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What a weekend. Thursday I

What a weekend.

I wake up to a 7:00am phone call. It's my youngest brother wondering why I'm not at my parents' house yet. I can hear my dad ranting in the background. He wanted me there by now so that we could get on the road. My cousin is getting married in La Crosse and there's all sorts of family doings going on beforehand. Why he needs to leave at the asscrack of dawn is beyond me, but I've forgotten to set my alarm and so here we are. Thank God I'm packed at least. I get over to my parents' and my mom gives me a little granola and yogurt to get me going. I grouse that I want an egg, and in a show of fatherly love (and forgiveness for being late) my dad makes me one. Poached, soft yolk, on a slice of toasted whole wheat bread: just how I like it. I feel spoiled.

We're on the road by 9:00am. On the way we stop at the cemetery in Lake City (birthplace of water-skiing) to see the graves of Patrick and Nora, the first of our ancestors who came over from Ireland (and the people for whom my sister and youngest brother are named). My dad is irritated because someone has been messing with Nora's grave, and he doesn't know who to call about it. It looks almost like someone might have been trying to remove the stone, which is really weird. Looking at it, I can't tell if it's vandalism or just the ground shifting or something. But what do I know? We stop at Culver's where I get chili cheese fries and a diet coke. I feel superior for not getting a whole big burger meal, but then realize that chili cheese fries are - nutritionally and calorically - probably not much better.

We arrive at our hotel in La Crosse, which is marginal, but has a decent pool. I lay in the sun a little and goof off with my little brother while my Dad plays a round of golf. That evening, we go to my aunt and uncle's. Their son, the groom, is having a barbecue for his friends from out of town. He and his wife-to-be live in Philly, and she's originally from New York City, so there's lots of friends from distant lands. I get to meet the bride, who is completely adorable. I also meet her sister and a few of their friends. I'm mesmerized by their accents and I find it really difficult not to talk in my inspired-by-Linda-Richmond voice. My cousin is trying to introduce all of them to the joys of Wisconsin, so he's got a spread of local beer, brats, and cheese curds. Dessert? Bars, of course. There's a cute guy who eats like three and a half brats and two bars. He's cracking me up.

I return to the hotel with Patrick and my dad and am asleep before 11:00pm because they won't let me keep the light on to read my book.

I'm up at about 7:00am, maybe earlier, I can't remember. My dad literally opens his eyes and is dressed less than three minutes later. I realize there's no way he's going to let me sleep, and even if he did, I'm sharing a bed with my 17-year-old brother who snores at, talks to, and kicks me in his sleep. I throw on some clothes and am at Perkins' earlier than I've ever been there before (not counting the times I stayed up all night and just happened to be at a Perkins' when the sun came up). I'm dying for a decent cup of coffee. I don't get one.

That afternoon, I go across the river to La Crescent to visit my friend Lys from high school (I lived in La Crescent with my family from grades 8-10). It's a total trip: she's married with two kids. Her 5-year-old daughter, Rowan, reminds me of myself so of course I adore her. It's interesting to me how different our lives are, but how happy we each are with where we are at the moment. I try to convince her to go to the 10-year reunion in August, but she ain't havin' it.

I go to dinner that night with 9 other family members: 4 of my dad's brothers (there are 7 total), 2 of their wives, my cousin's wife, my dad and my brother. I sit next to my uncle Denny, who teaches philosophy at a seminary in Lincoln, NB. At the same time he asks me what the Internet is, my cousin's wife points at Patrick's Che Guevara t-shirt and says, "Who's that?" We look at each other, take a deep breath, and start talking. While I'm explaining to Denny how the college girl he read about in Newsweek can make instant money doing porn from her apartment, I look over and see Patrick pointing at a breadstick and saying, "Okay, so this is Cuba..."

At around 9:00pm, I head for Ranison's Ice Cream and Candy. Kelly, another one of my friends from high school in La Crescent, is working there part-time (in addition to being an elementary school music teacher and a massage therapist) and living upstairs. I'm jealous of the romantic living-above-a-shop lifestyle, which is something I've always wanted for some weird reason. The shop is totally charming: the interior looks like it hasn't been updated since about 1952. After she closes, we go upstairs to her apartment so she can change. I'm reintroduced to her little brother, who I haven't seen since 12 years ago when he was 8. Now he's 20 and very cute. I'm disturbed by the fact that someone I knew as an 8-year-old is now someone that I think is attractive, but feel redeemed when my friend admits to having unclean thoughts about his friends (who are just as young). We laugh because we are "older women." We go to the Bodega Brew Pub for a drink. I'm relieved that she, and some other people I know, are going to the reunion. Now I won't be The Lone Loser. We finish our frosty beverages and go over to the Casino, which is my favorite bar in La Crosse. We walk in and I recognize a few of the people from the barbecue the night before who are sitting in a booth. We say hello, but they don't invite us to sit down, so we go to the bar and order a drink. 3-and-a-half brat guy comes and sits with us. He's fun to talk to. He's nice, interesting, and he lives in Hell's Kitchen. That has nothing to do with anything, except that I think it's cool. He's like a cartoon character and I mean that as the highest kind of compliment.

We hang out with him until about 2:00am, then I bring him to his hotel, Kelly to her apartment, and head back to the hotel. My cell phone rings and I see it's my dad calling from his cell phone. Immediately, I know this is trouble. I pick up and he starts ranting about what goddamn time it is and how he's been worried sick and staying up all night. Apparently staying in a hotel room with your father is, in his mind, the equivalent of temporarily living under his roof again.

My dad is up and out of the room at 6:30am so Patrick and I sleep blissfully until 10:00am. We hit the hotel breakfast buffet, which sucks. We give it a half of a star out of 5. Patrick cites them for improper seasoning of the home fries. I'm displeased with the wilted fruit selection and lack of condiments for the nasty scrambled eggs. I get a cup of shitty coffee to go, because it's all I've got and it's better than nothing.

My mom, Austin, and Nora finally arrive which means I can now move out of the room I'm sharing with my dad and Patrick and into a room with Nora. I get dressed for the wedding and realize I've brought the wrong bra for my dress. A major swath of leopard print peeks out of each side of my neckline. Thankfully, I have a matching cardigan I can wear to hide it, but I've got to keep close tabs on it; if it falls open at all I'll have major leopard peekage. We agree on a signal that Nora or mom will give me if they see this happen: they will make a claw with their hand and say, "Rowr." Very subtle.

The wedding is at the golf club and is lovely. Joe is Catholic, Michele is Jewish, so they have a non-denominational ceremony with a judge. But Joe does the thing where he steps on a wine glass, and we all shout, "Mazel Tav!" It's my first time doing that, and I wonder how my super-Catholic relatives are feeling about it. We head inside for cocktails, keg beer, and mingling before dinner. My sister and I get Shirley Temples, just for kicks. I mingle around, taking photos. I'm not sure if I should talk to Andrew (the brat guy) so I don't. He eventually comes up to me, and we talk. We spend the rest of the night "running into" each other. Funny how that works.

I dance a lot, because wedding reception dancing is the best kind: no one is any good, but everyone has fun. Andrew and I finally end up on the dance floor together, attempting to ballroom dance to what sounds like it might be Korn. Halfway through the song, the music cuts out suddenly, and the DJ announces that this will be the last song. Andrew and I look at each other, expecting to hear some Unchained Melody You Are So Beautiful To Me Love Is In The Air kind of ballad. It ends up being "Ride Wit Me" by Nelly. I think to myself that it must be every bride's dream to hear a chorus of "Heyyy...must be the moneyyy" on her wedding day.

After the reception, I go to the Bodega with Andrew and his friends. After about 10 minutes it becomes apparent that we're the most sober ones of the group. We end up giving each other a lot of "What did he say?" and "Holy shit, she's drunk." looks. It's fun. Last call comes and goes, so I call a cab to take me back to the hotel (the rest of them are staying at a hotel up the block, but mine is about 10 minutes away). He waits for the cab with me, but some college kids hop in it before I can get over to it (those meddling kids!). So we walk back to his hotel and call another one from the lobby. He waits for the cab with me in the lobby; he's got all these really great gentlemanly traits which seem so rare. I wonder why. We kiss, which is nice. Then I realize I'm making out in a Holiday Inn lobby and I start laughing. The cab comes, we kiss goodnight, and I'm in bed by 3:00am.

Brunch at the groom's parents' house starts at 9:00am. I wake up around that time, get ready, and pack my bags. As I'm putting all my stuff in my suitcase, my sister tells me I remind her of the over-organized main character in The Wedding Planner.

We're at the brunch by 10. The food is okay, but very heavy on the cheese (it's Wisconsin, go figure). Every egg dish seems to have an inch of shredded cheddar melted on it. I peel it off with my fork. The coffee is atrocious. This is my fourth day without a good cup, and I'm ready to cry.

When we get outside, I mention my previous evening's escapade to my mom and sister. Nora says I'm a "whore from whoreville with a side of slut sauce." We go into downtown La Crosse and find Jules' Coffee Shop. Moments later, I'm on the way home, a good cup of coffee in hand.

Posted July 7, 2002 11:10 PM | On This Day: 2003



Your Honor, we the people are envious: It must be swell to live in an innocent world where you have you never heard of Che Guevara or never encountered neked broads on the Web. The more you know, the harder it is to make sense of anything. To paraphrase Hemmingway: The nescient are the most happy for they take their innocence with them.

...and the guys name was Andrew... See Journal entry dated: June 26th, 2002.ugh.