“We’ve got a date for Luke and Taylor’s wedding” Susan said when she finished a call from Margaret Greene. “October 22nd in New York City! An evening wedding so you’ll need a tux and I’m shopping for a new dress tomorrow.”
“Great. It won’t be too cold. I’ve got a tux—somewhere, maybe in the attic.”
“You’re not going to embarrass me with that ancient thing. Just buy a new one,” she said with a stern stare.
I shrugged and said, “We’ll see. I’m surprised it’s not in the spring.“
When Susan returned from a tour of stores that she frequented, she said grimly. “I’ve got to lose ten pounds before the wedding. We had so much gelato in Italy. I’m going to start walking again tomorrow morning. I look terrible trying on clothes in fitting rooms, the mirrors, bright lights, yeech.”
I nodded sympathetically. Denials would be summarily dismissed, and I certainly shouldn’t agree.
I priced tuxedo purchases and rentals. I learned that the cost of a new tux was not much more than a rental, but inclusion of the shirt, cummerbund, tie, and highly shined shoes led to a rental from Macy’s at Brookwood that I could return to Macy’s on 34th Street in Manhattan.
Susan stepped out early on her three-mile route around Highland Golf Course and over several hills in Forrest Park. In a couple of weeks, the scales rewarded her and she persisted until she exceeded her goal. She found a stunning burgundy velvet gown for the wedding and a bright red dress with a long jacket for the Rehearsal Dinner. Every few days she modeled them for me and prompted me to confirm that they looked better and better as she shed pounds. Indeed, she did.
We planned to go early to enjoy New York. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s mega-hit Hamilton was on our wish list, but it was sold out for months and the brokers’ prices were setting records. “You only go around once, let’s do it,” said Susan. I took a deep breath, and said, “Let’s go for it.”
One Sunday, the New York Times featured Swedish soprano Nina Stemme, the lead in Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde. Although we are not long time opera fans, Susan insisted that we should have this experience at the Met at Lincoln Center. With limited enthusiasm, I agreed.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19TH. The 6 am flight enabled us to arrive before lunch at the Sixty Soho downtown at 60 Thompson Street and we were soon on the streets, casually looking for a restaurant with outdoor tables on a warm, sunny day in lower Manhattan. Finding nothing that seemed quite right, we hailed a cab to Bryant Park for a late lunch under the trees.
After an afternoon nap, we went to the Richard Rogers Theater. Our seats were excellent and the highly touted play did not disappoint. The actors, including the replacement for Lin-Manuel, were outstanding. A racially diverse group in colonial dress singing hiphop/rap lyrics made themselves understood. Mad King George and a foppish Thomas Jefferson provided comic relief in the story that extends from Hamilton’s arrival as an orphaned immigrant through the Revolutionary War and the Constitutional Convention and concludes with Hamilton’s death in a duel with Aaron Burr. The play was well worth the price of the tickets.
A drink on the roof bar of our hotel with the World Trade Center and other buildings surrounding us concluded our first day in New York.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20TH. I went to the Ground Game, a scruffy coffee shop around the corner, and returned with pastries and strong coffee. Revived by a good night’s sleep, we walked through Greenwich Village to the Whitney and greatly enjoyed two special exhibits. One was on abstract artist Carmen Herrera and the other was two floors of portraits, some conventional but most not, drawn from the collection.
We had a light lunch on the museum’s terrace despite a stiff breeze. Our view included the High Line, the Standard Hotel and its Boom Boom Room where we celebrated Susan’s retirement with our kids and the Greene’s family. We took note of the water towers atop vintage buildings in the Meatpacking District.
Dinner was at the hotel’s Sessanta Ristorante with Marg, Margaret’s junior high school friend, and Margaret. We caught a taxi to the famous jazz club, Birdland, for an 11 pm show (after our usual bedtime!). Jane Monheit sang in the style of Ella Fitzgerald backed by her husband on drums, a talented piano player, and a tall bassist. At 1:30 am, the rooftop bar was closed because of cool, wet weather, but we enjoyed the misty view.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21ST. Our taxi struggled through heavy traffic to Club 21 for a great lunch. A profusion of toy planes, trains, soccer balls, and football helmets were suspended from the ceiling. Tuxedoed waiters provided attentive service as if we were celebrities.
After a short walk to MOMA, we bought toys for the young grandkids. With no special exhibits of great interest and long lines on this rainy afternoon, we returned to the hotel to rest fro the Rehearsal Dinner.
Marg shared a cab with us to the Broadway address on the invitation, but no restaurant was in sight when we emerged. Marg knew the way and led us to the West Broadway location.
We were seated with two of Taylor’s uncles, Marty and Stephen Scheinman and their wives. All were very pleasant. Marty related stories of hosting Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi for fundraising events at his home. Scotty and Margaret made gracious, heartfelt comments before Luke and Taylor’s friends shared stories and wished the couple all the best. One woman gave her message in rap. We skipped the after party.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22ND. We slept late and conserved our energy for the big evening ahead of us. A late lunch in the hotel bar. I walked through a light rain in Tribeca past a sculpture of five shiny, oversized cherries in a fountain by the shameless Jeff Koons.
My destination was the new subway station at “ground zero” designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. He stated that the dramatic structure with white wings extending 150’ into the air evoked the release of a dove. Inside, the hall where 250,000 transit riders pass through daily looked like a cathedral with a thin skylight. The World Trade Center was visible through the rain. Impressive!
At 6:15, we joined other guests in the hotel lobby awaiting shuttles to Tribeca 360. A glamorous group. The wedding was on the upper floor of a mid-rise by Manhattan standards. Flutes of champagne were offered in the lobby before we stepped onto the elevator.
We moved into a large room facing north and took our seats for the wedding. All chairs faced a low stage with a traditional Jewish chuppah with a white cloth and flowers. The lights of Manhattan sparkled in the background. Luke’s sister, Riley, and Taylor’s sister Claudia, and their parents stood behind the bride and groom. Luke bent to welcome his groomsmen with an embrace and he took the hand and kissed the bridesmaids on the cheek as they came to the chuppah. Scotty had to brush tears off his cheeks several times. Undoubtedly others on the stage had tears in their eyes as well.
Luke’s high school teacher in speech and drama conducted the wedding and began with very appropriate observations on marriage. Taylor read the vows that she had written expressing her love for Luke, and her commitment to spend her life with him. Luke reciprocated with his own vows. Rings were exchanged along with the traditional affirmations, “I do.” An atmosphere of love and hope suffused the room. A truly warm celebration.
For the reception, a band played in front of floor-to-ceiling windows offering a panoramic view of the World Trade Center, other buildings, and the New York harbor in the twilight. Large tables piled high with appetizers flanked the band. The quantity of food was sufficient to serve dinner for all the guests with
leftovers for several homeless shelters, but these were appetizers before the wedding and the dinner afterwards.
Susan was stunning in her burgundy velvet dress. I snapped a couple of pictures next to the sax player. As we nibbled on shrimp and tidbits of chicken and chatted with other guests, I thought I might be an extra in a movie.
We moved around to a large room on the same floor for a seated dinner, a
dance floor, and a band. Luke led Taylor onto the dance floor for the ceremonial first dance. Then Bobby danced with Taylor and Luke with Margaret. The band played a Norah Jones song the Greenes always played on arrival at their home in San Juan. Then many of the guests came to the dance floor for the first of many times that night.
An excellent dinner was served. We sat with Scotty’s classmates from Birmingham University School including Edmund Siebels and Claude Johnston. Susan pressed me to dance, and I enjoyed it so much she had to ask for a break from time to time. Margaret and Susan danced with one of the guests in a wheelchair. Much later we found our way to the shuttle and the hotel.
A joyous celebration!
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2016. The happy guests, still aglow, gathered for brunch with a large spread in the hotel lobby bar. Everyone shared their favorite moments at the wedding and complimented the bride, groom, the wedding party and guests. The wedding was a huge success.
We packed and moved to the Sofitel Hotel on 44th Street. We strolled Fifth Avenue, reminisced about the Easter Parade and the fancy hats there, and had a drink at the Plaza Hotel. We marveled at the elegance, relaxed, and felt mellow. Once again, we asked ourselves, “How lucky are we?”
At 7 pm, a taxi took us to dinner at Gotham Bar and Grill where we met Scotty and Margaret and their neighbors Ellen and Ed. We shared stories about our favorite part of the wedding celebration, commiserated on the presidential election, and talked about how to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Of course, the food and atmosphere were excellent and the discussion was good.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2016. We slept in to catch up on our rest and prepare for the opera that evening. We enjoyed a walk on Fith Avenue and Madison Avenue and found our way to the Boathouse Restaurant in Central Park. We relaxed until a table was ready and had a delightful meal on the terrace as we have many times in the past. The weather was post card perfect. Perfect for a walk back to our hotel.
We hailed a taxi not long after 5 pm to allow time time get to Lincoln Center during rush hour. We had extended our stay to see Nina Stemme perform the role of Isolde. An article in the New York Times cited her as the world’s best soprano.
We passed the gushing fountain on the plaza in front of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center and approached the hall with its four-story, arched windows revealing crystal chandeliers and two white staircases regally carpeted in red and curving to the upper lobbies. The white marble walls and floor affirmed the grandeur of the hall. Silhouetted above the entrance, large block letters announced the opera, TRISTAN AND ISOLDE.
After our tickets were scanned, we were directed to the parterre level. A young woman in a maroon coat with gray lapels asked to see our tickets and led us to a door she unlocked. Inside was an anteroom with coat hooks and a door to an opera box with three tiers and twelve straight chairs. Our view of the stage was excellent. A small screen in front of each seat showed a translation of Wagner’s German lyrics into English.
Beyond a low railing was the cavernous expanse of the hall. A wide curtained stage flanked by six rows of boxes lined the walls to the ceiling. Crisp modern lines of gold reflected modern design. We were not in the elaborately decorated, historic opera houses we had seen in Venice and Paris, but it was indeed grand.
I read the program about the Swedish soprano and a summary of the intricate plot. I was weary. The rehearsal dinner and the reception had kept us out after midnight. The thought of five hours of opera weighed on me, but I reminded myself that this experience was extraordinary.
The conductor entered to applause, bowed and took his position in the orchestra pit, and the curtain rose. A significantly overweight Tristan began with a mournful solo, and Isolde trilled for a while in response. I settled in for a long evening of sturm und drang. Projected videos of waves and dramatic music conveyed the atmosphere of a sea voyage. Sailors entered from the wings to announce land was near and the king was on the dock. Rather than pulling hairs out of my legs to keep awake, I began to follow the rivalry between Tristan and the king, rooting for Tristan.
Susan and I compared notes during the intermission in the splendid lobby. A few couples were dressed formally, although a few wore Levi’s and sweatshirts. People sipped champagne and drinks. A scene of elegance.
Wagner’s lyrics captivated me with the Romantic era’s emotions of love and death. The lovers’ willingness to die to be together in the long darkness of eternity was gripping. I was fully absorbed in the drama and the singing. The remainder of the performance moved steadily toward a resolution with Tristan death with Isolde at his side at the end. The opera was almost over when Tristan, the fat man, sang. I was converted to opera and joined Susan in congratulating ourselves for this terrific cultural experience.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 24TH. Up early in a cab to LaGuardia for our flight to Atlanta and on to Birmingham. We shared a plate of chicken tenders at Friday’s as we have often done on our way home from trips abroad.
Susan rested and dressed for a Blue Cross Board Meeting, and I prepared for my writing class. A great time at the wedding and in New York.
Later that evening we rejoiced in our good fortune.