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I’m the Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriages- Who the Hell Are You? [California Seething]

For a brief period of time in college, I considered becoming a Rabbi. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not particularly religious- I was just fascinated by the role that ritual could play in heightening particular moments in a person’s life and the way in which our collective need for the infinite could cause it to manifest itself on earth. I was also tripping my balls off on two hits of unbelievable liquid acid that I bought from a trio of seedy hippies suspiciously named “Soy”, “Dog” and “Liz” (“Liz” – whatever. Like that’s even a real name.) Later that night, I also briefly considered joining the Animaniacs, not because I wanted to be on television, but because I was fascinated by the idea of living in the water tower at Warner Brother’s studios and writing a whole song about an obscure South American lake just so I could say “Titicaca” over and over again on a children’s show. Living the dream!

In the cold light of day, with the drugs out of my system, I abandoned my rabbinical fantasies and made the hard-headed practical choice to stick with theatre (maybe not ALL of the drugs were out my system.) Still- I continue to be fascinated by the trappings of religion and, as a result, even though I don’t really believe in God, I still maintain certain Jewish rituals- like even though I don’t believe in Leprechauns and Democracy, I continue to eat Lucky Charms and vote (FULL DISCLOSURE: I actually do believe in voting, but only as a means to keep things from getting even worse, or at least, to slightly postpone the inevitable slide into Libertarian Theocracy. Speaking of- how sweet is it that Rick Perry cut the fire dep’t by 75% and now his state is on fire? Nice Miracle, Asshole. You just keep on denying climate change and maybe the invisible hand of capitalism will hold Jesus’ wiener while he pees on the wildfires from heaven to put them out. Also, fuck Lucky Charms. Hard little pointless marshmallows with freaky Irish voodoo shapes and unnatural colors- give me the Cap’n any day. )

Perhaps because of my fascination with ritual, I have played a variety of supporting roles in the lifecycle rituals of my friends and family. It could also be due to the fact that I have a beard and know how to stroke it in a thoughtful and deeply spiritual way even if I’m just reorganizing my list of Top 5 Late 90s Teen Movies in my head for the 10,000th time (Can’t Hardly Wait. Always #1. Disagree, and I’ll take you DOWN) or thinking of innovative new ways of expressing just how much I hate the Patriots (I’ve got nothing right now.) (The season is young) (in six weeks I’ll come up with a cheeky .limerick rhyming Wes Welker with “Satan’s Helper” and “Tom Brady” with “Why don’t you retire or die, already?”) Whatever the reason- I have accumulated a number of credits in this area- I’ve led Seders, read stuff at weddings, even held my friend’s son during his Bris- thus assuring a life-long connection in the young child’s mind between Judaism and mind-numbing terror, as though both his manhood and his soul had been unwittingly placed in the moist grip of an unsteady god. I must have done okay with these bit parts and cameo appearances, because recently I’ve been given a couple of above-the-title ritual roles. In November, I’ll be participating in my first Baptism and breaking my Godfather cherry (for which I shall make my friends sorry with a non-stop barrage of god-awful Marlon Brando impressions) and, this past Saturday, I officiated my first wedding.

I’m a big fan of marriage so I was deeply honored to be asked. I did have a few piddling concerns:

  1. I’m not a rabbi, priest, minister, judge, ship captain, justice of the peace or Elvis impersonator- so I’m pretty sure I’m not legally authorized to perform a wedding.
  2. I’m absolutely, hands down, the last person you would ever want to perform a wedding ceremony in front of all of your friends and family. I can’t even get through brushing my teeth without screaming “cocksucker.” It’s like asking Gordon Ramsay to give a commencement address at a kindergarten graduation or replacing Baby Einstein DVDs with Eddie Murphy’s Raw- a bad motherfucking idea.
  3. I need to get my suit dry cleaned.

I’ll address these concerns one at a time:

Concern #1: I’m not authorized

Turned out, I needn’t have worried about this. In the state of California, anyone can be anointed to perform weddings for one day as a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriages- which was the most romantic title the State could come up with after tossing out such gems as Assistant Undersecretary of Nuptial Affairs and Grade III HVAC, Plumbing and Marriage Technician (you can get that certification at ITT Tech.) With their usual focus on efficient customer service, the State of CA has made this process every bit as straight forward as opening a small business, visiting the DMV or performing triple bypass surgery with a plastic knife and a spork. Here’s what I had to do:

  1. Fill out a lengthy application form online. Actually, I have no idea how annoying this really was, since the bride did it for me- but in the interest of full curmudgeonliness, I’m gonna say that it was REALLY fucking annoying. I’m also going to shake my fist and tell a bunch of kids to get off my lawn in a needlessly angry way. Get off my lawn, you meddling kids! (BTW- how sad is it that anyone who knows what “meddling kids” is a reference to is now old enough to hate them? Very fucking sad, that’s how sad, I’ll tell you.)
  2. Make an appointment to be sworn in as a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriages. Fortunately, the administrator of this program was very flexible. I could make an appointment at any time that was convenient for me, so long as it was 11 AM on Thur, September 1. I could even bring guests to attend the ceremony with me! (Maximum one guest.)
  3. Head down to the Office of the Registrar/Recorder County Clerk, which is conveniently located on the Planet Earth and accessible by land. Unfortunately, it is located in Norwalk, which is 60-90 minutes away from anywhere that any rational human being might possibly want to go in LA County. Apologies to those of you who live near Norwalk, but you can’t blame me for your terrible lifestyle choices.
  4. Fill out more paperwork and follow the cheerfully big-haired administrator of the Civil Marriage program though a grey and beige rabbit warren of cubicles under the hungry eyes of lurking state workers who eagerly stared at our unsuspecting group of aspiring Deputy Commissioners, waiting for one of us to drop so that they could pounce and devour the corpse, dragging the remains to the Break Room like vicious hyenas with pensions.
  5. Participate in the Swearing In Ceremony in the Sacred Swearing In Ceremony Conference Room. I knew that we had reached our destination because the printed Outlook calendar on the Conference Room door noted that it was “Reserved for Civil Marriage Swearing In Ceremony” from 11 AM – 12:30 PM, followed by “Union Negotiations” from “12:30 PM- 5 PM”. I hope they at least got lunch- though maybe that’s still to be worked out in the Collective Bargaining process. During the deeply meaningful Swearing-In Ceremony- the same one which is used, I believe, for new Judges, Dog-Catchers and Lifeguards at the County Pool- I had to agree to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America from all enemies foreign and domestic.” Frankly, this was a lot more responsibility than I was hoping to take on. I didn’t realize that in order to officiate one teeny-little wedding, I’d also have to wage war on Al Qaida. Fortunately, it’s only for the day of the wedding and since Kim Jong Il never responded to the evite, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have to kick anyone’s ass between the champagne toast and first dance.

Concern #2: I’m not worthy

OK, you know what, this is bullshit. I was going to write all sorts of self-effacing stuff about how I can’t possibly be qualified to perform someone’s wedding, and how there’s no way I should be invited to speak in front of an audience containing young children and elderly relatives because I might get irrationally angry and swear too much- but that’s just a bunch of fucking, cocksucking, horseshit- just the sort of asinine crap that makes me mad enough to strangle a chimp with my bare hands.

The truth is- I’m the perfect person to perform a wedding ceremony. Aside from my extensive experience with public speaking- both as a stand up comic, corporate trainer and righteously-indignant Vons Grocery Store customer, I’ve got all sorts of great stuff to say about marriage. Hell, I’ve been married for 11 years, my parents have been married for almost 50 years, my grandparents have been married for around 70.

I love everything about marriage- the joint bank account, the exciting array of glassware that we received for our wedding and spent the last decade breaking, always having someone to participate in very small Sims Family Fantasy Sports leagues, never running out of toothpaste- all excellent stuff! Not to mention, the whole spending every day with my favorite person in the world thing. That’s really neat, too. I even love my in-laws- they drink wine, play Dominos and show up on time- the Goyisha family of my dreams!

Plus, the couple I was asked to marry were getting married in a theatre- and if there’s anything I love as much as marriage it’s theatre (and the Boston Celtics- but that’s not strictly relevant at the moment) (I do love them though) (even if Danny Ainge is a big stupid moron who traded away their chance for a title last year in return for a couple of magic beans named Kristic and Green) (stupid Mormon freak.) Plus, the wedding actually took place on my anniversary, so my mental cup was already overflowing with warm, fuzzy nuptial thoughts. Anyhow, don’t let me prejudice you- here’s an excerpt of my remarks (names have been removed for some weird reason):

“For those that don’t know me- allow me to assuage your concerns. T and D have not converted to Judaism. Don’t let the suit and the beard fool you- I’m no rabbi- just a big, hairy Jew who knows and loves Tom and Danika and was honored to be invited to officiate their wedding. I should confess, though, that when I told my grandmother I was doing this, I told her that I had become a rabbi so that she would be, you know, really proud of me. So- if anyone takes any pictures with me- please, look at me like I just said something unbelievably intelligent- like you’re just absolutely blown away by my wisdom and sanctity, even if I’m really just making fart jokes.

Alright, so, to the matter at hand. We’re all here today to celebrate the wedding of T & D in, what I believe, is the perfect space. Not only because we couldn’t book the Pantages. Thanks for nothing, Wicked. But because this space- a clean, bare stage with only a ghost light embodies the spirit of new beginnings. One of the best moments in any production happens long before the audience shows up, before the set is built and before the actors are even cast. It is the moment at the very beginning of the production- when all you have are the words on the page, the director’s vision, and the empty space- and you make the decision to put them all together and create something amazing. At this point everything is possible. The perfect production hangs tantalizingly in front of you, and, for one brief, glorious moment, it appears that all you have to do is step forward and grab it. Well, this is the moment that we’ve all come here to celebrate in T & D’s lives. We have the bride, the groom and the space- and we’re about to watch as they make the decision to move forward together and create something amazing.

Now, in theatre, this moment usually flashes by unobserved- at a production meeting in a borrowed conference room or over drinks at, oh, let’s say O’Brian’s in Santa Monica. In life, though, we know how precious this moment is- so we invite a bunch of people down, get a guy to say some deep sounding stuff, drink champagne, eat cake and do the Electric Slide (hopefully) to celebrate it. It’s one of the few areas in which life is better than theatre.”

Pretty good, right? Plus I kicked it off with a super-cheesy impression of the wedding scene from The Princess Bride. I’d like you to find a priest or ship’s captain that would do that. In your face, Captain Steubing!

Concern #3: I need to get my suit dry cleaned.

FUCK! I forgot to get my suit dry cleaned. Hopefully nobody noticed.

So, there you have it. My short-lived brilliant career as a wedding officiant. Now all I have to do is remember to mail in their wedding license and these two crazy kids will be married in the eyes of God and Jerry Brown (that would be waaay funnier with Schwarzenegger.) I may have a knack for this whole “lifecycle ritual” thing. I still don’t want to be a rabbi, but maybe I could get sworn in as a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Bar Mitzvahs. That would be worth the drive to Norwalk- who wants to come with me? First one to answer gets to be my one approved guest. You’ll have to drive, though. That’s one duty the state has not authorized me to perform- even if I do swear to protect and defend American roads from all bad drivers foreign and domestic. That Kim Jong Il is a fuckin’ maniac in his Prius.

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