Friday, October 26, 2007

Dade County Firefighters

So I just got back from Hawaii. After a thorough evaluation of the sun, the surf and the girls; I feel like I can give an honest opinion about it. I recommend it.

My brother needed to go to his friend's wedding in Maui, so I flew the two of us out there for a week. The wedding was nice, outdoors, and pretty. It was followed by a luau.

It got me thinking, I've been to quite a few weddings in my day, in fact for a while, it seemed I was a professional groomsman. Some of these weddings were fairly memorable, bizarre even. Every wedding has components that are the same: the vows, the jitters, the stress, that one overlooked detail. However, there is one thing that has been unique in my wedding experiences, or person, I should say. I'll call him Jack Havoc.

It was a summer wedding in Texas. It was actually the first time I had been to Texas. If you're going to visit for the first time, July probably shouldn't be your first choice. But I didn't have a choice. No one consulted me on the best time to have their wedding in Texas. As luck would have it, the wedding, which would be a three or four day affair for those of us participating in it, fell over the July 4th weekend.

I flew into the Dallas Fort Worth airport. I was one of the first of the groomsmen to arrive. I was greeted by the groom and his future father-in-law: Jack Havoc. I learned that we would have to wait several hours, since the next groomsman was returning from overseas and would not arrive until then. Havoc decided that a dollar movie might be a good way to pass the time until the next GM arrived. His choice was "Crocodile Dundee goes to L.A." In retrospect, that really should have been the first warning sign. After the movie, we picked up the other GM. He was a friend of mine, and it was good to see him.

The two of us rode in the back seat while Havoc drove us back to the community I'll call Southland, Texas. It was a long drive, so the two of us began to get acquainted with Havoc. He does search and rescue. That's what he does for a living. Whenever there is a natural disaster, he goes overseas (if the disaster if overseas) and conducts search and rescue operations. Obviously this is an admirable venture and we commended him for it. However, Havoc didn't always have his sights set on starting his own search and rescue outfit. For a while, he just wanted to join up with one that was already in progress.

That didn't work out, for reasons far more devious than you can imagine.

Havoc had been down in Florida a few years back, trying to help out on a search and rescue operation. There were other groups there conducting the operation, he was pitching in where he could. The most dominant presence was that of the Dade County Firefighters. So Havoc thought it was his answer to prayer. He didn't need to start his own organization, he could just join up with the Dade County Firefighters. He eagerly began to inquire about enlisting with these fine search and rescuers. That's when he began to realize that something was amiss.

No one could tell him how to join, or give him any specific details of any kind. Everyone was evasive, suspicious even. After all, what search and rescue outfit wouldn't be interested in having the likes of Havoc on their team? Well Havoc is no fool, he began to put the pieces together like a precious mysterious puzzle. That's when he noticed that all of the DCFF carry Glock 9MMs. Which, according to Havoc, is odd. Apparently they're the only search and rescue team in the country that carries Glock 9MMs. Apparently they're the only firefighters in the country that carry Glock 9MMs. It didn't make any sense. To emphasize how little sense it made, he repeated it to us many, many times.

I truly wish that you could hear his sharp, gravelly drawl. He speaks very quickly when he gets excited, and he is always excited when he talks about the DCFF. And from my experience with Havoc, the DCFF are pretty much only thing he ever talks about.

"And that's when I started to realize, they look like DCFF, they act like DCFF, but they're not. They're CIA black ops! Only firefighters in the country that wear Glock 9MMs on their hips. So I started asking questions, and then I started asking more questions. They got nervous, but no one would give me any answers. So I finally told them that I would expose them, that I would bring a whole news crew and everyone else down there the next day and expose them. Cuz I knew what they were, CIA black ops.

So the next day, I rounded up some news crews and brought them down. The whole operation was gone. They had packed up and disappeared like smoke in the wind. Everything…gone. The just vanished in the middle of the night cuz they knew I was coming."

Now, I've had a lot of interesting conversations with a lot of interesting people. I can honestly say, this is one of the very few occasions when I had no idea what to say. Because the only thing you really can say, is "so…you're crazy, huh?" But you don't want to say that to the nice man that is driving the car you are in, whose home you will be sleeping in for the next three days. So we smiled and nodded. I'm good at that.

Surprisingly enough, Jack lives in the middle of the woods. His home was surrounded by grass two and a half feet high. He took us inside and gave us the tour. Since we were the first to arrive, we would have our choice of sleeping arrangements.(This is something you will want to remember, if you ever have to stay with a survivalist, get there early, so you can pick the least uncomfortable place to sleep.) There were two bedrooms, small but sufficient rooms with beds. Then he lead us outside, to a rather spacious deck, with two very comfortable looking hammocks. I have to admit that I was tempted by the hammocks, I've always been a big fan of hammocks, and would have one in my own home if there were room. While I was pondering my extreme fondness of the hammock, I happened to glance up and notice the largest spider I have ever seen. They do say everything is bigger in Texas, but this beast was enormous. And while I'm not afraid of spiders by any means, I'm not really looking to snuggle up with any at night. At that point, I decided to pass on the hammock, and the spider.

He led us back into the living room. I was pleasantly surprised to happen upon the pool table in the living room. Perhaps the next three days wouldn't be that bad. Then I noticed that none of the pool cues had tips on them. Havoc pointed out two rather large, comfy looking, leather recliners that could also be used for sleeping. These also seemed like reasonable options to me. I like large leather recliners, and I can sleep on almost anything. (I actually slept on the floor in EMR for a year. Just me and a sleeping bag.) But I still decided to sleep in one of the rooms, in a bed.

As I settled into my room, two things struck me as odd. The first being that my door didn't have a latch on it. The second being that it was uncomfortably warm in the house. Don't you have to have air conditioning if you live in Texas? As it turns out, none of the doors in the entire house have latches on them, including the bathroom. And Havoc has air conditioning, but he doesn't use it. Since he spends so much time in Venezuela or wherever the hell else he goes, he doesn't want to acclimate to such pleasantries. This is also the reason the hot water heater is turned off.

Some of the other GMs started to trickle in, picking their various places to sleep. Havoc realized that his yard needed some attention if the wedding party was going to be there all week. So he put on his best cut-off jean shorts and started to mow the lawn (if you can call it a lawn, a rather large thicket would be more apt), in all of his shirtless glory. Since the grass was nearly three feet high, this took some time. He had to go over it several times. I don't know if you have ever mowed grass in Texas, in July for several hours, but it tends to induce some serious perspiration. I think Havoc is a sweater anyway, but he was glistening like a hairy roast pig by the time he came in. Those little cutoffs were a few shades darker.

So he stowed the mower, and entered the living room in all of his glistening, dripping beauty. Then he grabbed a powerade and retired to one of the large, comfy, leather recliners. I could hear the leather begin to adhere to his skin. Then he took a nap for two hours. That's when the Macman made a very serious mental note to avoid the large, comfy, leather recliner at all costs.

The bridesmaids were coming over later. We were excited about that. It meant that Havoc might turn the air conditioning on.

We tried to play pool for a while. I'm not a good pool player anyway, so watching me play with tipless cues is just ridiculous. But at least it gave me an excuse. Havoc busied himself making a large barrel of powerade, in preparation for the girls' arrival. One of the other GMs broke one of the hammocks, it turns out he weighed too much. I was glad I didn't take the hammock, because maybe I weigh too much. Then the last GM arrived. We'll call him Dinger. Dinger finally settled on the large, comfy, leather recliner. None of us said a word. I did cringe as I watched him settle in.

The wedding process continued as most do: The bride freaking out, the men getting stuck with silly tasks, like making tiny bags of potpourri, etc.

I knew I was going to have to spearhead any bachelor party activities. Christian bachelor parties are always such an interesting thing to try and plan. Some of them turn out really, really cool. A lot of them turn out really, really lame. I knew we wouldn't be able to do anything grand, but we could at least try to keep it from being completely lame. We discussed different options. I had made friends with a gentleman, who was engaged to one of the bridesmaids, Mike. He is still one of my very good friends. I was in his wedding later. So Mike and I and a few others tried to brainstorm. I got the feeling, that some of the GMs were concerned that I might try to take the bachelor party in a tawdry direction, since I was obviously the one with the least scruples. (Some of them were later taken aback, and confused when I presented the groom with a gift to enhance oral sex. Either they didn't understand how it would work, or they didn't know what oral sex was.)

The bride had presented us with many threats, concerning anything we might physically do to her future husband. It's hard to take those kinds of threats seriously, particularly when they are coming from 110 lb woman, regardless of how fiery her southern temper may be. However, we did rule out anything that would permanently maim the groom, as well as anything that would visibly disfigure him for the ceremony, such as shaving one of his eyebrows off. Something less visible, that was another matter all together. So we began to scheme, every good GM knows that he should try to make the wedding's eve a memorable one for the groom. This should be a time of joy, anticipation, bonding, camaraderie and embarrassment.

We had fireworks. Big ones. It was, after all, Texas. I also suspect that Havoc may have a bunker built under his house, stocked full of a veritable potpourri of weapons, explosives, and various types of armaments. I don't think all of the fireworks we set off that evening were legal, not even in Texas.

After the fireworks, we discussed the possibility of having a large bonfire. Really, what says male bonding like a huge fire? But it was still July in Texas, and as much as I like playing with fire, really none of us would have gone anywhere near it, since we were already a little uncomfortable in our air condition-free arrangements.

Some drama ensued. The bride started freaking out, and the groom wound up spending most of the evening on the phone, trying to calm her down. I don't remember why she was freaking out, but I do remember that it was really stupid. We all thought the same thing, even though none of us were saying it:"…man, this is only the beginning of a really, really, long time." Actually, I probably said it to one of the other GMs. After the groom had pacified his future wife, we gave him our gifts, told him how much he meant to us, the usual GM stuff. By the time we finished with the gooey stuff, it was midnight.

That's when we heard it…

A crazy mechanical scream tore through the woods, a crazy scream that can only be one thing. We stared at each other in disbelief and amazement for a moment, incredulous. Then we all hurried outside to confirm our suspicions. And there was Havoc. It seems Havoc had overheard us when we discuss the possibility of building a bonfire. Well you can't have a bonfire without wood. Where does wood come from? Well trees of course. Which was why he was out in the middle of the yard, wearing a coal mining helmet, to illuminate his handiwork,, going to work with the chainsaw. The tree must have been 75 feet tall. We all just stood on the porch staring at this madman, and his gasoline driven appendage, as he attacked his foe. None of us could speak for a moment. What do you even say about such a spectacle? If it had been anyone other than Havoc, none of us would have believed it. But by this time, we knew the man was capable of almost anything.

We made our way back inside, still a little stunned. A few minutes later, the chainsaw halted, and we listened for the prey to finally fall. Quick steps crossed the porch and Havoc burst into the room:

"She started to turn in the other direction. Didn't expect it. Couldn't finish. You boys should probably move your cars, don't know….a strong wind could finish her off."

Why is it, that when such men apply gender to a nemesis, it is always female?

The GMs that had driven, scrambled out to move their vehicles out of harms way. Havoc proceeded to tie a rope to the tree, to "secure" it. We still had to drive under the tree every time we came or went.

The rest of the week went about as expected: lots of nerves, lots of crying, lots of the drama that comes with every wedding. Plus a little extra drama, just because.

As the week went on, things went as could be expected. The pool cues continued to be cueless, we continued to drink a lot of powerade, Dinger continued to sleep in the large, comfy (tainted), leather chair. Havoc wrangled one of the bridesmaids into watching a disaster video he had taken. Basically it was just hours of flooding….hours. Havoc narrated all of the flooding for her. The poor girl was too polite to pull away.

We learned to deal with the inconsistencies. We figured out how to turn on the hot water heater. We learned how to deal with the heat and the latchless doors. We even learned how to deal with the toilet with the seat that would fall down while trying to take a piss (it's called the derringer hold, it lets you keep one hand free.). And at the end of the day, we at least had a memorable time. From what I understand, Havoc has only gotten crazier.

But weddings are never about the wedding party. And if nothing else, this story should be a reminder, that the reason we go through these types of ridiculous situations (although, hopefully yours won't be quite this ridiculous), is because our friends and their happiness are worth it.

Sigh…Always a groomsman, never a groom.

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