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Germ Bag

Members of the Wedding

By Suz Redfearn | Posted 9/26/2001

Prologue: Meeting Cute
I always called her "Fearn" because she called me "Liv." We sat next to each other at our old workplace, a business newspaper in the soul-crushing concrete jungle of Rosslyn, Va. And I was into Germ Bag before it was fashionable.

One day Fearn, three years my senior, got all seventh-grade about the new tech reporter. She thought they had a "moment." Their eyes met in that . . . y'know, that "way," she told me over touristy tropical drinks at a South American-themed restaurant. Did I think he noticed? Did I think she should ask him out?

I hardly knew "Deuce," as Marty Kady II came to be known around the newsroom. I was getting ready to move on in the world, and getting chummy with new reporters seemed no more advisable than naming stray cats. But Suz was insufferably giddy. I wanted her to go for it, if only so she'd give the topic a rest already. I started to insist on progress reports: "How's The Project going?"

The Project, she always reported, was going great. Lots of gazing into eyes, meeting kinfolk, and the like. I knew Marty was a Germ Bag fan--or, at any rate, a Suz fan, who therefore read Germ Bag like it was etched in tablets on the mountaintop--and thus knew that Suz had already notified the entire world (via the Internet) that she would find herself someone with whom to reproduce within two years or else "turkey-baster it." Marty knew what he was getting into. I, for one, knew how Fearn and Deuce would be spending that mid-September weekend about a year before they realized it.

Well, OK, Alabama came out of nowhere. But the gist of it was obvious.

Mike Livingston

Traditional Values
There are two marrying kinds: those who cling to tradition and those who rebel against it. The Redfearn-Kady nuptials clung to tradition--if the traditions are those of the planet Xanadu. Outwardly, the bride and groom seem like perfectly conventional people, but their relatives and friends are accomplished misfits, which explains Germ Bag. Spend a few hours with these people and you'd need to write a column too.

Most couples plan a wedding day; Suz and Marty hosted a four-day wedding event, during which guests from as far away as Paris and Anchorage descended upon a beach resort in Gulf Shores, Ala. The festivities commenced with an ice-breaking Italian dinner at which a niece, described as a child prodigy, shimmied barefoot up a grand column in the parlor. A Louisiana friend of the bride supplied daily doses of hot boudin, a tasty rice dressing made with ground animal organs stuffed into pig intestines. She brought 26 delicious pounds of it. And to hell with traditional beach activities; Suz and Marty's guests spent hours competing at Hooverball, a game not entirely unlike playing catch with a cinder block. Invented by Herbert Hoover's physician, the game resembles volleyball, with a two important exceptions: Participants catch and throw the ball, and it weighs 4.5 pounds. The beach echoed with cries of "She's all right, she just got the wind knocked out of her."

At poolside, an exceptional crackpot named Mark convinced grown men and women to mutilate themselves on the drainage grate at the bottom of the hot tub. The suction of the drain produced massive hickeys shaped like tractor treads on backs, stomachs, and buttocks.

The morning of the wedding, the groom's family sponsored a two-mile "fun run" that left guests sucking wind for hours. The bride, who wore her veil for the run, suffers from mild asthma.

The ceremony took place on the beach at dusk against a backdrop of crashing waves. Following vows, a friend of the bride sang "Light My Fire" while guests lit sparklers.

As the reception wound down, the bride and groom thanked their guests for being with them as they "took the plunge." Then they plunged into the swimming pool, still dressed in full wedding attire. Others followed, both voluntarily and with sadistic assistance.

Following the formal reception, the party moved inside a circle of tiki torches down on the beach. The groom's father participated in keg stands, a frat-party ritual during which participants are lifted upside down while drinking beer out of the tap. Other guests, finding this Bacchic act beneath them, shed their clothing and took to the ocean. In a desperate display of concern over the safety of inebriated swimmers, the groom moved the skinny dippers' clothing to a spot up the beach, beneath the torches. Thus did Suz Redfearn's wedding become a vehicle for my exhibitionism.

Michael Antrobus

Michael Antrobus is a freelance writer (read: he lives off his wife) in south Louisiana.

Briefs Encounter
There is something you should know about Suz's man Marty. He will steal your underpants.

Don't let this bias you against him. He has many fine qualities. I will list them here, in the interest of fairness, before telling you how he used the occasion of his own nuptials to turn me into naked shark bait.

1) Marty keeps his facial hair neatly groomed. Personally, I am ambivalent about the hirsute visage. A bristled chin makes me wonder what a man is hiding. (Yes, I have a goatee. No, I won't tell you what I am hiding.) At the very least, the man who thus adorns his countenance should be neat about it, and Marty's tonsorial practice in this regard is beyond reproach.

2) Marty has a sister you just want to eat up with a spoon. One day you will meet her, and you will understand anew your purpose on this earth. Maybe you will see her do her Britney Spears dance. This will cause you actual physical pain, because she is your pal Marty's sister (and therefore off-limits according to the Sacred Code of Men), and also because she is a dozen years your junior and would not notice you even if you were on fire. This Blond Masterpiece would never have come to our attention were it not for our association with Marty. She therefore goes in Marty's plus column.

3) In a three-legged race, Marty races to win. Likewise, he will swing dance with utter grace and without a trace of irony. In this age of easy cynicism, I find something noble in this. Maybe the human condition is indeed fundamentally absurd. If so, Marty has not noticed, and his innocence in this regard has shown me that even a smart man can still take pleasure in pleasurable things.

Does all of this excuse underpants thievery? I think perhaps it does, considering the circumstances.

Picture a crystalline Alabama night. Marty and Suz have barefoot betrothed themselves. The reception has wound down, and now a hearty handful of us hit the beach for a late-night tiki-torch party. Out across the water, the orange glow of a half-dozen oil platforms divides the dark sky from the darker sea. We have all been drinking pretty steadily for the better part of four days.

At some very late hour, 10 of us strip down to our Natural Pale Magnificence and fling ourselves upon the sea. We splash. We frolic. A naked woman swims by and asks if I am Michael. I cop a cheap drunken feel in the dark and reply with good cheer, "No! Does it matter?" (Not my proudest moment, in hindsight.) Then someone gets stung in the nether parts by a jellyfish and we all scramble for the shore.

We stop. We stare. In the wan yellow glow of the tiki torches, the ugly truth becomes clear. Marty has stolen our clothes.

I do not fault him. It was a necessary act, prompted by the same earnestness that compels him to swing dance without irony. It was what the situation called for, and I hope that in his place I would have done the same.

By and large most of us managed to retain our dignity, and after some negotiation Marty returned the purloined garments. All except my underpants, which at this writing remain unaccounted for. Why? I don't want to know. I'm sure he has his reasons. Wear them in health, my friend.

Adam Stone

Adam Stone is an Annapolis-based freelance writer.

Oh, Yeah
Chelsea Clinton was 12 blocks from the World Trade Center when madmen decided to end their joyrides in bangs of death and despair. This news came from breathless talking heads at CNN two days after the attacks and two days before Suz Redfearn decided that some guy named Marty was better than all the others she had met, loved, and left in her busy life.

On that day between terrorism and joy, the biting flies were busy sucking blood from the ankles of the wedding guests, mostly pink northerners on the beach of Martinique, a planned community that aped Seaside, the Duany/Plater-Zyberk neighborhood-cum-architectural Disney World. I thought about writing 400 words for this Germ Bag, trying desperately to connect Chelsea and biting flies and pink people and Suz's wedding, and wondering whether my 5-week-old daughter would provide added meaning. But in the end, I couldn't make sense of it.

Instead, I talked at the beach about C.S. Lewis and his Christian beliefs with a new Jewish friend whose wife had cheated on him after 18 years. His college sweetheart had turned into a harlot, but she had also given him a 3-year-old, who wanted a llama for a pet in their suburban-Maryland apartment. He seemed fond of another person on the beach, who talked about how her father's death prompted her to share a bed with her mother for a month. She was worried that her mother would disappear too, with little warning.

But a wedding, and no ordinary one, eventually demanded our attention. After all, the woman who writes Germ Bag, the quirky one who's always constipated and who had talked nekkid with Spalding Grey and who once dated a male stripper and who once fell for a stinky patchouli hippie stuck in poverty and bad art, was marrying a straight-up guy named Martin, named after his father.

To commemorate the occasion, I decided to pen the thoughts that were circling my mind as Suz and Marty were getting married. I could comment, say, on Suz's mother's dress, or her charming boyfriend's socks. Or attack that strange fellow with helmet hair who smoked with determination and made offhand comments to cover his loneliness.

But in some 30 minutes on a Saturday evening on the redneck Riveria that is lower Alabama, two young girls sang "Happy Together" and Suz's brother said some wonderful words and Marty said "I do" and Suz said "Oh, yeah!" and people who weren't even invited to attend stood in the distance to watch the joy. As people always do when two people choose to stare into the sky.

Mukul Verma

Mukul Verma is Web editor for a business publication in Baton Rouge, La. In a previous life, he was editor of alternative publication Gambit Weekly Baton Rouge, but the owners took their money and went home to New Orleans.

Permanent Vacation
Tawn drove 800 miles from Indianapolis. Rich came at the last minute from Anchorage. Don managed a late flight from Paris--Paris, in the most disruptive week in the history of commercial aviation. Now that's a commitment, a fitting tribute to the event they traveled so far under such difficult circumstances to witness. A couple of guests drove in from Baton Rouge and New Orleans just for the ceremony and a few minutes of poolside recepting--in either case, a seven-hour round trip.

Suz Redfearn amassed a posse to be proud of--a confluence of in-laws, friends, Southerners, East Coasters, tots, and big folk, all willing to shed their traditional notions of "wedding" and just party down. Other weddings: Prancing bridesmaids, a money dance, the cake pull, a unity candle. Suz wedding: four days of Hooverball, Tawning (skinny-dipping), grill sucking (a kind of hot-tub hickey), blood sport. (I got tossed like mesclun during "Jump, Jive an' Wail." Left with two massive bruises and a badly abraded knee, I proudly showed off my wounds to anyone who could stomach them. These people know how to live, man.)

An aside: Not to romanticize overindulgence--I respect the addictive nature of alcohol--it was nice to see people imbibing with brio in honor of the bride and groom. I fondly recall the groom's sister claiming the keg-stand title at the tiki-torch party, and the groom's brother pouring wine for Tawners in the gulf at 1 a.m., and everybody who'd drunk enough champagne jumping in the pool fully dressed--including the connubial couple.

The day after the wedding, checking out of the idyllic resort, facing a return to the real world, I entertained fantasies of communal beach living with these crazy grill-suckers and lots of margaritas. Could it work? How could I persuade the other guests to stay? I didn't even try; instead I drove to a Brooks Brothers outlet.

But I look forward to Suz's first-anniversary party.

Faith Dawson

Faith Dawson is managing editor of New Orleans Magazine and Louisiana Life. She lives in New Orleans, and her knee is healing nicely.

Happy Together
I'm a connoisseur of the wedding. After all, I've had three myself. Marvelous excuses for inflicting Hallmark wisdom and all your goofy friends and relatives upon each other. I looked on the Germ Bag's nuptials with a mixture of envy, regret, and relief.

Relief that GB--an acerbic, vital, somewhat skewed woman who from the moment of her engagement began channeling her personality out of Bride magazine--would return to some semblance of normality. Back to inking columns on such life-altering events as the demolition of large buildings; enough literary trips to Pottery Barn, courtesy of City Paper. I wanted demolitions, depositions, desperations . . . stuff.

Regret, because weddings do that to my inner Irish Catholic. Neither my sainted mother nor any of the penguins who hammered the catechism into my head could have predicted the trail of tears and destruction matrimony has blown through my life. Not even the Jesuits, who caused me to doubt Five of the Seven Mysteries, advocated three trips to the altar. In the testy moments prior to GB's wedding on the gulf, watching guests trickle into the resort's pool area, eyeballing each other like gunfighters summoned to a showdown they didn't quite understand, I worked my guilt gland overtime.

All around me I marveled at the sly wit of GB. Small children were specifically invited to a reception held around a swimming pool, absolutely guaranteeing no one would complete more than a sentence before being interrupted by another mother chirping "Ismael, don't go to close to the water." "Grizelda, stay away from the pool."

We trooped to the beach. Ordnance was handed out--sparklers and party poppers and matches, distributed to the guests like we were a SEAL team gearing up for an assault. I briefed myself into the operation by looking at the red one-page program we'd been handed by niece No. 26.

It would be quick, I saw. And hokey, so incredibly hokey. Somebody was going to sing "Happy Together," which I'd last heard when I mispunched my car's radio buttons, treating me to the bip-boppy sounds of the Turtles.

Then GB herself and that man, Marty, appeared on the wooden walk over the dunes to the beach. The show was on the road.

And envy began. I felt optimistic hope creep up from my gut as La Suz strolled by, elegant in white, and Marty grinned like a goofball. (Who tied his tie! It was all garbaged up, the front too long and the skinny back end sticking out like a second tongue around his neck.) The sun burned like the glow of an after-sex cigarette on the horizon, casting all in a warm, orange glow.

I envied Suz and Marty, their start with a clean slate. Unbowed by harsh realities like the curled leaves that littered my own heart.

"The only one for me was you," niece 19 sang.

"And you for me," niece 4 added.

"So happy together," we all wished.

"So happy together."

Bill Holland

Bill Holland, the King of Tampa, is the editor of Gulf Coast Digital, a Web site that covers news of the New Economy in Southwest Florida.

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