Archive for April, 2010

Embarking on the Great Adventure

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

This past weekend, I had the great fortune of being the best man at Neil and Kelly’s wedding.  It was a great celebration!

Below is my toast.  The first three sentences have been cut off, but I’ve included the full transcript below.  Congratulations, Neil & Kelly!

Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s a privilege to celebrate this happy day with all of you. I’ve known Neil since college. He’s one of the most considerate people I know. To see Neil and Kelly so happy together is proof that good guys do win and that life is beautiful.

In addition to his great sense of humor, Neil has his peculiarities. I was the one who first convinced him to try lettuce. We were at Subway. After taking a few thoughtful bites, he looked up and declared, “I can’t believe I went through life without trying lettuce.” To this day, he still gets lettuce in his sandwiches.

Months later, I offered him tomatoes. He politely refused. “Have you ever even tried tomatoes?” I asked. “No,” he replied, “but they can’t be good.” As if that explained it all.

Neil didn’t even like Paris the first time, when he went alone. It’s true!

Then he met Kelly. And things began to change. Neil began to try more things. Eat more things. Adapt to shifting plans with a spirit of adventure. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like he went skydiving, Rocky Mountain climbing, or spent 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chew. But he did love deeper. And he spoke sweeter. Mexican food, a favorite of Kelly’s, now had a fighting chance. It seems love is great enough to conquer even cheese, and possibly tomatoes.

After all, life is a great adventure. It’s about sharing experiences with people you love. Seeing Neil with Kelly has shown me how we can encourage one another to explore the unknown. If that’s not the power of love, I don’t know what is.

Neil’s a big fan of music, so I tried to find some profound insight from the radio this morning about how we should capture life’s fleeting moments and take chances. It’s a lot to ask of a radio in 15 rushed minutes, but here’s the best I could do:

Lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance
Opportunity comes once in a lifetime.

Remarkable the type of sage advice you get from 106.1 KISS FM.

To help you seize life’s opportunities, I bought the two of you a few gift certificates: to go skydiving (with Skydive Snohomish), Rocky Mountain climbing (well, actually, a three-day Rainier hike with REI), and – I assume you know this – there’s no bull named Fu Man Chew. But I’m told there’s a bar in Pioneer Square that has a mechanical bull, so I got you a gift certificate for that as well. I’m sure you can beat 2.7 seconds.

Ladies and gentlemen, please raise your glasses with me. To Neil and Kelly:

May you live long, happy, fulfilled, and leave nothing on the table.
May you do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.
May you spur each other on in life’s great adventure.

And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance – I hope you dance.

Musical Chairs

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

I used a bank drive-thru for the first time in twenty-five years today.  My three year old son watched from the back seat as I handed over the checks:  first the $11.95 refund from the ritzy gym where I had long since not been a member, the same gym that had been sending me statements every three months for the past several years reminding me of my credit balance, the same statements that, once I compared their collective postage to the actual balance, compelled me back into the gym’s marbled halls to settle my account;  next the $965 windfall from completing a mortgage refi that nearly fell through due to the loan processor’s many delays.  I felt oddly giddy depositing such a large check (“Almost a thousand!  And a ridiculously low fixed rate!”), not for the amount but for the fact that it was my own escrowed money coming back to me.  Strangely, or perhaps not, I’m convinced I wouldn’t feel the same pleasure writing then depositing a check to myself.

I hadn’t previously used a bank drive-thru in my adult life.  It always seemed a bit passé, the type of thing you’d expect of retirees in Cadillac Devilles.  Why bother with the sliding drawer, the calcified creak of the metal snake as the teller adjusts the microphone, all the potential pauses and misunderstandings of human interaction, when you could instead slide a card, press a few buttons, and move on?  I only deviated from my plan to park in front of the ATM at the last second, mid-arc in the minivan, once I considered the logistics of keeping a three-year-old safe mere feet away from a busy parking lot while juggling a wallet, two checks, a secret four-digit pin, and deposit envelopes.  Perhaps better to let the steering wheel unwind an inch and drift into the drive-thru.  Boy stays buckled, dad turns small sheets of paper into tiny magnetic fields in some distant computer.

Before today, I never understood why my mom always took my brother and me through the bank drive-thru.  There were always lines.  Maryland was hot.  But today I understood.  Perhaps somewhere she, too, changed paths mid-arc in order to juggle her many responsibilities.

That was twenty five years ago.  I was my son’s age.  My mom was mine.  An actor was President.  The Soviets were bound to end the world any day.  It was unthinkable that Knight Rider himself would one day dance on the Berlin Wall.

Twenty five years.  Everyone shifted one seat over in life’s musical chairs.  When the music stopped, life didn’t have a seat for my grandfather – my dad took his.  My son joined in at my previous seat, my seat in Childhood, my seat in the back of a sweltering Nissan Sentra wondering why we seemed to visit the bank every other week, wondering why we always waited in that drive-thru instead of just going in.

There’s a photo of my mom taken when I was a toddler.  She is young.  She is beautiful, confident.  Beaming with the optimism of being thirty.  Would she smile that same smile at double her age? Could anyone?

Did she dream the same things for me that I dream for my son?  Did she also sit contentedly for an hour watching me play in the sun? How would she feel looking at that photograph today?  Have the years failed the brightness of her youth?  Did life reward her as deeply as she had expected?

* * * * *

“What does that sign say?” my son asks, pointing to the printout taped to the green glass of the teller’s booth.  I notice a coffee machine right next to her monitor and wonder whether it’s just for her, alone at her perch, or whether other tellers come back during breaks to pour from the same pot.  This matters more to me at the time than it should.

“It lists the things you can do at the drive-thru.”  I quickly scan the sheet and summarize.  “Withdraw less than $1000.  Deposit cash and checks.  Verify balances.  Anything else and you’ll have to go in.”

“Next time, maybe you can take me to the ATM machine.”  He adds the superfluous “machine” like most adults do.  Like I do.

“Sure.  Let’s try that next time.”

I take my receipt and turn towards home.