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Sunday, I bid my son farewell before he headed back to base in Virginia.

Wes had been overseas for seven months, and was able to spend the past two weeks on leave here in Myrtle Beach.

As he pulled away, the reality hit me again, as it often does, that my son is a United States Marine. A Devil Dog.

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Surreal.

I was also astonished to think about all he had done in the time he was here – a testament to squeezing as much enjoyment and quality time that you can out of a limited visit to a particular place.

The iffy thing for parents, spouses and loved ones of active duty servicemembers is to nail down exactly when they will be arriving, despite what they tell you. We have all heard horror stories of military delays, last-minute changeups and other logistical snafus. This can suck when it comes to airline reservations – particularly because there is really no way to get the best deals – not only for the servicemember, but also for family that might also want to fly in.

In this case, that family is my daughter and his twin sister, Taylor, who flew in from New York City the following weekend.

We also wanted to make sure that Wes had the proper welcome home that he deserved, and once we knew for sure that he was set to arrive, I got in touch with several of his friends to make sure that he had a greeting party ready for him at the Myrtle Beach Airport.

An outstanding group of friends from Tinder Box Myrtle Beach rallied as well – and we had an impromptu reception at our humble apartment here in Myrtle Beach afterwards.

I am beyond grateful to Stephen Shuessler of CrossFit Myrtle Beach for putting the word out at his box [CrossFit lingo for gym] – and helping to gather a group of Wes’ CrossFit family. It warms my heart to feel the love.

His Uncle Chris [my twin brother and musical accomplice] and Aunt Betsy [my sister-in-law] were there also – as well as Wes’ best friend and de facto brother, Xavier Pringle – and we wore the amazing tee shirts my dear friends Tonya and Kenny [A Plus Screen Printing] made for Wes’ graduation at Parris Island 16 months ago.

Here’s a laundry list of what he was up to:

CrossFit. A half-marathon in his 30-pound flak vest, or Modular Tactical Vest [I guess he did want his MTV]. Multiple trips to Chipotle. A dinner out, looking awesome in his Dress Blue Deltas. A walk on the beach with yours truly and his twin sister. A jaw-dropping new tattoo from the master, Shay Haf-Ded, at Red Raven Art Company.

The young man took the time to catch Yale Brothers gig at Liberty Brewery and Grill in Myrtle Beach. That meant a lot. We dedicated the night to him and he was received enthusiastically.

I had a bet with my girlfriend Brenda as to how long it would take before he and Taylor bickered about something. Answer: Not long – and it was music to my ears. Being a twin myself – I understand the dynamic. The old cliché’ stands: They might bandy about all day – but don’t get it twisted. They have each other’s backs.

My regret is that Taylor’s job required her to be back in The City – and she was only here for a weekend. But she was here, and that was awesome.

My adult children. Who knew?

My main man. My son. My Marine.

Semper fi, son!

 

 

 

 

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I officiated my niece’s wedding last month.

Cathy and Pat Altar

Cathy and her now husband Pat had met and dated in high school in the 1980s, and as life happened, the pair went on to their own lives and respective marriages.

They reconnected nearly ten years ago, rekindling the fire that never quite went out between them – and on June 24, they made it legal and tied the knot.

Aside from being flattered and honored that they would have thought of me for such a milestone, I also felt unqualified – to say nothing of the fact that I was not an ordained minister.

But I also knew that I could do this. I officiated a wedding at the last minute here in Myrtle Beach a few years ago, when a minister failed to show up to a friend’s wedding. Thankfully, there was a notary on hand to make the deal official – and I did the best I could to drum up an impromptu ceremony. Nothing like a little pressure – but we all know enough about weddings from movies and TV shows we have seen and other weddings we have attended to know the basic routine of a wedding ceremony.

Cathy and Pat Wedding Group

I said yes immediately, thinking that we could replicate the whole notary-on-hand thing. The problem was this: After a quick search on the Web, I discovered that a notarized wedding is not allowed in North Carolina.

Cathy sent me a link to an outfit that ordained folks online – and it was perfectly legit – only I wasn’t particularly down with the oath I was supposed to take before proceeding. This was something to the effect that marriage was only for a man and a woman and I would have to swear that I agreed with all that – including a decisively fundamentalist doctrine.

Check, please.

It should come as no big surprise that I am for marriage equality – and diversity. Call me what you will, but I believe that if they so desire, any two people who love each other should be entitled to marry and to enjoy all the privileges, benefits and yes – the headaches – of married life.

I also believe in God, but I can live without some of His people.

After a brief search, I was happy to find an organization called American marriage Ministries, which more accurately lined up with my beliefs – and after a simple process, I became an ordained minister.

Some states require that officiants register within the counties in which they are to perform marriage ceremonies, but North Carolina is not one of them – so I was good to go.

The cool thing about my ordination is that I am free to design and perform whatever type of ceremony the couple wants – from uber-religious to secular to quirky – and I am not hamstrung by one set of beliefs.

Cathy and Pat opted for a traditional Christian ceremony with an added feature called a sand ceremony, where the officiant and the couple pour different colors of sand into a vessel, signifying the union in a nice visual and symbolic way. The sand ceremony is an alternative to the better-known unity candle ceremony.

Roger With Cathy and Pat - Wedding

The gathering, at my sister’s home in Denver, North Carolina, was attended by friends and loved ones – all in all a beautiful setting.

Saying yes opens doors and paves the way for sometimes unexpected opportunities. I believe that.

Roger Filling Out Marriage License

I remain honored to have been asked – and happy that I punched another hole in my comfort zone.

This month, Kevin Kline won the Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his performance in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter.

My daughter took me to see Present Laughter at the St. James Theatre in New York over Memorial Day weekend.

 

As some of you know, I was captivated by Coward when I was a young man – read everything there was to read by him and about him. I had plays, records, diaries, biographies, memoirs. You name it.

Coward even inspired me to smoke cigarettes. That was a bad idea. I switched to vape three years ago.

Through July 2, Kline stars in the lead role of Garry Essendine, one that Coward – AKA “The Master” – brought to life in all his self-absorbed glory in 1942.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I spent an amazing long weekend in New York City with my equally amazing daughter, Taylor. What started out as a casual comment from Taylor – the fact that she had three days off and it would be great if I could finally come to see her – turned into an impromptu trip that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Rog and Tay NY Skyline

I’m 53, and this was the first time I had ever been there.

There isn’t a good reason why I’d never been. I had entertained romantic thoughts of driving across the country when I was 18, taking jobs along the way and ultimately winding up in the Big Apple. Who didn’t at that age. But I know myself then as I know myself now – not much, mind you – but that trip wasn’t about to happen.

The ensuing decades enabled me to build up a solid repertoire of misconceptions about New York and New Yorkers. You know the stereotypes – like, watch it or you will surely get mugged in Times Square (holdover from the seedy 1970s) – or that New Yorkers are rude, impatient and always in a hurry. I know so many New Yorkers who are not those things at all. Why would it be different on their turf?

Rog Times Square

Billy Joel bragging about walking through Bedford-Stuyvesant alone in “You May Be Right” kind of worried me because that’s exactly where my daughter lives, although she doesn’t have a motorcycle and probably wouldn’t ride it in the rain if she did.

My imagination couldn’t quite make out what “The City” would really be like – the sights and sounds glamorized in movies and television – and the music – the litany of bright lights, big city stuff – the hustle and bustle – the “if-I-can-make-it-there-I’ll-make-it-anywhere,” mantra.

And the other New York, New York (On the Town) line, “The People ride in a hole in the ground,” made me wonder what the subways were all about.

Somehow, riding the London Underground and for that matter, the Los Angeles subway (Metro Red Line) made me think the subway experience in New York couldn’t be much different. How about the touring companies performing the myriad Broadway shows I caught at the now-defunct Shubert Theatre or the Music Center, or the Pantages Theatre in L.A. – could the Broadway experience really be much different?

Roger NY Library

And could a simple slice of pizza really be any better there?

And how was everything connected – the boroughs, the layout? The reality had to be different from my imagined version.

The thought of setting foot where the unspeakable tragedy of 911 happened was also a bit surreal, chilling, and profoundly sad.

 

And, finally, I was about to take it all in.

From the moment I got off the plane at JFK, I could feel the energy.

Over the next three days, Taylor and I relied on the trains and walked our asses of – and I am surprised at the sheer amount of ground we covered. Taylor gave me truly immersive experience, and with the exception of an excellent leisurely breakfast at place where she used to work, an outstanding French-American restaurant and café in Brooklyn called French Louie (where she reconnected with her friends and coworkers and I could feel the love), we relied on lighter, faster fare in the form of tuna melts from a bodega on her block in Bed-Stuy, a couple of slices of pizza on her block, bagels and an interesting culinary oddity from a place called Sushirrito – and more.

I am still a bit overwhelmed by the trip – and I wanted to get something down in this blog to get started, but I think this deserves multiple posts.

I think it’s fair to say that I will never be quite the same after this trip – and now, in the limited time I was there – I have been there, done that.

But I am struck with how well my daughter is doing up there, putting that College of Charleston communication degree to work, currently at an awesome advertising agency called SpotCo – specializing in theatre, and more specifically the branding of many leading productions.

Taylor has really gotten to know the lay of the land, has awesome roommates, and doesn’t appear to take any shit from anyone.

Thanks for the advice, kid – but I can’t help saying hello to strangers.

I will always remember our long weekend in “The City,” but spending time with Taylor was priceless!

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In early September, a message appeared on The Yale Brothers’ Facebook page from a guy named Roger Robinson in the UK. He was very complimentary about our music, but the crux of the matter was that he was doing research on the original Yale Brothers for a magazine he publishes in England called The Perry Winkle, which is devoted to all things Laurel & Hardy.

He was aware that my Dad and “Uncle” Roger had performed with Laurel and Hardy – presumably at the Glasgow Empire in 1947, and had stumbled across an old black and white photograph of the four of them together while visiting the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Ulverston.

This intrigued us, and I was happy to help with any information I could provide – and my brother Chris felt the same way.

Robinson heads up Saps at Sea, a chapter of Sons of the Desert/The International Laurel & Hardy Society. Interestingly enough, there is a Saps at Sea/Sons of the Desert chapter or oasis/tent here in Myrtle Beach. Full circle.

I am so grateful to Robinson for reaching out to us about this because this is part of the legacy left by my dad, Carl Yale. He meant so much to us.

Here is the finished product.

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Thanks again, Roger Robinson – happy to count you a friend!

 

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Almost a month ago, my daughter took off to New York City.

Taylor had only been back in Myrtle Beach for a month when the opportunity presented itself, and it’s like the universe conspired to make the trip possible: A friend of one of her lifelong friends was heading up there and had room in her vehicle – but the friend making the trip was leaving from Winston-Salem, NC.

And that lifelong friend had a place for Taylor to stay when she got there.

It just so happened that my niece – Taylor’s cousin – was in town for Labor Day and was heading back to her home in High Point on that Sunday.

High Point is 20 miles away from Winston-Salem.

See where I am going with this?

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By a wonderful, serendipitous miracle of logistics and goodwill – my daughter is where the action is.

She already told me she wasn’t coming back. I hope she’s kidding – but I am also confident that she will carve out a niche for herself up there and will be able to put that College of Charleston communication degree to good use.

If she can make it there, she’ll make it anywhere…

My daughter isn’t one to let the grass grow under foot. Within about a week she snagged a hostessing job at a French-American restaurant and cafe in Brooklyn called French Louie. No doubt having worked at excellent places in Charleston such as Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) and more recently Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar, coupled with her familiarity with OpenTable were big pluses.

They told her that they were after hospitality at French Louie. My kid lived in the epicenter of Southern hospitality for four years.

This week she was interviewed by a College of Charleston graduate at a PR firm on Madison Avenue. There is a CofC alumni group in Manhattan – and another friend made her aware of this.

Frankly – Taylor has a group of friends in The City that parallels her Charleston experience. Not to mention that lifelong friend since middle school in Myrtle Beach, who has already been working steadily in the entertainment industry up there.

If not now, when…

Taylor was about to wait until she saved up a bit from working here in Myrtle before heading up North to poke around – but I suppose fate intervened when the universe conspired.

The last thing I would want for her would be to “settle” for a temporary job here and then, ten years on, wonder what the hell happened.

I can’t be more proud.

Or more terrified.

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My son graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on June 3.

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Wesley became a United States Marine a week before marching across the Peatross Parade Deck on the island – to the delight of the friends and family members who made the trip to experience that transformative moment in his life and an unbelievably emotional moment for his father.

He completed a grueling event called the Crucible, effectively ending his time as a recruit when he earned his EGA, or Eagle, Globe and Anchor – an emblem presented to newly minted Marines immediately following the event.

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Photo credit: http://www.mcrdpi.marines.mi

The Crucible is no joke. It is 54 hours of food and sleep-deprived physical and mental challenges bordering on the surreal, including 45 miles of marching and simulated battles – and is in fact the culmination of the most intense recruit training of any branch of the American military.

Wesley told me that the Crucible was the most fun he ever had.

What fresh hell! Who says that? Is he kidding me?

His reasoning was that his CrossFit training over the years at CrossFit Myrtle Beach put him in excellent shape, and that he welcomed the Crucible with open arms – a testimony to his mental and physical readiness.

And now, just like that it seems, my young man is a Marine.

The next step for Wes was SOI – or School of Infantry. In his case, this encompassed Infantry Training Battalion.

The official Marine Corps  website, http://www.marines.com, sums up this second-stage school much better than my puny civilian brain can hope to:

“Infantry Training Battalion (ITB) is a 59-day course. The mission is to train, mentor and evaluate Infantry Marines in specific entry-level tasks under the leadership of Combat Instructors. Marines are instructed in marksmanship, patrolling, grenade usage, identifying and countering improvised explosive devices and land navigation, among other various infantry skills. In doing so, the Infantry Training Battalion provides the Corps with Marines who are fully prepared for service in the operating forces.”

Mind blowing stuff.

After a scaled-down but no less impressive graduation ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station New River, where Camp Geiger is located and where he participated in SOI, Wesley was unceremoniously shipped off to his next school. We had less than an hour to hang with him.

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But I relished every second with him – and even took footage of the bus as it left. I am nothing if not dramatic.

For most of the other 03 infantry “grunts,” as they are affectionately called, Geiger was the last school before taking up their positions in the operating forces.

Wesley is finishing up his final school for now in Chesapeake, Virginia – in line with his MOS – or Military Occupational Specialty.

At this point, I have no clue where he will be going after this. He won’t know for another week or so.

I couldn’t be more proud.

Or more terrified.

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“Who am I anyway/Am I My Resume/That is a picture of a person I don’t know…” – A Chorus Line

My daughter Taylor, bought tickets for us to check out a revival of “A Chorus Line” at the Footlight Players Theatre – a venerable playhouse in Charleston’s French Quarter – a wonderful birthday present for me and well worth the wait.

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From curtain to curtain – I was transported back to July 1976, when I was lucky enough to see some of the original Broadway cast in the now iconic show’s first national tour at the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles.

Could that really have been 40 years ago? Good god.

Funny about the human psyche. Memories merged with reality – and it was like I remembered everything – I had fight the urge to sing along, and Taylor actually gave me the look and warned me not to even think about it.

I cried several times, of course.

Two of her friends were in the cast, and both did a wonderful job: Tyler Brockington handling the role of Diana Morales [think “Nothing” and “What I Did For Love”] and Clyde Moser as Bobby Mills [Replacing Troy Donahue – with Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum – in the “If Troy Donahue can be a movie star/then I can be a movie star” bit].

Both Brockington and Moser were terrific – as was the rest of the cast and the production as a whole – and kudos to director Robin Burke, musical director Manny Houston [who slayed it on piano, with a bassist and drummer] and choreographer Megan Pue.

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Packed house.

The day began with a visit to the Karpeles Manuscript Library/Museum, which is said to be the world’s largest private collection of original manuscripts and documents. We scoped out the current exhibit, boasting letters and other documentation from the Wright Brothers.

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Then coffee at her favorite coffee shop, Brown’s Court Bakery, and later a bite at Cane Rhum Bar. I enjoyed the Charleston Hots, a mini fish fry and Taylor had chicken with coconut curry – but we shared. Apparently, Cane had just opened, replacing a bar that was at that location for 70 years and was a low-key Citadel hangout.

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Taylor’s friends Steph Mazzella and Danielle Mullis joined us there.

As I mentioned before in this blog, Taylor has such an amazing group of friends in the Holy City.

This was a day for the books, and I am so grateful to have been invited.