Monday, March 30, 2009

How a wedding was saved from ninjas

So I promised you a follow-up to this weekend's wedding, no?
Let me prelude this with a bit of brain ramblings. However similar, no two weddings are alike. I mean, there are the typical things: ceremony, "you may kiss the bride," subsequent photos, photos, photos, introduction of Mr. and Mrs., first dance and husband and wife, "At Last" playing while people eat, dancing, throwing of the bouquet/garter, cutting of the cake, more dancing, then the sendoff to the honeymoon.

But there are variables. Bizarro scenarios, if you will. For instance, every group has their unique dynamic. Some weddings are more natural than others. Some weddings are tense: you know which ones I'm talking about -- the ones that give you the sick feeling that they just wasted $25,000 only to get divorced within two years. Some have shitty music that totally ruin your night, while others have amazing food that have the power to change your opinion of the bride and groom.

This wedding, was to say the least, different. For one thing, this was 100% no question, the bride's father's wedding. Not my friends'. Mind you, they are adults with their own careers, mortgage, pets, etc. But I suppose they went the traditional route, letting the bride's family pay for most, half, whatever. So naturally, the one with the funds gets the upper hand in what goes down.

The bride's father is a Baptist minister. And a very gregarious and vocal person to boot. It became very clear to me during the rehearsal dinner who was in charge.
He shared some very touching stories, which both impressed and didn't surprise me because he is a public speaker by trade. I also got the impresson that the bride's family is a genuinely NICE group of people. Not fake nice, but really, truly nice. A rarity, methinks.
AND they were Canadian. Always a plus in my book. I met real-live mounties, ya'll -- one of which was the mother of the two very lovely and charming flower girls.
As I expressed before, I was very much looking forward to the ninjas. Let me explain.

In what I think is a sort of rebellion on my dear college friend's part (due to not having much control on how things were going to go down at his wedding and all), that there will be ninjas at his wedding. He asked a couple of old high school buddies to play the part and purchased some ridiculously awesome costumes on

While the bride was getting ready, the groomsmen took pictures. First, the serious pictures with all the dashing penguin suits. Then, individual photos with the groom -- very important, as this is a close-knit group. And then...

The ninjas arrived to fuck some shit up.

Die, ninja!

In the end, my friends, the ninja attack was thwarted by the dashing men in penguin suits, and a wedding was saved. This is, of course, thanks to the guys' collective years of theater training and improvisational blocking skills.
And needless to say, I was overjoyed with the whole scene. This blows away any wedding I've ever attended, simply for the kitsch factor. At the end of the night, I didn't care that there was no alcohol, or much dancing because though this wedding lacked in the traditional pleasures, we found our own joys in spending time with some truly great friends with bitchin' dark/silly/ridiculous senses of humor and of course, witnessing the official union of two people who love each other.
And, don't forget, ninjas.

Friday, March 27, 2009

When I say "ninja" you say "go"

Going back to the ATX this weekend! This time for a wedding -- another damn dry wedding, but a wedding nonetheless. It will be fun, despite the cruel, cruel restrictions...Plus, there will be ninjas present.

Ninjas, I say. Details coming soon.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Almost famous

So my birthday came and went. I am now 28. I'd been preparing myself for 28. Twenty-fucking-eight. It just sounds so odd because I feel like I'm 19. But I'm kind of over the whole, "woah, 28, shit, etc." It's just a number, no?

I celebrated with friends at the usual haunt, 'locks. I piggy-backed one of my movie promotions onto the celebration, a choice I regretted immediately because that meant I had to "work" and take pictures of people with our promo items. But thankfully, two of my extroverted friends took that task on happily.

The rest of the week went by in a blur, and then there was South by Southwest.

Even though I went to college in the area, I'd never gone to SXSW. I KNOW! Hard to believe. But this time it was for work -- a movie junket -- in which I was to meet [unnamed studio]* peeps, movie stars, asshole publicists, and everyone in between.

My boss and I flew in in the afternoon, and met up with one of the studio peeps. We were staying at the Four Seasons, and had a lovely little lunch and an afternoon cocktail (or three). Silliness ensued, and continued into the night, while the rest of the studio peeps trickled in.

Dinner was amazing. We ate at the hotel restaurant, Trio, where I had fish, and we passed around community plates of vegetables. Surprise of the night: I like beets. Yellow ones, not red ones.

After dinner, everyone retired for the evening. As it was only about 10:30, I was still in party mode, so I called my best gay and slurred something into his voice mail about how I was in town and does he want to come to the Four Seasons and live it up Patsy and Edina-style (Ab Fab).

Alas, he did not call back and I had no one to encourage my bad decisions (read: more drinks), so I ambled over to the hotel bar, where I ordered juuuuuust one more pomegranate cosmo, a bottle of Fiji, ate wasabi peas, and watched the hotel piano player. I went promptly to bed, giddy about the celebrity sightings of the day: Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Ben Best, and Carla Gugino.

The next day, I met up with my team, which was now complete with about 10 studio peeps to do the run-through of what was going down that night: red carpet event, subsequent screening of the film, after-party. We'd ordered this gnarly party bus, which was a real trip because there was a pole at the back of it. I want to believe it wasn't meant for stippers, but, well, it looked like it. And there was a TV, which was playing Days of Our Lives at the time.

The red carpet was insane. There was a bit of a calm before the storm, when I just kind of hung around and watched as more and more press showed up. I was pleased to see some familiar Dallas faces amid the chaos, but that feeling subsided as the madness began...

My job was to take pictures to send to the studio. I guess to prove that we did what we said we were gonna do, which was rock the [unnamed film] SXSW junket. So I went back and forth on the red carpet taking pictures, until I was advised to go inside, as the two stars of the movie were about to come out and things were about to get a little crazy.

Screening of the film, yadda yadda, waiting around for the film to end, yadda yadda. My big faux pas of this part was asking the star of the film to stand up, not realizing who it was immediately, to make way for two random people I was escorting to their seats. It was one of those, "really, Tanya? REALLY?" moments.

The afterparty. It was my job to wrangle the stars and their guests and get them into their secret service-type SUVs from the theater, to the party. I was running on kind of an adrenaline high, and had a nice time chatting with the chauffeurs, who were totally professional and at the same time really down-to-earth.

The afterparty was surreal. The VIP section was for people with red wristbands ONLY -- everybody else had a different color wristband and was banished to the other parts of the venue. Every time I went out for a smoke, I was made increasingly aware that the journalists and other folks were not at all happy with their non-red wristbands. They all wanted to be in the red-wristband room, where the stars were.

Okay, I realize that a forbidden zone like the VIP room is only more interesting because you're not allowed to be there. But really, people, it's not that much more interesting. It's just another party room. I never got the glamorous sprinkly tinglies that one would imagine from a party with stars. No drunk starlets dancing on tables in mini dresses, or lascivious encounters in a dark corner. Just another bar with stars and directors and producers congratulating each other, and us, the studio hacks who were there to babysit and keep the lookie-loos and wannabes out.

Again, my job was to get the actors and director into their cars and off to the hotel. I must admit, it was a strange power to have -- telling famous people where to go, and, "oh, no, not THAT car! The director's wife has her purse in THAT one. Go in this one instead. Thaaaaaaanks." Upon arriving at the hotel, I was with a couple of the studio gals and there they were, the movie people, drunk and still celebrating at the hotel bar, inviting us to hang out with them.

Another strange moment. Do I accept the invitation to join these people at this late hour and spend the next 45 minutes uncomfortably observing these actors who have entertained me and made me laugh many times before now, or do I play professional, take the high road, so to speak, and go to bed, preserving these people in my mind just as I know them, eliminating all chances of their image being tarnished in my head, not to mention risking my professional integrity?

I chose the latter. It was 2:45 AM and I had to be up at 8 AM the next day. Plus, I still had to upload the pictures I'd taken and send them to the studio, so I was up until 3:30. I still think it was a wise decision, as I was tired enough the next day.

The last day was my favorite. Yes, I was running on near empty at this point, what with the hangover the day before, and lack of sleep, but it was totally funny in a sadistic way to see the same people from the night before with their coffees and glazed hungover eyes going through their press conference (which was hilarious, by the way -- I have to hand it to them for how brilliantly funny they all are), doing their jobs just as I was. After the press conference, my intern and I were in charge of (very quickly) tearing down the posters and easels, and on our way out to the infamous party bus, we were suddenly caught in the middle of fucking mayhem, with fans trying to get to the stars, arms wrapping around me to get a picture, just ooooooone picture of [unnamed beautiful actress]. It was almost too much to bear.

The party bus trip back to the hotel was another surreal moment. We all rode together, me, the studio people, and the stars. The director, who was totally sweet and down-to-earth, looked at me at one point and realized that we hadn't met, so he just candidly said, "Hi, I'm ____." So sweet. Later on in the day, he asked me if I had any gum, and I shared my Bubble Tape with him and told him it's okay for him to get his fingers in it cause I'm not afraid of cooties.

Interviews at the hotel, yadda yadda, things were winding down, and we were nearing the end of our adventure at SXSW. Although I wasn't blown away by the hotel, I was impressed with the quality of their coffee, of which I had copious amounts. Top notch, and dammit if I didn't get the name of the brand. Probably something generic like Community Coffee, but you know how things taste different in certain situations.

I took more pictures of the interviews, a job that was starting to wear on me because it was kind of paparrazi-ish, but all in the name of my job, no? We had a lot of down time, so I had a chance to bond with some of the LA studio gals, some of whom were really cool. My age, thin, stylish, secret-fan-girl-yet-professional-types.

And then it was over. I traveled with my boss, who is not generous when it comes to praise, but I'll toot my own horn here and say that she told me I did a great job. Fuck, who doesn't like hearing that? The whole thing went swimmingly and everyone was pleased.

Especially me.

*(Sorry for the secrecy and vagueness. You understand.)

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Yahoo! inbox, limited

This is not going to be a happy story. I'm warning you now.

My mother is a character. To say the least. Since she and my dad divorced, I've only known of a handful of boyfriends. She is a bit secretive.

To say the least.

Luis Miguel is the first boyfriend she was ready to introduce to my brother and me. This guy was special. She was not going to hide this one.

I was 18 and just embarking on the journey that is Matt and me, so I was a bit distracted. To be honest, I was wary of this new guy who'd swept my mother off her feet and made her...happy.

I first met him at a very calculated dinner. I can't for the life of me remember where it was, but I remember it was nice, with linen napkins and you could smoke in there. My greatest rebellion at the time was smoking, so when I saw that Luis Miguel smoked Parliaments, I said, "hey, can I have one?" I knew it would make my mother uncomfortable, so I bummed one after the other, and commented on the funny hollow filters.

The months went by. He lived in Houston, so I didn't see him much. Just as well. I didn't want to see him. I was in my own world, and still not comfortable with this new man inmy mother's life.

He sent birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, "saludos," whenever he got the chance. I didn't appreciate or aknowledge any of them.

A couple of years into their relationship, I got used to the idea of him. I'd spent some time with him and realized he wasn't that bad of a guy. He loved my mother, and tried really hard to make us like him.

I noticed, after time, that she was natural around him. She was funny, charming, even, especially when seeing her through his eyes, which were always full of adoration. He celebrated her every nuance.

I'd observe little familiar patterns of her around him: they'd make dinner together, we'd have a casual cocktail while dinner is being prepared, sit down to eat in kind of a formal way -- he was old-fashioned in the way that he always told me to serve Matt's food for him -- he'd praise my mom for her cooking, and never failed to mention how her cooking is much like his own mother's; coffee, after-dinner cigarette, then jokes.

They loved their jokes.

One summer, Luis Miguel asked Matt and me if we needed some new couches, as he was getting some new ones. He said we had to come pick them up in Houston, but he'd pay for the U-Haul, and of course we could stay with him, and how fun, we'll make dinner, and have some drinks, etc.

Matt and I were living in San Antonio at the time, and knowing how I am of the "lonesome for family sort," a weekend trip to Houston for some new couches seemed like a nice idea. Luis Miguel was a solidified family member at this point, and I was rooting for him and my mom to somehow make it work: for her to live with him in Houston, or for him to live with her in Brownsville...

It was the first time we'd spent time with him without my mom around. The night we spent there, I remember drinking gin and tonics and we must have opened two or three bottles of wine. At some point, Luis Miguel got very serious and announced that he'd proposed to my mom a couple of times. Both times, she'd declined, saying she didn't want to get married. Fair enough. He showed me the ring -- a gigantic pink diamond in a perfect little box -- and it must have been the wine or something, but I hugged him for what seemed like minutes and wept. He cried, too, and it sounds like a silly drunken emotion-fest, but it was quite real and I felt as if I objectively witnessed a man's sorrow at not having the woman he loves. He didn't have her the way he wanted.

I can tell you of other memorable times with Luis Miguel, but I'm afraid I won't reach my point if I keep going down the proverbial "Memory Lane."

As fate would have it, LM and my mom broke up. The relationship wasn't going to move forward. His job kept sending him to random places like Ancona, Italy and Dubai, and finally Singapore, which is where he is now.

But not for long.

We've kept in contact, Luis Miguel and I. He never had children, and has always said that Matt, my brother and I were like the kids he never had. We talk on the phone once in a while, but the biggest presence he has in my life is through my Yahoo! inbox, where he sends two to seven forwards a day.

I used to see these forwards as a nuisance. Why would I want to see yet another PowerPoint about how Jesus Christ died for our sins, and if you forward to seven of your friends in the next 30 seconds, your life will be blessed, etc.

Now I see it differently.

There was one e-mail from him that had no attachment. There was no "Fwd." in the subject line.

The subject line was "Pragnosis del doctor" or something like that. I knew he'd had some health issues, but nothing like what I was about to read.

Long story short, Luis Miguel has terminal cancer. A tumor in his kidney spread to his left lung, and there's a separate tumor in his brain. He's fucked.

A separate e-mail went out to "undisclosed recipients" saying something to the effect of "I've accepted what is happening to me, I've been given anywhere from 11 months to 4 or 5 years to live, but I've elected to live out the rest of my days at home in Houston, where I will live out my days as if nothing is happening to me, and I will keep you all in my heart and my prayers."

This was about two weeks ago.

The heartache I felt was, if anything, confusing. I've never experienced something like this before. I'm grateful that no one especially close to me has passed away. In fact, I've been lucky up until this point.

And when someone dies, it's unexpected, sudden. Not in this case. Luis Miguel knows what's happening to him, at 55 years old, and has the unique position of having a vague idea of when he's going to die. Of when he will cease to exist.

When I first read the e-mail, I went into shock mode. Not in a dramatic way, but disconnected, as if he were already dead. I unwittingly envisioned the last visit, or last phone call, or last e-mail...

I've never been religious. In fact, I've been known to be quite contemptuous of religion in general. Thankfully, I've grown out of that insidious contempt and learned to just calm down and accept that it's a large part of many people's lives, even if it isn't a part of mine. But now, when I see a forwarded e-mail from him, I can't help but relish in that he's here one more day. One more day to send me an inspirational e-mail -- something that touched him enough to pass on. While he's still around.

I can't help but feel at peace when I see my inbox shows three new messages. I know it's him sending out his last messages.

As the weeks have passed, I've grown used to the idea. No more shock or anger. Just deep, fleeting sadness. At first, I thought about him every day. At random times, like when I looked at the new throw pillows we've bought for the couches he gave us, and how we threw the old ratty ones away. Why did we do that? Well, they were old...Etc. Or when I'm in the kitchen and reach for the blender that he bought us when Matt graduated from college, and remember the time he and my mom came to visit us in Dallas and my room mate farted in front of him and my mom, and how they just stayed quiet until he left the room, at which point they laughed about it.

My mom says, "Thank God for sparing me that kind of pain." Of course she means that she's glad that she's not in a relationship with him anymore and, oh my God, what could have been? In a short time, she'd be mourning the loss of her partner, and "thank God that that's not the case!" Her words, not mine.

If we were the kids he never had, then he is the step dad I never had. Even though the relationship between he and my mom has come to an end, I haven't let go. As long as there is a semblance of love and kindness, I don't let go.

And I won't. No matter how much time passes.