Tuesday, August 28, 2007

my honeymoon so far

Who knew there would be so much rejection involved?:
Dear sir
It is no room, sorry.
thank you
kikuya ryokan

Dear Sir/Madam Ester
Thank you for your mail.
I am afraid that we have no vacancy for Sep 5 - Sep 6 at all.
Thanks and regards
Nakamuraya Ryokan

Dear & Hello Ester,
Thank you very much for your e-mail inquiry.

Although, we regret to inform you that Taito Ryokan is fully booked out for the nights you have requested. ... In a meantime, please have a wonderful day and wish you fulfill your journey in the rising sun country.

Faithfully yours and Sayonara,
Satoshi / Kenichi at Taito Ryokan

We were very happy to receive your e-mail for reservation as below, but to
our great regret
We are very sorry to say but your requested days,we are all of
the rooms fully booked.
We hope that we may be of service to you in the future.

Annex Katsutaro Ryokan

Dear Sir ,
Thank you for your inquiry .
We are terribly sorry that we are full of reservation
on 5th and 6th sep 2007 .
If you have a chance to go to Sapporo ,
please request our hotel again .
Regards ,
Hotel Sapporo Met's
A veritable sampler of disappointment. But! This is what we get for planning so late. There are some bright spots on the horizon:
Now there are no twin room available on September 6.
We prepare for domitry room.
But it change for the twin room if anyone cancel.
We can prepare for twin room on September 5.
Honeymoon in a twin bed! Well, it's a start.

Then there's the poetry of the process:
To: Dear Ms.ester

We are very welcome to your visit in Tokyo.
Thank you very much for your reservation e-mail .
We can accommodate you in Annex Katsutaro(NIPPORI).
If you are satisfied with this accommodation. Please notify.
We believe our Japanese style inn is comfortable and quite in Tokyo

We are delighted to confirm your reservation as follows:
You are requested to send back the confirmation by 29th August 2007 .
In the case when the confirmation is not received by the designated
date, your reservation is not received by the designated date, your
reservation is to become invalid.
The place I was most excited about, a hostel called Potato in a little artisty town called Biei near a fantastic-looking national park, Daisetsuzan, CAN accomodate us in a full-size bed (whahoo!) as can a somewhat-generic but reasonably priced and well-situation small hotel in Tokyo. So we're making progress, step by step, through the minefield of exceedingly polite rejections. Look what we're heading towards and tell me it's not worth it.

We are not, however, making excellent progress on spending our 100 Frivolous Dollars. Mr. Ben's Uncle gave us this cash with the stipulation that we NOT merely bank it, but blow it on jello shots or bubblegum or the like. Originally we planned on riding it to Splish Splash!, the wateriest water park around, but when that fell through, all we managed to do was have brunch (frivolous for Mr. Ben only). Perhaps we'll find opportunities near the Potato Hostel ...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

fifty years ago, or, yesterday

Standing in the wedding aisle of the Hallmark Gold Crown Store for People who Love Porcelain Figurines and are Suspicious of Imagination Saturday morning, Mr. Ben and I tried to figure out what card to bring along to the celebration we were headed to. Friend wedding, fireman wedding, former Catholic priest wedding ...

"Where," I grumbled, "is the Unofficial Step-Sister-in-Law section?"

The card was for Lizzie, the daughter of the man Mr. Ben's mom has been with for over a decade. She and her three brothers and Mr. Ben are all basically the same age. Lizzie got married the weekend after we did -- awkward enough timing that Mr. Ben and I couldn't go. We could, however, make it up to her and that side of the family by attending Celebration #2 in the Catskills, hosted by Lizzie's grandparents for their friends.

We ended up grabbing a blank card with a picture of children pawing at each other on the front, which was really the only respectable choice.

The lakeside community where Lizzie's grandparents live half the year is only about 90 minutes north of New York City but oh, my friends, it is a different WORLD. The party was held in the upstairs room of the synagogue, the kind usually used for the kiddush after Shabbes services; upon entering, we discovered it filled with 90 senior citizens, Lizzie's grandparents' closest friends, all of whom migrate north for summer and south to the same communities in Florida for winter.

At first the party felt pretty low-key. Us kids (the under-40 set) huddled at either ends of the main table, eating potato chips and, once they emerged, cold cuts off of large platters, while the spry oldsters danced to the musical stylings of Hy on the saxophone and another tired-looking fellow on a synthesizer. By 9:30, we were beginning to yawn and wondering privately why we'd been told this event would go til midnight.

Then -- oh, mercy, THEN. A synagogue rep got up to introduce the evening's "entertainment," a woman named Ricki who bounded forward. The room buzzed with excitement; the kids' corners buzzed with confusion. Was it possible that the dumpy middle-aged Israeli lady in the synthetic, BeDazzled bell-bottoms and the mullet was going to sing for us?

"Hello, hello, hello!" she crooned, taking the mike and launching into an extraordinary rendition of the "Itsy-Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." Although she possessed about as much sex appeal as my 9th grade Hebrew teacher, she moved her hips like she was channeling a slow-motion Elvis. Step, step, thrust, thrust, step, thrust, her chained glasses bouncing against her bosom. Mr. Ben and I watched in horror as, to illustrate the song, she described her own bikini line in the air, first on one side, then the other.

Ten minutes later, Ricki had butchered several other standards, including "Non, Je Ne Regret Rien" in the original French, and she had chided guests for getting up and dancing before being invited to. Now, the still-hostile Ricki declared, she was ready for people to dance, starting with the bridge and groom. "Where are Lisa and Greg?" she bellowed. "Come up to here! I need Lisa and Greg!"

Lizzie, being a trooper, went up grinning with her new husband, intended to whisper her correct name. Ricki didn't give her a chance, either then or after. She took us all back to the glory days of the Borscht Belt with stand up routines made out of bad puns and Jewish jokes. She made us form a congo line (headed by "Lisa," of course). She reintroduced us to the Electric Slide. "Unchained Melody," "Runaround Sue," "Besame Mucho," and "I Will Survive" all withered and died under the hot sun of her attention. And not ONE of her jokes was funny.

In essence, it was our anti-wedding, cheesier even than any bar mitzvah I can remember, and so thoroughly memorable that had Ricki been GOOD she couldn't have made the party better. Finally at 11:30, as she was trying to teach Holocaust survivors how to line dance, we slipped out.

We had a great time laughing and doing the Hora and not being the center of attention, although we did have to accept some secondary congratulations for having recently been wed. "So!" boomed out Felix, Mr. Ben's unofficial step-grandpa. "How does it feel to be Mr. and Mrs. [Ben's last name]?"

"We aren't, at the moment," said Mr. Ben. Then, responding to the confusion on the good man's face, he hurriedly explained, "I mean, we're still married, but Ester's kept her name. She's Mrs. [Ester's last name]. I mean, Ms.!"

This was not the answer Felix was expecting. Three hours later, he tracked me down and asked me again, "So! Mrs. [Ben's last name], how do you feel?" I answered correctly, grinning: "Great."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

more wedding pictures on flickr

in line to enter grove
Originally uploaded by shorterstory.
I swear I'll get over this wedding thing soon. In the meantime, more pictures here!

However, I can, simultaneously, think about other things, like why I'll live longer by staying in New York as long as possible and whether Karl Rove's bizarrely sudden, though long-awaited departure has some hidden shotgun behind it, held perhaps by P. Fitzgerald. And: where should Mr. Ben and I go in Japan now that we're not limited by the prospect of crushing early August heat? In early- to mid-September, everything's balmy and welcoming ("yokoso!").

Thursday, August 09, 2007

okay, *now* i'm ready

Having been thoroughly inspired by other retellings of the magical weekend, and having had my head finally settled back on my shoulders and with its hearing restored, I'm ready. Are you ready? It's time to hit the highlights!

PRE-WEDDING (thru Thurs.)
My office surprised me with Tiffany candlesticks in addition to the department lunch in my honor, which Mr. Ben got to attend. I was overwhelmed -- I couldn't believe I was lucky enough to have such a wonderful boss and to be surrounded by such sweet, smart co-workers. And funny, too. Said coworkers all signed cards, wishing me good luck. The best message came from N., a young editor and one of the few straight men around. "Dear Ester," it read, "May your first child be a masculine child."

I had to see the immortal Dr. L., also, for a refill of my rx. for adulthood. Though the office visit was quick and dirty, of course I still owed the $40 co-pay. Feeling a bit frisky, I asked, as I passed over the cash, "How is this different than a drug deal?" Dr. L. laughed. "Ha ha ha!" he said. "Ha ha! -- But seriously, drug dealers don't care about your health."

Down in DC, I woke up early, met two of my 'maidz, and, for the first time in my life, visited the Mikvah. Ritual bathing -- i.e., skinny dipping for the Lord -- was not something I had really looked forward to, but it turned out to be one of the most moving parts of the weekend. The Mikvah Lady was calm and easy-going; being in the quiet water was strangely comforting; and the walk through the synagogue past where I had gone to nursery school lo these many years ago was a nice little bit of sentiment to start me off right.

A flurry of more secular spa treatments followed and then a huge Shabbes dinner for both sides of the newly blended family. People began to tell me I looked different. I wondered if it was true.

Step 2 on our Path to a Jewish Wedding was an aufruf at my family's synagogue. It felt a bit funny to me to be observing all these religious customs when basically I don't practice in my real life. But when Mr. Ben and I got up to the Torah and read the blessing and were greeted with a rousing chorus of "Siman Tov en Mazel Tov!" twice over, the joy of it felt right. Community -- that's what religion is for.

Once everyone recovered from the Rehearsal outside in the 97 degree heat, Mr. Ben's father (Dr. Mr. Ben?) threw a rousing rehearsal dinner at an Indian restaurant; my mother countered by throwing a rousing dinner/dessert shindig back at the apartment for all out of town guests. Being the bride, I was passed from person to person, smiling, greeting, thanking, laughing. Before long, all that rousing left me giddy but woozy and it was up to my 'maidz to take me upstairs, figure out how to remove my jewelry, and then unhook my corset and let me fall out of it to sleep.

Hair! Makeup! Get ready! Put the now-adorned corset back on (with help from the 'maidz)! Breathe deep! Don't smudge anything! Look up and realize, holy shit, it's going to rain.

It won't rain, said my mother, looking ravishing. Don't worry.

Once at Woodend and into my dress, I became a Bride. Cameras bloomed everywhere, cameras at every angle. Smile! Smile! I am an adult and can handle whatever comes along, especially when I've found the right chemical balance.

Outside (photographers trailing) I met up with Mr. Ben for the first time, all tuxedo-ed up. He looked fantastic. Walk a little way into that prettyish wilderness, instructed the photographer. We obliged and on the way, as cameras snapped behind us, Mr. Ben whispered, "Wanna hear something that'll freak you out?"

He'd forgotten his tuxedo jacket in New York. Luckily his best man had given him the coat of his back -- and more luckily, they're roughly the same size. Just don't tell my mother, I whispered.

Smile! Smile!

Back inside, we waited almost an hour for the rabbi to come sign the Ketubah. My little brother, the problem solver & sometime pirate, called him at home to hurry him along; and when he heard that Mr. Ben had (oops!) also forgotten his tallit to wear to the ceremony, he hopped over to the synagogue and nipped one out of the sanctuary, setting off alarms but not staying to get caught. And it was his birthday! Way to go, bro.

The rabbi arrived at last. The ink from our signing our lives away had hardly dried before the wedding planner started whisking everyone toward the grove. A light mist kept everyone cool, including some deer, who wandered up to watch as I joined my 'maidz, my family, and Mr. Ben looking magnificent in his borrowed finery under the chuppah.

After the exchange of rings and sips of wine, Mr. Ben broke the glass with real verve and we kissed and there were butterflies (real ones!) and to yet another round of "Siman Tov en Mazel Tov!" we were off, hand in hand, to the main house for a few minutes in private before the party.

And oh, then, WHAT a party it was. People everywhere, and food, and beautiful toasts (my older brother, polished and funny as always, gave about six of them), gorgeous tropical flowers, and a multi-colored cake that looked like a tower of presents, and music! The band played on and on and everyone danced until they were exhausted and beyond, and there was a Hora like nothing I'd ever experienced -- a whirling dervish of a Hora that just got madder and madder as guests ran in circles, singing their hearts out, grabbing each others' hands, lifting us up on chairs ... If, when the music medley finally stopped, everyone had fallen down on the ground a la "the Time Warp" I would not have been the least bit surprised.

And the best part was my father, chemo'ed and running on borrowed blood cells, Hora-ing right along with the rest. He didn't faint; he didn't so much as trip. He danced at my wedding.

We couldn't stop dancing even when the band took a well-deserved break because the best man put on 69 Love Songs. People I loved from across the country, some of whom I hadn't seen in years, bopped along to "The Ugliest Guy from the Lower East Side" and "Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits" and it was perfect. Just perfect. Then the band came back and one of the singers -- a buxom black woman with a great voice and a huge, rhinestone Star of David -- came out on the floor to lead us all in "I Will Survive." Because -- why? Because it's a wedding, fool! Dance!

At midnight, Mr. Ben and I were pulled reluctantly away from the shining mass of goodwill and we made it to our honeymoon suite where we were really alone for the first time in days. There, gently and painstakingly, he disassembled what the hairdresser, the makeup artist, six 'maidz, and my mother had put together, and, transformation complete, submerged the post-bride in the bathtub.

It was an amazing weekend, one I'll never forget, and I have my parents to thank for all of it -- as well as everyone who came for enjoying it so much and Mr. Ben for looking so radiantly happy. I can't believe it's over but then, I can't believe something so beautiful and transformative could have really happened.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

still not THE wedding entry

But in the meantime, please enjoy this nonsense, courtesy of the NYT:

Priceless quote: "Yet like other working-class millionaires of Silicon Valley, she harbors anxieties about her financial future."

Priceless quote: "Fat is no rutabaga" (and death I think is no parenthesis?)

Priceless quote: "Pink armbands for misdemeanors are a start. Stronger measures could be next for corruption and extrajudicial killings."

Monday, August 06, 2007


I don't have the patience to tap out a whole entry on the joystorm that was this past weekend, The Wedding, but I want to recount one story.

Sunday, at about 1:00 PM, I sat outside the salon where my hair had just been done. Now, I should explain that I had two responsibilities over the course of this weekend: to

(a) look progressively prettier, day by day, until finally my appearance could only be described in the language of the angels;

and (b) not fall down.

In service of (a), I was at the salon to have this crazy headpiece made out of pearls and fake white flowers and silver wire woven into my hair, and frankly, I was apprehensive. It had been last worn by a member of my family in the 1970s, although it also looks like it could do quite well in a regional production of Midsummer Night's Dream. Hours after I went in, I emerged from the salon, headpiece attached, make up done, as classy as I was ever going to look, and as I sat on a bench wating for my brother to pick me up, I attracted quite a lot of attention from passersby. Trouble is, when people stop and stare at you, you can't automtically tell whether it's because you look like a semitic Jackie Onassis or because you look like you wandered out of their last acid trip.

Luckily, one lady didn't just do a double-take; she actually doubled back to speak to me.

"My GAWD," she twanged, hand over heart, "you look so beautiful! You look just like I did before MY first marriage!"

And that was how I knew everything was going to be all right.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

how did we get here?

Everyone keeps telling me how calm I am, which is rather funny, because I feel hyper in a sometimes-sluggish kind of way. I wish I had something to DO -- sweaters to knit for soldiers, or a political campaign to manage (ideally one for a Person Of Cleavage). As it is, I just get to play tetherball with my anxiety and answer questions as they are sent from my sainted mother's Blackberry.

Mr. Ben's grandmother is somewhat responsible for planting notions of marriage in our heads. She visited our studio and, being at any point no more than fifteen feet from it, couldn't help but notice the double bed. So! she said, sternly, turning to me. When do you plan on making this legal?

I fended her off as best I could. However, the onslaught continued. A friend of ours proposed to a girl he'd only met four months before and, when we visited, we found him and his fiancee sparring lovingly over who got to sit in the other’s lap during dinner.

THEN a couple Mr. Ben and I knew got engaged -- we found out about it via LiveJournal. As a present in lieu of a ring, he bought her a tea set. That really hit a nerve with me, although apparently I wasn't alone. Several other college friends noted how romantic it would be to receive a tea set of their own.

Still, I tried to tuck these thoughts away. What use would a tea set be, after all, if I didn’t want the three-bedroom two-bath house in suburbia to put it in?

Mr. Ben proposed like an Irish husband, with scarcely a "Brace yourself, Bridget." I’ve had over a year to get used to the idea of being a "wife." I’m not quite there yet. I am more comfortable with the idea of being a "bride," anyway, but that’s largely because my mother has made it easy on me. And now the wedding is in five days. FIVE DAYS!

I go down to DC thursday evening after work. I just have to make it til then.