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Celebrating Romance

This past weekend I flew down to Maryland for Dan and Keya's wedding. Now that it's over, I feel that it was one of the top ten weekends of my life. (This is going to be a long post, since a lot happened this weekend, so I am breaking it into different cuts.)

--

I left work an hour early on Thursday in order to catch my flight to BWI. The AirTran flight left the gate on time and actually arrived in Baltimore 20 minutes early...which meant we sat on the tarmac for 20 minutes until they found an open gate for us.

Dan picked me up at the airport around 9 and we drove to Winchester. There we picked up JC, who had driven down from Boston that day, grabbed a late dinner, and ran errands at the hotels where wedding guests were staying. Dan and I didn't get back to the Sau's home until well after 1 a.m.

After asking Dan to make sure it was kosher with him, I gave Keya the Swarovski penguins I had bought her. It turns out Dan had bought her the exact same thing last year on one of their anniversaries! Oh, well....

I had expected to have to sleep on a couch at the Sau's place, but they had actually made up two beds for me to choose from! I enjoyed a restful sleep that night!

--

Dan's mom, Joanne, arrived while we were having breakfast. She proceeded to tell us about the difficulties she was having with her daughter, Tamara, Dan's sister. She made her out to be a horrible problem child of whom she was embarrassed: she wore spiked dog collars, her luggage was a laundry basket, she brought a friend, Jade, who is on a weekend pass from a psychiatric hospital, etc. She told me all about how Tamara is the black sheep of the family and has had a difficult time and how I shouldn't tease her.

And then Tamara showed up in her dog collar and multiple bracelets and rings, ratty clothes, hair up in unflattering braids. But she seemed nice enough. I didn't talk with her much that morning, though, as she left Silver Spring early for Taneytown.

I chose to wait until the Saus were ready. I spent the downtime singing or resting, offering to help, etc. We eventually left in the middle of rush hour traffic (Keya and Soma in the new SUV, Dr. and Dr. Sau in the sedan, and I driving the Blazer -- they didn't let me drive the Porsche, alas), arriving at the Antrim in Taneytown two hours later at 5:00, just before the rehearsal.

I changed into my black suit and new shoes for the rehearsal, so naturally it started to rain. This forced us to rehearse for the outdoor wedding under a roof. I was being a goofy, irreverant ass during the rehearsal, much to the amusement of the wedding planner and the other groomsmen. Tamara must have noticed, too, although I was oblivious.

Or maybe it was that I looked smart and sexy. (I did, for what it's worth.) Either way, Tamara insisted that I sit across from her at the rehearsal dinner. I thought I would spend my time talking with Dan, Keya, and JC, but I spent most of the dinner flirting with Tamara. And the attraction was clearly mutual. Throughout the dinner, though, Dan and Tamara's sister, Diana, kept trying to warn me that "you don't know what you're getting into."

As dinner wound down, I heard that JC and Keya's uncle, Ashoke (a.k.a. Mamu), had plans to hang out and have drinks in their hotel. I asked Tamara if she wanted to join us. She seemed reluctant, questioning the propriety, but I pressed on. I thought I had offended her at one point, as she got up without responding to me and walked away to talk to Jade. Turns out, though, that she was just making sure it was cool with Jade if Diana gave Jade a ride back to the Antrim so that Tamara could come have drinks with us. I had a great time "hanging out" <cough, cough> with her that evening before I returned her to her hotel.

--

We were afraid that the rain from Friday night might carry over into Saturday. Instead, we were blessed with one of the most beautiful days ever! It was warm, somewhere in the 65-75°F range, and sunny, with a few scattered fluffy clouds. A nice gentle breeze occasionally fluttered through the grounds. The air was clean and dry, as the rain had washed all the gunk and humidity out of it.

The day started with the groom's side photos at 9:30. I saw Tamara there, but I decided to be somewhat aloof. After all, Saturday was supposed to be all about Keya and Dan, and I wasn't about to risk distracting from that by creating a Derek-and-Tamara scandal.

After the photos, we had a lot of time to kill before the 12:30 wedding. JC took care of some best man responsibilities and I discharged a few groomsman duties. JC and I hung out with Dan in his suite for a little while, keeping him relaxed. Not too, relaxed, though: I kicked both their asses at Hearts, reminding them who the gaming champ amongst us is!

Finally, 12:30 p.m. -- showtime! First the minister processed through the garden, around the fountain, and up to the bower. Then came Jesse (the third groomsman, Diana's longtime boyfriend), me, JC, and finally Dan. Then came the two junior bridesmaids, and the bridesmaids: Keya's friend Sitima, Keya's cousin Sumona, and Keya's sister Soma, the maid of honor. Next came the flower girl, Alina, and the ringbearer, Dan's 4-year-old cousin Tyree, who almost stole the show. (As Tyree's mom, Hannah, put it, he's going to be a handful when he grows up because "he's the man and he knows it!") After a brief pause to build up the drama, Keya appeared, escorted by her father. Dr. Sau was beaming, ever the proud father. But Keya...wow! I have never seen her look so beautiful and radiant! Being a Stupid Straight Guy©, my description -- of the gorgeous ivory-colored wedding dress, her make-up, her hair, the elegance and grace she exuded as she walked down the aisle -- would never do her justice. There simply could not have been a lovelier bride!

The ceremony proceeded. The minister made a few opening remarks. Dan and Keya read the vows they had written for each other, I read Shakespeare's 116th Sonnet....

(Okay, brief interruption here: I had only partially memorized the sonnet. The last quatrain wasn't completely committed to memory. Thus, I relied on the text copy in the folder the minister handed me for the reading. I didn't know he was also going to hand me a microphone or I would have waited a few seconds longer before proceeding in my declamatory theatrical voice. Anyway, as I got towards the end of the sonnet, my internal sense of rhythm told me something was wrong, that a line was missing. I couldn't spot the mistake right away. It looked to me as though a line had been omitted from the printout. So I proceeded to the ending couplet without missing a beat, ever the seasoned performer. Afterwards I realized what I had done. The final quatrain is:

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

When I glanced down at the printout, my eyes skipped from the second line of the quattrain to the fourth, failing to recognize that the two lines that begin with "Love" were, indeed, separate lines. Thankfully, I don't think anyone noticed my 13-line sonnet.)

...Dan and Keya exchanged rings, Soma read another passage about love, the minister (who kept mispronouncing Dan's name "Hutchinson" instead of "Hutchison") proclaimed them husband and wife, Dan and Keya kissed, and we all processed out.

Time for pictures of the entire wedding party, plus family, some beneath a tree and others by the reflective pool. Then Dan and Keya were whisked away to change for the Hindu ceremony, Dan into his sherwani and Keya into her sari, and to apply traditional make-up to each of them.

Between ceremonies a few people, knowing how fanatic a San Diego Chargers fan I am, asked me what I thought of the Chargers' picks. See, Saturday was the NFL draft, and the Chargers, as the worst team in the league last year, owned the first pick. I, however, wanted so much for this to be a perfect day for Dan and Keya, that I did not allow anyone to tell me what was happening in the draft. I knew I might be upset and would certainly be distracted if I thought about any of the Chargers moves, so I was adamant about not allowing draft discussions within hearing range of me.

Keya (surprise, surprise) took way too long preparing for the Hindu ceremony. The Hindu priest reportedly did a marvellous job of stalling for Keya by describing the traditions of the Hindu ceremony in greater detail than expected to a rapt audience. We all congratulated him on this point afterwards.

Keya was finally ready, more than half an hour late, and the ceremony began with Dan standing on a little platform in the middle of the room. Then Michael (Sitima's husband), Mamu, Basil (Soma's husband), and I carried Keya in on a similar platform. While she sat Indian-style on the 2-foot square, 4-inch high platform, we circled her around Dan seven times, rotating so that she always faced towards him. When this "introduction" concluded and Dan found his newly-met bride agreeable, the bride and groom and their respective fathers moved onto the mandap, a raised, canopied platform. Keya's father gave Dan a gift, Dan's father gave Keya a gift, and Dan gave Keya a gift, and then they proceeded to other parts of the ceremony I didn't quite understand.

The priest's wife, a favorite amongst us, had, unbeknownst to Keya, recruited me to assist with a set change during the ceremony. On her signal, I was to remove the four cushioned stools (used by Dan, Keya, and the two fathers) from the mandap and place the sacred fire in the middle of the mandap. As I did this, Keya said to me (quite audibly, I think), "What the hell are you doing up here? This is my wedding!" I got a kick out of that.

The ceremony concluded as Dan and Keya were tied together, walked the seven steps (each representing a blessing), and then were introduced to their elders to be blessed.

Off the newlyweds went to change again, Dan back into his tux and Keya into a third dress specifically for the reception. In the interim, there were a couple of things I needed to take care of. I did a sound check with the DJ to make sure my "toast" would go off without a hitch. I retrieved my music from the wedding planner. Then I attempted to find my table so that I could place my music on my seat.

The head table was reserved for immediate family, not for the bridal party. Thus, Keya and Dan would sit at a small round table front and center. Stage left of them was a rectangular table seating Dan's parents and Tamara and Diana. Stage right was a table seating Dr. and Dr. Sau, Soma, and Basil. Keya had told me that my table (which also seated JC, Scotty, Sumona, and Dan's cousins) would be immediately front and center of the head table. I couldn't find my name on that table, though. Eventually, my name was located at a table in the very back of the room. I immediately found the wedding planner and said to her, "Two of my best friends just got married and I am not going to sit in the back of the room. This is unacceptable." She was able to move me back to the front where I and the rest of the bridal party belonged. I saw Dan at that point and went to tell him about what had occurred. He took a quick glance under the tent and noticed immediately that things still were not right. His extended family -- uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents -- were all sitting in the back of the room, and the unimportant guests, people invited out of obligation to the Hindu community in Silver Spring, people that Dan and Keya hardly knew, were sitting in the front. And, because many of the guests were already seated, there was no longer anything we could do about it except apologize and explain the situation to the guests who were in the back.

When Keya was ready, the reception officially began with the introduction of the wedding party: parents first, followed by bridesmaids, groomsmen, junior bridesmaids, flowergirl and ringbearer, and finally the newlyweds. Dan and Keya danced their first dance as husband and wife, followed by the father-daughter dance and then the mother-son dance. Then the bouquet toss was caught by Jade (after it bounced around the chandelier for a bit) and the garter was caught by Jesse.

Finally, dinner time, but I couldn't eat yet. I refused to eat until after I sang. The toasts began with a few words of welcome and gratitude by Mr. Dr. Sau (I should just call him Kadan to distinguish him from Purnima, who is also a Dr. Sau). Then it was Dan's father's turn. The cousins at our table gave each other knowing looks, expecting the worst from Tim, who has given plenty of reason not to be respected by his family, but they were all impressed at his simple and heartfelt words which did not embarrass anyone. Next was Sumona's turn for a few brief remarks, before turning the microphone over to me.

I had not written out any formal remarks; instead, I had created an outline of what I wanted to say. I started by stating that I have known Dan five years and Keya four. (I wasn't about to mention that Keya and I dated for over two years and lived together for a time or that Dan met Keya through me -- it was neither the time nor place.) Then I conceded that I wasn't very good with words (I think a little white lie in this case was pardonable) and said, "So I will sing instead. As Bernie Taupin so eloquently put it, my gift is my song and, Dan and Keya, this song's for you." I mentioned that, of all the songs Keya has heard me practice, one of her favorites is Mahler's "Ich atmet einen linden Duft," but I forgot to mention why this song was appropriate to the occasion. Its appropriateness would have been clear if I hadn't forgotten to read the translation before I sang:

I breathed a gentle scent.
In the room stood a branch of linden,
A gift from a dear hand.
How lovely was the scent of linden.
How lovely is the scent of linden,
The sprig of linden you gathered gently!
I breathe softly amid the scent of linden
Love's gentle scent.

But no, I went straight into the song. And I couldn't hear the piano as well as I had hoped, so I got off after the first phrase and couldn't find my way back on. I had to stop the DJ after the third phrase and ask him to start over and turn up the sound some more. On top of that, the unidirectional microphone was standing at about chest level on one of the tables: I could choose to stand erect, facing the audience, with good singing posture, and not be heard beyond the first few rows of tables, or I could cheat down and to my right a bit so that the microphone would pick me up. I chose the latter, which no doubt affected my vocal production. I was able to get through the song (and the two killer phrases that bridge my passagio) creditably, though.

After my song, Soma talked at some length about Keya and Dan, and then JC gave his best man's toast. He ended with a most beautiful sentiment: "If there is another woman out there as beautiful, smart, friendly, kind, devoted as Keya, I only hope she is waiting for me!" We raised our champagne glasses and toasted the bride and groom. It was finally time to eat!

During dinner I snuck away from my table and sat at the groom's family's table. When Joanne left us to talk with someone else, I finally had a chance to talk with Tamara about the previous night. I asked her, "Do you want me to continue acting aloof as if nothing happenned last night, or is it alright if we...." "Well, I'm going to flirt." "Should I reciprocate?" "It would really mess with my family's heads." "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" She grinned, as did I, having thus been given the green light. We konw longer made an effort to keep our interest in each other a secret (within the bounds of good taste, of course) and spent a lot of time flirting and talking the rest of the evening.

When the dancing started, I shredded that rug! After all, I was happy for Dan and Keya, and I was happy because of my own budding romance. I let it all hang out on that dance floor. I did the Twist when Chubby Checker was on, did my best John Travolta when they played disco, danced a little salsa, got groovy with the Bali-wood tunes.... And I danced with just about everyone: Keya, Dan, Mamu, Joanne, the priest's wife, Sumona, and people I didn't know. And with Tamara, of course. At one point she left my side to go dance with Joanne; she returned a moment later saying, "My mom told me to dance with you."

After we had danced for a good while and I had eaten some wedding cake, Tamara and I snuck away. We sat by the fountain and talked for a while. Then she wanted to borrow my cell phone for a minute. It was in the Blazer, so we went and sat there for an hour or so, just talking. (Honestly, just talking.) When she started to feel sleepy she asked me to escort her to her room. Then I rejoined the party.

Only the party was over. 11:30 p.m. and everyone was gone. I found my party favor and my music, but my tuxedo jacket wasn't where I had left it. I saw that Jeff's car was still there, so I called his cellphone. He had my jacket and informed me that he and others were in the Antrim's little pub.

I entered the pub and was grilled. Joanne asked if Tamara had gone to bed. No point in pretending I wasn't with her, I figured, so I simply answered that she was tired and went to bed. Kadan asked if I knew where my tux jacket was. Affirmative. Someone, maybe Jeff or Dan, asked where I had snuck off to. I explained that Tamara and I went for a walk to talk. "Talk, eh?" asked Joanne. Why, that was bold of her! And I'm sure I blushed as I reiterated, "Just talk." The priests wife asked me, "We had fun tonight, didn't we?" "Yes, we did."

I was thirsty, so I turned to the bartender and said, "Excuse me." He didn't hear me, so I repeated, "Excuse me." That's when I noticed the deathly silence. Everyone -- except the bartender, of course -- heard me say "Excuse me," and they assumed I was trying to get their attention! I was able, finally, to order a drink, as everyone watched and listened attentively. "A ginger ale?!" exclaimed Joanne, "Is that all?" And again I felt everyone's eyes on me. "Well, I do have to drive Dr. Sau's Blazer back to the hotel. I'm just trying to be responsible." And, in response to the snortles and snickers from JC, Dan, and Keya, I added, "I do try to be respectable every once in a while, you know!" The party broke up when first Joanne and then the others -- Dan and Keya, JC, Scotty, Kadan and Purnima, Soma and Basil, Sumona and Mamu, the priest's wife, and a couple of others -- decided to go to bed. The night would not end, though, without one more quip from the priest's wife: "Dan and Keya, you two better not be going to sleep!" "But we're tired; it's been a long day." "If you go to sleep, you'll be hearing from me. Forty years from now, you'll hear it on Oprah: 'The night Dan and Keya went to sleep on their wedding night, and the scandal that ensued.'" What a wonderful personality!

I was sharing a room with Scotty that night. Originally I was going to share a room with Bri for both nights at the Days Inn and Scotty and Tubby were going to share a room at the Best Western, but both Bri and Tubby backed out the week before. Thus, I was fortunate to have a room to myself Friday night but a shared room on Saturday. I did manage to arrange during the dinner, though, that if necessary, Scotty would move into Jeff's room for the night, leaving me a single. Even though we ended up not having to do that, I appreciated that they were willing to accomodate me like that. I eventually drifted off to sleep, happy thoughts dancing in my mind, while Scotty did some teacher-related work.

--

I woke up very early Sunday morning to go to church. When I walked out to the parking lot, I saw my book of Mahler 24 Songs on the pavement by the Blazer. I was pissed that I had been so careless with the music, but also relieved that it was back in my possession and only slightly worse for wear. As I drove off to church, I suddenly heard what sounded like something hitting the back of the Blazer. I looked out the rearview mirror and saw a small metal-and-glass object bouncing down the road, shattering into a million pieces. That's when I realized what must have happenned: I must have put the wedding party favor and my music on top of the truck when I got my bags out and forgot to take them with me.

Breakfast at the Antrim was at 9, but I was half an hour early because of the Mass schedule. So, after I had said hi to Dr. and Dr. Sau and had a brief conversation with the priest -- "Rain on Friday and today," I said to him, "but the most beautiful weather we could have asked for yesterday. Is there any clearer sign that the Lord has blessed this marriage?" -- I decided to go see if Tamara was awake. She was, and I hung out with them while she and Jade packed and dressed and otherwise got ready to go down to breakfast.

JC and Scotty were already there, so Tamara and I sat with them. Soon Dan and Keya entered to a round of applause. They passed on sitting at the small table of honor, opting instead to sit with us. Breakfast was fun, if maybe too small. Among other things, I got to browse through Tamara's Africa photo album, with pictures of Nigeria, Cameroon, co-workers, and the chimps and baboons (and other primates) she rehabilitated. She looked so happy in those pictures!

The big question of the day was how I would get back to Boston. I had bought a one-way ticket to BWI on AirTran for $49, but return tickets were upwards of $250. I had been planning on sharing a rental car with Scotty and Bri, but Bri didn't go down for the wedding and Scotty decided to drive back with JC. I refused to go back with JC, because he needed to be back in time for a rehearsal and would be rushing back as soon as possible. I wanted to relax, take my time, maybe see some of the historic sites.... My options, as I understood them, were (1) buy an $80 bus ticket and spend at least 15 hours on the bus, (2) rent a car for $85 plus tolls and gas (easily another $20), or (3) take the train for $105.

I also really wanted to see Gettysburg. Taneytown is about 10-12 miles from Gettysburg, and it seemed such a shame to be so nearby and not see this historic site. Dr. Sau told me I could take his Blazer to go to Gettysburg as long as I would be willing to drive down to Silver Spring afterwards. Then he could drive me to Baltimore or wherever I would be getting the bus/car/train.

But Tamara stepped forward with a far more pleasant option. Her plan was to drive to Brattleboro, VT, to drop Jade off and then continue the extra four hours to Portland. Instead, she was willing to accompany me to Gettysburg and then follow me to Silver Spring, so that I could drive with them to Brattleboro and then to Boston. I could save a lot of money and spend time with her all at once!

We had fun driving to Gettysburg. By the time we pulled into the visitor center, the rain had mostly stopped. I explained to one of the guides that we had very limited time and asked what we should definitely see in that time. He recommended a couple of monuments, including one monolith topped by a flame -- which will be forever known by Jade, Tamara, and me as the flaming phallus. <grin> While at the flaming phallus, we noted how out of place the girls, particularly Jade with her goth-inspired attire, seemed amongst all the tourists. I quietly suggested that they should, if asked, tell people they are Nouveau Amish. Jade loved the term and started proclaiming very loudly, in Southern Pennsylvania of all places, that "I'm Nouveau Amish!" Tamara and I ran away from her back to the Blazer, unable to contain our laughter. After getting our fill of monuments and fields -- which didn't take long -- we headed back to the Antrim to get Tamara's car and then caravanned the hour-and-a-half backtrack to Silver Spring.

I needed to get a couple of things from Keya (notably, her BU ID and a replacement party favor), so we waited an extra 15 minutes at the Sau's home while she returned from an errand. In the meantime we tried to figure out our best route back to the Northeast. We didn't get good information, mostly because people seemed shocked by my new travel arrangements. Joanne's only reaction was to blush and tell us to drive safely. Dr. Sau asked if Tamara was dropping me off at BWI and was surprised to learn that she was driving me to Boston. Dan looked the most puzzled when, ten minutes later, he repeated Dr. Sau's question word for word. (He actually called my cellphone twice to check up on us, once Sunday evening during our drive and again Monday afternoon while I was at work.) What could I say? I didn't embellish, just stated plainly that we were dropping Jade off in Brattleboro and then driving to Boston. I neither confirmed nor denied what any but the most naïve could figure out.

(Now would probably be a good time to acknowledge Tubby's tremendous favor. I was able to sneak a call to him in one of my few moments alone and ask for a huge favor. I am embarrassed enough by the clutter in my room, but not as embarrassed as I would have been had Tubby not been willing to wash my sheets for me.)

Traffic was decent as we headed north, but we had been given bad directions. We were told to stay on 95N all the way to New Haven. This took us out of our way through Philadelphia, probably costing us at least an hour. And then we hit the Jersey Turnpike. I have never had a problem with the Pike before, but traffic that day was unbelievably beyond bad. The 15 miles or so from East Rutherford to the George Washington Bridge in New York took three hours! A couple of times I just put the car in neutral, engaged the parking brake, and sat like that for 10-20 minutes. A couple of times during that stretch Tamara thanked me for coming along and making the ride more bearable. Despite the traffic, it was fun spending all that time getting to know her.

Traffic picked up once we were over the GW Bridge. We got to Brattleboro about 1 a.m., 4 hours after Jade was due back. We dropped her off and proceeded to Boston along Route 2. Without the 17-year-old, our conversation took on a franker, more intimate tone. We spent the two-hour drive to Boston in candid contemplation about who we are, what makes us tick, etc. I still can't believe how quickly those two hours passed by!

It was 3 a.m. and we were exhausted after having been in cars almost continuously since 11 a.m. I called my supervisor's voicemail to let her know that I would be in about 2-3 hours late in the morning so that I could recover. And then we went to bed.

I had no food in the house, so we went to Donna's Restaurant in Revere to grab breakfast. Afterwards Tamara dropped me off at Keya's house, where I had left my truck on Thursday evening. Then she drove off to Portland and I to work. I doubt I'll ever see her again, as she leaves for Gabon in about a month, but I will always remember my time with her fondly.

Tamara

Between seeing Dan and Keya's wedding go so beautifully -- seeing the love between them so tangibly expressed -- and getting to know Tamara, this was one of the happiest and most memorable weekends I have ever experienced.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
am0
May. 2nd, 2004 04:42 pm (UTC)
You seem to have done quite well for yourself this time. You don't have the dragon's curse that I've always had, so things work out well for you.

I'm glad you had an enjoyable time.
spwebdesign
May. 2nd, 2004 07:49 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure what you mean by "the dragon's curse."
am0
May. 2nd, 2004 08:49 pm (UTC)
According to a number of traditions, the dragon is a creature wise and powerful whose power is often out of control or contrary. I should have been born on Friday the Thirteenth in the Chinese Year of the Dragon. That mixes two traditions of misfortune. Sometimes it shows in things that happen in my life. I try to restrict it to small things.

A couple of decades ago, Glenn did pendulum readings on all of us. He pointed out my dragon tendencies at that time, too.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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