And we’ll never be lonely anymore

So I get a call from Sean. “Klahr and I have talked it over,” he says, “and we were wondering whether you’d be the officiant for our wedding in May.”

“What genre would you like your wedding in?” I ask.

During the pre-show for I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, all the actors wander out into the audience in character, portraying clergy from various religions. My character is that of a minister. I’m the only one in the cast who actually enjoys talking to the audience while in character. My secret is to let the audience members do the talking — they’ve got plenty to say, and they’re quite funny. Last weekend a couple comes in, sits down left.

“What would you like to see tonight?” I ask them.

“Well…” says the man, “just don’t suck.”

I smile at another blue-hair in row C. “So what are the things you like to see most in the theater?”

“I like to see two things,” says blue-hair. “Comedy. And laughter.”

Daughter, early twenties, fashionably dressed, is sitting front and center. Next to her is mother, forties, dumpy, wearing a T-shirt with writing and shorts that show off stubby knees. Daughter clearly is embarrassed to an inch of her life as mother regales me. “Are you two related?” I ask.

Daughter says, “I’m adopted.”

“What kind of shows do you like to see?”

“Oh, all kinds of shows, all kinds, all kinds!” says mother. “We’ve been to see Ice Follies just a week ago, and my daughter here is going for her program at the San Diego Globe! Isn’t that a lovely theater, the Globe? They do Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare, but he just seems to have so many words in him. And we went to go see Anne Frank last Saturday. Have you seen Anne Frank?” she asks.

“Sure,” I say. “I love comedies.” Daughter involuntarily snorts and gives me a look that says, OK, maybe you don’t totally suck. Mother prattles on. “Oh, it was funny, it was indeed! When those doors wouldn’t open and he kept yanking on them. I laughed so hard.”

“Noises Off,” grunts daughter.

“Oh yes, that was Noises Off! Woah, I laughed so hard I thought I’d die.” Daughter rolls her eyes.

Another group of four decides to cross-examine me. “Are you really a minister?” a woman with black-rimmed glasses asks me.

“Yes,” I lie.

“What is the name of your church?”

“Well, I just moved down. First Presbyterian of San Francisco. Have you heard of it?” I lie.

“Where did you study?”

“Harvard,” I lie, but only partly.

“Oh, you went to Harvard. And what did you major in?”

Quick, quick, you shouldn’t have to think about this stuff. “Divinity.”

“And what’s your degree title?”

“Um, I don’t have a degree in divinity.” Damn!

“Why not?”

“Oh, I decided to take off a year before I graudated and take the ministry to people in need. So technically I never graduated. But I studied for three years in the Divinity school.” Nice save, Byrd!

“Where was your ministry?”

“I went to South Korea to spread the Word. Some time in Tokyo.”

“Where in South Korea?”

“Mostly in Seoul.”

“Ah, yes? And how long were you in Seoul?”

Damn, lady! “Two years.”

She smiles broadly and lets loose a torrent of what I suppose is Korean.

“Lady, this is the theater and I’m an actor, suspend disbelief for one goddamned minute for me, will ya?” I said. Actually, I didn’t say that. “My Korean is a little rusty,” I say.

“What did you say your degree was in?” she asks.

“Oh, darn, look at that, I have to go back stage now to start the show. But golly I hope you stay afterwards for the free refreshments!” I beam, and then run off at top speed. Dammit. If I were a real minister, they wouldn’t give me such shit.

So I clicked on over to the Universal Life Church, filled in a form, and two days later, John Byrd is a legally ordained minister in the state of California. There’s a significant body of case law that says this insta-minister ministry in Modesto can legally hand out clergy titles like Pez, and the resulting marriages are binding and legal in 48 states and most of Canada. So now I’m ready to issue marriage licenses for the low low price of $5.00 per certificate. Amen. Let us pray.

No matter, I can live with that

Not much exciting to write about. To get my bearings in Orange County, I opened a teeny production of I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change weekend before last. The crowd is mostly moneyed blue-haired types. Most of the actors in the show are fifteen years younger than me, and obsessed with the things that people who are fifteen years younger than me ought to be obsessed about: gossip mags, Myspace, who hates who. San Francisco theater types are much more easygoing than the actors I?ve met so far — I’ve fallen in with an unusually catty bunch for this particular show. I’m constantly reminded in peculiar ways that I?ve moved deep into the heart of Republican California. Nixon’s birthplace is down the road, as is Ronald Reagan’s. The televisions at 24 Hour Fitness are all tuned to Fox News, and people speak with open disdain about San Francisco and yoga and vegetarianism and other liberal pastimes. I met a Log Cabin Republican after a particular I Love You show. He’s a seventh-generation OCer who’d rather tolerate all the insults and rejection rather than break ranks with Big Red. Being gay around here is better than being Democrat. Regardless, I purchased a West Virginia state flag and perched it right smack on top of my garage here in Costa Mesa. When my father brings my guns out to California I plan to sit on the porch and shoot at the postman. Work’s been nice, nearly meditative. I can spin out miles of code like spiderwebs, and the hours pass harmlessly. I’m slow to make friends, here and everywhere. I tend to rank people based on the estimated breadth of their hearts. My wife is working from home, and although she superficially appears happy to be in the company of the house she’s made immaculate, I’m concerned that she doesn’t naturally have enough chances to find a posse or tribe down here in the OC. I’m apparently the outgoing one in the relationship, and I haven’t found kindred spirits down here yet.