Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Things You Should Not Do At A Wedding (The Wedding Chronicles – Part 4)

We Are Family?

In the receiving line I met some of the groom’s family who were visiting from the Ukraine.  They were all smiling and happy until I enthusiastically proclaimed to them that my wife’s family is of Russian descent. Suddenly they all quit smiling and started scowling. I don’t think they were picking up what I was putin’ down, or maybe they were.

Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?
I am certainly glad that we sat the Russians and the Ukrainians at opposite ends of the reception hall or we may have witnessed some world tensions close up.  On a totally unrelated note, the bartender told me that this was the earliest they had ever run out of Vodka! (Ba Ching, Father of the Bride, Ba Ching!).  Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?  

The Coin Toss

During rehearsal I had an idea to toss some coins in the lake as I walked my daughter across the bridge during the ceremony. This of course would be for good luck in the marriage.  The problem is this would constitute a severe breach of wedding etiquette since all attention is supposed to be totally focused on the bride during the walk.

But I found a technicality; I reasoned that since this was such a long walk (started at the side and involved 4 turns) that the bridge was in fact a “neutral zone” and tossing the coins would not be a “neutral zone violation”.  So I made a plan to do this, but kept it a secret.

Of course at the very second I decided to toss the coins high in the air over the lake, my daughter sticks her shoe heel right between the slats in the bridge. (My timing has always been impeccable) When she desperately needed my help, instead
Seconds before the coin toss!
of doing my job I am distracted by doing something goofy. For some unknown reason, she was not very pleased by this “surprise”. Perhaps I should have told her of my plan beforehand.  Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?

Nothing Goofy To See Here

Near the end of the evening my family was sitting together at a table when my mother-in-law proclaimed, “Donald Ake, I am so proud of you. I thought you were going to do something goofy during the ceremony, but you didn’t!” She had obviously missed the coin toss incident.  After the laughter stopped, I had to describe the uncouth act in great detail as she stared at me in disbelief.  This was way more uncomfortable than if she had actually witnessed it.  Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?

I Have A Big Butt And I Cannot Lie

During the after-dinner festivities I had a plan to very discretely slither over to deejay Colin and request the signature song of this blog “Baby Got Back”, the song that has made this blog famous worldwide.  I told my friend Freddie about my plan and he thought it was a swell idea, which should have been my first clue not to do it. Most of the time I got in trouble as a youth, Freddie was somehow involved.

So I snuck around the back of the dance floor and asked deejay Colin, “You got Baby Got Back on that thing?” He nodded. I said “I signed your check.” He said, “You got it”.  With that I quickly retreated back to the table where Freddie and I engaged in a Beavis and Butthead type laugh.

After the song ended, deejay Colin announced: “We have a request from Don Ake, father of the bride (whoops there went my anonymity, he knew my name from introducing me earlier) he wants to hear “Baby Got Back” (a little more embarrassment please). And I have one rule: if you request a song, you have to get out on the floor and dance to it.” And with that, he pushed the button. 

I have none of these moves!
Baby Got Backfire!  I looked incredulous at Freddie.  He laughed hysterically and pointed to the dance floor.  So I headed out to use my moves like Jaeger and hoped no video cameras were running.  Really, because I didn’t know what to do on the chorus so I bent over and slapped my butt cheeks. I am a big ass and I cannot lie. When I returned to the table my friends were red-faced and gasping for air.  Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?

Dirty Dancing

Playing “Baby Got Back” had the surprising effect of “loosening” up the young ladies on the dance floor and the “dirty dancing” part of the evening began.  My friends (who were seated next to the dance floor) took great interest in this occurrence. Freddie exclaimed, “If we danced like that when we were in school, I would have gotten pregnant!”  One young woman in a clingy, strapless, top danced very vigorously and my friend Al kept waiting for her top to fall as one might wait for the ball to drop on New Year’s Eve.  But alas, the spandex of today is much stronger than the elastic of yesteryear and the top held firm, very firm.  I just hope that no one actually ended up getting pregnant as a result of my song request. Was that wrong? Should I not have done that?

(This mercifully concludes the Wedding Chronicles)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Who'll Stop The Rain? (The Wedding Chronicles - Part 3)

My daughter chose a beautiful facility to have the wedding (which of course I paid for).  The ceremony was to take place on a gazebo in the center of a man-made lake with the guests seated on shore.

Did not sing at the wedding!
Of course the risk of holding an outdoor wedding is the chance of rain and the consequences are worse than listening to Alanis Morissette wail about it.  So you check the weather beginning with the 5-day forecast.  The 5-day forecast in Northeast Ohio is akin to the horoscope, it means nothing but it gets printed, so you look.

The forecast for the wedding day:

Tuesday: Sunny and beautiful
Wednesday: Sunny and beautiful
Thursday: Slight chance of showers
Friday: Monsoons followed by typhoons followed by downpours. 

While the rainfall in June had been the second highest in recorded history, July had been slightly below normal.  It would not stay below normal for long.

The evening before at the rehearsal dinner, the facilities manager bragged that they had only had 4 rainouts in 15 years.  I wanted to tell her that if she had wanted to keep that record alive, she should have never accepted a large check with my name on it.

As predicted, I awoke Saturday to a steady rain. I checked the radar and it was an incredible green mess. 

This raised my stress level and causes me to think irrationally. The song on my internal playlist changed from Alanis to Creedence Clearwater Revival. Who’ll stop the rain? I’m the Father of the Bride so I should be able to do something, right? But how can I stop the rain? I post this on Facebook:

Of course one my Facebook friends strongly suggested that I pray.  Yes I knew this was an option, but I really didn’t want to go “Pat Robertson” on this. Robertson is a famous televangelist. In 1985 Hurricane Gloria was headed right for Robertson’s vast ministry in Virginia Beach. He claims he prayed and the hurricane spun back out to sea.  Robertson drew much ridicule over this statement, especially from people in Massachusetts where Gloria slammed ashore a short time later.

I really didn’t know what to pray to stop the rain. Excuse me God, just wondering if you could turn off your sprinkler system and maybe just kick it back tomorrow, please.  I felt really stupid, but that’s nothing unusual.

So the prayers started and the rains continued and the radar stayed green. As I travelled to the wedding location, the rains became heavier. I spent the next two hours staring at the sky and continuing to periodically utter a prayer.   It was a Cantonese (closest city to the place) water torture. It would rain hard then diminish to a light mist. Just when you thought it might stop, it would suddenly rain harder than it had before.

If the ceremony could not be held outdoors, it would be moved into the reception hall.  Yes a wedding would take place, but it was a much less desirable option. The facility manager said the night before that if it rained it was the bride’s decision where to hold the ceremony.

The guest started to arrive and huddled under canopies off the hall.  I hung out with the groomsmen and counted down the minutes to decision time. T-minus 20, T-minus 10, T-minus 5, time.  It was 4 o’clock, the music was supposed to start, and it was still raining.  I started the long walk up the hill to the bridal quarters to discuss the situation with my daughter.

I anticipated she would be very sad that the ceremony had to be moved inside.  There would be tears. I would need to hug her and give that fatherly speech: There are disappointments in life……. but you have to forget those and think about all the good things.  This had to be a command fatherly performance.  I needed to  get her focused on the moment, not the circumstances.

“We have to decide”, I said softly.

“She looked straight at me and said, “I’m getting married outside and that’s it. Everyone will just have to deal with it.”

I recognized the tone, delivery, and the seriousness of her statement, because of course she learned how to communicate from me. What that means is: This decision is final.  You can attempt to change my mind, but you will fail and you will regret that action.

I pulled back the next word I had planned to say. I nodded and said, “All right, we will make it happen” and headed back down the hill.

As the rain hit my shaved-head, I contemplated just how I was going to tell everyone the news.  This is one of those rare instances in life where you disagree with a decision yet you still support it 100%.  This has to be done either out of blind loyalty or unconditional love, in this case both applied.

I first told the groomsmen I had been waiting with and their jaws literally dropped.  I moved along the edge of the crowd signaling to the rest of the groomsmen what was happening.  Then I informed the groom, he was surprised but supportive.  Next, I informed the minister. He’s one the coolest people under pressure I know.  His jaw remained firm, but the eyebrows did instinctively raise. “Okay, we will do that”, he replied. It really helped that he is the uncle of the bride; I needed all the support I could find.  Finally, I informed the facility manager.  I could tell she totally disagreed with this decision.  But the customer is always right and it was my signature on that big check. And besides the decision was communicated is such a way that implied finality.  She could have tried to change my mind, but she would have failed and regretted that decision.

By that time the news had spread through the crowd.  I found this Facebook post from a guest (used by permission):

And then we dried the chairs, got everything else ready, and the ceremony took place, - OUTSIDE.  I didn’t even think again about the rain again until I was standing in the receiving line, not five minutes after the end of the ceremony, when it started raining again.  That’s right is STARTED RAINING AGAIN. At some point, just before the ceremony started, it had in fact stopped raining for the first time that day and it didn’t rain during ceremony except for a very brief sprinkle (so I was told).  You see, I was so focused on
Should have sang at the wedding!
making the ceremony happen despite the bad circumstances, I had failed to notice the rain had stopped.  I think that often happens in life. We keep fighting the dragons long after they have gone away.

And what did this feel like? It felt like raaaaaain – stopping - on the wedding day. It was the good advice, that I decided to take.  It’s like God showing up at the wedding, right when he needed to be there. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Dysfunctional Dancing Machine (The Wedding Chronicles - Part 2)

The Father of the Bride (FOB) has more responsibilities than just paying for the wedding. For me, the most daunting of these responsibilities was the father-daughter wedding dance. I have never been considered “light” on my size-13 feet. 

My history of slow-dancing is not impressive.  My performance at my senior homecoming was so terrible that my date (who was very cute) never spoke to me again.  The dancing at my senior prom was such that my date soon moved out of the country.  The last time I slow danced was at my friend John’s wedding.  I was a groomsman and had to dance one song with a bridesmaid.  Of course they paired me up with a woman with enormous hooters which were protruding ominously out of her dress.  So I am trying to maneuver this woman around the dance floor without making contact with her trophies, as my wife carefully watches.  I also am aware that if this chick decides to unexpectedly give me a neck-nuzzle, my life is going to be hell for an indefinite time.  No one can be expected to perform well under those circumstances.

My daughter knew the dance could be a problem so she selected a song that was easy to “shuffle” to. Her expectations may have been low; however the standard for this dance had been set by my brother-in-law Mike a year before.  Mike had actually taken lessons to prepare to dance with his daughter Hannah at her wedding.  After Mike danced admirably and knowing my turn was coming up, the women folk in my family all asked: “Oh Don, are you going to take dance lessons before Cassie’s wedding?

I considered this an outrageous question.  Of course I am not going to have any dance lessons.  In my opinion, I consider this behavior a violation of the “man code”.  However, I will grant Mike an exemption because this dance was very important to his daughter.  Still, I hold Mike completely responsible for everything that ended up happening.

Mike had indeed raised the bar, so I needed a plan and the plan was this: I would watch instructional YouTube videos to learn how to dance and then surprise everyone at the wedding with my outstanding moves on the dance floor.

“This is a swell plan. I’ve got this!” I thought.

I found several how-to videos and studied how the men smoothly glided their partners around.  This looks pretty easy.  I’ve really got this.

The videos emphasized the importance of footwork.  Even though I am not a dancer, I am an athlete so I fully understand the concept of proper footwork.  I played basketball in high school and Coach Wendmore taught me the proper footwork for playing low post defense and I reasoned those same principles would be useful in slow dancing.  It’s like guiding your partner away from the hoop so you can grab the rebound. Yeah, that’s it. I’ve got this.

I practiced the steps on the YouTube video to the selected song. I couldn’t practice with a real partner since this was going to be a total surprise so I practiced dancing with a broom. Dancing with a broom is like dancing with an anorexic chick and anorexic chicks make horrible dance partners.  But finally I felt like I was prepared and ready for the big game. I’ve got this.

Then the big moment came.  My daughter thought we would going to “shuffle”, but then I assumed the proper dancing position.  She said, “Oh, are we going to waltz!” and then the music began.

We literally got off on the wrong foot. My daughter was surprised alright but she was not adapting well to this situation.  My niece Hannah, who of course knows how to dance, quickly determined the problem and shouted out, “Cassie, let him lead! Let him lead!!!!!!!!!!!!”

But it is not Cassandra’s nature to be led, something her new husband will find out about soon enough.  So we ventured on in an ugly manner, one side pushing and the other side pulling, but at no time was there any coordination or progress. It was an interpretative dance which represented how the U.S. government functions today.

I hoped the dance did not look as dreadful as it felt, but those hopes were crushed when the heckling started from the crowd.  And those hecklers were my friends, who someone in a moment of horrendous wedding planning had seated at a table right next to the dance floor.  When you get heckled by your enemies you know you are performing poorly, but when you get heckled by your friends, you know it is horrendous.

It turned out to be one of the worst father-daughter dances ever.  Thankfully the photos make it appear that we actually are dancing well.  Fortunately there is no video of this
debacle.  There was, but destroying a couple smart phones is nothing compared to having a YouTube video go viral.

This was an utter personal failure.  It was one of the worst ideas I have ever had. No, I did not have this. I never had this.  This was embarrassing. In the middle of this joyous occasion, I felt horrible.

And then something totally unexpected happened.  It’s one of those special moments that you remember forever.  Later that evening my daughter sought me out and took me aside.  I thought something was wrong at the reception that needed attention.  Then she said:

“Dad, you danced really great. I didn’t know you could dance like that, thank you.”

In the world’s eyes, I am a terrible dancer.

In my daughter’s eyes, I am a wonderful dancer.

While these views are diametrically opposed, only one of them matters at all.