Sunday, April 26, 2009

One Night in Hinckley

(Sunday morning)
I left my umbrella in the suitcase. I left the suitcase in the guest room. I'm in rainy Minneapolis, in the same place I wrote from yesterday. I'm staring at a steady downpour, feeling lucky that I'm parked just a half a block away, on the corner of University and SE 14th.

So the question remains: do I belong here or there or somewhere completely new? There is rain everywhere and forgotten umbrellas in most interiors. I moved to Long Beach nine days ago and I still can't picture the apartment. Although I do see glow-in-the-dark cat eyes under furniture and I still hear the distant race cars going faster than I ever could dream. I, on the other hand, will slow down and walk the ill-numbered streets (should there really be six blocks between 1st Street and 4th Street?)

(Saturday night)
The wedding reception was a subdued affair. Given the legends I had heard about the groom's family gatherings and the bride's hometown, I had expected wild singalongs, drunken jigs, and long rambling toasts involving sailors, amplifiers, rural Minnesota outlaws, rogue cable guys, and the darker side of the sub-Hollywood elite. Instead, it was oddly (bot not wrongly) quiet for a wedding - almost regal without being too formal.

Sure, I could have danced to more than one song and maybe I could have told that inappropriate story involving guitars, women, and the Afghan Whigs. But I had other myths on my mind. I am forward thinking in my legends. What is most important is that the bride and groom love each other (yes), their families and friends are happy for them (yes, yes), and someone had the guts to request Jack and Diane (yes because what's more appropriate at a wedding than the words "Life goes on. Long after the thrill of living is gone"?*)

The ceremony itself - held at a fur trading post - was a nice one. I choked up at one point. A woman with a beautiful voice was singing a bible-adapted Daniel Johnston song as a harpist played a completely different song. The woman with the voice was looking at the bride and groom. The harpist was looking at the harp. The voice and the words it was singing won out over the harpist and her biblical lilting. The singer's song built and built and repeated its first words ("love is patient and kind") and its final words ("love never ends.") Somewhere in Texas, Daniel Johnston himself raised a Mountain Dew toast and grinned widely. In front of him, a black pen rested on a drugstore notebook scrawled with words better than these.

At one point in the evening, my ex-girlfriend and ex-wife were seated to the right of me discussing the killing of a Nazi with a lead pipe. To the right of them, my ex-wife's new boyfriend was urging the groom's best friend (a 40-year old gay virgin with a carpeted bathroom and a frequently updated LinkedIn profile) to do shots with him later. Meanwhile, I was talking about public transportation options in Chicago and Los Angeles with a librarian that Mike probably should have introduced me to sooner.

And then they took our dinner plates away. And then they brought dessert. And then I remembered California and the cats and the problems and the ocean. The small world got too big. Dessert and coffee and more table conversations passed. I went to the bathroom to stare at the mirror and consider all of the circumstances in my life. The groom's family's monsignor was in there combing his hair. He said to me "What a night." I smiled and nodded and washed my hands.

(Sunday morning)
And now I sit in the half-booth in the corner. I notice that the rain has slowed down. I have three people to call, to talk about possible lunch and dinner plans. No, make that four. I want to see them all before I fly back tomorrow morning. I might pull it off. There's a young couple seated next to me. They're doing the Sunday crossword puzzle together. I'm so happy for them.

(scrolldown afterword)
The young couple gave up on the crossword puzzle and are trying Sudoko instead. I'm less happy for them.

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