Despite me still feeling like a kid still at times, the date on my passport and my ability to recite Run DMC rap lyrics says otherwise. I've been contemplating life and my Peter Pan outlook and thinking about who and what brings me the happiness and fulfillment that I think I deserve.
I've been fortunate enough to have an incredible lady in my life for over five and a half years now. She accepts me more than I accept myself at times, supports my dreams and improves my self-worth.
So last year when my friend Julio after becoming a father questioned me about my future relationship status and my desires to someday be a Dad. I sorta' shrugged it off at the time thinking, yeah of course someday. But it got me thinking. He offered some advice which stuck with me. He said, “The ring won't go on her finger by itself”.
I began some serious pondering on what a good thing we have going on and it was time to start moving forward with the next chapter of our lives. I contacted my jewelry designer friend Kevin Feldmann in NYC and began a 5-6 month process of designing a custom ring. I didn't know the first thing about diamonds or what a carat was, but I sent him sketches, ideas, thoughts, pics of clay sculptures I made, digital layouts, revisions to his CAD designs and by late summer it was taking form.
After making her wait almost six years, she deserved nothing less than an epic proposal. I wanted to wait until our move to Florida was completed so we would be in a more relaxed mindset and symbolically feel like we had a new fresh start. I wanted it to be on the beach since it's where we both feel most at home. I wanted it to be a party, a celebration with friends, a perfect ring and I really wanted it all documented. Not too much to ask for right?
A couple years ago we spent New Years in Jacksonville with Donavon Frankenreiter and band and before they went on stage Donavon included us in the pre-show private New Years Toast. Some very loving words were said and as he often did to us, he put me on the spot with some verbal nudges about marriage. He did the same thing on stage last year in Asbury Park and called Chelsea my “wife” on stage. So when I found out Donavon and the guys were performing at the upcoming Slater Brothers' Invitational in Cocoa Beach, I knew that would be THE night.
By September, I got the ring in the mail and locked it away. I kept stealth about everything,my plan was on a need to know basis. I called Donavon and told him of my intentions for the Cocoa Beach show. He was stoked and supportive as I knew he would be. He and I brainstormed some ideas; We agreed that I should do live painting as part of the proposal. It was the perfect front for what was really going on. If I looked on edge, I blamed it on having to paint in front of everyone on stage. If I seemed stressed, it was because I had to prepare for painting on stage. I talked only to my friends Eric Brigmond and Craig Barnette from the band and April Slater and Julie Stine from the Slater Invitational to help get the details worked out and to keep my nerves in check.
Friday evening, October 28th 2011 came after a nice day at the beach for the surf event where we had been set up since the morning. We had some great Thai food for dinner with friends and I must have checked a hundred times to make sure the ring was still in my pocket. I got to the venue to set up the night commenced.
I had a couple beers but my mind was racing. My friend Sean Slater knew my secret for the evening and gave me a pep talk at the side of the stage before I started painting which was much needed at that moment. My friend Justin from GoPro set a camera up next to my easel and Craig set up a Contour Camera near him over the drums. All systems go, it was time to kick things off.
I got on stage after a few songs into Donavon's set and started painting, it was actually the calmest I'd felt the whole day. I decided to paint a romantic piece of Chelsea and I in a loving embrace in front of everyone declaring my love. She had no idea what was really going on as I was doing this. Eric brought me up a whiskey and a beer because he knew how nervous I'd been all week. Donavon asked me how much longer I needed and we finally agreed, it was time. I wiped off my hands and he proceeded to show the audience the still wet painting I had just completed.
I remember the cheers but in my head it was quiet, I just wanted to do it already. Little did anyone know, on the back of the wooden panel that I made,I had painted “Chelsea Will You Marry Me?”. It was covered with brown paper and Donavon turned it around, ripped off the paper and showed everyone. Chelsea still had no idea what was happening and whispered to me something like “what is going on?“, I played along and said, “I don't know, what IS going on?“. Then as Donavon turned around the panel to face Chelsea, which felt like an eternity, I got down on my knee and asked her to marry me. She dropped to her knees and we kissed. She was in complete shock. It was a glorious moment. I asked her , “So does this mean yes?” and she said “yes” and I put the ring on her finger. She saw the back of the painting as the band snuck in some wedding music which I didn't even hear until later on watching the video.
We got up and hugged and I saw Sean and April with Champagne. We each took a glass as Donavon proceeded to spray the entire bottle in our faces. I was pretty much blinded for a minute but couldn't stop smiling. What an surreal & glorious moment for us. I poured the remaining drops of champagne on Donavon's head and proceeded to hug everyone and live in the moment as a newly engaged man.