Best Fest Buddy Tom, his dad and I trekked to Tom’s nephew’s wedding last Sunday in Michigan City, Indiana.
We all have had magnetic invitations marking the date and the event’s website stuck to our respective refrigerators since early this year to remind us.
With the unofficial rule being you can give a gift six months after the wedding ceremony, I still have time to use the site to order the Java Wood 5-Shelf Ladder Bookcase for the happy couple.
Actually, we all went old school and gave money in a card. But still.
As I am known for my fashion sense, it was tough for me to decide what to wear to the wedding. Under consideration was what I wore to a recent job interview, resplendent with a new brown shoes and a pair of khakis found at Kohl’s for $4. Up for a vote on Facebook were two ensembles featuring sportcoats and kilts.
Since the wedding was more than 100 miles away, we all dressed less formally for the drive. Tom donned a black tracksuit to look like Tony Soprano behind the wheel of his black Lincoln Navigator. Well, he wanted to, but couldn’t find the jacket. With his multicolored coat and the track pants and beard, he looked like he was late for his shift at a Greek restaurant.
I offered him the black pullover and flat cap I wore, so he could look like a bad guy from an Irish crime drama. He declined.
Tom told me to bring all my outfit choices. I did. That gave me the option to change, like Cher or Elton John would, but with way less sequins.
But for the usual traffic snare found at the Illinois/Indiana border, the drive was uneventful. I did notice that an assistant manager job posted on a gas station window paid more than I made as a reporter, but that’s a different story.
With time to spare, we first went to a nice house the groom’s parents rented in Michigan and not far from the Michigan City venue in Indiana.
Who’s on first, indeed. Not to mention, the house stood in EDT and the wedding hall in CDT. So Tom felt like his time -travelling hero, Doctor Who.
To that point, you might think Tom would have brought his big, long scarf to wear to the wedding. Nah. He accessorized his suit with a cape.
It was close to Halloween, so an A for effort. But Tom’s cape, fake pointy teeth and beard made his plus-sized Dracula look like the aging lovechild of a werewolf and a vampire.
Meanwhile, Tom’s dad put on the rented blue suit and brown shoes worn by the wedding party.
After consulting Tom’s brother Mark, and Mark’s sons Andrew and Adam, I opted to go with the black kilt, black, shirt and black jacket. Adam lent me a mostly-red tie that added just the right touch of color.
Formal, yet gangster, I thought.
But black is for funerals, a Facebooker responded to a photo I posted of the outfit. Same difference, I quipped back.
“Either way their previous life is over,” wrote Tom.
“Black and commando,” somebody else wrote on my Facebook page.
That would be a good name for a drink, but was not an applicable description of me. I wore my favorite pair of Star Wars undies to keep my light saber covered under the kilt.
All gussied up, we headed for the hall, the Uptown Center. It’s an old church converted to be used for weddings, dances and other festivities.
The building stands in a redeveloping neighborhood. The Chinese restaurant used in “A Christmas Story” is right across the street from it. Or not.
Either way, the Uptown Center’s interior brought out my inner wedding planner. A railing and stairs in front of imposing organ pipes could be used for dramatic entrances from wedding parties. A choir could sing from that same spot, or from the balcony lining the room.
Or maybe a band or DJ with club lights could set up by the organ pipes.
Or maybe I should stick to writing and eating hors d’oeuvres. My favorite was goat cheese with artichoke on a crostini.
While mingling, I heard what I thought was someone saying something about the band ABBA. As fate would have it, when I asked about this, a guy who just happened to be walking by said he had an interesting story about the group.
He didn’t offer to tell it. Not taking a chance, I didn’t ask for details.
By this point, just like the vampire he wished he were, Tom vanished. Actually, he had wandered outside to smoke a cigar and to put his cape back in the car.
Near one bar I spotted a man I’m convinced is Tom’s illegitimate son he’s never met. The guy’s chubby, furry, bald, has facial hair and a gap between his front teeth. But the biggest clue came later, when he danced holding a beer bottle.
Another theory, taken from Doctor Who and other time travel sci fi: Who I saw was young, alternate universe Tom who crawled through a wormhole or a black hole or some other sort of hole to be there. The two Toms couldn’t meet as “Back to the Future” rules were in effect.
Paradox or pair of Toms? Heavy.
Soon it was time for the wedding ceremony, written and directed by the bride, groom and a best friend who served as minister. The production featured a tutu-wearing pug named Bunny.
Beforehand, the DJ’s mix included an instrumental version of Madonna’s controversial hit “Like A Prayer” streaming from his speakers.
Still, the proceedings had an easy-going way about them. The couple and buddy minister shared stories of how Stevia – aka about-to-be newlyweds Steve and Olivia and not the natural sweetener – met in college, fell in love, teach music now and built a house together.
I thought of Alan Dugan’s poem Love Song: I and Thou which I first read a very long time ago in college. It’s about carpentry and marriage. Sort of.
Another oldie, Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed Delivered, I’m Yours,” had the young wedding party dancing back down the aisle, if not into the rest of their lives, to get photos taken.
I figured I might wind up in a couple candids, but Tom had other ideas. When it came time for the uncles of the groom to be photographed, Tom barked like a drill sergeant.
“Where’s Mike? Get over here. You’re in the picture.”
“You are like the fifth brother,” Steven, the father of the groom said, matter of factly.
Yeah, I probably made the wedding album. In a kilt.
Tom wasn’t done directing traffic, though. Literally.
For some reason, the photographer decided to take shots of the bride and groom gazing into each other’s eyes while standing in the street close to an intersection.
Safety-conscious Tom took it upon himself to make sure nobody got hit. He stopped vehicles and directed drivers around the photo shoot.
Tom did have one brush with injury. A jerk in a blue muscle car almost clipped him. This all might be on YouTube by now, maybe even scored with “Gee, Officer Krupke” from “West Side Story”.
Once everybody finally was inside the ballroom for dinner, Tom decided to sit with some relatives in town from about six hours north in Michigan.
The bride and groom sat alone on the dais. The groom ate from behind a decoration that said “Mrs” while the bride dine behind one reading “Mr.”
Me, I stayed in my assigned spot, next to Tom’s dad. Open seats almost tempted me to scam another plate or two, but the courses came out family style.
The DJ thought it was clever to make everybody sing the chorus of a big pop tune before each course could be served.
Why he picked Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” for dessert is beyond me.
Past the toasts and cutting of the cake came time for the groom to dance with his mom. Inspired by the name of the place, their musical choice was “Uptown Funk.”
The two had fun. The groomsmen joined in. Whiteness ensued.
Next, the bride and her dad stepped out to Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole’s Hawaiian version of “Over the Rainbow” then a bit of Santana’s “Smooth” before asking all the guests to join them on the dance floor.
I am no Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa, and I would more than likely step on rather than into somebody’s groove.
Plus, it was time to get Tom’s dad back to his senior living community before he turned into a pumpkin. Or he lost a shoe.
We drove off under a cloud-covered Hunter’s Moon.
Weddings and funerals, do have things in common, I thought. They invoke the mist of memory, of what was, of what might be.
In life nothing is plumb, level or square, especially along stretches of the interstate system.
If friends consider you family, that is like a prayer. When I heard Tom call my name to be in the photo, it did feel like home.
So during the ride back, I thanked him for considering me his brother.
“You are,” he said, and other words to that effect.
And off we went to the assisted living facility, a Guinness at our local and further adventures.