rain on a wedding day
Sunday, July 28 2013
Though we would be going to a wedding today, our day's first sensory input was the pitter-patter of rain on our roof. This precipitation in turn precipitated, predictably enough, a rather extended conversation about Alanis Morissette. We started with an examination of the non-ironic things listed in her song "Ironic," then talked about the stupidity of the song "One Hand in My Pocket" ("playing the pia-no"? really?), and then closed with a bemused acknowledgement of her ball-buster "You Oughta Know." Gretchen said the only reason Alanis Morissette got famous was that she lucked into a relationship with a big shot producer who didn't notice how ugly she was under her long brown hair.
It was cool enough this morning that as we had our weekly coffee, I thought it might be nice to burn us a quick & hot cardboard fire in the woodstove. But, oddly, the smoke refused to go up the chimney and came pouring out of the bottom of the stove like a little white waterfall. It had done this the last time I'd tried to light a fire and I'd thought nothing of it. But now I realized that something was wrong with the chimney. How had it sealed up so quickly? I couldn't think of anything that could have done such a thing except hornets building a nest. I went outside and could see a tiny amount of smoke coming out of the chimney, but nowhere near as much as needed to get out for a fire to burn. So I choked the stove's oxygen supply back to minimum and let the fire smoulder itself out. While fretting about these things, I also noticed a wet spot on the bluestone platform support the stove. It turned out that a tiny leak had developed in the flashing around the chimney pipe. Trouble always comes in Ns.
Gretchen and I drove down to Ray and Nancy's place and rode with them down the treacherous Taconic Parkway into Westchester County, marveling along the way at all the ways a car could get into a serious accident. It turned out that today's wedding was taking place in Yorktown Heights, the very neighborhood where Ray had grown up (after having first been born in the Phillipines). As we got off the Taconic, we passed a rotting abandoned motel that Ray had once gone to for various functions. We also drove past Ray's old high school, where, he said, he'd smoked "so much pot." He also kept telling us that he'd masturbated in various places, but he'd always tell us that he was just kidding, so by the third such place we'd stopped listening to him.
It turned out that Michelle V., the bride who we'd be seeing off into matrimony, had gone to the same high school and had met the groom (Ryan) there. As with Gretchen and me, their reunition comes after a many-year hiatus (during most of which time Michelle had been dating a guy named Dave).
Just before getting to the wedding, we stopped at a Mobil station for gum (for Gretchen), Chex mix (for me), a bathroom break (for Nancy), and coffee (for Ray and me). As we got out of the car, Ray made a series of loud proclamations in a faux Asian accent, one with R replacing Ls and Ls replacing Rs. (The only thing I can acceptably do when I want to make an ethnically-offensive spectacle at a gas station is to put two fingers on my upper lip like a Hitler moustache and start goose-stepping around, and even then I'm likely to piss someone off.)
Our destination was unmarked on the road, and its entrance was actually off a separate road than its address, so we had to go back and forth three or four times before we found it. The wedding was being held at the family home of the groom and was one of the largest parcels in all of Yorktown Heights. The groom's father is supposedly a surgeon and is the only one on the planet who can successfully do a certain prostate procedure. On the grounds there was ample parking for all the invited guests. Unsurprisingly, it was a nice place, complete with a rustic barn, several outbuildings, an oval swimming pool, expansive wooded lawns, and, somewhere, a house. The whole event had been arranged such that none of the guests needed to enter any of the buildings; everything took place in outdoor tents. The bathrooms took the form of a pair of upscale port-a-potties housed in a special trailer. They were big, and (in the men's room at least) had a stall with a real toilet and two urinals and a sink. There was even a vinyl floor that looked like a photograph of tongue & groove flooring.
Unlike every other wedding I'd been to, alcoholic drinks were available before the ceremony. This took the form of champagne, which I don't much like. But I'll drink it if the alternative is awkward sober smalltalk with strangers. It turned out, though, that I hardly interacted with the strangers at this wedding at all. Indeed, I can't really say I even know the bride all that well. We're friends on Facebook and I have enjoyed the few times I've hung out with her. Both Gretchen and I have found unexpected delight in her wacky, politically-incorrect sense of humor. But if you add up all the time I've spent in her presence, it probably doesn't come to more than about 12 hours. Still, she's awesome; I wouldn't have spent six hours or whatever it was making her a double-articulated copper swing lamp for a wedding present if she weren't.
The pre-wedding smalltalk reintroduced me to someone I'd last seen at Nancy's sister Linda's wedding, a gay gentleman whom Gretchen famously "made out" with on a dare. [REDACTED] Later, when I was reminded of this during the meal, I would tell him, "I'll kick your ass!" "But that was before you guys..." he unnecessarily pleaded.
The wedding ceremony itself was surprisingly traditional, with a set of best men all dressed in matching suits and ties and a bride dressed all in white (something I've only seen twice in all the weddings I've attended, and they were both traditionally Jewish).
Where the wedding differed from tradition was in the vows, which were entirely secular and made repeated reference to "all living things," which might have been a little more awesome if dinner hadn't included a steak & potato option. But still, it was a great set of vows. And it was touching to see the groom on edge of sobbing as the knot was tied.
And then, just like that, it was over, and we all marched to he patio behind the barn, the place where drinks were served. There I just hung out with my homies: Gretchen, Ray, Nancy, Linda, and Adam. The conversation ranged wildly and increasingly drunkenly. Nancy happened to be wearing a long dress that covered her ankles when the topic of cankles came up. She revealed to us that in fact she did not have cankles, though she said she was worried they might develop. Jokingly, I asked one of the catering guys bringing a platter of olive tapenade through his opinion as to whether or not Nancy had cankles, and he assured her she didn't even though at that point there was no way he could see.
Our group of friends sat together for the meal at a table on the edge of the dining tent, separated from most of the younger people by five or six tables of exclusively retirement-age guests. Our location put us at something of a disadvantage when the rain, which had stopped late this morning, recommenced with gusto. It wouldn't have been a problem, but it was accompanied by just enough wind to spatter me and other guests with water.
Gretchen and I might have been the only actual vegans at the meal, but we managed to cobble together a meal based mostly on sides that contained rice, beans, greens, and corn. There was also lots of wine to be had, all of it having been vinted in New Zealand (the land from which the groom's family had emigrated). Gretchen probably thought I was acting a bit drunk, but Nancy definitely had me beat. She's fun when she's had what she calls (in a nod towards Dr. Steve Brule) her "sweetberry wine."
Later, after the dinner when it was time to dance on the little dance floor, Nancy specialized in two dance styles: "the Retard" (that's what I called it) and "Secure the Perimeter." In the latter one, she galloped stiff-legged around the dance floor with a bemused-if-purposeful expression on her face.
Michelle is eight or nine years younger than me, so consequently the music was much more contemporary than I'm used to hearing at a wedding. By my reckoning there was only one hit from the 1980s played (a Madonna song), with absolutely no disco or rock-n-roll at all (unless you count the slow Beatles song played for the father-daughter dance). Instead, it was all electronica-influenced pop or hip-hop-based dance music, some of which might have had a lot of radio play during periods when I was listening exclusively to self-curated digital streams. I found the modernization of the usual tiresome wedding music selection refreshing; if I never again hear Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" at a wedding that will be alright with me.
Before we hit the road, I grabbed a Stella Artois and drank it for most of the ride back north. Having been the designated driver from the outset, Ray hadn't done much drinking. But neither, really, had Gretchen.
From left: Ray, Nancy & me at the wedding dinner tonight. Photo by Nancy's sister Linda. Click to enlarge.
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