Just Like A Prayer, I’ll Take You There

Trout, who is just as guinea-wop-dago as I am, sent me a joke.

WHY ITALIANS CAN’T BE PARAMEDICS

Vinny and Sal are out in the woods hunting when suddenly Sal grabs his chest and falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing; his eyes are rolled back in his head. Vinny whips out his cell phone and calls 911. He gasps to the operator, “I think Sal is dead! What should I do?”

The operator, in a calm soothing voice says, “Just take it easy and follow my instructions. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence. And then a shot is heard.

Vinny’s voice comes back on the line, “Okay…now what?”

Let’s say it’s the cocktail hour and we’re erring on the side of thoroughness. Paulie’s drinking Bombay Sapphire, as is Mom and I’m not so sure about the six-year-old. I drink crappy white wine until dinner so I don’t wake up face-down in the warm crab dip. For an hour, we tromp outside in the sweltering afternoon air. Photographers bark out a list of names. We assemble. We are dismissed. We get a drink. We drink it. Someone taps us on our shoulders. We tromp outside. Photographers bark. We assemble. We are dismissed. We get a drink. Because the temperature difference between inside and outside is a triumph of modern technology, being outside makes everyone look damp and wilted. Finally, our side of the family is dismissed for the evening and we spend the next forty-five minutes body-to-body with dozens of strangers in two small rooms of an old house. With fruit sculptures. I can’t explain that. There really is a warm crab dip but since there’s no place to put down a plate, guests balance drinks, purses and plates. It’s only a matter of time before someone wears a raspberry camembert brooch. Fortunately, Paulie, Dad and Darla enjoy heckling the snackers. Miss Sasha, who traveled from Florida without Mr. Sasha but with their housemate Irena, has either missed me very much or is attempting to form a symbiotic relationship with me in the nature of ivy climbing an oak. I keep finding a person attached to me. Someone should check her for Velcro.

Finally, we are herded like well-dressed cattle to a dining room overlooking the patio where the wedding took place. Miss Sasha sits at my left, Paulie to my right. Mom and Tom sit across the table, making us six. Other tables are composed of eight. Within minutes, music and speeches start. I switch to gin.

For the next hour, this wedding could be any wedding not in a church basement. The food is abundant and bland. The servers are wearing black pants and white shirts. The DJ plays nothing but classic rock, and when the twenty-somethings dance to Taking Care of Business I give up. We can’t hear each other talk. Daria resorts to charades at the next table. Auntie InExcelsisDeo moves from table to table, supervising, doting on the guests. Uncle Frank is so overjoyed his sentences lose consonants. There’s no wedding cake because Monday and her friends decided it would be more interesting to bake cookies. They must’ve been at it for a week. The table covered with cookies could feed the population of a South Sea island. In other news, the vulgar garter catching and releasing ritual causes me to pretend I’m in My Happy Place, which is Anywhere Else, With Gin. The only time the guests got up and packed the dance floor was when the DJ went holy and sacrilegious with Madonna’s Like A Prayer, by which time I was desperate to hear anything with a pulse.

At 10, the Fabulous Ex-Husband, Karen, Miss Sasha and Irena kiss everyone good-bye and leave for Pennsylvania. We say a lot of filthy words about the my former sister-in-law, who is a dreadful human being. Because it will make her head explode, I tell them to give her my best. After they’re gone, Paulie and I get bored and notice the cameras on the tables. We recruit Todd and steal cameras. Paulie puts an arm around kid without pants and Todd takes pictures. The kid says, “Uh…what?”

As the reception winds down, we are all invited outside to hold sparklers while the bride and groom depart. It’s 11:40, sweltering hot and a light rain is falling. The shuttle back to the hotel is full. Paulie and I get separated and a minute later when I see him he’s lighting fireworks for small children, which is so, so endearing! And then, everything goes wrong. I turn back to the shuttle. I turn back to Paulie. I turn and see the shuttle close its doors and leave. I turn and see the bride and groom skipping down flagstone steps surrounded by sparkler-wielding well-wishers. Everyone stops. Everyone is staring. The shuttle has pulled out of the parking lot, and that little bus-whatsis was everyone’s transportation, including the Happy Couple’s.

We all march back inside. The bar’s closed. The dining room is getting an industrial-strength cleanup. Paulie and I look at each other without the faintest idea of what to do. One of the bridesmaids is a lawyer and she is on the phone with the shuttle company, which has no intention of sending that bus back. Finally, a complete stranger I don’t even recall seeing during the course of the evening offers us a ride to our hotel. Since he seems sober and isn’t related, I assume he can be trusted. He drops us off. We peel off sweat-sticky outfits and chant, “What the hell just happened?”

You will be pleased to know that on the ride home, Paulie and I sang along with Tom Jones’s Black Betty and Ministry’s Jesus Built My Hotrod at the tops of our hungover lungs. The bus did come back. And the Catsitter said, “What the hell happened to you?”

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