It’s hard to get to the bucket list when the to-do list is endless. Before my wife and I left for Southeast Asia, I had the following items to plow through:
- pack up and vacate apartment
- celebrate the end of bachelorhood
- do last-minute wedding planning (like finding a ring, obtaining the appropriate documents, etc.)
- schedule and receive oral and injectable vaccines
- prepare special education high school students for regents exams
- polish up a book to send to agents and first novel competitions
- celebrate a marriage
- launch a blog
You’ll be happy to know (since I will be your protagonist in future travel stories and you’ll be rooting for me to survive, though praying for conflict) that I made it through the list. I’m about to jump on a plane to Hong Kong with my new wife, Marissa. We’ll be honeymooning in Asia for the summer. Now don’t for one second think that you’re reading some gushy newly-weds blog about how to honeymoon in style. Honeymooning (especially for a couple of months) is the word a new husband uses to convince his wife that they won’t get food poisoning, bed bugs, or scammed in Third World countries. This is Somewhere Or Bust and I will take Cipro for bowel complications, sleep with parasites, and encounter shady characters throughout my travels. Bear in mind, this is great for you because I’ll deliver travel stories, tips, and misadventures.
Today, however, I feel it’s apropos to detail the events leading up to the big day. (Note to soon-to-be-married-men: Do not confuse big day in lowercase letters, which clearly means vacation, with Big Day in capital letters, which is a synonym for wedding. But don’t take my advice, as I am quite new to this husband thing, listen to the maitre d’ at our wedding. “Don’t piss off the wife,” he said. “Learn this: She’s always right. Trust me. I’ve been divorced twice.”)
Steps toward the big day began on May 31st when my brother and I packed up the oceanfront apartment Marissa and I had lived in for three years in Long Beach. Of course, on that particular day, Long Beach–which is usually flatter than (insert cliché here)–was going off. Hurricane Beryl had weakened, but had produced offshore winds that combed over painfully perfect, head-high waves. I labored while my friends got tubed.
The following afternoon was my bachelor party. Originally we were supposed to go to Coachella, the music festival in California, but because the groomsman who we had put in charge of purchasing tickets entered his credit card information wrong, we instead went camping at Mongaup Pond, a family campground in the Catskills.
It was a peaceful weekend. We swayed in a hammock, topped our burgers with fried eggs and beets, and severed ourselves from the world.
“Shit. I get no service,” one of my friends realized, illuminating the darkness with his iPhone. “How’s Eric going to find us?”
Reception was closed and our friend Eric still hadn’t arrived. As a way to take our mind off the relentless rain, we invented scenarios about what could have happened to poor Eric.
“He’s probably sleeping in his car,” someone speculated.
“He probably drove back to Boston,” another guessed.
“I bet you he stopped off in Binghamton for the strip clubs,” said a third friend. (Earlier in the day, this same friend told me about the stripper they had hired for me: “We told her to wear a bear costume. So if you see a bear in the woods, run toward it with dollar bills. He he he.”)
Eric finally arrived.
“No. I did not go to Binghamton,” he kept having to explain to my stripper-obsessed friend.
The next afternoon, we took a hike around the lake. I’m not terribly impressed with birds or baldness. But when we spotted a bald eagle gliding above the lake, I understood why Benjamin Franklin’s vote for turkey as our national bird was quashed. The eagle, with its big brown body, hooded and tailed with white plumage, was spectacular. All seven of us stood with our jaws dropped as if we were watching Binghamton’s finest shed her bear costume.
The next morning was beautiful until we started packing up. That’s when it poured again. I spent the evening at Marissa’s parents’ house unpacking and drying out tents.
We returned to our to-do list, which had ballooned since the bachelor party. We went back to the travel clinic for our second shot of Japanese Encephalitis. I think it’s fantastic when a travel clinic charges a mandatory consultation fee, which is in addition to the $500+ for two injections, and offers the following advice:
“So is there anything else we should know for our trip?” I asked the woman injecting me with Japanese Encephalitis.
“Like what?” she asked.
I figured that’s what the eighty dollar consulting fee covers. You know, you give an answer to the anything-else part.
I decided to hit her with specifics. “For instance, do we need to take malaria pills in Bali?”
“Is Bali an island?” the travel consultant asked. (Reread last sentence to recall that this travel consultant, charging $80 for consulting, is unsure as to whether Bali is an island or not. If you are not a travel consultant, please note: Bali is indeed an island.)
“You can check the CDC site,” she suggested.
Oh. You mean the free travel consulting site that doesn’t charge $80. The site you should have checked before I walked into the office.
The next day, Marissa and I picked up our marriage license. By the way, if you are looking to secure yourself this document in New York State, I highly recommend the Town Clerk’s Office in Manhasset. Twice a month, they have hours until 6:30 pm, which are unheard of hours in the boroughs and across Long Island, where offices usually close around 4 pm. More surprisingly, the employees are exceptionally nice. (Remember these are civil service workers like the sweethearts at the DMV. Yes, I realize they deal with happily, soon-to-be-married folks, but it’s still worth recognizing.)
Then we went to find rings. If you’re a girl, skip this paragraph. If you’re a guy, read on. Why do girls need two wedding bands? The second ring could have been a month-long trip to Central America. Well, Marissa won. (See maitre d’s advice above.) But there was a silver lining in all of the purchased gold and diamonds. My wife’s ex-boyfriends and semi-stalkers, who had showered her with gold rings and gaudy necklaces years ago in high school, helped to subsidize the purchase.
The weekend before the wedding, I needed a break from the dreaded list, so I drove to Long Beach for some volleyball. On my way home, on the Loop Parkway, the yellow and red lights at the foot of a drawbridge signaled that a boat was approaching and the bridge would soon open. I stopped my car and was rear-ended. The coins in the tray shot out like shrapnel. I was completely dazed. Then, the car that hit me went in reverse and peeled out. The alarm for the bridge went off as the car speed away.
After already having been the victim of a hit-and-run years ago in Queens, it didn’t matter how discombobulated I felt, I was going to chase him.
The story from here becomes rather anti-climactic: There was no ramp jump over the bay. The man who had hit me pulled off to the shoulder. He was apologetic. Even though he tried to escape, I felt bad for them because his wife brought out their crying baby. Basically, I wound up with a sore back and more things for my to-do list:
- Call insurance company to report collision.
- Talk endlessly with adjusters and
- Providers and
On the day of my wedding, I finally cleared my mind. Events never seem surreal to me. I experience them, recognize them as they occur, and reflect upon them objectively. But our wedding was a lucid blur, a fairy-tale reality.
Marissa and I recited our vows beneath a chupah that her father had built. During the ceremony at the Bourne Mansion, a deer walked timidly across the wide open field that was spread out before the Great South Bay. Then the creature began to prance.
Afterward, we hid away in the bridal suite, finishing up paperwork with the rabbi. I remember thinking at that moment: I’m happily married and I better eat. My married friends had issued one repetitive warning to me over the course of the last year–“You will not eat at your own wedding. No one will let you.” So while the rabbi spoke, I devoured all of the un-kosher food in front of him: shrimp cocktails, mini-cheeseburgers, etc.
Cocktail hour was a maelstrom of loving relatives and excited friends. I spent it providing answers to the same three questions:
- Southeast Asia.
- For the entire summer.
- I guess the deer could have been a deceased relative/mythological sign for something-or-other/harbinger of a happy marriage.
(And my married friends were right; I ate only four mussels.)
But once the band began to play, we lost ourselves in a ten-minute Horah and the rest of the night slipped away as we ate, drank, and cavorted.
There’s no room here to go into the details about teaching in June, touching up my book, or working to launch this blog. Let’s just say they were all exhausting and I need to travel Somewhere… Or… Bust. (All apologies. I promise I will never make that horrible, horrible joke ever again.)
Welcome to the site though. Feel free to leave comments when you’re inspired or irritated, subscribe to receive new posts emailed to you, follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook, and register to receive RSS feeds. The next time we speak, I’ll be in Hong Kong eating from food carts and avoiding food poisoning, exploring the city and hiking the islands, finding treasures and getting lost with my wife.
(Wedding Photos: Rob Rhodes)