THE LAST FIVE ...

Closing up shop
- Wednesday, Aug. 02, 2006

It may be time for a change
- Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Entry in the air
- Friday, April 21, 2006

Still here
- Thursday, April 20, 2006

Music of the moment
- Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Or ... BE RANDOM!


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101 in 1001
American Road Trip, 1998


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Chupatintas
Dancing Brave
Fugging It Up
Kitty Sandwich
Mister Zero
Sideways Rain
Ultratart
Velcrometer


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Monday, Jul. 29, 2002 - 9:18 a.m.

"Mawwage. Mawwage is wot bwings us togeva todaaay. This bwessed awwangement, a dweam wivin a dweam."

I had to follow your lead, Heather, and use the Princess Bride quotation for the title. It just fits for my lucky 13th entry about the big trip. It's almost over, I promise, and then I'll get back to real-time updating. To see what's come before, go here.

I wake up feeling like I've just had 50 ounces of beer, but that's because I did. Funny how that works.

We gather Matt from his cave and walk from the hotel over South Bend sidewalks I've never before trod. We're headed to CJ's, a hole-in-the wall pub that serves legendary pub burgers. It's a mission for us, one of the things I must have on this trip, this stay in South Bend, because the place has been sold and will be closing. Kregg said it'll remain open through this football season, but sometime after that, it will close and be razed in order to make room for more medical offices.

It's a warm day, but not too hot, and there's little traffic along this one-way northbound stretch of Route 933. And then we're there. The tiny, unremarkable CJ's Pub sign hangs before us and I can taste my burger already. Nearing the windows, it looks empty, uncrowded, and there aren't any cars parked on the street out front.

I pull the door and it's locked. I've never gone in the front door, so instinctively, I take a step to head around the back when Matt stops me.

"Uh, Dan," he says, then reads the sign. "'Summer hours. Saturday: 5 p.m.-2 a.m.'"

For those of you keeping score at home, that's 2 closed restaurants, 1 non-existent Krispy Kreme and 1 phantom Eddie Bauer.

Defeated and deflated, we turn around and trudge back to the hotel to get Matt's car. We're going to have to come up with an alternate plan. I suggest Mexican, which goes over well with the others, and we're off to La Esperanza.

We're told to pick our own table and I notice one with some interesting small statues on the window ledge of one booth, so I choose that one. The front room of the restaurant, where we're sitting, is an addition to the original building, so the window next to which we are sitting originally was one to the outside. Now it's just open, with a curtain closing off the other room. But there are people in the booth on the opposite side and we hear them talking. They're speaking Spanish to the staff, and there's music playing over there. Hispanic hip-hop. I wonder out loud if we're in a Miami dance club.

Mexican is a good choice and we leave feeling full and satisfied. We drive over to the mall so I can exchange my Eddie Bauer travel kit. It turns out to be a good move because I find one even bigger than those I saw in the Chicago store, and pay only an extra $5 over the price of the one I already have. It's our one stop at the mall, so we get back in the car and return to the hotel to rest up and dress for the wedding.

I can't get myself to fall asleep, though Casey does for a little while. We shower and dress and meet Matt once again to drive to the church.

The wedding's at the Church of Loretto on the Saint Mary's College campus. While in school, I crossed the four-lane highway to visit friends at Saint Mary's several times. I took a class for a semester in one building. But I'd never been to the chapel. I didn't even know where it was, and when I looked at the directions, I understood why. Pulling onto campus, the tree-lined main road first comes to a stop sign where the options are straight or right. It continues back toward the main campus buildings ? the dorms, the dining hall, the classroom buildings, the administration building. But off to the left is a lane heading back into a more wooded area. A sign pointing down the road indicates the Cloisters are there. That's where the chapel is. I'd never been there because I didn't know anything was down the road. I thought it was just the river.

Inside, it's a more modern sanctuary. It's a round, open room without pews ? just chairs, some of which have the kneeling bars attached to the back; others don't. The ceiling rises to a point, with windows at the top. It's kinda neat.

An usher asks us if we're with the bride or groom, and I tell him we're friends of the groom. He sits us on the left side of the room. Interestingly, too, the chairs on either side face the middle and, as a result, each other. Matt sees Jamie across the room and I realize that, technically, we're on the bride's side. When we go over to sit next to Jamie and her fiance Darian, she tells us that, technically, there is no "bride's side" or "groom's side." When the wedding party and parents come out, we understand: The entire wedding party is seated in the front row on our side, facing the parents, who sit together on the other side. Come to think of it, that's not a bad setup. I like the idea of all the parents sitting together.

The wedding is a full Catholic service, complete with communion, but it only lasts a few minutes more than an hour. Outside, we wait for Brad and Tenille to emerge, bubbles floating in the air, before we depart. Jamie and Darian want to go back to the hotel and hit the bar for a drink first; Casey and I need to get our gift from the hotel. Casey had wrapped it in the bag so nicely, and we went and left it on the desk in our room.

We pull up to Knollwood Country Club in Granger, on the outskirts of South Bend where the yards are bigger and the trees are more dense. Later, at the reception, one of Brad's friends recounts the story from when he pulled up to the club: He saw a familiar-looking man walking toward his car after a round of golf. They looked at each other, making eye contact, and the men then got in his car and drove off. Brad's friend recognized him ? former Notre Dame football coach Bob Davie. As I've relayed this story to various friends, they've all had the same question: "What's he still doing there?" I figure he's there until he gets a new job. Where's he going to go? Might as well wait until you know the location of the next job before picking up and moving.

Inside, we hit the open bar and the cheese and fruit buffett. A video montage of Brad and Tenille photos set to music is playing on a VCR. Matt, Casey and I stand inside and talk with a few of my former Observer coworkers for a little while, then move outside onto the deck. It overlooks a small back parking area and the 18th green, so many of the people out there lean on the railing and watch the golfers finish their round. Jamie and Darian arrive and find us out there, and that's where we remain until the staff summons us inside to the dining room.

Casey and I are seated at Table 4 with Jamie, Darian, and two wives and a girlfriend of three of Brad's groomsmen, including the wife of the best man. All three guys were part of the Field of Dreams bachelor party in May. Each of the women ? Krissa, Heather and Kimmie ? all respond with the same comment and expression when I introduce myself: "OH! You're the one who's writing about the bachelor party." I'm flattered a bit, but then embarrassed because I haven't done anything to that effect. Yet.

Soon the DJ takes to the mic and introduces the wedding party. Brad and Tenille walk in to the Notre Dame Fight Song, and Casey turns to me and says, "No way." I admit that I had already given up on any hope of having it played at my wedding when I left Notre Dame without finding anyone good enough and available enough to have a relationship with.

Each of the tables has a card at the center with the number and a picture of Brad and Tenille, and each one is different. They've been together for seven and a half years, meeting during the first week at Notre Dame while camping out for football tickets freshman year. They've traveled a lot together, and each table has a different picture from one of the places they've visited. We're at the Kentucky Derby table and the description of the photo ends with (and I'm paraphrasing here): "When Brad lifted Tenille onto his shoulders to take a picture of Millionaire Row [I think that's the name], a group of 20-something guys came out of nowhere, encircling them, and shouted, 'Lift up your shirt!'" I toy with the thought of softly shouting the same thing to Tenille as she walks by on her way to the head table, but I don't.

We get through dinner, blah blah, and Mr. DJ starts to play that funky music. Brad and Tenille dance to U2's "All I Want Is You" and then there's the father/daughter, mother/son dances.

The wives and girlfriend have gone off to be with their men, so Casey and I sit and talk with Jamie and Darian. That's when the DJ tries to get cute. He announces a little dance game called "Snowball," which has nothing to do with oral sex. Every time he yells, "SNOWBALL!" the people on the dance floor are expected to run off to the tables and pull someone who's not dancing out there with them. The four of us look at one another with fear in our eyes. Collectively and individually, we're not in a dancing mood, to put it mildly. We wonder if it'd be too obvious if we all got up and went to the bar at once. We don't care. As we're walking through the maze of tables, Mr. DJ yells "Snowball!" and we pick, up the pace. I lose sight of Casey and panic, but, frankly, I'm concerned with saving myself. Nobody knows her and the guys aren't drunk enough to pull a random woman out there with them just because a rented DJ is yelling "Snowball!" in July, so I'm not worried that she'll get taken out.

The four of us reach the bar safely, and I turn back to look over at Table 5, where Matt was. "Oh no!" I scream. "Table 5's down! Repeat, Table 5 is ... DOWN! There's no one left!"

Our fears are eased moments later when Matt stumbles through the door. "It ... was horrible," he says. "Someone came over and grabbed Liz, who wasn't going without Dave, and when he left he looked at me and said, 'You're next, LJ.' I barely got out."

OK, a little over-dramatized, but that's the way it was.

Brad and Tenille certainly seem to enjoy themselves, but I've never seen a bride and groom on their wedding day spend so much time apart. It's only natural, I guess, since the majority of their last four years together have been spent apart while one is in law school and the other works (Tenille went to law school in St. Louis right after college while Brad worked in Chicago; Brad's now at law school at Illinois while Tenille works in D.C.). But while we're all standing by the bar, Brad and Tenille come through to chat and meet Casey. Shortly thereafter, Brad, Matt, Jamie, Liz, Dave, Ethan and I pose for an Observer Friends photo, and then we call it a night. Matt, Casey and I return to the Marriott; Jamie and Darian go back to the Inn at Saint Mary's.

It's been a long day, a long trip. Casey and I are ready for bed, though we do pack most of our things and watch the Kirsten Dunst rerun of Saturday Night Live, featuring a hilarious rap by Chris Parnell during "Weekend Update."

And then we fall asleep, our trip essentially finished, with just the long drive home to go.

Previous page: Ice berg!
Next page: Notes from the road home

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