Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Wedding

The morning of Kacey and Becker's wedding dawned bright and clear, even if I wasn't awake to see it. I slept for as long as I could until Puck arrived from Staten Island around 11 am to wake me and start the getting-ready process, which included trips to the nail salon, the dancewear store for tights, lunch at our usual Chinese restaurant and a hair appointment for me.

We hopped a quick subway down to Union Square and got to the B'ahai Center very early so Kristina could tie on my wrist a corsage made of painted paper cut out of a book (well, Miriam had to tie it for me again so it wouldn't slip). I went upstairs to say a quick hello to Kacey before she started getting into her dress, and she was absolutely beaming with excitement. I'm sure I've never seen her so joyful in all the time we've spent together.

I sorted out a few last-minute details with Amanda and the ushers, Derek and Rob, and Puck got Kacey's phone ready to FaceTime the entire event for Kacey's friend Chels back in Colorado. It was actually very touching to see Chels' face, reacting to the ceremony we were showing her.

Upon entering the room, Storm played solo violin pieces as people got settled. The ceremony started with some brief statements and readings from both the Baha'i and Catholic faiths. Then Daniel and Hannah joined Storm to form a trio for the Pachelbel "Canon" as the flower girl and bridesmaids entered. Chris and Jonathan came from backstage to await the arrival of the bride. Kacey's father walked her down the aisle and shook Chris' hand as Jonathan took his place off-stage. Kacey's father read a prayer and stepped down, leaving Kacey and Becker alone on the stage.

The bride and groom exchanged their rings and then stood facing each other on stage as the trio played Massanet's "Meditation" all the way through, with no words spoken. They simply considered each other, preparing for the moment when they would choose to join their lives in a union. As I watched, I could only see Kacey's face because we were on the left side of the aisle, so Becker was turned away. To me, Kacey is and always will be beautiful because she's my dear friend and I love everything we share with each other. But seeing her that day, in that moment, filled with happiness and radiant with love - it really did take my breath away. As someone who devotes a good amount of energy seeking beauty in all its forms, I will remember that moment for a long time to come.

What happened next was as much a Kacey moment as when she slipped down the stage steps during the rehearsal - she started reciting her vows and went blank after two words! Kirsten quickly handed her the words on paper as we all laughed and applauded.

Once she said her vows, Becker had the easy job of repeating them and they embraced and kissed each other passionately. Seriously, that kiss would challenge Wesley's and Buttercup's kiss for supremacy in the annals of lip-locks.

As the wedding party exited, I ascended the stage and announced that they would have a receiving line for the next 10 minutes and that we would exit the room starting with the front rows and working our way back. We left with a big group of friends that was headed for a bar, but Puck, Miriam, Chelsea and I decided to break off and stop at the quieter Le Pain Quotidian instead.

We had a little trouble figuring out how to navigate the dozen or so blocks to the Housing Works Bookstore, but we managed with a slight detour. I checked in with the waitstaff and started making announcements on food service and getting people to their seats. I got a plate of food, but didn't really have time to eat much of it, which didn't matter because I was too nervous about my toast to feel hungry.

At 7:45 the music went down and I introduced each member of the wedding party and finally Kacey and Becker as husband and wife (I might have said "man and wife" but that wasn't my intention - it's so ingrained). They took about 10 minutes to all get settled before I called up Jonathan for the traditional first toast. I followed with my toast ("The wedding speech" - Jan. 20, 2014) and then the five bridesmaids took their turns as a group - Lourdes, Kristina, Deborah, Azizi and Kirsten. Finally, I asked Kacey's dad to come up and give the final toast.

Many people, young and old, came up to me afterward and told me they liked my speech, which really made me feel good about how much work I put into it. Even Kacey's mom, who has very high standards, said she loved it. I've told some people, but my first draft of that speech was pretty awful. What do I know about weddings, anyway? The person who was able to guide me with that was actually my co-worker and former boss Lori, who sits across from me at Nearing. We've been working together for four years and she's used to giving me tough criticism and seeing me use it to turn crap into cream. So, she deserves so much credit for helping me express the thoughts I wanted to say.

After the toasts, I turned it over to the band, led by singer Alexandra (who I think I met at Papacookie once before) and they played for the traditional first dance, followed by the father-daughter dance. The band played all the old romantic standards from the great American songbook, a genre I love and am currently exploring with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone. I watched the dances from the balcony under the glow of strings of old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs.

Right by the dance floor, there was a photo booth set up in a nook with crowded bookshelves filled with wedding memorabilia. Puck and I took a photo together in the booth, and Kacey and I also took one together. Kacey and Becker cut into their cupcakes on the dance floor, and did the bouquet and garter toss from the balcony. The rest of the evening we danced and socialized and felt that sense of community that only love can create.

On the way home, I talked with Puck about how much we both enjoy being a part of such an incredibly diverse, talented, friendly, intelligent, interesting, artistic and free-spirited community of people. Because I can't imagine anything else being more significant for me this year, I told Kristina, who made my paper corsage I wore all evening on my wrist, that I was going to keep it as this year's Christmas ornament for my tree.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The wedding speech

As I find the time to write up a proper summary blog post about yesterday's wedding, I'll start by posting the speech I gave last night - some of the many heartfelt words spoken at Kacey and Becker's wedding.

It was exactly 1,001 days ago today that I first met Kacey. It was on Easter Sunday in 2011, and we were both not at our best. I was struggling with some relationship drama and she was battling a nasty cold. But we found ourselves sitting side-by-side at our friend Storm’s egg decorating party, making Ukrainian Psanky Easter eggs, which is a very time-consuming, delicate process. After three hours we managed to decorate a total of only three eggs between us. But what we lacked in artistic egg-producing fertility was more than balanced by the fertile ground where the seed of our friendship was planted that day.

It was three months later at our second meeting when that seed of friendship actually took root and began to blossom. She had invited me to join a group of friends to walk the High Line, but everybody else had to back out, leaving just the two of us. That night we walked and talked for hours until the park closed and they had to kick us out. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with whom I’ve felt so immediately comfortable talking about real things with complete honesty.

When I think about that night on the High Line and how our friendship developed from there, it always brings to mind the quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald "They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered." Spending time with Kacey is a wonderful treat for me, as I know it is for many people. More than anyone else I know, she embodies the combination of joy, sincerity, sophistication and positive energy that is nourishing to the human soul.

The first time I met Becker was about a year after I met Kacey, on Feb. 6, 2012, at my first visit to Shotz, the monthly theater performance that we all now attend regularly. That was also the first time I met Kacey’s friend and bridesmaid Kristina, who gave a memorable performance playing a Barbie doll in one of the short plays that night.

Now Becker, as I’m sure many of you will agree, is a natural introvert and so it took a little more time to get to know him. And what I’ve discovered about Becker is that he brings something just as vital and nourishing as Kacey’s energy – and that is his grounding, steadying influence. Over the past two years, we’ve formed our connection as fellow introverts in the quiet corners of rooms filled with excitable extroverts like Kacey and some of her friends – you know who you are!

Chris, I certainly don’t envy your being at the center of so much attention today and I hope you are holding up well!

When Kacey asked me if I’d like to propose a toast, I really had a hard time thinking of what to say. As an activist for polyamory and modern open relationships, I might seem an unlikely choice to speak at a wedding.

But then I am reminded of the one simple truth that both scientists and poets agree upon – that love is the primary reason for our existence. I believe in the power of love to overcome all obstacles and find its way into our hearts, as it has found Kacey and Becker.

It gives me such tremendous joy to see my dear friends – my intentional family – in love and happy together, and celebrating this journey as they enter the next chapter of life. I love you both and I wish you every happiness that the world has to offer.

May the best of your yesterdays be the worst of your tomorrows. To Kacey and Becker!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Wedding preparations

Friday night was Kacey's bachelorette party thrown by Lourdes at their apartment in Bushwick. It's the first time I've ever been to a bachelorette party. It was a fairly tame event, but it had its moments.

I knew less than half of the attendees when I first walked in - Kristina, Azizi, Chelsea, Mariah (Josh's roommate and whom I met the same night I met Liz) and Lourdes, of course. I met the other bridesmaids when they brought Kacey in blindfolded - Kirsten and Deborah - plus several of Kacey's guy friends were in attendance. Amanda is the photographer friend who flew in from California (along with Kirsten).

We played a game where we took turns answering questions about the bride and groom, or taking dares to do certain things. I correctly answered what Becker does that annoys Kacey, but couldn't remember their first meeting (which Kacey has told me, but I just forgot). Lourdes couldn't guess Kacey's favorite color (yellow) but sang a sweet made-up song to her. Mariah sang "hickory-dickory-dock" in the funniest voice you can imagine, and Chelsea did two dances - an interpretive dance describing the couple's love and a bit of Gangam-style when dared to choose a popular dance.

But the highlight of this game was when Kacey drew a card that dared her to prank call the groom. She borrowed Chelsea's phone and patched it through her Google Voice number so he wouldn't recognize it and put the call on speaker. She pretended to be a census worker and asked Becker demographic questions, mispronouncing his name and asking if his cats, Leo and Theo, were children in the residence. She tried to disguise her voice but didn't do a very good job, but he played along and answered her questions in a very serious manner while we all struggled to stifle our laughter.

Finally she wound up the call and said goodbye, and he said goodbye, but added in a complete deadpan voice "I love you." We all exploded with shrieks of pent-up laughter - it was the silliest and most romantic moment I've witnessed in a long, long time.

About 10 minutes later, Chris called back on Chelsea's phone and Kacey put it on speaker. He was pretending to be a pizza delivery person, but Kacey was having none of it and just said "I love you too" before she hung up.

There were also some gifts given, including a silicone sex toy and a deck of D/s cards, plus a very nice riding crop that was used to shatter a penis-shaped pinata (Lourdes managed it after everyone else had failed). Lourdes gave Kacey a book of old-fashioned wedding advice; we took turns writing our own messages into it before Kacey arrived.

Saturday morning was the wedding rehearsal, so I met Kacey's father Richard for the first time, plus Becker's parents Elly and Louis, and his Uncle Bill, plus Joan's husband Bruce - all waiting outside for the Baha'i Center to open. Eventually we went to the Argo Tea to wait, along with Storm and her boyfriend Daniel and sister Hannah, plus Rijard and Derek, and just about everybody from the bachelorette party, plus Becker and Jonathan (Foggy), the best man. Plus, I met  Illona again, who was at the engagement party and is doing the video for the wedding.

Once we finally got inside there was a great bustling about with setting up lights and decorating with paper flowers, plus Storm, Daniel and Hannah rehearsed their music (violin, piano and cello, respectively). I went around and made sure I knew how everyone in the wedding party wanted their names pronounced, but mainly just took photos and chatted with friends.

One of Kacey's friends I met was Emily, who is doing Kacey's makeup. I've heard a lot about her but we've never met before. Kacey has always told me I need to meet her and now I see why - she's beautiful, charming and a wonderful touch communicator. We sat together and talked for a while and she was lightly touching Rijard's head, who was sitting next to me in front of her. I said I loved the way she touched him and we enjoyed a lovely little interplay of touch between our hands and arms. So it was quite a memorable first encounter with her.

The highlight of the rehearsal was when we were doing the first run-through and Kacey slipped on the stage steps. I was sitting in the front row and managed to catch her a little to keep her from hitting her back on the edge of the stage. Hopefully that won't happen tomorrow! She wasn't hurt, so we were able to laugh it off but it was a close call.

After rehearsal, we all went to a restaurant called North Square at the edge of Washington Square Park for a private lunch. I sat next to Kirsten and got to know her a bit more. I also got to see Joan again - we saw each other randomly at the Watson play that Katie, Kacey, Becker, Derek and I went to see last month. She's doing a site-specific play called Bitten starting next month that I want to see.

As we left the restaurant, I walked Lourdes to her car and we had a nice chat. She's dealing with some relationship drama so I suggested that she come to my women's group meeting on Monday to talk it out. She gave me a lift for the short distance to Union Square so we could keep talking and dropped me off at the subway station. I did some grocery shopping and made a hair appointment for tomorrow before going home to clean up the apartment before Puck arrives tomorrow for the wedding.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

New Year's Eve recap

This year's New Year celebration was very low-key because Puck's grandfather passed away the weekend before New Year's. He was buried on Sunday and then Monday I went to sit shiva with their rabbi and the family and we told stories about him. My one story was an occasion where he put my hand in Puck's hand and said something like, "Love each other!" It was a small gesture, but it made me really happy. Being in a relationship with Puck has not always been greeted with enthusiasm by Puck's family, but I always thought that their grandfather was the one person who was genuinely pleased to see us together.

When I told that story, one of Puck's cousins added that the gesture was personified the kind of person their grandfather was - that he always welcomed outsiders and tried to make them feel comfortable. At this point, Puck's sister Ella made a face and rejoined that when she brought home her first boyfriend, her grandfather locked himself in a room with him and lectured the boyfriend for 30 minutes on how Ella should be treated! Since he didn't feel the need to do that to me, apparently he was satisfied with the way I treated Puck when we were dating :)

It was also the first time I've seen the Staten Island house since it was devastated by Sandy. I saw the damaged house right after the storm when I went to fetch my movie projector, but I haven't been back since because it's taken about this long just to become habitable. The remodeled first floor looks great, although it's very bare with no art, no bookshelves, no piano and minimal furniture. The lighting is like a gymnasium, with rows of ceiling spotlights instead of relying on lamps and chandeliers so it kind of looks like a dance studio. The kitchen is also all new appliances and cabinets, of course. And there are improvements to the carpets and hardwood floors throughout the house, plus fresh paint on the walls. There's been a lot of work done in 2013, and I'm sure they are only too glad to put last year behind them.

Tuesday night I was back for New Year's Eve, and it was mostly just family. They had planned a bigger party, but with the unexpected death it was obviously called off. We had a late supper and counted down the clock. As for the third year in a row, Puck and I shared our first kiss in the new year. Then Father Frost came downstairs and handed out presents. I got a book of nude photography, a graphic novel compendium, a Marc Chagall bookmark and a snowman magnet for my refrigerator. I already had given Puck their present at Christmas, a Chinese chop engraved with the translation of their new legal name, Robin Goodfellow, done by the reliable Mr. Pei in Chinatown.