Cape Fear

We arrived at the hotel around midnight via Uber, since the hotel’s shuttle doesn’t run that late.  The Uber employees in Wilmington said that it offers a better deal than Lyft; most of the drivers work for both.  On the way to the waterfront from the airport there is a sign that says WHITEVILLE.  And then the driver turns on the street and the street is Martin Luther King Boulevard.  There’s also a Black’s Tire Service visible right there.

People were evaluating their friends long before Mr. Zuckerberg first logged on to hotornot, but I plead paraleipsis and won’t go into rating Lyle and Christa’s wedding and associated parties compared with all the other ceremonies we’ve attended over the course of several generations, some poison’d by their wives, some sleeping kill’d.

Wilmington, North Carolina, is a pleasant little tourist town with a typical Southern tourist town history: first as a cotton and slave trading port, then as a cotton and exploited worker trading port, then depression and depopulation, followed by Urban Renewal to replace most of the classic buildings downtown with 1960’s commercial rubbish, until the citizens realized that leaving the old ones standing would be more attractive to tourists, then refurbishing the few remaining public buildings and putting plaques in front of virtually all of the pre-WW I houses remaining near downtown.  And lastly, opening restaurants that use the ingredients the slaves brought over, made with tools and imagination borrowed from California and Barcelona.

The Hilton Riverside was listed as “Permanently Closed” on Google Maps.  It turned out it had been renamed as Hotel Ballast, part of the “Tapestry Collection by Hilton”.  Who makes up these surreal names?

We didn’t eat at the hotel.  They wanted $12 for breakfast.  Friday morning we explored the immediate neighborhood, including the Java Dog Coffee House, and a very grand old post office.

I mailed post cards I had written in Haiti, because Haiti doesn’t have a postal system.  They are so far ahead of us in all respects.  The man at the counter in the enormous Colonial Revival Post Office was all that a Southern Gentleman Civil Servant should be.  I listened to him for a long time.  He remembered seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan but he didn’t pay any attention to them, and when he was stationed in England and heard that John Lennon had been assassinated, he said, He was the one with the glasses, right?  Interesting that he remembers that of all incidents — maybe it’s the best story to tell to customers of our demographic.

I looked for fresh-squeezed orange juice at an organic grocery store across the street, but was told that the number of inspections and requirements were way too tough to meet.  Ultimately we found the PureLife Wellness Center which, among their scented candles, herbs, and jams, was a juice bar.  They didn’t squeeze oranges either, but after very laboriously cutting off the rinds, threw them in a blender and juiced them that way.

We mostly talked to our friends, the groom and his family.  It’s more fun than touring.  We walked around and had a lunch of sorts, with the groom’s mother, and his newly-out brother’s boyfriend.  (At this point we’ve talked to the boyfriend more than the brother.  Gay men whom you’ve known since infancy are usually embarrassed to talk to you for the first couple of decades of adulthood.  The Internalized Homophobe Dan Savage doesn’t think Young Gay Men need Old Gay Men in their lives, anyway.)  And later we walked through the center of town, past a bunch of mansions housing rich families but now housing law firms, and ate at Rx Restaurant, a really nice Southern-cuisine farm-to-table restaurant where we had fried chicken, shrimp and grits, deviled eggs, all delicious.  Dessert was a peanut butter panna cotta, apparently invented by our waitress.

The rehearsal dinner was a small affair for only a core group of 30, but we were invited to come by afterwards for drinks.  It was pretty festive.  The groom’s sister-in-law Courtney, and a friend of hers, Diana, posed in their similar dresses for an Instagram picture; we happened to be in the background, and it was labeled #beardedmenphotobomb.  The next morning, our friend Meagan texted me the picture; her friend Nadine, who had gone to school with Diana, had noticed it.

Saturday was another pretty lazy day.  More coffee at Java Dog, more juice at PureLife, and brunch nearby at The Basics.

In the afternoon we walked to Brooklyn Arts Center, the wedding venue.  Part of it was previously a church, and the ceremony took place in the backyard.  There wasn’t a microphone, and I couldn’t really hear anything anybody said, though I did hear quite a bit of bird foley in the trees above.  But it was still a beautiful ceremony.  There were hors d’oeuvres, including a bottomless platter of oysters.  That’s not the right metaphor, but the caterers kept refilling it.  In other metaphors, someone had set up an hourglass with sand from different parts of the world, and the guests added spoonfuls of sand to it.  I am not sure if it was meant to be a time-out device for future fights, or a Robert Burns reference straight out of the Loved One.

Anyway, everyone went inside after the ceremony and had food and then a loud band came on and played wedding music.  After their contract expired, the guests wandered out, through a sparkler gauntlet, and discovered that the bar “Goat and Compass” they were expecting to meet at for an after party was closed: who closes a bar at 11 PM in a tourist town on a Saturday night?  (Too bad, we lost the opportunity for good Lion & Compass jokes.)  Instead we walked a few blocks to Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which had a good ol’ band playing, and great cocktails.  We stayed there until they finished playing, and went to sleep.  There was a rumor that the bride and groom had had sex at some point in the proceedings, which would be I think the first time in my life I’ve been to a wedding ceremony where the bride and groom weren’t too tired for it.  Parties are primarily about your friends hooking up with each other.  Even more so, weddings.

Sunday we took the shuttle to the airport, picked up our rental car, and drove to Wrightsville Beach for the next wedding event, a picnic.  It was a perfectly nice beach, and we stood and walked around for several hours.  The water was too cold for anything but wading.  Has thermohaline circulation shut down already?  The wedding guests include lots of Central California surfers, some of whom swam.

There was panic involved in finding the marriage certificate which needed to be witnessed before everybody left.  I think the emergency was that they were going to need the signed license to qualify for a scuba honeymoon discount in the Maldives, and the officiants and the witnesses and the new family were all going to split in different directions and they all had to sign, and the piece of paper was nowhere to be found.  You’d think the resort could just look up the records on line.  Or not care.  If they aren’t making money on their honeymoon package, they shouldn’t be offering it.  Anyway, it finally turned up.  Exeunt omnes.  The bride and groom had to leave super-early in the morning for their flight.