By Sean Dietrich
I know there are many important world events happening right now, with new alarming headlines being written every few minutes, but I think you deserve a five-minute rest from televised anxiety. Which is why I want to talk seriously about Ohio for a second.
Not only is Ohio the birthplace of seven U.S. presidents, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Thomas Edison, but it is also home to the world’s largest pair of drumsticks. The sticks are carved from poplar logs and have a combined weight of 1,800 pounds.
Said one Ohio man, “Dang, they’re big.”
I’ve always wanted to visit the Buckeye State, but every time I tell my Ohio friends this, they usually answer with: “Ha ha! Wait, you’re serious?”
I do understand why some Ohioans feel sort of blah about their state. But then, everyone feels like this about their home sometimes.
Take me, for instance. I am a Floridian who lives three miles from the Gulf of Mexico. People are always wanting to crash at my place during, say, spring break. And I’m usually thinking to myself, “Why?”
These friends often unveil their travel plans during nonchalant conversations by saying, “So, how’s that old guest room looking, buddy?”
And even though I don’t particularly enjoy having company in our house, I was raised to be hospitable. So I answer, “Our guest room is always open to you, as long as you aren’t allergic to black mold or rats the size of Fiats.”
The truth is, Florida people are just like Ohio people. Sometimes we can’t see how great our state is. This is exactly why during my teenage years we boys used to leave Florida for spring vacation in search of any U.S. state where we knew someone with a sleeper-sofa.
The farther away the better, just as long as we weren’t in Florida. That’s how it goes when you grow up on the Gulf Coast. During spring break, you want to vacation somewhere non-beachy, even if your entire trip is spent trapped in your buddy Phil’s fraternity-house basement.
So people always act confused when I tell them about the weird places I’ve visited for spring break. My list includes—this is true—Texarkana, Texas; Cullman, Alabama; Joplin, Missouri; Peoria, Illinois and Detroit.
Still, I’ve never been to Ohio. And this morning, I’m wishing I would have visited. Specifically, I’m wishing that I could have visited Cleveland this past Sunday, when 21-year-old Mendl Weinstock showed up at his sister’s wedding accompanied by a llama dressed in a tuxedo.
That’s right. Mendl brought a llama to a wedding ceremony because of a promise he’d made to his sister long ago. He says that it all started during a road trip, when he and his sister were having a conversation about weddings.
Traditionally, guys do not talk about weddings. In fact, most guys would rather discuss surgical sterilization procedures than matrimony. Plus, at the time, Mendl’s sister was only 17 years old and didn’t have plans to get married within the immediate future. This meant that their discussion was theoretical. To a guy, the only thing worse than wedding-talk, is hypothetical wedding-talk.
But girls love weddings. They begin obsessing about weddings when they are little. We boys would often get trapped in these girly wedding daydreams. This normally occurred when our mothers forced us to invite our cousin Lisa over to play.
Cousin Lisa was totally crazy about weddings. Marriage was all she could think about. If you were to give Lisa some G.I. Joes and a bunch of oatmeal cookies, Lisa would find a way to get them all hitched.
So even though you were wanting to play cowboys with your pals, Cousin Lisa was always playing “house,” and coaxing all your outlaw friends to give up bank robbery and start thinking seriously about things like adjustable fixed-arm mortgages.
Thus, Mendl and his sister got into a squabble on that fateful trip. And in the heat of the moment, Mendl made a flippant remark and told his sister he wasn’t going to attend her wedding. This really got her peeved and it was downhill from there.
They did, however, eventually reach a truce. Mendl agreed to attend her theoretical wedding, but ONLY if he could bring a theoretical llama as his date.
That was five years ago.
Last Sunday was the day of his sister’s wedding. True to his word, Mendl rented a llama from a local farm for $400. The llama’s name was Shocky. Shocky was well behaved, polite, and probably smelled better than most boys who live in fraternity housing.
Mendl had a custom tuxedo made for Shocky, with a bow tie and everything. Before the ceremony, wedding guests posed for pictures with Shocky, and a good time was had by all.
Said Mendl, with a touch of pride, “My sister was shocked…”
Mendl’s sister has agreed not to seek the death penalty.
I hate that I missed such a special day in Cleveland. And I hate that you did, too. Because you and I could all use a break from the frightening things happening in our world right now. We deserve to think about something good for a change. Like, for example, where I’m going to get a llama to accompany me to my cousin Lisa’s wedding next month. If you know of any available, let me know.
You’d be more than welcome to stay in our guest bedroom.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist, blogger and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South.