We got to the hotel, and Uncle Don and Aunt Fran (the parents of the groom) were there to meet us. We are seriously in their debt, as they felt honor-bound to see to our every need. Anyway, after freshening up a bit, we went out with them to lunch, heading into downtown Livermore. Many cute restaurants along the main drag. The Alehouse was so popular we despaired of getting a table, so we wound up at an Italian restaurant that turned out to be quite excellent. I had the pollo alla bayou, and managed to pronounce my ll's in Italian rather than Spanish. Cajun spiced chicken and Cajun sausage in penne and a nice tomato cream sauce. It was quite excellent, as was the conversation, although I may have picked up more sun exposure than a pale gent like me should.
Afterwards, back at the hotel, there was time for a shower and shave and a tiny piece of nap. And then on to the main event at the Murietta's Well winery.
There, Mom was literally in tears as other relatives arrived: My cousin Kathy and her husband Greg, cousin Patty, cousin Tom (the groom's brother) and Tom's son Aidan, the ring bearer. All of us cousins had grown up in the Bay Area together, so I confess it's quite moving to get many of back together in the same place for an event like this.
The main advantage of bringing mom along was that we got primo seating for the main event. As Aunt of the Groom, she got to sit next to the parents of the Groom. And as the Aunt of the Groom's attendants, we sat next to her in the front row. It was interesting being directly opposite the groomsmen. The Best Man and one of the other groomsmen were terribly familiar. These were guys that I'd met from time to time over summers that I spent with the Bowens back in high school or before. I can remember playing Gamma World with these guys, and a strange form of baseball in the Bowens' pool -- If you hit the whiffle ball into the top section of wall it's an automatic home run, but if you hit it over the wall into the neighbors' yard, that's a major party foul. But I digress.
The ceremony was excellent (and I'm a professional -- I know). Holly was absolutely thrilled to be there -- she was practically tap-dancing beneath her dress at various points in the proceedings. While Jim looked as serious as I've ever seen him at the outset. And as happy as I've ever seen him at the conclusion.
After some drinks and chitchat, we sat down to dinner, and there were a few toasts. Busch outdid himself with a touching speech of how much the Bowens, all of them, had meant to him. There were a few other speeches as well, but hunger was the elephant in the room, and the microphone was hidden away in favor of the meal. This is how Jimmy was spared a speech from me that might have begun, "You know how at every wedding, a distant relative appears, slightly tipsy and full of anecdotes about the groom that were better left unsaid. This is that speech."
But to mollify me, I was served a porkchop the size of South Carolina, and it was done and prepared to perfection. More chitchat during dinner as well, and it's really astonishing how much history is locked up in our heads. And it's true, as Patty observed, that really it's only family who can appreciate this history of shared stories. Of the Bumblebee Boogie, and Don't Throw Your Shoes. Of The Boat and 'Orange Skis'.
A little birdie told me that Jim had been inspired by the Essentialsaltes and Dr. Pookie tango to seek out some dance lessons for that all-important first dance. The two of them looked very graceful on the dancefloor together, with several daring spins that I would not have liked to attempt. The dance with Jim and Aunt Fran that followed was equally amazing, due mainly to the shining light of joy that radiated from Aunt Fran.
General dancing commenced, but it wasn't till the AC/DC busted out that Dr. Pookie and I took the floor for a few songs.
The next morning, many of the clan gathered for breakfast together and we praised the ceremony and began our long goodbyes.
Afterwards, Dr. Pookie and I had some time to kill before heading back to the airport, so we got in the landyacht and set our sail for the hills, driving a bit out into the local countryside. On the way back, we stopped in at Rios Lovell for a wine-tasting. And for the sake of the memory of a fine weekend, we had a case of tasty wines shipped to us.
Dashing back to the hotel, we picked up mom and then off to the airport. Everything about our travel back went smoothly and it was a great relief to get back home, where Winston and Violet greeted us with slightly more than usual chumminess.
For your patience.... pictures