Sunday, December 07, 2014

Happy Anniversary!

Today is my 17th wedding anniversary. The time has just flown by...

Since Jonathan is at work for the next few hours, I thought I would share what my wedding day was like...

My mother was sick. Very sick, fighting breast cancer. To surprise her, my dad decided to fly the three of them (Mom, Dad & my stepmother) to Portland to visit for the very first time. 

Jonathan and I were thrilled, and we immediately knew we wanted to make sure Mom's visit was special. We were considering various outings when Jonathan just looked at me and said, "Hey...why don't we get married?"

We now had ten days to plan a wedding.

First thing first: we needed to find a venue, and fast. We didn't want to go a Justice of the Peace, as it seemed a tad impersonal. And a traditional house of worship would have been a prickly topic, as I am a Christian and Jonathan is Jewish. An outdoor wedding at a park was not an option, as it rains pretty much all day, every day, during the winter months in the Portland area. The final consideration was to find a venue that would not be hard for Mom to be comfortable in and at the same time be a venue that will not in any way irritate my easy-to-irritate father.

Our first choice? The (sadly now-defunct) Portland landmark: the 24-Hour Church of Elvis.

CoE was well-known for hosting fun weddings, both the legal ceremony and civil unions. It was run by a husband-and-wife team: the husband was an Elvis impersonator (of course). His wife, Stephanie Pierce, was known as "the spokesmodel" (she was the licensed minister and officiated all the weddings). 

Both were primarily artists, and their work decorated both the interior and the exterior of the building. They had se wonderful collages and work with reclaimed materials. The CoE was part of their business, known as "Where's the Art."

The Church of Elvis was a beloved institution in downtown Portland, a few blocks from Powell's Books (the nation's largest independent bookstore) and directly across the street from a small but well-cared-for park. 

The CoE was also famous for its dedication to performing gay marriage ceremonies, and its great pride in being a venue that wanted to create happy wedding memories regardless of the genders of the couple in love. 

The Church was listed in numerous magazines, books & websites as being one of the places to check out when in Portland. However, in the year and a half Jonathan and I had called this city home, we'd yet to pay it a visit. I was a little nervous, getting married in a place I had never seen. But it came so highly recommended by friends and co-workers, that we decided to take the leap without looking first. 

Truth be told, even though the CoE is no more, it remains a big part of the city's heart and character. Every few years there are rumors of its possible return. And items from the Church are collectible and not always easy to find online. With a little hard work and patience, it's still possible to track down their famous Elvis church identification card, booklets, and t-shirts:

Ultimately, the 24-Hour Church of Elvis was primarily famous for its kitschy and wonderful wall of coin-operated confessionals/alters that decorated both the interior and the exterior of the building, and were available 24/7. 

Excited at the idea of tying the knot in such a cool place, we called Where's the Art. At first, they had no openings available for the entire week my parents would be in town. After I shared my mom's condition and pleaded our case, they were kind to us and agreed to come in on their day off just for us. I was so relieved and grateful! They had only the one spot that would work: the Friday after my parents' arrival. We immediately booked it without a second thought. 

My parents were speechless when we sat them down for their first meal in Portland and told them what we had planned for their visit: a museum on Wednesday, Multnomah Falls on Thursday, and what the hell, let's have a wedding on Friday at the Church of Elvis!

My mother was thrilled. And, in a rare moment of post-divorce solidarity, both she and my dad loved the CoE idea. 

This was not at all surprising. I have a joke I've told about my parents for years: they had nothing in common except four kids and an unnatural obsession with Elvis Presley. 

In the days before our wedding, I got to do a little pre-matrimony bonding with my mom. We got the license together (she even brought my birth certificate for it), went shopping for a blouse to match the skirt I'd chosen, and got a bouquet of flowers (plastic, as almost everyone invited was allergic, including the bride & groom.) We had dinner at the Godfather's Pizza in Sellwood, mostly because all the Godfathers in Ohio had shut down years ago and my mother was fond of their deep-dish pies. Every time we drive past that area now, I think of her and how excited she was to be part of her daughter's big day. It is a memory I cherish and keep close to my heart.

On the day of the wedding, my dad went out in the morning for coffee, donuts and a paper. That's when we all realized what day it was: December 7th. Pearl Harbor Day. The day that will "live on in infamy." We'd had no idea...we were so wrapped up in plans it just never occurred to us. We still get raised eyebrows over it every now and again...

But back to the story. That morning, my mother helped me with my hair & makeup (and used the time to have an Are-You-Sure-You're-Sure-You-Can-Still-Get-Out-Of-This chat). We then got the kids dressed and made sure my dad's video camera was operational. 

Finally, everything and everyone was ready. Off to the CoE we went! 

Jonathan and I both wore black for the ceremony. He wore slacks, a dress shirt and his favorite Snoopy vest. I wore a blouse, skirt, and a Spanish mantilla over my hair. My "something borrowed" were a pair of my mother's earrings. For my "something blue": my grandmother's shawl that she had worn to her own wedding. 

It was a very small ceremony: me, Jonathan, Dad, Mom, my stepmother, our friends April & Chris, and our kids Phoenix & Serenity. Our wedding songs were two versions of "Can't Help Falling in Love (With You.)" 

Before the ceremony began, we took a tour of the Church. Phoenix loved all the coin-operated one-of-a-kind machines (and my dad's habit of always carrying around a big pocketful of change came in very handy indeed.) April and Chris were drawn to the antique posters on the wall ordering all people of Japanese descent or origin to report to an internment camp, and chatted with Stephanie about how awful that part of our history as a nation really was. This led to Stephanie and my dad talking about a trip he'd recently made to Wounded Knee. 

Then we went into the Elvis chamber. My parents and Stephanie had a lively conversation about the King of Rock 'n' Roll. At one point, my dad remarked that he had more Elvis gear in his closet than this place had in the whole building! And he wasn't just whistlin' Dixie. He was a lifelong collector of all things Presley. My parents fought over that Elvis collection for ages following their split. Custody they figured out right away. Who got the Elvis license plates? That took years

I had been nervous, but for once, my parents put aside their personal disagreements and complicated pasts for one day so their oldest daughter could marry the man she loves. In the end, the only one to make a fuss was 15-month-old daddy's girl, Serenity, who had trouble understanding just why her father couldn't hold her throughout the ceremony! 

We gave our vows, and then were marched down the street into Powell's Books with a big "Just Married" sign. Everyone stopped and applauded! 

Then we were off to our apartment, where we had a little reception with food and a cake my father bought (the cake was easily Phoenix's favorite part of the day). We toasted with champagne and took congratulatory calls from my grandfather and my sister. 

And I kept wanting to ask people to pinch me...after all this time, and all we'd been through, Jonathan and I were now husband and wife. It felt like a dream! 

Alas, there was no honeymoon...we spent the time with my mother instead. We plan to take a trip to Vegas in 2017, our 20th anniversary. I have been looking forward to it for years, and I can't believe it's only three short years away now. We are so excited! 

Over the years I've had people ask me if I plan to have a "real wedding" later on down the line, or if I wish I'd done anything differently. My answer to both is an emphatic no. I wouldn't have changed a thing (except possibly not wearing high heels that pinched my toes painfully during the March to Powell's). It may not have been your usual run-of-the-mill ceremony, but we're not the usual run-of-the-mill couple, so it fit us perfectly.

It was the only time my mom got to be the mother of the bride: she died seven months later. In 2010, my father also passed. By their requests, Elvis' version of "Peace in the Valley" was played at both ceremonies. 

In those last, precious seven months, my mother showed our wedding video to anyone who would watch it. She was just delighted, and anyone who thought our wedding was "weird" got the cold shoulder. She joked that ours was the only wedding video people actually wanted to see! I admit to telling that same silly joke myself in her honor. 

And thus, Jonathan and I were wed. Here's to 17 more years...and beyond!


Friday, November 28, 2014

Why Don't You Celebrate Thanksgiving?

It's time for my annual Day-After-Thanksgiving post. Enjoy!

Or Google "Zen Pretzel Trick Thanksgiving."

I am on my mobile and having difficulties putting up links...I will attempt to rectify this tomorrow. Thanks! 

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Yo Gabba Gabba Live!

Last Wednesday, Jonathan and I took Eden (our youngest daughter) and Justice (our goddaughter/her best friend) to see "Yo Gabba Gabba! Live!" here in Portland. 

We've been to a few of these sorts of kids' shows over the years: "Sesame Street Live," "Disney's The Little Mermaid on Ice," and last, but not least, "Barney Live," otherwise known as the Show That Must Not Be Named. Let me tell you, folks: after three long hours of purple purgatory, I understood completely why his singing is used by our armed forces as an instrument of war. 

As a direct result of the trauma that resulted from our wretched dinosaur overdose, we avoided similar shows for years. And so, this was the first stage show experience for Eden & Justice. To call them "excited" may be the understatement of the century.

So, what was "Yo Gabba Gabba Live" like? 

First and foremost, it was a reasonable length: about an hour and a half, plus an intermission. The perfect amount of time for the age range in question. 

Secondly, they didn't try to get creative with an unnecessarily-complicated plot like so many other live kids' shows insist upon doing. This was very much a concert rather than a play, which was evident in this year's theme: "Music is Awesome." 

DJ Lance Rock and the YGG characters sang popular songs from the show, such as "Party In My Tummy" and "Don't Bite Your Friends." They actively encouraged the kids and adults to get up on their feet and dance along. And almost without exception, they did! It was something to behold: enraptured children dancing in pure joy, all the while encouraging their parents and grandparents to stand up and "Get Your Sillies Out!"

In addition, they played games, such as "Hold Still" and "DJ Lance Says." During all that dancing & singing, a large screen on the backdrop played clips from the television show, including many adorable tots dancing their hearts out. Very cute.

Third, the lobby was set up nicely for the event with friendly people in YGG shirts talked with the kids and there were nice decorations that allowed for photo opportunities such as this one:

Our favorite part of the lobby set-up was a fun YGG bean-bag game for kids to play and win a YGG picture to color.

Fourth, the cast was incredibly friendly, even by children's performer standards. The characters frequently stopped to high-five the kids, and DJ Lance Rock himself came out into the audience to hug fans & pose for photos. Eden got both a hug and a handshake from DJ Lance, and it was the highlight of her night! 

Fifth, they didn't go overboard with the merchandise. Having taken Wren to three separate "American Idol" tours over the years and dealt with their theme-park-level sales, it was refreshing to see just the one booth selling t-shirts, toys and the like. We got both girls a Toodie stuffed doll and Eden also purchased a small bag of bracelets with her birthday money, saved for just this occasion. 

And finally, there was a little trip down memory lane for the parents at the show... 

We thought perhaps they would do the program's popular segment "Biz's Beat of the Day" via a video clip shown on the huge Jumbotron-esque screen behind the cast.

But to our delight, the Biz himself was in the house and performed live on stage! 

He taught a few birthday kids some basic beatboxing, then hit a DJ booth to "kick it up old-school." 

Just as he began to spin the Sugarhill Gang's "Jump On It" (thankfully, without the war-whoops), out comes 90's rap legend Rob Base!

Naturally, Biz then mixed in the famous sample from Base's big hit "It Takes Two." 

Kids all over the room were looking at their excited parents in awe. "You know who Biz is, Daddy?" I heard one flabbergasted little girl say, setting herself up for the inevitable Dad joke: "Of course I know Biz! He's been JUST A FRIEND for years!"

The only drawbacks were the rules against food in the theater (I was rather counting on a snack for my medication), and the rather anemic offerings insofar as concessions were concerned (flat soda, no caffeine-free options, sold out of soft pretzels and apple juice within minutes.)

My biggest gripe? Accessibility.

When my husband bought the tickets, he specifically asked for wheelchair seating as close to the restroom as possible. 

What we got was yet another example of how differently the word "accessible" is defined by the general public versus how it's defined by the disabled community. 

Technically, our seats were very close to the bathroom: the restrooms were on the bottom floor and our seats were directly on top of them, one floor up. Ideal for almost everyone hoping to make a few quick pit stops. Especially folks with disability-related bladder issues like myself.

But as it turns out, "almost everyone" does not include me, as the restrooms were only accessible from our seats by a very long and wide staircase. 

Naturally, stairs are out of the question for me, so I had to take the elevator...which was on the exact opposite end of the large theater from our seats! So while in theory we had the best bathroom-adjacent seats in the house, in practice we couldn't possibly have been further away. 

Lesson learned: ask where the bathrooms are AND how one gets to them from the assigned seat.

All things considered, the few gripes hardly matter. After all, this outing wasn't about me: it was about my daughter & my goddaughter getting to have a great time with characters they know and love. And "Yo Gabba Gabba! Live!" absolutely delivered. 

During the program, DJ Lance Rock mentioned that they'd been doing this tour for five years. If they come back to Portland, I'd love to take my daughter and goddaughter back to see them again! 

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