Yes, this post has lots of first names, no I'm not going to tell you which people are which LJ people, you either know these people or you don't need to know them in order to read the story. If you know these people you were probably THERE for the story.
Friday Afternoon Drive
I woke up on Friday feeling really crappy. Achy, upset stomach, tired. I hadn't done anything particularly stressful the night before. I called in sick from work, drank some juice, ate some food, and went back to sleep. So of course when it came time to pack for the trip I was behind schedule and rushed. But I got all packed up just as Rob arrived. I packed two jackets and two shirts because I couldn't decide what I wanted to wear. I brought my Star Trek tie. I forgot to bring dress shoes.
Rob drove down from Chicago and picked up me and then we picked up Morgan. Sadly we forgot to figure out where Arthur's Garden Deli was before we left so we didn't get to go there even though we went through the Quad Cities. Rob brought along some fantastic Korean pop music for us to listen to on the way there (I'm all set up with MP3s of this stuff to enjoy now too). I slept through most of the uneventful 5-6 hour car ride because I was still feeling pretty worn out.
As soon as we pulled in and saw the bonfire (Pam's family had cut down a dead tree and set the ENTIRE thing on fire. You could see the blaze from miles away, the pictures are only of the dying glow, not the full glory) and saw Pam and her Bou standing on a table regaling the crowd with their engagement story my spirits started to lift! By the time we walked up to the fire in darkness and were slowly recognized by old friend after old friend I was already soaring. Except for the few folks that I saw at Michele's wedding I hadn't seen most of these friends from high school for about 3 years (our 5 year reunion) and except for that one day it'd been 2-5 more years since I'd seen any of them. But we all keep track of each other through the grapevine in one way or another. Sara F in particular noted that she'd been getting updates on my life from our mutual friend Ben (her ex). Which is funny because I don't really talk to Ben much more than Sara but I do talk frequently to my and Ben's mutual friend Jared and even more frequently to Jared's partner Rose. It's a twisted grapevine. Needless to say Sara didn't actually know much about my last 3 years but it was very nice to know that she was at least vaguely aware of my continued existence.
Apart from a bunch of small talk about jobs and housing and hobbies, the most relevant thing that Sara, an early alcoholic prodigy of our peer group, learned was that I now drink (get drunk) at social occasions. And this was a grand social occasion. So we started right in on the shots. We ran out of whiskey pretty quickly so I started doing Vodka shots. I've always said that "I've acquired the taste for alcohol" was code for "I'm a boozer lush". Years ago I tried to drink vodka and I bounced off of the smell. This time it didn't phase me at all. It seemed smoother than the whiskey. I'm a boozer lush.
Ironically, none of my old friends were surprised by the beard because I had it 3 years ago when I last saw them...even though it has come and gone many times since then. Back then it was the Beard of Solitude - marking major changes in my relationship status. Now it is an equinox beard, marking the seasons.
The bonfire was a bachelor/bachelorette/bridal/groomal/sho
As the party moved on and my buzz got stronger I eventually just kind of wandered off to the far side of the fire to play a little harmonica. Although I am SURE my musical abilities are MUCH impaired when drunk, I REALLY have a lot of fun playing in that state. I find that when I'm drunk I like to make the most of any sensory inputs I possibly can. Moving feels good. Playing or listening to music feels good. Touch feels good. So sitting in the grass looking into the dying embers of the once mighty fire and playing music was great. That a bunch of drunks (who either didn't know I played or last heard me play 10 years ago near a similar bonfire when I was JUST learning) enjoyed it was even cooler.
Pam and Rich met in the Navy where they are both officers. The non-IMSAn, non-Family, folks at the party were mostly Navy-folk. I tell ya, it's folks like these that keep my faith in the basic goodness of humanity. I've yet to meet a person from the Navy that I didn't think was a really cool person. Just regular folks. I may believe the military is often used by politicians for very bad ends and may attract some minority of real bad people who do real bad things, it is good to know that the average military type isn't really "the military type". They're just good folks. I've never met (as friends) military folks from the other branches....so who knows about them.
After the bonfire we went back to our Hotel where 8 of us got some cards and pizza and played hearts (I just can't seem to visit IMSA geeks without cards breaking out eventually). They wouldn't let us swim because we were too drunk and the pool was closed. Probably a good thing. Then we went off to bed.
The wedding was beautiful. It was a small town catholic wedding. Very laid back. They didn't do mass. They weren't in uniform. Pam's dress had an AWESOME huge long train and it sparked like all get out (as did her fancy ring). There were lots of scary pictures of a tortured Jesus all over the place. Lots of cool candles. The priest helped everyone get comfortable right off the bat by telling some random joke and also saying that we should participate in whatever way we felt comfotable, he would tell us to stand and sit but we should just ignore him. There were some bible readings and some ceremony and then they were married. It all went very smoothly, very comfortably, and it was a joyous process to watch. I'm always a big sucker for the whole ceremony of publicly declaring a life-bond, no matter how religious or a-religious it is. Ritual is danmed cool. Some of the sexist/patriarchal Genesis reading made me want to giggle out loud but I held it in. I absolutely loved that the ceremony ended with the priest telling us all to hug (or handshake) and meet our neighbors and say something nice to them. Then Pam and Rich dismissed us by giving each and every person in the Church a hug. Much cooler than the receiving line (and easier for them because less forced chitchat!).
A surprise was seeing Marti, the IMSA librarian and archivist at the wedding. I see her at weddings all the time. She's definitely one of the IMSA staff who has the most interest in the alumni life of her former students. She's the nicest person. And she apparently likes to drive her fast sporty car ("all I know is that my car just likes to go").
As they left the church we blew bubbles on them. It was windy and rainy but we persevered. And then we ran to our cars and headed to the reception.
The reception was at the local Knights of Columbus hall. Basically a big multi-purpose meeting room with a bar attached. The perfect small town venue for such an event.
Commence second day of drinking, this time starting at 2pm. We found out minutes after we arrived that a ROUND of drinks for 10 people ran us only $20. You could get a shot and a coke for $2. So we all had fun playing the Big Spender and buying rounds for everyone. I had jack and cokes, shots of jack, shots of jameson, shots of tequila, repeat. Again, Sara and I were the primary forces egging each other and others on to further drunkenness. Woah.
All the usual stuff happened. Dinner. The dinner tables had all these AMAZING chocolate pieces that were all HOMEMADE by our friend Anne. I couldn't believe it. She just taught herself to make gourmet candies. Excellent. Dancing. The DJs knew the small town wedding drill to a T. Lots of country music and plenty of "traditional" games. We did hokey pokey, macarena, electric slide, musical chairs, chicken dance, dollar dance, garter toss, bouquet toss, bride-groom dance, bride-father dance, old married couples dance, and all other such things that you can imagine.
During the dollar dance I danced with Pam first but then noticed that Rich's line was very very much shorter than Pam's. So I went over and paid the Best Man for a dance with Rich. He was freaking out. It was hilarious. He extended the dance before me for quite some time. Finally we were together. He was blushing. I broke him in though, by the time a third guy was dancing with him he was jokingly grabbing ass.
I made several requests of the DJs and by the third one the woman asked me "You're not from Iowa are you?". I guess it was obvious that I was not. I had requested Black '47's Funky Ceili, They Might Be Giants' Istanbul, and The Apotheosis remix of Carmina Burana. None of those are particularly obscure (though they certainly aren't pop music). Luckily Patty had a Black '47 in her car. In fact she had a TON of stuff that I thought would be good to hear. So we went out to her car a few times to preview tunes so we could make recommendations to the DJ...prompting Sara to ask us exactly what we'd been doing all that time out in the parking lot. She was dying to start a rumor, I guess. When we got them to play Black '47 all the IMSA kids started dancing like mad. We were quite burned out by the end of the 2 songs (Funky Ceili and The Reels) and three of us collectively drank a whole pitcher of water. I got a blister on my ankle from jigging in dress shoes. The country music came back and so did the kids and old people to the dance floor which was fine with us. The DJs asked us later about Black '47 and wrote down info, I know what they'll be adding to their collection.
Eventually the party wound down, the DJs broke their rig down, we packed up the hall, and headed back to the hotel for the after party (with a stop at the grocery store for MORE BOOZE.
Interlude - Being an Outsider
Now seems as good a time as any to step back from the narrative and talk about a trend that I've been observing and thinking about for a while now at every big social gathering that I go to. I really feel like an outsider in all of my social circles these days, slightly more isolated than the rest of the gang.
Most of my closest friends have moved away, and while we remain closest friends we don't have the day to day thing going on and I'm not as close to our mutual friends as they are. I love living in Urbana but I sure as hell need to see more of my nationwide friends, I miss them. And it makes me sad that some of them I've simply never gotten the CHANCE to get to be great friends with even though I know it'd happen in an instant if we were close together. There are certain people in life that you just know you have a pleasant comfortable spark of understanding with. There are certain people that you know you would end up spending a lot of time pal-ing about if you were in the same place.
But with my IMSA '95 friends I feel like maybe I dropped a ball somewhere along the way. I was always a class of '94 groupie when I was in High School and I always assumed that because of it my classmates ('95) probably all thought I was lame. I assigned myself the role of outsider in my class because it was a role I was used to and comfortable with. I know how to be an outsider. I also know how to form close bonds with other outsiders (xref the Wauconda babbel crowd (mostly not from my class)) outside my class-peer group. So there were all these people that dated my friends and roomates or sat next to me in class or studied with me or went running with me in the mornings and I thought they were super cool people but I assumed they had no impression of me at all, or just thought I was lame because maybe I wasn't enough of a go getter (I always had this impression that everyone but me in my class was a real go getter). Then the summer after graduation I started hanging out with that crowd. I was amazed that I kept being invited into that crowd. I still always felt like an outsider with everyone except Jake (my former roomate) and Michele (who I was, unbeknownst to me, falling for). And then combine college and career scattering with breaking up with Michele and me figuring that the whole crowd who were her friends had me figured for a hurtful jerk (perhaps a justified opinion, at the time)) and I really just kinda lost touch with everyone and my outsider status was complete again.
This outsider complex (which breeds an outsider reality) of mine isn't just about IMSA '95. It has really become true of my Chicago Duck-O-Sphere circle as well. I may be one of Don's oldest friends, through thick and thin, but I'm constantly jealous of the bond everyone up there has with each other. It is a bond that I am an arms length away from. This outsider thing manifests itself in feeling like an interloper in such simple activities as couch cuddling or not having heard from anyone that Sam and Tish don't live together anymore but those things are just symptoms of a deeper truth. I'm not around on a daily basis so no matter how much we might all care about each other, I'm not going to be part of the core bond, the core culture of that circle of friends. So any form of touch or communications that is trivial for them is a big leap for me.
Touch is such an interesting indicator of comfort and trust. I've been an outsider in SO MANY friend groups where touch is common and innocent and comfortable. But I've always held myself far enough away to not be part of that level of intimacy. I'm not the first shoulder they cry on. I'm not the one they offer a backrub (or ask for one from). I'm not the subject of drunken flirtatious antics. Sometimes I cross the line myself and then I constantly wonder "do they think I'm a jerk for assuming I'm on the same level as they are with each other, for assuming that because I am that comfortable with them that they are so with me?" "am I being that totally anti-empathic guy who just ruins a perfectly good laid back moment by not going with the flow (the flow that keeps the outsider out)?" I mean this isn't big stuff. It's accepting an invitation, it's offering an invitation, it's participating in the conversation. Some experience with such moments of assertive friendliness lead me to believe that I really am no outsider at all and it is all in my head. But I still have to heed the paranoia that everyone is just an ultra-polite actor playing the part of a friend because they're so damned nice. Silly me.
The Afterparty - Sexy Drunken Chaos
So yah, the afterparty. There was a lot of drinking and we were playing (or trying to play) cards. I won't bore with the details which were more of the same except...
All of a sudden, this girl (names omitted due to this being a public entry, those who were there know exactly what happened, those who weren't don't need to know who did what) is leaning over and kissing me. And it was nice. And I kissed back, a lot. Out of nowhere. It was a good kiss. (Well, between being drunk and having not kissed anyone in more than half a year I may not be the best judge....but it sure felt nice. Rubbing my beard or touching my fingers or trying to walk felt nice at that point of drunkenness). And then, she's kissing the guy on the other side of her. And then some other guy. And then me. Etc. This has become quite a spectacle at this point. At one point she's kissing (on a dare) another girl. It seemed pretty clear to me that this was all just meaningless enjoyment of the feeling of drunkenness and that seemed perfectly reasonable to me. No twangs of jealousy or expectations of anything "further" happening. Attracted though I may be to her in a general sense, I didn't want to hook up with an old friend while we were both drunk. I was too gone to figure out WHY that seemed like a bad idea but I was aware enough to realize it wasn't the sort of thing the sober me would do. But I sure wasn't about to stop the smooching. I love smooching, I miss smooching. And it felt like this sort of instant affirmation of long dormant friendship (nevermind most of the other kissees were near strangers). This whole drunken meaningless kisssing among friends thing is supposed to happen all the time, but it never happened to me. Thanks! I'm sure we freaked a lot of people out. Sorry!
So then, Pam comes in, sees the scene, and whisks her away to talk. The rest of us keep drinking and playing cards. A whirlwind had hit us and passed. The party continues on. Then she came back. Apparently Pam took her off to forbid her from hooking up with me or the engaged guy (whose lap at that point I was sitting on) because I was too close to the friend group, this girl was forbid by Pam from doing something that I really didn't think was going to happen. Whatever. I'm glad Pam was looking out for our drunken wellbeing and all but I also felt a little saddened that the prospect of such a thing happening seemed like SUCH a bad idea to Pam that she felt the need to forbid it. Am I such a bad guy? Is it such a bad choice to pick me (and 3 or 4 others) out of a crowd as the object of flirtation? Whose feelings (except possibly our own) would really be hurt by such a thing? It isn't that I wanted or expected anything beyond the drunken smooching to happen but I sure felt like even more of an outsider that I was the one that some insider had to be warned off from. I was the object of the warning, not the subject.
Of course, at the time I was still damned happy with life in general, with or with out smooching so I didn't spend too much time thinking about it. We played cards and hung out until everyone went off to bed. Then I grabbed some harps, wandered across the parking lot, and played for a few hours while I sobered up. I didn't want to waste the high of the evening on sleeping. I guess Rob heard me playing through the open window, I should have wandered farther. When I got too cold I came in and read from LeGuin's Birthday of the World (I had an extra copy with me that I was going to give to Michele the next day) for a while and then turned in and had all kinds of awesome dreams.
The next morning we all had one last breakfast at Perkins before going our separate ways. Everyone was worn out from the partying but still pumped up by all the good vibe and there was a definite tension between never wanting to leave and wanting to just get home and to bed. It became pretty clear that the kissing girl from the previous paragraphs didn't remember ANYTHING from most of the weekend. That was kind of sad, but I guess I half expected it given how much more than me she was drinking. We actually rehashed several conversations we'd had the last few days, it's funny how people think of the same things given the same input. I always wonder with drunken forgetfullness how much of it is conscious forgetting as a mask for having done crazy things while drunk. If the latter, what does it mean that I've NEVER forgotten (or regretted) anything I've ever done while drunk? (probably just the obvious)
Home - Denouement
Again, I slept most of the car ride. Rob was a crazy driving maniac, didn't want to share the wheel (smart people don't share the wheel with me anyway). We saw some army trucks carrying weapons of mass destruction, we listened to death metal, we got home.
And then, as if we hadn't had enough fun already, we grabbed Scott and went out to see Kill Bill, vol 1. That movie totally rocked. You should all go see it.
Then Rob took me to Chicago and I stayed at my sister's pad on Sunday night.
On Monday, I met with a completely different set of IMSA friends and went to see An Acoustic Evening with Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Dar Williams, Shawn Colvin, and Patty Griffin. When I got there I found out we had an extra ticket so I made a ton of calls and finally found Heather, planless and willing to meet us at the Chicago Theater. The theater was beautiful, the women had great harmonies, the sound was excellent, the show was fun. Heather took the el with me back to her car and gave me a ride back to my sister's place. We had a conversation about the inner Duck-o-sphere clique and how it is non-exclusive but so tight knit that it can feel alienating to outsiders. I observed that Don often has a very special skill for breaking the barriers of alienation with some people and that is why I think he ends up with such tight knit great friend circles around him (even if he, like me (but different) isolates himself from it from time to time). I was shocked to learn (the genesis of the conversation by round about means) that Sam and Tish weren't living together anymore (for like months). This was News To Me. No one ever tells me anything. Anyway, it was nice to talk to Heather one on one about anything, even briefly. I've only ever known her so far as a random new friend of the group, not so much as an individual.
And then I was supposed to go back to work on Tuesday but the rain flooded Lake Shore Drive and I missed my bus, so I took Amtrak that night. We were held up for 2 hours (on an already late train) in Kankakee while they waited for the cops to come take an unruly passenger away. I stayed up late last night processing pictures and got to work late. Tonight we had a great house dinner and watched Angel kick butt and the cubs lose it all. Now I'm pulling an all nighter writing this, then doing some contract work, then going to work EARLY. Then shows meeting. Then SLEEP. Then another day of work. And then I'm heading back to Chicago for MORE FUN.
All in all, a FANTASTIC fucking weekend. I can't wait for my New Year's Party. I can't wait for future random vacations to keep in touch with all my new re-found old friends. I refuse to drift away from these people.
Oh I was going to put in an explicit paragraph or two pondering the concept of hedonism in there because Jay jokingly accused me of being one today and I wondered "and what is so wrong with liking to feel good?" I am addicted to sensations. I like good food. I like being high. I like smooching. I like touch. I like walking in beautiful gardens. I like giving and receiving massage. I like good and complex smells. I like making and hearing music. I like small amounts of interesting pain. I like colors. I like the sound of static and pink noise and waterfalls. I like walking naked in the rain and skinny dipping in the deep dark. I like combining good sensations. I like sharing good sensations. Why would anyone turn down any of those things if they came freely and without harm to self or others (but aye, there's the rub, are we to be puritan and assume that harm will always come, are we to be naive and assume harm will never come, or are we to find that impossible unstable equilibrium point and balance on it?). So there you go, a paragraph about hedonism.bou - Pam's new husband is Richard Bou. That's right, not only is it every girl's dream to marry a "Rich Beau" but we always used to call her "Pambo" because she was such a bad ass.