Less than two months removed from Chad and Mary’s wedding, Tasha and I had another union of two beloved souls to attend. My friends and co-workers Heather and Shaw were getting married in Ojai, California. The story of how they met could and should be the premise to a romantic workplace comedy. Heather and Shaw had worked side by side together at the same restaurant as me for the past 6 years. We were all bartenders at the Grill on Hollywood, and some time around the moment I met her, Heather swore to me and to everyone else who would listen that she was going to marry Shaw and have his baby. And sure enough, after both of them had broken up with their respective exes, and dated for a couple of years, it was announced that they were going to get married and start a life together, one which everyone knew would eventually happen. They truly were a Hollywood story and I’ve got to give it to Heather, I admired her determination in pursuing Shaw, and in some ways it was inspiring to me that two people could get through the years when things weren’t perfect, the sometimes dramatic state of working together, and their past exes that almost stood in the way of their happiness. But when you love someone, none of that really matters. Love will always find a way, and it did on October 10, 2009.
Tasha and I were invited to both the rehearsal dinner AND the wedding, even though neither one of us was actually IN the wedding party. Lucky us, right? So on a Friday afternoon, we drove up to Ventura, dropped our stuff off at one of Tasha’s friends’ house where we were staying, and got dressed for the dinner. For some ungodly reason I had only brought two button down shirts for the weekend. One was a powder blue dress shirt that I was planning on wearing to the wedding because it matched my suit and tie, the other shirt was this fire engine red form fitting piece from Express I had bought way back in 2004 when I think the store was still called “Structure.” Tasha took one look at it and exclaimed with skepticism…
“Are you really going to wear THAT shirt?”
What choice did I have? I had only packed one other shirt, and I couldn’t wear it two days in a row cause that would just look stupid, like I wasn’t classy enough to own TWO different dress shirts. So, I regrettably buttoned up my stop sign colored shirt and we headed out to Suzanne’s Cuisine for the rehearsal dinner. I was really excited to go to the wedding, but also excited because I had just gotten my first medicinal marijuana card, and I was prepared with two joints to smoke out my friend Rus and whomever else would like to partake in such a pre-wedding ritual. However, I probably should have known by now that me + pot + weddings are just never a good mix. Somehow, in the most entertaining way for the other guests at the wedding, this prophecy would eventually come true later that night. But before all that happened, we would arrive slightly earlier to the restaurant than we needed to, even before the Bride, Groom, and the wedding party would get there. I love being early, but I wouldn’t say that “being early” was a theme that would continue for the rest of the weekend, but we’ll get into that later.
Tasha and I had been to a couple weddings together already if you include the time where we met and subsequently where my ass almost got kicked for dancing with her. It was that night when Shaw gave me the greatest advice in the world to pursue Tasha, and I was totally grateful for that advice, regardless of the fact that we were currently kind of not really a couple anymore, but still living together like white trash whores. I mean, she is a great person first and foremost, and the perfect date to bring to weddings. It’s just that we couldn’t seem to figure out this “relationship” part of our scenario. However, that didn’t matter that much as we were here to enjoy the company of others, and witness the union of Shaw and Heather, two people who I always knew were meant to be together.
Heather and Shaw opted for the open bar the night BEFORE the wedding, meaning tomorrow would be a beer and wine festival. I got myself and Tasha a drink and then we all sat down at our assigned tables to have dinner. I was seated at a table with a few friends I used to work with at The Grill, including my old GM, Dmitri. Dmitri and I had one of the strangest relationships ever. He was just one year older than me, but it felt like a decade was between us. He was very strict and methodical in his style, and of course a big Tiger Woods fan, who everyone knows is the whitest black guy in sports. He even teared up a bit nine years ago when it was announced that Tiger’s Dad passed away. Also, that last fact may or may not have been embellished for effect. I do remember that Dmitri was a great manager first and foremost, and he expected the best from people and commanded respect, but at the same time, he was kind of a dick to me sometimes and it was extremely tough on my ego when I worked there. Albeit, I was the sometimes insubordinate, loose cannon of the bartenders back then, and since Dmitri loved to micro manage everyone at The Grill, it was no surprise that I was one of his favorite employees to intimidate on a daily basis.
Luckily, I didn’t work there anymore, and neither did he. Unluckily, he was seated two spots down from me at the dinner table, so when he saw his place card and Tasha, my date sitting next to me, he immediately struck up a conversation which may or may not have been pretty passive aggressive. I came to expect getting my balls busted from Dmitri on a regular basis, and to some extent, he was very well behaved that night, and I think just a little inquisitive as to how I could get such a pretty lady to date me for almost two years. We told him the story of how Tasha and I met, which included highlights from Christine and Joey’s wedding, whom speaking of were sitting just a couple tables away. To his credit, Dmitri behaved himself pretty well that night, and we all did end up having a nice conversation that eventually gravitated towards the exotic choice of the “stop sign red” colored button down shirt I had chosen to wear. No one else was in bright colors, probably because they all had the sense to wear black or pastels to a rehearsal dinner, unlike me. At one point, it seemed like Tasha and Dmitri were all buddy buddy and had teamed up to mock my outfit that night, but I got Tasha back.
After I had finished my steak, and before the dishes had been cleared, I noticed one small piece of meat left on Tasha’s plate that had gone uneaten. Tasha was engaged in conversation with someone else at the table at this point, so I decided that it was such a shame to waste a gorgeous piece of filet like that, so I gave it a new home when she wasn’t looking, in my mouth. About ten seconds later, Tasha turned around and looked at her plate, which was now empty and then turned to me and said.
“Did you just eat my last piece of steak?”
With my mouth full and still chewing, I gave the only response that could justify the robbery I had pulled off. In a matter-of-fact tone I simply stated to her.
“It was filet mignon. Can’t waste it.”
“I know. I was planning on eating it myself, jerk.” She said.
And with that, our plates were finally cleared and the entertainment for the night began with a few nice speeches, and a healthy dose of Heather’s favorite pastime, karaoke. I met up with Rus out in the parking lot who was a good friend of mine, also a Philadelphia Eagles fan, and from the same town in NJ as me, although we didn’t meet each other until we were introduced through his soon to be wife Dara who also worked at The Grill. Rus loved pot so he and I sparked a joint near my car right before I saw someone approaching us and I started to panic. Not “panic attack” panic, just regular panic that flows through my mind and body when I feel like something I’m doing may be inappropriate in some way. I mean, I didn’t work at the Grill anymore, but Rus still did, and I didn’t know if I should hide the joint, or offer it to this person who did work there and may or may not have been higher up on the totem pole than Rus and I ever were.
“Hey.” this person said.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Can I get a hit off that?”
And with that, I partook in toking up with a good friend of mine, and my old co-worker, BEFORE I decided to sign up to sing karaoke in front of everyone I knew and had worked with the past 5 years. What could possibly go wrong, right?
I came back in the restaurant, and flipped through the song book. There were a lot of songs I didn’t know how to sing, so I wanted to choose a song that I knew the words to, was special and meant something to me, and one that I could dedicate to Tasha so if everything else failed, at least I had good intentions from the start. I stopped flipping through the book around the letter C, and picked the song “Round Here” by Counting Crows. I know most people don’t necessarily like Counting Crows, but fuck them, I LOVE that band. I have almost every single album, and on a more personal note, the band holds a special place in my heart as tracks 1-7 on their fist album “August and Everything After” were playing in the background way back in 1993 when I lost my virginity. That’s about a half hour-forty five minutes of music, so yeah, I lasted that long my first time.
Heather was currently belting out what I think was a Britney Spears song, and I was up next so I made my way to the bathroom to splash some water on my face and gain some confidence. I had NEVER sang karaoke before that night, and I still get kind of self conscious about doing things like this even though I had THC/ alcohol courage in me. My heart was beating a mile a minute because I was really nervous about embarrassing myself in front of most of my friends and all of their family. As I looked at my flushed complexion in the mirror, which ironically matched the shirt I wore that night, I knew I either had to go out there and totally nail the song vocally, or just completely go for it and commit myself to the song, regardless of what I was hearing in the monitor. Being as how I had not sang in front of an audience for over 10 years, and I had never sang karaoke before in my life, let alone in front of a room of people I knew, I chose the latter.
My performance that night was legendary. Not so much because of the stellar vocals or the fact that I stayed on key when singing the song, because neither of those things happened. Let’s just say, I put forth the effort, but I was definitely not making it to the next round of American Idol. What did happen though is that per my plan, I totally “devoted” myself to the song, and belted out one of the most memorable three minutes and thirty-nine seconds of the night. I could tell my voice was cracking and straining when I hit the high notes, but by the end I definitely had everyone’s attention, regardless of the fact of whether or not it had to do with how horrendously jarring that rendition of “Round Here” truly was, or the fact that I had the microphone in one hand, and Tasha’s hand in my other during some sort of indie-college rock serenade. Tasha was definitely laughing while everyone else’s jaws were on the floor. Not so much for how great the rendition was, but moreover because of the fact that I sounded like a whaling dead animal being amplified by a microphone while wearing a beet colored shirt.
After my performance, I received a modicum amount of applause, and was approached by my friend Asher who patted me on the back for fully committing while he simultaneously slipping me a dollar bill into my shirt pocket like a stripper. Seeing as how I didn’t want to endure any more embarrassment, or cause any more embarrassment to the soon to be Bride and Groom, about a half hour later we left the party and Tasha and I headed back to Ventura to Tracy’s house where we were staying for some much needed sleep before the wedding tomorrow.
The next afternoon in the car went something like this.
“I’m sorry.” Tasha said to me for a second time.
“I know.” I replied. “It’s ok.”
We were headed to the wedding which was about a half hour drive from Tracy’s house. The wedding started at 1pm according to the invite, and according to the clock in my car it was currently 1:07 and we were going to be late. I hate being late. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves, and even though Tasha was apologizing for taking a little too much time to get ready that morning I knew driving on that one lane road at thirty-five miles an hour we were just going to be late to the wedding. There was nothing I could do about it at this point, and what was the use of arguing or getting upset? I just wanted to get there.
As we pulled into the packed parking lot of The First Presbyterian Church of Ojai at around 1:15pm, I didn’t see any wedding guests milling about outside. Not a good sign. My fears had manifested. We were going to walk in looking like assholes while the wedding was already happening, maybe even after Heather and Shaw had walked down the aisle already. I so did not want that to happen, so we got out of the car, locked the doors and ran into the church to find it full of wedding guests sitting in the pews dressed to the nines talking to each other. By some stroke of luck, the ceremony hadn’t started yet. It was either luck or it was the fact that they held up the wedding by fifteen minutes like they hold the doors at a Broadway show or a play in Hollywood. Nothing really starts on time anymore, and I was definitely thankful for that.
We took a seat in a pew in front of Christine and Joey, and about five minutes later, the wedding began. Heather looked amazing as she walked down the aisle I had never seen her so happy before in all my life. And Shaw looked like an uber stud up there, smiling ear to ear while watching the love of his life walk towards him beautifully decked out in her all white wedding gown. This was one of those moments in life when I knew in my heart how much Heather and Shaw had loved each other from the first moment they met, and how many obstacles they had to overcome before they could get to this point. I was really happy for them, and I may have even gotten a little teary-eyed during the ceremony, especially when Shaw was reciting his vows to Heather and got a little choked up himself. But that just showed me how much they really cared and loved one another.
One of the main reasons I enjoy weddings so much is that it proves to me for a moment in time and hopefully for an eternity that love, no matter how difficult to define is truly real and does exist. I don’t know when or if it will find me again, but I was grateful that I could feel it and see it that afternoon in Ojai at their wedding.
We spent about a half hour after the ceremony taking pictures and talking with the other wedding guests outside the church before we all loaded ourselves onto the complimentary shuttle service that brought us to the reception. The reception was held both indoors and outdoors at the Ranch House. Indoors was reserved for the wedding party, family and close friends, and the rest of us freeloaders were seated outside with a view to the inside where all the important people where congregating. It was beautifully decorated, and every table had a different movie for it’s theme. There was only beer and wine offered at Heather and Shaw’s reception that afternoon, and I have to say I was initially disappointed that I couldn’t get my classic dirty ketel martini that afternoon, but ultimately I understood.
If I haven’t stated this before, weddings are expensive, especially the catering/beverage part. I don’t know how much exactly because I’ve never gotten married, but I would imagine between the endless appetizers, the cases of wine and beer, renting out the location for the rehearsal and the reception, and the cost of dinner for all the guests, it adds up. Not to mention the fact that the married couple is paying for a wedding planner, and paying the salary of every catered employee walking around with mini chicken pot pies and coconut shrimp on a platter. Speaking of food, Shaw and Heather had some deliciously choice appetizers at the reception, but I wasn’t surprised at such a high quality of food from a couple who met at a fine dining restaurant where a perfectly cooked filet goes for $45-$50, and a glass of Pinot Noir will run you about $14.
Now came the time for the wedding party announcements, that point in the night when everybody turns around and watches each bridesmaid and groomsman enter the dining room floor, all leading up to the announcement of Mr. and Mrs. Shaw Jones. As they came through the wooden gate which surrounded the patio of the restaurant, I snapped the perfect photo of the new Bride and Groom, capturing them in a moment in time that I feel needs no words to describe. It’s the one at the top of this entry.
We were all seated at round tables with little tents that had the different movie posters attached to them like I mentioned before. I don’t remember which movie me and Tasha had, but I think it was either “Pretty in Pink”, or “Some Kind of Wonderful”, two classic 80s movies I loved. Me and Tasha and the rest of our table were also really happy that we didn’t get seated at the “Titanic” table tent table for obvious reasons, but then again, that table was inside where the A-listers were. Over at the C-list table was me, Tasha, Jason, who I think spent the night lamenting about his failed relationship with a girl who was coincidentally at the same wedding, OR lamenting about how he wanted to ask out one of the girls who was also at the same wedding. Next to Jason was an empty seat, and next to the empty seat was some rando blonde girl who none of us knew.
Don’t get me wrong, she was really sweet and wore a red flower in her hair, but for some reason made the ominous choice to wear a black dress to the wedding. I mean, if I’m going out to the club (which I do soooo much of) or to a nice dinner, I wear black because it’s cool and slimming, but out of all the events we as humans celebrate, the most joyous and happiest event IS a wedding, which she was currently at, NOT a funeral where black is the norm. Oh well, to each is own. At least she didn’t wear white. That would have been a total fashion faux pas.
For dinner, we had butternut squash soup, which was all the rage back then, and then I think prime rib for the main course which was topped with a peculiar orange sauce that I really enjoyed. After dinner and dessert, which I believe was a mass collection of gourmet cupcakes, of which I had about four of, Shaw and Heather made a truly noble and humbling speech thanking everyone for coming. There was a short time when Tasha and I tried to dance on the smallest dance floor in the history of dance floors, but ultimately, we gave up because it was hot as hell in that room, and we kept getting pushed off the four foot by four foot wooden square and had to dance on the grass in the dark which just wasn’t the same.
As the sun set in Ojai, the rest of the night was pretty mellow. I think after the last two weddings we attended, Tasha and I appreciated the more classic experience of Heather and Shaw’s wedding where at least on OUR end, nothing really crazy happened. No one grabbed anyone’s ass by accident, no one made any ridiculous speech that warranted interruption, and no one almost drove us to an early grave by jumping the curb on the streets of Philadelphia.
What I really appreciated about the weekend was that I saw this whole wedding play out from all the way back in 2004. I knew them both from the start before they were a couple and when we were all working together at The Grill. Then a few years later, I knew them in a different way when they WERE a couple and I returned for a short time to work there again. Then the next time I saw them, they were asking for my address to send me an invitation to their wedding. It’s like I was there through three different stages of their life together, BEFORE they even started their life together. I like that. I like that things may have changed in every stage that I knew them, but regardless, I knew that they were meant to be. Like I said before, this was a romantic comedy in the making, and one with a happy ending like we all want to have in our life.
On the ride back to L.A. that night something was plaguing my brain. I didn’t know where I stood with Tasha. Where was our happy ending? Hell, where was the part of our story where I knew that I would be with her forever? Truth is, I didn’t know that. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the next few months, or how things were going to play out in our “relationship” if you could call it that at this point. Something had to change, because I swear if one more person at Heather and Shaw’s wedding had told us WE should get married and have babies I was going to rip my hair out. How could we get married when we sometimes couldn’t even be in the same room as each other?
Look, I knew me and Tasha were meant to meet each other. I’ve always known that, but maybe we had a different path to go down. Were we meant to be? Perhaps, but perhaps not in the traditional sense. What if “meant to be” for us doesn’t necessarily mean falling in love, getting married, having babies, and living happily ever after? There is nothing wrong with that scenario, but what if our “meant to be” means something totally different? What if it means something bigger than what we could even comprehend at the time six years ago? Regardless of all these thoughts in my head that night, we definitely had time to figure it out, as it would be almost two years before Tasha and I went to a another wedding together.
Next Wedding: May 6th, 2015
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All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.