Best man speech

IMG_20140816_184524609Over the weekend, my friend, confidant and fellow New Jersey expat Brandon Fisher got married to Yolanda Castellanos in St. Michaels, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and I had the honor of serving as best man. Here’s a “director’s cut” of the speech that I delivered during the reception aboard the Patriot, a replica of a 1930s steamship:

I could tell you a lot about Brandon, this man in front of us, whom I met 17 years ago. Seventeen years … hard to believe it’s been that long.

I could tell you about the bus rides we went on as we attended two different high schools together, and having to endure the closing of a school at the end of our junior year.

I could tell you about the cultural influence he’s had on me. You know that person who had every CD and DVD? That was this guy. So many great movies I got to watch because of Brandon: Stanley Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson … more movies than I can remember. He got me into Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Van Halen … we all go through a classic rock phase, don’t we?

I could tell you about the rebellious phase he went through where he grew his hair out. And by out, I mean down to here [at shoulders]. Pretty sure it drove his parents crazy.

I could tell you about the concert we went to at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia 10 years ago. It was the first real concert I’d attended in my life. We went to see these two bands — you’ve probably never heard of them — called Something Corporate and Yellowcard. If you’ve ever been to the Electric Factory, you know the acoustics aren’t very good. But a couple of days after the concert, Brandon sent me an instant message saying he’d downloaded the CDs of the opening acts and had burned me a copy. One of those CDs, by a band you’ve definitely never heard of called The Format, became my favorite album ever. The Format’s lead singer now heads a band called Fun, and you might’ve heard they won the Grammy last year for best new song. Brandon, you should’ve been a musical talent scout, or a judge on “American Idol.”

I could tell you about all the games we watched at his parents’ house in Quinton, N.J. Donovan McNabb’s return from a broken leg, Freddie Mitchell’s catch on fourth-and-26 … Brandon’s dad storming up the stairs after another poor Philadelphia performance. Those are memories I’ll never forget.

I could tell you about the places where we both worked — the Sunbeam newspaper (may it rest in peace) in Salem and Wild Oaks Golf Course in Quinton. Brandon helped me get the job at the Sunbeam, my first job in journalism. So you could say he’s responsible for my whole career.

I could tell you about the times Brandon has been there for me, whether it was trading emails or text messages at 1 in the morning or letting me stay rent-free at his apartment in Vegas for a week. It was my first trip to the West Coast, and it was pretty nice not to have to pay for a hotel.

I could tell you about all those things. Instead, I’m going to tell you my favorite Brandon story. When we went to St. James — may it rest in peace — our class had a few field trips. Yes, field trips … in high school. On one trip we went to Baltimore, where I live now. One of the main stops on the trip was a tour of Camden Yards, where the Orioles baseball team plays. What were high school kids going to learn at Camden Yards? I have no idea, honestly.

After the tour of the stadium, our class was walking in the Inner Harbor promenade. Back then the stench from the fetid harbor water wasn’t quite as bad as now, so we were all generally enjoying ourselves, having broken off into the usual cliques. We did see a few people sitting on the ground holding signs and cups. Now, I’m from LAC, where there aren’t any homeless people — or if there are, you don’t see them.

The group I was with, which included our man Brandon, walked past a few of these homeless people. Here we were, privileged white kids from a private school, and there they were, people who, for some reason or other, had no place to go. It was awkward, and I didn’t know what to do.

So as I’m looking away and trying to pretend these homeless people aren’t scattered all over the nice brick walkway in the Inner Harbor, Brandon walks over to one of them and sits down cross-legged. Then he begins to meditate. He reaches into his pocket. He pulls out his wallet and slips a $20 bill out of it. This was the money Brandon was going to use to buy lunch the rest of the week, I’m sure, but no, not anymore.

It had been raining that day, but right at that moment, the clouds parted and sunlight illuminated the Inner Harbor promenade. The voices of angels were heard softly in the background.

Brandon then looked the man in the eye and, without another word, dropped that 20 right in that man’s cup.

I might’ve exaggerated that story a little bit, but that’s how I choose to remember it. And I think you should too.

Now, I want to tell you one more story. As I mentioned, two years ago I went out to visit Brandon in Las Vegas. Now, I was working nights back then, and I usually didn’t eat my first meal before 5 in the afternoon, but one morning he says, “Hey, man, are you OK with going to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch? My friend Yolanda is going to be there.” And I’m like, “OK … sure.”

Now, he’d been talking about this girl Yolanda the whole time I’d been there. So we show up and the place is empty except for us three. I could tell right away that Brandon was crazy about this girl. Nobody knows you the way your friends do, and I could sense right away that there was something special going on between these two. I could barely get a word in edgewise.

And now, almost two years later, we can see how special it was. So let’s raise our glasses to Brandon and Yolanda, East Coast and West Coast, and to a future together filled with laughter and love.

*Author’s note: Brandon later expressed his wish that I had made a Biggie-Tupac reference in the toast. Let the record show that I did consider one during an early draft. Some of the greatest scenes in the history of the cinema surely ended up on the cutting room floor.

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