I Put On My Funeral Shoes For This?Written by Scott Brown
I'm a boyfriend. Part of what that entails is being your girlfriend's date when she is forced to attend functions she would rather not be at. One such occasion recently came up when a client of my girlfriend's (she works in a profession where you accumulate clients) was getting married and invited her and another co-worker to their wedding. The setup to this adventure felt very last minute seeing as how I only received a text that said "Dust off your funeral shoes, we're going to a wedding this weekend" a few days before the event.
The ceremony was to be in the cathedral in Santa Fe with a reception at a casino about an hour away from there. There was brief talk of a party bus but that was quickly nixed after being informed we would be carpooling with my girlfriend's co-worker and her husband. I've just realized it's going to get confusing without naming the main characters in my story so I'll assign them aliases so as to protect whatever anonymity is left in the internet age. My girlfriend from here on out will be known as Saucy Minx, her co-worker as Doormat and her husband as The Smartest Man In The World.
Doormat picked us up bright and early that Saturday and drove us out to her house in the mountains. The house, like many in the area, is isolated and quiet and you couldn't tell you lived on the earth with other people, a feature I would find to be paramount to this couple's happiness. We backed up into their dirt driveway and waited for the last member of our party.
I've met Saucy's co-workers piecemeal over the last few months and until I see them face to face I have to go by her descriptions if she wants to tell me a story. (After I met her boss she asked, "Doesn't he look like Mr. Burns?") The Smartest Man in the World was described to me as resembling Shrek and I have to give it to Saucy, the name was well-earned, except that Shrek has more teeth.
What approached the car was a solid heap of a man wearing sunglasses, black suit of synthetic snake skin and the biggest (and I would later find out, priciest) bolo tie I've ever been in the presence of.We shook hands, I said "Nice to meet you," he said nothing. And away we went.
The most intriguing thing about The Smartest Man was not how much he knew (more on that in a bit) but rather how much of his past was shrouded in mystery. The missing teeth was one thing, then there was his reasoning for moving from Maryland for New Mexico, and the accident that had him believing he had a million dollar plus settlement coming his way from a previous employer. All were alluded to, but never nailed down.
Once we were all buckled and the car lurched into movement, so did the knowledge spout forth from the mouth of The Smartest Man In The World. I was unaware nobody in New Mexico could drive (they can't) and that all of them drive in huddled clusters on the road (they do). And taking the Turquoise Trail is the best way to go to Santa Fe, period. So far the car ride had given me a mere headache as The Smartest man was only showing a strong opinion for mundane things we all hate, just with a smattering of threats of gun violence thrown in. Harmless really.
As we got further into the trip I noticed more and more sentences starting with things like "These faggots..." and featuring phrases like "this big ol' black lady." One hateful statement after the other. The wedding we were going to was of course a Catholic one, being in a cathedral and all, so things naturally turned to the subject of Catholics or what he believed to be behavior Catholics participated in. My ears perked up. I am not the best Catholic. Scratch that. I no longer consider myself a Catholic, but I did my time. I had the experience and know what they're about. I inserted myself into the conversation like I normally do, with a joke.
"Yeah, I'm Catholic. Twelve years of Catholic school, which means I'm now an Atheist."
Saucy laughed, which was the appropriate response. All Smartest Man mumbled was "Atheists are easily converted."
What followed was The Smartest Man in the World's opinion of God. There was a god and TSMITW based it on a time when he told God basically, "prove to me your real, or else" because omnipotent beings LOVE ultimatums. The truth was I'm not really an atheist but it was only past eleven in the morning and I already felt beaten down.
As you might have guessed, once we reached Santa Fe with its street sculptures and murals and generally "easy-going" folk (i.e. hippies) whatever vitriol tank The Smartest Man in the World was running off of was replenished and boiling over.Not only could Santa Fe-ans not drive, they couldn't design a town or obey simple pedestrian laws. We neared the plaza and found out the hard way that it was Spanish Market all that weekend so it would be busier than usual. Saucy Minx mercifully noticed the sound of my teeth grating and asked if we could hop out and grab a coffee before heading to the church.
The Cathedral of St. Francis in Santa Fe and my family go way back. My maternal grandparents met just a few feet away at the La Fonda hotel and were eventually married at the cathedral. For their 40th anniversary the entire family went up to Santa Fe and my grandparents renewed their vows in the chapel off to the side of the church. For all intents and purposes The Smartest Man was now on my turf. So while the rest of the people in our small pew were of different faiths, I attempted to fully represent Team Cathol, even going up to receive communion. Oh communion, the most consistent meal you'll ever eat. Always dry, tasteless, and easily-dissolvable. I don't know what I believe truthfully and haven't gone to mass in years, but that afternoon I took one for Ed and Betty.
There was a 5-hour gap between the wedding and the reception and instead of the hoped for trip back home to change and relax, Doormat wanted to hit up the outlet mall before we left. As I look back on it, the hammock of activity between ceremony and wedding cake was an uneventful blur. All I remember is the embers of my sanity cooling and silently wondering to myself if I could survive a self-imposed walk along the highway back to Albuquerque.
My consciousness came back online as we piled out of the car in the parking lot where the reception was and The Smartest Man in the World asking Saucy Minx if I had ever fired a machine gun. "I don't think so," she said and my mind immediately flashed to snapshots of orange vests and the filling out of police reports.
The two high points of the afternoon were the actual wedding goings on, a lovely ceremony and a cute and creative reception. But with every fun trip to the chip and salsa table or candy bar, there was an equal sink of the heart as I headed back to our table. Not being related or close friends to the family we were left to ourselves with nobody new to deflect the undivided attention of the Smartest Man. That was probably a blessing seeing as how any new person might have had us removed from the premises after a few choice impromptu op ed pieces thrown at them.
That was just it though, the crux of everything TSMITW had to say was based on the fact that he had no need for people. The fewer the better, which is odd because if he wasn't around people, there wouldn't be anyone to hear him talk. Every comment about how New Mexico was terrible was followed by a pining for the vast nothingness of Wyoming or Alaska to which I would mutter "Wyoming Welcomes You" to myself.
He's not unique either. He shares the same traits as millions; stubborn, militantly confrontational, racist.We are privileged to live in such a world surrounded by so many smart men and women, all eager to spread their knowledge for the betterment of mankind.
That Monday when Saucy Minx got off of work she told me that "[The Smartest Man in the World] loves you!" which I understood completely. I didn't rock the boat, I just wanted to make it through the afternoon so TSMITW got to fully run his mouth and my dumb "keeping the peace" face smiled and nodded throughout. Who wouldn't love that? But I go deathly silent every time I think of what my natural inclination of suffering fools has signed me up for. I guess what I'm saying in a roundabout way is to please keep a Google alert on for "machine gun mishap" and pray for me.
Buy the Gang a Beer
10% of all funds donated through the site will go to The National Endowment For the Arts. The rest goes to booze and Rock 'n' Roll...and advertising, merchandising and site upkeep... but mostly booze and Rock 'n' Roll.