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Monday, October 10, 2016

My Big Fat Italian Wedding Hangover

Caleb and his groomsmen pause for a "Best Boxer Shorts contest" on our deck, while Best Man, Justin, grabs one last handful of cheek from the betrothed. From the left, Nick, Justin, Caleb, Nate, Tom, Matt. 

Deep breath. Okay, the "Big Fat Italian-like" wedding is in the books, a celebration that played out over several days. Oh the food and drink... back to back to back buffets at the Secret Garden capped off with lethal desserts... culinary excess that just about landed me in the hospital one night, though I suppose it could have been the beverage progression from beer to wine to margaritas... 

Most of the Johnson side of the family showed up, including my older/smarter brother, Dan, his lovely wife, Elaine, nephews Darin and his wife, Tracey, and MOAB... better known as Maia, Owen, Anita, and Brent. It was a marvelous reunion, and I appreciate the effort made to get to Lovely Ouray!

The Johnsons seem to have a keen appreciation for the art and nuance behind all beverages fermented, including, but not limited to, hops, grapes, and cacti. Nephews Darin and Brent specialize in beer snobbery, describing microbrews as if they were fine French wines, "...I detect a subtle citrus undertone... short of fruity and yet moderately hoppy... to the edge of bitter, but not overdone, which makes for a smooth transition mouth to gullet. Lord, I have so much to learn... 

I believe it was the fermented cacti (commonly known as tequila) that inspired a blathering monologue roast of son Caleb at the rehearsal dinner. I've been granted absolution, thanks to a renegotiation of the wedding gift, a new sum that was agreed would also count for absolution of dance floor antics of which I have only fuzzy memories. Judging from the photos, what felt like John Travolta in the moment, more resembled Pee Wee Herman. What can I say, just another intoxicated old fool taking a last stab at glory days through a psychogenic haze of beer, wine, and tequila. 

"Roasting" the Groom at the rehearsal dinner.
Caleb and groomsman Nick... Cooking something up :)
My Bro Dan, nephew Brent, and yours truly. 

The Real Thing

May I present Mr and Mrs Johnson!!!

From the left, Kelli's parents, Jim and Joyce, Kelli, Caleb, Caleb's mom, Elane, her husband, Bill, Mark, and Bobbie. Note I even got a haircut for this affair... should last a good year! :)

The Celebration

Grampa Jim and Shea... Kelli's niece via her Sister, Morgan.

The Bridesmaids and Maid of  Honor... and Caleb, giving his blessing :)
The bride and groom getting down on the dance floor

The day after... Still Smiling

Dear Kelli and Caleb, I must say, it was a smashing wedding... a home run! You two make such a handsome couple. I wish you both all the best and happiness, for you have earned it. 
Live long. Live hard. Dream big

A pre-wedding pedal up to Pleasant Valley Overlook... 

In the vacuum after such a big wedding and celebration, Bobbie and I took a quiet stroll up Oak Creek Trail to relax and draw a deep breath. It's hard to believe the difference a few days can make this time of year... from corrals of aspen glowing like thousand watt torches, to bare branches stripped of leaves by a vicious wind that ushered in Ouray's first legitimate snowstorm of the season. Beauty to Beast, kinda like me.

When Autumn's leaves fall, so, too, does my spirit. Leaves on the ground signals the end of a glorious Rocky Mountain summer hiking season. It's like I'm the spoiled rotten two-year-old supermarket brat stalled in a checkout line... the gimme more kid that grabs for all the glittering impulse items. 

Fall was truly spectacular this year, a seasonal sensory kaleidoscope that danced a jig on every single receptor in my body. If I could just freeze the season in place, that time when "every leaf's a flower," extend Ms Autumn's radiant sun as it arcs low across our colorful, peak-studded horizon. I'm with George Eliot, “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” 

Bobbie and I worked hard to realize our dreams; we all do. We are fortunate and grateful to have lived to see most of them bear fruit, especially the one at the top of the "bucket-list, which was to quit jobs and embrace the freedom of (semi) retirement. We have roamed coast to coast/border to border, experienced the physical and cultural wonders of America. I recall with fondness and gratitude the year we chased Ms Autumn from Bar Harbor, Maine to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, living months on end in a perpetual vortex of color. After surviving a couple recent brushes with the Grim Reaper, I've taken to sporting a "Life is Good" ball cap as a daily reminder to appreciate every single minute, every single breath, all the nooks and crannies we've found, the good friends made, and the luck of landing in Lovely Ouray.

I write this column from a boondock camp in The Klondike, an area that borders the fins and bobble-heads of Arches National Park in eastern Utah. A surreal vista of red rock monoliths silhouette against a fiery sunrise. The scene stirs the coals of my wanderlust, re-enflames my spirit to not waste a minute... to explore and venture out amid the natural wonders that are within easy reach of Lovely Ouray. Ms Autumn may have all but departed the San Juans, but she is on the rise here; Rabbit brush, top-hatted in ocherous yellow. Deformed cottonwoods—caught in a life and death struggle against dry-wash aridity with limbs drooped and twisted like boneless chicken wings. They resemble gnarly-barked ghouls and remind me that life is tenuous. 

Utah extends Ms Autumn's visit. She renews my spirit like a shot of brandy after a sumptuous feast, and reminds me that Life is still Good. 

One of my Panorama shots enlarged to 16" X 60." Shooting south from near the summit of Mount Abram.


  1. Ahh, you are there, in Utah....makes my heart soar. Lovely Ouray is lovely, and I so want to hike there someday, but well....red rock country holds my soul. That was a great wedding. Actually brought tears to my eyes, and reminded me of the wedding I attended omigod 2 years ago with my friend in Vermont. Wonderful weddings between two people who have finally "found" each other and their families can be an amazing experience. Congrats to all.

  2. Congratulations to Caleb & Kelli!

  3. Looks and sounds like it was a great weekend! Now off to the Red Rocks adventures. Stay safe and say hi to the gang for us.

  4. Wishing Kelli & Caleb all the best for the road ahead and may their dreams all come true!

    Thanks for the paragraph reminding us why we quit our 9 to 5 chains and choose instead to wander the crags and gullies.

  5. Oh.... I am soooo jealous of your wandering spirit and ability to hike and bike and climb! For me, I would need a horse to see these sights! I will continue to live vicariously through your blog for now however. The wedding was one for the books and will bring fond and treasured memories for years to come! We are both so very lucky to have raised such wonderful kids/adults who found each other when it was the right time! We are truly blessed!

  6. Looks like a wonderful wedding celebration:) Great photos! Enjoy Moab! Love, love that place! Beautiful panorama photo, Mark! I can only imagine how spectacular it is in person:)

  7. What fun getting the family together in Ouray for such a special wedding. Best Wishes and happiness to the bride and groom.

  8. Congratulations on the family wedding It looked beautiful. It's only beginning to be autumn here in Michigan...well down here in the lower peninsula anyway. I'm sure the UP is much further along. Last year at this time we were in peak color, so you can never tell. I love your photographs and writing. You're making me give in to my own wanderlust. Love Utah and haven't been there in many many years. Can't imagine how wonderful it would be to boondock near Arches. Stretches the imagination. Thanks for that.

  9. Congrats to the young newlyweds...may they follow your words of wisdom re:living life to the fullest!

  10. Congratulations to Kelli and Caleb! Their celebration looks like a lovely way to kick off what I trust will be a lifetime of joy together.


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