16 September 2009


".....like you.
Don't let ' em sip cocktails in back rows of church.
Make 'em be sober and proper and such."

I was surfing through Facebook this evening and found this picture of my daughter from last weekend, performing her duties as a bridesmaid for her future sister-in-law.
Imagine my shock and awe.
The product of my loins sipping a cocktail in the rear pews of a church.
What had her mother and I created?
Quelle Shock!!

But upon very little review, and after I finished chuckling, I flashed back to a cold December in Anchorage Alaska in 1983, and said to myself:
"Self, it's true what everyone says about 'The Great Circle of Life' and how acorns never fall far from a tree".
Cuz here I was looking at a 4 day old picture that could just as easily have been taken 26 years ago, two time zones away, in a log cabin church along the Park Strip in Anchorage. (that's the actual church in the right hand snapshot).

On December 17, 1983, Mrs. 505 and yours truly exchanged marriage vows in the Unitarian Church in front of the Reverend Richard Gay. This was the first of what was to be two wedding ceremonies for the blissful couple. We were also scheduled to be married in a full blown Catholic ceremony in Minnesota in February of 1984 for the benefit of our very Catholic familes.
(Who were none too pleased about this "sham" in Alaska, nor was the Catholic Priest who performed the Minnesota ceremony).

The ceremony in Alaska was for the benefit of all of our friends and "family" in Alaska, who would not be able to attend the festivities in Minnesota. (and since I worked for an airline and "flew for free", why should I PAY to fly my bride to Minnesota when she could fly free if she was already married to me?....... No one ever accused 505 of not being pragmatic.....or cheap).
Well, what happened in the log cabin "church" that Friday evening in Anchorage was one of those unique life experiences that simultaneously make lasting memories and damn you to hell for eternity.
We had planned a low budget affair (somewhat uncommon for our relationship, we have always tended to be somewhat extravagant when hosting celebrations), with a simple ceremony and a simpler reception. The deluxe extra large suite at the Captain Cook Hotel (the only 5 star hotel in Alaska, and 2 of those stars were purchased) would host our 40-50 guests after the ceremony. Since it was a Friday, and both of us worked, neither of of us could check into or prepare the room until after the ceremony which was scheduled for 7PM. As I was in charge of adult beverages for the reception, I picked up an appropriate amount of beer and champagne and loaded it all into the back of my tiny '81 Toyota Tercel hatchback (great little car...often transported 4 large dogs at a time...multiple cases of beer and champage were no problem for that little workhorse).

Being the punctual person that I was, I arrived at the church 15 minutes before our nuptials with a carload of beverages.
At which point I realized that I faced a dilemma.
It was December in Alaska and the temperature was hovering around a balmy 10 below zero.
Like every other American, I liked my beer cold. But not frozen.
Since the ceremony was scheduled to last about 20 minutes, and I still had 15 minutes until the first pitch, I knew from experience that I would probably return to my car to see frozen beer and cracked bottles.
So....I asked the Reverend Gay if I could store the beverages in the foyer of church, just inside the doorway.
"Not a problem" said the liberal minded Unitarian Minister. (Unitarians are about as easy going zealots as you will ever find among the opium sedated world of the religious masses).
I silently congratulated myself for this clear demonstration of thoughtful foresight and stacked the cases inside the church doorway.

It was then that the "Law of Unintended Consequences" kicked into high gear.
Our guests began arriving at the Church, and being shameless and stereotypical "Alaskans" saw the beverages as they entered the cabin and figured that they were props in whatever bizarre ceremony Mrs. 505 and I had cooked up for the exchange of the marriage vows.
And helped themselves to their victual of choice.
And filed into the pews of the church, with bottles and plastic glasses in hand.
To their credit, most of them kept, or tried to keep, the evil vices tucked down below eyesight for most of the ceremony, but there are at least a half dozen photos of friends who were clearly enjoying this Alaskan Wedding at Cana. (Even though I still have an auricular imprint in my mind of the classic "whissht" sound a beer bottle makes when opened, during the most "solemn" moment of the service.....oh my).
To the credit of Reverend Gay, he viewed this little sacrilege with great humor and a non condescending eye.
And it was also probably a good thing that at this point in 1983, Sarah Palin was still only in Year 2 of her 5 colleges in 7 years collegiate matriculation program. Or else our entire congregation for that Friday evening might have been criminalized and forced to parade down Spenard Road stripped of our down outerware and woolie undergarments, left with nothing on, save for our coyote or wolf fur bearing caps and mukluks.
I, on the other hand, griped to myself about now having to stop at a liquor store on the way to the hotel and shell out more money to replenish the beverage supply for the reception.
The lesson in all of this as I look at my daughter imbibing inside a Church?
Be very careful America about Stem Cell Research.
The memories of the mind can be very powerful imprinters upon the genetic makeup of our progeny.
"Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be like you...
They'll learn that drinkin' is thinkin' and one for the road.
Are two of the gifts of life's long moral code."


  1. Oh Tom, I wish I had attended the Alaska ceremony instead. (Former matron of honor at said elaborate Catholic Minnesota festivities)

  2. The White Russian Rehearsal Dinner in Minnesota didn't tickle your fancy, anonymous?

  3. I liked the Minnesota Wedding... some drinkin , some dancin ..some fightin.. classic Iron Range style.... (Former Groomsman with very tight tux) ;-)

  4. The White Russian Rehearsal Dinner. I don't think I have gone near one since. (Former bridesmaid at said elaborate, can you say Judy Garland Room, Catholic Minnesota festivities)