Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rainy Sunday

Red beans and rice on the stove.
Cornbread in the oven.
Rain on the fire escape.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

What's that roaring?

I work in midtown Manhattan, and as I was closing up my computer last night, I heard thunder that didn't stop. When the horns started honking outside, I got up to see hundreds of people running up Third Avenue, weaving through standstill traffic, yelling on their cell phones and looking back over their shoulders at the sky.

I headed outside to ask a few questions, mainly, "What is that roaring?" It sounded like a tornado had hit Grand Central and just stayed there.

By the time I got outside, there were fewer people running and more people standing around, trying to find out what happened.

"Some rocks crashed through my bosses window," one woman said.

"I heard it was the Chrysler Building," said another.

Finally, someone from my building said that her husband had called from Grand Central to say that an underground transformer had blown up. At that point, I went back inside to e-mail The Chef , in case he was worried because he couldn't get through to my cell. That's when a buddy at work told me about the four-story geyser of steam and brown water that was spraying up out of the intersection of 41st and Lexington.

I had to go see. I was relieved that this wasn't terrorists trying to interrupt my commute. It was a freak accident--a New York Event, like the blackout or the rockslide that took out part of the West Side Highway last year.

As I got closer to the site of the explosion, the roaring grew louder. At 42nd St. and Third, I snapped the first picture. I took the second at 41st and Third. Watching the steam pound out of the street was surreal. The ground shook, and people were shouting over the noise.

Now this is where my ambulance-chasing genes come in. The police were starting to cordon off the surrounding blocks, pushing people back and telling them to go around. I had started walking across town to catch the West side train home, when I found a plaza alleyway that lead to 41st, between Lexington and Third. There were no policemen blocking the way, and I knew that I'd have an unobstructed view of the geyser at the end of the alley. I hesitated--what if another explosion went off? What if more debris started falling? In the end, I decided to go because there was scaffolding around the building at the end of the alley. I figured it was designed to catch hammers and large men if they were dropped, so it would probably protect me from the fist-sized chunks of pavement that had fallen when the geyser started.

I shot the third picture from the alley, a half-block from the geyser. There were a few people standing under the scaffolding, just staring at the steam. We couldn't talk over the deafening sound, and I saw that the windows in the building across the street were rattling with each billow of steam that poured out. It looked like most of the intersection had been blown away by the force.

On the radio this morning, I heard that the city is checking the air around Grand Central for asbestos. That thought never occurred to me, so hopefully nothing will come of it. (Update: no asbestos in the air.)

It was a sight to see... something I never imagined I'd witness in the city. I can't imagine having something like that happen in the street beside me just as I'm heading home from work. Now it may be a while before I stop thinking about that possibility.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My wedding day

The first question that people asked me when I got back from my honeymoon: "So, how was it?"

"Amazing," I say.

They look at me expectantly, waiting for more details, and I pause. It's been nearly a month since I married The Chef, and I haven't been able to find a quick phrase that sums up the day.
I mean, the folks who are inquiring are just acquaintances, and they don't really want to hear five hours of details about how the dress was perfect, but my slippers got covered in mud before the ceremony. About how we forgot the programs and the hotel's air conditioning went out the night before the wedding, but neither John nor I sweated those details. About how I danced with my husband for the first time at the reception, as well as my dad and my new nephews.

So, if you're just mildly curious about the wedding, feel free to check out now. Here are the pictures from the beach-house rehearsal party. Here are the actual wedding day photos. And here are the honeymoon shots. You are free to go, and thanks for stopping by.

But if you want the nuances (Hi, Mary Ann!), I've got plenty to share.
Here's a timeline for you:

Wednesday before the wedding: We've just settled into our seats on the plane, and I'm reading a men's magazine that features a big article about The White Stripes' new CD, "Icky Thump." The Chef leans over to tell me that Meg and Jack White are on our plane, and we spend the rest of the flight spying on the rock'n'rollers as we go back and forth to the bathroom.
After we land, we head for the car rental place, and they're having a special on convertibles. For just $200 extra for the week, we can rent a CONVERTIBLE VOLKSWAGON BUG. I leave John to haul our two 40-pound bags and run outside to lavish the car with hugs and kisses. It's cream colored with a black ragtop. (A little backstory: I once seriously weighed the choice of either A) moving to New York City, or B) buying a VW bug convertible. It's my dream car.) We had to lower the top to put the luggage in the back seat, and we squished the dress to get it in the trunk, but we rolled off the lot with lots of happy squeals.

John's folks live about 35 miles from LAX, so it took us about two hours to get to their house, thanks to rush hour. We learned a quick lesson about putting on sunscreen anytime you even think about putting the top down, and I earned the first (of many) weird tan-lines for the wedding. I saw John's childhood home for the first time; a big two-story house that felt surprisingly welcoming. There were dozens of pictures of the whole family on the wall by the stairs, and it had two sunken dens that I could totally imagine running around in as a kid. I met John's brother, Michael, and sister-in-law, Kelly, that night at dinner. They have two sons, Michael, the ringbearer, and Ryan, the petal launcher.

Thursday and Friday: We went to the courthouse to get the marriage license in the morning. There was a Hawaiian wedding party going on at the office, complete with about 10 large people dressed in lais and grass skirts. The bride and groom were sitting in front of their license official, while their whole family stood around taking pictures. Now, I am changing my last name, and I had read on some wedding site that I would be able to sign my new name on the wedding license and that would be the legal start of Elisabeth Cordova. But no. My license woman told me to sign my old name and said I would have to change it weeks later with Social Security and the DMV. I was so disappointed that big fat tears were rolling down my cheeks as I signed the license. Lord knows what that woman thought... maybe that I was doing this as part of an arranged marriage. Gah. It was the only time during the whole process that I cried from stress.

Mary B. arrived that afternoon, and the fun started. I introduced her to John's big Italian family that night, and she handled the whole thing with humor and poise, even when John's aunt told her that every John in the family had married a Mary until now and asked her if she secretly had her eye on The Chef. Good lord.

On Friday night, we had a big dinner to introduce our families. John was out at his bachelor party, and I was a little nervous about unleashing everyone together. It was the first time that my dad had met anyone from John's family. My Uncle Chuck kept everyone entertained at one end of the table, while my dad and John's dad made friends at the other end. We had a grand time.

Saturday: We had a rehearsal in the morning, and things started to seem real. We were discussing how to walk and where to stand, and our preacher, Jung, helped in that area immensely. After that, we all loaded up into cars and drove out to the beach house. Tamekia and my soon-to-be-nephews rode with me, and the trip was uneventful except for one near mash-up where I almost rear-ended groomsmen Sean's sportscar.

John's friend Gary cooked a feast for everyone, and we ate very well. It was so wonderful to see all these different parts of my life together, in one place. My dad was talking to Alex and Shaun, my friends from England. John's New Jersey aunts were chatting up Tamekia and Emily, from Little Rock. And right in the middle of it all, my NYC buddy Roi was rocking everyone out at his pop-up D.J. booth. It was surreal. When we were leaving, I kissed John good-bye and told him to meet me at 5 the next day.
"I'll be the one in the white," I said.

After the beach house, I crashed Brandi and Megann's room for a little pizza party. Tamekia, Mary B., Emily, Mike, Megan and Sean were all there. It was nice to have a few minutes to hang out with my friends alone, but I left for bed pretty soon thereafter.

Sunday: I slept soundly and woke with a big goofy grin on my face at about 9 a.m.
I was bunking with my maid of honor, Emily, mom and Mary B., and we started out slow. Room service and a luggage rack for hanging the dresses. Emily ironed all the gowns, and I handed out bloody marys to anyone who needed it. By 1 o'clock, we started getting dressed. The photographer got there at 3 and took lots of photos of me and the girls. Emily's heels sunk into the mud during the first shots outside, but she was a very good sport. After we'd been shooting for a while, Mary got me to laugh by singing "Somebody's Getting Married" from the Muppets Take Manhattan.

Back inside. It's 4:30 p.m. People are sitting down in the hall downstairs. The air conditioner had died Saturday night, so the girls and I are all standing very still, trying not to sweat in these heavy, unbreathable dresses. Mine weighed at least 20 pounds, even before I started sweating. No one is saying much of anything, so I break into song. No, seriously.... "Here I Go Again." Everyone knows this song, and we all join in for a full verse and chorus. I tell them that it means so much to me that they're all there, my sisters and friends, my mom. They tell me to shush when I start to cry, and then it's time.

We pile into the elevator, and when we walk through the lobby, there's just my dad and the two little boys there. My brother walks my mother to her seat, and then the girls disappear one by one. We nudge the boys into the hall, and then it's just Dad and I.
"Are you ready, baby?"
"Oh, Lord. Yes."
Blur. Trying not to cry. Grinning bigger than my face can hold. There's my girls, all lined up. John, looking at me. Dad gives John my hand, and I forget to kiss him on the cheek.
Jung talks.
The musicians cue the hymn, and John leans over to say, "By the way, I forgot the programs."
I giggle. "How are they going to sing the hymn?"
"We made copies of that and handed it out."
(The crowd is singing.)
"I just thought I should tell you about that."
Me, laughing, "Oh, it's fine. But you're not whispering."
"No one can hear us over Jung's singing anyway."
Jung looks up at us, and we giggle.

When John finishes repeating his vows, I jump up and down a little, huge dress and all. I make my promise, and we trade rings and a kiss.

Blur... dancing. laughing. toasts. more dancing.

The last dance. Roi plays a John Legend song, and John pulls me close. We keep our foreheads together, just touching. People crowd around us and blow bubbles over us while we dance. It's magic.

A few hugs and we leave the party. Walking out of the hall, alone in the lobby, everything is tingling... I've never felt so special, so beautiful, so happy, and it's all just a start. I walked out of that wonderful party on the arm of my husband, and that is a bigger blessing that I could've imagined.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I do, too!

I promise to give a full account of the wedding and the weeks surrounding it, soon. Until then, here's a snapshot from the front row of the ceremony.

Thanks for the picture, Dad!