Monday, September 22, 2008

Best Man's Guide to Bachelor Party Planning

It was a blast, a shindig, a hoot and a half. My brother's bachelor party was by average measures a success, meaning that everyone who stuck around had a good time. We did lose two guys along the way, but I think that had more to do with priority differences than party plans. Overall, I was happy with the results, and more importantly, so was my brother.

I hereby admit, however, that it could have been more spectacular. To that end, I've made a handy guide for future Best Men in their own efforts, using both things I learned along the way and my blinding 20/20 hindsight. I did try to keep it down to ten items, but I just couldn't cut any content. Top ten lists are overrated anyway.


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Best Man's Guide to Bachelor Party Planning

1. Plan Ahead: Whatever the plan, know it and communicate it in enough time that everyone has enough notice to both show up and afford it. A month lead (or two paychecks) time is a good start.

2. Make at least one part of it classy: Even if you're planning a raunchfest, at least have dinner somewhere he can bring his soon-to-be wife later on. It's just good taste, and if nothing else provides the guys with a segment of the evening they can be completely truthful about.

3. Delegate: Make the other groomsmen do parts of the job, especially if they have a passion or expertise that fits. If a guy plays in a band, or knows someone who does, make him plan the bar leg for instance. Also, see rule 9: Police the party.

4. Share the cost: It's not tacky to ask for guys to pay not only their own way, but part of the groom's. You shouldn't be footing the whole bill just because you're the best man, and the groom should have to pay exactly zero all night. Be up front about this with the guys and they'll not only appreciate the effort you're making, they'll all have a better time.

5. Designate drivers: Volunteers are preferable. If nobody steps up, you're the first DD of the night (like it or not). The bachelor gets shotgun, always. Also see rule 6.

6. Stay cogent: Even if you're not a DD, you can't afford to get sloshed. You've got a lot to keep track of, and you owe it to the groom to make this the best night you can. Drinking yourself into oblivion is a good way to lose track of this responsibility.

7. Know what the girls are doing: Not necessarily to match or one-up the bachelorette party, but at least give something comparable. If they're wearing custom matching bar shirts with "Bride" and "Bridesmaid" sequined to the chest, the least you can do is make souvenir beer koozies. Anything less will only make comparing stories later a lame reflection on you.

8. Take pictures: lots of them, digital ones, so you can delete them when you're sober. Chances are you'll probably get lots of keepers along the way.

9. Police the party: if anyone looks like they might be trouble, be ready to either confront them or put them out without making a scene. Don't let anyone get out of hand, especially where strippers and waitresses are involved. Don't let the bachelor do anything that might sabotage the wedding should a story, video, or picture fall into the wrong hands. If a man can't rely on his friends to keep him out of trouble, he needs new friends. Again, see rule 3: big guys get cop duty.

10. Watch the bachelor: Keep track of how much he's had to eat and how many drinks, and know the signs that he's done for the night. When he's near critical mass, cut him off and move him to the pool table so he stays on his feet and you can watch him more closely. Also, keep water and paper towel in the car, in case you end up missing the signs.

11. Have the toast and coffee ready: wherever the bachelor's going to crash, in case he gets really drunk. Maybe plan to end the party at an all night diner. Have a trash can near the bedside, too, and make sure he's well cared for 'til morning.

Monday, September 15, 2008

43 Minutes: Farewell, Mr. Wright

Richard William Wright, 28 July 1943 - 15 September2008, rest in peace.

I cannot underestimate the effect of Pink Floyd's 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon, on my life. Of course by the time I listened to it, twelve or so years after it was released, it was old news, but still on the Billboard 200. It was the first or second piece of music I ever purchased (on cassette, of course) and I've never given it up. In fact, to maintain ownership, I've had to buy nearly a dozen more copies, and make sure I keep at least two on hand at all times.

To me, the centerpiece of this album is The Great Gig in the Sky. I *got* this song right away, even though it has no proper lyrics. It moved into and through me in a way I'd never felt music do, in a way few other songs can even now. The piano and vocals, the bass and drums all went together in a kind of perfection that musicians rarely achieve. I've loved this song forever; only recently did I discover it was written by Richard Wright.

I first heard and learned about Pink Floyd on a radio show when I was experimenting with my cassette recorder. It was either on WRIF 101.1FM or WLLZ 98.7FM. I still have that tape somewhere, I hope. I listened to it so often I can still hear the host's voice whenever I hear the original band members' and David Gilmour's names. I heard "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," "Run Like Hell," "The Great Gig in the Sky," "Dogs," "Fearless," and "Learning to Fly." I think this may have been just after A Momentary Lapse of Reason was released, because it and The Wall were my subsequent two music purchases, then followed by the compilation album Great Dance Songs, which of course led to Meddle and Wish You Were Here being added as allowances added up.

Pink Floyd was my first musical love. It was and still is a beautiful marriage. I have been a particular fan of David Gilmour, calling him rock's most underrated guitarist, and anti-fan of Roger Waters, who I perceived for a long time as the cause of the band's breakup, but I wasn't any different than any other fan. I knew all their names, none of their faces, and would listen to anything I could get my ears on.

Even though I didn't take the time to get to know Rick Wright's individual work, or buy or borrow his solo projects, I will still mourn his death by listening to Gig and other Pink Floyd works of greatness. This man and his partners put my existence into a context without which I would not be the same person. I am not alone; I am not unique; Pink Floyd's music has touched millions of souls, and they all are sad today.

Goodbye, cruel world.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blessed Are The Children

We sat watching the rain today on the porch, and she said to me, "Daddy, did you know we're connected to all the places in the world?" And she explained to me how the air and the rain bound us to everything else they touched.

And I wondered at her, and agreed, "Yes, the sky and the trees and earth," still in amazement. But she already understood, knew intuitively of that which she spoke, as if it were a simple Truth of Life, and she imparted it to me as patiently as a docent.

These are moments I am thankful for. These are moments that prove to me the divinity of children, the pureness of the gifts they represent, and the ways which they can change us, and the world through us.

Today I was given a Gift. Oh, let every man see this in his child, and then, in himself.

Friday, September 12, 2008

9/11 Observance?

Anyone who knows me, or has read the last handful of blog posts here (see the Independence '08 series below) knows I'm a pretty big America geek. Mine is an old fashioned patriotism, built from raw materials given to me by fascination with my dad's old Army uniforms, his stories of being in Panama, and some handed-down values he taught me about accountability and looking out for the little guys. I found an outlet for and honed my patriotism during many years as a cadet and senior officer in Civil Air Patrol, and even today strive to teach these red, white, and blue values to my own kids, at least by example.

Admittedly, I missed many a mark most hard-core patriots claim. I've never served in the military or done municipal service. I didn't volunteer for any cleanup missions after Katrina. I don't know all my elected officials' names without looking them up. I don't watch Congress the way a decent taxpayer should. I don't even own a flag pin for my lapel.

Despite my patriotic shortcomings, what feeling I do have is pure, and it focuses mainly on the symbols that represent my nation's ideals. The foremost of these is the flag of the United States of America. Having spoken to many non-Americans on this matter, I know Americans fly more flags than residents of most European countries. Across the pond, it's considered presumptuous to put, say, a German flag on a pole in front of business, or hang it on your porch at home. And if you do, the bigger the flag, the gaudier people think it is. Sometimes, it's considered more acceptable to fly an American flag than that of your home country. It's a matter of pride, then, to drive down Woodward Avenue, or bike through the neighborhood, and see Old Glory displayed (usually properly) so commonly.

Another of our most basic symbols as a nation is our National Anthem. Last year, when Regina started ice hockey, she was amazed that it was played at the beginning of each game, especially at the high school level, and even as a guest to this country, was more than once appalled at the behavior of some of her teammates while it played. I always stand for this, and being accustomed to saluting during the Anthem has made the hand-over-heart gesture a giant no-brainer. I make my children stand, and whining carries no weight when it's time to show respect, even in the podunk little ice arena, even at a high school game, even when only thirteen parents bothered to show up for both teams. (I also happen to be a HUGE sucker for Taps. The first three notes alone make me well up. But that is another entry.)

So imagine, dear Reader, now that you have a big enough piece of me for context, my feelings yesterday when I attended Nicolai's JV football game, on September 11th, seven years after the terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of over 3000 ordinary Americans and changed the world forever, and I found the flag loosely hung on a defective pole, and though game and school officials were nearby, had to tighten the lanyard to keep the flag from falling. Now imagine how I might have felt when the National Anthem didn't precede the kickoff. I have to admit, though it doesn't excuse the school or the athletic program from these digressions, the game started late; I'm sure they were eager to get going. Also, I found out the National Anthem isn't usually played at JV games (ashamedly, I'm usually just late enough to each game to miss this fact.) But still.

Truth be told, if I hadn't poked my head into the announcer's booth pre-game, I'd just be sitting here stewing about it. But I did poke my head in there, and I asked what I thought was a stupid question: Will there be a moment of silence before the National Anthem is played? I got some "uhhhh"s and blank stares. The moment of silence was questionable; clearly, nobody had thought of this. But the Anthem seemed to be a given. The kid in the booth even said jokingly to me, regarding the playing of the Anthem, "What do you think this is, China?"

Well kid, I'm beginning to have my doubts.

What with the Olympics just behind us, and it being the year of Michael Phelps and all, how can we miss such a basic observance of national pride? And let's not forget that, oh yeah, it's September 11th, Patriot Day. I am ashamed for the school and the officials who didn't have to foresight or respect to see this coming. I'm embarrassed that we missed this important moment in front of a visiting team. I'm angry that my inquiry was ignored. I'm saddened by the apparent lack of what I consider to be a basic quality of character, especially in our community where so many have so much. And I'm appalled that patriotism is only in fashion during times of crisis, or posturing, or opining about our favorite candidates.

So I've sent a letter to the Superintendent, again. And the principal, and the Athletic Director. And we'll see what happens from there. Hopefully, it's enough to ensure that this heinous lapse of judgment isn't repeated again, on September 11th, 2009.