Honeymoon with My Brother: A Memoirby Franz Wisner
This is the true story of Franz Wisner, a man who thought he had it all- a high profile career and the fiancée of his dreams- when suddenly, his life turned upside down. Just days before they were to be married, his fiancée called off the wedding. Luckily, his large support network of family and friends wouldn't let him succumb to his misery. They decided
This is the true story of Franz Wisner, a man who thought he had it all- a high profile career and the fiancée of his dreams- when suddenly, his life turned upside down. Just days before they were to be married, his fiancée called off the wedding. Luckily, his large support network of family and friends wouldn't let him succumb to his misery. They decided Franz should have a wedding and a honeymoon anyway- there just wouldn't be a bride at the ceremony, and Franz' travel companion would be his brother, Kurt.
During the "honeymoon," Franz reconnected with his brother and began to look at his life with newfound perspective. The brothers decided to leave their old lives behind them. They quit their jobs, sold all their possessions, and traveled around the world, visiting fifty-three countries for the next two years. In Honeymoon With My Brother, Franz recounts this remarkable journey, during which he turned his heartbreak into an opportunity to learn about himself, the world, and the brother he hardly knew.
“Written in a clear, conversational style, the book combines all the elements of a love story, a rediscovered brother-to-brother relationship, a travelogue and an adventure story--told against the backdrop of a strong and supportive family.” THE SACRAMENTO BEE
“Fun, well-paced and personal...an exceptional read.” OC METRO
“[Wisner] is a gifted storyteller with a flair for defining the describing details of people and places.” COAST magazine
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Honeymoon with my Brother
By Franz Wisner
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Franz Wisner
All rights reserved.
Amid the pine tree windbreaks and foamy Pacific shore, Sea Ranch, California, is a wonderful place to be dumped. The wild lilac and ill-tempered sea lions — they'll distract your attention for at least a few minutes after the woman of your dreams leaves you at the altar. That, and a hell of a lot of booze.
My younger brother, Kurt, and I arrived early at the only dive bar in town, a place where the bartender would wince if he heard the words mojito or caipirinha. We gave the bearded keep twenty dollars in advance to keep the drinks flowing. He put a few more beers in the cooler and promised to take special care of the group that would soon gather for the evening. It was going to be a long and interesting night.
The century-old Gualala Hotel greets visitors with white pillars and an Old West porch. Close your eyes and imagine the thirsty cowboy tying his horse to the front rail. Open them and see tourists sitting around picnic tables in the dining room, devouring family-size bowls of minestrone soup. The hotel's bar, with its knotty pine and boar-head decor, sits off the main entrance. It had one of those electric beer signs on the wall that morphed scenery from mountain to beach.
Kurt bought me a Budweiser and asked how I was doing. I didn't open up. I looked at his newly gray hair and thin face and realized I couldn't talk to him.
Growing up, the teenager's code of conduct prohibited me from associating with a brother two grade levels my junior. To impress my friends, I did everything I could to avoid him. He was happy to do the same. Since then, we saw each other only a handful of days a year. Usually around Christmas. Details of our lives were relayed through our mom. Neither of us took the initiative to do more.
I wanted to talk to Kurt. I needed to talk to Kurt, but I didn't know how. I felt an awkward paralysis, like a child who can't relate to his parents. I couldn't pull out the words. I remembered the days in the backseat of the light blue Ford station wagon. We could talk about anything back then — secret hiding places (always behind the built-in shelves in my room), optimal ways to torture our younger sister, Lisa (pin her down and pretend to spit), or that baseball card game I always seemed to lose; lay Tito Fuentes against the wall and try to knock him over from ten feet away with a Wilbur Wood or a Dusty Baker. Despite the distance between us, Kurt was still the first person I called after I learned, five days prior, my wedding was off.
I'd reached him on my cell phone as I sped up the 405 Freeway from my house in Newport Beach to my fiancée Annie's small, rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica with the industrial-strength carpet and refrigerator in need of a cleaning. I couldn't remember the last time I phoned him. Probably to relay some bad news, like the death of our grandfather. We'd grown apart during the last decade. Kurt sold real estate in Seattle while I pursued a political career in Washington, D.C., and California. He sounded surprised to hear my voice. I sensed he knew something must be wrong. I needed him like I'd never needed a brother before.
"What's up?" he said.
"Not much. Weather's nice. Played golf the other day. My wedding's off. Did I mention the weather?"
"Serious. I'm on my way up to Annie's to get dumped right now. Her brother Gerald just called me to tell me she's not going to be able to go through with it."
"Man, I'm sorry," he said in a hushed tone. "What the hell happened?"
"Long story. I'll tell you later."
"What are you going to do?"
"I have no idea. Everything's paid for. People have rented cabins for the weekend. Some folks from overseas are already en route. Nightmare."
"I haven't even been dumped yet and the only thing I can think about are those hundred phone calls I'll need to make tomorrow."
"That, um, sucks."
"I hate to ask you this, but is there any way you could fly down here to give me a hand? I'll pay for your ticket."
"No problem," he said without hesitation. "And you don't need to pay for anything. I'll leave you a message on your answering machine with my flight info."
I talked to my mom briefly after that, telling her the wedding was about to crash. I'd spared her from the rapidly rising list of problems in the previous weeks, though I knew she sensed them. Delays on invitations and unworn wedding rings are red flags to moms.
"You have no choice," she tried to console me. "She's doing you a huge favor by telling you now as opposed to after the wedding. Franz, it's a blessing. You'll see that. It might be a while, but eventually you'll see that."
I knew my parents would be hugely supportive. They always were. At times, maddeningly so. That didn't stop me from feeling I'd failed. I knew I couldn't talk to my father yet without breaking down. I just kept thinking about the photo display shelves in their living room, the ones packed with shots of their wedding in Yuba City four decades before, sister Lisa and Doug's the previous year, dogs present and past, favorite babysitters, the photo of my great-grandfather during his years in China. There'd be no Sea Ranch shots. And I wondered how long it would take until my mom removed the ones with Annie.
Speeding up the 405 Freeway, I rewound the ten-year relationship in my mind like a cheap VCR whirring around for a scene.
Don't fold on me, Annie. Don't fold.
What about the children's names? We had them all picked out. Or the split-pea-soup dinners when we couldn't afford anything else? Don't you remember the bad puns lobbed back and forth for hours during car rides?
What happened to the night we made love so fervently we both had to hold on to the bedpost at that remote guesthouse in the Hudson Valley? The one with the old lady who paused before renting us the room. Don't you remember me staring at you, stroking your hair when you opened your eyes the next morning?
What about life, our life, our entire adult life spent with each other? Doesn't that count for anything?
Annie waited in Gerald's apartment, down the hall from her own. Sitting on his white leather sofa in faded blue jeans and an old gray cashmere sweater, she didn't look at me when I walked through the door. I sat across from her, bending my head like a turtle to read her face. I could see her eyes were beet red and I felt awful. For both of us. She played with a rumpled Kleenex in her thin hands, squeezing it, touching it to her colorless face. Gerald began with some awkward comments about nobody being wrong and nobody being a bad person. I just stared at Annie, still wondering what direction to take.
Why couldn't you say something a few months ago? No, forget it. Mom's right. You're doing me a favor.
I was angry, embarrassed, overwhelmed, numbed, despondent, and ... relieved. I then knew the best tactic to take was no tactic at all. For the first time, I could see the relationship was over. Like a balloon slipping through a child's hand. Up, up, then it's gone. Nothing to do but watch it vanish. Still, I loved that balloon.
Slowly, Annie lifted her head, let out a deep breath, and said, between sobs, "I'm sorry. I just can't do it. I've tried, but I just can't do it."
She looked like a little girl, years younger than the elegant woman I knew.
"It's okay," I said, taking her hand.
As I drove home, arms extended and locked on the steering wheel, glassy eyes focused trancelike on the car lights ahead, I felt a weighted object fall into my lap. The band on the expensive, granite-face Tag Heuer watch Annie had given me as a birthday gift a few years back had suddenly worn out.
It wasn't my idea to go ahead and have the "wedding" anyway. I wasn't that strong. It was Ben's plan, my friend and longtime roommate. He blew off his public relations clients to help me make phone calls the next day. Kurt flew in from Seattle late morning. To speed the process, we established a call system involving two cell phones and my home line. One of us would break the news to a friend, and then pass the phone around.
My first call was the hardest. I hung up several times before reaching my ninety-eight-year-old step-grandmother at her retirement home in Sacramento. LaRue loved weddings. And Annie. Last time I visited her she had talked for hours about Sea Ranch, a coastal resort community a few hours north of San Francisco. She wanted to know all the details — the color schemes and the procession order and such. At one point she stopped me midsentence.
"I'll make you a beautiful wedding cake," she said.
I noticed a cake-decorating newsletter on a glass table nearby, dog-eared to a few different ideas.
"Um, okay," I said, not really sure if it was right to have a ninety-eight-year-old woman spread icing for hours.
I don't remember her words when I called her, but I remember her tone — warm and soothing and calm. Especially in comparison with mine. She sounded far from surprised, and that surprised me. I thought about all the afternoons she must have spent savoring an event that would never happen. I started the conversation feeling I'd let her down, and ended it feeling all was fine. Five minutes later and my mind raced anew. For those moments of pause, I was in debt to LaRue.
After LaRue, the calls became easier. Still embarrassing and awkward, but easier. The consolations were tender and reassuring. After a couple of conversations, I realized most of my friends had heard the gist of the story through others. My job was to fill in the gaps and to muster my bravest "I'm fine" after they asked how I was doing. Some friends were angry with Annie ("That bitch! Oops. Can I call her that?"), though most felt bad for her. The men talked about logistics like gift registries and down payments, the women probed deeper into my state of mind and Annie's. I encouraged them to reach out. "Phone her, hug her. It's nobody's fault." They offered to help with calls and told me they loved me. A few of the men threatened me with bodily harm if I ever got back together with her: "I'm not kidding, Wiz."
The term support network had always sounded like some corny phrase from a Tony Robbins pep talk. For the first time in my life, I discovered its depth, power, and meaning. Sure, I knew friends had long surrounded me. I found out that day that crises have a way of rallying everyone in from the hinterlands, placing them on a line, and forcing a roll call vote of warmth and support. I felt like a drill sergeant listening to people report for duty.
Annie and I had picked a hundred-year-old barn at Sea Ranch as the ideal site for our vows. A Russian fortress, Porno Indian community, sea otter trading center, sheep ranch, and outpost for whiskey and rum smugglers — the area had a rich history. In the early 1960s, developers purchased the property to build an environmentally sensitive community featuring single-story homes made from wood that would gray and fade into the hillsides. Yards and sidewalks were discarded in favor of natural landscaping, open spaces, and walking trails to beaches.
The wildflower-wrapped structure on the edge of a bluff had seemed so naturally simple when we chose the location. That Friday it morphed into an out-of-the-way pain in the ass. Kurt, Ben, and I called dozens of caterers, musicians, florists, gift registries, and hotel staff to cancel reservations and beg for refunds. I watched the bulk of my savings whither away. The band from Los Angeles kept their five-thousand-dollar deposit. The bagpiper from Mendocino said he was sorry, then let me off the hook for payment. You can still buy my CD if you're interested, he said before hanging up. I told him I'd get back to him, then never did.
The honeymoon splurge to Costa Rica was the only issue I couldn't resolve. Oh, the honeymoon. I was really looking forward to that. The champagne breakfasts and bird-of-paradise bouquets. Bed nettings and teak writing tables, verandas and Pacific Ocean views. I'd call the travel agent on Monday to see if the rooms were refundable. And I gave up trying to reach the airlines after a half hour of pushing 0-0-0 in the hope an operator would magically see the urgency of my call and take me off hold. That could wait, too.
Early in the afternoon, someone asked Ben about the rented Sea Ranch cabins. Another friend from the East Coast said he had nonrefundable plane tickets and planned to come anyway. Inspired, Ben started telling people the wedding party was still on ... there just wasn't going to be a bride.
"I don't know, Benny," I said, still numb and spinning from the fast-changing circumstances.
"Think about it," he answered forcefully. "You should be around friends. Your friends want to see you. Your friends will be at Sea Ranch. You should be at Sea Ranch."
I agreed, halfheartedly, then by late afternoon became more enthusiastic about the idea with each conversation. Why not? No. Okay. We settled on the large cabin with the oceanfront Jacuzzi as ground zero. Golf times were secured, carpools from the San Francisco and Oakland airports arranged, and assignments given for food and booze supplies. Kurt compiled a list of names on a napkin. Seventy people said they'd attend.
"No moping or tears," Ben prescribed in his faded Boston accent. "Especially you, Wiz."
Now, this is ironic, Annie. For both of us. One of your biggest criticisms of me was spending too much time with friends.
"C'mon," Ben ordered. "Let's take a break from the calls and go grab a flick."
"What do you want to see?"
"Fight Club. It'll toughen you up a bit."
I laughed. "All right."
The phone message machine blinked "23" when we arrived home after the movie. Kurt began to return the calls. Well practiced, we had the spiel down to five minutes. In a strange sense, I now looked forward to them. The words of condolence and encouragement continued to energize me and give me hope for a quick recovery.
"The outpouring of love and support is amazing," I told a friend. "I'm almost tempted to do this every year. Almost. I said almost."
Ben turned on a college football game and promoted his vision for the weekend. "We'll do up a big ole tri-tip one night. Pick up a couple cases of wine. Organize some hikes for the golf haters." Grabbing his cell phone, he called a friend who worked as a chef to see if he could make it. "Peter, we'll supply all the grub, you just have to cook it," he explained. The enthusiasm gave me a lift. And the self-sell job grew.
This is going to be easier than I thought. Maybe it's a blessing. Maybe I'll escape without too much damage. Yeah. Yeah.
Late that night in bed, I shoved aside the covers, crept into Kurt's room, and began to cry.
Five days later, I didn't know what to feel sitting in the Gualala Hotel bar with Kurt. I'd never been to a brideless wedding before, much less my own. I'd never read a how-to article in Modern Bride or Men's Health about spending a weekend with your closest friends and family after the woman you'd pursued for nearly a decade decided she didn't want you anymore.
Is this a celebration? A tear-fest or a drunken bender? All of the above?
My friend and mentor Larry Thomas was the first to walk through the door. He wore a pink button-down shirt and looked much younger than his fifty-four years. I wasn't surprised he led the onslaught. Ever thoughtful and protective of his protégés, Larry was always quick to give me a hand, to grab me by the nape, and to guide me higher and higher through jobs and life. I knew I'd never be able to repay him despite my constant vows to do so. I trusted his judgment and valued his friendship. He had recently left The Irvine Company for what he labeled a pause to pursue an "ever growing personal to-do list." Like Kurt, he didn't talk about Annie.
Excerpted from Honeymoon with my Brother by Franz Wisner. Copyright © 2005 Franz Wisner. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Franz Wisner is a writer/vagabond who, in a previous reincarnation, used to work as a lobbyist, a public relations executive, and a government press secretary. During his world journeys, he published numerous travel articles and opinion pieces, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, ABC News on-line, and Coast Magazine, among others. Franz and his brother, Kurt, are currently traveling the globe for their next book, also with St. Martin's Press.
Franz Wisner is a writer/vagabond who, in a previous reincarnation, used to work as a lobbyist, a public relations executive, and a government press secretary. During his world journeys, he published numerous travel articles and opinion pieces, which appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, ABC News on-line, and Coast Magazine, among others. He is the author of the book Honeymoon with My Brother and How the World Makes Love.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This was an interesting look into a man's point of view after being "dumped" on his wedding day. It was heart warming to see the relationship with his brother grow from an older sibling into a "friend" who was the one he turned to for everything. The dream relationship with a sibling!!! At times it was difficult to read the "Frat Boy" attitude... My biggest complaint is that the proofreader did a terrible job! It is riddled with grammar & spelling mistakes.
After being left at the altar by his fiancee, Annie, Franz Wisner's optimistic spirit allows him to start rebuilding his life. But then he is demoted from his high power job at a real estate company and is devastated. The only thing that he still has is a prepaid honeymoon to Costa Rica. He sees this as a prime opportunity to reconnect with the helpful and supportive brother he had drifted from, Kurt. The two develop a plan in Costa Rica to quit their jobs (after Franz receives his sizable bonus), and embark on a two year long world tour to some of the globe's lesser know destinations. As the brothers reconnect and go on outrageous adventures, they are continuously sending postcards to their elderly step-grandmother LaRue and healing emotional wounds. This touching tale of two estranged brothers will stick with you and shape your global views. My favorite part of this story is the specific stories of the people Franz and Kurt encounter on their journey. From the world's worst taxi driver, Victor, to the beautiful, frustrated, and bright Deborah, I love feeling like I have met these diverse and memorable people by seeing a small snapshot of their lives. The way that Wisner describes how people outside of America live is fascinating to me. Wisner's theme of global connectedness and the benefits of broadening your horizons can be seen in his lessons about how to not be the "ugly American." He gives advice about going native and abandoning the guidebooks. The life lessons don't feel preachy or hypocritical and speak from experience. However, I thought that the book was slow and lackluster in some sections. This book might appeal to readers who liked the religious discussions and insightful observation in Life of Pi. For those addicted to the travel section of Barnes and Noble, this nonfiction is a must-read. People drawn to National Geographic and Travel and Leisure Magazine should also consider this book. If you're dealing with a heartbreak you might be able to relate to and get help from the Wisner brothers. This personal and endearing tale instructs on the healing powers of exploring the world and the commonality all humans share regardless of the country that they call home.
This is so much fun to read. Great for flight or beach. I love books that take me on trips to other parts of the world.
There are many great reviews on this book, so I believe that it truly just wasn't a book for me. I stuck it out for the first 100 pages and gave up.
Even though Franz was left at the altar, he was given the greatest gift of all, the brother he never knew. Sometimes the greatest gifts in life are the ones we can't place a value on and this book brings to life exactly this theme. It makes the reader realize that possessions do not make you richer. That richness lies within the gift of each other. The journey Franz and his brother take is not one just of adventure but one where they gain a deeper apprection of themselves and each other. You come away wanting to take the time to get to really know your peers on a one-to-one level and gain a richness that belongs within each other.
Honeymoon is original and funny. I would recommend it to my friends.
I was pleasantly surprized with this book. The stryline is intriguing but the way the author writes truly improves the reading experiences. Throughout his travels he kept journals and he uses italics to explain his thinking at the time, a style difficult to explain but very easy to read and relate. The writing is thoughful and the author does a fine job of providing context with every explanation, albeit his own perspective. The plot sets up an interesting and insightful journey that parallels the author's personal growth. He himself had led an interesting life before the traveling described in his book, which kept me curious throughout. Overall it was a great read for the travel minded, but much better for those investigating feelings about prior personal relationships. I only wish the author could have provided some more detail about the travels.