Picture: wedding roboboogie
Just over a month ago I attended a wedding in Prague. There I secretly planned to hold a speech until I realized that speeches were not on the agenda for the non-immediate family. I also partly blame some Slovak hunters who had me drinking serious amounts of Brandy. Thus, the speech remained in my pocket and never reached the intended audience. Ben himself did get a poorly printed note with it but since I think it could also be interesting for a wider audience I present to you:
The Ben Cunningham wedding speech never held in Prague
Ben Cunningham stumbled into my life sometime in August of 2007. We were put together in an Amsterdam apartment by the dysfunctional housing department De Key. Within a few weeks he had drunk biked through a giant tunnel and attended a Ghostface Killah concert.
As many of you might know, that year Ben Cunningham shared a room with Richard, a Chinese man of simple pleasures. Favorite past time activities included burning food, occupying the toilet for long stretches of time and wearing long johns no matter the season. Richard was a devoted viewer of low quality Chinese kung-fu tv-series, an infinitely complex character who’s hotmail still is: firstname.lastname@example.org. The fact that both Ben Cunninghamn and I had had sex with females was infinitely intriguing for Richard.
As you might understand living with this man was no cake walk. However Ben Cunningham, although juggling with the idea of moving, stayed on for a whole year. This strong sense of perseverance is one thing that characterizes Ben Cunningham. He takes life on the chin, sometimes falling on it, but never blaming bad luck, or life. “It is what it is”, he once told me, shrugging his shoulders.
Another trait that characterizes Ben Cunningham is modesty. He never talks himself up and despises people who do when they don’t have intellectual coverage for doing so. I don’t know if the rest of you Americans know this but here in Europe one generalization we have about Americans is that this is precisely what you are good at. When dealing with politically clueless liberals, knee deep in beat poet romanticizing ideas of Europe, Ben Cunningham would quietly wait, sipping on a bruski or five before eventually laying down the law.
Ben Cunningham put his head down and slowly but surely worked his way to where he is now. This took him to some strange places. I remember speaking with him when he was living in Vranje, Serbia. I was occupied being heart broken in San Francisco and while I chose to blame pretty much everyone except myself Ben Cunningham, who was definitely not sailing around one pink clouds, simply said that he spent his time “smoking like a Serb”. Sure, things were kind of boring and he was broke, but hey, “It is what it is”.
Thus, when I heard that Ben Cunningham got a job in Prague after having returned to Amsterdam, just as I was moving back there in 2008, I was upset. At the same time it was clear that this was an opportunity Ben Cunningham was in no position of turning down.
Ben Cunningham is a man I deeply respect, who has taught me about international politics and gangsta rap, and someone who I am very happy to call my friend. His wife Bibi is clearly pretty awesome as well, a straight shooting bullet who can both cook up a mean hangover breakfast and introduce me to her mother as “a Swedish person who looks like he is sixteen but really is almost thirty”.
This is for them both.