K and I drove down on Friday evening after work. We checked into the hotel and then I took a cab to Manhattan to join JC, Scory, Tubby, Tommy, Tommy's brother Strati, and others for the bachelor party. We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant, went to Tommy's favorite bar, and then, as I've been telling others, "we went to a nunnery where a bunch of nuns blessed Tom, then went to an old folks home to read them stories and listen to classical music, and then we helped serve the homeless at a soup kitchen." Strati paid for dinner and drinks at the restaurant and bar on the condition that we buy Tommy plenty of "blessings" at the "nunnery"! I can assure you Tommy felt quite blessed by the end of the night!
Saturday K and I wandered through the Met Museum of Art. I really enjoyed the 20th Century collection more than any other part (except the El Grecos, which I absolutely love), but overall I was underwhelmed by the stuff they have on display right now. I was far more impressed the last time I was there some 9 or 10 years ago.
Dinner on Saturday was at a Lebanese restaurant in downtown Brooklyn. The food was fantastic. I enjoyed a lamb dish cooked with pomegranate nectar. Everyone seemed to enjoy his dishes a great deal. After dinner, we headed to a nearby English pub and enjoyed unique desserts. I had the twice-fried cherry pie, K had the deep-fried Twinkies, Scory the deep-fried Twix, Tubby the deep-fried Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, and JC the deep-fried Bounty.
The hotel we stayed at in Brooklyn was, um, "interesting." The room itself was quite nice. The neighborhood, though, was a dangerous run-down barrio. The hotel clerks weren't the brightest: initially a mistake (in our favor, but we corrected him) was made with our bill because he couldn't subtract one number from another, and our room's key cards kept getting disactivated. We could never see a taxi come near our hotel, so we twice ended up having to hire a car service to pick us up, and in neither case did the driver know his way to downtown Brooklyn or to Manhattan. Fortunately, I had printed out MapQuest directions from the hotel to the restaurant in Manhattan, so I just gave them to the driver. Coming back the other way, no taxi driver seemed to know where our hotel was located. We ended up having to learn the directions ourselves so that we could guide the driver anytime we needed to hire a cab. The last cab driver seemed visibly afraid of having to drive through that neighborhood, saying a couple of times that it is a dangerous neighborhood where "they don't care, they even throw bottles at the moving cars." It was an adventure! In hindsight, we should have stayed at the Marriott in downtown Brooklyn with everyone else, but we had no idea the neighborhood would be so bad and, hey, we did save $40/night!
The wedding on Sunday was beautiful. It was a Greek Orthodox ceremony. Most of the service was sung (two presbyters chanting prayers and readings with some old dude sitting at the side of the church singing responses), mostly in Greek but with many sections repeated in English. After the ceremony, one of the priests took the time to explain to us non-Orthodox folk the rituals we had just witnessed. He explained that two ceremonies had actually taken place, the first a betrothal ceremony and the second a crowning ceremony. In the past these were performed at separate times but are now usually done together. It was interesting seeing how the basic structure of the services resembles that which I'm familiar with in Catholicism but how the rituals are far more closely tied to their Judaic origins and so richly imbued with Hellenist traditions. It was also interesting hearing Tommy constantly called by his Greek name, Athanasios.
The reception was also fun. Dinner's four courses were spread out over a couple of hours, with dancing intermingled. JC, Scory, Tubby, and I were performing a couple of a cappella numbers at Tommy and his bride Diana's request, but they had us scheduled to sing after the main course. We would have preferred singing right away, but there was no way we would have been able to sing well after stuffing ourselves with prime rib. A word with Strati fixed that, though, and we were able to perform right after the main course was served, before we ate. We sang an arrangement of "Happy Together" that JC put together, with me singing the lead melody. Then we sang an old South African spiritual, "Siyahamba." Our harmonies were tight and we rocked. It was fun, and everyone (most importantly Tommy, Diana, and Tommy's mom) enjoyed it.
Then we danced. I was a dancing freak — emphasis on "freak," of course! The DJ sucked, but that has never stopped me from tearing up the dance floor. At one point I was dancing with this one girl; both K and her date were still sitting at our table, so she says to me, "Let's go grab our dates…only, you grab my date and I'll grab yours." I agreed. We approached the table as if to grab our dates, and K and this girl's date looked like they were about to give excuses, but then we broke into a sprint, me at the guy and her at K. Our targets were too overcome with laughter to resist, and so we enjoyed a bit of dancing. I think we all had a great time, but the dancing ended too soon.
We planned to leave early Monday morning to avoid the anticipated Labor Day traffic gridlock. (There was also a big Caribbean-style carnaval going on in Brooklyn that day, with about 2 million people expected to crowd into the streets, so we feared the city would be impossible to leave if we left too late.) We got out of the hotel exactly when we had planned to, but then it took us about half an hour to pull out of our parking space because some fool parked behind us, blocking us in. With the help of the nice people parked to our left, we eventually got the cars angled just right so that I could pull out. When we finally did get on the road, we made excellent time. I have never seen so little traffic leaving NYC, and I think we completed the stretch between NYC and New Haven in record time. The whole drive, not counting a stop for breakfast, took only three hours!
Now I'm back, rested, and ready to focus on theater and rugby! :)