Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Wedding Script

Written by Brandon Henander

In Collaboration with Mary Henander, Andrew Lord
Glenn Rehn & Angela Henander

Research Cited of Dr. Iddo Landau Professor of Philosophy at Haifa University, and Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute & Professor Emeritus at The University of Washington, among many others.

Performed by Rev. Andrew Lord

With Poet Laureate James "The Liar" Ross




Andy: Before I begin Mary would like to acknowledge that while the following is wholly secular, it is undertaken in the presence of God and would not be possible without God bringing us together here today. And Brandon would like to acknowledge that there will be vegetarian meal options provided for dinner.

Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to witness the marriage of Brandon and Mary Henander. Who, as it turns out (Andy: examining script, looking confused) … are already married. Alright then, that’s a wrap. (Andy: closes book. Brandon: takes Andy’s arm and whispers in ear and points to script). I see… there’s more. Brandon and Mary enjoyed getting married the first time so much they’ve decided to do it again! Well not exactly. We are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Mary and Brandon Henander and witness a more meaningful ceremony.

A successful marriage necessarily cannot rest on the simple ceremonious act of declaring “I do” to certain legal precepts. If that were the case then Paul McCartney would be happily married to this day. A successful marriage cannot rest on the simple pledge to love one another for eternity. Sidestepping the problems created trying to agree on a uniform concept of eternity, I ask ‘how can you pledge love at a future time?’ The simple answer is that you cannot. Peoples’ feelings are subject to change. A love, no matter how strong, can cease over time; as evidenced by the high divorce rates among Western nations. Indeed, Martin Lawrence posited that there might actually be a Thin Line Between Love and Hate. Fortunately that holds true only for individuals suffering extreme affective disorders such as depression. Nevertheless people pledge their undying love for each other everyday. Certainly their motives are not misplaced yet they are making a pledge they have no way of assuring its fulfillment, which, makes it no pledge at all. Some philosophers have taken this paradox and declared the institution of marriage a sham. As it happens, philosophers’ motives are almost always misplaced. Marriage need not be a declaration of obedience under law, nor must it be a false commitment of eternal love, through thick and thin, sickness and health. Marriage should be a commitment “to invest work in performing certain acts that are likely to sustain” love. We will return to this later. But the idea is that two people commit in marriage to work toward happiness together. For marriage is an active endeavor and not a passive state. You may “get married” but you must first declare “I do”. And what it is that you are willing to do is not to commit to the conventional, romantic, even maudlin pledges such as ‘till death do you part’, but it is to give your all for as long as you can; to act as often out of altruism as out of self-preservation; to respect the happiness of your partner more than your own emotional psychoses; to give the benefit of the doubt even when there may not be much benefit to doing so. This is hard. Much harder than expecting to be in love with someone forever just by saying you will. And that is why this ceremony is more important to Mary and Brandon because it is not naively jumping into a covenant they expect will be something it is not. It is pledging to work for the rest of their lives to make the love they possess today, flourish. And now because they want us to, we will all awkwardly listen to a song.

Bob Dylan – “Wedding Song”

I love you more than ever,
more than time and more than love,
I love you more than money,
and more than the stars above,
Love you more than madness,
more than waves upon the sea,
Love you more than life itself,
you mean that much to me.

Ever since you walked right in,
the circle's been complete,
I've said goodbye to haunted rooms
and faces in the street,
To the courtyard of the jester
which is hidden from the sun,
I love you more than ever
and I haven't yet begun.

You breathed on me and made my life
a richer one to live,
When I was deep in poverty
you taught me how to give,
Dried the tears up from my dreams
and pulled me from the hole,
Quenched my thirst and satisfied
the burning in my soul.

You gave me babies one, two, three,
what is more, you saved my life,
Eye for eye and tooth for tooth,
your love cuts like a knife,
My thoughts of you don't ever rest,
they'd kill me if I lie,
I'd sacrifice the world for you
and watch my senses die.

The tune that is yours and mine
to play upon this earth,
We'll play it out the best we know,
whatever it is worth,
What's lost is lost, we can't regain
what went down in the flood,
But happiness to me is you
and I love you more than blood.

It's never been my duty
to remake the world at large,
Nor is it my intention
to sound a battle charge,
'Cause I love you more than all of that
with a love that doesn't bend,
And if there is eternity
I'd love you there again.

Oh, can't you see that you were born
to stand by my side
And I was born to be with you,
you were born to be my bride,
You're the other half of what I am,
you're the missing piece
And I love you more than ever
with that love that doesn't cease.

You turn the tide on me each day
and teach my eyes to see,
Just bein' next to you
is a natural thing for me
And I could never let you go,
no matter what goes on,
'Cause I love you more than ever
now that the past is gone.


Andy: As long as we are waxing philosophical I must ask ‘what is marriage?’ Webster’s Dictionary defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman… just kidding. It takes two people a lifetime to define for themselves what marriage is and that definition changes over time. At this time Brandon and Mary would like to recognize the marriages of family and friends in their lives. They have all had different dynamics but what they’ve all had in common is to show Brandon and Mary how the people they love act when they’re in love. Tolstoy said that “What counts in a marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility”. O.J. Simpson disagreed saying “It’s not the amount of love in your heart, it’s the number of knives in your kitchen.” While a scientific correlation between knives and marital longevity has yet to be found, psychological research over the past forty years seems to reinforce Tolstoy’s argument. Couples that listen to and are affected by what their partners have to say stay married longer than couples that don’t, even if they have more conflicts. Successful couples know how to negotiate and do not have one-sided relationships. They do not make generalizations in their criticism. They are not defensive and they hold no contempt. Happy couples validate each others’ existence
This brings us back to the idea of marriage as a commitment “to invest work in performing certain acts that are likely to sustain” love. We now know marriage cannot just be a commitment of love, it must be a commitment to love. There is empirical evidence of certain behaviors couples can engage in that will increase the likelihood of sustained love and happiness. Therefore if these two are to speak vows that hold any relevance to the reality of marriage let it be these:

Do you Brandon and Mary commit to work as hard as you can to foster and augment the love that you currently share with each other and that you both share with your beautiful daughter Iris and any future Henanders?

Mary & Brandon: I do.

Do you Brandon and Mary commit to engage each other in meaningful ways, to constructively air grievances, and to validate each others views and feelings even while in disagreement?

Mary & Brandon: I do.

Do you Brandon and Mary commit to basing all aspects of your marriage in your deep love, friendship and respect for each other?

Mary & Brandon: I do.

Great.

While we have rationalized marriage and enumerated the characteristics that make marriages successful, we have overlooked arguably the most important aspect of a marriage – irrationality. No marriage could exist without it. For it is the irrationality of faith which makes us able to love. It is the source for that leap into uncertainty which allows us to give our hearts to someone else. For even if we can make arguments to rationalize the institution of marriage (through personal and sociological benefits), or even the very essence of marriage (which we have done here today), we cannot explain what makes two bright young people such as Brandon and Mary decide to forego all previous ambitions, in the prime years of their adulthood, to build a life with each other at the expense of all potential benefits of a more self-centered existence. Some call it chemistry. Others say foolishness. Ultimately, it is love. And love is the antithesis of reason. It is the sole reason why we are here today – to rejoice with two people deeply in love (and to rejoice in their free food and beer). And now to consecrate this sentiment we are privileged to have Poet Laureate James Ross read a decidedly anti-rational poem “Since Feeling Is First” by E.E. Cummings. James:


since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady I swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis


Andy: It is said that the roundness of a ring symbolizes the unending love of one spouse for another. As it happens the ring is round because it is the shape most conducive to fitting on the finger. Since you both already have rings you may now exchange kisses.

-Kiss-

And now by the power vested in me by the website of the Universal Life Church, I re-pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss again!!

-Kiss-

Recessional

The Beatles – “All You Need Is Love”

There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.

There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be in time
It's easy.

All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.

All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Three Mules For Sister Sara

Today was the Johnson County Democratic Convention. It was my first political convention and I wore my new Russ Feingold for President t-shirt to let everyone know I vote Jewish and I vote often. It was held at North West Jr. High in Coralville, IA. 170-something Johnson County delegates and I crammed into the auditorium and spent most of the morning listening to stump speeches from candidates for governor down to county auditor. All three gubernatorial candidates showed up and it was the first time I’d seen any of them in person.

First there was Ed Fallon. He is the candidate I pledged for. He is very tall and slender with mostly birdlike features including smoldering owl-eyes. He looked like a nut, or a teacher - which he's both, and that is why I am voting for him. He is the kind of Democrat whose energy platform is to heavily fund research for a car engine that runs on peace and love. He answers an opponent’s call for a cigarette-tax increase with a call for universal health-care (which is actually true). And he is the only candidate that was wearing clothes bought at a Goodwill store. I was undecided at the precinct caucus because I didn’t think Ed could do as well as Sec. of State Chet Culver against Nussle. Now I’m sure he can’t but I pledged for him anyway.

Mike Blouin was next. He is a former congressman and state representative. There has been bad buzz around him by the uber-liberal types (myself included) since he named a running-mate last week and it was leaked that she was a registered Republican as little as two years ago. They showed up together at the convention. Mike had a weird Howard Stern quality to him and his running-mate Andy McGuire was his Robin Quivers. He had the stage presence of a pro-politician – there was loud bloviating and a lot of podium pounding. But the vibe in the room had me looking stage right every twenty seconds expecting exotic dancers, or Babba-Booey to appear. The whole time Mrs. McGuire stood behind him, literally not symbolically, nodding her head, laughing at his jokes, and instructing delegates when to applaud. She looked like a day-time T.V. news anchor (though she is a doctor), and in her speech she showed herself to be as politically astute as Katie Couric.

Chet Culver was last. He was late – late into the game at least, and he had to stand in line patiently while some Board of Supervisors candidate profoundly declared “I believe this election is about change”. Chet Culver is at least 300 lbs. heavier than I thought he was. On his website he is fit and dashing, but in person he looked more like a severely bloated Dr. Jenning from Howard the Duck. Chet was as creepy as Dr. Jenning too. He was even louder than Blouin. And when he lied about Blouin in his speech a couple of Johnson County delegates interrupted to correct him. He just pretended they weren’t saying anything and kept sweating and cursing Mike Blouin– it was pathetic.

The overriding theme to the convention was familiar to us Democrats – Anyone but “X”. This time around it’s Jim Nussle. He is fabled to have worn a paper bag over his head during session his first term in congress because he was ashamed of the way the democratic controlled congress was spending money. And after he became chair of the House Budget Committee instead of doing something to heal the shame, he rested on his paper-bag laurels and allowed the deficit and national debt to grow at a rate previously unseen. He is also rumored to have master-minded the Columbia Space-Shuttle disaster. As greasy and off-putting as Culver and Blouin were today at least they both pledged to not murder any astronauts while in office.

The keynote speaker was U.S. Congressional candidate Dave Loebsack. Sometimes when I listen to him speak I pretend they never did a paternity test on my dead-beat dad and that there’s a small chance he and I share a bloodline. I actually do that with most men I see, even Jim Nussle. Dave is a great speaker, he is a professor at Cornell College – and he has a doctorate in African Politics. He can make you really believe there is a similarity between the Biafran struggle for independence in Nigeria, and the touch-play slot-machine controversy in Iowa. Anyway he played his greatest hits – culture of corruption, son of a janitor, homeless garbage-eating childhood, he also said we need to “re-define integrity”. Of course he meant politicians should possess real integrity, but I stopped listening at that point to do some verbal algebra. I had read on a poster in one of the hallways of NW Jr. High that Excellence = Integrity X Achievement. So integrity, by that definition, is excellence divided by achievement; which doesn’t seem quite right. I am still puzzled by that but at least I do know what integrity is not: Some asshole with a paper-bag over his head.

It should be noted that I made a distinction between “voting” and “pledging”. That’s because the Iowa Caucuses are a sham. They have been since the seventies. The only vote that matters is the primary which is in June. The convention was just kabuki for the old-hats and liberal elites to make them feel like they’re making a difference. Theoretically a candidate can garner support and media attention through the caucuses and ride that wave to the primaries, but ultimately it’s no longer up to the old Democratic Machine. There’s a small chance we did make a difference today. Long-shot Ed Fallon won most of the delegates in Johnson County in spite of losing all major union endorsements and being ‘out-yard-signed’ at the convention by Culver and Blouin by about 20-1.

It was still fun to imagine being at the Convention fifty years ago: Cigar-smoke billowing out of the Jr. High School auditorium, aged-scotch flowing out of the water-fountains, giant orgies in-between votes in the gymnasium and principal’s office, and all policy issues being decided by Labor Unions, Big Environmental Interest, and the eminently powerful Welfare Lobby.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Harvest Time Music Festival, The Clown, and The Legend of Suzie Blue

Jason was my best friend for most of my formative years. We were a lot alike - normal kids for the most part. His mother Suzie was normal too for about the first year I knew her. She met Barry, Jason's dad, while attending NIU. They married shortly thereafter and raised a great family, had a nice house in a subdivision, and two obnoxious dogs. They were the kind of family I wished I had growing up. I was Eli Cash to Barry's Royal Tenenbaum. This changed drastically one day at a Chuck-e-Cheese. I was in sixth grade and Suzie took Jason and I and some friends to go roll around in the giant ball pit. After one or more of us had been reduced to tears from being pelted by friends with small plastic balls we got ready to go. As I was zipping up my Starter jacket and slapping on my slap-bracelets Suzie pulled me aside and confided to me a long confusing story about Barry's infidelities and a boss's sexual advances toward her and threats on her life. I told her she should go see a therapist but, being a sixth-grader, she did not heed my advice. It turned out that none of those things she told me were true, and she was actually cheating on Barry with her boss. The marriage dissolved, Suzie lost her job and she descended like a demented, reverse-Phoenix into a parallel universe where she remains to this day. She moved out on her own and started a traveling petting zoo out of her beat-up astro-van. There were iguanas, ferrets, hamsters, birds, a domesticated Gila-monster, plenty of crystal-meth and several obnoxious dogs. The only thing she was missing was paying customers. Police ticketed her more than once for abandoning her dozen-plus animal entourage in a locked van in a Hardee's parking lot. After her apartment had been inundated with urine and fleas Suzie got rid of the petting zoo, and we never spoke of it again.

A year later she played a key role in getting Jason and I suspended from school. It was The Harvest Time Music Festival in rural Geneseo, IL, which is a yearly glorified ice-cream social that culminates in the local school choirs from grades K-12 singing something overtly Christian and/or patriotic. There was a clown there that year and little did anyone know it was to be his last. His only mistake was to make Suzie's eight-year-old daughter a giraffe out of balloons, which was enough to convince Suzie that she had been sexually harassed. At the music fest, among the many attractions from the Moon Bounce to the smaller Balloon Jump, was a cardboard jail and if you gave the jailor two tickets an eighth grader would arrest and imprison anyone of your liking for ten minutes. Since she knew the real police were on the humane society and clown union's payroll, she sought retribution through the only avenue available - the cardboard jail. It turned out the clown successfully resisted the jr. high volunteer's plea to 'please come with me'. Now sensing a conspiracy, Suzie enlisted Jason and I to strong-arm the clown into the jail. Now, I knew Suzie was crazy, but I was twelve and couldn't pass up the opportunity to bully a clown. Jason and I muscled the clown into the cardboard jail, broke his over-sized comb, and stole his bag of props. We then fled, but he gave chase. He caught up with us but not before we had the chance destroy his bag and any hopes he had of spreading joy to children that fateful Sunday afternoon.

On Monday we were ushered into the vice-principal's office by an under-cover fascist posing as a gym teacher. We were informed of our suspension, and that the clown would not be returning to the Harvest Time Music Festival next year. The news was bittersweet - we had successfully broken the clown's spirit on one hand - but on the other, we wouldn't have the opportunity to do it again the next year. As luck would have it the karaoke guy was also not going to be back. He was asked not to return when it was brought to the vice-principal's attention that he allowed an obscenity filled version of 'We Are The World' to be performed by a group of middle-schoolers. Although he wasn't complicit and he did turn off their mic, he had known-ties to Suzie, and they weren't about to take that chance again.

Suzie has spent the decade since in and out of jails, psych-wards, and folk-lore. She was once arrested for smashing car windows in a hotel parking lot in the nude. She was arrested shortly after her release from that incident for yelling obscenities in the middle of the night from the lawn of her arresting officer, also while nude. Tales of Suzie have become so tall it's hard to believe that they're all true. But they are. No one knows for sure where Suzie is these days, except maybe the FBI, but as legend has it every time a prescription for anti-depressants goes unfilled an animal that died of neglect at the hands of Suzie gets its wings.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Car For All Seasons

Last week I took my car to an Oldsmobile dealership in Washington, IA to have them try and stop it from dying at every stop-sign, stop-light, cross-walk, left-turn, and flip of the radio dial. They didn't fix it but the trip was not wasted. Washington is a very interesting town. It's a poor-man's Ottumwa or a rich-man's Kewannee. Or if socio-economic similes don't do it for you it is an outsider's cold-hand shake and unimpassioned conversation about the weather. While I was waiting for Mr. Perdock to run my 1986 Oldsmobile 88 through a computer to archive for posterity the fact that someone still drives a 1986 Oldsmobile 88, I took a walking tour of the city. Now, I'd been there before - once - soliciting money door-to-door for a liberal interest group, and made a surprising number of enemies. But in Iowa's dirtbelt, memory spans are as short as the local chapter of the ACLU is on cash. On my way to the old-fashioned town-square I imagined I'd be just in time for the 4-H parade and 'The-Guy-in-the-Striped-Jacket's Medicine Show'. As it was I had just missed both.

I was excited to see they had a Goodwill store. But first I walked through the park at the center of the city. It was pretty. There were vacant benches, and cigarettes butts, and an eerie absence of birds. There was also a giant vacant concrete base guarded by rails at the heart of the park just waiting for someone in Washington, IA to do something important enough to memorialize. So far, not so good.

The Goodwill store was buzzing with misfits, balding women, and an occasional elderly bachelor. The selection was awful, but I thought I might find a gem in the book section, something along the line of Chris Schenkel's How To Watch Football On Television. To my dismay there was only one book-shelf and it was being restocked by a middle-aged leisure wife and a younger girl. I indiscretely browsed the neighboring record selection hoping to send a signal, but to no avail. I did pick up on a disturbing conversation though. It turned out the young girl was mentally challenged and the middle-aged woman was trying to instruct how to put books on a shelf. Unfortunately the young girl couldn't quite grasp it.

"Okay, put this book on the empty shelf"
"Okay?"
"That shelf has books on it, see? You can't put books there because they wont fit. Now, which shelf is empty?"
"This One?"
"Good, so put the book on the empty shelf."
"Okay?"
"Alright, that's the shelf you already tried to put the book on. It's not empty. That one is - the one you just pointed at when I asked you which shelf is empty. Now, put the book on the empty shelf. Okay?"
"Okay?"
"No, come on. That's the same shelf you've been trying to put the book on. You know it's not empty. What are you re..."

I found this a good cue to leave. I found an Alf trash-can and a book about Lucille Ball - both for Mary- at an antique store, and had lo-mein at the lone chinese restaurant - Happy China Garden, or somthing to that effect. I could feel the locals start to finger me out at this point and headed back to the dealership.

As I've already mentioned my car did not get fixed. That's alright however because I don't think much ever does down in Washington, IA. As the mayor once said on the campaign trail, "Vote for me or I'll tell the sherriff where all those ephedrin pills have been disappearing to." And they all did.

All I Ever Wanted

The best vacation I've ever 'had' was a trip to Hannibal and then Columbia MO last year. It was Mary and I's first trip anywhere. She was three months pregnant with what I still assume to be my daughter. Columbia was a forgone destination because my dear friend Glenn lives there, but Hannibal was on a whim. Mary had been to Hannibal as a child and wanted to return, and I imagined it as something of a southern Wisconsin Dells - with separate Go-Kart tracks for blacks and whites. I knew it was the home-town of Mark Twain but I had no idea a city of more than 10,000 could subsist over a hundred years solely on allusions to the past. But it has. Barely. There is to this day a heart of a city dedicated to and erected by the early childhood of Samuel Clemens. Now I wont say that Tom Sawyer's white picket fence isn't still there, and that I didn't have a picture taken of me pretending to paint it, but I will say that a venture of a block outside the old-town district revealed houses on cinder blocks and what-I-think were goats grazing on lawns. Maybe that says more about the municipal and state governments of Hannibal and Missouri respectively than the character of a town forgotten by the advent of the rail-car, but upon leaving I felt less that I was departing an historic American berg than I was high-tailing it out of Tegucigalpa. It was great though to try to feel what Mark Twain felt. I could still hear the explosion of the gambling boat that killed his brother. And while it was distracting by being such a tourist trap(off-season nonetheless), and while it wasn't really a gambling boat that killed his brother, Hannibal never seemed more than the wrong side of Lake Tahoe to Mark Twain's Carson City.

Come In My Kitchen

"Learn To Hate Your Favorite Song Night" is a tradition at the Dairy Queen that I am employed at that will hopefully begin this Saturday. This egg of brilliance was hatched out of collaboration between East Side Guy's synthesizer wizard Ian McKinney and I. The idea is this- play your favorite song, on repeat, for an entire five hour shift at the Dairy Queen. I say it will hopefully begin Saturday because Ian ran the idea by John The Owner last night and wasn't sure of the answer he got. Ian said that either John thought he was joking and was o.k. with it, or that he threatened to fire us both. So I am going to verify tonight that we have the go ahead for the feel good event of the weekend.

The first candidate for favorite song is Reel to Real's "I Like To Move It". The subtle brilliance of the unforgettable refrain "I like to move it move it, I like to move it move it, I like to move it move it... move it!" inspired a whole generation, not necessarily to strive toward a world free of poverty and hunger, but to at least do their small part by moving 'it', whatever 'it' was to them. I wasn't sold on the song myself until Ian described the emotion behind singer Erick Morillo's delivery as the persistence of a hungry infant.

We looked up the album "I Like To Move It" on amazon.com and were puzzled as to why the cheapest copy available was $70.oo. The answer was clear when we scrolled down to the first customer comment which read, "Two words describe this album: AWESOME".