Car 495 -- that driver is not a relaxed man. From the taxi scramble outside Marquee to the 45-minute exodus through the traffic-clogged Lincoln Tunnel, he cursed and muttered under his breath in both broken English and his native language -- whatever it was, because I had no clue. His incessant outbursts of "Stupid!" or "Mother fuck!" or a foreign phrase had me yearning for a driver with GPS, so I could give him my address, turn on my iPod, and go to sleep.
On the corner of 10th and 25th, Joe's Tavern is no more.
"Hotel California" comes from a car as we're stuck near Marquee. It's bad tonight; we're stopped for three red/green lights amid the cry of car horns.
Then, at the light at Dyer Ave., a cop pulls up behind us, though in the left lane, lights flashing. He gets on his loudspeaker and says, "White Cadillac, when the light turns green, make a left turn." I look at the woman at the wheel. She glances in her rearview mirror and says to her friend, "That's me" -- then tries to make a right turn, sending her the wrong way on a one-way street. Upon realizing her error, she plans to pull over just past the intersection, essentially in the direction we've just gone, heading through the short tunnels under the streets to the Lincoln Tunnel entrance. The cop speaks up again, telling her to back up and make a left (his emphasis). Then we're gone, out of range, and I can only imagine the shit she was in.
It's the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, and the first light of dawn colors the sky behind me as we head west, home, sunrise barely an hour away.
Contemplating my favorite R.E.M. songs on the train as I headed into the city for the show:
Voice of Harold
Imitation of Life
Man on the Moon
The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
They were as good as ever, and "Electrolyte" and "Man on the Moon" made it onto the setlist. I found a new appreciation for "(Don't Go Back to) Rockville," too, with Mike Mills on lead vocals in a straw cowboy hat.
The National opened and gave us a great, high-energy set. I'm actually drawn more to their live performances than the scattered studio tracks I have or have heard so far. But I was struck by a line from "Mr. November," which was played "For Barack":
I wish that I believed in fate I wish I didn't sleep so late.
That line was the best of the night, until maybe the one on the T-shirt I saw on the 11:42 train to Trenton heading home:
Haikus are easy But sometimes they don't make sense Refrigerator
Two women walked into Red Rocks a bit overdressed for the 10th Avenue dive. One wore a billowy summer dress, the other white pants and an off-the-shoulder blouse. She's the one who tapped me on the arm and asked, "What bar are we in?" Moments later came the follow-up: "Is this the bar from Coyote Ugly, or was that Hogs & Heffers?"
We tend to stay until the end at weddings, walking out slowly, saying our goodbyes as the band or DJ packs up, the lights on full. Perhaps our speech is slurred after hours of open-bar access, maybe we're still yelling to be heard even though the music has stopped. If we were dancing, my tie is loosened and the top button undone, my jacked most likely draped over my arm.
Natalie and Robby's wedding wasn't anything like that, yet it still lingers as one of the most memorable and enjoyable nuptials we've attended. From the ceremony inside the Red Barn at Hampshire College to the reception at the Eric Carle Museum nearby, it was a unique and warm-and-fuzzy time cast in the soft glow of a Barbara Walters special, or so it seemed.
They were supposed to get married beneath the big tree (just like Jeff and Sara), but the threat of rain forced a decision a few hours beforehand to have it inside the barn. The rain held off throughout the ceremony, but then started to fall as the families stood in the receiving line outside. So we all piled into the shuttle vans to head over to the museum for the reception. But the skies opened into the first full storm of summer, the type of deluge that turns everything gray. The water hit the sidewalks with such force that a mist settled at knee level and below. We waited, a line of rented vans hoping for a break in the weather. I sat looking to the west, where a small break in the clouds let through a bright glow where the sun was setting.
Occasionally, someone or a couple would make a run for it, either from a van or their own cars, sprinting through the waterfall to the doors. We sat and watched, calling out in mock horror, like viewers at a slasher movie. "What are you doing!?" "Don't run for it! That'll only make it worse!"
Our patience paid off; we walked leisurely beneath umbrellas once the downpour had lessened into a soft shower, and we drank our cocktails and munched on appetizers while looking through the windows of the museum gift shop. The galleries were open during the cocktail hour, but we missed the opportunity to meander through them. The long, narrow layout of the Great Hall put the DJ and dance floor near the entrance, with the tables stretching back along the windows and murals. We ate well, drank better and chatted throughout the night. Maybe it was the good company, maybe distance to the parquet or maybe just the mood, but Casey and I stayed at our table, as did most of our friends. The urge to dance didn't strike us.
Despite our sedentary tendencies, the end of the night mirrored so many other weddings we've attended. As we walked out, I found myself repeating the last song I heard over and over, the image of a happily spastic groom and a wide-eyed, brilliantly grinning bride dancing together. All our eyes were on them as they shook, shimmied, gyrated and maybe even crunked to Outkast, but they were lost in their own world. They were thrilled and ecstatic to have us all there, but they didn't need us at that moment.
It was a bit sad to leave before it was all over. A small part of me wanted to start dancing and keep drinking, but a greater part of me was tired after a week on the road and a plan to leave shortly after waking up in the morning to get home in three hours and have a quiet afternoon before work. Planning vacations around weddings are a lot of fun, but I think it's better to put the wedding at the beginning -- or the middle -- of the trip, rather than at the end. We've done it that way twice, spending a week driving from New Jersey to South Bend, with stops in Pittsburgh and Chicago for fun, and cruising New England on this trip. But by the end, we're a little worn down and the next morning means the final drive back home. When we did it from South Bend, we had about 12 hours ahead of us, so we had to be on the road by about 9 a.m. Traveling after the wedding also means less care has to be taken to keep the wedding outfits neat and clean.
Looking back, I also realize how lax I've become in recent years about taking pictures with friends at these gatherings. Of our last few weddings and several barbecues or dinners we've had at hour house in the last year or two, I have virtually no photos. When we go on vacation, I'm diligent about catching every stop, every scenic location, but I rarely make a point to get the two of us into the pictures. People are going to want to be sure that we're really taking these trips together (unless we're not), and I'm sure we'll look back on some of these events and wonder why we don't have the digital images to back up our mental ones.
So there's my summer resolution: More photos, of us and our friends. Starting ... now. Well, not this moment as I sit unshowered in shorts and an old Notre Dame T-shirt, but our next outing or gathering.