I talk much about my wife Suzanne because she is an integral part of my life as coach, as athlete, & as (hack) writer. She's taught me a great deal about myself as well as the world around me. I don't always agree with her; she persists in seemingly-innocuous habits which drive me up the wall, but I would be in a dull, dreary world of funky socks & take-out Chinese if not for her.
When I proposed to her in December 2003, I knew I wanted the socially-accepted & state-sanctioned binding of us together as husband-&-wife to be simple, meaningful, & most especially, in the presence of people we loved most. If you heard me recommend April Fool's Day 2004 as the tentative date for the wedding, I'm certain you would have thought otherwise...but I suggested it mainly for the reason neither one of us would forget the date, & we could have a few laughs in the process. However, Suzanne's cool head prevailed & I moved the date one day to the right, April 2nd.
Okay, we have a date. Now we need to figure out who to invite.
As this would be the second time into the breach for us both, we agreed & longed for minimum drama. Our closest friends, no more than twenty, would be invited; the rest will have to grin & bear it. Unfortunately, the list kept mushrooming. Isn't that like every darn fungus with which you get to deal?
We kept pruning the list back: Okay, only my closest mate from the internship & his wife. My running coach & his wife. My friend George (who took me to my first Crescent City Classic) & his girlfriend (now wife) Dianne. Still, we couldn't get down to twenty. Not only was money an issue, but the running community here in Pensacola is so closely-knit it was impossible to leave some off the guest list.
Finally, in one of those "bolt from the blue" moments, I asked Suzanne: 'what if we just go down to the courthouse & have a simple civil ceremony, then have our wedding reception at Tad Gormley Stadium in City Park, right after we run Crescent City? The Capt'n Fun Runners from Pensacola will all be there; there will be food & a keg, not to mention the post-race feed, & we can always ask Glenn (also known as the "Capt'n") if he'll hold space for a big ice chest of champagne & a ton of beads. They'll understand we're trying to keep this simple & inexpensive, since we're planning to do the Classic.'
The Classic was not my first trip to New Orleans, but rather the first trip in my "reconstructed" life as a working professional. The entire weekend - Friday night's first-ever encounter with crawfish at Acme Oyster Bar, the race on Saturday, closing down the post-race party by limboing on the grass, up to the mildly-boozy little-bit-beyond-hangover breakfast at Camellia Grill in Carrollton before the long drive back to Pensacola - all this left an indelible mark on me. I raved about the experience - from claw-to-coffee - to Suzanne the next night; she had out-of-town business to accomplish & couldn't change her schedule. So, I knew my second Classic - Suzanne's first - would be something memorable. It's always great to introduce a tradition to a friend.
So, every Friday, from Christmas to Good Friday, we would walk across the street to the market across from our little apartment. We'd get a six-pack of Abita & a bottle of champagne. The Abita went into the fridge - for a little while. The champagne was tucked away into a large ice chest. I think we had at least a dozen bottles by the time we rolled into the Chateau Sonesta on Good Friday. Add to that stash enough beads to encourage the entire French Quarter to doff their tops, & we knew we were ready to go.
The race experience was unquestionably memorable. Suzanne & I spent the better part of the post-race in matching aloha shirts, handing out beads & cups of bubbly to anyone who came close to the Capt'n Fun Runners' encampment...it's never been difficult to find it; look for the toucan flags.
Our local running friends sometimes still talk about the wedding reception at the Classic, with fondness. We've told the "How To Hold An Intimate Wedding Reception With 15 Thousand Of Your Closest Friends" story to friends & acquaintances around the country, usually during a group runs at a Road Runners Club of America convention, or while hanging out after a road race. The married running couples find it cute. The unmarried running couples file it for future reference.
Every couple has places, times, & songs which are iconic in their relationship. For Suzanne & me, there's nothing like the warm sunlight of a New Orleans morning - especially during the post-race party at the Crescent City Classic - to remind us how blessed we are to be in love with someone who is passionate about running...and life.