Let’s Not Stand On Ceremony: Becoming Reverend Reck, Part 1

I was in the middle of my attempted return to a nightly yoga practice and (un)comfortably contorted into a parivrtta parsvkonasana (a revolved side angle pose… ) when my cell lit up with a text message fit for the opening lines of a Camus novel:

“Today, our Japanese rabbi died.”

My best friend, a bubbly, intelligent, and kind culturally-Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York City, was getting married to a warm, thoughtful, and humorous Japanese bar owner in exactly one month. And after all the pinterest boards and dessert tastings, this was the last thing she needed.

Shocking, I know, but like unicorns, Japanese rabbis are kind of rare.

giphy (1)

 

There was a few exchanges — she had a Plan B, everything was going to be fine.

The next morning I got a phone call.

I was the plan B.

When she asked me if I wouldn’t mind the promotion from bridesmaid to stand-in officiant, I flashed through the last seven years…

To the weekend she crashed at my small “efficiency” studio on the upper west side of Manhattan and I suggested we go to this fancy cocktail bar downtown. After comping us a round a drinks, the bartender made us a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage to help us make our way home. That bartender would become her boyfriend…

Flash forward a few years later, she and I were standing in an elevator she was wearing a kimono the bartender’s mother had gifted her. “He’s the one,” she said without reservation. “Women know these things”…

And now I was standing in the bathroom at work, on the phone, being asked to officiate their wedding.

“I really can’t think of a bigger honor than getting to marry you two.”

“Great! I hoped you’d say that! I think it’d be really awesome to get married by officiant in a blue jumpsuit!”

That’s right. I was the bridesmaid who was told “wear whatever you want, as long as it’s blue,” and decided on a cobalt blue jumpsuit. A Reverend in a jumpsuit. I could see the branding opportunities already…

giphy (2)

Up until this point, my day-of wedding responsibilities were fairly simple and superficial:

  1. Make sure the make-up artist doesn’t make the Bride orange
  2. Make sure the Bride’s dress corset is pulled in as tight as it can go — don’t worry if she seems to be suffering from shortness of breath.
  3. Make sure the Bride has a shoehorn so she doesn’t smash the heels of her Jimmy Choos when she’s putting them on under her dress.

I had just picked up a few more responsibilities that were significantly less superficial (Learn Japanese sake-pouring ceremony. Learn how to say “chuppah” in a way that doesn’t sound like a sneeze. Make sure Bride and Groom say “I Do” and sign marriage certificate) but I would handle them, because for her, for them, I had to.  There are only a few times in your life when the people you love really ask you to step up to the plate for them. And when they do, you owe it to them to bring your A-game… to try to hit a home run… and if you don’t, at least you go down swinging.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The 12 Days of Christmas… and the 12 Men I’d Need to Get Me Through Them

Look, I know it's Ryan Gosling and not a lumberjack, per-say... but It's Christmas.
Look, I know it’s Ryan Gosling and not a Lumberjack, per-say… but It’s Christmas and I’m allowed a wish-list. 

Dear Santa,

2014 has been a good year for me, and while I’ve been enjoying myself, I’ve been sure to do all the right things to get on your “Good List” again for the 27th out of my 29 years (let’s not talk about that one year in college…)

So while I’m in full-on Holiday Elf mode (the stockings are hung by the chimney with care!) here’s a list of things I want, no NEED, to make my Christmas a success for me, my family, and our guests. It’s reasonably straight forward and I’ve designed it as a kind of “installment plan” — one gift for every day leading up to Christmas. Advent-style. Amen.

So here goes:

On the First Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a lumberjack with a pick-up truck

The best day to buy your tree is the day after Thanksgiving. It’s a truth no one wants to tell  you, but all the trees you see in nurseries or on the side of the road have all been cut down and shipped at the same time. Even the ones you buy on Christmas Eve were harvested in mid November. A lumberjack would see my tree is the freshest on the block.

One Second Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a fireman with a sizable hose.

In case said lumberjack fails, and the tree is a little dried out, it’s always handy to have a fire specialist on hand…

Let's just not
Let’s just not

On the Third Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a chauffeur with a trailer for my shopping victories.

I drove into the mall parking lot on Sunday only to drive out of it 15 minutes later — there were exactly ZERO spots available. Several people are going to be short stocking stuffers this Christmas… a shortcoming that could easily have been avoided with my own Chauffeur and a Royce.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a man with an electrician’s degree.

Lights on the porch. Lights on the hedges. Lights on the family Christmas tree. Lights, lights everywhere… and broken bulbs, wiggling wires, and frizzing fuses to go with them. For some men, the front yard Christmas light display is a sparkling, LED-enhanced demonstration of their masculinity. But whether or not he approaches the strings of bulbs and illuminated snowmen with a competitive edge, he should, in the very least, know how not to electrocute himself…and how not blow the entire East Coast grid.

Clean my blinds then make me a drink.
Clean my blinds then make me a drink.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a butler with a feather duster… and a stiff martini. 

Where did all this dust come from? And all this stuff? Someone needs to see that it’s all sorted out… and while they’re at it, pass me the Tanqueray.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a masseur with strong hands and open timetable.

Does this one need explaining? I think not.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a free-range organic farmer. 

If you think the malls are bad in the final days before Christmas, try the supermarkets. I’m a big fan of farm to table — this would make it all possible.

On the Eight Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a top chef with a knack for catering.

Tree-trimming party, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, New Year’s Day, Post-New Year’s Day — the final two weeks of the year are full of parties. And it would be so much easier if I had a chef to do all the work for me… ideally one that looks a lot like Curtis Stone, but with better recipes…

Curtis, any day you're in my kitchen is a holiday. I'll bring the mistletoe.
Curtis, any day you’re in my kitchen is a holiday. I’ll bring the mistletoe.

On the ninth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a personal trainer.

Oh, God. Have I really eaten this much already?! Preparing a 4-course meal is physical work. I need a trainer to not only help me shed those holiday half-dozens, but to help get be buff and ready for next year’s cooking marathon.

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… 10 Lords a Leaping.

I used to go to the Nutcracker at the NYC Ballet every year. The Candy Canes were always very impressive, and it isn’t a party unless someone is dancing… and why can’t it be 10 athletic, land-owning, titled gentlemen?

On the eleventh day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… a plumber. 

Because all of a sudden the radiator in the living room isn’t getting hot and the guests are coming in an hour… like I really need THIS!

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, please Santa send to me… Benedict Cumberbatch.

Because it’s Christmas, and why the hell not.

Benedict can be my Santa any day... #naughtyelf
Benedict can be my Santa any day… #naughtyelf

I thank you for your consideration and attention to this matter. As you’ve probably witnessed (since you know when/where/with whom I am sleeping and you know when I’m awake) the internet and real-life social networking have come-up short in fulfilling these needs. I hope you can come through where all else has failed.

Merry Christmas to you and Mrs. Claus. I’ll leave the cookies and the milktini on top of the fireplace mantle this year — sorry the dog got to the coffee table first last year…

Many thanks,

Kathleen

The Hiding Place

It was a desperate moment and I’m not proud of how I handled myself. But sometimes circumstance forces you to behave out of character. You’ve been there too. Emerging into the world, hair tussled, knees of my jeans riddled with carpet fibers, and cheeks awash with a blush, I found myself caught with no explanation other than the truth:

desk fridayYes. I was hiding under my desk. Yes, Coworker. From you.

Hiding under my desk. It’s something I frequently wanted to do, but never really considered as a viable option.

I work in a space in my office called “The Nook” — a shared cubicle-like area outside our CEO’s corner office. Behind me, sits her assistant who I adore. We are the Nook Crooks, a duo with a mutual appreciation for dark chocolate and need for invisibility cloaks. The Nook is at the front of the office, about 20 feet from the main entrance and 10 feet from the receptionist. A low wall sheilds us from being directly visible to visitors, but once you know where we live, you know how to find us. And people who frequent the arts council, aren’t afraid to walk by our receptionist to say “hello.”

If only they were sneaking into the nook to say hello!

Since I’ve been working at this station, my fellow Nook Crook and I have been plotting ways to install some kind of alarm/security system. But we acknowledged even bells and sirens doesn’t solve our plight — we’re in a corner.  If there’s someone coming we want to avoid, our only exit strategy is jumping out the window.

I heard Cudjoe’s voice before he even stepped off the elevator. Cudjoe has a small gallery specializing in African art in my building. He’s a friend and we’ve successfully worked together on more than a few projects. But since the summer, I’ve been avoiding him. He wants to rent my gallery for his daughter’s wedding reception — an event I usually veto. I considered making an exception for him, but I had completely forgotten to take to our building people. His voice got closer. He was here to see our auction coordinator and drop off his donation for our annual gala.  I knew if I stood up and headed for the bathroom, he’d see me. I looked around, searching for an escape route. And then it hit me — I could hide under my desk.

I took my phone and made a dive, nose first. I pulled my desk chair in close enough to obscure my wine-coloured pants. Then I began to rummage items together — if the off-chance someone saw me, I could at least pretend I was fixing or looking for something.

Then I heard Ed’s voice. Ed is my organization’s counterpart in performance. He’d been trying to track me down for weeks to settle on a schedule for concerts that would happen in the gallery at the same time as the most important exhibition of my career, to date. I didn’t want to tell him how I felt about that without some back-up. So I decided I’d hang out under my desk a little longer.

So that’s where all my umbrella’s went! Oh, and here’s that photo an artist gifted me…

I amassed a neat pile of objects I could pull out to cover my tracks.

About 5 minutes passed and finally, all was quiet. I made my move.

“Trying to keep a low profile?” Ed’s question made me jump. He had seen me and decided to wait for me to emerge.

Caught, and with no where left to hide, I made an appointment to meet him later.

I confessed my desperate act to one of my superiors. She laughed and pulled up a recent This American Life segment called “The Leap,” which recounted the story of her uncle Bill — an NYC school bus driver who one day skipped his route and drove his school bus to Florida. He became something of a hero. She was trying to tell me she sympathized.

“When Ed came up to meet you he made sure to pull out your chair and look under your desk,” Anna, my boss’s assistant told me.

And with that, so ends my hiding place.

Learning to Ride

“It’s just like riding a bike!” It’s a colloquialism meant to suggest that whatever “it” is, it’s so easy, any old fool can do it. It’s a colloquialism I hate, because it implies I’m the most foolish and inept of old fools in any given set of old fools. Because, why? Well, here’s a secret:

I can’t ride a bike.

this is not a Duchamp knock-off... a bike refurbishing moment
this is not a Duchamp knock-off… a bike refurbishing moment

Well, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration. In theory, perhaps more than practice, I CAN ride a bike, though it’s been 10 years since I’ve been on one that isn’t stable, stationary and in a spin class.

I was late to bike riding. My parents gave me a neat, new purple 2-wheeler with trainers one Christmas, probably when I was about 4, with presumably high hopes that one day, I’d ride my bike to swim practice. I was excessively excited about the white basket on the front and the handle bar’s streamers. I rode it once. Maybe twice. It was eventually sent up to Canada for one of my younger cousins, who couldn’t believe it wasn’t brand new.

It wasn’t until I was 16 that I legitimately learned to ride a bike… but I could only ride straight, and I had to start by sorta scooting on one foot until I built up some momentum to get both feet on the pedals. Then I’d half fall off and half to start again. It was awkward and nonathletic. I couldn’t turn around, so when I came to the end of the street, I had to step off my bike and waddle it the 180 degrees it needed to turn so I could go back to where I came from. And going down hill sent me into a slight panic.

But those (many) handicaps didn’t stop me from riding the (paved, straight) bike path 20 miles every weekend.

The last time I rode a bike was summer 2004. That was the year I had a crush on an upper classman named Jake. He was a competitive cyclist from the West Coast who liked to study with me for our French exams. Our Professor compared us to Peanut Butter and Chocolate. I’m not sure Jake was as amused by that as I was, and one might assume the 10 years of neglect my bike has seen is a fairly good indication of how that little “romance” fared. My lapse in riding had nothing to do with Jake, but rather a Provincial Holiday bike ride through Vancouver’s Stanley Park. It was traumatizing.

Then this summer, after declining several invitations to ride borough to borough seeking art, I booked tickets to Amsterdam. How could I go to the bike-riding capital of Europe, where pedaling along the canal houses is on the “Must-Do” list of any traveler, and NOT partake?

I had 3 months to get ready. I went a hunt for the bike that had seen better days. The tires were flat. I needed new tubes. The dust was so thick I had forgotten the frame was really a forest green, not gray. The padding in my helmet had rotted out. The initial investment to refurbish was more than I had expected.

But upgraded and with 10 years of spin classes under my belt I was ready to beat my teenage shortcoming.

The good news is I haven’t fallen off yet. I’ve learned to turn around in a circle. I can start without the awkward scoot-fall-scoot. I only start a mild panic when the gradient points down. I don’t know I’ll feel confident enough to ride in a city where bikers ride like motorists in cars, aggressively, but at least now I can say “It’s just like riding a bike,” and mean it.

New helmet (NY Pride). revamped bike. Let's get riding.
New helmet (NY Pride). revamped bike. Let’s get riding.

 

 

Learning to Walk in Shorts

The great advantage kids have growing up in the age of digital cameras is that the odds are low that one day they will stumble on a collection of printed photos labeled “Quebec Summer: FAT PHASE.”

It's photos like this I mostly wish were never taken of my awkward tween years.
It’s photos like this I mostly wish were never taken of my awkward tween years.

Remember when you’d take your roll of film to the local drugstore and you would automatically get duplicates? So, not only did you have one set of photos you’d rather burn, you’d have 2… that’s 4 double chins.  And while there was no social media circulation, you had the distinct non-advantage of having tangible proof that once upon a time you were the size of a blimp.

I stumbled upon the “Quebec Summer: FAT PHASE” envelope in the midst of some appliance-melt-down-induced cleaning. The photos, along with others from my more youthful summers, were striking reminders that when you grow up the chubby, knock-kneed girl, you grow up with an awkward relationship with shorts.

When your thighs touch, there’s almost no short length that doesn’t ride up when you walk. Instead of neatly aligned horizontal hemlines, the bottoms of your trunks form a wobbly V. It’s not only unattractive, it’s uncomfortable. Walking in bunched-up shorts is like walking with a golf ball wedged between your legs. So you learn to adapt.

First, you try the “Cowboy Walk.” The idea is to look like you just got off a horse after finishing a cattle drive. You point your feet away from each other and widen your stride, attempting to keep your legs as far from each other as you can.

It’s equal parts swagger and waddle. It’s also highly inefficient.

Next, you try the “Shake-it-Out.”

 

When you realize this is about as effective as the Cowboy Walk in ridding yourself of the ride up, you give into the walk, stop and pull down. It’s painfully obvious, but it gets the job done.

If you’re hell-bent on wearing shorts, these adaptations are better than the alternative, which is obsessing over something you can’t really change — the gap between your upper legs. Or, you can do the far more sensible thing and forego the shorts all together. Skirts are classier anyway.

 

 

Considering Birthdays Past

The advantage to sharing a birthday with a loved one is that no one ever forgets it.

My father and I share a birthday. It’s also Canada day. My mother — a smart woman — has been milking this for years. What more does my father need, she says, when he has such a wonderful daughter!

This year, he turns 75. This is not insignificant. We’re having dinner at our favorite local restaurant and he’s getting some things from LL Bean and Nike. (I swear — if my mother and I didn’t give him clothes and shoes at every gift-giving holiday, the man would walk around wearing a sheet and flat-tire rubber sandals. We love him any way.)

Meanwhile, I’m hitting the big 2-9 — an unremarkable number save for the fact it marks the final year in another decade. I don’t plan to go through the same “29 Crisis” that some of my other single friends have — they upgraded apartments to ones they can’t afford, chopped off and died their hair, and got trainers. Every day, they post fitness selfies and “I’m an empowered single lady” quote on their social media feeds.

But perhaps, it’s too early to call for me. If on July 2nd, I post a photo of myself at the gym, in a sports bra flashing a “look how tight my ass is” pose, captioned with some motivational mumbo jumbo, you have permission to put me in a straight jacket (or at least, hand me a shirt.)

I digress…

A friend enjoys the magic at my 7th birthday party. 20+ years later, we're still celebrating birthdays together.
A friend enjoys the magic at my 7th birthday party. 20+ years later, we’re still celebrating birthdays together.

As the child in the family, the celebration of my new year typically eclipsed my father’s. My birthday fetes were famous — at my 10 year high school reunion, girls I hadn’t seen since graduation day came up to me to say “I’ll never forget all your parties! You need to have another one, for old time’s sake.”

“I’m pretty sure that magician is dead,” I said.

For the first 14 years of my life, I took birthdays pretty seriously. Magicians, hot dog carts, excursions to the stables for horse-back riding, buses hired to the chauffeur us to the Jekyll & Hyde Club, virtual reality adventures, swing-dance lessons, fabulously fanciful cakes — there were distinct advantages to being an only child of older parents. Each year, I came up with a theme that felt au courant, researched the possible venue or vendor, and designed my own invitation. We always ended up at my God Mother’s pool and no one wanted to go home.

And then the parties stopped. I started fencing and National Championships always fell on the first week of July. Often I was competing on July 1 and all of a sudden, my father and I were in different cities on our birthday. This was strange.

I turned 21 in Atlanta. My Mother had been trying to get me to drink since I was a teenager — her theory was it was better to learn how to have a nice cocktail or glass of wine in a refined social setting rather than binge drink like a sorority girl. I was 16 when she sneaked me into a wine tasting in Napa. Ironically, when I ordered my first legal drink, a grey goose cosmopolitan (it was the heyday of the S&TC reruns on TBS, after all), she was painfully uneasy. I wasn’t allowed to finish it. A refill was out of the question.

When we finally got to celebrate at the Intrepid, we made the most of it.
When we finally got to celebrate at the Intrepid, we made the most of it.

My 24th birthday was the first one in about a decade when my father and I didn’t have to phone each other to say “happy day!” I had just come back from Texas where I had contracted a terrible case of Swine Flu. I was Tennessee’s first confirmed case and had to spend several hours on an IV drip.

That year was also my dad’s 70th, and my mother and I had big plans to make our celebrations about him. We intended to go to the Intrepid (he likes planes) and then have dinner at a South African wine bar in Hell’s Kitchen (Dad’s a Springbok.) Instead, we spent July 1 in the ER. Dad had gone in for what should have been a routine test a few days earlier, but  ended up with a massive, deadly infection.  Back to back trips to the hospital for us both was enough — we skipped this birthday. The Intrepid plans would wait for next year.

25, 26, and 27 each had their celebrations. One involved boats and friends. One was unremarkable. One came with terrible tan lines and an amorous bouquet.

I intended to celebrate 28 in this dress with lots of baked goods and Tanqueray... that is not how this went down
I intended to celebrate 28 in this dress with lots of baked goods and Tanqueray… that is not how this went down

And then we come to #28… I bought a strapless mini dress — a style totally outside my normal wardrobe choices — and made plans to hit the town when I got back from Columbus, Ohio… Not. So. Fast.

I took a week off work to accompany Mom to Nationals — she’s the fencer now — and visit family in Canada. At the last minute, I made the less than wise decision to compete in a sub-elite division.

The competition was on my birthday and my primary goal was to finish early enough to get to happy hour. As I made my way up the elimination bracket, I could feel my age and old war wounds. At a 13-13 tie to go into the final, my knee gave out. The medical team diagnosed 2 torn ligaments and a sprained ankle on the strip and I was forced to withdraw.

A sprained ankle and damaged ligaments, but at least I was smiling. I wouldn't be later. Happy 28!
A sprained ankle and damaged ligaments, but at least I was smiling. I wouldn’t be later. Happy 28!

For the next hour I lay at the medical tent, friends and teammates gathered — I was serenaded with a happy birthday while some referee friends tried to assemble my belongings for me. I was loaded into the car and my mother picked up two bottles of sake for me to drink (to numb the excruciating pain) as we drove 6 hours to Ann Arbor — our pit stop en route to rural Canada. My bellhop played football for Michigan and as I slurred my woeful story, we bonded over torn ACLs. He offered to carry me to my room. In retrospect, I was a fool to decline, but I was pretty sure I hadn’t showered yet.

Birthdays are a funny thing. When we’re young, we count the days till our next one. As we get older, we recoil at the thought of another and mostly want them to go unnoticed. And yet, we can’t help feeling slighted if they pass un-celebrated. We usually remember each one — where we were and who we were with — and use the day as an excuse to reaffirm or rewrite our New Year’s resolutions.

These days, my father and I have a simple rule when it comes to our birthdays — however we chose to celebrate them, no one is allowed to end up in the ER.