Thursday, July 26, 2007

Breakfast at Waterloo

I have always like menus. They are like the toy catalouges I used to get every christmas when I was a kid. Unlike those catalouges, I get to pick something off of the menu and it comes right out ! This is a basic laminated one page breakfast menu. My eyes wander to find whatever they call the two egg with sausage and hash browns and biscuit breakfast. Ah, here it is, $6.50. Not too bad. But wait, what's this, for $7.25, 75 cents more you can get the "Texas Platter", four eggs, four sausages, hash browns and biscuits. Double the normal order, for only 75 cents more. This is like the movie popcorn, where they hold up that enormous tub that you could swin around it and say, "you sure you don't want this, it's only a quarter more ?".

But who could eat that much popcorn ("free refills !") ? and who could eat that many eggs and that much pork. See, this shows a marketing flaw. Anyone that needs four eggs for breakfast is going to be willing to pay more than seventy five more cents. And just because you can double an already huge breakfast for only 75 cents, does not mean a normal person would do it. Oh well, I guess they know what they are doing. What's this ?

On the back of wht ketchup bottle (actually upside down plastic container with large opening) is a notice. Submit a film about ketchup to Heinz and win $57,000. $57,000 ? What a strange amount, why not $50,000 ? Oh, Heinz Ketchup ! Heinz 57. what the hell does that 57 mean. The other side of the container says "Heinz 57 varieties" since 1869. That's right. 57 varieties. That's why a mixed dog used to be called a Heinz 57. 57 Varieties of what ? Not Ketchup. I guess it's an old slogan for all when they sold items that has hung on for almost 140 years. When I was a kid Heinz used to advertize that they had been making ketchup for "four generations". I did not know what generation meant.One of my friends told me that it was 100 years.My father told me that he considered a generation to be about 20 years.No one told me that there was no actual number involved.

Uh oh, that waiter is in trouble "No, I'm DE-caff, and I'd like a glass of water too ! ". The two engineering profs shake their head sadly at the young man and go back to drawing on their napkins so that they can help the world advance. Why is it DE-caff ? Why not de-Caff ? We don't say "DE caffinated" De-caff should only be used by people who say I-talians or INsurance or PEcan. But everyone says it. My father used to point his finger at a cup and announce loudly to the waitress "DE-caff". Then when it was poured he would always ask her, "Is that DE-caff?". For good measure my mother would often get into the act and question the waitress a little more closely. They were (are) a good team, I doubt any caffinated coffee has ever slipped by them.

Now the waiter turns to me. he is about 25, with a burr haircut and no tatoos, which is remarkable for this town and this place. Over in the corner, as asst. manager with a clip board has been interviewing another potential employee for longer than we interview potential lawyers. That guy over there looks more like the normal waiter around here. Bet he gets the job. I order.

When the meal comes back I get a strange question from burr hair cut (maybe the engineer profs are right). "Would you like some Jelly for your biscuits ?". "Yeah, hey, how about some butter ?"I ask. "Butter ?" he nods thoughtfully, a puzzled expression on his face. "Butter with bread" I can hear him thinking,"hmmm., I might have to try that." Burr haircut trundles off to bring me butter and an assotment (if two varieties is an assortment) of Knotts Berry Farm jams and Jellies. All right. Knotts Berry Farm is a guilty pleasure of my immediate family. Once a year we drive for an hour and a half on southern California freeways to stand in a long line of wheel chairs and walkers, to make our way into the Knotts Berry Farm chicken restaraunt. Damn it is good. The best pan fried chicken left in America. My stomach feels bloated just thinking about those long drives home after stuffing ourselves.How long can it last ? The Knotts restaraunt's clintele is dying out. Some day we will drive up there and the damn thing will be a Wendys.

Geez this is a lot of food. How could anyone eat that Texas Platter ? I wish the rain would stop.This is just about the hardest rain yet. It's like they moved Austin to the Pacific Northwest for the summer.When do they salmon run ?I notice that the bandage on my arm is coming loose.
I had blood drawn this morning. That's why I'm so hungry. I have been "fasting" at least that's what the med tech called it. "Fasting" to them means not snacking after midnight and then eating breakfast a little late, after they stick a needle in your arm. That kind of fasting is not too tough on anyone.I hate blood tests. Nothing really great can come of this. Either I'm fine, about like last year, or something horrible will turn up. It's like ordering off the menu, only the exact opposite.You have nothing to gain.No one is going to bring you something good ! And it is possible they will bring you something bad. In fact, it is guaranteed that at some point in life, you will be brought something bad.This could be the time. Why order ?

But the breakfast is good. Tomorrow the doctor could call and tell me never to eat eggs and sausages again. So I savor every bite. I give burr haircut a nice tip. I've got a lot going on. I need all the good karma I can get.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tales of Aunt Memphis

Like most people edging ever closer to death, I have gotten interested in genealogy.Genealogy is the hobby of choice of the self absorbed, people who are so narcissistic that they take time away from thinking only about themselves in order to think only about their ancestors. In Asia once, this was somewhat understandale because the people would pray to their ancestors. Here in America we only brag about them, or sweep them under a tug, or most likely, bore our friends to tears with them.

The internet has allowed the curious, but lazy, like myself to piggyback on other people's hard work and sometimes figure out three hundred plus years of family history with just a few clicks. That's what I did last week. Of course if you do geneology in this fashion, you rely on possible errors others have made and may be deluding yourself to a great extent. But that still beats actually doing the work itself. I won't be any happier if I find out that I am not really descended from old Nathanial Porter than I am now believeing that I am.In fact, if I'm not related to him, I'd just as soon no one tell me that and ruin the little chart I'm putting together.I'm not going to be digging through death certificates.

I had an Aunt Memphis. Many people in Texas had an Aunt Memphis. Those who did not were familair with her.Aunt Memphis was the large, loud busy- body math teacher at every Texas Junior High School.You could always hear this teacher yelling at her kids three doors down from your class. She was the kind of teacher that all the other teachers were terrorized of, and the younger ones would conspiratorily grin at you when she did something obnoxious. Which most Aunt Memphis types did every day. I mean every day. They never missed school. You'd wake up and pray that just this one day your Aunt Memphis teacher would have the flu, but it never happened.

Not that I did not love my Aunty Memphis. She gave me my first bible when I was about 8 (a slap at my mother who did not make us attend church). She kept the family of seven brothers and two sisters more or less organized.Whenever she came to Houston from Temple, the whole clan would gather and talk for hours ,telling the same old stories that got as big a laugh as the first time you heard them.

She also had a glass eye. I don't know how she lost her eye. I used to think about it from time to time. She always had to come to Houston for new glass eyes. She was notoriously cheap so she probably put that task off until the old eye had faded pretty well and she was walking around the school yards of Temple, Texas with a glassy white spot staring out at you.

I am thinking about Aunt Memphis because she once got the idea in her head that she wanted to be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. That meant that she had to do a geneolgy study to show that some ancestor or other had fought in the Revolution. Somehow she got in. It was not through the Porter line I traced last week. That would have put her in the Daughters of the War of 1812 or the Daughters of the Confederacy, but it looked to me like my line of Porters (good old Henry)let his brother do the Revolutionary fighting for the family .Well good for him, my daughter is never going to be in the Daughters of the Vietnam War either, but I'm not losing any sleep over it.

I have one video of my Aunt Memphi, taken by my cousin Don. It is at a family gathering and she is aware that she is speaking for posterity so, as I recall, she begins her speech, " History tells us..." and then goes on to place the family among those rugged pioneers of the 1840s who came to Texas from the other southern states. "History" also tells us that many of those pioneers had left town just ahead of the sheriff and/or their creditors, but "History" has a big mouth, and so Aunt Memphis chose to leave that part of the tale out.At any rate, before she could get well into the story, she began to be heckled and corrected by my Uncle Mike.Every family should have an Uncle Mike . don't see how a family could get by without one.Uncle Mike understood that the least important element of truth is accuracy. Accuracy often got in the way of a salient point, an important lesson or (most frequently) a good laugh. Consequently,Mike's version of any story was at least five times as entertaining as any other version of the story.Thus, my brother and I tended to listen to him pretty much exclusively at these family gatherings and ,where versions of a story parted, always went with his version.Aunt Memphis was always an unwitting foil in these exercises.She was much like Margaret Dumont in a Groucho Marks movie. When Memphis was not around, Mike's wife, Aunt Ella, was a witting foil for Mike's stories, and through years of practiced looks, head shakes and shudders, played a marvelous George Burns to his Gracie Allen, sometimes getting a better laugh herself.When Mike got too far out of line she would catch our eye and silently mouth "that's false". What she meant of coures was that it was not accurate. That did not make it any less true.

I'd give every penny I have to be at one more gathering of the clan with Mike and Memphis and Regal and Earl, my Dad and Fanny Fay. I'd be armed with all my new geneology facts and get to hear Uncle Mike cut them to ribbons, or better, embelsih them with the true facts that "History" seldom tells us.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Home entertainment used to be simple and just about free. Until the early 8os, you saved up some money, bought a T.V., plugged it in, adjusted the picture, and you were set for about ten years. No monthly bill, no decisions, not much on the tube, but at least no stress.Then came cable, that was brought to you by the same people who also convinced you that you needed to pay for water in a bottle, a substance that you had been getting unlimited supplies of, practically for free, your whole life. I know people who spend more money on bottled water each month than it would cost them to get municipal water service in a house with five bathrooms for that same month. But that is not the subject of my rant today. Back to T.V.

I had been thinking of increasing the stress in my marriage for the last few months, so I began talking to my wife about getting an HDTV. The fact that I was doing this only showed that I knew nothing about HDTV. Until about an hour and a half ago I thought that the best thing about HDTV was renting and then watching your favorite movies on HDTV. Well that may be the best thing, but it turns out that to get HDTV movies you have to not only buy the HDTV TV and make an enormous cable upgrade to HDTV digital TV, but you need to buy an HDTV player (which cost close to what the TV costs) and then, if you can find them, you can watch one of the almost 100 movies that are in HDTV format.Let the good times roll !

I spent well over an hour with a nice young man in a T.V. store (actually home entertainment store, TV stores used to sell vacum tubes) who had curly black hair and a weird scruffy beard. If you had put a blue work shirt on him, and transported him back to my college days, he would have looked like on of the Trotskyites that used to be members of the Young Spartucus League. What he is now is a fountainhead of information about cables and boxes and very technical things that I have already forgotten, all which make up a portion of the decision you have to make if you want the privlege of watching one of the few channels that broadcast in HDTV, most of the apparently which just show updated versions of Mutual of Omahas Wild Kingdom. I could not believe that we Americans had gottern suckered into all of this just because a few rich guys, with nothing better to do, wanted to be able to count each blade of grass on each green on televised major golf tournaments. Now the whole damn country is having to adapt to a much more expensive way to watch old Andy Grtiffith reruns.It is just not right.

I actually found myself nodding while the Comrade explained to me the different colors of cables I needed and the difference in picture quality I would get if I bought the wrong ones.The correct ones were $75, the incorrect ones came with a box the cable people are going to rent me, but they are free (i.e. they are secretly rolled into the monthly price I pay for an aesthetically unpleasing box that I now must have). Then there was something about 780 v. 1080 or some numbers close to that, that meant the set either has a million pixels or two million pixels. Then he had to explain why ,when I was paying $300 more for the advanced Sony, I was still not getting two million pixels but just a TV with a processor that made one million pixels look closer to two million pixels than the old Sony did.

I bought the upgrade because he explained to me that the non-HDYV shows would look better with it. "Better than my old set ?", "No sir, not that good, but almost as good as your old set." So about 85% of the TV I watch will not be as nice, but Mutual of Omahas Wild Kingdom will be beautiful, as will the Super Bowl.Plus, in 2009, when the broadcasters all make the big switcheroo to Hi-def, I will not be left out. Well, not so fast, it turns out that every TV sold in the last decade will still be able to watch TV broadcast in high def. Even if your TV is 25 years old, the government is going to give you a box so you can still tune in.

So what we are talking about here is billions of dollars being spent by people (actually all of us are taking out loans via our credit cards to do this) so that we will be able to get a higher quality picture on a few shows, most of which we would never think of watching. And the money we are spending is mostly flowing off to Asia, not even staying here.That's not quite true, my cable company is American owned and they are making out like bandits on this deal.And there is no way in hell I am going to be able to understand how any of this works, so unless my wife is home and wants to watch something, I won't be able to see anything anyway.But come on over on August 3 when we fire up the new set. It ought to be specatacular.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

RLS

New studies out of Iceland have found the gene causing Restless Leg Syndrome (jimmy legs). Certain skeptical physicians had never admitted that RLS was a real disorder, despite the fact that millions of dollars are spent for its treatment each year, most of it on a couple of preventitive drugs.

I am a self diagnosed (actually wife diagnosed) sufferer of RLS. Although the real RLS sufferer is the person that has the misfortune to sleep with you.Generally, they get less sleep and more bruises than the one who actually has jimmy legs. I have never asked for the drug because I knew I'd have to do a sleep study to get them. The last time I got a sleep study I was given a life sentence of sleeping with a C-Pap machine. I just don't want any more sleep studies.

It is also true that I have a fairly light case of RLS. I have never experienced the creepy crawly feelings in my legs described by those with severe cases. Sometimes, whem I'm lying in bed, my legs just feel like moving.Generally, I move them. Generally, my wife then throws an elbow into my ribs.Generally, this stops the problem. Now and then it does not, and my wife shouts something vulgar at me and takes the six foot long pillow she sleeps with and storms out of the room.She does not come back until it is time for her to yell at me about not making the bed.

Why Icelanders are being studied for RLS is beyond me. They are not a good control group because they are so far north. That means that the sun is always up or down there. When they get into bed they are either not tired at all, or dog tired. That could throw off the whole experiment.I know that the claim is that a gene has been isolated in the bodies of the Icelanders, but does anyone really know what that means ? Did they take a microscope and look at Icelandic legs until they fond a gene that appeared to be thrashing around ? Or is it just that Icelanders with a particular gene tend to thrash around more than others ? That's no proof at all, and even if it was, they would need to repeat the experiment for people who don't practically live at the North Pole. There's no telling what that cold does to your genes.

In the pantheon of disorders, malaises and diseases I suffer from, RLS is pretty close to the bottom. I have had paper cuts I have worried more about(primarily because I had just read another story about flesh eating bacteria). No one has ever dies of RLS, although a few have been murdered because of it. I'm going to stay the course of non-treatment for my jimmy legs and just hope for the best as far as the marriage is concerned. I would think that after 34 years of putting up with almost everything under the sun from me, a little light midnight kick in the shins probably will not be the straw that breaks the back. If I were you, I'd put my money on failing to make the bed. That can really get a guy in trouble.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vick Nack Paddy Wack

Everyone in America knows that if Michael Vick is found guilty of participating in big time dog fighting, he does not deserve the maximum sentence ,under Federal Guidelines, of six years in the pen. Everyone knows that if Michael Vick is found guilty of participating in big time dog fighting, his sentence ought to fit the crime. Federal Marshalls should tie strips of sirloin to his Falcon's jersey and turn him loose with 75 trained killer pit bulls on the field of the Georgia Dome, in front of 75,000 people and a national T.V. audience.Let's see his amazing athletic ability escape that sack.Even at that, he would be given a better chance than the eight dogs he is alleged to have personally participated in killing.Those dogs apparently suffered a variety of deaths which may have included "shooting, drowning,hanging and electrocution". Their crime ? Not displaying adequate fighting spirit.Maybe the Falcons would have played better last year if they faced similair punishments for not displaying adequate fighting spirit.

Now I don't want to come off as anti-dog fighting. I mean when dog fighting is outlawed, only outlaws will own viciously trained pit bulls capable of ripping a toddlers head off in under 15 seconds. What kind of an America would that be ? It would also put many dogs and their trainers out of work. I see where some of the purses for these dog fights were for "thousands" of dollars". That's more than a lot of human boxers get. Then again,the object of boxing is not to kill someone in the ring, so I guess the dogs do take the greater risk. They deserve the greater reward. What do you think those dogs go out and buy with all that money ? When was the last time you saw a pit bull at a nice restaraunt or being chauffered in a big limo ? Hmmm. Maybe the dogs are not getting to keep their money. Maybe it is going to people like Michael Vick. Don't get me wrong, Vick and his trainers deserve it, they work very hard turning God's creatures and man's best friend into cold blooded killers and, apparently, they often have to electrocute the ones who don't make it.All of that training for nothing.Big risk like that deserves a big reward.

There is an underground craziness in this country. Most of us live our whole lives without being aware of the cockfighting and dogfighting (and for all I know, bear baiting) going on around us. We remain blissfully ignorant until a nationally known celebrity turns out to be a sicko and exposes us to this side of human nature. Oh, we suspect things about people. We might even gossip about them. But we seldom see the seedy side of them. Once I was participating in a mock trial. This is a technique lawyers use before a trial to try out their arguments on live, but fake, jurors. (I know what you are thinking, that sounds like a worse torture than dogfighting, but believe me, no one gets electocuted, they are well paid for their pain, and unlike the dog, it is their choice to be there).

At any rate, after each witness examination, you pass out a survey to the participants, in this case 75 people, and ask them questions about what they saw.After doing this awhile, I noticed a pattern of several people answering questions in quite a bizzare fashion. When I asked the psychologist running the program about it, he told me that you always see that. It was his opinion that about 7% of the American population is bat shit crazy (my phrase, not his) and that that group thinks that the whole country is run by one big conspiracy that they are not apart of. 7% seems high to me, but it is his field, not mine. If true, that 7% explains most of the nutty things that go on in this country.That's 21 million people capable of just about anything. Now we have got only three million people in prisons, and far less than that in mental institutions, and most of the people in those two types of facilities would not create the nutty answers I saw in those surveys.The vast majority of them would probably not train pit bulls to kill other pit bulls for money. So my guess is that most of that 21 million are out there, running around, doing God knows what.These are people at your job, at your church and down the street from you. Some of them may even play Quarteback.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Days of the Long Rain

I got rained on walking my dog this morning. My dog got rained on too, but she complained less about it. Getting rained on has been very common this summer as my community is having a very wet time of it. We must be about double our usual rain total for this time of year by now, and the wet weather is all the more strange because we have been in a drought for the last several years.

Areas go through wet and dry periods. I was born in the midst of a drought that was probably as bad as the one that contributed to the dust bowl. Then, at various times in my childhood, we had periods where it seemed to rain for most of the summer. I recall several July 4 celebrations that were effected by water logged fireworks.

When I was 11 or 12 years old, my father had a large screened in porch built for the house. This was a good deal for me as it cut into the amount of back yard I had to cut every week. The porch took on a ping pong table and quickly became a neighborhood gathering spot in the summer. Especially when it rained. I remember looking out of that porch as the rain fell for hours and hours. Houston had long rains in those days. The neighborhood kids would have long ping pong tournaments, invariably won by my best friend John Phillips who was an outstanding player. I beat John maybe 10% of the time and the match up was so unfair that he once had to volunteer to play me left handed just to get me out of my reclining lawn chair. As you might guess, he beat me.

The greatest ping pong game of all though was a challange match between John and our then next door neighbor whose name I can not recall. He was a short bald guy about ten years younger than my parents. He had an attractive wife , and they hung around our house some. During the 1966 Thanksgiving Day Game between UT and Texas A&M, I listened to this fellow, over our fence, suffer thorough the Horns loss that put the Aggies in the Cotton Bowl. I do mean suffer.Wild and loud drunken cursing, the hurling of lawn furniture and gardening tools. The man really suffered.My Dad was not amused. He had little use for hot heads, and less use for drunks. Besides, he had never felt the same about the couple since they showed up at out house one midnight, very drunk, insisting that my folks join them skinny dipping. Where this skinny dipping was going to take place was never figured out . The only two options were the neighborhood pool and Braes Bayou, neither of which made much sense.

At any rate, this guy ( I do wish I could recall his name, Bradley, that's it, Bradley was his last name) was drinking beer on our back porch one very rainy Sunday afternoon, watching Phillips make mince meat of the ping pong competition. Being two sheets, on his way to three sheets to the wind, Bradley began bragging about his prowess as a ping pong player. He liked John and I, he liked us a lot better before we managed to put a ladder through his window while painting the siding on his house,but he liked us well enough still.John, who never thought of Bradley as an adult figure,began laughing at him and talking about how he had probably lost a lot since his salad days at the University of Texas. John, who hated the Longhorns, even said a few things about the previous A&M game which poured salt in some wounds that had not healed, over the previous eight months.His wife, a loyal lush began backing Bradley up on his stories of table tennis triumphs. Finally, goaded by John, backed by his wife, and lifted by the power of the four of my dad's Schlitzes he had downed, our tournament was stopped for a special match game between John and Bradley.

The fact of the matter was that Bradley was good. Damn good. Of course he probably had not played in years and was fairly drunk besides, two handicaps that he was going to have to overcome.The contestants played but one game. winner take all. It was quite a battle. John, who did not have to play his best to beat the ususal competition around the porch, really turned up his game a notch. The ball was a white blur and each ping sounded like a thunderclap as it echoed around our porch. The game went on and on, never more than two points seperating the contestants.The attitude of the players was different. Bradley had trned into a mean, grim drunk. John kept smiling and baiting his opponent.Finally at the end, John slammed one home for the victory, which I believe was 23/21. It had been very close.

Knowing from previous experience just what kind of a sport Bradley was, I kind of held my breath. He did not disappoint me. He slammed his paddle down onto the table and made some type of an anguished animal sound. Then he stalked around the porch shouting at Phillips, finally ending up with the cry "you'd have never touched me in my prime." His wife, ever loyal to this oaf who had just screamed at a 14 year old kid, looked at John and said, "That's right, I was there !". Then Bradley and Bradley threw open our sliding glass door and stalked through our living room and den and out into the front yard. Walking home through the long rain.

Bradley never played ping pong with us again. He did play a little basekteball with us once, but there were no fireworks. Not long after that, the Bradleys moved away, much to the relief of my parents who had not been enamored with them as neighbors.My father divided the world up into "riff raff" and everyone else. Although he never said it, I had no doubt as to what side of the line he felt that Bradley fell on.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

An American Wedding

I attended the wedding of a good friend's son last night. The boy is in his second year of law school, and the girl is applying to medical schools. They are an attractive, intelligent and succesful couple and I wish them the happiest of marriages.

I focused last night not so much on the specific's of the ceremony last night as I did the overall picture of an American Wedding. Weddings in America in the early 21st century come together at times like corporate mergers ,or a bill supported by a weak disparite coalition of politicians. I think that this has always been so to some extent, but has been exacerbated by a number of things, including, the high divorce rate, the dwindling of religion as the focal point of the ceremony and the extreme expense in entertaining a couple of hundred of your best friends. I have been told, as the father of a daughter, that I can reasonably be expected to spend between $25,000 and $50,000 on a wedding. I think the total cost of mine, which had well over a hundred guests, came to about $900. The 1990s seemed to have resurrected the wedding as a social event for the middle class to show off their wealth and taste.Cookies, punch and cake was out. The seated dinner, the open bar and CAKE were in.

None of this is surprising, the wedding has been an overblown affair at all times and in all cultures, with the father of the bride expected to foot a pretty hefty bill. The first miracle of Jesus allegedly got a father of the bride off the hook by the turning of water into wine and avoiding a last minute trip to see what reds were on sale down at Canan Liquors.Wedding have swung back and forth between small religious ceremonies and three day drunks for many centuries, depending on who has the upper hand in the society, the child or the adult. When I was a teenager, the child had the upper hand and often used it to humiliate the parents by not allowing a huge festive wedding. Today, the child again has the upper hand and has turned 180 degrees ,often opting for the largest and most vulgar, that is to say, gratitously expensive, wedding possible.

You could see the compromises at work last night. The first clue to the need for compromise was that the parents of both the bride and groom were divorced and had remarried, so instead of two families, four families had signifigant input. You need to recall that these were four families that had proven at least one thing in life, they did not get along with each other very well. I hesitate to also mention that none of them had been too conspicuously successful at marriage.The worst thing about all these moms and dads and stepmothers and stepfathers and displaced grandmothers, etc. was that they all required special escorts down the asile prior to the start of the ceremony. It was very much like watching a review of the troops returning from World War II marching down Fifth Avenue, and took almost as damn long. Each and everyone of these individuals had had input into what the ceremony and the following reception would be like. I know for a fact that my friends ex-wife is a devout Catholic, and I am sure that she had some things to say about the choice of venue for the wedding (hotel ballroom) and the number mentions of God in the ceremony (none, although a vauge higher power was mentioned by the Judge adminisitering the vows at some point).

I don't know if this was a Protestant/Catholic battle, or a kids as lapsed Christians issue ,or just a "we can great a great rate at the Hyatt" idea. Whichever it was, there was no messy mention of doctrine, or any of those closed communions during the ceremony, where the uninclined and the uninvited stare at their shoes and contemplate hell fire, moments. In deed, the cermony started with someone, not knowing that a mike was on, uttering a mild expletive, which was broadcast through the hall, to the amusement of most of us.This happened seconds before the bride, looking incredibly beautiful, with one of the most tasteful and yet luxuriant dresses I had ever seen, beagn leading her father on the awkard shuffle down the aisle. Of all wedding traditions, that one is the worst. The bride, always radiant, so overshadows the nervous and usually near bankrupt father, that he fades away into insignifigance before he even gives the girl away.A hollow, check writing spectere of his former self, forced to hand over his baby girl and sit down.

The Judge in this ceremony was an old associate of mine. He told me before the wedding that he did about one a year, always for a good friend. He was burdened in this one by the newly written vows of the bride and groom and he wandered through the wording in somewhat of a dissheveled fashion, on at least one occasion referring to the bride as the husband. There were a few other errors which would not have been noticed except for the fact that officiants don't usually blow lines at weddings. Usually the couple screws up somehow. My wife has never lived down struggling with me at the altar, trying to put my ring on my right hand instead of my left during the climax of our wedding.
This simultaneously made her look to be a bit of an idiot and me to appear to be trying to escape my fate.

Despite the best efforts of the Judge, the wedding ceremony was at least legally completed. What followed was an unusual touch. Following the families of the bride and groom, each row of guests filed out one at a time, one following after the other. This avoided the usual bottleneck of the escape route, but left me woefully behind in getting to the bar. I thought of bolting, but since I was sitting on an aisle seat, I had the responsibility of leading my row out. I imagine that that is how I would feel if my Southwest Airline plane ever went down and I was sitting on the security row, where you are supposed to open the door and wait until everyone else is out. It seems like a real risk, but that row provides you with a great deal of leg room.At any rate, we all filed out and stood around outside the banquet hall waiting for the bride and groom to have pictures made.Two bars opened up out there, a nice touch. It was theoretically possible to get drunk before you even entered the reception.

It is at the reception where these wedding bills typically get out of hand. Jesus could conjure up wine and feed thousands with just a couple of loaves and fishes, but you and I have to deal with a caterer. I won't say that no expense was spared for the party, but I will say that the quality and quantity of food was certainly on par with a nice Sunday brunch at this particular hotel. I had the indignity of being thrown out of a seat and told to check a list outside the hall for a seat assignment. It turned out that there were no seat assignments, but by the time I found this out,all tables had been taken, except for the table bordered by the band on one side, and the children's table on the other.This would have been O.K. except that in a cost cutting measure, the bars had been closed until after all the usual humdrum of the reception had taken place. Official dances, toasts and cake cutting. There was wine being poured, but we were so far from the serving area that it took a long time before it made its way to us. Once it did though, I stopped drinking before it stopped flowing, so no complaints about that.

The hotel staff which can handle a buffet on Mothers Day for 1,000 guests, was incapable of establishing any order in the food service. There were about five seperat serving areas for food, but for some reason everyone, except me assumed, that you were supposed to get in one long line and charge in and out anytime you saw a table with something you liked on it. I quickly realized that I could walk, unimpeded to the antepasta table,go back to my seat, eat my salads and then get up and go to the entrees without standing in line. This meant that I had to eat dinner by myself, but it seemed a small price to pay for not having to wait 20 minutes while talking to some cousin of anyone of the eight parental units who were running the show.

The band turned out to be good. I was told that a fight over whether to have a female singer had been brokered only that morning and apparenlty they had opted to spend the extra money. I was glad, her voice was wonderful. If you closed your eyes you thought that you were listening to a young Wayne Newton. To my shock, after the cake was cut, I was served two delicious pieces by a waiter and never had to stand in line. There was some discussion that perhaps the ornate ceremonial cake was a fake and that slices from sheet cakes had been prepared to be delivered to the tables. If this is so, I congratulate them on the idea. Nothing is worse than standing inline for a tiny piece of cake, behind some old lady who can't make up her mind if she wants some from the bride or groom cake, and then gets talked into both (every time).

All in all, I am happy to report that American Weddings appear to me to be in good shape. They may lack a little bit on the organizational side, and as I silently totaled up the costs of feeeding and watering 200 hungry people,I had to admit that they were not cheap, but they are still joyous occssions. As my friend, the father of four boys and no girls said to me. "It's a wonderful evening, I want you to eat up and drink all you want, I'm not paying for a thing !"