My good friend Pete Dimas got married this weekend, and I was in the wedding party. This is his second wife, and he’s marrying Holly – a beautiful girl from Chile, who barely speaks English.
As a member of the wedding party, I was told to be at Pete’s parents by 1:00 on Saturday.
I arrived at 12:30, knowing damn well that Pete would be running late. I got out of the car and was greeted by a man who was standing in the driveway. I sort of recognized the man.
“I know who you are,” he scowled. “I woulda beat you in the playoffs if Terrell Owens hadn’t gone over 100 yards week 15.”
I joined the Dimas family fantasy football league the first year they formed it. They’ve never forgiven me for winning it. This was Jerome. He started telling me about his team, but Pete’s father came out of the house and saved me.
“Get in here!” he smiled and gave me a huge hug.
Pete’s father and mother are among the most welcoming and warm people I have ever known. They have 5 kids including Pete, which has turned into nearly a dozen grandkids – many of whom still live with them.
“You want coffee?” Pete’s dad offered. “Come in the kitchen and talk to me. I wanna hear all about your family. Pete’s running a little late.”
We sat and caught up. I told him about my family and my kids. He told me about his job and all his grandkids. We talked about the playoffs and the World Series. He showed me the room I was staying in.
“I made ‘em put that pillow in there for you.”
Pete…as always…was running late. Over 2 hours late. He had to pick up the Chileans in Queens, rent a van, deliver flowers. I sat down on the couch, watched football and met some new family members. Nothing in the house would have made you think a wedding was happening in less than 4 hours. Pete’s dad came and sat down next to me.
“Check out this phone, will ya? The thing is amazing! It’s even got a camera. Look at this.”
Pete’s dad had never had a smartphone – and apparently he thought I’d never seen one either.
“Now watch this…I hit right here…and look, there are the numbers. I dial them up and it makes the phone call. Just like a phone, right?”
He spent the next 20 minutes showing me the details of his phone. It could make calls, text, tell time…he was giddy with all it could do.
“Hang on, now. Get this. I wanna show you a photo I took of my nephew.”
He brought up the photo gallery and began flipping through each photo searching for his nephew. Pete’s dad drives a truck for a living and he has been taking photos with his phone through the window of his truck when he sees things that strike him.
“Look at this. That’s the pier where I drop off sometimes. See that – it’s a plane on top of a barge. Crazy, right? Oh, and check this out…see I got the Statue of Liberty there, and if you look back there it’s the Empire State. Nice right. Watch, I can zoom in too.”
He walked me through at least 50 photos taken while he drove.
Now let me be clear. This may sound awful, and with almost any other person on Earth it would have been. But Pete’s dad is so kind and he was so thrilled to share his phone that it was absolutely terrific fun. I couldn’t have been happier. After nearly an hour he moved on from telling me about his phone and started on how he manages the hot water heater.
“In the summer I put it at 110, but in the winter I put it at 170. I like to take a bath. Yeah, I’ll be in there for hours. I love it. I sit there. Relax. Think about life. Sometimes I’ll have a scotch…”
I saw an idea light up behind his eyes.
“You know, Peter and Tommy brought over a bottle of scotch at Christmas. Really nice stuff.”
“Are you offering me a scotch?”
“Hell yeah. We’ll drink to Pete’s wedding.”
He broke out the bottle and poured us each a scotch. This was great stuff. A small sip sat on your tongue and stayed there burning and oaky for minutes after you’d swallowed it down.
“Let’s just have a little more. We’ll save some for Peter when he gets here.”
He poured a glass for Pete and refilled our glasses. At that moment Pete burst in the house. The time was 3:38.
Pete hugged me, hugged his dad, pounded his scotch, and whisked me away. He was running way behind. His phone was ringing every few minutes and he was receiving a continuous stream of texts.
We went to his brother Tommy’s house to shower, shave, and get dressed. We had to get to the wedding location fast so we could pose for the photos before the wedding. The wedding was at 7:00. We arrived at 6:05.
The place was a professional wedding factory. They have 4 spaces and 8-12 weddings every day. We found a bar, got drinks, and then found Holly.
At this moment I experienced a great moment of relief. Until this point, I figured there was a good chance that due to Pete and Holly’s language barriers, there was a decent chance Holly didn’t even realize they were getting married. But Holly was wearing a wedding dress – in fact, she looked gorgeous. She started rapid-firing Spanish at Pete, who tried to calm her down speaking back in soft tones. Everything was running way behind, the photos were not going to happen before the wedding, the Chileans were lost in Queens…I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I heard the word “stressed” several times.
We went outside and found our “wedding coordinator” – a thin woman in a tuxedo named Catherine.
“We’ll take the cart here and get you over to the cottage facility in…Oh no!”
“What?” Pete asked.
“Allright,” she spoke with militant tension, “we have a bride about to come right through here who has demanded that she not see any other brides on her special day.”
“What the hell did she pick this…”
“Pete, you have Holly sit right there. And you three…you make a wall.” She dragged myself, Tommy, and another guy so we were shoulder-to-shoulder in front of Holly. She’d done it just in time. The doors of the facility swung open and a crowd of cigarette-smoking bridesmaids and fussy old ladies came out. Then the bride emerged.
This woman was large. Very large. And she looked like she was at the absolute end of her rope. With smoldering eyes she scanned the area. Her gaze passed over the 3 of us, and then my heart caught as her head snapped back.
“Don’t make eye contact and don’t make any sudden movements,” Tommy whispered. “If she charges, I’ll try and slow her down. You two get Holly out of here.”
After a long moment of paralyzing fear, the bride gave a snort, and then looked away. She hadn’t spotted Holly. We were saved.
Soon thereafter the bridesmaids arrived, they were Chilean girlfriends of Holly and they could speak both English and Spanish. With their help we sorted things out and soon made our way to the waiting suite outside the wedding chapel. Tommy somehow wrangled up a tray of Coronas, and a plate of food arrived. Before I knew it, we were lining up and getting ready to enter the procession.
The wedding ceremony was short – which is the key to a good wedding in my mind. We stood under a gazebo, and Pete’s friend from college, Mike Whitton, officiated the ceremony with great dignity and articulation.
This is Pete’s second wedding; he is 42 years old. He is my friend of over 20 years. He had asked me to stand up there with his father, his brother, and his friend Wayne at this wedding. And I’m not afraid to say that I cried on and off through the whole thing. It was a hell of a lot more emotional than I expected it to be.
Their vows were remarkable. Pete read from Pablo Naruda:
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep
Holly’s friend Danielle translated her vows into English:
You make me so happy. I love you.
Every every every day I will work to make you happy.
And then the party.
- Imagine the regulars at a dive bar in Long Island decide to get dressed up and go to a swanky club
- On the same night, a Latin dance troop is going through town and the dancers and crew break away and go to the club, but still wearing their costumes
- Then a bus breaks down in front of the club. It is a panel of speakers on their way to a diversity conference at the UN. The members of the panel decide to go inside and check out the club.
This party was outrageous. There were beefy Italians dancing in sunglasses with their fists pumping the air. There were Chilean bridesmaids in skin-tight dresses dancing on heels like stilts. There were two Native Americans with long hair wearing pinstripe suits. There was a man dressed as a magician in a sparkling red coat. This was not a crowd you needed to be self-conscious in – people danced like lunatics with limbs flapping wildly.
I was at Table 9, with Pete’s group of friends from college. These were Pete’s closest people. I knew all of them and was thrilled to spend time catching up.
It is something special to be around a group of friends who have been close for over 20 years. It felt good to be around them. They all smiled just being near each other; it was like the whole table was holding hands. This group hasn’t got a damn thing to prove to each other – they’re just fine.
And while I had gone to the same college as them, what I really had in common with them was that all of us had known and loved Pete for more than 20 years. Certainly a good group to spend the evening with.
I snuck out of the reception. I knew if I said goodbye to Pete, he and his brother would demand I stick around. “The bar is open until 3 – I thought you were here to party? Come on!”
I snuck out with Pete’s family, hiding from Pete. His sister and mother led me out to their van where we waited another 15 minutes for Pete’s father to finally show up. Back at the house I fell asleep before my head touched the Yankees pillow.
The next morning, Pete’s dad and I went out to get bagels. As we pulled out of the driveway, he patted me on the shoulder and said, “You’re a part of this family.”
I drove home, heading down the LIE and took the Throgs Neck Bridge into the Bronx. As I got to the peak of the bridge I looked to my left…and there was New York City laid out in its entirety. New York, where I haven’t lived for nearly 10 years but is still such a part of me.
New York where I met Shani. New York where my Jack was born. New York where Pete and I used to meet at the Grass Roots Tavern on a Wednesday night and drink way too many $4 pitchers. New York where Pete and I would go to Yankees games and watch Jason Giambi smash home runs that seemed to go so far they went out of the Bronx, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and just missed hitting the Staten Island Ferry. New York where Pete would bring me and Shani out to Dimas family barbecues on Long Island. Barbecues that lasted 14 hours, where they hired a DJ and rented an entire karaoke system.
I looked to my left again. There was New York laid out from tip to toe. The view was just incredible. And it occurred to me…
Maybe I should try to snap a quick picture of it with my phone.