Two weeks ago I flew to Austin for David Hamburger's wedding. The last time I was in Austin was about 18 years ago when my sister lived there. I spent about a year there building swimming pools with my then brother-in-law. It was great to go back and see the place, and especially for such a wonderful occasion. There was something special about this wedding, maybe it was the people, maybe it was the place, maybe it was the timing, maybe it was the bluebonnets...
I was met at the airport by my old pals Kevin and Rob -- we were all in men's group with Dave back in New York. We adopted Texas nicknames for the weekend: Bubba, Hoss and Slim. I was Hoss.
We hung out around the hotel that afternoon, eyeing babes by the rooftop pool and resting up for the rehearsal dinner. As you can well imagine, three pale/balding/paunchy forty-year-olds made quite a hit with the ladies.
At the rehearsal dinner we got split up, being singletons. The best man took it quite well when I suggested he seat me next to his sexy Cuban wife. I ended up sitting across the room.
During the toasts, the bride's younger sister got up and read a letter written by the bride several years ago, listing all of the qualities a man would need to have before she would consider marrying him. It sounded like she had written it coming off of a bad relationship and was trying to conjure up the perfect mate by way of contrast. It was pretty funny and probably pretty embarrassing, except the weird thing was, Dave really was the guy she described -- her perfect man.
After dinner we had drinks on the balcony of the Stephen F. Austin Hotel and flirted with the best man's sexy Cuban wife, who turned out to be a lawyer from Cornell. By the end of the evening we were all smitten and/or drunk. Fortunately it was a short walk back to the hotel.
The next day I hooked up with Bob Sweeney who was my roommate in San Diego before I went to Austin and in D.C., before I went to Brooklyn. Bob is a lawyer also, who works for the state of Texas defending shrimp. He is married with two boys and looks like he could beat me in a roadrace without even trying. We had lunch with another old roomie, Johnny Goodman, who is also married and a father and living in Austin.
In case you hadn't noticed, there seems to be a pattern emerging here: Everyone's married.
The wedding of David Hamburger to Catherine Berry took place at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center just south of Austin. The setting was incredible. The ceremony took place outside, surrounded by fields of blooming wildflowers. The reception was in a Spanish-style courtyard with fountains and more flowers and some really excellent music. It felt like we had been transported out of the present to a timeless place where all the things you hope are true really are true and all of the things you worry about don't exist.
It was all a little too much for me, so after dinner I went and sat on a bench outside the courtyard and looked out at the wildflowers.
The bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. The legend says that many years ago, before the white man came, the hill country was home to the Comanche Nation.
One year there was a great drought that brought famine to the Comanche. Many died that year. The people prayed and prayed to the Great Spirit, but there was no relief. The medicine man went up into the hills seeking a vision to tell them what to do. When he returned, he told the people that they must build a great bonfire and cast into it their most cherished possessions as a sacrifice to the Great Spirit.
The bonfire was lit, but when it came time for the people to give up their possessions, they hesitated. Their possessions meant too much to them, they did not want to give them up.
One young girl watched as the others turned away from the fire, unable to make the sacrifice. She was thinking of her own most cherished possession. It was a cornhusk doll made by her mother and decorated with a headdress made from bluejay feathers collected by her father. The doll meant the world to the little girl because it was all she had left of her family. Both her parents had died in the famine. But they had always taught her to think of others and not be selfish. She knew that the drought must end before others lost their loved ones.
She went back to the tent to get the doll and waited until everyone else had left the bonfire. The she walked over the fire and with a final look the beautiful blue feathers, she flung it into the fire.
That night the rains came, and they kept up for days. When they finally ended and the sun came out, the people came out of their tents and were amazed to see all around them the fields were covered with thousands and thousands of azure flowers. When the little girls saw the flowers, she knew that the Great Spirit had accepted her sacrifice and given this gift in return.
And each spring the beautiful blue flowers bloom again in remembrance of the little girl who gave life to her people.
Years ago, when I was a kid, I was in a group called the Indian Guides. One summer night we had a big bonfire and we were supposed to bring our favorite toy and throw it into the fire. I didn't want to do it. I cheated. I picked out a toy that I didn't really care about and pretended it was my favorite. To this day I still remember the toy I threw into the fire, but I'll be damned if I can remember the one I kept -- even though it was my favorite. I wish I could remember it, because I think it's about time I threw it away.
When I got back to the party, I went up to this lovely young woman named Sam and asked her to dance. We ended up dancing the rest of the night. I never even got her last name. Slim disappeared with a blond psychologist from L.A. and we didn't see him until much later. Bubba and I helped the bride's family pack up the presents. I collected a bunch of roses and gave them to Sam. Bubba and I were about the last ones to leave.
Thank you Catherine and David for reminding me of how sometimes things can be the way I hope they are. I wish you all the best.