Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Weddings, by Fellini

The bride is a Valley Girl turned Orthodox Jew.
The groom, born in Israel, aspiring director.
The temple, off Sunset, in West Hollywood.
Add an open bar, and sweet, loving, bedlam.

Chaos begets more chaos, passionate guests,
drunk with joy and religious fervor,
singing, dancing, shouting, crying,
and the wedding hasn't even started yet.

A beautiful woman offers a platter
with stuffed grape leaves and other hors d'oeuvres.
I stare at the chuppa, holding my drink,
rum and coke, thinking this can't possibly be right.

Before beginning, the grey-beard rabbi asks the sexes
not to sit together, please, men on the right -
women on the left
, a murmur of movement,
the shifting and resettling,

and the rabbi clears his throat, corrects us,
I meant my right. Watch now,
see the room, parted like the Red Sea,
coming together in an embrace,

then receding into separate halves.
After the ceremony, the crowd fills
the hallway, overloads the lobby,
packs in front of the entrance to the Judith Levine

Garden Room, I find myself trapped
in a doorway marked LADIES.
I am elbowed into oblivion by desperate women,
aching to empty their bladders.

Once inside, the dance floor dis-
plays its split personality - potted palms
divide the room into two realms:
men dance North, women South

and there are the typical
ceremonial delays, the anticipation,
then the arrival of bride and groom.
I could never have expected such a spectacle.

Ribbon-lined hoops sit like fancy wickets
and there is a roar reminiscent of
a football team storming the field,
Hebrews returning from routing the Philistines.

The photographer's flashes, two beacons
on tall, thin antennae-like poles, blind me,
daze me, trick me into seeing things that can't
possibly be there, but they are.

The newlyweds are rushed in,
obscured by buckets of confetti and
other debris, canned string sprayed
wantonly into the crowd, arms flailing.

There are party hats and backflips,
costumed jesters, bearded men who,
normally appear pious in conservative
black suits, thrashing wildly like men

drowning in air -wigged women wear masks
and hula skirts and artificial leis and,
I swear to God, there is a clown with a huge
flyswatter, smacking dancing people as if

they were squirming insects caught
in an energetic web. It is like
Mardi Gras without beads and breasts.
It is a festival, a celebration.

The clown re-emerges in a gorilla suit
and I'm in the corner, exhausted and jealous,
because I can barely muster up the energy
to watch, let alone dance.

The bride is beautiful and glowing, the groom
sweats with exhilarating joy as I watch
a group of men dance with their hats on fire.
It is the performance of a lifetime.

And I do not believe I am actually
witnessing this spectacle, live,
and it is a wedding,
and there is chaos, beautiful madness,

and at the center of it all: two lovers,
around whom the world revolves
in a dazzling display
of bright and penetrating light.

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