Thursday, June 02, 2011

Overheard Tonight

At the West Side Target store, a manager talking on the phone:

"What's that, sir? You're caught... you're stuck... you've got your head caught in a vacuum cleaner? What, it's not your head, it's technically your turban? And why are you calling Target about this? Sir, shouldn't you be calling 911? No, sir, I realize you called Target. But what I'm saying is, if you've got your head stuck in a vacuum cleaner, shouldn't you call 911? What? You're stuck in your dirty American hotel? What hotel are you staying in, sir? A Super 8? No, sir, I'm fairly sure even a Super 8 would have vacuum cleaners... Sir, I'm having a hard time believing your story...

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Best Man Speech

[What follows is a transcript of the speech I gave on May 28, 2011, at the wedding reception of Aaron and Heidi Nemoyer. It is a transcript because, while I have a first draft of it typed out somewhere, I edited that first draft in my head over the couple weeks between writing it and giving the speech, and the version that I gave was a generally better one but one which exists nowhere but in the unit of time, now past, during which I gave it. Thus, this is written from memory, and while it may have different wording than the speech I actually gave, the spirit and the idea of it are the same. Also, at one point I (completely inadvertently, I swear) started to call Aaron the bride, but I can't remember where that was.]

ETHAN: To give you all a taste of my history with weddings, when I was six and my brother was three or so--my brother is over there, the taller, skinnier, uglier version of me--we were at the wedding of some old friends of our parents. Both our parents were in the wedding, so we were in the charge of some friends of theirs. Just as they got to the exchange of vows, I turned to my brother and said very loudly, "This is the part I hate." My brother loudly agreed, and we made it onto the wedding tape. I feel I have matured since then.

As best man, I am here to support the groom. And as such, I am supposed to say things like, that Aaron is the handsomest groom I ever saw, and I am terribly happy for him, and I hope his marriage is long and joyful and happy.

Well, I'm afraid I can't. The reason I can't is that I have been Aaron's roommate for the last three years, and as such, have been keeping a list of his faults. Here is an abridged list of Aaron's faults:

He snores.
That is, when he sleeps at all, which is seldom.
When he does sleep, he will carry on conversations with you as if he were awake.
He also hogged all the covers, which was quite a feat since we slept in bunk beds in separate bunks.
He killed my pen. I had named my pen Boswell, and Aaron killed him, and then drew a sarcastic grave marker for him on a cardboard box.
Aaron then took a bite out of the cardboard box.
I once saw Aaron eat a leaf.
Also, he ate all the muffins.

Now, can we allow someone like this to get away with marrying someone as lovely and wonderful as Heidi? I think not. What I'm saying is this: Heidi, run away with me. It's not too late. There's a taxi waiting outside, I've booked a flight to the Bahamas, we can go into witness protection. This can work.

KAREN: I object!

ETHAN: Oh dear, my girlfriend objects. We'll have to deal with that later.

Before Heidi and I get out of here, you all may want to hear a real best man speech. Like I said, I can't give one, but if I did, it would sound something like this.

In one of my favorite short stories, "Babette's Feast," a character makes the sort of speech I think is appropriate at almost any time, and especially so at a wedding. He starts off quoting the Psalms.

Mercy and truth, my friends, have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.

Man, my friends, is frail and foolish. We have all of us been told that grace is to be found in the universe. But in our human foolishness and short-sightedness we imagine divine grace to be finite. For this reason we tremble. We tremble before making our choice in life, and after having made it again tremble in fear of having chosen wrong. But the moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite. Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace plays no favorites and singles out none of us in particular; grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty. See! that which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly. For mercy and truth have met together, and righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.

Aaron and Heidi, if there is one thing I have learned in my admittedly young life, it is that there is grace in everything, whether you know it or feel it or not. Throughout your marriage, God will pour out his grace on you, whether you think he is or not.


It's a pity I can't make that speech, really.