Thursday, August 28, 2014

COLUMN: Kelly Wedding Pt. 2

Last week, we talked about weddings. Specifically, how much I hate DJing them. The problem is, I've been moonlighting as a DJ on the local club scene for years. As a result, any time one of my friends decides to take the plunge, it isn't long before I get the dreaded phone call begging me to man the tunes. Worse yet, I'm clearly a pushover, because I usually end up doing it.

Two weekends ago, my friend Kelly was getting married in Des Moines -- and after a whole lot of hems and haws on my part, I agreed to DJ the reception. They even offered to put me up with a hotel room for the night. All I had to do was show up with some music and do my best to make the night a party. Easy enough, right?

The night before the blessed day, I decided to hop online and take a look at the hotel they put me up in. I pulled the name up in Google, but rather than clicking on the link to the hotel's website, I accidentally clicked on the hotel's listing on TripAdvisor instead. Full of reviews by the general public, TripAdvisor is a great website to visit whenever you want to discover that every four-star hotel in the world is secretly a festering cesspool of disease-ridden nightmares. Today was no exception.

"NEVER STAY HERE!" read the top review. "BUGS AND MOLD!" The bad comments went on and on. Unclean sheets. Roaches in the bathroom. Weird smells. Mean staff. Broken TVs.

I'm not really a hotel snob. Little Lord Shane-leroy doesn't need a long list of amenities as long as the place is air conditioned and clean. But a broken TV? That's just unspeakable. After a wee bit of soul-searching, I decided to call my friend Kelly and tell her about the bad reviews. There are a lot of hotels in downtown Des Moines, and maybe there was still time to switch me to one that didn't come with courtesy cockroaches.

I told her about the situation and politely asked if I could get a new hotel. She politely became hysterical. It turns out that you can't really back out of a reservation 24 hours in advance, especially not when you've booked an entire wing of said hotel for your whole wedding party, most of whom were already there. Rather than resolving the situation, the only thing I accomplished was informing one of my best friends on the eve of her wedding that she may have just exposed her entire family and loved ones to toxic cooties.

Rather than getting a new hotel room, I found myself talking her off the ledge. "I'm sure it's fiiiine," I said. "You know how online reviewers always over-react. Forget I called! I'm sure the place is great!" And the fact that I was telling her this while packing long-sleeved shirts and a can of Raid will remain our little secret, Quad Cities.

Hours later, I was Des Moines bound and excited to discover that the GPS was navigating me right past the state capitol, which I'd never seen up close. And I still haven't, because in between me and the capitol building was a giant park holding a massive outdoor festival with tents and bands and what I'd reckon to be 20% of the greater Des Moines population. And right in the middle of that festival and its accompanying infinite traffic jam, my GPS proudly announced, "YOU HAVE ARRIVED AT YOUR DESTINATION!"

I was pretty sure I hadn't. Texting and driving is illegal. It's a good thing Screaming-At-Your-GPS-and-driving is still within the confines of the law. It turns out I was at East Whatever-th Street and I needed to be at West Whatever-Th Street. Getting there simply involved an extra 45 minutes of stop-and-go traffic, two detours, and circling downtown Des Moines over-and-over again like a misguided vulture until accidentally stumbling onto the hotel out of the corner of my eye while whizzing past it.

For what it's worth, online reviewers really ARE the worst. The hotel wasn't half as bad as TripAdvisor made it out to be. It was a classic old hotel with a few classic old creaks and groans, but my room was clean, devoid of insects, and most importantly, the TV worked just fine.

Except I couldn't watch it, because I had precious little time to get set up for the reception. The venue was just a block away from the hotel, so I grabbed my gear and leapt out the door -- in absolutely the wrong direction. Two blocks later, I was covered in sweat and standing in the parking lot of a porn shop, trying desperately hard to avoid eye contact with the clientele while furiously trying to work the GPS on my phone and somehow look as if I WASN'T completely lost AND carrying thousands of dollars of audio gear on each shoulder. A block later, I found myself halfway across a bridge on what I can only presume was West Methamphetamine Avenue when my phone dinged. "YOU HAVE ARRIVED AT YOUR DESTINATION!" Sigh.

Fifteen minutes of aimless wandering, heat exhaustion, and heart palpitations later, I finally found the reception hall. By this point, I was 80% sweat, 20% human, and testing the very limits of my preferred body wash's claim of "24 Hour Odor Protection." I can only imagine what I must have looked like walking in. Except I don't have to imagine it, because I'll probably soon see it on TV. I took one step inside the venue and was greeted by floodlights and a professional camera crew filming my every soggy, wilted move.

As it turns out, the reception was held in a building that served as a rental hall/coffee shop/architectural rehab store that's also home to "West End Salvage," seen Thursdays at 8pm/7c on the HGTV Network. Signs everywhere announced that "by remaining in this immediate vicinity, you give express permission to feature you, your likeness, name and voice [and body odor] in our television production." Presumably, you can catch me on an upcoming episode that will likely be entitled, "The Day The Perspiring Smelly Dude Showed Up And Started Playing Music."

Once I got there, cooled down, and determined that I was not, in fact, minutes from death, things turned around. As far as weddings go, it was darn near perfect. Kelly looked amazing, the ceremony included a love poem about zombies and time travel, and the guests were treated to complimentary mix CD's and an assortment of homemade jams. What can I say, my friends are AWESOME. As for me, I think I did a decent job of rolling out the tunes and keeping the crowd happy, even if I did it from the furthest back corner I could find, 'cause I'm pretty sure I spent the majority of that evening bringin' both da noise AND da funk (eww.)

At the end of the day, I love a good wedding. But just once, I'd like to see one in MY preferred manner: As an invited guest, sitting at a table, making fun of the lousy DJ and wondering why on Earth they didn't book me.

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