On my way home

Well, the wedding’s done, Tamara and Dan are wed, and pretty much everyone is pooped. The bridal party was out late the night before, the groom’s group was fairly tired, and I’m just beat from all the running around. My feet are killing me.
It wasn’t the shortest wedding I’ve been to, but it was definitely more expedient than most of the ones I’ve seen. That said, it was still a lovely ceremony.
Continue reading “On my way home”

A Middle Ontario wedding

My friend Kathryn got married this weekend. A truly wonderful event that forced my hand to leave the comfort of my familiar Cowtown (and miss the opening of the Calgary Stampede) to visit rural Ontario and experience the joyous event.
I gotta say, probably the most relaxful weekend I’ve had in … well, a really long time.
Continue reading “A Middle Ontario wedding”

A Tale of My Wedding

A year ago, I got married. Something that until a couple of years ago, I never thought I’d do. I’d been bitten hard, and I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t even imagine it. It takes the right person, and the right situation, to make something like marriage seem feasible, even exciting. And until a couple of years ago, I don’t think I was even mentally ready for it. It’s a big commitment, one that many people don’t really appreciate. It’s just a “thing to do”. Witness the divorce rate…
Today is the first anniversary. We’ll be going to Mozart in the Mountain, the first concert of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra’s season. (Obviously, I’m writing this entry in advance.) I’m also arranging a night at the Banff Springs Hotel as a sort of celebration. Hopefully it all goes well. But this entry isn’t about this year’s anniversary. I want to tell you a story about my wedding, and how things don’t always go as planned. To set the stage, I give you two words:
Food poisoning.
This all started on the Tuesday before, 23 August 2005. Exactly how, I can’t tell you. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t know. We’ve talked about this endlessly trying to figure out exactly what happened. All I do know is that I ingested Campylobacter jejuni, a rather nasty gut bug that takes a few days to incubate and do its thing. There are a couple of possibilities, but nothing that I would consider conclusive. When when you’re “best friend” happens to be Murphy, you know that it doesn’t matter — you were going to get it anyway.
Skip ahead to Friday, the 26th. My friends Stuart and Therese were in town for the wedding with their daughter, and we’d all gone out to Chilliwack to have dinner with my family at a cabin they’d rented. Clams, mussels, and steak. At the time, we were waiting for news of Teak picking Chris up from the airport (having flown in from Japan) and we would all meet at the Mission Best Western, where Therese and Stuart were staying.
It took a while for Chris and Teak to get back. Teak took a few wrong turns in Vancouver (which is very easy if you don’t know where you’re going) and they ended up having to stop for dinner along the way. Stuart and I ended up waiting in the hotel’s restaurant/bar (Therese baby-sat, under the intention of swapping with Stuart once Chris arrived).
Around 23:15, I decided it might be necessary to go to the bathroom. I’d only had 1/2 of a bottle of beer, though plenty other liquids (I had a bit of a headache, but nothing I’d consider bad). When I stood up, I knew something was wrong. There was that twinge of nausea that suggested something was amiss, and I really needed to go to the bathroom.
When Chris and Teak finally arrived just after midnight, my head was swimming. I couldn’t see straight without a lot of effort. There was no way I was going back to Chilliwack that evening (I was supposed to stay with my family). I begged Teak and Chris to crash in their hotel room. I managed to (somehow) drive back to their place in Maple Ridge (about 20 minutes) without causing an accident. I pulled out my sleeping back, curled up on the floor, and proceeded to suffer a tired, awkward, sweaty, and painful half-sleep until my alarm went off at 7:00 the next morning.
By that point, I’d made a few trips to the bathroom. None of them were to vomit, thankfully, but every trip just reinforced that something was wrong. Teak’s Advil didn’t bring much relief. The pressure of the things that needed to be done before 13:00 however, allowed me to concentrate on other things. That, and a stop to the 7-11 along the way to pick up Gatorade seemed to help a bit.
While Alex was getting her hair done (I hadn’t seen her since early-afternoon the day before), I ran around setting up tables, arranging placements, getting chairs into their locations. Teak and Chris had graciously loaned me their time to help decorating, though we didn’t really need a lot of it. Mostly just to hide the rather unattractive corners of the tent.
An early-morning call to the bakery had discovered that our order for cupcakes would be ready for 15:00 … two hours after when we actually needed them. My head still swimming, I wasn’t in the mood to hear that, and strongly suggested that they recheck their schedule, as I was to pick them up around 11:00, and I could only afford the trip into Abbotsford once. After a few minutes of discussion, they assured me it would be ready on time.
My gut started to feel a little like a saltwater taffy puller. Things were moving, and it wasn’t comfortable. I hadn’t eaten much to speak of, but hunger was the last thing on my mind. All I wanted was to have the day go off without a hitch. While Chris and Teak toiled away with their decorating, I headed to the bakery to get our cupcakes.
By the time I’d arrived back, guests were already in attendance. I was in grubby clothes, unwashed hair and unshaven. Not to mention feeling wholly gross from the exploding infection in my bowels. And to top it all off, the two wait staff that we’d hired promptly asked where they could find the ice.
I’d forgotten the ice.
After the fastest trip yet seen from the house to the corner store and back, I retreated to the basement to try and get ready. I figured a hot shower would help. All it did was call out to the dull ache in my lower back. The shave was like scraping nerve endings. I looked like I hadn’t slept in a week. I suited up nonetheless, determined not to let some lousy, stupid illness put an end to something that we’d been planning for months. Ache or no ache, the show had to go on.
Everyone seemed to notice immediately that I wasn’t feeling up to scratch. But most people — including my lovely wife-to-be — were convinced that it was only “nerves”. I humoured them and went along with it, but knowing full well the difference between nerves and illness. For the most part, it wasn’t too bad, I was able to work with what we had, mingling and wandering around, before we actually went into wedding mode. Tie and jacket added, we started the service.
Like most things in our wedding, it was largely unplanned. We had an approximate idea of what we needed, but we didn’t rehearse (no need to) and didn’t know how long it would take Paul to go through the speeches. In reality, I have no idea how long the service actually went. All I do know is that the shoes (new) combined with a lot of standing and the seemingly full-on assault to my inner abdomen was wreaking havoc with my back. Spasms periodically shook through my spine and it was everything to bite my tongue and tell Paul to move it along a bit quicker.
To this day, Alex still says I didn’t enjoy my day. It wasn’t that I hated it, far from it — weddings are meant to be wonderful days, and we’d planned ours in that way on purpose. But I couldn’t enjoy it as much as her. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t drink. I couldn’t think clearly. I didn’t get to partake of all the mingling that I’d wanted to. Taking the photographs afterwards was almost torture. I looked for every opportunity to sit down. In fact, one of my favourite pictures of us was when we were seated, and I was resting my head on Alex’s shoulder from sheer exhaustion. It looks angelic in print, even if it belies the torture going on underneath.
The lack of clarity of thought really cut out a few things that I would have liked to do, namely get pictures of myself with those in attendance. As such, we have very little with those who came from afar. It’s my only regret of the day. The event wrapped up around 18:00 with people heading out into the evening. When most people had left, I headed back downstairs to get myself out of my suit and into something that felt less restrictive. The bed in the room I was changing in looked so inviting that I just couldn’t resist laying down for a moment.
Alex found me there, passed out. When I awoke, the room spun in wild circles, like a midway ride gone wrong. I had to shut them almost immediately to prevent nausea. Alex let me rest another 30 minutes before we left for our hotel room in Langley. The trip there was hell. Every bump in the road sent pains up my body. Even the cool breeze didn’t help to clear anything. A card that Chris gave me sent me bawling from emotional overload. Though only a 30-minute trip, even 30 seconds was too long to get there.
The running joke of the wedding night is this: hot and sweaty, without a lot of sleep. And that was just me.
Despite a hot bath and almost having to call the biohazard disposal team from what had escaped from me (again, no vomiting), I still fired up the furnace of illness, actually forcing Alex to sleep at the far edge of the bed from me. It was too hot, even for her. The opposing chills that came were equally intolerable.
The next morning I actually felt marginally better. I ate for the first time in almost a day and a half — a carrot muffin — before we headed out for our honeymoon. The idea had originally been to drive to Fairmont, a drive of about nine hours. But that had been scrapped even before my illness, when we realized that it was just unrealistic. Revelstoke seemed much better for our first leg. But even though I felt good enough to drive, we didn’t even make it as far as the Coquihalla Toll Booth. My system was going down again. Thirty minutes from Kamloops, my hips felt like they were imploding, my legs wouldn’t stop shaking.
They say married men live longer than single men. It’s not because they’re married, it’s because single men don’t have someone to force them to go to hospital when something’s wrong.
For the record, the Royal Inland Hospital is a very nice facility that offers some really decent healthcare. They triaged me right away, including a bracelet and a urine test. I had to wait only a few minutes to get a bed, my own heart monitor (and blood oxygen monitor), and a nurse that checked in on me to get more information about how I was feeling. Alex was more distracted by all the gadgets in the curtained area than about me at this point — the problems with marrying someone in the health care industry…
The trouble really came when the doctor came in. A decent fellow, he thought maybe the shellfish could be culprit, but he seemed doubtful. He carried out a conversation fairly nonchalantly, repeating most of the same topics the nurse had covered not long before. He was so smooth about it that he almost managed to get me to miss the blood test and IV he wanted to put me on.
If you haven’t already heard, I don’t like needles. I hate them. Loathe them. Despise them. And now he wanted to put something in me not for a few moments, but a few hours to … do something (I didn’t ask what). I immediately started reacting by suggesting that there must be some other way. The doctor, wisely, looked at my new wife for support. She just looked at me, smiled, and softly said: “Suck it up, buttercup!”
For the record, it was the best thing that could happen. Blood tests ain’t my thing, and while I didn’t dig the IV (having to take it down the hall to the toilet to deliver the ol’ poop-in-a-hat test was something I never thought I’d have to do one day), I felt immeasurably better for having taken the two litres of saline. The majority of my issues were due to dehydration, and this was the best way to get me back on track.
The doctor also informed us that the bacterial infection could potentially spread through body fluids, so we had to keep our respective distance for a few days. On our honeymoon, no less. The ultimate torture for newlyweds. But at least the cramping was gone and I didn’t have any relapses. It wasn’t until I got back to Calgary that I found out what I’d actually had (not the shellfish, that much was certain). Source unknown, but culprit found.
One day, down the road, we’ll probably get remarried. Something fun, simple, and easy. And hopefully free of nasty bacteria.

Turning Japanese Again, Chris and Kaz's Wedding

I woke just before sunrise. I probably should have gotten up to look around, but decided that I’d rather sleep a bit more. I had a sneaky suspicion that it was going to be a long day.
I woke again around 7:00, when my alarm went off. Jen sounded like she was still asleep (though she claims she wasn’t), so I opted not to disturb her and went to go see what the area looked like with the rising sun.
Continue reading “Turning Japanese Again, Chris and Kaz's Wedding”

Planning for a Return Trip to Japan

Fourteen days, and counting.
Two weeks from today, I’m off to Japan. Again. Relax, this isn’t going to turn into a yearly thing. If I’d had a choice, I’d probably be going to Australia this year, maybe New Zealand. But I’ve got a good reason for going back to Japan.
Continue reading “Planning for a Return Trip to Japan”

Cathy and Craig's Wedding

Somewhere, in a long-forgotten book in some dusty corner of a decrepit building in a burned out city, there is a sentence that says vacations are supposed to be restful. And someone is going to a lot of trouble to make sure I can’t find that sentence.
Last week, starting very early on 3 August, I flew to Ontario. As luck would have it, I was on the same red-eye flight with my cousin Pam and her beau, Sean. Normally, this would be reason for celebration, but flying red-eye basically means you sleep the whole way. And believe me, sleeping is far easier with leather seats.
Yes, leather. I don’t know what’s gotten into WestJet, but at least one of their planes has leather seats. Not just one. Not just a few. All of the seats. The only downer: The ones backing onto the emergency exit rows don’t recline. (I found out the hard way.)
You’re probably wondering what I was doing on a red-eye flight given my dislike for them (see [[Christmas with my Family in Oakville, Cathy Gets Engaged]]), but it came down to an issue of price. Red-eyes are cheap. And with leather seats, I might be doing more red-eyes in the future.
This was the first time I flew into Pearson on WestJet, and I reminded myself yet again why I hate that airport. It’s too slow. Cathy was circling for over 20 minutes before hearing from me. I told her to park — I was going to be a while longer.
Bags in hand, Cathy and I headed to Oakville. Pam and Sean disappeared to Stratford. We wouldn’t see them again until the following Friday. Arriving home, my mother welcomed me at the door, and I made a beeline for the bed.
Leather seats or not, I didn’t get enough sleep.
The Saturday, Sunday, and Monday were filled with various wedding-related tasks, not the least of which was picking things up, dropping things off, and getting things organized. (Yeah, real vague, I know, but I’d be writing an entire log entry just on that stuff alone.)
Oh, whose wedding, you ask? I’ll give you a hint: Not mine.
After a long wait, my sister’s beau, Craig, finally proposed to her on Christmas morning (see [[Christmas with my Family in Oakville, Cathy Gets Engaged]]), making not only Cathy very happy, but the rest of my family as well. And after almost eight long months of waiting, it was time for the happy day to arrive.
I had originally come out to Ontario a week in advance to help out with all the little last-minute details that I expected would crop up. But unbeknownst to me, events would transpire that would change the course of my week.
Details on that in a following log, of course.
Suffice to say, come Tuesday, I was no longer in Oakville. Instead, I spent a lot of time at the CBC head office on Front Street (see [[Working at CBC Headquarters in Toronto]]), working for my friend Brenda. That sucked up pretty much every spare second I had for four days, although I did manage to leave at a somewhat “respectable” hour on Thursday to return home for dinner (the family invasion formally began that evening) and early on Friday (for obvious reasons).
But even on Saturday morning, we didn’t get a chance to slow down. It was go-go-go from the moment my alarm went off at 8:00am. The first task for me was to get Craig and Dave (Craig’s best man) over to the barber so we could get our haircut. (Mine was looking something like a floor mop.)
Craig and Dave were the first ones up, disposing of their excess locks. Completed, they disappeared off to Craig and Cathy’s house to await orders. My turn. So in addition to looking respectable again (yeah, tough as that might sound), I also had a shave. A real one. With a straight razor. Luckily, Sandy is one of the best barbers in Ontario; certainly the best I’ve ever had. I had complete faith in him not to slice something off.
I should point out that I’ve never had a shave with anything but an electric razor. So my skin is quite sensitive. Sandy had to shave me twice to prevent slicing me open. But he did a good job — even by 11pm, I hadn’t grown much of a beard back, and I grow fast.
Following the shave was some chores around the house — mostly moving things. (Aunt Ruth was madly preparing flowers, which needed placing; Aunt Karen brought a light trellis that needed assembling; and flowers all over the place needed watering.) And somewhere in all that, I ran to the grocery store to stock up on almost $80 in Clamato and orange juice.
After a quick bolt through the shower, I rode over to pick up Craig and Dave. They were dressed in their finest, ready for the show. I piled them into the minivan, and hauled them back to the Sowrey homestead. People had started to arrive, though it was mostly family. But you could hear the Great Engine beginning to turn over…
Inside, people were officially going crazy. Mom was getting dressed, Cathy was talking with everyone, the caterers were running around … I almost felt like I was in a Keystone Cops short. But it was time for myself to get dressed. Unlike Craig and Dave, though, I would not be wearing a tux. Cathy had made one request: Wear Dad’s kilt.
When Dad had been diagnosed with brain cancer, he had been told he had a year to live. All he wanted to know was if he would live to see his daughter’s wedding. When he passed away in March, there was a hole that needed filling.
Instead of Dad, it would be I who would walk Cathy down the aisle. And she was only walking down it if there was someone next to her wearing Dad’s kilt. Luckily for me, it fit, albeit a little tight and very warm in that mid-August heat.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I did not wear it regimental style. (That means sans undergarments.) Why? Well, originally I was, but then I remembered all the troublemakers C&C had invited to the party, and suddenly I wasn’t really filled with a great deal of confidence about their abilities to remain mature. (I was right, too. Cathy’s boss shoved one of the disposable cameras under my kilt while we were engaged in group photos.)
The minister arrived and gave the “pep” talks with Craig and Cathy (independently — Cathy forbade Craig to see her prior to the ceremony). There was no practice ceremony — C&C (as we in the family refer to them) like flying by the seat of their pants.
After running around for about 20 minutes, Cathy finally pronounced she was ready. The minister pronounced he was ready. (I don’t think Craig had a choice.) It was time. The music was cued, and Cathy went out the front door.
The guests waited in the backyard. Cathy, Julie, and I walked to the side. Julie took a deep breath, and then walked through the gate to the snapping of shutters. We’d been told to give Julie lots of room before coming in. Dramatic pause, dawdling, psychological torture, call it what you will. Right up until we started walking in, arm in arm, Cathy had been cool and collected. The second we rounded that corner, she couldn’t stop shaking.
I felt a little guilty. This was Cathy’s big day, and I was sharing the limelight with her. At first, I was just walking my sister. But after a few moments, it suddenly became real. Like someone had wiped the fog from the bathroom mirror. To say the feeling was overwhelming is like suggesting a hurricane is a light breeze. It took everything I had not to cry.
Once Cathy was next to Craig, the ceremony started to take shape, and things went quickly. True to their word, it lasted only 20 minutes before the legalities were over, and the new Mr. and Mrs. were presented to the assembly. Many pictures ensued.
After they ceremoniously walked out as husband and wife (returning after a few photos on the front lawn), came the toast to the couple. Huntsville Dave would be the speaker, a neighbour of C&C at their cottage. He, like the rest of the ceremony, spoke without a script, and without a clue about what he was going to say before it was said.
(A note on Daves. C&C seem to know a lot of them. Too many, as a matter of fact. So many, that they all have qualifiers, usually denoting where they live: Huntsville, Scarborough, Ainsville, Oakville, and so forth.)
As the speech finished, I quickly ducked inside to take off the jacket to the kilt. Although I would later learn that it is customary to keep your jacket on until the groom removes his, I was wearing something designed for winter conditions. With all due deference to my new brother-in-law, I was dying in that thing.
Shortly after, we gathered the families, and went for the photographs. Cameras were everywhere. We were lucky that it was bright enough that most didn’t use flashes. I can only imagine the bright spots I would have seen.
While this was going on, the catering staff had opened the bar, and people not taking pictures (or being in them) had started to mingle. Hors d’oeurves were shortly followed, and quickly eaten. There was laughter, music, food, and drink. No-one, as far as I can tell, had a bad time.
The finger foods soon gave way to more “formal” foods: seafood (raw oysters, lox, shrimp), sushi, and roast beef on a bun. Yeah, doesn’t sound too fancy, but then the food should fit the couple. (I’m not saying C&C aren’t fancy, but they’re not pretentious.) And for the record, I’ve never had buffet-style roast beef that good before.
After a while, the speeches started. Cathy had hit upon the idea of using an old family gong to get people’s attention when words were to be said, and people to expect a kiss from the bride and groom. The first few were tame (even with a rather emotional speech from Cathy’s boss), but they got more interesting as the evening wore on.
The one that really surprised us was Julie’s husband, Dave. He’s a great guy, just not usually talkative. We were floored when he got up in front of 90-odd people to extol the virtues of his friends. (We were even more floored with his impassioned interpretation of the Village People’s “YMCA” later on.)
And somewhere in there, was my speech. But this wasn’t to C&C, it was on behalf of the family to everyone else. It was thanks for the effort and trouble people had to go through to come, some from as far as Anguilla and Vancouver. (Even Gerry and Sam dropped in for a while, who live in Bermuda. Although they were in the area for other reasons.) When it came time to end my speech, I needed a something interesting, funny, and appropriate. So naturally, I drew a blank.
I think that’s when Dad stepped in. Before I knew it, this is what I’d said:
“And if you should find that something is missing here tonight, please do not hesitate to let us know. We’ll make sure that you get so drunk that you won’t remember.”
Dad had definitely made it to the wedding.
It wasn’t long before it was time for the first dance. Craig used to teach dance at Arthur Murray, so we all expected quite a show. Unfortunately, he hadn’t had a chance to teach Cathy yet. But it was still something out of a fairy tale to watch.
Following the dance, it was time to dance with the parents. I was to fill in for Dad. However, we had a slight change in plans, when Don stepped instead. Don is virtually a surrogate father for Cathy and I — we’ve known him that long. I think Cathy was a little concerned that I felt pushed out in favour of Don, but I think there was no better person for the job.
Besides, I can’t dance.
Admittedly, the rest of the evening gets a little hazy from there. About 11:00 or so, I made the mistake of switching from beer to wine, although I don’t know why. So come about 2:00am, I was apparently incapable of independent vertical alignment, nor could annunciate baby gibberish, let alone a coherent sentence. And I would pay dearly for it the next morning.
Which began at about 10:00am. We had to get ready for the lunch with family, as many of them would be taking off for home again. This also gave C&C time to unwrap the presents they received the night before.
The barbecue billowed smoke from all the hamburgers, the pot boiled corn, and we ate to our hearts’ content. It was a good day, following a great night. And the hilarity around the presents made it even better.
The single best one, in my opinion, was from the Navis family, an old family friend. They gave C&C a poem, on which was a series of instructions on how to build a fence. Each step corresponded to a numbered envelope, which contained a series of gift certificates representative of that step (e.g. coffee, wood, beer, and dinner). And to top it off, his and her hammers and pint beer mugs.
That night, we sat in the back yard, and listened to the crickets, the wind through the trees, and the complete lack of any semblance of traffic or other noises. As Don, another old family friend remarked, it was the end of an era. His era was the end of comfortable backyards. Mine was different. It was the end of the neighbourhood as I knew it. It would be the last night for me next to the pool. The last meal was Chinese. The last swim had been with my cousin, Jen. It would be the last night I slept in the house that I was raised in.
But no amount of sombreness would diminish the happiness of the previous days’ events. The wedding had been more than Cathy could have dreamed for. She and Craig were now readying for a week at their cottage to spend some much needed time relaxing. We would all be happy with the way things went, and with the way things would go.
Even with the killer hangover that I think I’ve still got.

My Non-Wedding

I left Vancouver nearly six months ago. At once, it feels like a lifetime ago, and it feels like yesterday. During the past six months, I have sat at my desk, on my couch, or laid in bed wondering what might have been had I not left. Today, the answer is clear.
Today, had I not run for, and away from my life, I would be a married man. Today was my wedding day.
I can stand (were I not at my desk working) and say with confidence that I made the right decision … for me, that is. You might wonder if I feel any regret or remorse for what I did six months ago. To a degree, yes, I do. I ruined the hopes and dreams of a human being, regardless of what she did to me. Today, she is thinking about what might have been. But I am not thinking of her.
I am thinking of me. I am thinking that I haven’t been this free and happy in over two and a half years. I have been responsible for my own choices, my own decisions, and my own mistakes. I am happy with who I have become, and with who I am.
Weddings are supposed to be one of the happiest days in someone’s life. Many of my friends (nearly all of my university friends) are now married. I think I am one of a very small handful who are not. I have only been to two weddings so far — that of a co-worker, and I was dragged to the other. I missed two weddings I was invited to because of financial reasons. I missed seeing these happy days.
Yet as I sit here and type, I cannot imagine a happier day for myself. I wake up each and every day and am thankful for what I did. Yes, these past couple of weeks have been very difficult on myself, with tight deadlines and a heavy workload, but even though I might gripe about my workload, I am truly happy. I would hope everyone can feel at least as much joy as I do, for it is truly exhilarating.
Today is also the wedding day of one of my former colleagues at Radical Entertainment … of one of my friends. Right now, she is probably in Quebec, saying her vows to her long-time partner. (This is more speculation, as plans change and I haven’t spoken to her since I left. Not to mention that I don’t know what time the ceremony is supposed to be.) For them, I raise my cup in toast. (I hope you don’t mind warm, stale Coke — it’s all I have at the moment.)
Today used to be a date I dreaded would one day come. But it came without fanfare, and it would have come without notice, had I chosen not to say something. It is an ordinary day, like any other. And I will revel in it, just as I have every other ordinary day, because there is nothing more special than happiness.