Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Greece: Blessing Ceremony

The blessing ceremony was to be held at sundown in the town where Armand’s mother had grown up. It was a humble, but beautiful place. And it was a very warm evening.

There was a lot of talk among the group of travelers about what was expected of us at the ceremony. This was a strict, classic, Greek Orthodox Church, and there were rules that needed to be respected. We needed to dress appropriately. There were to be no photographs inside the church. And we were to be respectful and proper at all times. You know, as if we were in church.

Some of these provisions proved to be assumptions, if not unfounded rumors, once we arrived and filed into the church. There was joking, laughter, people passing cameras all around, posing for pictures… It was a downright farce compared to what image I had in my mind, what I had been prepared for. Even during the ceremony, photographers (the professionals) were frantically jockeying for position, placing light standards amongst the church artifacts and priests. Sacred garments and chandeliers were shuffled and rattled by these fastidious photographers, foraging for the right shot. It wasn’t long before everyone in our party felt comfortable with taking whatever picture they wanted.

In the image to the right, you can see the elaborate chandeliers, as well as the temporary light standards glaring through the place, unceremoniously.

The ceremony was undaunted, however, by the paparazzi and Hollywood media. The couple circled the gifts that had been assembled and placed at the altar– the most prominent a large ring of bread, with lots of symbolism baked right in. As they circled, the congregation threw rice, showering them in good luck. The rice symbolized fertility, someone said. A grain of rice slid across Melissa’s face and got stuck in her lipstick. She started to motion with her hand to knock it free, but Armand, schooled in the traditions, caught her arm and eased it back down.

After the ceremony, most of us filed out into the night outside the church and waited as the wedding party took pictures. For some reason, as I watched them pose, the whole Hollywood scenario got a bit more play in my mind. Maybe a bit of jealousy, with a touch of envy, and just a pinch of disgust. Not at the bridal party, per se, but at the image of Hollywood in my mind; a superficial, plastic, overindulged bastard in my head.

When I learned that the family friend, Susie Buffet, was in the church, being photographed, my mind and its haughty bastard idea got more justification. Susie was the estranged wife of Warren Buffet, and was a billionaire herself. She had befriended Armand’s mother, Kiki, when Kiki was a hairstylist. The families were longtime friends, and Susie had been involved with Armand’s schooling and looked after him, especially when he did his residency in San Francisco. In fact, my college roommate and best buddy Tom and me visited the city and actually met up with Susie at her townhouse, had a delightful conversation and then went to see a friend of hers who was performing– Vice Grip. I shared a cab with Susie Buffet. Armand met up with us at Susie’s and went down to the show with us. We had a great time. Anyway.

One other thing– inside the church, after the ceremony (before the paparazzi and full fledged “Eat the Rich” tirade in my head) there was a typical procession of congratulatory guests by the family and married couple. As I made it around, I met with Kiki. She apparently didn’t recognize me at first because she started holding my face and speaking Greek to me. I’m sure she was still rattled and sleep deprived and worried about Milt. Next I congratulated Melissa, and then I went to give Armand the traditional European left cheek, right cheek kiss, as everyone else was doing. But I zigged and so did Armand and so we accidentally met in the middle, full-on lips kiss.

“Oh ho!” exclaimed Armand. “You’ve been wanting to do that for a long time, haven’t you!”

I laughed it off, but I did feel a bit embarrassed. Just because I hadn’t intended to do that. But whatever, right? No harm, no foul.

Later I would feel some guilt, because I had a cold, and wouldn’t you know it– Armand caught it too. And it wasn’t even an open-mouthed kiss…

After a bit of a wait (the paparazzi had a lot of equipment to pack up) we finally loaded up the bus and went to the reception. They had traditional dancers and line dancing, lots of traditional Greek foods, and more dancing. This was where the “plate breaking” used to occur, but in this world full of lawyers and litigation, that was no longer a good idea.

I got a chance to go up to Susie Buffet’s table and talk with her for awhile. I reminisced about Vice Grip’s show, and she lamented his current day struggles. She seemed distressed a bit, and she mentioned that she was mourning the death of a friend in the previous couple weeks or so (I say it that way because I don’t remember how recently it had been. She certainly remembered when her friend had died.) I later felt like I hadn’t been consoling enough, like I hadn’t expressed enough sympathy, and for that I am still regretful. But there’s nothing I can do about it now. I’ll never see her again– she passed away a few years ago. Strange, the things this mind will hold onto and work like a crossword puzzle with faded clues.

Susie Buffet, Me, Carole Coulter, and Eliyana Garcia

We partied into the night. I had quite a few beers and was feeling good. When the reception party had been described to me, it was to last into the morning. ‘Til the sun comes up. I did a fair amount of schmoozing, drinking, dancing, and laughing. It was a really nice party– plenty to eat, too. And no thoughts about Hollywood disgusting bastards.

I was feeling good, but I wasn’t rip-roaring drunk. We started to file back on the bus because some of the guests were ready to head back to the hotel. As usually happens in these situations, certain people are identified as party-poopers, while others are called die-hard overdoers, and others try to smooth the rough edges and find some sort of consensus. So even though the sun of the morning had yet to shine, we packed it in and headed for the hotel. We sang a couple songs, but that petered out because nobody could remember the words of a whole song. So the evening kind of fizzled and went out like a wet campfire.

I would later self consciously recount that evening, thinking I had been out of control, drunk, loud, and that I had blacked out. Even though I didn’t have any evidence as to such. Such self-deprecating thinking patterns would start to build massive theoretical matrices that would crystallize into mystical delusions once I was manic. These delusions would have no differentiating qualities from reality in my mind.

But that would come later.

NEXT: BBQ Lamb and Toasting Wine

1 comment:

Gerri said...

Very interesting...it was like being in attendance at the wedding! I didn't remember that you had met Susie Buffet prior to going to Greece, nor do I remember hearing she had passed away. See, writing your memories is a good thing!!

Thanks for sharing. I am looking forward to the next installment.