Disclaimer: I wrote this post in the throes of either hunger or distended gut, so rather than approaching the sacred union of dear friends, in the company of many dear friends, through the lens of love and fraternity, I constructed this like a pile of sausage links on the buffet table. I hope the love of people is still clear within the stacked plate and full glass.
Though I feasted in Chicago, I arrived in Cleveland ridiculously hungry (general note: every time I got off a train I was ridiculously hungry), an asset because the town proved to be an endless buffet. The train slowed into downtown at a gradually pinkening 5:30 am and I hopped in a rip-off cab that took me to the hotel where I squatted the breakfast buffet before passing out in the Morse suite.
By late afternoon it was time to begin preparing for the wedding. The first night was the Mehndi ceremony, the women getting henna-ed and all of us enjoying buffet at the bride’s family’s estate. Sushi and skewers and bar and a ton of Indian food that I invariably served myself incorrectly under the amused eyes of Indians (the white patty goes in the bowl first, then is topped by the soup which is not a sauce for the chicken).
DJ mixed pop of two continents while friends old and new shook it. Music and drink and food and fountain and miles of fancy cars. When it was time to go, with a morning wedding looming, it should have been time to sleep, but instead it became time for whiskey and Wisconsin cheese curds. A nip of each and then indeed it was bedtime.
Which became time to awaken and prepare for the two weddings of the morning. Gathered back at the estate we friends of the groom gathered around his veiled self and danced him down the drive, the DJs ahead of us with Bollywood songs blaring from speaker on wheels. He met the women of the bride’s family and danced with them, then found his bride and danced with her. All sorts of joining rituals, hugs and bequeathing wreathes before we picked up virgin bloody marys and OJ on our way to balcony seating.
The ceremony was intricate and beautiful and at times shielded by cloud, other times my black jacket was a blanket of knives. Bride and groom were gorgeous, families and attendants weren’t bad-looking themselves. Offerings and fire, promises fierce and tender, blessings fell as petals.
We took a break and found the marys lost their virginity, OJ picked up champagne, and life was sweet as the mini cinnamon rolls.
The parties changed into western suits and we reconvened for the Episcopal ceremony. The groom’s mother was the cantor and after the 3.3 million deities of the previous ceremony, only having one god to work with made for a shorter, if no less sweet, ceremony. Before long we were back in the buffet pavilion. 3 omelet stations, waffles and meats station, salmon and fruit station, cupcake station, Indian food station. I filled my plate and became stationary. Along with comestible bounty we were treated to touching speeches from family and friends before the hot cars were valeted back to the fountain and we adjourned to rest and digest.
I failed to rest but managed a quick run to help digest before re-suiting and reporting to reception. Good 3.3 million gods! Greeted by champagne fountain that I immediately splashed into, there was a Beefeater statue standing over the fish ‘n chips ‘n bangers ‘n mash, a statue of liberty, a rickshaw, Dr. Who phone booth, two bars, seafood sizzling, and like that partridge in a pear tree, a swath of Indian food. And catering staff milling about with trays of more.
It was a blessing to be summoned inside the ballroom before I could go back for more scallops. I’m full just re-writing this so I’m going to guess you’ve got the point: inside there were more and more lines of international food, more bars, a whole dessert room, and plenty of dancing.
Something to confess here is that I have a certain terror of brides. They’re so beautiful, with so much attention given to every aspect of their appearance, so much energy concentrated in every movement, that I would rather just steer clear and appreciate from a distance. If I’m having a coffee I’m positive it will somehow slosh all over her dress, if we dance I’m sure I’ll somehow stumble and stomp her foot, if she tries to get a high five I’ll miss and hit her chest. So when the beautiful bride joined the ladies I was dancing with, taking her friend’s hand and then shouting my name as she reached for mine, I flinched backward and kept my hands out of reach. And that’s how the four of us totally grooved, the 3 of them holding hands, the circle going broken on either side of me as I shuffled and prayed for the song to end.
After untold Irish coffees the DJ shut down, caterers put away the whiskey, and we all streamed across the parking lot to our hotel. The manager threatened to call the cops and have us celebrate in JAIL, but my friends managed to avoid that fate. I was fated to catch a cab at 4:30 am, so I jailed myself in my room packing and sleeping for an hour. Though my driver did 360s in red light intersections, confounded by how to find the train station and asking me for directions, we did make it to the station at half the price of rip-off cabs.
The perma-fatigued station ladies from the other morning, and mornings immemorial backward and forward through time, were there to apathetically take my bag and the next thing I knew I was on my way to take a bite of the Big Apple.