You broke those chains
Took me in out of the cold . . .
You’re my shelter from the rain
If you ask me, there’s nothing in any newspaper in this country that’s more entertaining than the “Vows” column that appears each Sunday in the New York Times.
Each “Vows” tells the story how a recently-married couple met, how their relationship progressed and how they arrived at the decision to formalize their union. But it isn’t your grandfather’s wedding column . . . unless your grandfather was a fan of The Gong Show.
The last 2 or 3 lines quoted extensively from a “Vows” that featured the heartwarming story of how two yoga teachers met and fell in love after the female member of the couple ran over and killed a little girl:
“I got out of the car and this really beautiful little girl with pale skin and blue eyes was laying in the road. Her eyes were glazed over. I knew the spirit had left her body.”
Our bride-to-be was devastated, of course, so she started doing yoga everyday. She and her teacher fell in love and got married in a ceremony that one guest described as “just super-solid and super-honest.” (The wedding was performed by the brother, who advised the happy couple and everyone else who attended to check each other for ticks nightly to prevent Lyme disease.)
That’s a pretty crazy story, but almost every “Vows” tells a pretty crazy story. For example, here’s the lead from the recent “Vows” about the courtship and wedding of Jennifer Alden and Kirk Spahn:
When Kirk Spahn and Jennifer Alden exchanged marriage vows under towering California redwood trees, Ms. Alden, a former actress who played a bride in the film “Wedding Crashers,” acknowledged the many obstacles she overcame on this journey to the altar.
For starters, there was that troublesome brain tumor.
But no mere brain tumor – no matter how “troublesome” – was going to get Ms. Alden down:
Drawing on her acting career, she started a blog, “Adventures in Brain Surgery,” and posted short videos online about her diagnosis and options. She included her thoughts on what might happen if she lost the ability to speak, which was a real possibility. Even as chunks of her honey-blond hair were shorn for her eight-hour operation, her kooky expressions and wide smile prevailed.
In this "Adventures in Brain Surgery" video, which was shot the day before her brain-tumor surgery, Ms. Alden is much more worried about what's going to happen to her hair than she is about the outcome of the operation:
To add insult to injury, Ms. Alden’s husband bailed on her after her surgery:
At the time, Ms. Alden was a newlywed, having married a longtime beau the previous year. But while recovering from her surgery in September 2012 (the tumor proved to be benign), she found herself alone. By May 2013, her marriage ended, and her sunny demeanor, too, looked to be in danger.
Did you see how the “Vows” writer snuck in “the tumor proved to be benign”?
(The story would have been much more compelling if Ms. Alden’s tumor had been malignant, and she had lost the ability to speak, and she had to get married without the chunks of honey-blond hair that had been shorn for her surgery . . . but her fiancé didn’t care about any of that and still reckoned himself as the luckiest man on the face of the earth to be marrying her.)
The plucky Ms. Alden recovered from both her surgery and her divorce and started dating again:
She was scrolling around Facebook in early 2015 when a dark, good-looking man popped up in a list of “people you may know.” She didn’t think she knew Kirk Spahn, but she wondered if she might want to.
From his profile, she discovered that Mr. Spahn had attended Dartmouth, where Ms. Alden graduated. He had just moved to Los Angeles, so she messaged him: did they know each other in college?
Mr. Spahn, now 39, an accomplished tennis player who had competed for Dartmouth, had no problem recalling her — having harbored a mad crush. He had saved a photograph of her jumping into an icy New Hampshire pond in a leopard-print bikini. . . .
“You look familiar,” he messaged coolly, feeling anything but. They exchanged flirty texts over the next week, which led to a dinner date.
You know what they say: there’s no crush like an old crush. High-school or college crushes can be long-lived and very powerful, and that was the case with Mr. Spahn’s crush on Ms. Alden. It cast such a spell on Mr. Spahn that it damn near unmanned him:
[W]hen Ms. Alden opened her front door, the gracious, easygoing Mr. Spahn, who counts internationally known businesspeople and world-class athletes among his intimate friends, froze entirely, his nerves a jumble.
Mr. Spahn quickly got over being tongue-tied:
Over dinner, his freeze thawed — only too much so. Mr. Spahn gushed nonstop on life since college. . . . Ms. Alden, who could barely edge in a word, found Mr. Spahn’s over-the-top enthusiasm about education and sports somewhat charming, but her divorce and a few years on the dating scene made her alert to red flags. Always direct, she asked if Mr. Spahn perhaps had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
It’s bad when a woman of whom you are enamored asks you on your first date if you have ADHD. (Better than being asked if you have ED, of course.)
He didn’t, he simply buckled under pressure. At evening’s end, when Ms. Alden gave him a perfunctory pat on the back, he was well aware he had blown it.
A perfunctory pat on the back is even worse than a perfunctory we’re-just-friends hug. But Mr. Spahn was not giving up without a fight:
Nevertheless, Mr. Spahn’s competitive spirit was reignited along with his collegiate ardor. If Ms. Alden had seemed perfect for him at Dartmouth, she was more so now: sweet, smart and, in a city brimming with smoke and mirrors, without pretense. She was a city mouse who adored nature, an avid skier, and clearly — the ADHD.comment — someone who did not lack candor.
(Candor is a greatly overrated trait in a romantic partner, n'est-ce pas?)
After the disastrous date with Ms. Alden, he was down but determined to fight his way back. A few days later, he showed up at a party she casually invited him to. To underscore her lack of romantic interest, Ms. Alden pointed out to Mr. Spahn the many single women in attendance.
That’s pretty cold. I have to admit that I would have written Ms. Alden off and left with my tail between my legs if I had been Mr. Spahn. But he is made of sterner stuff than I am:
[A]s Ms. Alden set off toward another man who beckoned to her, Mr. Spahn blocked her path. Channeling the “do the opposite” rule made famous by George Costanza from Seinfeld, he decided to do the thing he would never do.
“You put me in the ‘friend zone,’ and I don’t want to be in the ‘friend zone’,” he told her. Then, with one hand on the nape of her neck, he kissed her. She, too, made a move out of character: she kissed him back.
“His confidence excited me, and the kiss was perfect,” said Ms. Alden, who recalled that the chemistry that was missing in their first encounter had “entirely combusted.”
Mr. Spahn is a very lucky man. Ms. Alden’s response could just have easily been a knee in the balls and an assault complaint to the nearest policeman.
They talked until morning, but this time conversation was an easy volley, with Ms. Alden becoming captivated by Mr. Spahn’s warm grin, kind manner, intelligence and passion, and quirky sense of humor.
Not to mention his very brown eyes:
“We’re both silly but hard-working, and we love life passionately,” Mr. Spahn said.
Mr. Spahn went all out when he decided to pop the question:
Within weeks, Mr. Spahn lobbed a marriage proposal. Yet it wasn’t until late August at a practice session for the United States Open that a pink diamond ring appeared. In a well-choreographed prank, Mr. Spahn popped the question, with the help of the tennis luminaries Novak Djokovic and Tommy Haas, to a very surprised Ms. Alden, who was sitting in the referee’s perch in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
(Does this mean she was actually refereeing at the U.S. Open? Or just hanging out in the referee’s chair between matches?)
The wedding itself was just about what you would expect:
On May 7, the couple were married at Nestldown, a private estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains with acres of blooming gardens, California redwoods and koi-filled ponds. Two hundred guests, some who had flown in from as far as New Zealand, London, Madrid and Dubai, huddled under blankets beneath a threatening sky on the unseasonably chilly afternoon.
|Getting hitched in a redwood forest|
The groom entered to the accompaniment of “Eye of the Tiger”; “It’s a classic, the one athletes listen to get pumped up,” he said. Following him were a string of nine groomsmen including [ex-New York Giants linebacker Brandon] Short; [Tommy] Haas; Nirav Tolia, chief executive of Nextdoor.com [which calls itself “the private social network for your neighborhood”]; and a Saudi prince, whom the groom knows through his leadership work.
(I wonder why the Saudi prince didn’t want his name mentioned? I’m guessing he and Mr. Spahn are up to some shady stuff.)
The bride, in a sequined Ines Di Santo gown, walked delicately down a steep, slippery path to a lakeside clearing in the well-tended forest where Dr. Joon Yun, a radiologist who became a Universal Life minister for the event, for whom Ms. Alden works at Palo Alto Investors, waited to officiate. Dr. Yun thanked the couple for letting the guests “crash your wedding.”
In his vows, the groom said, “From the first glimpse of your smile, you were always with me even though you didn’t know it,” which evoked knowing laughter from the crowd.
He thanked Facebook for the algorithm that brought them together. He said, “Together we will leave the world a better place.”
(Mr. Spahn is even more brown-eyed than I suspected.)
The bride, in turn, called Mr. Spahn her “twin flame,” and with characteristic optimism, said the obstacles that had kept them apart through the years were simply “steppingstones” to being together.
The former tennis star Monica Seles, a friend of the groom, recited a blessing, urging the couple to offer each other “shelter from the rain.”
* * * * *
The Southern-rock group Whiskey Myers got its start when two housemates in Elkhart, Texas (population 1371) began to write songs together.
If you’ve never heard of the band, here’s how their website describes them:
In the end, there may be no better word for Whiskey Myers than authentic. This music is in their blood, and it flows as naturally from them as a spring feeding a mountain creek. . . . [Y]ou can rest assured that success still won't be changing this band any time soon. They make music they're proud of that celebrates where they come from and makes people feel good. As far as they're concerned, that's all the success anyone could ever ask for.
“Shelter from the Rain” was released in 2014 on the third Whiskey Myers album, Early Morning Shakes.
Here’s “Shelter from the Rain”:
Click below to buy the song from Amazon: