There comes a time in everyone's life when they must do something that takes them outside of their comfort zone. A time when an Olympic swimming gold medalist must perform on a live late-night sketch show (and now, playing a block of wood...Michael Phelps!). A time when a fake newcaster is asked to throw the first pitch at a Mets game (try to get the ball OVER the plate, Jon Stewart. Not that I could have done any better). And, of course, a time when I went to a wedding with one of my girls in the great state of Georgia.
I have often been quoted as saying that the continental United States is made up of places that I fly over on the way to a coast and Chicago. However, despite my best efforts, I was finally forced to visit one of those places: Duluth, Georgia. Duluth is about a 45 minute drive from the Atlanta airport, most of which I spent going over raunchy wedding stories with Erika, Amber, and the gay father of the bride (who shall be henceforth referred to as Big Daddy). I felt great relief knowing that there would be at least one more homosexual at the ceremony, assuming that that would at least mean that I would not be the only male dancing. The rest of the time I spent going over adages in my head like "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" and "Fasten your seatbelts! It's going to be a bumpy night!"
The first order of business was the rehearsal dinner that night, and things started to go downhill almost immediately. First of all, we got a ride to the rehearsal with the groom's party, where two things were quickly established. 1) That one of the groomsmen was wearing a pleated denim kilt, and 2) that the wedding, like the rehearsal, would be taking place outside. In Georgia. In early September. Holy humid, Batman. With visions of heat rash and pit stains dancing in my head, I quickly retreated into the air conditioned reception hall, and watched my bridesmaid friends suffer, as they rehearsed how to walk 30 feet for approximately an hour. After everyone was sure exactly how to not screw up the day that the bride had been dreaming about since she was first told she was a pretty pretty princess when she was 6, the gathering dispersed, and reconvened at a local restaurant for the actual dinner portion of the evening.
Once everyone had gathered, the New York contingent quickly armed themselves with liquor, and claimed the table nearest to the bar so we could get our hands on more on short notice. The food was actually surprisingly good for an Italian restaurant in the south, and the evening appeared to be progressing normally. Naturally, we all should have been waiting for the other shoe to drop, but lulled into ease by the wine we were drinking, we weren't aware a problem was developing just one table over, where the minister was sitting.
A short word on the minister. He is the bride's step grandfather. You'll all remember Big Daddy, the bride's gay father? Well, Big Daddy has a lover, and his lover has a father, and his father has Jesus. And not the nice, forgiving Jesus that many of the Christians up north seem to believe in. We're talking about a full-on fire and brimstone, cast sinners down into the pits of hell for eternal damnation and torment Southern Baptist Minister...you know, the good kind.
Back to the action at hand! While our table and half the rest of the reception were pickling ourselves at the open bar, apparently the Minister was having some trouble reconciling our debauchery with his religious beliefs. You see, it seems the good man had never presided over a union in which liquor of any kind was consumed at the reception or at the rehearsal dinner. The fact the there were drinks being offered was enough to give him fits; one look at our double-fisting table, and the man was nearly apopleptic. The bride came over, rolling her eyes, and expressed a deep desire to call off the wedding and elope, if only to escape the brewing insanity around her. It is a repeated observation of mine that the people who should be the happiest at a wedding , i.e. the bride and groom, generally look to be one over-cooked crab cake away from a Romeo and Juliet-esque murder/suicide.
Naturally, no one at the table allowed the discomfort of one religious nutbag to curb our fun at all. As the evening wore on, we started to acquire some new friends, mostly in the form of the groomsmen that had ferried us to the rehearsal in the first place. Drawn to the table by Amber's tremendous chest, they quickly found a good time in our discussion of the myriad other guests and their obvious shortcomings. And this was our introduction to Junior Mints. Not the delicious candy I've had a long, loving relationship with, but a groomsmen whose name I couldn't remember in my mentally compromised state, and Erika took it upon herself to nickname for me. We all then quickly picked our own favorite candy to call ourselves, and alas, I wasn't coherent enough to realize that mine obviously should have been Skittles. Taste the rainbow...
Junior Mints quickly revealed himself to be what can only be described as a bi-curious Navyman, who spent most of the night being torn between ogling Amber's dirty pillows and trying to entice me into allowing him to explore the finer points of man-love. Being deep behind enemy lines, there was no way I was going anywhere near him; people in Georgia get real upset about that kind of thing. Luckily, Amber was able to distract him with her breasts, and despite him running his hand through my hair, pinching my nipple and trying to grab my crotch, I was able to get through the evening unscathed and intact.
The day of the wedding dawned bright and hot. I spent most of the day in bed, watching Brendan Fraser, and pitying the ladies their duties in hair and make-up which woke them up at 6 am and had taken them away all day. I hitched a ride to the ceremony, and helped Amber and Erika find air vents to stand over in their dresses to keep them fresh. The wedding began outside, and as promised I was fully damp in the space of 30 seconds. The ceremony itself was one of the best of it's kind, being under 15 minutes, and with enough background noise that I could hardly hear anything. It also did lead to a wonderful new riddle: what's that noise after the woman finished singing her solo at the Southern wedding? That's the sound of one homosexual clapping in Georgia. I've never claimed to be up on my wedding etiquette...I'm the one who looks around in a church during the ceremony to try to figure out if I'm supposed to stand up, sit down, or fight fight fight. However, I don't think I had ever committed a faux pas quite as frowned upon as the ill-advised clapping...I half expected the woman sitting behind me to reach into her purse, pull out a carefully disguised machete, and put all of Georgia out of my misery then and there.
The reception was, in and of itself, fairly uneventful. The girls and I agreed that the best looking man there (outside of me, of course) was the gentleman sitting next to me in a wheel chair. The bridesmaids and groomsmen were suitably uncomfortable when forced to walk together and be introduced as faux couples. And most importantly, I saw the most hideous groom's cake that has ever been created. Shaped like a football field, covered in bright green icing, the groom's cake was as completely tacky as the bride's was tasteful. Placed prominently, and completely unmissable to anyone not headless, the football field was populated by small figures of pop culture icons like Darth Vader, Mr. T, Spider-Man and, my personal favorite, The General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard. You know, the one the plays "Dixie" when the horn is honked, and is a symbol of the Confederate States of America? The War of Northern Aggression is alive and well!
Ultimately, however, I made it out of Georgia alive. There were some close calls, and some times where I seriously wondered if I would ever be the same. But Georgia and I made some wonderful memories together...not the least of which was the woman who decided that these shoes with black socks was the way to go for footwear at a wedding. Well, on one foot anyway; the other one was in a cast, having apparently recently been broken, but I won't make fun of her for that. It turns out that some of the Southern hospitality wore off on me after all...