Sunday, June 23, 2024

Garden Party

Nobody escaped.  All were hurting.  No one woke up well yesterday.  Eventually everybody checked in.  I wrote, "You guys wouldn't let me go home.  You kept saying, 'Come on, you know it's good for you.' You are trying to kill me.  You're evil." 

Everyone had gotten up early, it seemed, but eventually went back to bed.  I tried to get Tennessee to go to breakfast, but he couldn't be rallied.  Later in the day, he sent me this.  

"I ate two quarter pounders, fries, and a large Coke.  I needed that."

I went back to bed at one and woke up at 4:30--reluctantly.  I hadn't even showered.  I put on some clothes and drove to my mother's.  T called me on my way.  

"Dude, that girl bit my ear last night.  What the fuck?"

"It's sure to get infected.  You'll probably lose the top of it."

When I got to my mother's house, she was walking out of the garage.  She looked surprised to see me.  

"I didn't think you were coming.  I thought you were going to a wedding."

What?!  I'd completely forgotten about that.  Holy moly.  We sat down and I began to grumble.  I told her about the night before in vague detail, and she said she hoped my liver was o.k.  I didn't want to go to the wedding.  My eyes weren't even focussing yet.  I sat slumped in my chair.  It was 5:30.  The wedding started at 6:30, but that was just the reception.  They would take vows at 7:30.  I would know no one there.  I could just slip in late.  

"I haven't even tried to put an outfit together.  I should go, I guess.  I don't want to go.  Hell, they won't be looking for me.  I don't know.  I guess I should go.  

At quarter 'til six, I got up and hugged my mother.  

"I'll call you if I can't put an outfit together."

When I got home, I jumped into the shower, then into the closet.  I put on my khaki twill pants and grabbed a pair of pale driving moccasins.  I had just gotten an extra light t-shirt from Buck Mason.  I pulled out an ivory colored linen jacket.  I put everything on and walked to the mirror.  I looked like a disheveled old movie star past his prime from another era.  Eccentric, maybe.  I'd hope for that.  

I got to the mansion on the lake just past seven.  There were not so many people there.  There were the usual aristocratic-looking scions of the village standing together talking about buying jets or playing golf or fabulous places they had recently been.  I recognized the satisfied patter from another life or two somewhere in my checkered history.  It was warm, not hot, but the humidity was killing.  I went to the bartender and got a drink then found a place alone by the pool.  

A server came by with a tray of empanadas and a seductive offer.  I fumbled with the napkins and she laughed, "Take as many as you want."

"I only want one, but I think my hands are still shaky from last night.  I can't seem to get a grip."

"You're doing fine," she giggled reassuringly.  

That empanada had fire in it.  It was terrific.  

I wandered around a bit feeling the fool standing so long alone.  A couple, a female violinist and a man on guitar, played sweet music, so I made a little video to send to my friends.  Three kids stood listening to them with what I took to be their father, and I asked if I could make a picture of them.  

"My goodness, they are just too cute," I cooed in a silvered tone.  I wandered off to find a place to sit, but all the chairs were occupied ,so I stood by a railing above a path leading to the lake.  A gentrified fellow came by and introduced himself.  

"Is this your home?" I asked.  


"It is very lovely. . . a great place for a wedding.  Very generous. . . ." I almost said "old sport," but caught myself at the last moment.  

"How do you know Mr. Tree?" he asked.  

"He trims my trees," I chuckled.  

"Do you live in the neighborhood?"

This was a question I would get from everyone I met that evening.  They seemed all to live in one of the mansions on the lake." 

"No, nearby.  I live off the lake over in the college quarter."

"Oh.. . yes."  

"O.K., Gatsby, thought Nick." 

I might as well have said "I lived in the cottage just up the hill," but I looked into his very sure eyes without blinking.  I've been through this many times before.  When he excused himself to see to the other guests, I laughed to myself that I should have asked him if his daughter was at home.  But I am being awful.  He was a very nice fellow truly.  

In a few minutes, I went through the same conversation with his wife.  She wore a floral dress and white sandals and held her cocktail softly between her well-manicured fingers.  There was the slightest of grins in her light blue eyes.  She lived a good life.

A fellow wearing a top knot, hair shave on the sides walked by, looked, and said, "Nice jacket."  I would later learn it was Mr. Tree's son.  So that was the little terrorist.  Ha!  The kid was a tournament gamer.  He traveled the world.  I didn't understand any of it, but Mr. Tree was very proud.  

When I first arrived, I walked past a car where  a woman alone, motor running, looking at her phone.  When I saw her again, she was speaking with the musicians.  I took a photo and sent it to Tennessee.  

"All older people here except for this."

She seemed a bit outrageous in this crowd, but who was I to talk.  I didn't think that she was wearing Garden Party shoes, though.  

The duo played on and I took another empanada.  Finally, we were asked to walk down to the lawn and take our seats.  

I took a seat in the last row, and in a bit a fellow asked to sit next to me.  He was a Malaysian who lived in Kansas.  Mr. Tree had told me about him before.  He was a cardiologist.  

"We're from the same island," he said.  "Panang."

"Mr. T asked me to come there with him two Christmases ago, but I couldn't make it.  I read that it has a world famous cuisine."

The cardiologist began to tell me much about what I missed and would have experienced if I'd gone.  Then one of his friends came to sit with us and I moved over next to a beautiful woman on my right.  She was Cuban, I think, and, I would learn later, was the makeup artist of the evening.  

Finally, quite late, the processing began.  All phones turned.  

And then. . . holy moly, kids. . . the minister stepped up--and it was the hoochie girl in the pink minidress!

Things, I thought, were pretty wack, and it was O.K. with me.  The ceremony was mercifully brief, and having watched the loving couple jump over the broomstick, we all returned to the veranda where the greeting line had formed to meet the new Mr. and Mrs. Tree.  

Mr. Tree's son and his girlfriend.

Mr. Tree's daughter with the minister, who, it turns out, is her very good friend.  

I chatted with the minister for a bit.  I told her that I had officiated a wedding once, too, in Yosemite.  This was her first one, she said.  I asked her if she had a flock.  

"Oh, no. . . I just saw that you could become a minister online, and I thought that would be cool.  I can officially sign my name with Reverend."

I told her that sounded fine and that I might try that, too.  She was, it turned out, a real hoot.  

As we waited outside, I talked to a woman who would become my dinner companion for the night, Indira from Punjab.  She and I got on like old friends.  She lived nearby, she said.  She began fanning herself saying, "It is very warm.  Humid."  

"Yes," I said.  "How long have you lived here?"

"Oh. . . forty years."

"You should be used to it by now."

"Yes, but I never get used to it."

The sun was low on the horizon when we went in to be seated.  Indira asked, "Do you mind if I sit with you?"

"I would be charmed," I smiled.  

We were joined by the cardiologist, the makeup artist and her husband, and a Columbian woman with what I guessed was her husband.  I excused myself to get something from the bar.  

"May I get you anything?" I asked Indira.  

"Oh, no. . . I'm fine."

The Columbian woman was a bit of a circus act.  Her English was weak, but she was lively.  Her husband looked away when she got loud or started dancing in her seat.  She was a dance instructor, she said, and she was a very big flirt.  Her husband seemed quite embarrassed but to his credit, he never tried to calm her down.  She was wonderfully animated and very dramatic.  

I asked Indira all about her life.  She had been married.  She had one child, a daughter who lived in New York.  Her daughter had gone to Brown and was high up the chain of command with the National Baseball League.  

"Does she get down to see you much?"

"Yes.  She comes down a couple times a month."

"Do you get to New York?"

"Oh, yes, quite a bit." 

Another duo played, a harpist and a guitarist.  I was surprised that they could improvise an Indian tune that sounded like the Caribbean.  Things were strange.  I was glad I had decided to come.  

We were asked to go by tables to have our pictures taken with the bride and groom, after which we were to go to the serving line.  And my oh my oh my. . . it was a real spread and the food was more than delicious.  Indira, it appeared, was a vegetarian who did not drink, but her plate was full.  So was mine.  Beautiful vegetables, curried chicken and some other kind, too.  Noodles, two kinds of rice, roast beef, and mangos with sticky rice.  Both Indira and the cardiologist certified the food as authentic and very good.  

When we finished, both the cardiologist and Indira wanted more mango and sticky rice.  I told Indira to stay seated, I would bring her some.  I stood up and squeezed past Mr. Tree's daughter who was sitting with the strumpet minister.  She stood up and said, "Hello."

"Hello," I said back.  

"Do you want to sit with us?" she asked.  "Here."  

She was lovely in her sari and her beautiful, warm Malaysian eyes.  I all but melted, but. . . . 

"Oh, thank you, no. . . I've made friends over here," I said with great regret and righteousness,

When I brought the mango rice back to Indira, she said, "It is alright if you go to sit with them."  Old Indira was quite a gal.  

"Oh, heck no.  I'm very happy here.  They are going to cut the cake in a minute, and I think I am going to sneak out of here after that."

"Me, too," Indira agreed.  

"O.K.  I'll walk you to your car."

It was well after ten when the couple cut the cake and the music began again.  As Indira and I stood to leave, we had to squeeze by Mr. Tree's daughter one more time.  

"Are you leaving?"

"Uh. . . yes.  I'm going to walk my friend to her car."

"Oh.  Well. . . it was nice meeting you."

"You are charming.  I hope we meet again."

"Yes.  Maybe I'll come over for some of your roasted vegetables and tofu." 

When I met her earlier, I told her that I had heard much about her and her brother.  

"Anything good."

"All good."

"How do you know my father?"

"We have dinners together sometimes.  He'll bring over Malaysian food or I will cook."

That is when she learned of the roasted veggies.  I foolishly wondered if she would really come over, but I knew it didn't matter.  I would never be able to look at her and not see Mr. Tree.  I would never be able to do it.  He'd spoiled all of that for me.  But I was pretty sure now I wanted to take him up on his invitation to stay with him in Penang.  

The night had been far better than the movie I had planned to watch.  It had been a heck of a weekend, and I felt sure I should get out of the house more.  

It was late when I got home, but I started the movie anyway.  I poured a scotch.  I wouldn't be to bed before midnight.  Selavy.  

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