Every so often (weekly at the moment), I’ll be writing a commentary about a story from EMPTY ROOMS LONELY COUNTRIES. I’ll tackle the stories in the order they appear in the book. Given the nature of this exercise, I cannot guarantee that I won’t spoil specific details from the story. So you may want to return to the commentaries here when you’ve finished reading the book. If I don’t address an aspect of the story you were interested in, by all means leave a question at the end of this post and I’ll do my best to answer it.
I was in a bar in Ybor City when Good Eric called me to perform his wedding ceremony. He had remembered I was an ordained minister. I had done it to kill some time at work, enjoying the irony of being an atheist who was an ordained minister – one of those things that entertained me far more than anyone else. When I got my certificate in the mail, I had shown it to practically everyone. I even called everyone I knew and gloated. One of those people was Good Eric.
So a few months later, when his minister backed out of performing his wedding ceremony, Good Eric thought of me:
“Is it possible you can do our wedding?” he asked.
I had stepped outside to get away from the noise at the bar and was still convinced I hadn’t heard him right. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to make some phone calls to make sure.”
I had met Good Eric when I was living in Philadelphia. He was working at one of my favorite comic book stores (not only in the area, but in general) and we eventually became friends. I had hoped we’d keep in touch when I moved back to Florida, but, you know, not quite like this.
I made the phone calls to the Clerk of Orphans Court in Philadelphia the next day from work. The call went something like this:
“Yes, sir, you can perform the wedding in Pennsylvania.”
“But I registered online.”
“I know, sir, and you can perform the wedding in Pennsylvania.”
“I’m not even sure it was real.”
“Sir, it’s real and you can do it.”
“It took about three minutes to do.”
“I’m really a minister?”
And so, a month later, I was on a flight to Philadelphia to perform my first and only wedding.
Every couple has a book that needs to be written. Some lovers have volumes of books, some just one; there’s a rich mythology present just the same. The mythology of lovers is the where the magic is. There are the strange coincidences and quirky moments when everything fell into place. I love to hear these stories, not only because it means so much for the two who experienced it, because it’s the stories that people should be talking about. I don’t care how stressful your day was, how difficult your life is…seriously, how does that better any of our lives? Tell me about that moment when you left her house in the middle of the night, walked waist deep in snow across the city to get home, and realized that you were doing all of this because you were in love with her. Tell me about coming home from your first date and calling your best friend just to tell her that not only was it the perfect date, but you found the man you were going to marry. Tell me the real stories, not the bullshit. There’s magic all around us. With the right mindset, you can fly, but all you want to do is tell me about how difficult it is to crawl.
While “Father Groove” takes a light look at the weekend itself, I took the wedding ceremony extremely seriously, mostly because I was terrified of screwing up. Looking back, I don’t really remember my part of the ceremony itself. I do remember the weeks preparing the material, the scramble to get things done just before, and how the ceremony flew by without any problems followed by the mad rush to the reception.
All in all, it was a lovely ceremony, which it would’ve been even without my involvement.
The reception was a lot of fun, but here’s where things get a little foggy. Good Eric had bought me an entire case of Red Bull and I’m fairly certain I drank every one of those magical cans with healthy amounts of vodka mixed in. There was a lot of dancing on my part, and I participated in what my friends refer to as “The Show” – a rare performance of interpretive dance and screaming that I do whenever I’ve consumed more than a dozen Red Bulls. Any good will that I may have earned during the ceremony, I was certain I squandered at the reception:
At one point, I stood up on the table to show off one of the dance moves I invented, someone called me Father Groove. “That’s right, I’m Father Groove! Feel my power!” I screamed while gyrating my body in a way that made the grandmothers blush and the lesbians want to feed me pudding. It was obvious that everything I ever did in life had been leading me to that moment. It was nearly enough to bring me to tears.
Re-reading the story, I don’t think I left out anything too crucial.
It was a beautiful and strange weekend, and I’m thrilled to have been a part of it.
NEXT WEEK: “Geneva Street”
#1 “Cowboys and Indians”
#2 “Little Conundrums”
#2.5 “Playing With the Dead”**
#3 “The Illusion of Swing”
#4 “Kicking Love’s Ass”
#5 “On Being Velma-less”
#6 “Muted Porn”
#7 “Defying Gravity”
#8 “The Fifth Ocean”
#9 “One Dead (Potted) Plant”
#10 “Remembering Drajra”
#11 “Pancakes, Wishes and Other Tales”
#13 “Before Waking”
#15 “This is Not for You”
#16 “The Mariachi”
#18 “Paying the Tab”