Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Ultimate Wingman

When Cory asked me to be his best man, he immediately said there was no other person he could think of to fill this special role on his special day. That statement meant a lot to me considering the great obstacles we have had to overcome to maintain our friendship. Geography, time zone differences, etc. But yet we still made the effort and somehow it miraculously worked. So a little over a year later, the big show went down in the OKC and I had to play the role of the ultimate wingman- the groom's best man.

Adrenaline, caffeine and alcohol played a vital role in my survival of the weekend that was. After about four hours of sleep because of a Dynamo game I had to work the previous night, I left my apartment Friday morning for Hobby Airport to catch my flight to OKC. Thankfully the flight was short. Cory picked me up and immediately we were off for final wedding preparations. We dropped off my bags at his crib downtown, then it was off for tuxedos, his house, then the rehearsal dinner. We had a little downtime, but it was hardly relaxing that Friday. What made matters more awkward was the fact that I didn't know anyone in the wedding or anyone who was going to be there. For the past 365+ days, Cory and Jilian's families and friends had heard: "Cory's friend John is going to be the best man." I was known only in name.

When we arrived at the gardens for the rehearsal, I could the feel the eyes looking at me wondering who this guy was standing next to Cory. Thankfully, Jilian arrived just in time before I lost it and introduced me to her bridesmaids and family. This was my first wedding and I no clue what to do, especially as the best man. I'm thankful we ran through everything a couple times or it could have been ugly. I was paired with Jilian's cousin Jessica who definitely shared her cousin's sense of humor.

At the rehearsal dinner, I spent a good amount of my time answering the question: "So John, how do you know Cory?" Pause while I take a deep breath ... I enjoyed seeing their facial expressions when I told them I was friends with Cory since the fifth grade when he lived in Indiana. I don't think Jilian's family had any idea Cory ever lived in the Hoosier state. Once everyone was served I gave the speech I had been thinking about for nearly a year. I saw quite a few teary eyes, so you know it was a good one. The guys had plans of going out on the town to give Cory one last final hurrah before the main event tomorrow, but a wonderful Oklahoma thunderstorm had other ideas. So we had guys night out at Cory's apartment and let's just say we finished a bottle of Jameson's Whiskey three ways and invented the Bear Grylls drinking game. I'll end this part of the story with that.

Surprisingly enough, I felt great the next morning. The actual wedding day was quite relaxing. Everything was ready to go. We slept in, ate some food, and watched tv until it was time to leave for the gardens where the ceremony would take place. All of the groomsmen had to get dressed in a closet. Bodies were on top of each as we struggled to put on our monkey suites. Then there was another factor- the heat. The Lord blessed us with a sunny day and a nice breeze, but it was still in the 90's which made life pleasant in four layers of clothing. We took pictures first, but Cory and Jilian had a special, private first encounter. Before I knew it, we were lined up into formation and walking down the aisle. My hand were full too. I had Jilian's wedding band dangling on my finger and a special champagne glass in a cloth in the other. Luckily, I didn't screw anything up and the ceremony went smoothly.

Once it was over, I wanted to get my dance on and party. However, the food buffet, cake cutting and my second speech/toast cramped my style. I only knew about one speech ahead of time. Now I was told I had to give another when my best material had already been used. So I told a story in a similar style to the one told in the movie Old School. Yeah, you're feelin' me- you love it. So I gave another kick-ass speech that made everyone both laugh and cry. Maybe I should make a living by writing best man toasts and speeches. Could be fun? After much anticipation, it was time to dance, but there was not much room to begin with and all of the little kids occupied the remaining space. Oh well. I kept drinking the free Boulevard Wheat. Before long it was time for Cory and Jilian to go off to their hotel room and do their newlywed thing. I told Jilian to be gentle with Cory. She assertively shook her head no. I shrugged my shoulders replying: "Very well."

Meanwhile ... as all of these festivities took place, word had gotten out that the best man was a single, eligible bachelor. I became curious of this when several members of both families approached me telling me of a niece, daughter or female family friend they would like to introduce me to. I don't think I've ever had so many people trying to get me ass in my entire life. Too bad they don't live in H-town. I went back to Cory's parent's house for the after party, but once everyone sat down and relaxed, they began to drop like flies and call it a night. I felt I should probably do the same, so I went back to the hotel where my mom stayed only to find the bridesmaids having an after party. I tossed my bag in mom's room and went down to the lobby. Unfortunately, what happened at the Bivona residence soon repeated itself at the hotel. Darn.

Luckily, I got to see Cory and Jilian the next morning going to the airport. Me to Houston, them to Cancun. Darn. This weekend was great and I am glad I got to be a part of it. The more time I spend with the Cory and Jilian together, the more I can see that they are meant for each other and words cannot express how truly happy I am for them. Hopefully I'll find a love like that someday. And when I do, I know they'll be there.

To Cory and Jilian, I wish you only the best.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Guys night out

Last a bunch of guys from the office and some friends met up at a bar to watch the Celtic-Lakers NBA Finals game. We drank beer, talked sports, ate nasty bar food, carried on, told stupid stories and acted like we didn't have a care in the world for a few hours.

I haven't had like kind of fun in a while. No girls, no dress codes, no censorship, no nothing. Just hanging out with the boys is probably what I miss the most about post-college/fraternity life. Just bonding with men your own age and not worrying about careers or girlfriends.

I think guys in serious relationships don't make a solid effort to have a "Guys Night Out" nor do women in serious relationships encourage their significant other to have a "Guys Night Out."

Trust me ladies, if you want to keep your man happy- let him have one night a week.

He'll be more inclined to make it up to you later.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Tejas Triathlon

600 yard swim. 11 mile bike. 3 mile run.

It was an hour and seven minutes of pure hell.

For some reason I allowed my friends to convince me this was a good idea. All things considered- it was. In my post-Little 500 days, I have struggled to find a new athletic challenge and people to do it with. At IU, cycling is a cool thing. It's respected and admired. Connecting with people who share that desire to push their bodies to their physical limits is difficult.

But it took a couple of young women from my Sunday school class to literally shame me into signing up. What can I say- I have my pride. So sure enough I signed up and had basically a month to prepare. I was in good running shape from soccer. I still ride my bike on a regular basis. But I had not swam laps in a pool since high school. And I have never done all three consecutively in the same event.

I could tell from the get-go this first triathlon was going to be an interesting experience. So I started swimming in the morning at the downtown Houston YMCA. Let's just say there were quite a few muscles that had not been used for a while. I got on a running program as well and kept my cycling routine intact. But I never actually did a transition until the day of the race.

Sunday June 8 came quickly. I had bought special triathlon gear and all the little accessories that would shave minutes of my time. Even at 7am, it's hotter than hell in South Texas. The race official lined up the age divisions marked by their respective colored swim cap. The official fired the pistol and 35 men ages 20-25 hit the water.

The swim was by far the most difficult. Bodies are piled on top of each other and the water was so murky you couldn't see a thing in front of you. Breathing is even more challenging when water is constantly splashed into your mouth. Luckily I have four guys in front of me who slowed me down or I would used too much energy. When I left the water, ran up the beach and into the transition area, I realized how tire I really was. My arms and legs felt like lead weights. All I could was: "I have to get on the bike now?!"

However it was the bike that saved me. The bike was my domain. I got into a rhythm and kept my pace right around 20mph. I caught my breath and regained focus. I most difficult challenge for a cyclist in a triathlon is not drafting. Drafting in a triathon can mean major penalties. I was very careful to avoid this at all times. Even though I held back my pace and conserved energy, my legs once again felt like lead weights in the transition area.

For the run, I picked a pace that felt comfortable and hung on for the ride. The nice thing was that there were other racers all around you that you could pace off of and use to push yourself. Even better was all the spectators that cheered you along. Every mile there was water which I splashed down the back of my neck. Once I was in the last mile it was go time.

I was so tired and I thought I was going to die, but after some gatoraid, pizza, leg massage and a Budweiser, I was golden.

I can't remember enduring that kind of pain, but I definitely caught the multi-sport bug and I plan to sign up for another.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sports Madness

I apologize to all my readers out there (Mom, Dad, Uncle Steve) for not posting any entries for a while. My life has been just so crazy and it's all revolved around sport.

As I mentioned many months ago I started refereeing youth soccer as a method of flexible secondary income. It is some of the easiest money I have ever made and the most difficult at the same time. Concrentration is key. Focus is essential. Taking you eye off play for just a moment could mean the difference between the right call and the wrong call. And when you make the wrong call, the whole world lets you know it. As an official sports official myself, I now have much more respect for the men in zebra suits (basketball, hockey, football), umpires, and highliter yellow (thank you MLS) who do this professionally at a much highler level than a U-14 girls game.

In my never ending quest for adventure, challenge, and self inflicted suffering- I signed up for a triathlon. For as old as he is, my dad can still talk a good game and back it up. He did his first tri at an age much older than mine so I felt obligated to do one of these things. Not to mention a girl from my church group called me out. I wasn't about to let that happen. Training has been interesting. I haven't swam laps in a pool since or on a running program since high school. Biking isn't an issue since I'm fit on the bike since my Little 5 days. Plenty of soreness has taken place in the place few weeks as muscles that haven't been used in a while are brought back to life.

Despite being hotter than hell in the summer (which it is right now), Texas has an incredible musis scene dating all the way back to Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson who rebelled from the pomp of Nashville and went home to Austin. Last weekend I went to a new Houston venue called the Merdian to see alt-country band Old 97. Their sound was a modern Johnny Cash. Rock music with a two-step beat. The show rocked and played a double encore. I've never seen that before.

Plenty of good soccer has been going on lately. The MLS season is in full swing. The Dynamo are finally starting to play better which makes selling their tickets much easier. The European Championships begin tomorrow which will make for some great television viewing on the ESPN family of networks. I'm glad ESPN is finally starting to see the value of soccer. In fact, the championship game will broadcast on ABC.

How awesome is it to have a Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals! Finally, there is a match-up people actually care about. I have to admit this is the first time I've cared about the NBA in a long time. I love watching the old footage of Magic Johnson and, of course, the Hick from French Lick/State Bird of Indiana himself Mr. Larry Bird.

We might also have our first Triple Crown winner this year which is something the sport of horse racing desperately needed.