At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Thursday, August 05, 2004


On Thursday night I stayed up watching movies until 3:00, then showered, packed, and drove through the moonlit plains to Lubbock. I was in the airport so early that even the security checkpoint hadn't yet opened up. The flight was pretty smooth, and I whiled away the 2 hour DFW-Midway leg of the trip by talking to (or listening to) the adjacent passenger, a chatterbox Chicagoan with stereotypically flat accent. We touched down early so I was able to grab my luggage quickly and get out to the passenger pick-up area outside, where I waited for my friend Estevan, the groom, to drive up. It was interesting to see in the bustling crowd visibly diverse cultural groups one doesn't encounter very much in white bread West Texas: Lubavitcher patriarchs with their quasi-Amish garb, grizzly beards, and large families in tow; Franciscan nuns in full habit; Islamic women wearing hajib. After forty minutes or so of waiting curbside, though, the novelty wore off and I began to get worried that Estevan had broken down on the freeway. I walked back inside the airport a couple of times to look for him near the baggage carousel. Eventually I called his cell phone and left a message without much hope, but in a few minutes he pulled up to the curb. It turned out he had been waiting inside all the while and we had missed each other.

We spent hours over the weekend crawling along in sluggish big city traffic. First we drove from Midway to Estevan's old neighborhood in Bucktown (he now lives in California) to get lunch at a sandwich shop, and then we took another long, slow drive north to the suburbs to pick up our tuxes, and yet more driving to poshWinnetka, where I gaped at the tree-shaded manors. We had the rehearsal, led by a kindly but somewhat disorganized Lutheran pastor, at the city Community Center. Then the wedding party and family members walked a few blocks to the quaint downtown for a rehearsal dinner at an upscale barbeque restaurant; there were probably forty of us occupying three long tables. The Yankees did a surprisingly good job at the barbeque; the pork ribs were tender and there was plenty of wine(!) to wash it down. I remember mostly talking about pop culture with Estevan's brothers (one of whom I hadn't seen since he was a skinny middle school kid and who, recently graduated from college, now looks like a quarterback). I got back to the hotel about eleven, I think.

Next day was busy. After lots of preparation, we in the groom's party drove through still more clogged suburban traffic to the bride's parent's house in Mundelein for the Vietnamese ceremony. While assorted relatives clicked their digital cameras, we groosmen filed from the front yard into the house, holding trays of edible/potable gifts wrapped in red cellophane. The most unusual of these gifts from a Western perspective was probably the 35-pound whole roast pig, a pretty disgusting sight actually with the flesh of the skull half burnt away. The gifts were offered at a home altar to pictures of deceased ancestors. The bride's parents lit sticks of incense and bowed to the ancestors, the couple also paid their respects, and then each of the bride's relatives offered words of advice and monetary gifts to the couple. The women were dressed in brightly colored Asian dresses and the bride was distinguished by a gold-colored round headpiece, rather like a halo. The ceremony was perhaps more touching than the usual Western ceremony because lots of the bride's relatives got choked up when talking to the bride. Afterwards there were snacks and conversation. The bride's family is a testimony to the Asian immigrant work ethic; I met an attorney, a couple of physicians, an engineer, and a professional mathematician from Toulouse who is also a virtuoso violinist in his spare time (see below).

Then more driving back to Winnetka for the Western ceremony. It was held in a courtyard bordered by ivy-covered brick archways. A violin-piano duo played classical music. I got to read Shakespeare's "Marriage of True Minds", the Franco-Vietnamese cousin played an intense Bach partita, vows and rings were exchanged and we headed back in to eat. The DJ was excellent, playing good soft jazz (Miles Davis, Antonio Carlos Jobim) during the meal, some Van Morrison ballads during the slow dances, and then some Gen-X pop for the uptempo dancing.

The next morning Estevan and his wife picked me up from my hotel (it’s truly a good friend who would give you a ride the day after his wedding!) and we dropped off the tuxes, ate Japanese food for lunch (I had katsudon and green tea), and headed to the airport. Unfortunately American Airlines had some sort of nation-wide computer glitch, so my flight was delayed about 1 ½ hours. Otherwise the trip back was uneventful.

It’s a drag being back in Texas, but it was nice to experience a brief escape from exile.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best wishes to the newlyweds!

You're right about the roasted pig, though. (grin)

If you ever do get around to seeing Manor House, be on the lookout for the Roast Pig Incident.


1:16 PM  

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