! TALKIN’ BOUT THEM—OHHHHHHHOOOOO I REMEMBER I REMEMBER I REMEMBAHUH…

We awoke from the dream, or nightmare depending on your point of view at the song’s closing, taking the time for a long peruse around the bar, the banner of obscurity lifted by a heavenly spirit in possession of our bodies, allowing for the retainment of our senses. A shockwave had rung its way through the bar, Pompeii’s volcanic eruption leaving the unsuspecting souls in attendance frozen in time. A full recovery would not be obtainable. Gibson would be proud. Jay would be proud… damn proud. Mission accomplished.

 


David Bowie – Young Americans

 

The first two tracks were merely warm-ups for what was to come next. For months I had been preparing for this very moment, ever since the song came on a classic rock mix during a Saturday at work. The once dreadful feeling of coming in on the weekend became a blessing in disguise as the song was repeated over and over again through my headphones, precluding the progress of any work of substantive value ever to be accomplished for the rest of the Saturday. The obsession with the melodious mixture of pop, soul and jazz prompted me to purchase the CD soon as I returned home that day, leading to months of moving and grooving to the song’s beat, foolishly singing and dancing in full view of my neighbors as the freak of 12th Avenue. It propelled me faster and faster through the streets of Seattle on each of my daily runs, a catalyst to liberate my inner Hulk and give me the edge to pump up the 173 ever so daunting steps of Howe Street over and over again, blazing past the rest of the struggling exercisers who watched the freak show with total astonishment. It would not stop, a months long perpetual dream that longed for the moment where I could finally come to an acceptable discharge of the bulging pressure vessel—and the moment was finally here. My months of preparation, a tight mimic of Bowie’s approach with a calm opening and a driving set of lyrics, showcasing his fierce passion (with a masterfully inserted quip from a most famous Beatles song I might add), were to be released in a public forum. And just like Bowie, I would hold nothing back.

“They pulled in just behind the bridge he lays her down… he frowns, ‘Gee my life’s a funny thing?’ Am I still to young—“ What the?

Suddenly, there was another voice, one that was neither David’s nor mine. I took a glance over to confirm my hypothesis that the voice matched an unfamiliar face. I retained my cool and calm demeanor, as I knew better during situations like these, even as my insides sweltered with rage. No. Ah Hell no! Who does this hunk think he is, coming up here, trying to steal my thunder; the one I’ve worked months on, in front of the Boundary Babes, ON MY BIRTHDAY NO LESS? You never do that to another man! And he thinks he can just come up and act a fool during my moment? Not on this day. This will not do. This dingus needs to go…

I began to devise my plan to rid the intruder from the stage and take back what was rightfully mine. I examined his stature—a bit shorter than me, and not as built, though he does look a little rough around the edges; therefore he would be willing to put up a fight, which wouldn’t look good on my part, especially on my birthday, and double especially in front of the Boundary Babes. He does look rather nice however for a Wednesday night at a karaoke bar, a little overdressed if you ask me, and what’s with his cheering section? All these girls in their sequenced dresses, it seems rather odd—holy crap, this cat just got married! But who gets married on a Wednesday night?

A wave of sympathy blew across me for this young fellow, triggering an involuntary flow of second thoughts to creep into my mind. Ok, so I’ve had 30 of these birthdays so far, and chances are, I got a few more coming up in the future. How many times will this kid get married? 3? 4? Maybe 5 tops? I can’t let this happen, not on this day…

I swung my arm around the stranger’s shoulder and embraced his presence, an embrace that urged him to step up the game, raise the stakes—take our karaoke session into a new, rather unorthodox direction.

Articles of clothing began to appear on the ground around me—a coat, a vest; one by one they fell to the floor, adding to the accumulation as the song dragged on.

Alllllllll Night

He wants a young American

Young American, young American, he wants a young American…

The groom lifted each suspender one by one with an outstretched motion of his arm, letting the elastic band snap back under his arm upon its release. Motivated by the attention he received from the bridesmaids, each of the groomsmen made their way up to the stage and followed his lead, each with a special strip move of their own. Whether it was a desperate attempt to make a provocative impression on the ladies, I cannot say, but one thing was for certain; I had successfully turned to 1029 karaoke bar into a Chippendales strip show.

(I heard the news today oh boy)

I got a suite and you got defeat

Ain’t there a man you can say no more, and

Ain’t there a woman I can sock on the jaw, and…

The situation was beyond my control at this point, with limbs and articles of clothing flailing about. “How did it come to this,” I asked myself, contemplating whether to put a stop to the whole thing, or if that was even possible. My boisterous song and dance only seemed to encourage the unnecessary removal of clothing, a terrible decision deemed favorable probably with the assistance of excessive liquor. None of this was in any way a part of my original intention, thrusting me into a position of dire straits. I could walk away, wipe my hands clean of any wrong doing. I was young, I was an American, and damnit, I still had my freedom… the freedom to choose…

Ain’t there one damn song that can make me…

Break down and cryyyyyy—hhyyyyyy…

“Ah, screw it.” A drum solo kicked in the last chorus, and I seized the moment.

Alllllll night

He wants the young American

Young American, YOUNG AMERICAN, HE WANTS THE YOUNG AMERICAN…

“Why throw away all I’ve worked hard for just over what might be a minor offense in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota?” Every ounce of passion left in me gathered for another grand finale, full of unruly dancing, stripping, and singing, everything a mother would despise, but had to be done regardless. The bridesmaids threw up their arms and screamed like a bunch of wild animals responding to a string of mating calls. The whole incident seemed to make quite the impression, and who knows? Maybe by the nights end it would lead to one of these lads getting lucky? Maybe it would lead to love…

As the song faded out and my singing came to a soft end, I was surrounded by a congregate of undressed men; all of who proceeded to honor my part in the performance with an inundation of hugs. Though somewhat of an uncomfortable exchange, I gladly accepted the adoration, for respect is a hard thing to come by these days, especially for an out-of-towner, then headed to the bar for another drink. I think I deserved one.

“Can I get a fine “PILS-ner,” I asked the bartender, a request that was immediately upheld. I leaned over the counter and twisted my head to the left, realizing the presence of another man. It was none other than my new friend the groom, of whom I had become very close with over the last 5 minutes.

“Hey, man thanks for coming up and singing with me back there… I can’t believe you all started stripping like that! You all are crazy… I tell you what, when I get married, I hope I’m able to come to the 1029 and party just like you guys do… You’re an inspiration man… never change…”

If you haven’t guessed, I’m a very happy drunk. In fact, get me sloshed with a serial killer, and I could probably find a way to agree with 90% of what comes out of his or her mouth. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case for the groom, as I later became a witness to a physical assault on one of his own groomsmen. He thrust the boy’s head into his arms, something he said apparently striking a nerve, forcing him into the headlock situation with a continual series of threats. Luckily for all of us, his newlywed wife quickly swooped in to diffuse the situation, reminding the groom that he would later be involved in some unrepeatable greasy acts with some “sexy ass bitch” (her exact words, not mine). I happily walked away from the diffused situation, content that nobody was going to get beat up and that we were to remain acquaintances for the rest of the evening, and nothing more. Although we didn’t say much to each other afterwards, I wished him the best of luck. It looked like he was set for a match made in heaven.

My voice started to give way by the time Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” began, a song that Cambray somehow just happened to convince me to sing along with (who knows how that happened). It further took a noise dive when Bill and I followed up our Jay tribute with Boston’s “More than a Feeling,” the abundance of falsetto really taking it’s toll on my ability to carry a good tune. Cracked voice or not though, I soldiered on with the classics such as Ludacris’s “Get Back,” and even going as far as to dance like a fool to a bridesmaids butchering of “Baby Got Back,” an exhaustive effort that required a copious amounts of beer consumption at the song’s conclusion. I made my way back to the table, grabbing the first seat I could find, conveniently placed right next to a Boundary Babe, who had a full pint of PILS-ner waiting for me.

“You know, you had some interesting dance moves out there,” she said.

“Thanks! I’ve been practicing a little bit,” I replied, sobriety a long ways away from forming any sort of regret towards my decision. “And thank you so much for coming out tonight. It really means a lot to me.”

“You know, I told myself I was only going out for one drink, and now look at me! I might even have to cab it home tonight.” There was a slight pause, a contemplation on whether or not I should apologize for the fact that she had drank more than she had planned to, something I was more than culpable of contributing to. I bought some time by taking a large sip of beer, and she did the same. “But I have to say, even though I might regret it when I get up for work tomorrow, this has probably been the best night of summer so far.”

“Well, let’s cheers to that,” I said full of flattery as I lifted of my glass, gladly accepting the honor I hardly knew I was deserving of.

“Cheers,” she repeated before we touched glasses and took a gulp of beer. Behind Lauren was Cambray, sitting there starring at us with a sheepish grin, like she had an ace up her sleeve or some other sly trick she was ready to deal. I don’t know if it was the liquor or what, but it was evident that she had been eavesdropping and had something of importance to add, something that would probably never be mentioned in the absence of alcohol. So we waited as she mustered up the courage to speak whatever prudent matter was on her mind.

“Ok, I’m just going to come out and say it. I could really see you two getting married, and having the perfect family someday. I’m just saying…”

Holy Moly—WOWZERS! Way to drop the bomb Cambray! Marriage? To a Boundary Babe? It was great—what a dream! But marr—I couldn’t even process the idea at a time like this, given such a short notice, at least not coherently!” Gosh, my heart was beating faster than a jackrabbit on the run, for the next words out of my mouth could very well determine the rest of my life! I glanced over to John and Bill at the other side of the table, each flashing me their own fully comprehendible look of advice, a solemn bond only understood between the boys.

Play it cool brotha. Play it cool.

“…Yea, I think I could see that,” I said in a calm matter after a sip of beer and a cool, subtle nod of the head, as if I had rehearsed the line thousands of times before. Bill and John responded to my response quite favorably with nods of their own.

Well done lad… Well done.

“I’ll tell you what,” she started. “Let’s meet again in fifteen years… if I’m still single, and you’re still single, we’ll tie the knot. How about that?” It was a good deal… It was a great deal, and I had it in the bag! I was going to marry a Boundary Babe! Talk about a confidence booster!

…But she was high balling me, big time. I knew it, she knew it… fifteen years? I could do better than that. Much better.

I looked her straight in the eye, my face void of any emotion, masking the overwhelming urge to grin. “10 years.” Her loveliness was her weakness, her kind spirit her Achilles heel, and sad to say, I was going to take advantage of it. There’s no other choice in this dog-eat-dog world, and as a firm believer in fierce competition, I set the rules. I controlled the negotiations; I was the one who—

“15.” Oh my God, what the hell just happened? There was no hesitation, even less emotion than my emotionless reply seconds before! Oh God, I had overplayed my hand, big time! I knew it, she knew it… and she saw right through me!

Bill lowered his shaking head into the palm of his hand, disgusted by my blatant display of arrogance. Cambray let out a deep gasp, for her hopes and dreams, everything she had prepped and worked for in her adult life was within seconds of obliteration. My mind spun out of control. My heart pounding out of my chest! This should be over. I should be a dead man, thrown into the fatal pits of despair. Toast! Destroyed! No hope of recovery, ever! But by some miracle, some inexplicable act of God, I was still standing, still in possession of a slight fragment of working mental capacity, still in control of the heavy beat of my heart that remained invisible through my Surly crew cut sweat shirt. I was still alive, I was still fighting—there was still a chance.

I stared right back at her, my mouth flat and closed, my eyes narrowed with steady, sustained breaths entering and exiting in and out of my nose, neither one of us budging; there was no room for weakness. Out of the corner of my eye there was a glimpse of John, and man did he look pissed! His eyes beamed with rage, a telepathic translation of a pep talk…

“Zack, you fool… you FOOL! How could you forget the cardinal rule? This is a Boundary Babe we’re talking about, not some bridesmaid pushover who can’t sing Sir Mix-a-lot worth garbage! Man that was awful, a complete abomination, a disgrace to the human race! My intelligence has been permanently diminished because I bared witness to that anathema of a karaoke performance. But you think you can just come in and run the show, talk to a Boundary Babe as a replaceable being? Take it from a guy who married one, not only is the Boundary Babe irreplaceable, but also the best damn negotiator you’ll ever come across, a used car salesmen on steroids, but twice as shrewd, and even worse, 10 times as honest. It takes time, patience, hard work, and dedication—and LOTS of it for even the slightest consideration of a courting, and don’t even get me started on gaining her trust! Now we did this for you… WE DID THIS FOR YOU, AND YOU’RE ACTING LIKE AN ANIMAL! We gave you a golden ticket, and I’ll be damn—I’ll be DAMNED if I see it go to waste. Not on my watch. Not on this day! Now you get out there and get this done. NOW!”

“Deal.” I stuck out my hand, letting her know full well I meant business. She stuck out hers and we shook, both of us sincere in our efforts. John gave me the nod of approval while Cambray and Bill exhaled a huge sigh of relief as if they had just watched the disarming of an atomic bomb. I indulged in a relief of my own with a massive intake of beer, followed by a final “cheers” for our accomplishment. “C’mon Bill, let’s take a birthday shot.” Frankly, we all needed one after that.

The Boundary Babe left that night, back home to a normal life, where the obligations of pets and work awaited her return. Jewel’s famous words lingered through our heads, never to forget the deal we made; a promise that began to feel like a dream as the night went on, waiting for the day it would become a reality; a day I was certain would eventually come.

It was near last call, yet I still had one more song left in me, one quite fitting for the occasion, causing the re-emergence of late 90’s memories as the song’s orchestrated intro came into play.

 


Aerosmith – Don’t Want to Miss a Thing

 

I could stay awake, just to hear you breathin’

Watch you smile while you are sleepin’

While you’re far away I’m dreamin’!

I was in jeopardy of losing the very voice that had produced flawless renditions of Jewel, Bob Seger and David Bowie earlier, but it didn’t matter. Ravaged voice or not, there was more at stake at this very moment, something I was willing to give up the voice of an angel for.

Every moment spent with you, is a moment I pleasure. YEA!

I don’t wanna close my eyes!

I don’t wanna FALL asleep, cause I miss ya baby

And I DON’T WANNA MISS A THIIIINNNNGGG! 

As my vocal chords blew at the cry of graceful lyrics crafted by Steven Tyler, my mind faded, as the consumption of alcohol had finally done me in, the song’s chorus being my last memory of the night; one last coherent thought coupled with a deal permanently engrained in my head… a promise… a fate I was eternally bound to…

15 years… half a lifetime… Well worth the wait.