Bud and Baps, Sikh wedding ceremony, Charlotte, NC 8/25/07
If it weren’t for Thornton McKendree Long, Jr. – or, as you and I know him, the Budster – I would not be sitting here writing these words. We all need a bridge from our past eras to our present, and essentially, he was mine. In August of 1985, I was a bespectacled, sickeningly shy dork with awful skin and long corduroy pants in the 105-degree weather. Whilst playing the bass part to “O My God” by the Police in my Hinton James dorm room, I heard a knock on my door, and Bud waltzed right in.
He wanted to know if I wanted to start a little band, and I said, um, sure. For the next few weeks, I followed him around like a lost Labrador retriever, because he was from Statesville and thus knew half the UNC campus. He introduced me to Chip and Jon, and helped me find Kendall, and from that, I joined the Lodge, wrote a column, met Tessa, and began pretty much everything that constitutes my present life.
It all started from an act of friendship, one that I took as an act of bravery, to knock on some random guy’s dorm room door and suggest kinship. It took me a decade to summon that kind of courage in my own life, just the mere act of divorcing myself from self-consciousness long enough to invite another human being along for the ride.
I should mention that Bud and I did start a little band with a hot chick named Kam from the 5th floor, and we played two songs at the Hinton James talent show: “What I Like About You” by the Romantics, and the last non-ironic cover of “Stairway to Heaven”. This was 1985, mind you, at least six years away from irony, when “Stairway” could still be played without derision. The audience must have known they were witnessing history, as we won 2nd place (losing only to a whistler who whistled “Saving All My Love For You” by Whitney Houston).
Bud and I crashed together for many years afterward, in many different situations: in the Basking Ridge, NJ “Divorce Hut,” on his couch at Estes Park in Carrboro, at Audubon Park in New Orleans, and finally, for three years at the Purple House on McCauley Street. Like all roommates, I took several of his habits as my own: an obsession with darts, the quest for the perfect mix tape song segue, several back stretches, and baby powder for the feet.
It was with an immense sense of satisfaction that we married off the Budster this weekend in two separate ceremonies: one Sikh, the other Episcopalian. His bride, Bapinder, is an absolute joy, the kind of soft-spoken woman who slowly becomes your favorite guest for the weekend; listen closely, because her best lines are spoken quietly and only once.
Jon tries to install Sikh headcovering on Chip
The Sikh ceremony was beautiful, set to a raga beat, and featuring incantations that seemed older than mankind. Our heads needed to be covered (which meant Chip struggled a little) but the wedding guests – who had come from India, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and yes, Iredell County – were amazing. The Sikhs explained everything, and were effortlessly nice; my favorite part of the ceremony involved Bud holding a coconut wrapped in silk, leading Baps around the altar four times in beat with the music.
The Christian ceremony was on Lake Norman later that evening, and featured some excellent chicken tikka masala and kick-ass billiards. In all, a celebration done right. And finally, after 22 years, the four of us who hung together when we were spazmoid 18-year-olds, are all married. Took us long enough, I guess, but aren’t late-blooming plants vastly more entertaining?
Chip, Bud, Jon and me in Atlanta, March 1987 – I’m wearing fake glasses
Chip, Bud, Jon and me in Charlotte, August 2007