Monday, November 21, 2011


My big brother is a cool dude.  Like many little sisters, I've always looked to him as being sort of a superhero.  He's helped me through tough times like breakups, going as far as to send me flowers once a week for a month during one real doozy.  Once he used up his annual vacation time from work to fly up to my mother's house in the woods to help her after a big surgery.  But you'd never really know he was such a serious do-gooder, as he's always quite nonchalant.  He's more likely to be caught introducing Star Wars to people who didn't even know they needed it in their lives.  He got me hooked on Avenged Sevenfold, and for years has lied through his teeth about where he got the giant scar on his shoulder (I was there when it happened, and I KNOW that it wasn't an epic shark battle).  He's funny and sweet and even through the significant distance of our twelve year age gap and different zip codes, I've always counted him among my best friends.

And last week, I got to be there as he got married.  As a starving artist, I've often had to trade off certain life events.  Weddings, birthdays, funerals - sometimes it's just impossible to make it work when you're in New York and lots of your besties are on the west coast.  This one, though, I could not miss.  I returned to my childhood land of Orange County, California for a week, and then on National Metal Day (yep) my brother got married.  I cried, he cried, Grandpa cried.  As Captain Jack Sparrow once said, "I love weddings!  Drinks all around!"

One of my favorite memories of our wedding celebration was a trip we took to Disneyland on the eve of the wedding day.  Insane planning?  Meh.  If you know me, you know I'm a terrible planner and spend most of my life shooting from the hip and scrambling busily from crisis to crisis.  Imagine a whole family of these people, and you'll have an accurate picture of the troop that decided on Wednesday to go to Disneyland Thursday before the wedding on Friday.  Goodness.  And the first place we hit up was Adventureland.  They pump something into the air to make it smell epically exotic (magic?!), and I swear you can hear bongo music in the background (magic?!), and they light torches and have a shop that sells overpriced Indiana Jones hats and it's easy to pretend I'm in Casablanca.  Going there with my new step-nephew was great because he is 7 and everything is an adventure to him.  Before we left for the day, he drew symbols on napkins for each of us and handed them out, saying, "Here, this is your superpower."  Totally awesome.

But anyway, I bring up Adventureland because I think it is a serviceable metaphor.  I think Adventureland is a good word for my brother's new marriage, and what their life will be like, and what mine is like as I get to experience and observe and share my life with others.  Flying out for this wedding was an adventure, as was stopping in Chicago on the way back (but that's another story).  The wedding was an adventure, but the marriage itself will be a totally different adventure.  My brother and his new wife have already been hit with some traumas; a death in the family, a chronic illness diagnosis in the family, a layoff in the family, and a week-long visit from me and my mom.  Not a fairy tale, exactly.  But ultimately it's better than a fairy tale - because it's real.  It's better than a fairy tale because they're sticking with each other in the absence of the fairy tale.  It's an adventure.

He doesn't know he's gonna make it
Sometimes I forget what an adventure looks like from the perspective of the person IN the action - I mean, I know Indiana Jones isn't going to get killed because he's the main character and the movie is NAMED after him, but HE doesn't know that!  All he knows is Nazis are trying to kill him again, and they probably will have snakes.  I know the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland doesn't actually take me into an ancient tomb with fire-pits and skeletons shooting invisible poisonous blow-darts at me, but a child might not know that.  My new step-nephew was definitely surprised by the blow-darts.  We never really know what we're in for.

Being there for my brother's huge life event is so fun for me largely because I know the main character.  Like watching Indiana Jones, I just know my brother is going to be the winner in his story.  Being involved even peripherally is terrific not only because I love a good love story (who doesn't?!?) - but because it's exciting to watch the adventure unfold.  It's not formulaic or predictable.  My brother and his bride are grown-ups.  They're real.  They're dealing with stuff, and yet they're willing to step in the ring themselves.  They're champs. 

Disney's Adventureland has a map and a layout and the rides are on tracks, but real Adventureland is unpredictable.  Sometimes it's good and other times, holy moley batman, it sucks.  I'm not meaning to imply that marriage sucks.  What I mean is, marriage is for life, and life is tricky.  That's why watching people like my brother and his wife love each other well is so awesome.  It's like watching Indiana Jones beat up the bad guys again and again, surprising even himself with his success.  But he keeps doing it.  Why?  Because he's freaking Indiana Jones, that's why.

They don't know they're gonna make it
I often talk big about adventure and glory and fun and positivity in life, and other mumbo jumbo meant to encourage myself as much as other people - but the reality is life gets difficult and scary real fast.  I've missed things I didn't want to miss, and stuck around places where I didn't want to be, because I told myself that was the price I had to pay to pursue my dreams.  Adventure, when you're in the thick of it, is always teetering on the edge of disaster.  That's what our lives do, and our character and choices are sometimes our only compass.  Watching someone like my brother dive in has been pretty inspiring.

After all, Indiana Jones wouldn't give up.  My brother won't.  And neither can I.  No giving up! Adventureland, homicidal blowdart-shooting skeletons, starving artist-ness and all.  I know, I know - it's kind of a hokey metaphor and I am sure that if my brother reads this he will roll his eyes and ask me why I didn't use a better metaphor like football or something...but there it is.