Tuesday, October 11, 2011

One Year

Yesterday my wife and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. It happened to coincide with two things: the start of a decidedly un-fun 'Dr. Oz Cleansing Diet' and the table read for the new film I'm doing in Michigan, of all places, called "Confirmation." I'll be in the U.P. for approximately a week playing the role of a gruff, aloof war veteran who has shut himself off from the world and is now a cook at a private summer camp. The guy (the character's name is 'Gus') gets involved with a rebellious youth against his better judgement and ends up teaching the young man a valuable lesson about loyalty. It's not a bad script, filming on location at a remote camp in Michigan with a fun and irreverent director. Of course, I'll be surrounded by 12 and 13 year old actors all of which will be flown to Michigan with their parents but I'm hoping for the best. Needless to say, the film is G-rated. But then again, so was 'E.T.' Dogs and kids - always a possibility of disaster there. I have, through the years, worked extensively with both. I enjoy the dogs a little more, I'd have to say.

It was an interesting table read. Like a good soldier, I brought my script along. Not the kids. Oh, no. They all had their laptops and i-pads and alien technology in front of them. I felt like a dinosaur. An actual script at a table read - the nerve of me.

My rather unusual contract states I'll have a 'log cabin,' to myself; 'rustic but comfortable.' Before the table read one of the producers told us 'cell phones will be sketchy' because the area was so remote. Although, he continued, 'there is one land line.' Hm. Sounded a bit like the beginning of a bad plot in a B horror movie.

Realizing too late this was the case, our anniversary was also the beginning of our 'Dr. Oz Diet,' which my wife has actually been looking forward to while I've been dreading it like the first day in a new Gulag. So even though I had some flowers delivered we didn't have a big, beautiful, candlelit meal like I wanted. Instead we had, and I'm not making this up, sliced apples and sour kraut. For lunch yesterday I had a huge plate of cut vegetables and for breakfast something resembling Russian gruel without the explosion of flavor.

I've never been a diet kinda guy. I've been exceptionally lucky most of my life because I never really had to diet. But I'm in the tall weeds now, age-wise, and I can't avoid them any longer. Thus the 'Dr. Oz Diet.' Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, my wife approaches them kind of like Patton approached Sicily. She is relentless in her preparation. Our refrigerator and cabinets are full of things I can't pronounce much less eat. And that schlepp, Dr. Oz, seems to have gone out of his way to include exotic foodstuffs in the diet. Sunday at our local grocery store I overheard my wife asking the manager in which aisle might she find the 'canned otter entrails in butterscotch paste.'

This past year has been a doozy, I'll say that. For longtime readers of this blog you might recall we were married in a mall by 'Reverent Chuck' (who was also the vice president of his local Harley Davidson Club). It was a conveyor-belt-type wedding, in and out, a quick 'for sickness and in health' speech by Reverend Chuck who also had the San Diego Chargers game playing in the background and every now and then would pepper the marriage ceremony with 'Oh, for God's Sakes, just THROW THE BALL!' Nonetheless, we both wept. Mostly because the Chargers lost big.

Our photos from that day are odd because my head was shaved for a role. Angie, naturally, looked great and was excrutiatingly beautiful. Our photographer had to do some fancy trick shooting so as not to get the Harley Davidson trophies in the background. I wrote the vows myself and when we were done, Reverend Chuck gazed at both of us tenderly, tears wellng in his eyes and said poetically, "Is that it? Are you done? Can I finish this now?" We were both terribly moved.

I'm not an easy guy to live with. I could go on and on about that but suffice to say perhaps Angie's greatest gift to me is that she makes it LOOK easy to live with me. It is not. I'm a troublemaker. Always have been. I make trouble. I can't help myself. And yet my wife daily rises above it all and takes exquisite care of me. And that's just pretty darn cool.

I remember our big, lavish dinner after the ceremony with Reverend Chuck. Our dear friend Tammy Jackson-Lipps arranged it all. Wonderful food, great wines, stunning table arrangements, the spread stretching about forty feet or so through our backyard, the horses nearby watching with curiosity, about thirty of our closest friends in attendance. And Tammy gave a little toast. My two Best Men, Jim Barbour and John Bader, did the same and Angie's Women-in-Waiting, or whatever the bride's counterparts are called, also raised a glass and spoke a little. But Tammy's short speech has stuck with me. She started and ended her toast with the words, 'Marriage is hard.' And then in the middle she explained how beautiful and magical it can be. And then she repeated, to make sure we both grasped the essence of her toast, 'Marriage is hard.'

I have often thought how wise and generous that toast was. Without slapping us around, she outlined briefly and pointedly just what to expect. Really she was telling us that all of our dreams and hopes and aspirations and fantasies were now within reach. We were a team now, Angie and I, and the odds of our lifetime happiness had just advanced exponentially. She was telling us that joy and daily satisfaction were within our reach now, shockingly close, in fact. But it was not free. It comes with a price. And we needed to be willing to pay it. Every hour of every day we have to pay it. And it's not easy. Simple, perhaps, but not easy. But if we did pay it, if we did make the sacrifice of putting each other ahead of ourselves, if we did think in terms of 'we' and not 'I,' if we did trust in the idea, the possibility, the beauty of unconditional love, well, we needed to strap in and take the roller coaster ride of our lives. And we have. We stray, we demand, we fight, we argue, we love, we apologize, we regret, but we make it work. And lo and behold it has turned out to be the best year of my entire life. And not because I've accomplished anything wonderful, not because I've done great things, not even because I've done anything remotely good. But because I, we, both of us, go to bed happy and wake up happy every single day. And that's more than I ever, ever expected out of life.

See you tomorrow.