Monday, September 01, 2008

A Different Point-of-Hue: L.A. Stories 2008 (Part I)

Getting right to the good part…
I told you this series was going to be different. Instead of proceeding in chronological order as per usual, I’m skipping right to the good part. And while that’s not to say that this was the only circumstance of vactioney goodness I encountered on this trip to my SoCal stompin’ grounds, it was, by acclamation, the bestest of the best.

I spent nine days in Southern California, from Thursday August 21st through Saturday August 30th, however if I had only the time on this trip to spend one day there, it would have been Thursday, August 28th, hands down. It was, after all, the reason I decided that to come to California this summer in the first place. It would be the one event that I absolutely could not miss.

It was the conclusion of a fairy tale come to life, and I am elated that I had the distinct pleasure of being a party to it all, from the beginning. The subplot featured a Hollywood ending, but the beginning was 3000 miles away in Long Island, New York.

The Evil Empire vs. Showtime Ugly
There was a time early on in our Blogland encounters when I didn’t know what to make of this guy. To be honest, I didn’t like him all that much at first blush, and rather brushed him off as just another blowhard devotee of The Evil Empire.

Four and a half years later, I found myself traveling two thousand miles to attend a Jewish wedding in Topanga, with a New York Yankees yarmulke on my melon.

I’m speaking of course, of my dear friend, Michael, and his recent nuptials to the lovely Randi. It was a New Millennium union that could have only happened in Blogland.

Given our first exchange, no one is more surprised than moi that Mike and I became friends. After seeing his name in the blogroll and comments sections of numerous bloggers during the initial weeks of my introduction to the medium, our first encounter was in the comments section of a fellow blogger and mutual friend, Leese, sometime around July of 2004.

Leese lives in the Bay Area and is a huge fan of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. One day she wrote a post about how much she hated the Los Angeles Lakers, the Kings’ chief Western Conference rival, and a team that I’ve been a rabid fan of since I was in the 8th grade. I guess I teased her a little bit in the comments of that story, but in…y’know…a good natured, friendshippy sorta way.

Long story short, Michael perhaps didn’t see it as so much a ‘good-natured’ ribbing, and in Leese’s defense, made a crack about how obnoxious L.A. Lakers fans were, adding the fact that he didn’t care so much about basketball, since he was a Yankees fan, but was bothered by Laker fans’ behavior nonetheless. I of course shot back something sarcastic involving the Bronx Bombers and black kettles, and we both left the encounter wondering what kind of jerk that other guy must be.

But aside from the raising of each other’s macho sports fan dander a bit, Michael’s and my little barb-fest caused us to both independently look into each other’s blogs, to get a better read on what the other was really all about. As for me, I discovered that we ran in the same blog circles and were linked on practically all of the same sites. It was only natural that I should seek to find out what made this MakeMineMike guy tick.

So I start reading his blog and came to find out that, hey, the guys’s a sportsfan, he’s into comics, and he’s a great writer, so how bad could he really be? At the same time, Michael began to read and comment on my blog in kind, and a comfort level between the two of us was forged.

However, there are comfort levels and then again there comfort levels cleverly disguised as tolerance levels. I wanted to find out which one was which in this circumstance.

And it just so happened that I had a way of doing that.

A Shot in the Dark
I won’t go into all the particulars of how it happened and what was said, but basically, I contacted Michael on a hunch that he might be willing to meet while I was in L.A. for my second trip of 2004, in August. I was coming out for my 30 Year High School Class Reunion, and seeing as he was one of only two SoCal bloggers I knew at the time, I thought it’d be cool to see if he’d accept an invitation for a face-to-face.

He did, we hit it off and the rest is personal history.

But this is where I feel it necessary to inject a bit of a disclaimer. I don’t claim to be Mike’s BFF, and would never want to place that kind of a tag on anyone I’ve only physically met less than a half-dozen times. I also would never dream of placing him in that kind of a position with regard to me. But we’ve talked on the phone a lot over the past four years; covered a lot of ground personal-history wise; worked through problems in both our lives; provided a needed ear for each other.

These are things that friends do for one another.

At the reception, Michael referred to me as his “spiritual advisor” to a couple of folks. I dunno about that. What I do know is that I have rarely been so proud to see the fruition of another man’s obvious happiness as I did last Thursday evening. It was an awesome sight to behold, because I know how long and sincere was the quest to obtain it.

If I had anything to do with Michael finding his soulmate it’s only that I always sought to encourage him to be true to his own heart; to never settle for less than what he knew was the ‘right’ woman, the one God had reserved just for him.

I knew that his character was bulletproof, as was his upbringing, and that he was destined to be forever bound to the one (nevermind the Matrix wisecracks, aiiight?). Nothing else would have been right for him; no one else would have fit into that Randi-sized hole in his soul.

Strange thing is, I didn’t know Randi apart from her blog. But when she and Michael met, the way he spoke of her made me feel as though we were already old friends. It had to be right; it was just too perfect: I mean, two people, growing up in the same area on Long Island, moving 3000 miles to the other side of the continent, only to find each other at an ‘L.A. Blogger Meet ‘N Greet?’ You’ve gotta be kidding me! This is Oscar-worthy stuff here, folks.

My wife Michelle and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary next March. As anyone whose read this blog knows, things haven’t always been perfect, yet we’re still together and are now even closer than we were twenty years ago.

I believe I can be so bold as to say that I have a little knowledge on the subject of finding ‘the one.’ I would like to think that I know the type of mindset it takes to accept nothing but the best in a marriage. And I believe I know how to identify the characteristics of a man’s heart that make those decisions possible.

I see those characteristics in Michael; I sense the same in Randi; and I have no doubt that they will be extremely happy together.

I also know that if he screws this up, I will personally come to L.A. and kick his ass.

But all seriousness aside, what a great evening it was! You’ve probably already read about it on other blogs, but the soopergenius of the Photo Booth; The dueling Yankees and Mets (Randi’s faves) yarmulkes; the four-page full color wedding comic book program that Mike so brilliantly illustrated, the cupcakes in lieu of a wedding cake; the wonderfully appointed garden wedding and reception facility at the Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga Canyon; all these things along with a wonderfully heartfelt and emotionally enthralling ceremony delivered by Rabbi Feinstein combined to create one of if not the best wedding experience I’ve ever witnessed — and I’ve been to a LOT of weddings.

The Lone Fly in the Ointment
Just like ants at a picnic, it seems there always has to be one little bummer to dampen most any otherwise positive experience.

I mentioned it earlier in the opening of this series; I somehow left behind the cheap, old digital camera I brought on this trip at my table at the reception. Not only did it have the pictures I took of the reception and ceremony at Mike & Randi’s wedding, but also those from nearly a week’s worth of other events and friend-meets that happened prior to Thursday night.

Needless to say, my head is still drooping about that one.

I’m hopeful still, but not optimistic that the camera will still turn up and be returned to me by either the Inn’s staff or someone who was sitting at my table that night, which fortunately for me (as it means I have a way of contacting them) was the specially designated ‘Bloggers’ group.

So… Will?...Nina?...Jenn?...Hilary?...Nannette?

Any love, guys?

But even if the pics are indeed lost, the memories will live on. It was a great time for all; I had a fantastic time meeting and hanging with some extremely funny, bright and engaging folks. But most of all, I got a chance to witness something that always brings me joy:

The good guy got the girl.

Next: Another Shot in the Dark
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