I’ve never been the patient sort.
As a child, I was known to rifle through my parents’ room in search of Christmas presents. To quote my mother: I had “ants in my pants.” During the 13 years Lara and I have been married, she’s learned to deal with my impatience, especially when it comes to birthday presents and the like. This year I was turning 40. I was expecting great things. And Lara was scheming. I knew that. But I couldn’t figure out what she was up to. I had lots of guesses. A new Newfie. A trip to the ocean. A new grill. But Lara kept a poker face. I interrogated friends to no avail. She agreed to tell me where we were going the night before my birthday. So after hitting the cigar store that night to cash in a very cool gift certificate that my staff gave me, I returned home and waited for Lara.
It wasn’t long before she burst through the door … with Totsy, one of our dearest friends. She had flown in from Denver, and Lara informed me, we were renting a cabin at a lake. We were going there the next day. This was going to be fantastic. A weekend of Infinite Totsy, a trip to the lake and I was even going to get to take my faithful Newfie, Xena.
So on Friday, July 26, we drove up to Dale Hollow Lake, which straddles the Tennesse/Kentucky border. It’s a beautiful lake with very little development around it. Me. Totsy. Lara. Xena. Perfect. Unfortunately, we’d arrived early. We had to wait for the cabin to be ready, Lara informed me. The ants started marching in my pants. It was hot. Xena and I were standing on the steaming asphalt, and I started badgering Lara:
“Let’s just jump in the truck and drive around for a while. We can come back in an hour when the cabin is ready.”
No. Lara was having none of it. We had to wait. She wandered off. I started getting testy, so I took Xena down to the dock to check out the scene.
As we walked out on the dock, I noticed a boat about 50 yards away. It appeared to be driven by a Grizzly Bear. Either that, or Wes Jackson. A friend who currently lives in the great state of Texas.
“Benz! What’s up?”
I was dumbfounded, but I still didn’t get it. I thought Wes was there by coincidence, that he was visiting family in Kentucky and had come down to the lake for the weekend.
But Wes was one of the stars of Lara’s diabolical scheme. She informed me that he’d flown in for my birthday, and that we were renting a houseboat for the weekend.
This was going to be great. Me. Totsy. Lara. Xena. Wes. On the lake. For the weekend. It doesn’t get any better than this.
But wait, there’s more.
As we got on the houseboat and started checking things out, I looked up to see Gwen, her husband, Dave, and daughter, Camila, climbing aboard. Gwen is a college friend. Dave is one of my partners in crime. They’d driven down from Virginia.
Wow. This really was going to be great. Me. Totsy. Lara. Xena. Wes. Gwen. Dave. Cam. Now it was officially a party.
Then joanne rheinlander and her husband, Ryck, boarded the boat. They’d driven down from Pennsyltucky. In a caravan with Gwen and Co. InFreakinCredible. Me. Totsy. Lara. Xena. Wes. Gwen. Dave. Cam. joanne. Ryck. And a 65-foot houseboat. Very nice. I was incredibly flattered that these folks had come all this way to hang out with me.
Fearfully, I steered the boat out of the dock and toward a cove that Wes and I had scouted out using his boat. We were loaded down with great food. Guitars. Fiddles. And plenty of beer and booze.
We tied the houseboat up in a cove and started to party. Everyone was having a blast, when suddenly we had a “situation.” It appeared Totsy was experiencing “that time of the month” and Wes and Lara had to run back to the marina to get critical female implements.
While they were gone, we continued to play music and have a great time. Then the sun went down and Lara and Wes still weren’t back. I really started to worry. Maybe Wes had boat problems. Maybe Wes had run off with my wife, we joked. I wasn’t too worried. I figured they’d just hang out somewhere till morning and then return on another boat. No big deal, but I was really hoping they’d get back.
And they did. Complete with the John Baker show, starring Johnny “Guitar” Baker, Annie, his wife, and his son, Luke. Totsy’s “problem” had been a ruse.
As Wes, Lara and the Bakers pulled in, a police light flashed farther out in the cove, and the lake patrol boat came in behind them. Wes was having a tough time navigating in the dark. The moon wasn’t up yet, and his running lights were throwing off a glare that made it impossible to see the shore. And he didn’t have a spotlight on the boat. So he was running with his lights off. Against the law. And the cops were writing him a ticket — despite his attempts to good-old-boy his way out of it — while we were greeting the Bakers and everyone was laughing at what a dupe I’d been. Even as people trickled in, I never quite got it. Now it really was going to be an incredible weekend. Me. Totsy. Lara. Xena. Wes. Gwen. Dave. Cam. joanne. Ryck. A 65-foot houseboat. John Baker. Annie. And Luke.
We played music and drank beer most of the night, and at one point I went up onto the roof to see an almost full moon that had come up too late to save Wes a ticket, but just in time for me to reflect on what incredible friends I have. These people are great, and I was having the best birthday I’ve ever had. If this was the first 40 years, the next 40 are going to be even better surrounded by folks like these.
I’m going to post more notes on the weekend over the next several days. If you have items you’d like to post, please add them. My memory is a little fuzzy on some parts. Not sure why. But thanks to everyone who made it possible, especially the incredible Lara Edge, the Greatest Wife on Earth. I’m damn lucky she’s still putting up with me after 13 years.
There are photos of the festivities here. They’re definitely worth checking out.