How I Met Adam, New Beginnings

So this is the last chapter in the “How I Met Adam” series but certainly not the last chapter in our wonderful lives together.  This is only the beginning.

Four days before the wedding, both sets of parents, my brother and sister-in-love, and my best friend from back home- Smooch, arrived in LA.  (Those of you who saw the movie will remember Smooch, my brother-Chad, and my parents from their interviews.)  Two days later, Adam’s two grandmothers, cousin Jenny and her little son Max arrived from Utah.  The week was all about eating a lot and getting pampered.  We all had facials and massages and manicures and pedicures.  That was a first for the dads but they seemed to love it.  It was so funny to see all of us pile into Happy Nails together!  That’s something I didn’t think I’d ever see.

We had the rehearsal dinner at The Magic Castle in Hollywood.   It’s a supper club that also has magic shows throughout into the wee hours.  It’s in this great old house just north of Franklin Bouldevard.  The Magic Castle is one of the few places that still requires a coat and tie for gentleman and cocktail attire for ladies.  It was a blast.  It’s rare that we treat ourselves on that level, but we sure did enjoy it!

The day of the wedding was so exciting!  It was in the side yard of our friends Greg and Rob’s place.  They just busted their asses to make the place ready and helped out in all kinds of ways.  Their home is pretty much my dream home, an expansive 1900s  ranch-style bungalow furnished with beautiful antiques.   Their home is in Alta Dena right up against the mountains.  It’s beautiful!  Our friend Kim, whom I had met at Crawford, hopped a plane and flew from Arizona to pitch in with the preparations and to take pictures.  She’s a master artist with the camera! Our friend Charlie Love also took a ton of great pix.  Our friend John came and filmed the whole thing.

We didn’t spend a ton of money on our wedding.  Folks pitched in and helped out in all sorts of ways.  I think it’s the little (and often inexpensive) details that make a wedding nice. It ended up being quite the event if I do say so myself.  We had thirteen church pews out on Persian rugs in their nice big yard facing the side of the house where there is an arbor with lush vines hanging on it.  We had white, old-school church fans with “ACN JAK” printed on them. There were chandeliers hanging in the trees.   A bunch of my military buddies showed up that morning and drilled all day to make sure their part in the ceremony would be perfect.  They had originally asked if they would be invited to the wedding!  After I smacked them all up side the head and said, “Of course you’re invited!”  Somebody had the idea, “Hey we should do an arch of swords…” and so they did.  It was incredible.   I hired a string trio and they played beautifully from twenty minutes before the ceremony.  Greg and Rob had really outdone themselves and the place looked great.  Then the friends started to arrive.  By the time the wedding started, there were about 120 of them, mostly our friends from LA, plus the families from Utah and Alabama.  Our friends Susie and Scott from Woodside, Joan Baez Jr and Sr, Gail, who has been Joan’s friend from girlhood and now has become ours, Anna from San Francisco, all made the trip.  My marine buddy Chris Bliss and his wife Morgan drove from Arizona.  All my boys looked so sharp in their uniforms.  Of course they were mostly marines, a couple of soldiers and a couple of airmen too.  One of the soldiers, my buddy Edgar was in the Calvary and I’d never seen their uniform.  They still wear Stetsons and spurs!  Schweet!

Our friend Joey Galon, who’s a licensed practitioner at Agape married us.  Right before time for the wedding to start, he took us aside individually and prayed with us.  He’s from Maui and he gave us each a necklace of khakui nuts.  He did a great job of officiating the services.

When it got time for us to go outside and get married, the two families gathered in the parlor and the moms blessed us with sage and Joey led a prayer.  Then Adam and I escorted our families to their seats.  Since the pews were facing the house, when we came out onto the porch and around the side of the house, we were entering from the “front” of the sanctuary.  We came through the arbor with each family member and we could see all those gathered there smiling up at us.  I love that it worked out that way.  First, I brought in Adam’s cousin Jenny.  She’s awesome, one of my favorite new family members.  She’s a pediatrician but if you met her at a party you’d as easily guess that she was a bartender, a dancer or a stand up comedian.  Fishnets and stethoscopes all the way.  What a gal!  There’s never a lack of fun when Jen’s around.  Max, her little boy (whom Adam and I have come to love as if he were our own son) was already asleep on the front pew.  Then Adam brought out his grandmothers.  They were grinning from ear to ear.  We had placed two “seats of honor” off to the side at the front of the pews for them.  They looked like two queens holding court. Then my brother escorted in his wife.  They are two of the most beautiful people you’ll ever lay eyes on and there was a titter among the congregants when they walked out.  RuPaul was working in Switzerland when my wedding happened. (fucking Swiss)  When he saw the film he said, “You know who the real star of that movie is?  Your sister-in-law!  She’s a knockout!” Oh Ru.  Next Adam escorted in his mom; his father right behind them.  Then I brought in my mom, and Dad walked right behind us.  I was so proud of my family that day and so happy that my family was about to double in size.

Adam is a huge Deadwood fan so when I picked out what we would wear, I chose turn of the 20th century western formalwear complete with brocaded vests, cowboy boots, old-school ties, long coats with metal buttons and hats that we had made for us by this old dude that hand-makes hats in Salt Lake City (JW Hats.  If you’re ever in town, look him up!  He made many of John Denver’s hats.)   Adam looked like the most beautiful thing I had ever seen…it was like he walked right out of my dreams and onto that porch.  The string trio was playing Bach’s Air on the G String as we came in.

Before anything really got started, Smooch went up and lit the candles.  Smooch was over at our house all the time growing up.  He’s definitely like one of the family.  It was such an honor to have him serve as our acolyte.   Joey came out and went to table where the elements for the Native American part of the service were.  He lit incense, struck the singing bowl three times and began the service.  The string trio began to play again and a stunning young tenor from USC sang the Ave Maria. Invoking The Mother God energy was a great way to begin the service.

I had transcribed the lines from the wedding at the end of Deadwood, Season 2 when Alma Garrett married Whitney Ellsworth.  (Anything for my man.)  So for the most part, except for the whole “two grooms” thing, our wedding started off pretty traditional, like Anglican traditional.  Well, except for the fact that our dog Sydney was our ring bearer.  We took the little blue Tiffany bag and tied it to his collar with a stylish black ribbon.  He behaved himself like a perfect little gentleman.

Joey Galon officiated over the service. As “parson,” he did the whole “repeat after me” thing and then added our own vows.  I don’t really remember what exactly I said.  I had given it some thought of course but I didn’t have a script.  I do remember promising him that I wouldn’t become perfect after we were married but that I would bring the best “me” to the marriage that I could.  I’m very serious about this promise.  I’m a weird one and it can’t always be easy living with an artist/activist but he knew that when he married me.  I’m sure he’ll never get bored.  When it came time for him to say the vows he’d prepared, something strange happened.  It was like everyone else just disappeared and it was just the two of us there.  I saw that his mouth was moving but it was his heart I heard, and I heard it with my heart.  It was probably the best moment of my life. I cry again just remembering it.

My mom’s lineage is Cherokee and Adam’s mother is a Mesa Carrier in a Peruvian Shamanistic tradition.  Together they officiated the next part of the ceremony.  Joey said, “Who gives Jeff to be wed?”  My dad said, “His family and I.” My family came forward; my parents, my brother and his wife.  Then Joey asked, “Who gives Adam to be wed?”  Adam’s dad aid, “His family and I” and Adam’s parents came forward. His grandmothers were already seated there in their seats of honor.  I had placed Reuben’s harmonica on top of the bible on the altar so he was there too.  The dads and my brother stood behind the grandmothers.  My sister-in-love stood beside the moms.  It was time for the matriarchs to lead.  Our mothers alternated lines of a beautiful Cherokee wedding prayer that honors The Creator as expressed through the four elements.  With each line of the prayer, the mother who was not speaking enacted in ritual that element.  There was a candle lit and sage was added for fire.  Mother sprinkled a mixture of dirt from Alabama and Utah, the lands of our births.  Mimi fanned the flame with a sacred eagle feather and water was added from seven holy places around the globe.  Then each mother placed a blue blanket over her son’s shoulders.  This was to represent our individuality.  Another prayer was said.  Then they replaced the two blue blankets with one white one over both our shoulders.  This, of course symbolizes our unity.  We both drank from a Cherokee wedding vessel filled with corn water.  It has two spouts at the top.  First, each groom drinks from his own spout and then we both drink at the same time.  Supposedly if you don’t spill a drop it’s good luck for the marriage.  The amount spilled is the amount of tears that will be shed in your marriage.  I think it’s a trick!  There must be some kind of dam built on the inside of the drinking vessel.  When it came time for us both to drink, I kept turning it up and up and nothing was coming out my side.  Meanwhile, all the corn water was shooting up Adam’s nose and he was about to drown.  Everyone laughed.

My brother-by-another-mother Scotch is an incredible singer and when I started planning the wedding, one of the first things decided was that he would definitely be singing!  Now as I said, Adam basically wanted a surprise wedding.  He left all the planning to me.  He knew what day he was getting married and what he was wearing because of the fitting.  He had a general idea of the service because of the rehearsal, but most of the details were a surprise the day of the wedding.  The biggest surprise had to do with Scotch’s song.  When Adam and I were first together, he would play the guitar to me while I cooked our dinner.  We came to love this Jack Johnson song, Better Together.  He would play while I sang.  It’s not an easy song to learn, a lot of lyrics and it doesn’t necessarily follow an easy rhythm pattern.  But Scotch, because he loves us, agreed to learn the song for our wedding.  Here’s the thing.  My main goal in planning the whole thing was to make Adam cry.  I’m a sap.  I cry at phone commercials but not him.  My husband does not wear his emotions on his sleeve.  We told him that Scotch was going to sing Amazing Grace.  I wanted the whole “our song” thing to be a surprise.  I figured if that didn’t get him nothing would.  But Scotch put one over on me!  When the guitarist started to play, Scotch wailed out the beautiful intro, “Aaaamaaazi-ing Grace.”  What the heck?  Was he really going to sing that one?  He sang a couple of lines and I thought.  We’ll it sounds great, let him sing it!  Then he winked at me and smiled and the guitarist started playing the familiar intro to the Jack Johnson song.  As soon as Adam recognized it, his chin went to his chest and the tears started to flow.  Success!  …and yeah, writing about it made me have to hear it so I’m listening to it now.  ‘still brings the waterworks.  And I’m sitting here thinking of all those years that I thought that maybe it wouldn’t happen for me.  You know, the whole marriage thing.  In fact I guess I’d made my peace with the fact that I might be alone for the rest of my life.  I’m not such a bad guy and I’ve got great friends and family after all.  But it did happen for me.  And I’m so grateful.

By the time the mothers were finished with their part of the service, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  Joey said a prayer in the New Thought Ancient Wisdom tradition, a very affirmative prayer.  Although we’d only been friends for a couple of years at the time of our wedding, Joan Baez had become a powerful force in my life.  I value our friendship among life’s great gifts.  Because our friendship is so private and personal, I sometimes forget who she is to the rest of the world.  She has stood for important causes for more than fifty years.  She and Dillon stood where Dr. King was about to deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and sang “We Shall Overcome.”  She stood with Cesar Chavez and stood up for gays long before it was fashionable to do so.  Not to mentioned she’s the undisputed queen of folk music.  But as I said, I forget all that.  To me she’s the woman who has scratched my head while I cried out of frustration trying to do the right thing as an activist and artist, a title she wore even before I was born.  When my Joanie strolled up to the arbor with that old guitar in hand and sang Gracias a la Vida to me and my man, it was one of the best wedding gifts ever.

Then, from back in the trees, there came a booming voice, “Atten-hut !” and the military detail marched forward.  My heart exploded with pride to see them there.  All my love of the military and everything good it has meant for me, my brotherhood with those men, my love of my country.  The fact that they (incidentally all straight) were willing to do that for me at my wedding meant more than I can say and says more about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” than a hundred speeches.   Formed in two columns, they faced inboard and drew swords.  The trio began to play Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.  Joey pronounced us “Hollywood’s newest married couple.” We kissed and walked through the arch of swords.  Tradition has it that the last marine in the column on (what is typically) the bride’s side smacks her on the butt with his sword and says, “Welcome aboard!”  I wondered, but there was no way I was going to ask. The last marine on Adam’s side was Eric Estenzo, the man who saved my life in Iraq.  Sure ‘nuff, when Adam passed him…whap!  “Welcome aboard!” Goddamn, I love Marines!  We walked on down the aisle and stopped at the back of our outdoor sanctuary.  All the attendees then came down the aisle and one by one, these incredible people who have meant so very much to me in my life, hugged and cried and kissed me and my new husband.

The string trio stopped playing and the Dixieland jazz band struck up.  Greg (who hails from Louisianna) yelled, “Y’all come get some gumbo before it gets cold!”  and the party was on!  It was dark outside by now and we all moved into the beautiful old house in the dining room and gathered ‘round the wedding cake…three tiers, white cake with butter-cream frosting and cream cheese mousse filling.  Mmm mm!  The cake topper was two little black cowboy hats, one leaning on the other.

It was only right that Hank should offer the toast…and so he did.  Adam jokingly warned him, “Hey, no ‘these boys walked over my heart to the altar’ or nothin’ like that.”  In fact what he said was very sweet.  Among other things he said that if our marriage didn’t signify how God works things out to bring the right two people together, nothing did. I love you , Hank.

Before I left for Iraq, I went to my good friend John Allan who is Scottish and an awesome bagpiper made him swear that if I took one in the head over there, he would play Dark Isle at my funeral.  Both of my grandfathers descend from the McKay clan.  I lived so the song was saved for a happier occasion.  As Adam and I cut the cake, John stepped up in his kilt and blasted out the song as best ever it was played!

I had one more surprise for Adam.  “Hey follow me!” I said and dragged him back outside where the Dixieland was playing again.  Our families followed.  I grabbed my trumpet from behind a bush and the band backed me up as I blew Stars Fell on Alabama as Adam sat in front of the bandstand and beamed.  When the Saints Go Marching In was the encore and soon it was time for us to leave.

Greg and Rob had a couple of friends who have a perfectly restored 1953 Bentley, one of seven in the world!  When we left the reception, we left in style.  It was too late to fly out that night so we stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Pasadena.  The next morning when we waited for the limo to the airport, we strolled down through the gardens and past the pool.  There was a guitarist out there playing for the guests.  You’ll never guess what he was playing…Better Together!  …and no, I hadn’t arranged it. We didn’t even say anything.  We just stood there holding hands and smiling.  Adam even shed a few more tears. Apparently, married life was turning my brooding stud into an old softy!  Soon the car arrived and we headed out for LAX.  We were having a great time and everything seemed perfect until….when we got to the airport, the lady at the counter told us that bad weather in San Francisco had delayed our flight and we were going to miss our connection.  Oh no!  I couldn’t believe we were going to miss our first night of our honeymoon in Hawaii!  “Isn’t there another flight that could get us there today?”  I asked.  Her hands made a sound like pigeons tap dancing on the keyboard.  “There is one direct flight out of LAX tonight but it looks like coach is full.  All that’s left is first class.”  “Well, how much is that?” I was almost afraid to ask.  I don’t know what she said but it might as well been a million dollars.  “I can see what the earliest I can get you out tomorrow is.”  My heart just sunk.  I turned to Adam, “Can you book the new ones, Baby?  I need to walk over here a minute.”  He said that he would and I just took a few steps away and took a few deep breaths.  I prayed silently, “Okay, you know more than I do.  Maybe that planes going to crash.  I trust you.  All I ask is that you please make this honeymoon special for husband.  I love him so much.”  I walked back over to the counter as the lady put two tickets in a ticket sleeve and placed it on the counter.  “Congratulations,” she said, “You’re going first class.”

Adam had never flown fist class and I could tell he was really digging the service.  He’s Mister Practical and frugal in the extreme but I could see a little twinkle in his eye that said, “I could get used to this.”  We settled in for a very comfortable and very happy flight to Maui for a week in paradise and the most wonderful honeymoon I could have hoped for.  And no, I’m not going to tell you about it.  That week was just for us and I think I’ll keep it that way.

My wish is that if that’s what they want, everyone is able to find someone to share this wonderful adventure with, someone they love as much as I love Adam. Thanks for listening.

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