This past weekend Laura and I drove down to Florida for the wedding of one of my friends from law school. We took off about 9 p.m. on Friday night and got down there about 2 on Saturday afternoon. The wedding wasn't until 7:30 so we decided to check into our hotel and catch a few z's, since it'd been a long night of driving.
When we found our hotel we became immediately concerned about the quality of the place we were staying. I'm being overly generous when I call the place a crap-hole. For starters the check in desk was located in a separate building with a large, rectangular, black sign hanging over the door, the word "Registration" in white lettering, painted across the front of the tin-sheet sign. I say it was made of a sheet of tin because, well, I've only ever seen tin bent like this thing. It looked like people had taken large chunks of cement and hurled them at the ends of the sign, so that they bent backwards and down, twisted into unusable folds of scrap metal. With the ends bent away the sign no longer read "Registration", instead proclaiming, "through these doors lies 'Gistrat'".
The guy standing behind the Gistrat desk was a diminutive, South-Asian with a comb-over. There's an obviously different sense of style in the Miami area, because even this scrawny fellow had left the top few buttons of his black shirt undone, revealing his chest and about a third of all the gold* chains in the entire state of Florida. To compliment the gaudy chains he also wore several large gold-and-diamond* rings on his fingers, so many in fact that on two of his fingers he had doubled up on rings. It certainly seemed a strange juxtapositioning, this little guy with the thick accent and the obscene amount of tacky gold* jewelry. But who knows, maybe he was dealing coke from behind the Gistrat.
Our room wasn't an improvement over what we'd seen so far. The building smacked of having been thrown up way back in Florida's heyday, in the 50's or 60's or whenever that was. Everything in the room was obviously from that period, and even the best efforts of the housekeeping staff (though I sincerely doubt they gave their best efforts) couldn't diminish the feel that this room had been used thousands of times before, by thousands of different people. Probably at times for some questionable behaviors. Possibly even coke dealing. Possibly by the Gistrat guy.
The sheets were the type that pretty much just sat on the bed, and pulled off to reveal the stained, lumpy mattress the moment you sat down on them. The pillows were flatter than a year-old soda. The shower curtain was crusted and yellow, the tub was crusted and brown, and the toilet seat had this brown stain that sure looked like perma-crap, but probably was just some sort of mold spores. Oh, plus the door was set all askew, so that it closed but there was still about a half-inch crack through which we could see out, and presumably passers-by could see in. I rigged the curtains so that it covered the crack, but still... not O.K.
Anyways, we barricaded the door, slept, woke up, got some food, and went to the wedding. Where they had an open bar. Before the ceremony!
The whole thing was held at this place called the Bonnet House, which was absolutely gorgeous, set near the ocean, alongside a canal. The ceremony was outside, in the courtyard of the house, and people were welcome to carry their drinks to their seats. Which was kind of odd. Especially since just after the groom got to the front someone dropped their glass.
I'd never been to a Jewish wedding ceremony before, and I gotta tell ya, it was really something. Except that I had to sit between two large Albanian women with excruciatingly severe body odor... No, the wedding was really cool. They exchanged vows, there was talk about covenants (I love the idea of religious covenants), they smashed a glass (the groom missed on the first shot), people shouted "mazel tov!" Good stuff. They're a wonderful couple, and I'm sure they'll be extremely happy together.
The reception seemed a bit disorganized... there were assigned seats, but then it was buffet style, and even the bride and groom waited in line for their food. There was champagne poured, but no one toasted until about half and hour later, and for a while it wasn't clear there would ever be a toast. They did the cool dance-in-circle/lift-people-on-chairs thing (the Hora, I believe), which the band seemed to enjoy more than all the guests; seriously, the band had obviously rehearsed the song, knowing it was a Jewish ceremony, and was so proud that they'd learned it that they wanted to play it as many times as possible. They probably played the song for 15 minutes, and each time they approached the end - I'd say at least 4 times - the bandleader yelled out "one more time!" It was like that episode of Next Generation where they get caught in a repeating time loop and play poker a lot.
Let's see, what else? We drove along the Canaveral coastline for a while, and pulled over at a spot that is known for being frequented by Manatees. We didn't see any of them - I guess they weren't quite ripe yet - but we did see a dolphin. Seeing a dolphin in the wild is really awesome, especially when you're from no-where-near-an-ocean, like Laura and myself. We also saw the Goodyear Blimp, since we drove through Dayton Beach about the time the Dayton 500 was ending. Amazing how slow traffic can go after such a big race...
We got back early Monday morning, and caught some more sleep, ecstatic that we were back in our own clean bed with sheets that stayed on and pillows that weren't flat and a door that closed and so-on-an-so-forth. All in all, a good time.
* I seriously doubt those were real gold or diamonds. But again, maybe there was Gistrat coke?
People used to scoff, now they say "Mazel tov!"