|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
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.