Cape Cod wedding - Saturday June 07 2003
setting: Marstons Mills, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
As usual I got out of bed well before Gretchen did. Arnold had gone out on a fishing trip and Andrea was sitting alone reading a newspaper by herself on the third morning of her self-imposed coffee abstinence program. So I went out and pestered her. She gave me a tour of the backyard, particularly the goldfish pond and the trail through the half acre of woods. The goldfish pond is just a rubber-lined pit in the ground with various tubes leading into and out of it. Half-buried in the ground nearby is either a pump or a filter that resembles an R2-D2 unit. The installation would look more like a chemistry experiment than a pond were it nor for the many rocks decoratively places around the pond's edge. They looked like bluestone - identical to the stuff I take from the woods to use in my landscaping. In Cape Cod, however, such rocks are expensive imports. There, the only natural earth-based material is sand. Cape Cod doesn't really even have soil.
Fighter jets were flying overhead in tight formations, their engines roaring with what Andrea jokingly called "the sound of freedom." I've heard that term before, and evidently some people use it without irony. Jet fighters are inherently pissed off machines, with little chips mounted on their shoulders. You can't argue with them, you can't joke with them, and nothing about them can be interpreted in any more than a single way. This is why they've had little success as stand up comedians.
Eventually I went and woke Gretchen up and she came out to join the Venn diagram intersection of the non-tossing and non-turning (two activities that force Gretchen to stay in bed longer than most people). We three eventually had a sort of breakfast at a nearby diner called The Mills. I would have loved to eat some genuine Cape Cod catch o' the day, but strangely there was none available.
Today was the day of the wedding we'd come to Cape Cod to attend, and we had to be at the place where it would be held at 2pm. It was taking place at a quaint Tudor-style mansion in the town of Orleans. If you imagine Cape Cod as being shaped like a bent arm going first east and then north, Orleans is on the inside of the elbow on the bay side.
My knowledge of the American marriage ritual is limited but nontheless continues to grow in leaps and bounds under the Gretchen administration. I could be wrong but I get the impression that getting married in Cape Cod is one of those traditional New England WASP institutions like attending Yale or driving a Lexus - it's just the way things are supposed to be done. I'm a quarter WASP myself and I'm sure more than a few of the crotches of my family tree were forged on Cape Cod, particularly since I am supposedly (like many Americans) a direct descendant of the especially fecund Governor Bradford.
Indeed, the venue for the wedding (Was it a mansion? Was it a bed and breakfast?) looked like it could have hosted the holy unions of some of my ancestors. It was a white edifice perched on a grassy knoll overlooking a harbor. The geography of the Cape is too complicated for me to say which harbor this was exactly.
The wedding took place out on the lawn in a traditional setting consisting of 96 chairs bisected by a single aisle. It had many traditional elements, although it was a scrupulously secular ritual. The most intriguing aspect of the ceremony was the exchanging of additional, secret vows in sealed envelopes. We saw the envelopes, but what was in them remains a mystery.
The rain held off until just after the ceremony and began to fall as the newly-weds shook hands in a "receiving line" (a highly traditional sub-ritual). Then everyone retreated into a large white tent, where they stood around talking, drinking, and sampling various small food items being whisked around by caterers carrying platters. I mostly stuck by Gretchen's side and interacted with people she knew to varying degrees. As far as I could tell, there was no one at the wedding who wasn't fun to talk to.
Later on the dancing began, starting out with some slow Frank Sinatra and building towards a your standard mix of 80s pop and classic soul. At some point Gretchen cautioned me that my behavior was indicative of my having drunk too much. She may have been right, but the alcohol had the effect of loosening my tongue in ways that are conducive to good communication. For example, I made some favorable comments about the young woman who had served as Tanya's "maid of honor" - she was a lesbian who had completely femmed-out for the occasion. This gave me the opportunity to restate how much I love the "reluctant femme look" - the Platonic form of which is the butchy girl who is wearing lacey white lingerie because someone has put a gun to her head.
When a party gets started at 2pm, 9pm feels like the wee hours of the morning. Gretchen and I decided to spend the night locally instead of heading all the way back to Barnstable. We checked into a seedy motel called the Governor Prence Motor Inn. Our room cost us $86 and we could make out every word of the conversations happening in adjacent rooms.
The wedding venue.