Vegas “I Do’s” – Angels & Aftermath (Part 1 of 2)

Las-Vegas-weddings

ANGELS

Though I’ve been to Vegas many times, you throw a wedding (your own), Halloween, and a “visit from beyond” into the mix and, well, it’s one for the books.  “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”….except for this.

I remember working with a guy in my late teens that had recently gotten married in Vegas on Halloween. I also remember thinking that was the most horribly unromantic thing I’d ever heard of. In 2004 I got married the day before Halloween…in Vegas. Yes. Yes I did. And we had a BLAST!! Interesting how time and age, and planning a second wedding, changes your perspective on things.

In our own defense, my second (now 2nd “ex” though still a cherished friend) husband and I initially had more traditional if still casual plans for our nuptials. Both long term residents of Florida and “low maintenance” types, we explored our local options and ultimately put a deposit down on an outdoor, covered, picnic table laden spot at a nearby state park appropriately located along the Atlantic shoreline. Our chosen and secured venue offered corresponding access to the beach for a planned, barefoot vow exchange followed by a DJ, food, dancing, and drinks involving minimal cost and maximum fun. Alas, life does not always cooperate and my father’s diagnosis of a brain tumor, and his accompanying rapid decline, quickly converted the foreseen fun of planning our event into an overwhelming chore as my time and energy was clearly focused elsewhere. Not wishing to delay our “I Do’s” despite the situation (silver linings serving as a welcome and helpful life raft), some quick internet research provided an easy solution. For the “low, low price” of $475 (insert used car salesman voice *here*) we could secure a venue, a non-denominational minister, a video, and play our own music at a ceremony in Las Vegas. Tropicana Chapel, here we come!

Though I was from a loving family, my mother and siblings were only in an emotional and monetary position to provide a tentative “RSVP” due to my father’s failing health. As he ultimately passed away just weeks prior to my planned nuptials (his departure undoubtedly making the afterlife a much more entertaining and delightfully dorky place to be) they understandably passed on attending as we all still reeled from our loss.

My fiancé & I made our plans with no expectations regarding attendance but sent invitations to special friends near & far letting them know the ceremony locale had taken an unexpected turn. We made it clear to everyone that they were enthusiastically welcome but that their presence was requested without pressure due to the now increased expense required to join us on our special day. Imagine our delight when our wedding was attended by 22 friends from 5 states, far and beyond anything we expected or hoped for!

The wedding ceremony was brief, casual, and filled with laughter and love. Obviously, we kept things simple, opting for a single friend at each of our sides at the altar. Very early into the short ceremony our delightful officiant, whom we’d met just minutes beforehand, commented in front of the attendees that my husband’s “best man”, a very close, lesbian friend of ours, was “The best looking best man he had ever seen!”. Little did he know how much those words would haunt us as that “best (wo)man” shared his flattery with everyone within a 1,000 mile radius for the next five years! I will concede it was pretty unique and big props from someone that conducts hundreds of ceremonies a year so we’ll give her a pass.

Our personally tailored, non-traditional, “blink and you’ll miss it” ceremony ended with us singing to one another, alternately and off key, a song from “The Wedding Singer”, an 80’s based “rom-com” starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. (For those that aren’t familiar consider yourself served!). As in the movie, Billy Idol’s voice came over the speaker system (this time in the Tropicana Wedding Chapel) to announce the song. Ironically, his introduction even mentions Las Vegas which, ironically, I didn’t even realize until I looked up the lyrics once again as I wrote this.

I wanna make you smile whenever you’re sad
Carry you around when your arthritis is bad
All I wanna do is grow old with you

I’ll get your medicine when your tummy aches
Build you a fire if the furnace breaks
Oh, it could be so nice, growing old with you

I’ll miss you
Kiss you
Give you my coat when you are cold

Need you
Feed you
Even let you hold the remote control

So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink
Put you to bed when you’ve had too much to drink
Oh, I could be the man (one) who grows old with you
I wanna grow old with you

Upon completion of the ceremony my new husband and I bounced together back down the aisle, wearing huge smiles and big hearts, “Silly Little Love Songs” by Paul McCartney & Wings serenading our new status. As a collective, happy, hubabaloo, everyone present piled on to the party bus we had rented, shouting and laughing until we disembarked at our uber classy reception location, the “Big Dog Saloon”. The following hours were filled with shared food and ample drink, joyous toasts and spontaneous speeches. When it was my turn to speak I acknowledged my father and his absence, the first time I’d allowed myself to tearfully touch on his loss on such a joyous day, before pushing it aside to remain focused on the happy vs. the sad, knowing he would approve.

After sucking it up and getting back in the moment it was once again time to invade the party bus and head to our next, and final, destination. Through my research I’d discovered a new nightclub in the “Old Las Vegas”, Fremont Street vicinity, that was wholly appealing for our non-chi chi and still youthful crowd.

As we piled off our party bus for the last time, the driver no doubt screaming a silent “Hallelujah!” as he pulled away, we walked into the club with a minor state of shock. Though our posse was in “full swing” apparently, at least by Vegas standards, we were WAY ahead of the game as we surveyed our barren surroundings. “Cavernous” is the word to perfectly describe the place – an enormous warehouse type venue, all concrete, incredibly high ceilings, and vast empty space. That said, our mood and celebration were not deterred, collective policy always remaining it’s “Who you’re with not where you are”. Bonus – We clearly had our choice of comfortable seating available to secure as a group. Champagne glasses half full not empty, thank you!

At this point in the tale it’s important to remember that we were in Vegas the day before Halloween. Though our primary focus was obviously on our wedding festivities it was hardly a bland and boring landscape beyond. Kinky and questionable Halloween shenanigans were already in full swing throughout the tourist zones and gaining momentum and numbers the later it got. Whether mandated by city ordinance or not it seemed that we had missed the dress code memo that did not permit wearing more than 1 square yard of fabric, preferably made of latex or fur.  It is with this in mind that as everyone in our circle chattered, laughed, and clinked glasses, I alone noticed – with unintended and uncontested tunnel vision – a solo female walking slowly yet deliberately across our path. Dance music blared while the other stray, early bird revelers traveled in hedonistic packs around the massive space on a mission for mischief yet this woman traveled alone, unnoticed and ignored by everyone but me. To me, she silently commanded the room, an anomaly in this environment holding a spiritual spotlight.

She was dressed as an angel. Not just an angel but a modest angel, simultaneously making her both invisible and glaringly obvious. She wore a floor length, white gown and huge, beautiful, majestic, white, feathered wings. Her hair and makeup were unique in the fact that they were simple. Natural. “Angelic”. The halo perched over her head served as the beautiful bow that launched the soaring arrow of immediate, deep,  recognition and understanding into my heart. Involuntarily and almost violently I elbowed my new husband as he sat at my side, snapping him out of the shared conversation. Looking at me with surprise, unsure whether to be alarmed, concerned, or annoyed, I urgently motioned for him to follow my gaze. My new husband as my only witness, the angel still slowly crossing our path, I told him with uncontrollable tears and laughter, “THAT’S MY DAD!”.

Together we watched as she disappeared into the other end of the club. We never saw her again while we were there but I only needed to see her once.

Thank you, Dad, for coming to my wedding. The soul knows.

A Mother’s Message From “The Great Beyond”

Some things just don’t qualify as coincidence!

It was a typically warm, sunshine & blue skied filled, Florida December morning when my mother’s best friend and self described “soul sister” arrived for a quick stay with me before setting out on her first cruise since my mother had passed away. It had taken Linda over three years to be ready for her next “anchors away” moment as cruising was “their thing”and they did it with delight together multiple times a year and across the globe. This was also the first time Linda and I had seen one another since my mother’s memorial all those years ago and she had been holding on to a ring that was willed to me by my mother for safekeeping.  I remember gazing at the ring with appreciation as a child when displayed on my mother’s long, slender finger and I had always loved it. Purple, of course, (my mother & I’s shared favorite color) a simple but unique design of an amethyst with a diamond set in diagonal corners of a delicate, also diagonal, gold band. Linda had worn it for safe keeping during her flight and when she took it off and presented it to me on my patio I lovingly transferred it to my own finger, done with a shared hug & tears. Never removed since, the ring is incredibly, deeply important, special and meaningful.

But, oh, it gets better!
So unbelievably, incredibly, jaw droppingly better!

Their mutual friend, Mary Jo, was also along for the visit as she & Linda were going on this cruise together.  Shortly after Linda presented me with my Mom’s ring, Mary Jo announced that she had a birthday gift for Linda that she felt she needed to go ahead and give her while we were together even though Linda’s birthday was during their just-around-the-corner cruise. It’s was to be Linda’s 65th birthday so a milestone one and, for this reason, Mary Jo said she had wanted to get her something extra special.  Little did she know HOW incredibly and truly special it was to be!

As Linda and I sat in my living room with intrigued anticipation, Mary Jo pulled out a small box and passed it to Linda. Upon opening it her jaw immediately fell open……and remained open in, struck speechless with shock. My curiosity peaked to the highest level, Linda composed herself enough to turn the open box to reveal what it held which, upon seeing, caused me to impulsivly yell out as we once again both began to cry, this time with incredulous tears of joyful disbelief and amazement!  The delicate content of the box held an almost *exact duplicate* of my mother’s ring that Linda had JUST passed on to me! Amethyst center, diagonal diamonds, diagonal gold band setting. My immediate thought was that Mary Jo had taken my mother’s ring (or a photo of it) to a jeweler to have it custom made but, again, it gets better! In actuality, Mary Jo had never seen my mother’s ring – had never even KNOWN about it – until THAT DAY!  She excitedly and emotionally informed us that she had come across the ring two months prior at an antique shop and it had struck her as the perfect, special gift for Linda. Oh, yes, how VERY, VERY *PERFECT & SPECIAL*!  Linda & I both bordered on hysteria, a combined, beautiful, bubbling brew of laughter, tears, and incredulous exclaimanations! We all three agreed that Mom was making it known that she was here for our first reunion since her passing, for Linda’s birthday, for her first cruise without her, and for the “passing of the ring”. Seems that she wanted us both to have it!

Thank you, Mary Jo, for being the channel, purchaser, and deliverer for what spoke to you (i.e. – MOM!). Over three years later, my mother clearly and undeniably made her presence and endless love known.

As I said, some things just don’t qualify as mere coincidence.

Happy Mother’s Day, always & forever!

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Once Upon A New Year’s Eve

My First Apartment
The year was 1995 and with not too distant visions of Miami Vice episodes playing in my head, and the nightclubs and neon of a big city calling to my then naïve but desperately intrigued 20-something self, I packed up everything without knowing a soul and moved to Miami.  At my father’s insistence, he manned the wheel on the slow move from Virginia, navigating my modest worldly possessions down I-95 until we pulled in to a gas station in the early evening of that New Year’s Eve, my first official stop in my new neighborhood. Much to my father’s alarm, the parking lot had a noticeable number of suspicious, motely looking characters congregating in the shadows of the brightly lit gas station logo, conveniently located mere blocks from my new abode. As I reached to open my door my dad’s arm shot out and blocked my exit. With a look of grave concern reserved only for fathers of female offspring he said, “I don’t know if this was such a good idea.”, clearly not implying our choice of gas stations but rather my decision to move to South Beach.  With understanding but difficult restraint, I remained in the clunky moving truck that had been my prison for the past three days (did I mention my Dad drove *slowly*?). After a quick fill up he silently drove the few blocks to my new apartment, located on a main strip of this art deco wonderland above a sushi restaurant. While he was no doubt making an interpersonal wager as to whether he would first be picking me up to move back to Virginia or filing a missing person report I enthusiastically jumped out. I WAS HERE!

After unloading into my tiny, studio apartment with a scenic view of the back alley I was ready to hit the ground running. It was NEW YEAR’S EVE and time to celebrate! Of course, he was as enthusiastic about this as he was about the questionable characters that we shared the gas station parking lot with but this time it fell on deaf ears. A presto-change-o and a hug with a promise to be safe and I practically took the door off the hinges as I ran out to explore my new stomping grounds.

My first stop was the landmark 11th Street Diner, an enticing (and still loved) concoction of aluminum, art murals, signed celebrity photos, a 24 hour menu, and cheap booze. From there it was a whirlwind night spent bathing in pumping bass and showering in a spray of colorful lights.

The next day was a blur of hangover induced slumber on the couch amongst a forest of moving boxes. Foggy, brief interactions with my father occurred throughout the day as he navigated and inspected his daughter’s new territory, occasionally returning with observations & tidbits. After mostly relaying his findings with skepticism and caution he BURST into the apartment with as much enthusiasm as I had burst out of it the previous night. With an unforgettable combination of excitement and joy on his face it was quickly apparent that South Beach had, at least in one regard, just gained a new fan as he exclaimed, “I JUST SAW THREE TOPLESS WOMEN ON THE BEACH!”.

Hey, whatever it takes.

For first timers visiting South Beach (Note: Only visitor’s call it “SoBe” so avoid that for “cool points” when speaking with locals) do be sure to pay a visit to the 11th Street Diner for a casual, fun, unique & tasty experience.  If you’re young be prepared to disco nap – the night time party doesn’t truly get started until around midnight.  If your clubbing days are behind you then bring your spanx and grab a seat in the Florida sunshine on Ocean Drive.  Order a delicious, refreshing, minty mojito, perfected at Mango’s,  long served there before it became “a thing” due to both the drink and the establishment’s Cuban roots.  The people watching from there is as good as the view from the beach and is equally, if not more, beautiful.

It Was A Dark & Stormy Night….

Okay, not really but Snoopy always started that way and it seemed intriguing so I’ll run with it.pexels-photo-891674.jpeg To appropriately begin at the beginning, I shall attempt to do so steering clear of a “dissertation” as some friends fondly (?) refer to my texts. Hey, I’ve got stuff to say and I can’t help if it’s interesting! At least I think so. Certainly, cracking myself up keeps entertainment cost down and my dogs amused though, let’s be honest, they’re a pretty easy crowd to please. Yes, I’ve been “shushed” at the post office (true story) and told I was a “loud American” in more than one country by locals. For the curious, that would be in England and Jamaica so go ahead and make note of that. Hey, I didn’t create the stereotype I only help keep it alive. ‘MURICA!

So something random to get this party started: What do I love?

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Okay, not really. I prefer whiskers on dogs. Dogs in general and gerbera daisies over roses though I wouldn’t light a rose on fire. They’re pretty and my Mom always gave me pink ones so I’m partial to those. She was awesome! Dyed her hair blue when she was 70. Not like unintentional, black with a blue hue but “F it, I’m 70!” turquoise blue and I couldn’t have been more proud! I like to think I had some influence on that. The older she got the less she cared what others thought. Seems to run in the family as my age progresses. Minor problem there is that I actually never cared much what others thought to begin with so, should I make it to 70, I’ll consider myself lucky if I’m allowed in public at all. Fortunately, I counteract non-conformity and a laissez-faire attitude with a pocket full of rainbows and unicorns and a big, heartfelt, squinty eyed smile wherever I go (hence my childhood nickname of “Smiley”…. at least the nickname I knew about).

This blog is dedicated to my parent’s contagious love for travel, living life with wanderlust and a wanton attitude, and to all of those who share the same.

Life is short – make sure you LIVE IT!!

Ponder & share:  What do YOU love?1462965_10151850203568165_1688212876_n