Short version: It was the week of my brother’s wedding. Family was in town. And - ooooh boy - it was epic.
However, this being my blog, I can only focus on one particular anecdote from that five-day period. The only one with an actual arc. Strangely enough, it was an occurrence that happened before the wedding. It all started at the rehearsal dinner.
As mentioned above, family was in town. What I did not know was how many family members came out to see my younger sibling tie the knot. I half-thought most of ‘em showed up to see it to believe it. Can’t say I blame them. (Two weeks have passed, and I’m still reeling from the idea of my baby brother being…uh…brided? I know, not a word.)
A rehearsal dinner was scheduled for the evening prior to the wedding day, as was custom. I wasn’t sure if I would make it, due to my work schedule. My average exit time was 6PM, and the dinner itself was at 6:30. Rush hour traffic was another concern, and the dinner was clear on the other side of town.
By luck or fate, I finished my work day at 4PM, leaving enough time to feed the cat, change, and head out. I opted for a lesser-used mini-highway that ran through the ritzy part of West Portland. Not only did I arrive on time, but I was early. And that never happens. The only hiccup I ran into was…well… all of Oregon City. I’m convinced that town was designed by a mead-hopped steampunk enthusiast.
Once I finally found a place to park, I came up to the restaurant as other family members arrived. They remarked on my hunched-over stance, and I adjusted my posture to something less…gorilla. I caught a glimpse of something (or rather someone) out of place. Someone who wasn‘t family. Some woman.
My cousin (we’ll call him “Bucky”) had mentioned that he and his wife (”RB”) were bringing a friend with them on their jaunt from California. What I did not expect was that she would be gorgeous. She was tall, waif-like, with a Mediterranean - olive-to-milky white - complexion. Long, brown, wavy hair spilled over her shoulders. We’ll call her “KG”, and she instantly caught my attention.
I only talked to her for a little bit during the rehearsal din. Most of the time was spent yacking with family I hadn’t seen in years. After a couple of hours, though, my cousin, Bucky, mentioned they wanted to close the evening off at a bar or two. His sister, “NK”, also wanted in. While they were in town, this was the only night I had available for just such a debauched evening. My default suggestion was one I always gave to out-of-towners - The Green Dragon.
The five of us got there shortly after 8PM. The first question I asked the bartender was, “Anything barrel-aged?” Yes, my beersnobbery had reached that apex. The Green Dragon was one of the few places that carried bourbon-barrel-aged or cask-conditioned ales on tap. Pricy, yes…but palate-sating.
As luck would have it, they had the “Gentleman’s Club” series on tap - a collaboration between Widmer Brewing and Cigar City Brewing. There were three ales total - one aged in a bourbon barrel, one in a rye whiskey barrel, and one in a new oak spiral (whatever that is). The idea behind these concoctions was to create a “cocktail”-like feel. Lucky for me, Green Dragon was offering a sampler of all three.
I sniffed each 4oz. taster. Can’t say they reminded me of cocktails, but they were indeed what I hoped for. In fact, they reminded me of many whiskey barrel-aged barleywines and strongs I’d tried over the years. Before I could grab all three glasses, though, the phone rang.
It was my sister/roommate. She was locked out of the apartment, and she was demanding my immediate return to let her in. Our apartment was a good half-hour away. I looked at my cousin, his wife, to the lovely KG, and down at my sampler. I wasn’t going anywhere.
We made our way to the outdoor patio area, all the while, my sister was texting me repeatedly to come home. I ignored most of them. That hour was awkward as we mulled over our drinks, and I cursed under my breath. By the fifth text, and after downing the bourbon barrel-aged Gentleman’s Club, I had the solution.
I looked up our apartment’s website for a contact number, called that, and was redirected to a 24-hour service number. Emergency maintenance issues (including lockouts) could be handled thusly. I gave that number a dial.
The maintenance guy’s response was priceless. Something akin to, “Aaaw, man! I was just out there!”
My reply was a more polite version of, “Well, go out there again!”
He informed me that there’d be a service charge. I didn’t care. After that convo ended, I called my sister and told her that maintenance was on their way. She thanked me profusely and apologized for “almost ruining my evening”. Truth be told, I hadn’t even started yet.
Crisis averted, we resumed the “business” at hand. The bench we ended up crowding around had various games strewn about. I’m not sure who grabbed it, but someone whipped out a bunch of Jenga blocks.
To our surprise, these weren’t typical Jenga blocks. Bar patrons of yesterbeer had written on them - drinking game suggestions. Some of the “dare” tips were far too risqué, even for our group. Others were more pedestrian.
We formulated our own rules for the sport. If the commands on the blocks were too outlandish, the person who placed it could tell an embarrassing story instead. For members of my family, we called this “a Tuesday”. Embarrassing stories were our bread-‘n-butter. Over the course of the game, we related our best/worst sexual experiences, weirdest dates, and other unmentionables. I finished all three Gentleman’s Clubs and felt each one of ‘em permeate my skull with buzz.
Another drink was en route when my turn came up again. The Jenga piece I drew had the following message scrawled in uneven, drunken scribbles: “Kiss a perfect stranger.”
I could’ve opted out of the suggestion. Heck, I even had my embarrassing story planned. But…there was only one stranger in our group - KG. Somewhere in the recesses of my prudish mind, a little voice - one I’d long thought dead - whispered one simple message: “Go for it.”
“Well, there’s only one stranger at this table,” I said with bravado. And then I pointed at KG. “Stand up.”
She did so.
“You know you only have to kiss him,” RB suggested. “It could even be the cheek.”
But, nay, she followed my lead. And I kissed her. For awhile.
When we…uh…parted, she remarked to the group that it was the cleanest kiss she’d ever had. Not sure if that was a compliment or not. Both my cousins - Bucky and KN - looked at me dumbstruck.
I shrugged, “First kiss in three years.”
“Dude!” Bucky said. “That’s not something you say to a girl.”
But it was the truth. Until that night, I’d been on an unplanned sabbatical from anything related to dating or women. The thought hadn’t really occurred to me to make a move or put myself back out there. Somewhere amidst the brown-haired goddesses and brown-colored ales, I’d rediscovered some semblance of a mojo again.
I blame the wooden Jenga piece.
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