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.

U.F.O.’s, WTF?

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“U.F.O.’s, and aliens, and alternate universes, oh my!”

The first time I explored “Alien Territory”, both literally as a region of the U.S. I’d not previously been to and figuratively as the area of North America best known for  U.F.O. intrigue, a’la Roswell and Area 51, my senses and “alien radar” were abuzz!  Though I’m skeptical regarding abductions I don’t rule them out completely and I’m just happy to say I can’t speak from personal experience (and I’d like to keep it that way).  End of the day, I’m a believer, and have even made the mecca to the U.F.O. museum in Roswell, New Mexico from S.E. Florida twice, a destination only reached through purposeful intent due to its remote location.

On an extended road-trip through the southwestern United States, my friend & I knew we had officially entered X-Files domain when we passed an electrical box on a busy street corner that was currently doubling as a canvas for an amateurish but passionate painting of a large alien head and U.F.O. that dominated a background of night sky.  Accompanying this imagery were the brush-stroked and thought provoking words, “Do you believe?”.  This random but clear welcome to “Alienville” demanded a brief filming & photo op that we obliged by pulling over in the bustling intersection, unashamed & unapologetic, giggling, tourists.

Many miles to go to that days destination, the sunlight slowly disappeared until it winked goodbye on the western horizon.  With its departure there was no civilization present as far as the eye could see to offer even the faintest glow to cut the pitch black, desert, darkness as we navigated our rental car onward.  Traveling the dark and barren landscape, vehicles passed us and visa-versa only at noticeably extended intervals.  Fortunately, as good friends do, we had no trouble amusing ourselves as the hours and the miles ticked by, aliens naturally being a discussed and revisited topic of conversation along the way.  Until……suddenly……

”WHAT WAS THAT?”, I yelled out in alarm and excitement, leaning over her to get a better look out her driver’s side window.  “What?  WHAT?”, she loudly responded, uncertain whether to be alarmed or intrigued.

Me:  (Stammering and exclaiming) “I SWEAR, I just saw a light going across the sky and it just DISAPPEARED!”

Her (again):  “Where?  WHERE?”

Me:  “It was right out your window……”

(nervous giggles while she drove and I continued gazing intently)

Me:  “THERE IT IS AGAIN but IN A DIFFERENT PART OF THE SKY!”

Her:  “Where?  WHERE?  Oh my god! Where?”  (obviously working with limited dialogue under the circumstances)

Me:  “I swear, I’m not kidding you! I just saw it again but in a different part of the sky!”

No other cars in sight, it was just us, the desert, and the aliens.

I rapidly began fumbling in the darkness of our car for the video camera we had brought along to film our journey for future Memory Lane viewing.  This *obviously* deserved inclusion as part of our vacation experience and, more importantly, documentation for official, scientific review!  Despite my amateur filming skills and our mutually distracting squeals of excitement, disbelief, and shock, I managed to get the video camera out and the lens into focus.  I directed the camera towards, and recorded, out the front of the windshield into the void of the empty sky as we waited for our next Visitor From Beyond to make their presence known….and we were not disappointed!  This time BOTH of us saw it – “Oh my god!  Oh my god!  Oh my god!”

Her:  “I saw it!  I saw it!  Ohmygod!”

Me:  “I told you!  Ohmygod!  Pull over!  PULL OVER!”

(Insert ear piercing, extended, exclamations, merged together in a non-sensical, audio train-wreck.)

Then…..silence.

Too entranced to pull over, to do anything other than gaze with hypnotized wonder into the ebony infinity above, we saw yet another, this time clearly a different light that was much closer though which disappeared just as quickly as its companions.  Then, just a moment later, it played its role in this extraterrestrial game of “Simon Says” as it too reappeared.  A little bit longer and….AGAIN!  Same thing, different place in vast sky.  They…were…EVERYWHERE!  We were absolutely beside ourselves and it truly was one of the most exciting and intriguing moments of my life until…….

Her:  “Oh my god.  They’re PLANES!”

Me:  “Noooooo.”

Her:  “Yes!  Look!  You can barely see them because it’s so dark but there are clouds in the sky!  Every time we see a light it’s a plane and when it disappears it is going behind a cloud and then comes out the other side!”

Me:  (Gazing intently, the car loud with silence)

****There it is AGAIN!****

…..and now I see the damn cloud around it’s lights.

(Insert sound of deflating balloon *here*)

And so the road trip, us, and life moved on with one new item, a helluva’ entertaining vacation video segment, and one remaining item:

I still believe!

mork

SACAGAWEA (A Gemini Shout Out)

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Sidestepping from humor to wonder for a moment.  Messages of love & support from “The Great Beyond” the subject of the day, for today is my O.G.’s birthday.  O.G. stands for “Other Gemini”, one of those nicknames that presents itself without thought and that sticks like glue to the degree that you no longer address one another by your real names.  My best-friend and I’s “glue” was the unintentional but funny & permanent result of his “post bitter break up phase” with his partner of 15 years.  Shortly after their break up a mutual friend was regaling his ex with a story of whatever Eric (aka: My O.G.) & I’s latest escapade was.  His ex failed to find the amusement in the shared story (though I’d bet that it was, indeed, amusing!  Heh, heh!) and sarcastically responded to this mutual friend, “Ugh!  They’re just like each other!  It’s like the other Gemini!”.
Other.
Gemini.

Really?

Ohhhhh, how we laughed!
And so “O.G.” was born.

My O.G. was only 48 years old when he passed away, an age I will be surpassing just a few days from now.  It’s a long, drawn out, sad story of terminal illness that there’s no fun in sharing but suffice it to say that it ended with him passing away on July 23rd, 2014.  Almost three years later I am grateful to now be in a place where I remember him mostly with a warm heart and triggered smirks, if not flat out laughter, ever thankful for the undeniable bond and multiple, undeniable, messages he has sent me from that “Great Beyond” previously mentioned.  This is the tale of one of those messages.

If you paid attention in U.S. history class (I plead the fifth) then Sacagawea is familiar to you, the Indian princess that assisted Lewis & Clark on their expedition.  Despite the fact that I’m sure I was “taught” this in school, I knew nothing of Sacagawea until the day that my O.G. showed me some rare coins that his grandmother had given him that featured this historical & strong female.  As best friends do, we somehow morphed this into a good luck mantra where any time we wanted something good to happen we used it as a manifesting chant: “Sacagawea!”
Fast forward to about a year later after he showed me the patinaed coins.  In ailing health but not yet aware of the true severity of it, Eric decided it was time for a change.  He was ready to head back to the western part of the U.S. where his roots were and start a new & fresh life, power washing off the bad juju, memories, & struggles of his past few years in Florida.  With a heavy but supportive heart, I bid him adieu as he loaded up his U-Haul, only to have my breath taken away when I saw the image displayed on the side of his rental truck:

Sacagawea.

There she was!  A huge profile, proud & braided, ready to accompany him as his prominent, lucky charm on the road to his new beginning.  WOW!  Never before had either of us seen this U-Haul image and, after he pulled out of the driveway, neither of us encountered it again in the years to follow.

I received the dreaded but not unexpected phone call from his brother in California mid-morning on July 23rd, roughly three years after Eric had moved away.  I knew when I talked to my O.G. last that it would be just that…the last.  He literally told me that as I cried.  I told him that wasn’t okay and he had to wait for us to get together one last time yet he firmly but gently let me know that I needed to understand that wasn’t going to happen.  With tired, peaceful, matter of fact, he made it clear that his death was imminent and that I needed to accept it.  I remember sitting on the edge of my patio crying while I talked to him that last time, pleading and telling him how much I loved him, tucking myself in under a blanket of tears and sorrow that night after our conversation ended.

The very few following days involved him being admitted, once again, to the hospital, a place that he had become all too familiar with.  Naturally, I called to speak with him there but the nurse that greeted me on the other end of the line told me that he was not taking calls.  I implored her to let him know it was *me*, which she kindly accommodated as she put me on hold to relay that information.  When she returned with the shockingly same message, “he was not taking calls”, I knew that this was, indeed, “it”, and that our last phone call was, as I had felt but tried to deny, his official “goodbye” as he embraced his fate.

I called my mother that night, distraught and devastated, and, as wonderful & wise mother’s do, she told me that the best gift I could give him was to let him go.  Upon hanging up I laid on my couch and cried & cried, speaking out loud through sobs in my living room to Eric despite the fact that it’s only occupants were my two dogs.  Urgently I hoped, and even believe(d), that he could somehow hear me – feel me – as I took my mother’s words to heart, letting him know that I understood and it was okay to “go”.

And so, the very next day, it was.
And so I crumbled.
And so he was gone.

I got the phone call that he had passed away in mid to late morning and immediately collapsed on another one of my best friend’s doorsteps, gratefully located just two doors down from my own.  What transpired from there is a blur but I know that, through the hotline, she & a small collection of other friends created a shared mission to transport me for us to gather at one of their swimming pools to lay in the sun, soak in the water, and just “be”.  No pressure to talk yet not permitting me to be alone as reality set in.  The mutual friend’s place was not far, less than a mile away, though I remember nothing of the drive.  Our arrival, however, is a crystal clear and vivid, cherished memory, now & forever.

I have a foggy recollection of the car I was riding in pulling into a parking space in the private lot.  I remember just sitting in my shotgun space, my friend telling me we were there and “let’s get out”.  Through a molasses fog I managed to open the car door, looking up as I was ready to exit…..and there was my U-Haul, O.G., angel!  As I mentioned previously, though he had been gone for three years I had never again encountered a Sacagawea U-Haul until that moment yet there it was at the end of the parking lot directly in my line of vision, this Indian princess that I firmly believe did not greet me by coincidence that day.

A finger inserted into a spiritual, emotional, light socket, I instantly snapped alert.  Liken it to having smelling salts shoved under my nose & spirit, suddenly and brought back to life, emotional & aware.  Instantaeously, I became a bubbling brew of tears and laughter, as this incredulous sight shone on my face and my sorrow with the sun.  No, this wasn’t coincidence.  This was my friend!  My O.G.  Letting me know he was still with me, always.

When we had his memorial a month & a half later I gave the eulogy and shared our background & meaning of Sacagawea, punctuated with this “day of departure” U-haul encounter.  “Sacagawea” then became the battle cry of honor & tribute, glasses clinking together, shouted at random during this farewell gathering of friends.  He would have loved it!

After his passing I contacted his brother and requested those coins, which he sent and which I am deeply grateful to have now & forever.  One is attached to the urn that I keep outdoors in my “hang out” space where I spend the majority of my free time so that he is with me most often.  Another is in my vehicle so he travels with me wherever I go.  A third Sacagawea, not made of metal but of ink, is with me every moment of every day.

As a side note, only very recently (within the past month) did I notice that the font that I selected for my scripted “Sacagawea” tattoo actually creates an unintentional “O.G.”.

Unintentional on my part.
Universally intended flair.

Happy birthday to my O.G!  Forever young.

“SACAGAWEA!”

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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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