april, come she will

I forgot my camera battery when going to Mia and Bob’s wedding in Dublin, NH this Saturday. So now I have to weblog about it to remember it at all. It’s not my fault.


  • Rachel V. and Steve were kind enough to give me a ride up. We listened to Steve’s XM radio and Rachel’s extra-danceable iPod playlist.

    “Was nu-metal a reaction to the … flamboyance of hair bands?” Rachel asked at one point.
    “I thought nu-metal was a reaction to grunge,” I chimed in from the back seat.
    “And grunge to hair bands,” Steve finished.
    “Only one way to settle this,” I concluded, digging out my cell phone to call Fred Durst. Still hasn’t got back to me.

  • “Who are you texting?” Rachel asked Kevin Q. We stood in the shade around the rustic firepit in Mia’s mother’s backyard.
    “I’m not texting anyone,” he said, not looking up.
    “Then what are–”
    “I’m live-tweeting the wedding.”

  • Later, someone waved a copy of the program at Kevin, with its admonition to silence cell phones during the ceremony. To drive the point home, Serpico texted “turn off your phone” just before the ceremony started. Kevin got it and fumed.

  • The ceremony, though outdoors, was shaded by the towering trees and aerated by ambient wind. Mia’s uncle, a pastor, conducted the ceremony, giving plenty of advice and insight to the young couple. We sat patiently until told to stand again. I suppose it says something of the secularity of the audience that nobody knew what to do when prompted to “share a sign of peace.” It fell to the lapsed Catholics (like me) to turn and start shaking hands.

  • No communion wafers, though. Hell, that’s another, what, fifteen minutes? Twenty?

  • Chatting with my favorite EMT, Lynne W., I learned that tall, skinny people are more prone to suffer collapsed lungs. “I wonder if that has any connection to the stabbing pains I feel once every ten months or so when I draw a deep breath,” I speculated.

    “Could be.”

    “Eh, my cross to bear.”

    “Oh, life’s so hard for you tall and slender people.”

    “Exactly; I – hey!”

  • I got to chat at length with the significant others of my friends: Rachel’s Steve; Michelle McN’s Ben; Kevin’s Shawn. They have an identity outside of their predicate attachment to an existing friend, I discovered. For instance, Ben took up snowboarding after skiing screwed up his knees. He, Haley and I chatted about it in the smoker’s circle near the parked cars. I wasn’t smoking; I just wanted to hang with the cool kids. Like Ben.

    Also, Steve quit smoking, drinking and caffeine a year ago, all on the same day. Neither Vickie nor I could believe it. “I don’t even drink or use caffeine that much, and I don’t smoke,” I told him. “But if a doctor told me those two were killing me, I’d ask, ‘How long do I have?’ ”

  • Rode back with a full car – the Serpico/Keoughs and the Smithneys, me snug in the backseat with Claire and Kim*. We reminisced about childhood indulgences: our favorite books that we devoured a stack at a time, our favorite cartoons, our favorite food. Everyone conceded that everyone at the wedding was cool and that we all need to hang out with them more. Which I plan on.

______________________________
* All ri-ight.

ain’t no angel gonna greet me; it’s just you and I my friend

We moved hotels on Saturday, from one closer to the city (for the rehearsal dinner) to one closer to Swarthmore (for Matt and Lydia’s wedding). I rode with Kevin, tailing behind my parents’ SUV down a rain-slicked 95 South while Chuck Barry played “School Days.” “AC/DC does a decent cover of this song,” I remarked.

I borrowed some cufflinks from my dad and slipped into my dark pinstripe suit, with a patterned cornflower tie. Gluing my hair down onto my skull, I paced the room until Matt’s rented motor coach came to fetch us. The groom’s party and the bridesmaids would all ride to the wedding together, taking preliminary photos before the ceremony. The superstition about the bride and groom seeing each other before the ceremony didn’t bother these two, but the one about handling wedding rings during the rehearsal did. No judgment implied; every couple’s different.

We stopped at Lydia’s parents’ house to pick her and the bridal party up, where we proceeded to wait for half an hour. “Still not ready,” reported the groom’s father. “The important thing is: we got here on time,” Matt’s brother Griff, the best man, observed. “No one can pin this one on us.” We then pinned boutonnieres on each other, which proved trickier.

Lydia showed up, glowing like a June bride, and the coach rolled to Swarthmore. We snapped pictures on the front porch of the Quaker Meeting House while guests filed in the sides. The downpour slowed to a drizzle but did not let up. With a scant ten minutes to go the groom’s party slipped into the back for our entrance, while the bridesmaids waited to enter from the front. I caught up with Matt, his lips tight, and clapped him on the shoulder. “You know what rain on your wedding day means?” I asked him.

He shook his head.

“Not a god-damned thing.”

The remaining details are too personal to entertain a larger audience. If you’ve been to one wedding for close friends, you get the gist: touching ceremony, drinking with family, dancing with friends, arms on shoulders and heads in hands. I will say: Matt and Griff and their parents have been as close as family to me and mine for about twenty-five years. Having the honor of officiating Matt and Lydia’s wedding – bringing their two families together – felt touchingly appropriate. I did the best I could and had the most fun I think I could have.

a couple of guys who were up to no good started making trouble in my neighborhood

The cab ride from Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station to the Courtyard Marriott near City Hall took me past fewer adult theaters than I would have expected. They integrate well into Philadelphia’s downtown aesthetic of 1750s buildings with 1930s storefronts – art gallery, sandwich shop, adult theater, clothing store, adult theater, Western Union, Ben Franklin’s house, adult theater, and so forth. Philadelphia’s transients integrate really well, too. I saw crazy homeless people in every neighborhood in Philly – and I walked quite a few blocks – but never once got approached for change. It’s a gentler sort of homelessness. The indigent have won the battle for Philadelphia; they live as idle conquerors.

I walked from the hotel to the historical district, checking out the Liberty Bell and the outside of Independence Hall. Though I passed at least a dozen sandwich shops on the way out, not one spot on the way back (a mere two blocks south) advertised a cheese steak. And I didn’t feel like dropping $11 at some outdoor tavern – I wanted as close to the genuine street article as I could acquire. I finally found a street vendor two blocks from my hotel and picked up a cheese steak with the works – peppers, onions, ketchup, and of course the afterthought of cheese. It went down hearty.

Matt and his brother Griff, along with Matt’s fiancee Lydia and Griff’s wife Sarah, picked me up outside their hotel for the rehearsal. We braved Phillies traffic on 95 South to get to Swarthmore, arriving only a few minutes late. There I met the rest of Matt’s groomsmens’ party – three fine gentlemen I would have met a month ago had I made it to the bachelor party. “You’re Kevin’s older brother?” they asked, with a knowing nod that I would need at least four more beers to justify.

The Saturday forecast called for heavy rain, so we scoped out the backup location first: the Quaker Meeting House on Swarthmore’s north campus. Lydia and Matt eschewed a wedding planner for the ceremony, giving the rehearsal proceedings a refreshing informality. We lined everyone up, figured out who would stand where when delivering readings, and worked the timing of entrances and exits. Bam. In, out, thirty minutes.

“What are you going to be wearing for the ceremony tomorrow?” one of the bridesmaids asked.
“A Snuggie,” I said. “The sleeves are embroidered.”

Rehearsal dinner: back in the city at Estia (warning: Flash intro, plays music). Weddings that unite two big families lead to a lot of moving and entertaining stories over toasts, and this was no exception. Matt’s grandfather gave Lydia a warning about the men of his family “falling hard.” “My wife and I’ve been married fifty-eight years,” he explained. “Matt’s parents, thirty years.” We took that as the encouraging sign we think Ray meant, and clinked glasses.

My own dad had a story from the bachelor party. “So one of Matt’s friends goes to buy Matt a ‘femme’ drink as a gag. ‘Give me a Yuengling,’ he says, ‘and the girliest, weakest drink you have on the menu.’ ‘Two Yuenglings, coming up!'”*

Kevin showed up with an hour left in the evening, having driven straight from work in Baltimore without his cell phone or a solid knowledge of where we were. He caught me up on his extracurriculars. He’s playing in a rec lacrosse league, of whose players half used to play for Division I schools and the other half have not touched a stick in over a decade. “I’m playing defense,” Kevin said. “I don’t have to run so much.”

We closed out Estia’s function room early, harassing the waitstaff and doing a few final shots. Then Matt, Griff, Kevin and I took to the streets, doing what you’d expect four guys who’ve known each other for over twenty years to do when one of them’s getting married. Would you believe that Philadelphia’s the only city in America with a public library that’s open until 3:00 in the morning? They serve very good espresso.

* Dad later tells me that, though this is a true story, the bartender may have taken that line from Futurama. Regardless, any anecdote that helps dispel the New England myth that Yuengling’s a beer of some high quality gets printed as gospel on this weblog.

when was the last time you danced?

Plenty of sap in the posts on the bachelor party and the rehearsal dinner. The actual day of the wedding? Nothing but fun.


  • The groom’s party, plus RJ, plus myself, breakfasted at Clink, the Liberty Hotel’s classy lounge and restaurant. Ben, the groom’s brother, asked for tobasco for his eggs; the waiter produced the tiniest nip bottle in the history of nips. “I’ll pay you ten dollars to shoot that,” I offered.

    Ben considered for a moment but shook his head. “I don’t want my annual trip to the emergency room to be today.”

    “We’re a fragile bunch,” his brother agreed. “I don’t go to the ER as often as Ben does. But when I do, I get to go on all the rides!”

  • “This place used to be a prison,” Jason, brother of the bride, noted. “Full of institutional abuses and civil rights violations. Now it’s a hotel where some of the wealthiest people in America stay.”
    “Right.”
    “Have we decided whether that’s ‘good ironic’ or ‘bad ironic’?”

  • “You are so tall,” the photographer commented. She had me lean casually against a recessed window while taking pictures with the groom.
    “I’m used to it.”

  • After photos the groom’s party retired upstairs to watch the Red Sox lose to Toronto. We snacked on cold cuts and deli bread provided by Hawver’s wife Dea. We’d hoped that the air conditioner and the Red Sox would prove relaxing, but Ortiz’s continued failure to connect did little for our nerves.

    “Your wife is awesome,” RJ mumbled around a mouth full of turkey and provolone. Then: “God damn it, Ortiz!”

  • “It’s weird,” Kevin, the bride’s other brother, said. “We’re in an opulent luxury hotel that used to be a pris–”
    “We covered that already,” Jason said.
    “Really?” The two of them are twins, possessed of that weird genetic telepathy.

  • At five minutes of five, having struggled with boutonnieres for several minutes, we marched down to the ceremony en masse. Fraley stood around a corner so that Melissa could make a quick pass behind us. He watched the crowds of friends and family file onto the lawn in front of us, his mother at his side.
    “Okay,” he said. “Now I’m nervous.”

  • We’d been coached on moving quickly down the aisle – not hurrying, obviously, but taking longer than the step-pause-step pace associated with most wedding marches. This led to a slight traffic jam near the end – I, with the bride’s mother on my arm, drawing up short behind the groom and his mother. It also led to a lot of waiting with the entire party up front for the opening march to end and the bride to enter. I know that happens all the time, but it seemed interminable while we were up there. Should I make a ‘cut’ gesture to the string trio?, I wondered.

  • After the ceremony, I cornered a concierge. “What can I–”
    “It’s essential,” I interrupted, thrusting an envelope containing the marriage license into his hand, “that this get in the mail today.”
    “They might have already picked–”
    “Just put it in the box. I don’t care.”
    “Yes, sir!”

  • Impressions of the reception diverge. I spent various points laughing over beef and red wine, lost in somber thought and dancing like I’d always wanted to. Strangers congratulated me on an excellent ceremony.

    “It’s all them,” I insisted, nodding toward the happy couple. “I couldn’t have managed for anyone else.”


her folks had said our life together sure was gonna be rough

“This must be the infamous Perich,” the woman said, shaking my hand as Fraley introduced us. That introduction has never borne good fruit for me, but this was Fraley and Melissa’s rehearsal dinner. The woman speaking was the Liberty Hotel’s wedding coordinator, Michelle.

Quick recap for the tourists: the Liberty Hotel was once the Charles Street Jail, the downtown lock-up that briefly held Malcolm X, Sacco and Vanzetti and a number of other famous Boston miscreants. It stood for nearly fourteen decades before closing in 1990 due to overcrowding. Ann Beha Architects renovated the interior and added a sixteen-story guesthouse adjacent, turning it into one of Boston’s premier luxury hotels. The entrance opens into a gorgeous five-story atrium, ringed by balconies that let into conference rooms and bars.

Michelle proved more than equal to my paranoia, anticipating my questions as we paced the site of Saturday’s ceremony: the former prison exercise yard.

“Am I going to be mic’ed?”
“Yes.”
“Standing mic or body mic?”
“Body mic, clipped to your lapel.”
“And the three attendants who have readings?”
“Standing mic. Facing that way.” She pointed past me.

She humored me until I shut up, then coordinated the rest of the procession. The groom’s party, bridesmaids and I practiced our stately walk into the exercise yard, standing with our backs to Storrow Drive. After a brief pause, Melissa emerged from the top of the stairs – dressed nicely, of course, but not in her gown – and followed us out.

“You know,” I mentioned, “as long as we’ve got everyone here …” But Fraley vetoed the plan; my license wouldn’t kick in until tomorrow.

Upstairs, after cocktails and an excellent dinner, Fraley and Melissa’s parents sat us through a brief slideshow, depicting the two of them as they grew up and eventually met each other. Then friends and family were invited to get up and offer toasts to the couple’s health. I sat there, nursing a mediocre hotel wine and smiling.

“We’re expecting to hear something from you, too,” Mrs. Fraley insisted.

“I’m saving the A-list material for tomorrow,” I claimed, drawing a laugh. But to be honest, I had nothing to add. Watching two of the most amazing friends in my life not only embark on a journey I didn’t think I had the courage to make, but to do so with such effortless grace and humor, took everything out of me. What words could I use in the face of that?


(photo courtesy of Dave Green)

all just a little bit of history repeating

Thursday was Fraley’s bachelor party. I caught up with the crew at Smith & Wollensky’s downtown. They had just completed a few laps at F1 Racing and had sped here to make the 7:00 dinner reservation. The order of arrival at Boston’s best steakhouse had nothing to do with who won the go-kart race, with Serpico and Auston narrowly beating Fraley by a few minutes. “And we were hurrying,” Serpico said. “We may have swapped paint with some cars on 93.”

Over three bottles of red – S&W will keep bringing out more wine unless you tell them not to – we cut into some au poivre fillets and swapped anecdotes. Auston recounted the story of his best man losing his wife’s wedding ring the day of the wedding, while Ben (the ring-bearing best man for this ceremony) gradually paled in the corner. I talked hip hop with Jonathon W. and Will, who sided with me on the Lil Wayne debate on Overthinking It.

The party detached from S&W and wandered Boston’s South End, stopping in a couple pubs whose names I can’t remember. But that’s why I take photos – so I can recall moments that would otherwise leave me, just as consciousness left me in the back seat of a cab between the Back Bay and Davis Square. That’s also why I recount stories starring people you don’t know. This weblog’s primarily a journal for me: a means of remembering what I’ve done that I can look back on in two, five or ten years.

Of course, if Thursday night was any indication, a few beers and the company of lifelong friends can jog the memory as well.

my hometown

Thanksgiving weekend, comparing and contrasting my experiences in Baltimore (where I grew up) and Boston (where I live):

The TSA

  • Boston: Though I’d already put my jacket on the X-ray conveyor belt, the security goon asked me to strip out of my Ravens hoodie as well. Another goon rifled through my toiletries kit before putting it back on the X-ray for another scan.
  • Baltimore: Though I’d already put my shoes on the X-ray conveyor belt, the security goon asked me to remove my belt as well. Hoodie stayed on. Toiletries made it through unscathed.

Marriage

  • Baltimore: I’m officiating a wedding in rural Pennsylvania this June, at an outdoor amphitheater near Swarthmore College. “So what do you have planned for this all natural, non-denominational commitment ceremony?” the groom’s older brother joked. “Because I’m definitely picturing Lord of the Rings. I want elf ears and crossbows out the wazoo.”
  • Boston: That Sunday, I recounted the story to Melissa and Fraley, whose wedding I’ll be officiating three weeks earlier. “That sounds cool,” Mel said. “… wait, they were joking?”

Drinking, Dancing and Carrying On

  • Baltimore: I caught up with Liz, whom I hadn’t seen in about nine years, on Friday night. We carpooled over to her friend Keith’s rowhome in Highlandtown. After pregaming for a bit, we squeezed into Keith’s car and hit up The Depot, a narrow little lounge on Charles Street. We had several rounds of cheap beer and a Jaeger shot that felt like a punch in the stomach, then spent most of the evening dancing to 80s pop on the industrial black floor.
  • Boston: Highlandtown reminds me a lot of Medford, or East Somerville just off of Pearl Street. And The Depot reminded me a lot of Toast in Union Square. In fact, I’ll bet when Depot has their goth nights it looks exactly like Toast.

    At one point, Keith got up to stare curiously at an all-black painting hanging near the men’s room. It turned out that the painting actually had several plastic roaches set just into its surface. Also, the artist was sitting right next to it, waiting for someone to notice so he could trap them in conversation. Keith shot us several plaintive looks. Tell me that couldn’t happen at the Middle East on Mass Ave.