Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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Golden Age

I heard from my friend Caren today. I haven't spoken to her in a couple of years, what with her peripatetic lifestyle and my poor performance as a postal correspondent. But I was delighted to receive her note. She also included two photos from her wedding -- actually, they were shot at the rehearsal dinner the night before -- that put me in an intensely nostalgic mood.

The day of the rehearsal began with me driving into town to catch the huge Cezanne exhibit, an activity set aside for interested guests. I distinctly recall listening to the Sebadoh single from Harmacy with tremendous joy as I drove the Schuylkill Expressway myself for the first time -- equivalent to riding the scariest roller coaster around if you're a native of southeast Pennsylvania -- on my way to the museum. Once there, I pondered the steps from Rocky and spent a long time absorbing all I could of the Cezanne. Then I headed out to the Philadelphia airport to pick up my friends John and Adina, purchasing my treasured "Bucks County Coffee Company" cup -- I lived in Bucks county until I was eleven -- while I was waiting for them. Although the rehearsal began with intense class anxiety on my part -- the "mainline" Philadelphia location triggered Pennsylvania body memories I haven't felt as strongly anywhere else -- by the time it ended I'd made numerous trips into the darkness beyond the reach of the patio lights to commiserate with fellow travelers and also smoked my first and last cigar. Later that night, a trio of smokers in my motel room, ignoring my "You can't do that here!" attitude, set off a central alarm and brought security to my door.

We all made it to the church on time for the next day's wedding, then celebrated at the reception for over seven hours, during which time there was a full bar where every drink was gratis. I averaged a Cape Codder every twenty minutes. For all that, though, I was still standing when we left for the after party at a local pub. To my drink-dulled consternation, several guests ended up joining me in my rental car for the confusing drive over. I then spent the next few hours drinking lots of beer and getting hit on, bizarrely, by some undergraduates from Villanova. I knew better than to drive back to the motel. I gave the keys to John, who brought us safely back.

The next day I met my cousin, his then-wife, and my uncle for a traditional Philly breakfast. I could barely speak. But I managed to plough through a pile of scrapple in the interest of family bonding, then left for what seemed like an excessively long drive to the airport in Newark. And you know what? I remember the whole experience with great fondness. It's nice to recall the abandon with which I lived in the months prior to my own wedding. So much has transpired since, from the breaking up of our circle of friends, to our move to Arizona, to the horrors of the present Bush Administration, that 1996 feels a lot longer ago than it actually was. The photo, which I'd never seen before today, brings that time of lost innocence back. Not to mention that it also proves that I actually have worn a suit, "just like George W. Bush," as my daughter likes to say.

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