Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Toast to Two Friends


People…People…May I have your attention, please…People…I promise this won’t take long…Please?…Now…now I know it’s getting late and we’ve already heard some, well just some incredible toasts tonight. But I would feel negligent if I didn’t take this opportunity to say just how…how overjoyed I am for both George and Talia. To all of you they made an absolutely radiant bride and groom. But to me, they make up a great part of my life, both in quantity as well as quality.

As many of our fellow employees here tonight might remember, George and I joined Landmark Financial the very same year, through the bank’s internship program. Boy, we were inseparable back then. Am I right, George, or am I right? I tell you, there wasn’t a person in the office who didn’t at least once say, “There go George and his friend again.” Oh, the stories I could tell. But I won’t! I won’t! These lips, sealed, my friend! Ziploc sealed!

(Jake laughs)

Let’s just say, we had an amazing, amazing time together at Landmark. And soon George was making some amazing strides of his own up the fabled corporate ladder. No surprises there, of course! After all, you all know George. When he has a goal in mind, there is nothing or no one that can hope to prevent him from achieving it. Small wonder in short time he was made Senior Director of International Exchanges. And because George and I started out at the company together, I always felt I somehow shared in his success…No more so than when I was made his personal assistant. Once again it was “George and his friend,” working side-by-side, just like the good old days. George networking on the golf course, me working behind the scenes, making sure there was always someone there to pick him up. But George didn’t rest on his laurels. Not even then. He always had the next goal in mind, the next conquest. George is always striving to better himself. To better his life.

Which of course brings us to his Talia. Remarkable, resplendent Talia. Brilliant girl. Beautiful woman. My ex-wife. In Talia, George found everything a person could ever want, could ever hope for, could ever dream about but fears deep down in their soul is just far too grand for one to hold in their little, little hands. Why, just looking at her right now, wrapped in white, George’s arm wrapped around her…She seems less like one of us and more like some luminous, celestial being who didn’t fall to earth so much as lift another to her heavens. That’s Talia.

Ask anyone from Landmark and they’ll tell you, Talia…sweet Talia…The moment you and George locked eyes…then eventually lips…back when you and I attended my company’s picnic a few years ago, everyone immediately knew you two were meant to be. Everyone, that is, except “head-in-the clouds Jake,” of course! Not a clue in this ol’ noggin, I can tell you that!

(Jake laughs)

Ahhhhh, not a clue. As Talia’s sister always used to say, I was probably once again lost in thoughts no would pay a penny for. Actually, I think I was at the drinks table. You know how it is. First you’re pouring yourself a glass a wine. Then someone else asks you to pour them a glass of red. Then another person asks for two glasses of white and before you know it it’s an hour later and you’re making what Janeane in marketing still refers to as “the worst fucking martini she’s ever had.” Am I right, Janeane, or am I right?!

(Jake laughs)

Just suffice it to say that when I returned from the bar some time later I was now one glass short and two steps behind!

(Jake laughs fitfully)

Yeaaaaahhhh…But…but that was then and here we are now in this, well, palace is the only way I know how to describe it! Huge chandeliers. Marbled floors. Pricey valet parking. It’s an extraordinary place for an extraordinary occasion and I for one am very, very happy to welcome George into our little extended family.

Speaking of family, how about our little son Timothy as the ring bearer, huh? Was he something or was he something, people? I was so proud I almost cried…but as Tal was quick to say, no son wants to see his father burst into tears again, so I remained strong, right, Tim? Your ol’ man held firm, isn’t that right?! Besides, why should I cry? This is a happy day! A happy…happy day…So! Everybody! Let’s raise our glasses another time in honor of Timothy’s outstanding contribution to this magnificent event…Oh, no, no, Timmy. No champagne for…What?…Well, Tal, I just thought…Yeah, yeah, you’re right. What harm could one little sip…Wow, you…you just downed that, didn’t you, son? Well I guess it’s a real party now!

(Jake laughs heartily at own joke)

Ahhhhhhhhhh…I’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Talia’s remarkable parents, Theo and Sylvia, on their daughter’s good fortune. Theo. Sylvia. You two have always—always—been nothing but…completely honest with me and I have no doubt that you will be able to open your hearts now to both George as well as to me. Although don’t think that means ol’ Theo will go easy on ya, Georgie. No siree! That proud papa has some remarkably high standards for his dazzling daughter and if you fail to meet them—well, believe me—he’ll let you know it in no uncertain terms. To this day I can still hear him say, “My daughter doesn’t marry assistants. She hires them!” Now THAT was a wedding toast, let me tell you! And Sylvia, well…Sylvia can be forthright, George, God bless her heart. Forthright indeed. And it takes a good, strong son-in-law to see the acute love behind all her startlingly blunt statements.

And let’s not forget Talia’s equally beautiful twin sister, Clarissa. You know, like most twins, Tal and Clarissa always seemed to not only read each other’s minds but also predict each other’s future. In fact, Clarissa once told me this very day would come long before Talia knew or we were even divorced. She also had quite a few predictions about where I would end up…but what’s the fun of having in-laws if you can’t tease them once in a while, am I right?! Besides, Clarissa’s been really great to me the past few months, keeping me up-to-date and in the know on all her sister’s wedding preparations, calling me up to mention the Vera Wang gown, the Bulgari jewelry…the performance by Tony Bennett. In fact, it was Clarissa herself who practically insisted I come tonight, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank her for giving me the extra little push I needed. I never, never would have wanted to miss all this.

I, uh, do regret, however, that my lovely date missed sharing this beautiful evening with all of you wonderful, wonderful people. But on the plus side, it let me enjoy both the chicken and fish dinners! Got me a little “surf ‘n turf” action going, I did! And in case no one has mentioned, guys, both meals…Delectable! Absolutely delectable! Like eating at a four-star restaurant without panicking about what to do when the bill arrives! Still, I know you would have adored my date Maura, Talia. She sort of looks like a younger version of you…so hands off, Georgie!

(Jake laughs)

In fact, Maura reminds me a lot of Talia. They both work in publishing…although Maura is a few levels higher. They both have lovely singing voices. Maura even sings twice a week at a place in the Village, which is something Tal had always hoped to do one day. She even models part-time, just like I told Tal she should have done ten years ago. And her parents are good people, Tal. Good people. You’d really like them. The father actually shakes my hand and the mother lets me eat at the same table. And they made a killing at the stock market, just like your dad Theo has been trying to do. The family likes each other. And they like me! I’ve never felt so welcomed. So warm. So at home…I only hope Maura will give me another chance…

But that’s neither here nor there. Tonight, it’s all about Tal and George. And, as many of you might know, this isn’t only a wedding party for the lucky bride and groom. It’s also, alas, a farewell party. Now, in case you’re asking yourself, “Why, whatever could that Jake mean?” let me be the first to break the big news. Last week, my good—make that great—friend George here was made C.F.O. of Landmark’s branch in Tuscany and I…I couldn’t be more pleased for the man. For both of them! Why, I remember when we were married how much Talia would talk about one day travelling to Italy…or France…or Canada…and I’m very, very delighted to hear that George was able to make that long-held wish of hers a reality. In fact, I, too, can look forward to visiting the scenic Tuscan countryside, now that I’ve been granted alternating weekend visits with Timmy. Although, costs being what they are, I probably won’t be able to get over more than once or twice every few years. But I will always send love and presents to the best, best son a father could ever have, don’t you worry about that!

Naturally, I’ll also be mailing quite a few treats to the best cocker spaniel any man could ever find, Peanut Butters. Before I met Talia…lovely Talia…back when I had just moved to this city, Peanut Butters was, well, he was my one true friend. You know, not a lot of people can say they are fortunate enough to have one true friend, am I right? But not everyone could say they had a dog like Peanut Butters! We stuck together. “PB&J” people might have called us! Yes sir, I could always count on Peanut Butters. I knew no matter how bleak things got, no matter how much the loneliness ate at me, the moment I made it up to my ninth-floor walk-up and opened that door, there would be good ol’ PB, sporting that big furry grin, drumming his tail against the floor like Keith Moon and giving me the strength to face even the darkest hours. And I know Peanut Butters will be there for my son as he was for me, helping Tim get used to his new home as the two of them run back and forth on George’s Tuscan estate, having a grand old time without a single downstairs neighbor yelling at them to quit making such a damn racket.

Of course, with George leaving, as his assistant I’ll now finally be able to pursue my own dreams outside of the company. I’m not exactly sure what those dreams are quite yet, having spent most of the last week printing resumes, cleaning out my desk and trying to extend my health insurance. But don’t any of you worry about Jake here! I’ve been networking. In fact, I handed many of you my business card during the cocktail reception, so you can bet I’ll be looking forward to some promising leads any day now, guys! Whatever bites you may get, reel them on board and I’ll let you know whether or not they’re too small to keep. In the meantime, my folks have been kind enough to let me move back home to the basement where Tal and I first lived when we got married. The place still looks the same, Tal, right down to the photos of the two of us my parents kept on the wall. I guess like George and me they can spot a good thing, too, huh? Why, just a few weeks ago…I’m still laughing about this…my, my Dad said to me, “Hey, nimrod, why not make a play for the twin now? She’s just as pretty and has a better rack!”

(Jake laughs)

Maybe…maybe you had to hear it coming from him. Although I’m sure Tal remembers the dead-on impersonation her pop would do of my ol’ Jake Sr. Theo would pretend to be my dad yelling at birds or mispronouncing “cockroach” as “cocker-roach” and then he, Sylvia and Clarissa would laugh and laugh and laugh…And that’s what truly makes a good marriage, right? The happy times. The times everyone can pull together and have fun. Because let me tell you, those times mean more than all the vacation trips, regular mortgage payments or professionally painted cars a couple could ever hope to have.

I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s all about making the best of the cards you’re dealt, people. Sometimes you only get a pair of threes. Other times you get lucky and score a pair of fives. But no matter what your cards, your money’s already in the pot and you have no choice but play your hand through. But money is something the lucky couple will never have to worry about, am I right? It’s just going to be one big adventure after another for the happy couple! In fact, Tal, if George plans to do to you tonight what he confided in me at the bachelor party, well, let’s just say you’ll not only need to get plenty of rest but also pretty darn limber if you catch my drift!

(Jake laughs)

But still, I feel I would be missing a great opportunity if—as someone who has been married—I didn’t share with the newlyweds some of the important lessons I’ve learned along the way. Think of it as a second wedding gift, George and Tal, from me to you. And unlike all the dishware or envelopes of cash you received tonight, this is one gift you can put to immediate use!

The first—and perhaps most crucial— lesson for a husband and wife just starting out is “Always be ready to compromise.” You see, a marriage is made up of two distinct people, each with their own particular hopes and ideas. Naturally, for a marriage to work one of those people is going to have to forsake their ideas, otherwise you’re going to spend the rest of your lives just butting heads and hitting walls. For instance, I remember when Talia would ask me what I wanted to do—if I had any plans for the weekend, for our finances, for the future. But I wisely stayed out of that debate, knowing full well that one voice can be heard a lot clearer than two. Besides, have we not come far enough as a society to know it’s not just the man’s position to state what he wants?! Eventually, we found our way, with Tal leading and me supporting her decisions at every step, never disagreeing or making an issue out of something we never really had to talk about. Talia and I found our groove. And so can Talia and George.

The second lesson—which is just as important, I think—is “There’s always a tunnel before the light.” You have to expect the bad with the good. You have to. Now that’s not pessimism talking! Not at all! After all, that’s not the Jake we all know, am I right?! Expecting the bad is not the same as planning for the bad…I mean, planning for the bad is not, uh,…well, the thing to remember is many couples lose their way because one or both people thought every day would be like their wedding day. The good cheer. The romantic atmosphere. The endless carving stations. But it’s not always going to be like this. I know…I know, Talia…Talia…Talia and I had some tough times those first few years. We did. Some really, really tough times. But come on, what young couple doesn’t go through a rough patch? And during those times a lot of people, some in this very room tonight, thought we wouldn’t make it. But we did! We most certainly did! Until, well, we didn’t. But as you can see, here we all are again, as one big family, celebrating another blessed union. I guess this is what my son’s DVD would call “The Circle of Life.” Am I right, Timmy?… Timmy?… Where did he go?…Hmm? …Oh, well, I don’t blame him. What kid wants to hang around some adults jabbering away in suits anyway? I know I wouldn’t! I know I…I wouldn’t want to be here…

(Pause. Jake takes out a folded piece of paper from coat)

I’d…I’d like to conclude my toast with a little poem I wrote. I, uh, I originally wrote this for Talia’s and my wedding, but it was cut for time. Still, I think it applies equally as well today as it would have then. Now, just remember, when you hear the word “I,” I’m not talking about me. I’m talking for George. After all, this is their night, and I have no intention of stealing the spotlight from them. So anyway, if you will all permit me…

(Jake coughs)

I’m Sorry
By Jake Gaudern

I’m sorry this may never be what you had wished
I’m sorry if things may be forgotten or left behind
I’m sorry if a day of ours may end with you not waiting for another
I’m sorry if you may miss more than you will ever have
I’m sorry if I’m not there should you ever reach for me
I’m sorry if I should fall just when you need to be lifted
I’m sorry if should you speak I do not hear
I’m sorry if should you leave I am not where you go
But most of all I’m sorry if all of this, and us too, should one day pass.

(Pause. Jake folds paper, puts back in coat.)

Sooooo…So…I ask everyone here, one last time, to raise their glasses to the happiest, luckiest, most incredibly unbelievably, insanely blessed couple I have ever, ever, ever met. To George! My mentor and my boss! And to Talia! To…Talia. My…uh…

(Long pause)

…My very best wishes to you both…

(Jake downs rest of champagne in flute. Pause.)

Yeahhhhh…Oh! One more thing before I go. I want to take this opportunity to once again apologize for my actual wedding gift. I guess I thought a soup bowl would be much, you know, bigger. At least it look big online. Maybe I confused it with a soup tureen. Well, hopefully you can use it as an extra with that set of 12 bowls Tal’s cousin got you. Or I could just try to get my money back like you both suggested…although I’m not sure you can do that after a close-out sale. But don’t you worry about Jake. Don’t any of you worry. I’ll figure it all out somehow. Some day!