Sunday, August 29, 2004

Returning Home

We're home now, and I've missed home a lot. There are about a thousand things to catch up on. The good news is that I got a lot accomplished today, the bad news is that I have to return to work tomorrow. I feel very ambivalent about this. We have TiVo. I love it. I sorted out my bills and downloaded all of my pictures and burned them to a CD. I recharged all my rechargables, reconciled my digital checkbook ledger, totaled my tea, and battened down the hatches.

We returned home to a pile of still-unopened Crate and Barrel boxes on our living room floor. I had hoped that we would have gotten our mail, but sadly it will not arrive until tomorrow. I always feel vaguely out of touch when I'm on vacation. A giddy, seat-of-the-pants vertigo. I wrote a few emails, more will follow I'm sure. The money we made from the wedding will be more than enough to cover the photography printing and album making. In addition to providing me with an incredible amount of disposable income with which to decimate my debt. Being out from under all that dead weight already leaves me with an incredible free feeling.

It hit me this afternoon, all at once, that I was married. It was a lovely feeling. One that I would never be able to really describe. It was a feeling of bizarre, unexpected freedom. Freedom from so much discomfort, so much loneliness, so much boredom, so much awfulness. It was a beautiful feeling. The pictures, for their part, came out beautifully. Printing them will probably cost me in the neighborhood of $80. Blah. I'm beginning to think a regular photo place could do better. I don't know. I'm looking forward to work tomorrow, even. How's that for an attitude adjustment. Nothing like a two week paid vacation to make you feel like a human being again. I love my life. I love it endlessly. Never let it be said that I either didn't think to say thank you or think to appreciate how wonderful my life is at this moment. I am nearly 4 months from the completion of CSMT. How incredible. Finally all these heavy handed plans are cycling to an end. Now if I can just keep my job…

Friday, August 27, 2004

Litchfield, and my Bachelor Party

We stayed in Connecticut last night in Litchfield at a gorgeous historic old bed and breakfast called the Tollgate Hill Inn that housed a tavern from the 1760's with original furniture and floorboards over 250 years old. Despite the gorgeous and enormous room we were upgraded to we did not get romantic because Beth found it too "Sleepy Hollow" eerie. Even I had to admit, rural Connecticut is a fairly spooky place. We went to the Foreman school and hung out with Jeramy and Elizabeth for about six hours, including an excellent trip to a tavern with chicken wings, chicken sandwiches, and beer, which Beth and I both enjoyed immensely. We went back to the apartment after for guitar and hanging out. Gave Jeramy and Elizabeth their present and Elizabeth gave us a great set of photos, including an awesome one of Denny leaping 2" off the ground to grab the garter. Also yesterday morning we stopped at Black Point inn and visited Winslow Homer's studio. Incredibly preserved, including furniture and tools as well as various toys and effects that he owned, including several noisemakers.

We listened to The Gunslinger in the car, and I drove the entire 8 hours. I feel fabulous now, however. And as a little bonus, the Gunslinger version we're listening to is the new one, the revised version. I need to do some more reading of the Gunslinger books before I purchase the latest one, Song of Susanna, which I saw in a bookstore in Maine and wanted desperately to buy.

It is beautiful here, if somewhat buggy and hot. A very nice place, all things considered. Hopefully I'll be able to write something about my whitewater adventure before I forget all of the funny parts. Such as; "Mark, there's a dragonfly on your balls." And "Hey Reid, if you're finished chatting up the guide, maybe you could steer the boat."

Well, as long as I have a minute I guess I'll say a few more syllables about the whitewater trip and let my sensory memories from the photographs do the rest of the talking.

We arrived and suited up in company-provided wet shoes, jackets, and helmets, along with the obligatory life vest and lined up at the edge of the river (the Indian River which eventually met the Hudson river). Men in helmets and similar gear all lined up with boats for several hundred yards (there were probably 250 people rafting that day during that time frame) evidently reminded Max of Saving Private Ryan.

"It's like Normandy!" he exclaimed, to everyone's nervous hilarity. This started the seemingly endless series of uproariously inadvertant one-liners of the day. We boarded the boat and got tossed around a little, to get our sea legs. Typically, those boats sat 10 people and we were only seven. My father, Dennis, Max, Kevin, Gee, Reid, and I. Our boat was light, fast, and flung itself over every rock with reckless abandon. Our guide, a young blonde woman who looked like she had never worn makeup in her life and who wore a survival knife in a spring clip on her vest, saw a boat full of seven weekend warriors with no women or children and decided to take us on the wildest ride she could give us. We took all of the biggest dumps and waves at awkward and jarring angles, often banging our helmeted heads together and nearly falling out of the boat.

Jeramy Gee was the first one to unintentionally fall out of the boat, followed immediately by my father. After a moment of terror, we pulled them back in. The first men overboard were frightening because none of us expected it. Stories from previous rafters said that the ride was mild. This was anything but. Once we pulled them back in, unharmed, it was more of a fun thing, and not as frightening. We all of us jumped in during a lull in the action in a calm portion of the river, and the perhaps 140 pound guide pulled me aboard first, hauling like a bastard on my life vest. Then it became not so funny. Dennis Sr. caught one of DJ's knuckles just below his helmet line, opening up a shallow boxer's type cut over his right eye. Though I could tell immediately that the cut was minor, he bled openly for a few minutes covering his face with gore. He was a great sport about the whole thing, despite the fact that it became quickly obvious that his eye was blackening. He had a considerable shiner for the wedding.

Then, not long after, me and Max and Kevin and Jeramy all fell in simultaneously during a hard and unexpected bump. This also ceased to be funny, as I was dumped, with some speed, flat on my back on sharp, hard rocks. I bashed my upper back and head on a flat part of the rocks (which fortunately were well protected by my gear and helmet), but hit my unprotected left buttock on a stone which was very painful. At some point, I also scraped my right hand and right calf hard enough to leave bright scratch marks. I still have a deep purple mark where the contusion on my ass continues to heal. Several hands grabbed me from the boat and hauled me back in, the main pair belonging to Dennis O'Malley whom I thanked and scrambled back to my seat. Everything was slippery and I painfully hyper-extended my left elbow in the process. Despite all the minor discomforts I was essentially unhurt. Nor, it turns out, were any of my boatmates, including Max who was laughing maniacally by this time at the giddy absurdity of what we were doing. He continued to laugh for most of the trip, even including a time when he nearly fell into the water face-first into a rock, was caught instead by myself and Kevin who held him suspended and in terror, inches away from a roaring, crushing, swirling, part of the river. He giggled until he almost couldn't breathe. My father, we discovered later, had caught Max's shoe in the side of the face, giving him a sunglasses-shaped welt of his own.

The remainder of the trip was largely more of the same. We stopped briefly and I climbed a 15-20 foot tall rock and leaped off. We stopped for a brief rest, DJ took over steering the boat and flirting with the guide. We entered the most treacherous part of the river at a dead flank speed row just as the sprinkle turned to a view-obscuring downpour. Hunkered at the edge of the lurching, unpredictable boat, I finally accepted everyone in that boat as arguably the best friends I will ever have.

There were numerous further funny phrases uttered, including when the guide asked if any of us had any medical conditions she needed to know about. After silent glances at each other, I patiently explained to the guide that DJ Reid was a retard.

The experience left a certain inescapable impression on my body. By this I mean pain. A few days, at the very least, of sore achy pecs, miserably wrenching low back creaks, wobbly, spikey knees, and grunts every time I had to sit down, stand up, or get in or out of my car. Sleeping? Forget about it. Even drunk, sleeping was painful. The mornings I was so stiff I had to bounce around for three or four minutes until I felt normal again. My feet, trapped for five and a half hours in perpetually wet shoes, became macerated and sore. Only now, just this evening more than a week later, has the painful dead skin started to slough off. Also gross was the dead skin from previous wearers of our neoprene wet-jackets. Jeramy, DJ, and I went back to my parents' house following the after-raft steak dinner. We stopped in a liquor store and tried to explain to the 70 year old plus proprietor what 151 rum was. She looked at us doubtfully, as if she was unsure of whether to provide us with such high-test alcohol. "Look", I said eventually, "we don't plan on drinking it, we're going to use it to blow fireballs." Perhaps even more funny was that she didn't seem even the least bit bothered by this. In fact, she blushed, and suggested 108 proof vodka instead, as it might burn. In the end we settled on Mikes, Labatts, and champagne, none of which survived the night.

The final truly hilarious one liners of the day were centered around two and a half leftover steaks from the rafting trip that Jeramy had decided to save by putting in a small sandwich bag. It looked like he had a liver in a Glad bag and was carrying it around. "Can I put this in your backpack?" He said, straight-faced, before going into the liquor store. DJ and I just laughed hysterically at this. Later, when we accompanied Jeramy to his motel room to get his guitar, Jeramy sprawled out on the bed and bounced the springs a bit, suggesting his plans for Elizabeth's arrival. I noticed the bizarre little bag of steak and said; "The first thing Elizabeth will say is 'Wow, Jeramy,that was amazing', the second thing she'll say is 'why the fuck do you have a bag of meat on your TV?'"

And that, aside from the coughing fit at about midnight, is pretty much my bachelor party. It was as good a party of that sort possibly could be.

It's late now and I've told my story. Time to sleep.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Honeymoon in Maine

I had wanted to make up a similar entry for the white water rafting trip and the honeymoon as I did for the wedding. I think, however, that I will have to just start with the honeymoon and hope that I have enough time for the rest. We drove all day Sunday through the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire, following an interesting, if somewhat pricey $8 ferry ride across Lake Champlain at Fort Ticonderoga. We reached the Newagen late that night.

Monday morning we explored Cape Newagen and discovered that it was once the site of a colonial fort that was burned by the Indians in 1601. The poet Rachel Carson has a memorial affixed to a huge ocean-side boulder, as apparently she died here. There were several points of interest just on our little slice of the cape, not the least of which are the beautiful red house belonging to Margret Hamilton (Wicked Witch of the West) and a huge, free standing, birdhouse in which a very vocal young Osprey family had taken residence. Seeing one of the large salty seahawks with a good size fish in its claws was wild, as was hearing the increasingly loud squawks of its babies as it approached with dinner.

We toddled into town on Monday, checking out all the stores and touristy shops of Boothbay Harbor, as well as scoping out a whale watch location. Beth and I explored the place quite thoroughly, including a stop at a friendly seaside pub called the Chowder House and a stop at what is probably the country's last remaining full-service gas station.

Tuesday we went on a whalewatch early in the morning but failed to see even a single whale. Despite this disappointment, the weather was beautiful for a third straight day and the ride was a nice one. The guide told us about many significant islands in the bay, including the Mayflower's first landfall, a small island upon which there is a natural freshwater lagoon of some sort that they filled up on. Far away from the Indian-troubled mainland. Also of note are artifacts that suggest that this island was visited by Vikings or other explorers previous to Christopher Columbus. Also included was history of lobstering, boating, and lighthouses along the way.

Tuesday afternoon we had lunch at the Fisherman's Wharf, which was remarkable only for its slow service and waitress who vaguely resembled a poodle. The afternoon was a trip to Rockland, ME, a funny little town which somehow supported a rather impressive museum gallery with extensive paintings by Andrew, N.C., and James Wyeth, as well as Edward Hopper. Among the best works was the haunting painting "Her Room". Beth and I returned to the Newagen for dinner. Trying to escape the classic coastal New England conundrum of fish vs beef, I ordered a Caesar salad and buffalo wings. The Caesar was fairly fishy with sardines. It has become quite clear to me that no matter where you eat in Maine, and no matter what you eat, you're going to get some form of something that grows in the sea. We went for ice cream afterward.

Wednesday (today), we got up and went out in search of a beach. On the way we stopped at a historic old burial ground with headstones approaching 200 years old. Not finding a beach, we returned to Boothbay to check out an aquarium somewhat famous for both its huge living lobster display (I mean literally a 28.5 pound lobster) and for a tank full of friendly dogfish sharks that not only could you reach in and pet, but would swim up to you eagerly, as if to say; 'touch me!'

We then returned to do some shopping and found some souvenirs for ourselves and our families. We went and washed/gassed-up the car, and on the way home we stopped to eat at another wharf. Despite smelling like a thousand years of lobster corpses, it was an authentic way to get a truly delicate fish sandwich and plate full of fried scallops. As we ate on the open air wharf we watched an endless parade of lobster boats unload their cargo straight into the restaurant's holding tanks. Beth was fascinated by this, and it was just as the guide of the whalewatch had said. Despite a fast-food, fairgrounds-like atmosphere, it was literally the freshest food in the whole of Boothbay. The seafood hauled ashore here never saw so much as a rubber wheel, much less a freezer. From the sea to you. Big as life. The person working the cash register at the wharf told us how to find a nearby sandy beach, and we both waded in. We drove the remaining length of Southport island, admiring the people who, for about a month each year, got to live in large seaside houses and cottages along arguably the most beautiful and tourism-free stretch of the Atlantic ocean. We returned to the Newagen for sunset on a small dock, pictures, Osprey, and then a late dinner at Newagen. And here I am now, turning this little dealie off and going to sleep. More later. I find myself unintentionally using a Maine accent. Ayuh. This was a beautiful and wonderfully not-touristy place for a honeymoon.

Monday, August 23, 2004

The Wedding

With this ring, I thee wed, and pledge my eternal love.

And it's just that easy.

Beth and I were married on August 21, 2004 at the Copperfield Inn in North Creek, NY. In attendance were 50+ of our family and closest friends. It started as a rainy day, but the sun eventually shined for us. The ceremony was beautiful thanks to Judge Jim French who did an exceedingly good job, and Jen, Lisa, and Brooke who all read. The reception was superb, and toasts were given by Jeramy Gee, Bonnie Shapiro, and both fathers. The food and music were excellent, and Beth and I danced the entire night. We left after a stirring dance at the end of the night to The Carpenters "We've Only Just Begun" surrounded by everyone holding hands.

Many remarked that it was the most fun wedding that they could remember. Mary Lu called it a beautiful "Family wedding." Beth's brother Dennis said he loved the music and pronounced it the "best wedding music ever." My aunts and uncles and cousins that I didn't get much chance to talk to said that the food was delicious. Several of them who I have never seen dance before, Barry and Terri, Nancy and Larry, Randy and Laurel, and even, incredibly, Mary and Alan, all took short turns on the dance floor (after a few beers, no doubt). Uncle Bobby danced as did Greta's husband Jim, and the younger generation of Brand girls, led by Maria who I embarrassingly didn't recognize, dominated the dance floor for much of the night. Also didn't recognize Paul Brand who is enormous now and larger than both of his brothers. He is 12 and a half and stands nearly 6 feet tall. Maddie is about 10, and adorable. DJ Reid managed to pick up Christian Fults, a combination that I hadn't expected. I met Jeramy's girlfriend Elizabeth who is completely wonderful and wonderful for him. I would not be surprised if they marry, in fact I hope very sincerely that they do. The bouquet was caught by Brooke, who enlisted the entire rest of the crowd of single women to box out Elizabeth and pulled off a daring fingertip snag in midair. The garter toss, was caught in a surprise upset by Denny O'Malley, who denied several unattached and very athletic young men (all of whom were significantly larger and taller than him) by virtue of his practiced speed and agility.

Lucy, the flower girl whom everyone was nervous about due to her young age and precocious nature, was a perfect angel, playing the part flawlessly and adding a light-hearted beauty and innocence to the entire ceremony and reception. I gave her a plush black bear, which she tugged on my tuxedo leg to thank me for.

The bride. The bride was as beautiful as I have ever seen her, and as happy and exultant as any person who is loved so much should be. She and I danced to nearly every dance, and when I stepped out to use the bathroom for a moment, I returned to find her gleefully leading the entire reception in a 60-foot "Locomotion" line. She wore a classic and contemporary white gown with a 15-foot, cathedral-length veil that added just the right touch of formality. She wore her hair in a beautiful and elaborate "up-do" which consisted of a great deal of sculpting product and no less than 40 bobby pins. Her makeup was tastefully limited to simply enhancing her naturally beautiful face, and though under a great deal of stress, she cried only just a little, and managed to have a night of loving fun. Her tender and loving eyes met my smiling and confident eyes during the ceremony and we made it a very emotional and warm experience. She mingled with the entire party, charming everyone with her frank and lovely poise.

The best man performed his duties splendidly getting caught up only once by telling a bizarre and off-color joke during his speech. The remainder of the speech, however, was beautiful and so it was quickly forgiven and forgotten. He provided every conceivable service to me and my wife without hesitation, and he and Elizabeth quickly became the driving force behind the dancing, culminating in a high-velocity rendition of the "Cotton Eye Joe" dance which left me wheezing.

The Maid of honor, Bonnie, did wonderfully as well. By Beth's admission, she provided much-needed logistical support in addition to emotional support and encouragement to a very nervous bride. The dress chosen for her, which I had looked on with some skepticism, turned out to be a very beautiful choice not only for Bonnie, but for the summer mountain wedding. Bonnie's speech and Hawaiian love poem was also exceedingly heartfelt and beautiful.

The photographer seemed to get many candids, as well as successfully shoot everything asked of her quickly and efficiently, the coordinator of the Copperfield was friendly and helpful as well. Proving himself most well worth the money however, was Duane the DJ, who pulled off the wedding ceremony music, the introductions, the special dances, the special shortened versions of songs, the cake cutting and tosses, and just generally the flow of the entire event flawlessly. When we decided halfway through the dancing to scrap the newer music and keep with the more fun, 50's-80's music, he immediately switched gears and played an excellent mixture of the music I provided him and his own choices, all of which the guests enjoyed. We gave him $100 cash to play for an extra half hour because we were doing so well with him. No one the whole day rushed or pushed or gave Beth or I the least bit of grief about the scheduling or sequence of events. The planners were very prepared, very flexible, and very helpful.

The O'Malleys and Brands and Thompsons, who by this time had all met and had several dinners together, were like old friends at a family reunion, talking with each other in twos and threes, trading stories comfortably like old friends. Particularly striking was the easy friendship that my father struck up with Beth's father. I sat at one dinner and just watched my father talk to Beth's father for at least 40 minutes straight, longer than any conversation I had seen him have with anyone all week. Jeramy and Max and Kevin and DJ all hung out with each other and traded friendly handshakes and high fives without any encouragement from me. It was the fusion of the best people in my life, two very different groups that I found to my surprise weren't very different at all.

Another shining star of the whole event was my uncle Bobby, who not only didn't stand out as being the wild man I had always known him to be, but proved to be one of the most charming, outgoing, friendly, and polite guests at the wedding. He has a true gift for good table conversation, in addition to being very knowledgeable about both the Adirondack region and our family's history. Every time he referred to the O'Malley women as "Ma'am" or smiled and said something both sincere and interesting, I found myself increasingly thankful that he had made the trip, and increasingly annoyed at myself for not keeping in better touch with such a fine man. Beth found Ruthie to be a kindred spirit both in temperament and sentimentality.

After the wedding, we had a terrifying moment when we thought we would run out of gas. All of our family had already left, and a local gave us bad directions and we had to turn back. On fumes, we headed out to a Stewarts which we didn't even know for sure was open. My new wife held my hand and prayed with me on the long dark road until just as my heart was about to explode, the lit front of a Stewarts sign came into view. We made it less than a half an hour before they closed, and we would have been stranded in the middle of nowhere for the night, in our tux and wedding dress with over $3000 in cash and checks in the back seat. I prayed that that wouldn't happen to us on our wedding night despite my obvious lack of preparation, and God smiled once more that night. I gleefully explained the whole story to a bored local at the counter and bought $31 of super unleaded gas. I had drained nearly the entire tank on the deceptively long and gas-eating mountain roads. Beth asked if she could get a cup of coffee. I wish I could relive the happiness and love and unbelievable fortune of that moment forever. I knew then that I planned to make this woman happy for the rest of her life with a million small comforts, favors, and dotings. This was the first one of our new marriage.

We sat under the stars with the O'Malleys back at the Garnet Hill (in which, incidentally, we got the worst room) and looked at the stars. We saw several shooting stars in the incredibly clear and brilliant night and wished on them. Owen wished he was a cowboy, and promptly fell asleep.

Friday, August 13, 2004

No More Pretending

Time is rocketing past mercilessly. I'm very distracted, despite being so close to my vacation and wedding. No time to talk. No time to write, no time to worry. All that will come later, I'm sure. I feel vindicated, whimsical, floating, unhurried, unworried, ignorant, omniscient, caring, and utterly insane. I realized today that I'm making decisions, major life decisions, for the life of a person that until now I have always felt I was pretending to be. But those pretend decisions from a pretend person that I am pretending to be have somehow become my decisions, and that pretend person has somehow become me. My little project life, city-boy Mark 2000, has suddenly become my reality. The life I live now, the city, the job, the education for massage therapy, the wife. No longer can I pretend that these things are happening to someone else, that the disappointments belong to a generated character who is separate from me and who I may retreat from when the kitchen gets too hot. This reiteration of Mark has turned out far better than any before it but next Saturday, I'm really going to buy into it. No longer just talking about the path, but really walking it.

I'm not scared at all.

Should I be?

Friday, August 06, 2004

Caesar wraps are gross

And here I was hoping to have a better and more accurate chronicle of this whole marriage thing, but I haven't been very good at writing things down lately. Insanely juggling, trying to peel myself away from my other two huge responsibilities. I can never get away from any of them for long. Pulling myself out of both work and school for a whole two weeks will be incredibly surreal, I'm sure. Had a ceasar wrap for lunch that makes me feel fucked up as usual. Raw tomatoes and flour tortillas. Shit, nauseous. Got to have ginger ale or something. Bleh

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Nomar

Bored. Cubbies got Nomar.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

August

July is ovah. Since two weeks of this month will be consumed by our wedding, it is only a two week month, essentially. And the first week is only a 4 day week AND one doc is on vacation. Dare I hope for smooth sailing? Dare I hope for it all to be over? Could it be my $15,000 wedding is only two weeks away. Holy fuck. I bought a pair of tortoise shell Oakley Pockets for Beth for her birthday. Hopefully that works well. I just want to survive the two weeks of school up till then, pass, and then leave their shit behind for a while. And this office's shit, and everyone's shit. Oy.

Reading the Onion. How funny.

Riding the L. If it weren't for MP3's I'd have stuck my head in the oven this year for sure.

It's not dark yet, but it's getting there. - Bob Dylan