Monday, October 09, 2006

A Wedding for the Ages

The Saint and I have been home 4 hours, and already, this wedding is a legend.

My cousin Matt married his fiancee, Jeni, in San Diego on Saturday. Everything was perfect.

We almost had a ton of problems.

The airline called us a week before our departure and changed the flights. OK. No big deal. It's Delta. I fly them all the time. I have tons of miles.

Late departure from Boston. Still no problem: Flight time to JFK is a measly 31 minutes.

Late landing at JFK: Again, no problem. There was time.

On the ground at JFK, we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Our connecting flight to San Diego was scheduled to depart at 7:20. We were still on the first plane at 7:11. Once we got off, it was a mad dash into the next terminal. Bobbing, weaving, leaping, bulldozing old ladies. Think OJ in the Hertz commercials before his great disgrace. I haven't run that fast since high school. I abandoned the Saint, not, you know, to abandon her, but so I could hold the plane if I got to the gate in time. Yes, this is remarkably similar to the "We had to destroy the village to save it" defense, or maybe it's just my severe jet lag.

7:18 and our departure gate is empty. Lights off, only one person home. I point out the window and say: "We. Need. To. Be. On. THAT. Plane." The Saint catches up (partly because I misread a sign for a gate and ended up in a food court. No, I didn't stop to buy anything.

The gate agent looks at us and I can see she's thinking we're screwed, but she grabs her keys and opens the door, then takes off down the longest jetway I've ever seen. Damned jetway just kept going and going and going, like we were running in some crazy-ass dream and every time we turned a corner, the tube was fifty yards longer.

She's waiting for us at the second corner. "You have to run, you know."

No. No idea. What the hell have we been doing for the last ten minutes, sipping bourbon in a bar?

More running. Much, much more running. We get to the plane. The door's still open, but the gate agent knocks anyway. Says, "Here's two more."

We're the last two. But there are four waiting for standby seats, and one in our seats. The Saint appears ready to go medieval on the squatter. Problem solved. The squatter slinks three rows back to her middle seat.

The Saint and I high five.

In the window seat in our aisle, a "helpful" passenger. She hears our story with amazement. The Saint and I look heroic. All is well. Then, from the window seat: "You're screwed on your luggage, you know. Those baggage handlers will never move as fast as you did."

I mumble something about wedding, fate, and my new black suit, but I'm also kicking myself because it's the first time I've ever traveled without a carry-on. The Saint carried on a bag full of papers she needed to correct. That suit bag I always use, the lightest of our luggage for this excursion? Yeah, I checked it.

The flight to San Diego is the least eventful part of the trip. Lands a half hour late, and at 11:30 local time, the Saint and I stand at the baggage carousel and wait until we're sure the last bag is off before we stumble five feet to the Lost/Delayed Baggage office and fill out our reports. The supervisor gives us toothpaste and a useless cab voucher. Our only solace is that Ms. Window Seat also has no baggage. Karma kicked her ass.

By the time we get to the hotel, it's after midnight on Friday morning. The rehearsal is in 11 hours. The Saint and I haven't eaten since lunch. We're wearing the clothes we put on 19 hours earlier, and we have no replacements. Not to worry. Delta Baggage Dude said our bags would be on the first flight from JFK in the morning. Arrival at 10:45; we'd have the bags by 11:30, as the rehearsal began. Called Matt. Explained. He said: "Wear jeans to the rehearsal."

No room service at 12:30 in the morning. So the Saint and I ordered out. Yes, we're crazy. This was nowhere near the craziest thing we'd do over the weekend. The Saint got a lovely pizza. I ate the worst barbecued ribs I've ever tasted. At 1:30 a.m.

Friday morning: I check in with my parents. They're heading for breakfast with the groom's parents, my aunt and uncle. The Saint and I attach ourselves to the breakfast party. Breakfast is spectacular. I had Eggs Benedict, but instead of Canadian Bacon, it comes with dungeness crab meat dusted with Old Bay. I neither remember nor care what anyone else ate.

My uncle announces that he has brought three bags of venison jerky for Matt. In my first devious thought of the day, I ask my uncle if Matt knows he's getting three bags.

The Saint and I recount our exploits. Laughter everywhere. Someone says, "You have your stuff now, right?" Well, no. Laughter stops.

Back at the hotel, we see the groom. We see the bride. We see people we don't ever remember meeting, along with people we know we've never met (they look like the bride). All are asking about our luggage. Our story seems to get funnier with each retelling.

We call the airline. Our baggage didn't make the first flight. Nobody seems to know where it is.

We go to the rehearsal. My 87-year-old grandmother arrives. Conversations stop. Grandchildren come running from all points of the compass. I know. I was talking to one cousin, an usher, brother of the groom. Gram arrived. We instantly ignored each other. More running. Mob scene. I think somebody asked for an autograph. My grandmother is a rock star. My uncle, father of the groom, is shoving his own kids out of the way to get in a hug. My mother would have trampled me to the turf if I hadn't seen her coming and thrown an elbow. (One must never let facts get in the way of a good legend.)

Rehearsal is fast. No, I mean really fast. Done in 5 minutes. That means, for the first time all weekend, we're ahead of schedule. (A side note: at least half the men are wearing jeans.)

The rehearsal lunch is in Old Town. Yes, my aunt and uncle know their guests. They realize that this needs to be a rehearsal lunch instead of a rehearsal dinner because if we try to wait until dinner, nobody will be able to walk (but my grandmother will still be a rock star).

This is a highly sensible decision. It's noon. We're in a bar in Old Town, waiting for the staff to set up the room. Have I mentioned that it was a bar? Margaritas magically appear in my hands. I think I'm supposed to hand one to the Saint. I drink both and order two more. The Saint gets one of those. I drink round three. Someone hands me a fourth. That goes down easier than my homemade sangria. We've been in the restaurant for 5 minutes. And I'm two drinks behind the guys in the wedding party.

I should mention here that if you don't count the parents of the bride and groom, I'm the oldest person in the bridal party. I'm certain Matt brought me into the deal for my maturity and gravitas. I'm sort of the groom's consigliere. (And Matt is my daughter's Godfather.)

So I did what any mature, deliberate, grave groom's consigliere would do: I ordered another round. Thankfully, someone summoned us to lunch. It was lovely. My cousin the usher handed me a bourbon. That was lovely, too.

Post-lunch, the rest of the bridal party decides to head back to the hotel and drink. Cousin-usher, his girlfriend, the Saint and I stay so Cousin-usher's girlfriend can examine every piece of Indian jewelry in San Diego.

Then we can't find the car. I say, "It's in front of the orange synagogue."

The Saint says, "No, it's up that hill." Cousin-usher takes my side. His girlfriend takes the Saint's.

Turns out, the car was up that hill, in front of the orange synagogue. Somehow, the Saint interprets this to mean that she is right and I am wrong, but I declare it a win-win situation and we go back to the hotel.

Another call to Delta. "Your bags are on the flight landing at 6:03 this evening. As far as we can tell." Care to guess what the key words to that exchange were? Right. Meanwhile, Delta Baggage Dudes are reassuring us that, do not despair, We Deliver 24 Hours a Day. I'm starting to wonder how that new black tie Matt bought me is going to look with a green polo shirt and jeans.

At 8 p.m., another call to Delta. Seems the bags didn't make that flight. At this point, homicide is not only possible, but likely. Matt calls my cell phone. Matt tells me not to worry. Matt tells me to wear jeans to the wedding. And then we hatch a plan to go shopping at 8 in the morning to buy another black suit, white shirt, and pair of black dress shoes (cap-toed Oxfords, for those who need to know).

Then Matt commands me to attend the party raging around the corner.

Our hotel is also a concert venue. There's a concert Friday night. One of the groomsmen has a suite overlooking the concert venue. He's filled the suite with beer, people and a bottle of Knob Creek.

The concert band sucks, by the way. Breezy, vapid crap that makes Air Supply or Toto sound like Heavy Metal.

During a lull in the proceedings, I reflect, again, that I am the consigliere. That Matt has chosen me to lend gravitas and wisdom to the proceedings. I then run out on the deck and scream, "Free Bird!"

Much laughter behind me in the suite. More laughter in front of me at the concert venue. I celebrate with bourbon.

Shortly thereafter, women in the suite think it's a great idea to take digital photos of the concert outside. Within 15 seconds, hotel security is knocking at the door, demanding that we move the party.

The suite renter of record, and his wife, argue in vain for the security dude to go away. I marshal all my gifts for (recovering) lawyerly persuasion, rhetoric and logic into an argument that still loses. Softened up the security guard, but still lost.

Then groomsman Luke (the only person in the entire resort with shoulders wider than mine) steps into the hall. A conversation of less than 15 seconds ensues. Luke returns victorious. We drain the Knob Creek.

I celebrate by returning to my room and learning that Delta still has no idea where my luggage is.

Back in the suite, Luke and I discuss how much we bench press. Turns out I bench more. Luke finds this humorous. The powers that be decide that it's time to take the party back into Old Town.

The Best Man and I convince Matt, who needed no convincing, that leaving the hotel in the middle of the night before his wedding would be among his most memorable decisions, even if it was hazy at the time. The consigliere and the Best Man get the job done. Matt stays.

As a consequence, I escort the rest of the wedding party (and many, many of Matt's fraternity brothers) to the shuttle bus. As we hit the parking lot, Luke decides it's a wonderful idea for me to prove my strength by carrying him across the pavement.

Problem #1: Luke forgets to tell me that he wants me to prove my strength by carrying him across the lot.

Problem #2: Even when drunk, Luke is stealthy.

Problem #3: Luke is built like a linebacker, with the vertical leap of a power forward.

Combine problems 1, 2, and 3. Mix violently. Luke and I ended up on our backs in the middle of the parking lot.

Undaunted, I carried him across the parking lot to the shuttle bus on attempt number 2. People on the shuttle bus tossed beers out the window to me as a reward. Luke celebrates by using the luggage racks inside the shuttle bus as monkey bars, all the way into Old Town.

I go back to my room (the Saint, blissfully ignorant of my terrific work riding herd on this unruly mob, has been asleep for hours). I call Delta. They have no idea where my bags are. The last flight into San Diego from Kennedy is scheduled to arrive in twenty minutes.

I begin to formulate plan B. But it's too late to go shopping, and all my cohorts are drunk.

At 3:30, I call Delta again. We're 8 hours from the wedding, I still have no suit, and the room phone is about to enter the next room. Through the wall.

The lovely Delta supervisor informs me that the bags are likely on the ground. That they're scheduled to be delivered to me at 8:00 a.m. That delivery to me by 8:00 a.m. really means I might see it sometime between noon and three because the bags go out to a warehouse first.

I also learn that the Delta Lost Baggage area opens at 9:30 (which makes the supervisor's explanation that my bags will be going to the warehouse at 8 an outright lie).

I do, however, learn that the airport opens at 5 a.m.

Plan C: Do it yourself.

At 4:30, the Saint and I go in search of a cash machine and a taxi. We find the cash machine. The promised taxi never materializes.

At 4:50, a new hero emerges. Remember that security guard who tried to break up the partying groomsmen on the night before the wedding? He drove the Saint and me to the airport, where we rolled up at exacty 5:00.

A sprint inside. A ticket agent. A supervisor.

And at 5:02 a.m. (cue Beethoven's Ninth, because even Bruce isn't gonna be triumphant enough): Our Bags. I have never in my life been so happy to see luggage.

By 5:15, we're back at the hotel. As we pull up, the Saint announces: "It's not easy being married to you."

I get my first real sleep of the weekend, and by 8:00, when we meet my parents for breakfast, the security guard and I have stolen a car and commandeered a luxury jet, flown to JFK ourselves, the Saint has distracted Baggage Dudes with her feminine wiles while I sneak Bond-like into a cargo hold.

At 8:30, when my parents aren't buying that paragraph, the phone rings. Matt: "Please tell me you have good news."

Yeah. Done.

"Meet us at 10. Be sure you're actually wearing the suit. We're doing beers and tequila shots from 10 to 10:30. Pictures at 10:40."

I am late for tequila shots and beer by five minutes. Because it seems that 30 people are wondering whether I have my suit. Even, seeing me wearing it, they need reassurance that yes, this is the suit from my luggage, not one I begged, borrowed, rented or stole.

Tequila shots never tasted so good. That was more because the Best Man actually purchased good tequila.

The pictures went off without a hitch. Again, we found ourselves ahead of schedule. We filled the schedule with more tequila and beer, while watching baseball playoffs at 11 in the morning (gotta love Pacific Time).

Somewhere in there, Luke informed us that he'd lost his wallet. He had no idea where, because he had no memory of leaving the hotel, being carried across the parking lot, or his gymnastics on the shuttle bus. I heard 8 different stories of my feats of strength, and each was better than the truth.

The wedding started three minutes ahead of schedule. Jeni was stunning in her wedding dress.

Matt tried not to cry when my mother gave a reading. The Saint was hot. All the bridesmaids were beautiful. All the groomsmen were upright. Turns out the bridesmaids had matched us drink for drink, but they were downing champagne.

The reception was a blur. I told the "We went to the airport and got our luggage ourselves" story 738 and a half times.

We went back to the hotel bar after the reception. My grandmother the rock star was more popular than ever.

The party at the hotel bar was of Viking proportions. All the other parties were warmups.

Highlights:

1. My uncle bought multiple rounds of tequila shots.
2. My cousin, the sister of the groom, bit me on the arm. We have no idea why. We laughed anyway.
3. The groom tried to buy a round of shots. After he paid for them, and after the bartender poured them, the bar manager ordered the bartender to pour the drinks down the drain. No refund.
4. Have I mentioned that the groom got tossed from the bar on his wedding night?
5. Luke, in a show of solidarity, got himself tossed soon after. Think of when an umpire ejects a star player, then the manager gets himself tossed protecting the star. That was Luke.

Brunch Sunday morning was low-key. Quiet. So was dinner. My uncle took the Saint, my rock star grandmother, her husband and me around San Diego.

Luke missed his flight but found his wallet.

Lots of goodbyes. But in two weeks, my aunt and uncle are hosting round two: the East Coast reception for those who couldn't go cross-country.

I won't wear my black suit for that, but I might stash it in the car in a carry-on, just in case.

And Matt and Jeni lived happily ever after.

Adam

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3 Comments:

Blogger Gib Brogan said...

I don't think that reading has ever given me a buzz but I wanted to slur and pass out halfway through that.

Now I have a hangover and feel like I slept three hours in a bad hotel bed.

I'm obviously not keeping up on my maintenance drinking....

10:41 PM, October 09, 2006  
Blogger skinke said...

Great story! I have to say though, does your travel insurance not cover lost luggage?

(Over here on the hedonistic side of the pond we have a deal where, if your luggage is delayed by more than 3 hours you get to buy any essentials (in this case a suit) and get the money refunded...)

2:07 AM, October 16, 2006  
Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Orange synagogue

man! I'd have been buying new clothes the second the stores opened. NO way I'd trust an airline with a deadline looming. Sounds like a great time and your cousin and his wife live happily ever after.

It's all that matters.

10:49 AM, October 16, 2006  

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