she still puts up with me!

They’re playing our song

August 4th, 2012  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

I suspect that I went on the best second date in recorded human history as a junior in college. The venue was the old Dakota club in St. Paul, where a stunning young woman and I sat about four feet from the Turtle Island String Quartet for a few hours. (Indeed, we were so close to the performers that I was able to offer David Balakrishnan a beer and some French fries at one point.)

A few years later, Andrea and I were getting off a boat at Templar Park on Spirit Lake, IA, when an unctuous fellow in a tuxedo collared us and introduced himself as “[our] Total Entertainment Solution.” This man continued, keeping us away from our guests while relaying a great deal of what seemed at the time to be irrelevant information. Since we hadn’t arranged for a Total Entertainment Solution, we were briefly confused before realizing that our wedding DJ had grander plans for himself than a more straightforward self-identification would allow.

Unlike most of the other wedding-related contractors, we had never met the Total Entertainment Solution in person before, but he had sent us a questionnaire to state our Total Entertainment preferences in excruciating detail. The questionnaire itself was dense and long enough to recall a pre-donation screening from the Red Cross. (“No, I have never eaten beef or organ meats in a Burmese prison. I am also not interested in the ‘Electric Slide.'”) It also required us to make one of the most difficult aesthetic compromises1 of the wedding-planning process: we had always considered the Turtle Island String Quartet’s “Ensenada”2 to be “our song,” but we didn’t think we’d have the foxtrot skills to pull it off at the reception. So, when the Total Entertainment Questionnaire asked for “our song,” we answered with something inoffensive and easy to dance to: Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”

We soon discovered that Total Entertainment Solution took the answers to his questionnaire rather less seriously than would the Red Cross. Line dancing, “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” and a ridiculous set of embarrass-the-couple games all figured as parts of our Total Entertainment despite our repeated insistence to the contrary. But the one part of the Total Entertainment Questionnaire that made an impression was “our song,” which we had decided upon roughly two weeks before the wedding date. By the second or third time we had danced to Mr. Presley’s ballad, with increasingly overwrought and sentimental introductions each time, I was beginning to suspect that the Total Entertainment Solution was teasing us for not practicing ballroom dance more.

It’s funny how we ascribe importance to accidental things that happen in the midst of emotionally-charged times. I imagine that I’ll always think of “Ensenada” as that special song that my wife and I share, but after eleven years of adventures with my best friend, I’m unable to suppress a smile when hearing the tune that substituted for it on a sweltering Iowa evening. I usually prefer a cover version, though:

Happy anniversary, Andrea.

1 Other difficult decisions included standard truncated-torus rings instead of Möbius-strip rings and reaching the conclusion that I wouldn’t have time to arrange the prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for the processional. (I wound up doing parts of the theme and final variation from the Brahms Variations on a Theme of Haydn instead.)

2 Alas, this great tune is not available to link but here is an MP3 preview on

State songs and vindication

August 4th, 2009  |  Tags: , , , ,  |  1 Comment

I spent my teenage and high school years in Maryland and developed an ironic appreciation for the Maryland state song, which is notable for its spectacular, over-the-top bloodthirst, its barely-implicit Confederate sympathies, and the hilarity inherent in setting such a text to the same tune as “O Tannenbaum”:

The despot’s heel is on thy shore,
Maryland, my Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door,
Maryland, my Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland, my Maryland!

When Andrea and I were still in college and not yet married, we went to a friend’s parents’ house to watch a Vikings game with a few of our classmates. (For reasons that will be obvious later, I note that this game was part of the Vikings’ amazing and ultimately heartbreaking 1998 campaign.) At one point, the conversation shifted to the subject of state branding (mottos, flowers, birds, songs, names for ice cream flavors, etc.). In an attempt to delight my friends, I performed the Maryland state song. My love, who had grown up in the fine state of Iowa, was less than delighted.

“What a stupid tune for a state song,” Andrea said, among other quite pointed comments that revealed her shock that I would have consented to live in a state with such a stupid song. I took no umbrage, as I had only a slight emotional attachment to the state of Maryland and none to its song. However, my zeal for tu quoque-related japery remained strong as ever.

We were in a basement and — as is often the case in certain kinds of basements — there happened to be a shelf full of Britannicas near the television. I got up, retrieved the “I” volume, and flipped pages until I found the entry for “Iowa,” which included details about its state song. In the interest of discretion, I won’t disclose the tune here, but I will note that the first line is “You asked what land I love the best, Iowa, tis Iowa.”

I mention this incident because, as of today, Andrea and I have been married for eight years, and my basement vindication might be the last time that I was right and she was wrong.

Thanks for putting up with me, sweetie.


August 4th, 2008  |  Tags: , ,  |  2 Comments

She still puts up with me

Thanks, sweetie.