Monday, September 10, 2007

Venice by Foot

Italian sojourns have become my secret travel vice, ever since my exchange student days in Milan. A day in to the Venice leg of the honeymoon reminded me again of this fact - and no sooner than the hour-long vaporetto ride that introduced Wendy & I to the deserted nightlife of post-ferragosto Lido, an accompanying island to Venice. After a semi-restful first night (Wendy's introduction of the paperback thriller "Angels & Demons" kept me turning pages later than I would have liked), the adventure took us by water taxi around to Piazza San Marco and the center of Venice. 10 hours later, we were happily fed (pasta, pizza, frittata mista, and gelattoed out), newly dressed (a wonderful present of a shirt from Wendy and other close calls for her too numerous to list), monumented (the impressive Doge's Palace with an equally superb temporary exhibit on Venice's connection to the muslim world through history), and walked out (including narrow lanes and bridges). Venice by foot is truly a pleasure.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hello from Barcelona

A solitary moment to drop a quick note. On my honeymoon and loving it, after a restful night from a long flight. The weather in northeastern Spain is superb, and the people are their usual festive selves late into the night. I am content the morning after a truly amazing paella and resting in the honeymoon suite which overlooks La Rambla. Who could ask for anything more?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Happily Ever After...

It is a day on from the end of the wedding weekend, and I am still trying to figure out what happened to me. The affair that I thought was just a dream ended up leaving a ring on my left hand and a house full of gifts. What was once a source of stress became at the march of the bride a source of immeasurable joy, such that the rest of the wedding night ended up passing as a cascade of wonderful moments beyond measure.

I remember the wedding ceremony distinctly. Walking along the side of the deck out to the front of the altar, with a closely packed group of onlookers that had been there through so much of my life. After setting myself at the front, briskly walking up the aisle to get my parents. Once at both their sides, focusing all my nerve on walking delicately back down the aisle without engaging them too deeply, lest seeing their beaming faces turn into tears that might throw off my composure. Catching Wendy move like a ghost through the cocktail room before emerging onto the deck, under blusher and escorted by her parents. The red sash about her waist blinding in its beauty and shuffling effortlessly with the billows of her beautiful white dress. The look of terror on her face as she approached - I could tell her heart was racing as much as mine. My wide smile flickering in between tears of joy. Unveiling her million-watt smile by pulling back the veil - but not enough to fall all the way down behind her. Andrea reaching back to pull it fully down, thus finishing the job I started. Grabbing one of Wendy's hands with both of mine. Readings from Mike (way to go buddy - and Colossians at that!) and Sarah. A bunch of words and readings from the pastor that bled together and ended with an exchange of hats (Todd's, Wendy's); in between, a message that strung together a number of poems I had written before as well as words from the pastor to live by in love (humility, compassion, and others) and a clincher from "Message in a Bottle". The start of the vows, with a confident "I will" to resurrect my botched attempts at the the rehearsal on Saturday. Wendy's parents giving her away with another reprieve from the rehearsal - a measured response of "We... her parents, do". All the while, vacillating among many of the feelings that make love so glorious - excitement, nervousness, joy, tears, smiles, joking, laughter, intensity, intention, and longing. The vows with so much else disappearing behind me. Andre' coming to attention at the moment of exchanging the rings. Slipping Wendy's diamond-circled wedding band onto her finger, she slipping my silver ring onto my finger. Lighting the unity candle with Ray arranging "Your Song" in his own way, nearly bringing me back to tears with his beautiful voice. Ray's expert finish of the song blending somehow into a benediction from the pastor. Then, kissing the bride and feeling her luscious lips touch mine to relieve the tension. A huge smile to release the happiness into the crowd. Parading away from the altar and back down the aisle, trying to soak in all that had just happened in becoming bride and groom. Which would not happen on that evening as the receiving line approached and left me with a feeling of watching the greatest hits of my life walk by in the form of family and long-time friends.

So many other memories followed. The beautiful dusk light creating an amazing backdrop for pictures - many, many pictures. Stealing a few appetizers at the end of pictures - courtesy of Heather, our wedding coordinator - before walking out onto the pier for some final shots. Back into the cocktail room to line up for introductions. Stealing a moment myself to share in the joy with Wendy. Being introduced as the new Mr. & Mrs. Todd Alan Strickler before semi-waltzing to a first dance of "Moon River". A touching speech by Dr. Li (father of the bride), the maids of honor (Andrea, Sarah), and an uniquely irreverent address by my brothers as best men. The refutation of "the perfect son" nickname. A wonderful dinner ensuing, salad with mandarin orange and vinaigrette, followed by a trip upstairs to see friends. The main course of crab cake and filet with potatoes and asparagus. The turn-up of the music from that great wedding band, Cityscape, and the sudden dancing of the crowd. A circle around my flailing dance steps, followed by the "band getting back together" - all of my family (mom, dad, Geo, Steve, and Lauren) dancing together in the circle made by onlookers. A short break to catch my breath with Andre' at the chocolate fountain before being whisked in with my mother for the father-daughter, mother-son dance to "What a Wonderful World." More dancing to stir quite a sweat before stepping up for the cake-cutting. Standing by as Wendy threw the bouquet (caught by Megan) then fishing for her garter before finding her leg; then with my newly found treasure, tossing it to find Conor in its possession. Then, strangely, to watch Conor putting the garter onto Megan's leg as our surrogate couple for grabbing the winnings of our tosses. Going outside for some fresh air and ending up in a bonding session with the Considine family (sans Matt) on a gorgeous evening. Somehow ending up back at the altar for more pictures with friends and family, then making an address for the wedding video. Some more bonding time with family and friends before getting in for the last dance, followed by a bunch of loitering and packed buses to leave the venue.

These recollections all come streaming back when I reflect on that blur of a night and what a great evening that it ended up to be. Of course, this was after a boy's night out on Friday to the Cancun Cantina (nothing like a little boot-scootin' with women who could beat you up near the Baltimore airport), a wonderful rehearsal and luncheon subsequent on Saturday to act as prelude for the welcome cocktail reception that carried late into Saturday night. Not to mention the golf outing on the Sunday morning of the wedding to further deprive sleep but also to add to the great times.

All of these events brought me into various contact with all sorts of relatives and life-long friends that added to the magic of the weekend. From beginning to end, a truly magical sort of affair. Now, on to the happily ever after...