Friday, December 02, 2016

COLUMN: Lacrosse

(This is totally where the wedding was.)

Sometimes I think about the fact that I'm still single at 45 years of age and it makes me sad. These sharp pains of regret, failure, hopelessness, and loss stab at my self-worth with a fiery intensity... for approximately three seconds. That's how long it takes to remember all the AWESOME parts about being single, and then I have a laugh and get on with my day.

Okay, sure. It'd be swell to find someone to share my life with, and maybe one day that'll happen. But I'm not going to live my life on an aggressive soulmate search as though there's no possible chance of living a fulfilled life without someone by my side. Love and companionship are awesome, but in the meantime, I'll take cats and video games.

Being single might stink, but it DOES have its advantages. If I want to spend half the day binge-watching superhero shows, no one's going to stop me but my conscience. I plan all the menus and mark the social calendars. Right now, I'm laying on my couch writing this column between batters of the World Series. I don't have a bad life, people.

Starting a family is surely a rewarding experience, but NOT starting a family has its own of rewards, too -- not the least of which is avoiding the stress and horrors of a wedding ceremony.

Weddings are a big deal. It's the public proclamation and symbolic manifestation of the commitment that you've entered into, and that should be a cherished occasion. But there's a fine line between cherished occasion and overblown fiasco, and I've had the privilege of witnessing both -- many times over.

I might be hopelessly single, but that doesn't mean my friends share the same fate. I've been invited to my fair share of nuptials over the years. But I've also spent 25 years as a DJ, so I've spun records at more weddings than I care to recall. Normally I stick to club gigs, and I've made the "NO MORE WEDDINGS!" proclamation countless times. But usually all it takes is one friend in need and I'm once again reaching deep in my DJ bag to find the Hokey Pokey and Chicken Dance.

Truth be told, I'd rather be the DJ than NOT be the DJ. When I'm NOT the DJ, I spend the entire reception behaving like the Simon Cowell of matrimony, sitting in smug judgement of whatever sad DJ isn't me. If I ever DO get hitched, I'll have to hire a band, otherwise my beautiful bride might not like it when I fire the DJ and take over myself.

DJing a wedding might be stressful, but the ones looking the MOST stressed are usually the bride and groom themselves. Even if it were my "special day," nothing sounds more dreadful than putting on a penguin suit and making forced pleasantries with my extended family.

This past weekend, I witnessed a wedding that may have set the bar on stress levels -- and I wasn't even invited.

Being single also means that if I wake up on a Saturday and feel like a spontaneous roadtrip, I can take it. Initially, my friend Jason and I decided to head up the Great River Road a bit to see some fall colors, but somehow we just kept heading north until we found ourselves in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.

Lacrosse is surrounded by bluffs, and atop one of them is Grandad Bluff Park that features a stunning overlook of the town. We decided to check it out, and immediately bumped into a hundred other people with the same idea. Parking was limited, and it was almost a half mile uphill hike from the car to the overlook, so I was fairly spent by the time we managed to get our first glimpse of the park -- and the wedding that was overtaking it.

At the top of the bluff, there's a large landing with a shelter and a path that leads out to the overlook, which affords one of the best views of the Mississippi you could ever witness. But on THIS day, the shelter and landing were occupied by a formally-clad family frantically setting up folding chairs and floral arrangements. And this family seemed absolutely gobsmacked that people could dare be approaching the scenic overlook in an attempt to look over the scenery.

"EXCUSE ME!" shouted the father-of-the-bride to anyone within earshot, "WE PAID FOR THIS SPACE! WE ARE HAVING A WEDDING HERE!" Well, once Grandma Ruth and Great-Aunt Edna finished the half-mile hike up there, presumably. The shouting was in vain, though. Dozens of tourists were ignoring his shouts and meandering through the wedding.

Jason asked if I wanted to walk out to the overlook. "No, go ahead," I told him, "I think the real show's gonna happen right here." I was right. The more tourists that approached, the more irrational the guy started getting. When a young couple asked if he'd pose for a photo, he finally snapped.


Now, I'm clearly no expert at matrimony, but I can tell you with some confidence that if you wanted a private wedding, you should probably choose a venue that's NOT your town's #1 tourist attraction on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. This would be like getting married at an Adele concert and being outraged that others showed up to see Adele. Meanwhile, all this time, the poor bride was waiting a few steps down the path in a cloud of perfume and makeup. Just as things were reaching the zero point of chaos, Jason made his way back and insisted that we leave the wedding to those invited. I bet it was a lovely ceremony, even though they probably had a lousy DJ.

On the way home, we stopped for dinner at the only option we could find along the deserted yet still somehow Great River Road: an over-priced buffet at a riverboat casino. As we tried valiantly to consume our money's worth of sub-par food, I looked around and saw nothing but sad couples, sitting around and eating in near-total silence. I don't know if I'll ever find my soulmate, but if I do, I promise we'll never run out of things to talk about.

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