8/14/03 Monhegan Island, ME
Get ready, kids! You thought My Kidney Stone was self-indulgent? You figured that My Daily Celexa Diary was all about me, me, me? Wait’ll you get a load of this, a little ditty I call…
Or, The True Misdaventures of Two White Kids in Love
Yes, I know all of you had no electricity last night and the stuff in the fridge is ruined. Yes, I know hearing about other people’s weddings can be the conversational equivalent of Benadryl, but I’ll try to make it as interesting as possible to disinterested parties, and besides, as Morrissey says, “this one’s different because it’s mine.”
Thursday – Rehearsal Dinner
I kinda screwed this one up. Tessa and I both found the whole idea of a “wedding party” to be exclusionary to the point of silly; I mean, you’re basically saying there’s a cutoff point between the closeness of one friend versus another, and neither of us think like that. If I’d had my druthers, I would have at least 45 people of my own at the rehearsal dinner, and that would have sent my dad and Carole back to the stock market for some day trading.
So we set a limit, and just invited who seemed natural for that number. In lieu of a designated wedding party, my idea was to make those in attendance part of our Major Arcana, and develop a personal Tarot card for each guest. This was an idea I had last September; by the night of the rehearsal dinner, I was still working on it.
Photoshop, especially if you care how something looks, cannot be rushed. Some people – I’m looking at you, Salem – were harder than others, but by the end of the evening, I was pretty happy with most of them.
these are all funny shapes and sizes (and you have to turn your computer upside-down to see Dana and Jordana) but you get the idea, hopefully
Unfortunately, this project kept me holed up in the library batting away at the screen while my favorite people in the world began to filter into the house. When I finished, everyone was already at John Andrews Restaurant, beginning their third drink. Needless to say, when I showed up, a drunken chorus erupted.
And that set the tone for the night. The food was terrific (rare tuna!) but the toasts were divine. I had been set for a partial evening of roasting, but the ebullience flowing from the mouths of our loved ones kept us in a state of ecstasy. Everyone should sit through a night like that, especially self-loathing creatures like me. Lindsay brought up an oft-told tale of me conversing with an inanimate object (the “thank you, chair” story), Rick wondered aloud why nobody had mentioned that I was a transsexual, Neal said he didn’t really like me when we met, and Sean brought up the story of how he farted in the elevator just to keep me happy. Obviously, I am much easier to toast, since Tessa has been a beacon of brightness for decades, and I have only recently become suitable for public consumption.
top: wedding gurus Laurie, Neal and Tessa; bottom: Kendall, me and Chip talk shit
L: I toast Tessa; R: Tessa beguiles my father
The most heartfelt toasts belonged to Laurie, Nell and my Dad, all of whom bask so obviously in the candlepower and delight that is my newly betrothed. Tessa’s friends are less obnoxious than mine, but their dedication is equally fierce.
Having tied one on, and hotter than hell, the majority faction went back to Columbia County to swim in the amniotic rain-spackled womb of the Celerohn Motel pool, where Summer came barging in with a full half-gallon of Jim Beam, no chaser. After several dives and a soul-gripping hour in the car with my oldest girl friend Kendall, I don’t even remember hitting the pillow.
Friday – Picnic, BBQ and Watersports (no, not that kind)
It was really nice to have a recovery day between the rehearsal dinner and the wedding; if your friends won’t kick your ass for it, I recommend it highly. Friday started for most of us in the afternoon, where we met at Bash Bish Falls in Copake for a picnic lovingly (and painstakingly) crafted by Tessa’s mom Sandy. It was the kind of production that only Sandy or Tessa could have pulled off: the morning sandwich-making apparently rivaled the early Ford assembly lines in terms of efficiency, and the sandwiches themselves were color-coded by ingredient. It rocked.
The ore pit, filled with water and lifeguarded by the bronze teens of Dutchess County, certainly had a major demographical shift change on Friday, as a chorus of show queens, actors, singers, overbearing writers and their spawn overtook the docks. Pretty soon, we were engaged in a Busby Berkeley musical, with a choreographed diving line and synchronized swimming courtesy of Rick Gradone.
As if the day couldn’t improve, we shipped fourteen cubic tons of barbeque from Kinston, North Carolina all the way to French Park in Massachusetts (about five miles away). That’s when the real crowds showed up, including Tessa’s brothers, the Texas clan, Ricky Bell with the giant squishy Chicago softball, and mounds of others. We split up the softball team by bride and groom and played well past sundown, when the chances of losing teeth became a looming possibility. “Fun” doesn’t begin to describe it.
Afterwards, Tessa and her inner circle took off to the B&B to do the seating charts, while me and my posse of ne’er-do-wells headed to the bowling alley in Great Barrington to commiserate with the locals and do some non-sensical Jaegermeister shots. My game sucked (my first gutter balls since 1978) but you can’t beat the company. I actually got to spend some time with the Budster, who has been sorely lacking from my life since 1994.
1 AM? No problem. We started up the blackjack at the farm, a one-dollar table accepting all comers. The “house” (me) had an impressive run, but Sean Patrick, Jon Gray, Lindsay, Gill Holland and Sean all managed to make money. Everyone else broke even except for Walt Boyle, whom I love dearly, but should never be allowed near a casino. I think he ended up paying for part of our honeymoon.
Saturday – our wedding day
My wedding, thus far, had been about two things: “logistics” and “doing stuff.” I’d had no time to ponder about the mystical nature of what I was about to do. The Groom’s Basketball Game didn’t help, either – it was all of us from 15 years of hoops, but a few elements made it slightly contentious (not to mention hot and slippery). By the time I got back to the farm to get dressed, I felt decidedly unready on all sorts of levels.
During my shower, the water pump breaker went out while I had soap in my eyes, and I had to travel into the basement, through an inch of mud, wearing nothing but an oversized dishtowel to turn it back on. Half the catering staff was down there, too, which kinda sucked.
My undershirt, bought all special-like for the occasion, hadn’t dried in the dryer, and was threatening to give me pit-rot. And then came the clincher: I couldn’t tie my bowtie. I’ve been tying bowties for decades; I could do it with one hand on the way to prep school while driving with the other. After a half-hour of grueling tries (documented by Lars), I retreated to the bathroom for privacy. After 15 more minutes of frustration, I collapsed in a heap against the wall. It was as if an ancient skill, like cutting meat with a knife, had mysteriously vanished. The collective frustration, heat, fatigue and nervousness of the past three months came down to a single moment, and I was paralyzed.
Then, in a black halter dress, came my salvation. Betsy Towns, a quiet, lovely, old friend from Chapel Hill came up to me, put both hands on my shoulders and smiled. “I’m going to do this thing,” she said. She has been one of Tessa’s best friends for years, but now she was an angel to me. As she fitted the bowtie, I stared at her and wanted to cry. From that moment forward, everything was going to be okay. It was the moment I never knew I needed until it happened. The relief was palpable. I was ready to give my life over to this day, whatever it may bring.
Let’s be honest: it fucking rained. It rained hard. Despite my beseechings to the contrary, we had a drizzle all through the ceremony, and a galloping downpour all through the reception. But, like Oscar Wilde said, the gods punish us by answering our prayers, and in many ways, I’m glad mine weren’t answered. The “sacred space” on top of our hill took on a more intimate, personal setting for 170 all huddled together under the collective tortoise shell of umbrellas, and the chuppah held by Laurie, Dennis McFarland, Kent and Steve seemed like a protection, a prophylactic veil against an angry sky and a small room with a view.
To say Tessa looked beautiful does a disservice to clichs around the world. When she walked up the hill, both the bagpiper and the thistle melted. I did what Susan Stava told me to do – try to “remain in the moment” – and I was probably 85% successful. Officiated by Dr. Peter Kaufman, who was loud, life-affirming and brilliant, the ceremony really came down to Tessa’s vows, which I consider her best writing (not to mention geometrically better than mine). I made people laugh, but she made everyone cry, and we all know which lasts longer.
The receiving line seemed a little masochistic, as the rain came down harder, but everyone stuck through it; I remember hugging Julien McNab and coming away sopping wet from his suit. The receiving line itself is kind of a funny little throwback idea from the Middle Ages, but it does provide a nice, singular, sober moment with each of the guests, which is a godsend when you’ve got two hundred people that are so important to you.
And then came the hardest part for all of us involved in the wedding production: the reception upstairs in the barn. I won’t bore you with the details, but we had to implement an entire new beam structure to hold everybody. Laurie’s friend Tim, who was just off a job lighting both the Empire State Building and a museum in Panama, took over the chandeliers and ambient lights. God knows how many hours Laurie Williams and Neal Lerner and Tessa put in there, but my GOD it was beautiful. We don’t have any pictures yet (these photos here are from Lars, who did candids exclusively) but it was like entering the mystic enchanted castle in a Jungian dream.
My big project, which was another 3-month foray into Photoshop, was to find a picture of every single wedding guest and print it on archival paper. Then Tessa glued the photo to foam board and stuck it on vintage swizzle sticks provided by Laurie. It was a huge undertaking, but we finally got everybody. On the backs of the pictures were the table assignments, all of which were Tarot cards themselves (for instance, George Gilmore sat at the Hermit table because of his love for Led Zeppelin 4).
L: Salem holds a plate (?) while Scott wears his escort card – a pic of me, him and Chip in 1995. R: Summer styles a pic of us last year
Speaking of George, his band The True Love Experience played my and Tessa’s “song”: “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” by The Smiths – as the first dance, while Rick sang. The Smiths at our wedding? It was sheer heaven! Later, the band played XTC’s “Vanishing Girl,” Sean and Michelle sang the Beatles’ “Two of Us,” Rick and I sang “Ask,” and even the brilliant Erin McKeown got up to sing two songs, including, amazingly, “The Little Cowboy.” The band rocked into the rainy evening, as guests wandered up to us, asking, “who the hell ARE these guys?” They’re on Broadway, baby.
Shit, even my wonderful Mormon aunts and uncles stayed until midnight, and Jim Nelson, the previous owner of the farm, made it to 1:15am, which was terrific. Little (and HUGE) dramas played out between family and friends, and by night’s end, we were all wet, sweaty, sated, and just plain happy. I even tried flexing the tiniest curmudgeon muscle, but it wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t have asked for a better wedding, and the next time I begin a rant, I will remember how blessed we were.
Off into the night, we sped in a minivan driven by a guy in a cute mullet, the rain pounding so hard we couldn’t even see. The next day, with my mom’s orange rolls and Dana’s salmon, was to come, but for then, it was just me and my baby, drifting off into the black night, rings on fingers and bells on toes, so we shall have music wherever we go.
or at least something like that…