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the diary thing 
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11.06.01
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 stag
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WOKE UP SUNDAY MORNING to discover that someone had sprinkled sand between my skin and my skeleton. Not only that, but my eyes squeaked when they moved in their sockets, and my skull had been replaced with that of the world's slowest boxer -- the one who always managed to get to the ninth round before taking his fall. I hoped he was being careful with my skull. 

I drank too much at my stag. Big surprise. Its hard not to when practically every guy I've ever known has showed up and bought me a beer. (Or more specifically: beer, beer, beer, scotch, beer, scotch, beer, sambuca, gin, beer, scotch.) To my credit, I remained standing for the whole of the event, the contents of my stomach stowed and in an upright position. The grim whirlies didn't in fact strike until Greg, my best man, had driven me home and the final scotch and cigarette hit my system. I fell asleep on the couch watching disco videos.

IT WAS, IN FACT, a really wonderful send-off to my bachelor years. They were overrated to begin with, and didn't deserve so splendid a tribute, but I was glad of it. I arrived to find Oliver, my future brother-in-law already there, my high-school buddies Pete and Vince, and Shawn and his brother Jeff, from the old neighbourhood. I've known Shawn, probably, since before my earliest memory. 

(A few hours earlier, I'd gotten a call from Cadillac Bill. He was in Sacramento, where he'd just delivered a garbage truck he'd driven down from Medicine Hat. He was about to fly back to Medicine Hat to drive another garbage truck back to Toronto. In his unmistakable, upper-class Surrey accent [Bill's uncle is the Duke of Norfolk], he said he was sorry but he couldn't make the stag. I said he'd be very much missed. I'm sure you can see why.)

High school friends, university friends, peers from the world of journalism and film and music and everywhere else I've strayed or wasted time in the last thirty-seven years. Shawn told the venerable but little-known story that explains why I've never learned to drive. (It involved a golf cart, a tree-lined embankment, and my own ignorance of what precisely the clutch does.) Paul Alcamo recalled the mortifications inflicted on me on the occasion of my eighteenth birthday. (They involved a Van Halen t-shirt, a Big Mac, and Emmanuelle, Queen of Sados at the Rio, a grind theatre on the sleaziest stretch of Yonge street, where the first seat I sat in was palpably wet.) Scott detailed a particularly embarassing and profligate incident of my obsessiveness. (Involving a $500 reference set cataloguing ethnic music on 78rpm records.)

My buddy Paul got up and gave a very sweet speech that summed up whatever good vibes I have behind me as I embark upon marriage. I was quite touched, and would have cried except that...well...practically every guy I've ever known was in the room. I just couldn't do it.

I played poker for the first time in my life. I was quite drunk at the time, so I couldn't really tell you how well I did at all. It was fun, I think. Manly stuff.

A STAG IS A SAD THING, for not the least of reasons than it effectively demarcates the line between a man as a social animal defined by his male friends, and a man as a husband and father. I am among the last of my straight friends to get married, and the fact is that the last time I saw most of these guys was at a stag. Barring divorce and re-marriage of any of those present, I don't imagine when I'll see them again. 

And that's a dismal thought. Without friends to act as witnesses to the (frequently silly, absurd or dismal) things we've done with our lives, we're just telling tales whenever we recall our history to people who weren't there. Friends make it possible for us to look back on the random, often ill-considered progress of our lives and feel that, thankfully, in the end it all worked out, since they remained your friends and you both remained alive. A friendship maintained is a testament to your ability to learn, to adapt, to forgive.


 
"Friends will be much apart. They will respect more each other's privacy than their communion."
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- Henry David Thoreau

 
A last hurrah, of sorts.

And I know I promised not to talk politics this week, but this is probably the best thing I've read on the mess we've entered with what we still refer to as "the Muslim world" or "Islam", as if there's any such coherent, clear-cut thing.

the ticket to ride
...we'd even printed up tickets and everything...

DAYS TO GO till the big day and, for the first time, I saw K. palpably panic. She'd forgotten an appointment that morning to meet a friend from church, and came home to find out that the vintage streetcar we'd reserved to take the wedding party from the ceremony to reception was suddenly unavailable.

Living in Toronto, you get used to finding that municipal services promised will find a way to disappoint you. A week ago, K. was assured that one of the two vintage streetcars retained by the Toronto Transit Commission were available for us on the 10th. Today, she was told that they're both broken, and won't be fixed till next year. Somewhere between those two statements is a truly dismal truth.

We could have a new streetcar, she was told, but it wouldn't be able to stop in front of the church, or at the next stop half a block east, by the United Church, but only at the stop one west, at one of the toughest corners in the neighbourhood, just a few doors down from where two people were shot on the night of my stag. Containing her panic, K. asked if there were any alternatives. A bus, she was told, could be chartered, and could stop right in front of the church. So much less romantic -- and appropriate -- than our vintage streetcar, but K. swallowed and gave them the go-ahead. Having to choose between not getting what we wanted and very much not getting what we wanted, the choice was easy enough. Inside -- and not so inside -- I fumed against the incompetence of our underfunded -- and inconsiderate -- transit system.

Another couple of phone calls, and she was dressing to head off to work. As she stood at the top of the stairs in her coat, my future wife stood there, a look verging on panic in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong. 

"It'll be okay," she said, in a tone not particularly reassuring.

No really, what's wrong? Is everything okay.

A pause. "It'll be fine," she said, looking up at me with wide, faintly dazed eyes.

I gave her a hug, and told her not to worry. Regardless of what happens to our wedding plans in the next few days, we'll still be married by 2:30pm on Saturday, come what may. Even if no one comes, or gets fed, or has somewhere to go afterwards, we'll still be married, and that should be the most important thing. With her head buried in my shoulder, she agreed, and said that it was a comforting thought, and I hoped it was. Because that was my trump card, my last line of logical defense in the bulwark defending her -- and me -- from nerves and panic and crying. I had hoped I wouldn't have to play it for at least a couple more days.

Four days to go. Wish us luck.

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Rick McGinnis
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