wedding at Bear Mountain
Sunday, October 17 2004
Today was the day of the wedding of Mr. and Ms. Meatlocker, who would henceforth be known as Mr. and Mrs. Mealocker. No, truth be known, they will eventually be closing on a house down in Tillson (between Rosendale and New Paltz), a place that has never served as a meatlocker. It does, however, have certain idiosyncrasies with its well water that might provide a source for a new pseudonym, but I digress.
The wedding was at the Bear Mountain Inn (in the State Park of the same name) in Orange County, an hour's drive south on the Thruway. After arriving, Gretchen and I first brought in the wedding cake and then sat around waiting for something to happen in front of a massive river stone fireplace in the inn. I was in sort of a bad mood, because I was tired and wasn't especially looking forward to the upcoming ceremony. Meanwhile Gretchen was talking to a member of the bride's contingent who didn't know she was missing out on the signing of the ketuba.
The actual wedding took place in front of a large rock in back of the inn. As the wedding guests gathered, someone was passing out silvery yarmulkes to the men present. But I already had one handy, one featuring a Star of David and a tag commemorating the marriage of Brian and Jen (Gretchen's brother and sister in law). I was wearing the blazer that I always find myself wearing at important Jewish ceremonies, and its pockets are fully stocked with my entire ceremonial survival kit, including recreational doses of pseudoephedrine. (But I didn't actually take any during this particular wedding.)
Handled by the wrong rabbi, it might easily have been just another dull ceremony held on a cold, windy autumn day. But this particular rabbi was unusually good, both as a storyteller and as a comic. He had a special talent for talking about everyday activities and adventures as though he was quoting from ancient scripture. "Those who aren't from elsewhere know that if one stands very close to someone else, then one doesn't get as cold," he began, urging the somewhat rarified throng to press in. The wedding followed a fairly typical trajectory for a Jewish wedding, though its pacing might have been accelerated slightly due to the bitterness of the wind. It was a somewhat bilingual ceremony, with ancient ceremonial lines spoken in Hebrew, followed by translations into English (along with plenty of asides that were also in English). At one point the rabbi got around to describing the occasion when Mr. Meatlocker asked Ms. Meatlocker to marry him. Mr. Meatlocker had done this by painting the request in huge letters on a sheet which he hung beside a trail where he later took his bride-to-be hiking. As an example of the rabbi's quasi-scriptural method of storytelling, he described the trees from which the sign had been hung as "convenient and helpful." Speaking of convenience, he completely left out the part of the story where Ms. Meatlocker was angry at her future husband for forcing her to walk on a trail that wasn't her choice for where to go.
After the ceremony, the throng quickly dissolved and rematerialized inside the great hall of the inn, in front of a raging fire in one of the massive fireplaces. First came the drinking, then, inevitably the dancing. Not only did the bride and groom participate in a chair dance, but so did both sets of their parents. I participated in two of those three chair dances, and that was about all I could do.
To tell you the truth, I wasn't actually having all that much fun at the wedding, not that it really matters. Normally Gretchen helps catalyze me socially when I'm in big crowds of people I don't know, but she was too busy talking to other people to engage me. Indeed, tonight she came about as close to ignoring me as she ever does when she's not angry with me. It didn't particularly upset me, mind you. When things are too easy on me socially, my social skills begin to atrophy. It was good for me to have to go and exercise them on my own. I spent a fairly large amount of time hanging out with the smokers in front of the inn. The wind had died down and it was a fairly pleasant evening. I found I could deal with people best when there were fewer of them and the surroundings weren't so noisy. Being in a smoking area, I found myself smoking, but it was all marijuana, not tobacco. Conversations inevitably drifted to politics, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) there were no Republicans in our midst.
Whoever had made the seating arrangements for dinner decided to play a male gay couple next to Gretchen and across from a Jewish man who had married an Orthodox Jewish woman he had initially mistaken for a shiksa. With Gretchen paying almost no attention to me (choosing instead to talk to the gay couple) I found myself saying things that I thought were funny but which seemed to be mildly offending the Orthodox Jewish woman. At one point she and her husband made a derogatory comment to Gretchen about a friend of the bride, that he was a serious drug addict. Now I was offended, and I responded by pulling out a massive blister pack of pseudoephedrine and asking, "How about this?"
Even when everything else is going right and the guests are as fabulous those at this wedding, there's as an impersonal quality to a wedding served up by a resort staff that cranks through five weddings every weekend. Gretchen's wedding cake, though, was totally unique and very well received, though it had to be cut into cracker-thin slices to serve the 150 people present.
After the wedding festivities, Gretchen and I attended a smaller private party held for the younger attendees inside a cabin whose massive stone walls sloped outward at the bottom, to better withstand a close nuclear detonation perhaps. By now nearly everyone (except Gretchen and me) were wearing blue jeans. Despite an absence of cups, liquor drinking continued, as did the smoking of marijuana.
Someone had offered us his cabin for the night, and we were tempted when we were more drunk than tired. But after Gretchen sobered up, she managed to drive us home without even a tiny little crash.
A incorrigible patriot on the Thruway.
I wonder if his friends ever tell him "You're very 2002."
The Bear Mountain area landscape in October.
The inn, with its rustic "Victorian Lodge style" architecture.
The couple, wedding.
The couple, dancing.
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