Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Polka Monsters

By popular demand (well, somebody asked for it, I think it was Fred), here is a video clip of my family polka band performing at my son’s wedding recently. That’s my dad and my brother, “the enforcer”, playing saxophone, my nephews Billy and Mike playing percussion with Billy on the drums, and yours truly on the accordion. The DJ dubbed us The Polka Monsters and the name stuck.

Please be kind if you want to critique. It’s been a while since the family band has performed in public and we really didn’t have a chance to practice altogether as a group. We played four polkas and a couple slow numbers with my father singing Sentimental Journey and Jak Szybko Mijaja Chwile (How Quickly Time Passes) in Polish. Between numbers, dad also sang an impromptu version of The Polish National Anthem in Polish. That was a bit of a surprise.

Greg’s new brother-in-law Tony told me afterwards that one of his relatives wanted to request the Beer Barrel Polka when we started our set. Tony replied that we hadn’t practiced that much and didn’t have a big repertoire. His relative replied, “If they’re a polka band, they know Roll Out the Barrel.”

He was right. Our big finale polka was Roll Out The Barrel with special guest drummer my nephew Vic, the Enforcer’s son. (But then we had to play an encore, which is the video here). Afterwards, Tony’s kin came up to him and said, “See. I told ya they'd know it.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lessons Learned

Whew, glad it's finally over. I take lousy pictures but the one above I thought captured one of the more memorable moments from my son Greg's wedding this past weekend. It shows the best man, my youngest son Scott, doing the traditional toast at the reception.

Scott claimed that his research determined that he could propose a list of laws to guide the new bride in her marriage. I don't remember all of them but one was for Lindsay to take the family dog on its early morning constitutional so Greg could sleep in. Greg looks like he's hoping his new bride sees the humor in his brother's list of do's and don'ts.

Everything went fine. The ceremony, the reception, the music including our family polka band, the dinner . . . in the words of my new daughter-in-law, if she had it to do over again she wouldn't change a thing. My wife and I might differ in that regard, at least with respect to one thing that occurred.

Sometime during the reception at the hall there in Clinton, Michigan, an envelope was dropped off at our table of eight. On the outside of the envelope it read, "Marriage License." And that's what the official looking document inside was. Apparently, we were the guardians of the official marriage license now.

But much later in the night, it disappeared. One minute it was sitting on the table, the next minute it simply vanished. Of course, we were up and down with the dancing, mingling, picture-taking, etc. I hadn't seen Wendy take it anywhere. I asked Greg but he didn't know and didn't seem too worried about it. So I didn't worry about it either.

Next day Wendy wondered what happened to the marriage license while she was unpacking the decorations and other sundries we brought back from the hall after cleaning up the night before. I told her how it just disappeared. She started to worry as the marriage license had been entrusted to her safekeeping.

Wendy called the new bride to see if she had picked it up. No, Lindsay said. She thought Wendy had it. Panic was starting to set in. Wendy called her sister who was also sitting at our table but her sister said she didn't remember what happened to it. But she called back a few minutes later. Her husband remembers me tucking the envelope inside my jacket pocket.

Not true, I protested. I TRIED to put it in my jacket pocket but it didn't fit. Nevertheless, Wendy insisted I check all my pockets from anything I wore the previous night. Frustration was setting in. Voices were being raised. We vigorously searched the car, twice.

My occasional absent-minded forgetfulness was interjected into our discussion. C'mon. Did Wendy think that I may have thoughtlessly packed away the marriage license into my accordion case? OK, I did look there later just in case but I was sure it wouldn't be there and it wasn't.

My family dropped by on their way back home to Bay City. We told them about the missing marriage license. My brother Tim said he remembered seeing me with it. "I'll testify to that," he said. Oh, great. Somebody added that they saw me taking a picture of the license with my digital camera. Yes, true, I did. So what? But I could feel the noose tightening around my neck.

Since my mother was also sitting at our table, I asked her if she remembered what happened to the license. My mom didn't remember seeing anyone take it, but she did remember the bride's grandmother picking up things at our table as they were cleaning up near the end of the evening. Ah, a clue. But hopefully the grandma didn't mistake the envelope for just another extraneous piece of litter.

Wendy called the bride's mother's but got the father of the bride instead. Wendy informed him of the missing license. "My wife's got it," he replied. Time to breathe a big sigh of relief. Wendy and I both learned a lesson. Wendy learned that when she's given a document for safekeeping, to put it in a secure spot right away. And I learned that you can always count on your mom to bail you out of a jam.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Why Mothers Worry

First, happy Mother's Day, particularly to all those blogging internet moms out there in cyberspace. With our son's wedding less than a week away, Mother's Day became just a quick blip on our radar calendar. Our sons joined us and my in-laws at Sidetrack Restaurant in Ypsilanti for a mom's day lunch.

Yesterday, my youngest son Scott threw a bachelor's party for Greg with about a dozen guests, friends and family. I helped to organize, decorate, clean and run things. We started with a backyard barbecue at our home before continuing on to play whirlyball in Ann Arbor.

Wendy visited her sister while Scott and I ran the barbecue. She arrived home later after we males had caravaned to our next destination. After moving the plastic cones that marked our driveway basketball court so she could park the car, she picked up a couple stray beer cans near the bird feeder and a few more scattered around in the back yard. Then she entered our home, surprised to find the lights and TV on, and the back patio door open.

Not just unlocked or ajar. Fully open. That creature that tried to break in through our second floor bedroom window a week ago could have simply walked inside and helped himself to any number of junk food munchies sitting on the counter.

Meanwhile, the party-goers were engaged in a highly spirited and competitive game of whirlyball where teams in bumper cars try to outmaneuver eachother--more like smash into eachother--while playing a game that resembled lacrosse. I did not do that well. Chasing the ball once, I ran full speed into a wall. That hurt. Another time, Greg blindly tried to hurl the hard plastic ball full strength the length of the court. Instead, it went about four feet, right smack into my chin.

My brother 'the enforcer' and I were designated drivers after the party moved on to a local Buffalo Wild Wings for the proverbial couple beers. I thought my brother and my two nephews were just going to stay for a drink then start the 100-mile trip back north to their hometown of Bay City. But despite my brother's occasional reminders that they had to go, my nephews graciously convinced him to stay till the party broke up at midnight.

Then the remaining celebrants engaged in a number of playful wrestling matches, inside the bar, on a patch of grass in downtown Ann Arbor, and at the parking structure where they rushed me in an elevator and ended up hoisting me into the air. No mean feat either since I am Big Dave. All this while my brother the enforcer was way ahead walking to the car or waiting within. Some enforcer he turned out to be.

So this morning I'm looking at a deep purple bruise the size of a softball on my abdomen. Not quite sure how I got it. At least I'm ambulatory. My son Greg is limping after rolling his ankle playing basketball yesterday. He says they may have to postpone the wedding if he can't walk down the aisle properly.

By the way, Wendy got a couple nice cards and gifts for Mother's Day today. Don't you get the feeling she's earned it?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Cheese It, Da Cops

They called the cops on me Sunday. I don't know who, but somebody did. Two Ann Arbor city police showed up at my sister-in-law's house regarding a neighbor's complaint. It could have been my nephew who triggered the complaint. Or it could have been me. We were both equally guilty. Well, me probably more so because it was my idea.

I don't think anybody's ever called the police on me in my life. I've never been arrested. I think I've received two traffic tickets in over 30 years of driving.

OK, there was the time in college when my roommates decided to shoot bottle rockets at the girls' dormitory across the courtyard one night. This was after they had downed a few drinks at the local watering hole.

I didn't participate in that escapade but I made the mistake of staying in our room to watch the fireworks. Pretty soon the campus police arrived and announced we were all under arrest. However, they settled for confiscating our pyrotechnic devices and taking our names.

Oh, then there was the time my nephew shot off some professional-grade fireworks at a park down the block from our house. That got the attention of the local constabulary in a hurry. When a patrol officer spotted me in front of my house, he asked if I knew the whereabouts of the person lighting off the fireworks. I pleaded ignorance and he continued on.

But I really am a law abiding sort. So what was my offense this past Sunday? Accordion-playing in the first degree. Yes, my nephew, who plays the drums, and I were practicing a few polkas for my son's upcoming wedding in a couple weeks. Fortunately, by the time the police arrived, we had finished going through our repertoire.

My wife was not too happy that the local police were aiming to break up our little performance, which came while we were having a family picnic and cookout. "Why don't you go after the guy who is using his weed whacker at nine in the morning?" she demanded to know. I warned her to take it easy. Afterall, it wasn't even our neighborhood.

I guess it didn't bother me too much. Afterall, didn't somebody call the police on the Beatles when they gave an impromptu concert on the rooftop of a building in London? So I'm in pretty heady company here.