Sunday, May 22, 2011

Andrew and Brenda's Fairytale Weekend

It rained for almost 6 days straight this week in Boston. Work was a drag. And getting resettled into my workaday life was grim. It wasn’t just the weather and work and the mundane banality of daily life. It was more that I was readjusting from three days of living in a fairytale. My brother Andrew and his terrific fiancée Brenda got married last weekend! And what a spectacular event it was! Like they say about drugs, the higher the high, the lower the low. With festivities like the ones Brenda and Andrew put on, there’s no way the week that followed was going to be anything but a downer.

The show took place in New York City at the University Club, an architectural landmark that’s been in the same location – a stand alone building on 5th Ave. and 54th St. – since the time the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts were putting the final flourishes on their nearby mansions. It’s a club, a library, a hotel and a restaurant, where members and their guests can read, have cocktails a swim in the nude (if you’re a man) and generally escape from the noise and bustle of midtown Manhattan. Piano music wafts through the place. The walls of the three story high rooms are dripping with ornate mahogany woodwork. The valets know everyone by name. Jackets and ties are required at all time. If you don’t pass the dress code, you have to shuffle in through the service entrance to get to your room.

It took a half a day after arriving at the University Club on Thursday for my class warfare instincts to settle down. I bet the chambermaids aren’t that impressed by the 6,000 square foot oriental rug in the reading room. I bet the back of house area here isn’t any nicer than at the crappiest Howard Johnson in East St. Louis. I wonder what the presiding host would say if I came with a jacket and tie and nothing else. Oh, there’s another rule that you can’t walk around with your dick swinging proudly in the breeze? How long has it been since families like ours – Taiwanese and Jewish – were allowed in this place anyway? This place should be burned to the ground and the charred flesh of the old men inside ground up into burgers to feed the homeless people outside!

But then I settled in. And once I got the hang of dressing right, and was allowed to pass freely through the lobby, and have my lemonade freshened in the reading room, I thought, well this isn’t so bad I guess. The very rich and the very poor have been around since the dawn of time. No need to have a fit of liberal guilt every time I hang out in a nice place. Nothing wrong with enjoying the finer things in life once in a while. And it is kind of relaxing to sink down into a plush chair, read a magazine, and look up every once in a while to gaze out at all the tired riffraff shuffling by outside.

I spent Friday running errands and helping Andrew and Brenda get ready. The million little details they had been ironing out over the past six months were all coming together. Everyone was excited and seemed relaxed. Relatives were arriving in town. Clothes were being tried on. Last minute adjustments. Schlepping stuff here and there. Anticipation. A buzz in the air. There was a fun rehearsal dinner in The Village at night. Families got acquainted. Back slapping and hugging. Stories about the bride and groom as kids. Pictures. Drinking. After hours at a bar in midtown. And back to the University Club, where I slid back between the high thread count sheets in our faux Chippendale bed.

Saturday morning the preparations really got moving. The florist arrived. Lighting guys and sound guys hauled gear into the rooms where the festivities would take place later at night. The groomsmen buzzed around getting suited up, learning how to tie real bowties. The bridesmaids took turns with makeup artists and hair stylists at the St. Regis. Photographers set up quirky scenes in Madison Square Park and back at the University Club. The wedding party ran down 5th Ave., pictures snapping. Tourists gawked and took pictures of the photographer taking pictures of the bride and groom.

And then, the main event! At 5:30, all the preparatory hustle and bustle at the University Club came to a halt. The guests were seated, talking quietly. Calm. Some piano music started. Andrew walked with our parents down a candle lit aisle to the front of the room and waited under a beautiful, backlit canopy of flowers and branches as the rest of the wedding party walked down the aisle. Big smiles everywhere. And then came Brenda. Brenda, who looks outrageously, movie star stylish on any given Tuesday morning, was stunning. The dress, the jewelry, the giant radiating smile. Andrew and Brenda stood in front of their families and closest friends looking truly happy. I helped officiate the ceremony with Brenda’s cousin. Friends read poems and gave testimonials. A great aunt and uncle sang a Mandarin song about two clay figures being melded into one. Vows were read with cracking voices. Rings! Husband and wife! Kiss the bride! Break the glass! They did it! My little brother was married! He found a great one! So did she!

The reception was spectacular. The rooms were like from a castle. Huge and beautiful. Striking anywhere, but almost unfathomable in the usually space-starved Manhattan. Guests circulated around. Cocktails. Jazz. Everyone happy. Love in the air. Brenda and Andrew glowed. Their first dance was perfectly executed. More amazing flowers grew from the tables. Parents welcomed relatives. Friends gave toasts. Plates of delicious food came and went. People from all over the world met one another. Two families became related. Perfect in every way. The last song was played at midnight and people started shuffling out. The young crowd moved on to the next venue – the former Grand Central Station office of an old New York financier, now a speakeasy-like bar. Nobody seemed at all tired. Too much excitement. Too much fun. Such a fun reason to get together.

On Sunday, people got together one more time for a nice brunch. People said their good-byes. The bridal suite was cleaned out. Gifts gathered up and brought home. It was time for me to go. Leslie was going to DC, so she got a cab and left for the airport. I went alone to get my car, paid $120 to get it out of the scuzzy-looking garage and drove back to Boston in the rain.

It was very sad. Just like it always is when you’ve experienced something so wonderful. Which, of course, always has to end. Wouldn’t it be great to always be around your closest family members and your best friends? And to celebrate life’s most touching moments? And to have a valet? And to be able to sit in a plush chair and listen to piano music? Once you have a taste of all that, how could it not be depressing to go back to your regular house – where a towel thrown on the bathroom floor stays there until you pick it up – and then wake up the next morning and go to work – where you have to, well, work. Work was extra hectic and intense when I got back. Deals to close. Piles of documents to read. So much less fun than a fairytale wedding.

But I’m OK now. Real life is just fine. You have to have the ups and downs. If life were spectacular at every moment, after a while, it wouldn’t be spectacular at all. You have to have a little run of the mill dreariness to be able to appreciate life’s great moments. Life is good. And I’m happy to have one more great memory that I’ll be able to think about forever. Thanks Brenda and Andrew! And may your lives be just the right mix of mundane and spectacular.


Patricia Harrison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia Harrison said...

Congrats Andrew and Brenda! May your marriage bring you unending joy! Awwwww...everyone loves a wedding.... Thanks for sharing, Dan!

Anonymous said...

Félicitations, André et Brenda! (And Dan, that's how Trisha and I felt at YOUR wedding, which was also PERFECT.)