Friday, May 9 2003
Today was the day that Gretchen and I would actually be getting married. Gretchen herself had decided on a last-minute change of outfit and was now going to wear a black dress covered with tiny depictions of red cherries. To wear this dress, though, she was going to need some new shoes. So she and Dina dashed off early, leaving me alone at the house with my mother Hoagie. Meanwhile Nathan and Janine were off in the woods hiking with the dogs. I forget where Gretchen's parents were, but I'm sure they
were doing something useful.
For the wedding I dressed in a pair of black trousers and my nice silvery-grey dress shirt. The weather was cool enough to allow my pinstripe jacket as well. My mother was wearing an outfit featuring depictions of charismatic African megafauna, and she was the one who drove me to my wedding. We stopped at the Holiday Inn along the way to pick up my Uncle Bob and his Australian Shepherd Venus.
Uncle Bob is suffering from the resurgence of the polio that had crippled him in his young adulthood (fifty years ago). Now he walks with a pronounced stoop and requires the assistance of a cane. Like me, his conversational style tends to be one of two things: comic observations, or vignettes showcasing the absurd. Whether because of age or a concentration of genes, he seems incapable of talking any other way. As for Venus, she was an unexpectedly sweet cuddly dog, curling up on my lap immediately, covering my nice clothes with loose strands of her white fur.
All those who would be attending the wedding rendezvoused in the parking lot outside the Kingston Family Courthouse. It was a beautiful day for a wedding, and the dogs in particular were overjoyed. Sally was looking elegant, but in a wacky Sally kind of way. I'd painted her front nails pinkish-purple and Gretchen had sewn her a special festive collar for the occasion.
The ceremony itself took only a couple minutes. In so many subtle ways, it was a good thing that we were on the same wavelength as our judge. Not only did it mean that both Sally and Venus had the run of her chambers, but I actually was moved by the ceremony. Somehow it transcended the category of bullshit ritual and became something genuine. Gretchen told me later that she could see tears ponding slightly in the void behind my lower eyelids.
After the ceremony, Gretchen and I walked together to Chop Suey, the nearby Chinese restaurant in Uptown Kingston. For some reason nearly everyone ordered plum wine, the flavor of which was not terribly different from Robitussin.
Back at the house, the frenzy of wedding preparations continued. Despite the fact that ceremony had happened and the marriage was now officially a done deal, the partying had yet to begin. Gretchen was busy in the kitchen preparing her own wedding cake while her parents folded grape leaves and Brian and Jen rolled vegetarian sushi. Janine and Dina were also helping out in the kitchen. There were so many cooks in the kitchen that I couldn't help but make several comments about the state of the broth. I retreated upstairs to my laboratory where I found Nathan sitting outside the window on the roof. "There's way too much estrogen in there!" he declared. I agreed and fetched us a couple of cold beers from somewhere, and we sat out there on the roof talking just like we used to do back in the day. This could have gone on for a couple more beers had we not been interrupted by various womenfolk eager to give us assignments. Janine, for example, thought Nathan's time would be better spent cleaning toilets, an idea that seemed to delight Gretchen.
Eventually it was decided that a useful task for Nathan, Janine and myself would be for us to walk the three dogs. So I showed us the way to the spectacular waterfall on the uphill neighbor's property. The last time I'd been to this waterfall it was frozen solid. Indeed, the terrain looked so different in springtime that I couldn't remember how to go. We ended up a ways upstream from the waterfall, in a swampy forested region. The drainage brought by the waterfall must come as a huge relief to the sluggish waters of the Ashokan plateau. The falls themselves were rahter different from how they'd been when frozen. For one thing, there was much less water present, and what there was was in movement, and with a much louder roar. But the kicker was being able to see the falls from a different angle, out further along the V-shaped cliffs of which it forms the apex. From there we could see that the falls were actually the headwaters of a dramatic gorge stretching down into the Esopus Valley. We'd been talking about ziplines all day, and this seemed like a good place to run one if only there weren't so many trees. Nathan's proposal was that we offer discounts to the first ziplinauts so they could "clear the way" for those less brave who would follow.
Tonight's big party was held at the Armadillo Grill in the Rondout of Kingston. The weather was still holding up and the patio had been reserved for us. This meant that people could bring their dogs.
It wasn't long before the patio was crowded with people, most of them from Gretchen's life. But there were also a few from mine. In addition to Nathan and Janine, my mother Hoagie, and all my aunts and uncles, there was also my old Los Angeles housemate John with his girlfriend Julie as well as Bathtubgirl and her boyfriend Drew. My people tended to segregate themselves from those in Gretchen's contingent. In particular, my aunts and uncles all stuck to one table where they mostly seemed to be talking about the good old days back in Reading when they used to put frogs and disembodied livestock heads in each other's beds. I spent most of my time at the table with my other people: John, Julie, Bathtubgirl, and Drew, although John seemed to be spending lots of time at the single chick table chatting with the likes of Sarah the Korean, Dina, and (particularly) Mary Purdy. Like most single women, they all thought he was really hot.
Libation-wise, I stuck mostly to the margaritas, which were thankfully not too strong. Interestingly, the social demands resulted in my having very little appetite (perhaps because of increased secretion of natural serotonin). I could only eat a single chili-fried shrimp (the Armadillo Grill's claim to fame), though I repeatedly flagged down the staff and had them get me more so I could distribute them to the non-kosher people at my table.
Several people, including my old housemate John, Bathtubgirl, and a contingent of gay gentlemen from Milwaukee, all remarked to me how odd and beautiful they'd found Kingston, from its fading Victorian mansions to its rusting suspension bridge over Rondout Creek. They were reacting to it in a way not too different from how they would have reacted to being taken for a joyride in a time machine. I'm glad they liked it; it's been difficult to explain exactly why someone like me would want to move from the hustle and bustle of Brooklyn to a small town in the Catskills.
John took an unexpected interest in my various relatives, mostly (I think) as part of a fact-finding mission in search of the genetic underpinnings for my peculiar personality traits. He particularly liked my Uncle Bob DeMar, who, he said, looked exactly like me. He also took a shine to Umberto, the Italian mathematician husband of one of Gretchen's older friends. "He's more Italian than you'll ever be," I said, poking him with the unvarnished stick of DeMar pithiness.
Happily, though, I have enough Mueller genes to snap out of my DeMarness when the occasion demands it. Abundant quantities of serotonin, either natural or unnatural, seems to be essential to this process.
(All photos by Janine Jakim)
I paint Sally's nails before the wedding. No male-pattern baldness yet!
My mother, Hoagie, and me at the house.
My Uncle Bob DeMar with Gretchen.
Folks with cameras. From left: Bob DeMar, Dina Kraft, Betty "Hoagie" DeMar Mueller, Gretchen's father Aron,
Brian, and Brian's wife Jen. Behind Aron you can sort of see Gretchen's mother Karen.
Getting married by the fabulous Kingston Family Court judge.
Mark, one of our friends from Brooklyn, with Gretchen at the Armadillo Grill.
Me with Julie, fomer housemate John's girlfriend at the Armadillo Grill.
There is a sign in Hebrew over her shoulder which reads,
At the Armadillo Grill, at the single chicks' table.
From left: Sarah the Korean (no, she's not actually Korean), Gretchen, Mary Purdy.
The gentlemen: me, Nathan VanHooser, and my former housemate John.
Gretchen shows off her rocks. We joked numerous times about the second mortgage
we needed to get to pay for them.
Bathtubgirl chats with my aunts Dotty (middle) and Barbara (right).
Me with Bathtubgirl's dog Sophie. We lived together for two years and now she's nearly eleven.
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