Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lost in History vows 1-4: the Wedding Blitz

For those of you who haven't been up to speed with the stories and subjects of my whirlwind life, there's a whole lotta marriage going on. From the middle of September to the middle of October I have been invited to, and plan on attending, 6 weddings over 6 consecutive weekends, taking place in 4 different states - NJ, NY, CA & MA. The last wedding I attended was a long time ago, possibly 6 or 8 years back. And now we have 6 weddings in 6 weekends. When it rains, it absolutely deluges. Some of my friends have remarked that this must be a sign of growing up; some have mentioned that maybe I might hear the jangling of bells in my own immediate future (not just yet, thankyouverymuch); some have exquisitely pointed out that I should be getting very drunk and hopefully very laid over 6 separate wedding weekends; and to quote my darling brother Gideon: "Wow. 6 weddings in 6 weekends. 30's coming up soon, bitch." So what follows is a blow-by-blow wedding blitz breakdown extravaganza - complete with pictures, descriptions, social breakdowns, stories and comments of the first four weddings.

Wedding Number One: Jordan Hoffman & Anne Farrell, Seabright NJ, Sept. 13th
Jordan Hoffman is a former tour guide for the Levys' Unique New York, but moved on to bigger and better things (or so he claims) working for UGO entertainment as well as making films on the side. More importantly, Jordan has been loving and living with his wonderful, wondrous girlfriend / fiance / life-partner Ann Farrell for many years now, 5 out of their 7 in coupleship. The sweethearts live in Astoria, Queens, in an apartment crammed with geekitude of the highest order - graphic novels, Star Trek figurines, a million Jazz albums, '50s retro kitschware in the kitchen, and a fatso catso named Goober. Jordan and Ann are lovers of life - fun loving fun having people. I would certainly and sincerely call them jolly, as well as funny-as-all-get-out.
The wedding was held on the beach (yes, those are random bathers in the background) and in a catering hall in Seabright New Jersey, about 2 1/2 hours from the city. It was a packed car all the way down there as the entire Levy clan attended. The short, delightful festivities were held on the beach, so that as Jordan and Ann yukked their way through the vows (Kerry, the officiator: "To have and to hold for better or for worse, in richer or in poorer, til death do us part." Jordan: "Can you repeat that last part again?" Ba-dum dum bum,) there were total strangers in bathing suits and with boogie boards strolling past the event. Made for great pictures. After the vows, after the huzzahs and the hoorays, after the cheers and whoop-tahs, we all went inside to get drunk and fed and danced and romanced. On the whole, a wedding filled with laughter and joy, humor and irreverence. Also a 30's style radio mic, and a killer DJ. Good interaction between the various friends, family and associates of the Hoffman / Farrell crews. More pictures of the Hoffman/Farrell funtimez are here.

Wedding Number Three: Jonathan Tull and Nina Isaacson, Mendocino Woodlands Park, California, Sept. 20-21
This wedding was clear on the other side of the country, but Jonah and I had been planning a vacation away from the city for a while - it had been the busiest summer Ive ever had, with non-stop work weeks gunning all the way through July & August, then two back-to-back tourism conferences in September - one in San Antonio Texas, the other in downtown Brooklyn. After all that tour guiding and biz building it was time for a well deserved get-away, to visit friends in San Fransisco and chockup another wedding on the calendar. Off to California, and the Jon Tull - Nina Issacson freak flag wedding in the woods! Jon Tull was the bookkeeper for LUNY and fronted a funny kind of bipolar humor, vacillating between a laid back California stoner dude 'tude to an anal retentive number-crunching Brooklyn busybody - well suited for his bookkeeping facilities. He met his not too blushing bride here in Brooklyn and although I had never met her before the wedding itself, she and I are both babies of 1980, and grewup in relatively relational Brooklyn hoods - Flatbush and Park Slope, attending Murrow and Stuyvesant High Schools respectively. I should've known this chick, probably slept with her in another life, but our paths never crossed.
Their wedding was held in the breathtakingly beautiful redwood forest campground about 3 hours north of San Francisco, 4 1/2 if you get lost getting out of SF and again if you get lost in the campground. Which we did. And therefore missed the vows, exchanging of the rings, promises, cheers, jeers and humors. But we made it on time for the festivities, and boy howdy were there enough of those. We rolled in just after the
I Dos (missed by 20 minutes! 20 effing minutes!!!) and stuck around through Monday morning. There was eating, drinking, magnificent speechifying, (no fewer than 4 peeps broke down in tears describing the love and trust of the married couple) and dancing. The food was killer - garlic sausages, grilled asparagus, freshly baked rolls with jalapeno butter. And cupcakes! We imbibed local California keg beer, top notch wine, bourbon, vodka and gin, as well as some of the more illicit California produce.
This particular wedding celebration was operating on its own kind of communal CA attitude - most of the attendees in their 20s and 30s had arrived at the camp on Wednesday, partied through the festivities on Saturday, and returned to the real world Sunday. Us lucky Levy boys got to stay til Monday AM, which meant we closed the party down, along with Nina and Jon, Jon's folks & older brother, Mom's friend and Nina' gal pal; therefore from the Sat night attendance high of 80+, the Sunday night's BBQ had just 9. It was a marvelous everybody-project, where the food, the booze, the illicits, the fun was brought for and consumed by everyone. And with too much food leftover, Jonah and I did our civic duties and brought back to our host in SF all sorts of goodies, including an uncooked pork loin, a case of beer, cheeses, juices, a tray of the aforementioned sausages, and the crowning achievement, a box of cupcakes. Further effects of the wedding in the woods can be discovered here.

Wedding Number Four: Bill Scanga and Sarah Frank, Aboard the Jewel, Up and Down the East & Hudson Rivers, NYC, Sept. 27th
God please, make the weddings stop. Well, maybe not until I've completed my wedding blitz. After a week-long vacation in San Francisco, I took the red-eye back to NYC, arriving 6:30am Saturday. This left enough time to get home, crash out for a few, shake myself awake, shower, shave, suit-up and head out for wedding number four, the glorious union of Bill Scanga and Sarah Frank on board a boat traversing the rivers of our city. Bill is the older brother I never had, a fellow member of the City Reliquary, an avid cyclist and the Vice President of collections at the DR, including but not limited to: pencil sharpeners, marbles, vintage bicycles, exonumia, postcards of the Williamsburg Bridge and more. Bill is also a hysterical human being with an unmatched love for life. The guy is a 12 year old trapped in the body of a 38 year old. And up until Saturday, all I knew about Sarah was that she put up with Bill's shit. But as of Saturday I learned a lot more about Sarah. That she's patient, calm, and has wonderful eyes. That she's on top of her game. That her folks are supercool. And that she's gorgeous, dressed up or down, the girl is a total babe. Bill is luckier than I ever imagined.
What more could one ask for other than a wedding aboard a boat around the East River? Maybe some clear weather, which we didn't receive. All fog and gloom. But nevertheless, the procession was awesome, parked under the Brooklyn Bridge with a very special speech delivered by the Best Man and Officiator of the ceremonies, Dave Herman, President of the Reliquary and Bill's best friend. A live soul band swung the dance floor and the bar kept the partygoers sufficiently tipsy enough, although that could have also been the boat itself. Although the food took forever to get to the buffet tables, the cupcakes as wedding cake (cupcakes are in this season) made up for the delay. As did all that booze and soulful tunes. There was an afterparty at a hip downtown dance club, but the truth is that after numerous bottles of Prosecco and gallons of sweat dumped on the dance floor, there isn't much more to tell about the afterparty, except that the only thing I brought home was my hangover. Other parties might have different stories regarding the afterparty, as well as the tequila shots that were consumed, but don't trust them. Splish Splash more pix!

4 down, 2 more to go.

The Wedding Blitz of 08 is Great!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lost in the Hudson River vol. 74: Bannerman's Castle

It couldn't have been a more perfect day. A wide-open Saturday in the slowly closing August, replete with wide blue skies, beautiful breezes, a temperature floating in the low 80s, and a yellow school bus just aching to take off with its cargo of 30+ New Yorkers to places unknown. This was it: the final Going Places, Doing Stuff adventure of the summer, and as a former GP, DS leader (of the very first one, no less!) and a participant in 6 out of 8 there was no way I'd miss the final blowout. In addition, Jeff Stark, the organizer of today's spectacular, is a friend, colleague and role model, and his knowledge of the hidden, urban, rural, & superb New York is unmatched. I trust this man with my life, and throughout the course of 16 hour day there were many opportunities for those words to sing true, if not always with my life, then instead with my sanity, poise, calm, and the life of my new $700 digital camera.
We met in Queens Plaza, where Jeff introduced himself with a welcome and a warning: the Places we were Going and the Stuff we were Doing was, in some cases, highly illegal and certainly arrestable. There was to be no peer pressure on anybody in case they wouldn't or couldn't participate, IE even the coolest adventure wasn't worth the revoking of a green card and the booting out of a country. That having been said, the day was going to be awesome, occupied by 4 different artists and their 4 wildly disparate projects, all to do with the Hudson River and water and Jeff couldn't wait any longer. So we piled onto our trusty yellow Bucephalus, with the omnipresent, multi-talented, infinitely patient Marcus behind the wheel, and we were off!
First stop - a short fence hop in Long Island City and onto a pier to meet and listen to Marie Lorenz, a New York based artist who builds and sails her own canoes under the title Tide and Current Taxi. She had docked briefly in LIC with her canoe and two passengers on their way to Roosevelt Island and Renwick's Ruin, in order to give an impromptu talk on the power of currents and how she uses them in her project. She told us about how the East River is one of the largest collection of tidal currents in the hemisphere, and by using those streams to propel her boat, she harnesses nature to get where she wants to go.
Next up, a lengthy bus ride to somewhere upstate - nearby Beacon NY - where we crawled through a strategically cut hole in a chain link fence and scampered off to a swimming nook. This nook boasted a couple jump-off points, between 20 and 40 feet up, a picnic area (just a bunch of flattened-off rocks) and most excitingly, another handmade boat, painted tomato-red. This boat came courtesy of Paula Zaslavsky and her partner Dylan Gauthier, two sharp young Brooklynites who used to run the Empty Vessel Project but now work on an ongoing DIY boat building project, Mare Liberum. In between homemade peach cocktails and lunch; before and after trips in their lovely boat and a brief talk about how anybody can build their own pond-worthy sailing vessel; once intrepid venturers had had their fill of divebombing off the rocky steps into the swimming hole, Jeff announced it was time to move on. Farewell gorgeous swimming hole! We had 2 more art-water projects to hit.
After an ice cream and coffee hit in downtown Beacon, we drove until we came to a clearing in the road, and crossing through some bushes and over some very active Amtrak rail lines, until we were standing on the banks of the Hudson. Off in the distance was a crumbling shell of what seemed to be a castle. This was the big exploration - Bannerman's Castle, on Pollopel Island. And Jeff, in all his rational, madcap determination, was going to get us over there.
After a few back and forth trips via one leaky canoe, one tippy kayak and two rockin' zephyr motorboats, the majority of us were on the island, and free to wander around and take magnificent pictures of this unbelievable ruin. Really. Click ahead and see the slideshow.
The story to Bannerman is as eccentric as the building itself. Frank Bannerman VI, born in 1851 and grew up in Brooklyn, was the Father of Army-Navy stores. Inheriting a flag & rope business from his father, he realized the inherrent value of purchasing surplus ammunition, uniforms, heavy artillery, and other goods from post-war governments, and sold them to other nations, at peace or at war. At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, Bannerman purchased 90% of the captured goods in a sealed bid, and needed a remote location to stockpile his collection. His block-long storeroom / showroom at 501 Broadway was no place for such weapons of destruction, so Bannerman purchased Pollopel Island in 1900 and built himself a castle to store his goods. The construction of the buildings took 17 years, not the least of which because Bannerman did most of the loyout & construction himself, without the use of professional architects or engineers. He designed most of it in an outrageous stylized Scottish castle style. The place is magnificent, with little flourishes tucked in the labels and signposts, as well as in the wall sconces and turrets.
Bannerman died in 1918, and his family continued to sell army supplies up through the 70s, but they sold the island and the building to NY State in 1967. Unfortunately, two years later a tremendous fire ripped through the building, which damaged most of the walls, incinerated the ceiling and made the grounds unstable for long-term visitors or tours. We were certainly trespassing, but were doing so with utmost care. (The Friends of Bannerman Island would probably have called the cops on us.) The pictures show the story better than these words can ever do. After an hour or so, after we had a few go-rounds the island, after a near-death experience in which Jean busted his head open via a too-shallow dive, it was time to return to the mainland.
Which we did. Went into town, had some pizza and beer. Visited Swoon's Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, which had been docked up in Beacon for the night, but it really was just an afterthought. Then we piled back onto the bus and returned to New York, getting back to Queens Plaza by 2 in the morning. It was simply splendid - the entire day. Kudos to Flux, to Jeff Stark, to Marcus the driver and to all participants of Going Places, Doing Stuff.