That’s better than any team in the NFL right now. Considering week 4 doesn’t start till Thursday, I doubt the Cincinnati Bengals will match my record against Patriots on Sunday. Except for the fact that Bonanza High’s mascot was a Bengal and having never enjoyed anything from Cincinnati except Lori Anderson when I was 7 years old and their chili, the Who Dey hold nothing for me.
Besides, I dare you to say Cincinnati five times fast before wanting to get French toast. You simply can’t trust any town with three Ns or Is in their name—that’s right, I’m talking to you, Benjaminmitchellraskinburg.
Benjaminmitchellraskinburg, of course, is just outside Phoenix next to Portland—Portland, Maine not Oregon.
That is my record when it comes to marry folks. Like everyone who has read a Mad Magazine or has access to the internet, I became an ordained minister in the Church of Universal Life about 15 years ago. I did it because I thought I could get a religious exemption from having to pay my taxes but found out quickly that the Federal Government is a cruel mistress that wants to get paid.
Unfortunately, my Church of Universal Life diploma sat dormant on the wall next to another lethargic document, my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Nevada. Apart from trying to seduce dates into the rectory with my ministerhood, being ordained didn’t do anything for me until my brother Mike needed to get married. Mike is my middle brother, a musician, carpenter and gardener. He graduated from the Berkeley School of Music in Boston and once opened for Metallica. He’s great in chess, Omaha High-Low and bowling. He also has exceptional taste in women because he found my sister-in-law, Melissa, and asked her to marry him. She said yes and they asked me to perform the service.
In writing the service, I spent a good month working on the beats and making sure that I was registered in Massachusetts (How come we never talk about what a silly name Massachusetts is and how I bet less than 4% of the country could spell it correctly on their first try—the best I got resulted in spell check was Mass Chute Sex…not a bad name for an adult movie, but I really digress) to perform the service. I flew out with my new girlfriend, Erin, to Boston in the middle of August.
I’ve been to Boston before but never during the summer. To say that it was hot would be an understatement. It had to have been 90-degress with humidity in the low thousands. Because I usually wear nothing more than a pair of jeans and a golf shirt, the sole three piece wool suit I own that I wore nearly killed me during the service. I’d like to tip a buckle-lined hat to the Pilgrims that settled Boston because surviving a summer there without air conditioning or a grocery store would have killed me before the end of the first year. As I stood under the wedding arch with my script in front of me in the heat of the early afternoon, a swarm of mosquitos slowly ate the back of my neck, ears and thighs (the suit had hole in it), as I tried to recite my poorly written wedding vows.
It was so ungodly hot that I literally forgot my brother’s wife’s name and who the Hell was the guy giving this woman a ring. It was a nightmare and I’m glad it was in an era before Instagram because any picture of me would have included the following hashtags: #moron #unprepared #fatmaninalittlesuit #whoisthisjoker #moobsweat #BenjaminmitchellraskinburgSux. Fortunately, through the mercy of the bride and groom, we all survived and Mike and Melissa have been happily married for almost 11-years with a couple of kids.
I had to take a ministry holiday after that mostly because George W. Bush ruined our economy and nobody was getting married in America. All of our good marriages were going over the border leaving priests, friars, vicars, padres, pontiffs, monks, elders and Power Healer 9000s with nothing to do but trade baptisms and last rites for beer and gas money.
But I soon found some work. My friends, Jamie and Peter, needed a minister for their wedding. Stricken with laryngitis, I wheezed a service that can only be described as beautiful to the first row of the packed church. A year later, I did my first run-and-gun wedding with Brandon and Jennifer when we barnstormed an old army base. It was hard to have the bride and groom say, “I do,” under the roar of cannon fire but I don’t think they’d have it any other way.
I was getting ready to hang up my priest’s collar and settle in for a quiet retirement of refraining from doing the Lord’s work but my buddy, Tim, decided to ask his lady friend, Heather, for her hand in marriage. It felt like a movie, like when Pee Wee Herman said just when he thought he was out, they keep dragging him back in. You know, right, from that bicycle movie?
Anyway, Tim and Heather wanted to stop living in sin as well as direct violation of God’s will and get married and they wanted me to write a service to both honor their relationship and celebrate their love. Of course I was humbled when I was asked to do the service. Heather is one of my oldest friends and she is such an unique, wonderful woman. Tim is a butcher and a cool guy. He enjoys tipping one back and has a good sense of humor. Should be a piece of cake, right?
Smart people are able to multitask multiple things. They usually can have 17-23 things bouncing around in their head at any moment and do an excellent job. I’m not one of those “smart” guys. I’m lucky to have 7 things bouncing around my head and 4/7th of my thoughts usually involve where am I going to lunch. So, in writing their vows, I had to work very hard to not list my favorite Vietnamese restaurants. They gave me a four months advance notice and I chipped away at it a little bit every week or so. I wanted to include some of the highlights of the previous three weddings but I definitely wanted to add original and new ideas to the service.
Working with Heather was great. She would listen to any of my ideas and give me her best insight. For example, she immediately said no to stuffing a piñata with their vows which I thought was a very brave decision. She shot down excessive profanity and said that maybe instead of talking how the US Government faked the Moon landing footage, I could talk about how much they loved each other.
She wanted more talk about how to build a strong relationship and less talk about how the gold standard has ruined the nation. She wanted all conversation about phrenology dropped and didn’t want me to rank my favorite flavors of milkshakes. Heather said she’d like to hear how they needed to honor and respect each other and nothing about the San Diego Padres bullpen and what Dale Thoyer and Kevin Quackenbush have done to save games. I wanted a reading from GG Allen and she said maybe from Shakespeare.
There sure was a lot of give and take. I told her I didn’t think it would work but Heather soldiered on with positive support and critical notes. Of course, since it was her wedding, I did my best.
They got married last Saturday at a beautiful location. It was called the Sugar Soda or Sugar Shack or Soda Shack or Shaq O’Neil but it was really quite lovely. It was done outside on a beautiful dais with flowers and other things brides like with a microphone to amplify my voice. Tim looked great as he stood up there with me waiting for his bride. As we were waiting to get things started and have people to start sitting, it occurred to me that there was a lot of chairs in the audience that filled up quickly. Next thing I saw was a bunch of people standing behind the chairs and there were even people behind them. I thought that there might have been 60+ people there but this was ridiculous. Eventually, Heather walked through the sea of friends and family and took her side opposite of Tim.
Holy Mackarel! This is on like Donkey Kong.
Taking a deep breath, I welcomed everyone and started with what I thought was a good introduction. I took the “speak now or forever hold your peace” question and spun it on its ear. Instead, I asked if they supported this wedding and make some noise to show their approval. The response was literally deafening. They hooted and hollered and it was at this moment I got really nervous. I am so used to negative responses that getting such a positive feedback must mean these people want something good and I hoped to Hell I had the goods.
I think I did. At no point during the wedding did anybody throw something that could be used for a salad. During a reading from our friend Aaron Garrett, I was able to sneak off from the alter and pound a whiskey and lemon aid. There were some tears, laughs and hopefully we learned something about ourselves. I knew going in that Tim and Heather loved each other but I never really appreciated how much support from friends and family they had. The response to the wedding was simply wonderful and I hope my record of 4-0 and stands strong after the affair. I really hope that I did a good enough job that they’ll let me do their next weddings.
Because I did so much talking at the wedding, I didn’t offer a toast. Fortunately, lots of their friends and family offered some lovely words of support and encouragement. It’s after the fact but I want to include my best wishes. So, raise a glass to Tim and Heather. May you never walk alone or not share in each other’s joy. The hardest part of love is starting it and may it never stop.
Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Check out the podcast on Trib Sports Radio. If you pay his honorarium, he’ll be happy to show you his Power Healer 9000.