Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Original Broadway Cast – "So Long, Goodbye" (1959)

I'm glad to go
I cannot tell a lie

I’m writing this post on “National Selfie Day,” which is appropriate given that that its subject is perhaps the most narcissistic and twee wedding announcement ever written.  

You may think that the New York Times wedding announcements featured in the previous few 2 or 3 lines posts were pretty bad, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

From the Times account of the June 4, 2016 wedding of Nathaniel Peters and Barbara Jane Sloan, which was titled “The Sound of Music is in His Blood and Now His Heart”:  

When Nathaniel Peters goes for a walk, he often sings aloud, which may be a genetic trait.  His great-grandparents were Maria and Georg von Trapp, who founded the Trapp Family Singers with their children and whose story was the basis for “The Sound of Music.”

The Sloan-Peters announcement
 inspired numerous vitriolic tweets
Mr. Peters, 30, also appears to have inherited Maria von Trapp’s exuberant climb-every-mountain attitude.  “You know that look that a golden lab has when chasing a tennis ball — that’s how Nathaniel chases life,” said Ryan Sayre Patrico, a friend.

Growing up on Martha’s Vineyard, Mr. Peters was bookish and interested in existential questions and distinctive clothing from an early age.  “He’s the kind of person who wants to wear bright orange shoelaces in his very fancy dress shoes,” said Clare Rose, a friend.  “He’s often seen in a bow tie or some kind of hat.”

(Wow.  Those three paragraphs are appallingly over the top, and we’re just getting started.  By the way – what the hell is a “golden lab”?  I’ve heard of yellow Labs — in fact, I own one — and I’ve heard of golden retrievers.  But I’ve never heard of a “golden lab.”)

By the fall of 2013, he was a graduate student in theology at Boston College, fluent in Latin, fond of three-piece suits and living in a house on the edge of campus that was full of people studying religion and philosophy.

The Trapp Family Singers
When asked for words to describe himself and his friends, he replied: “You could try ‘heady.’  On the one hand, we are people who enjoy lots of books and investigating particular questions having to do with the human existence, or God, or the nature of beauty.  But at least three of us are capable of cooking dinner to Taylor Swift and enjoying that, too.”

(What a remarkable young man: fluent in Latin, fond of three-piece suits, and a serious student of religion and philosophy – but also a regular guy who enjoys listening to Taylor Swift while cooking dinner.)

Barbara Jane Sloan, a fellow graduate student in theology at Boston College who is known as Jane, lived in a house across an open field from Mr. Peters.

The two had met briefly during the summer of 2012 at a mutual friend’s wedding and he remembered her as quiet and thoughtful.  ”There was an introverted loveliness about her,” he said.  By contrast, Jon Petkun, a friend, said Mr. Peters possessed an “ear-piercing loveliness.”

That fall, Ms. Sloan and Mr. Peters got to know each other better.  She wore Warby Parker eyeglasses that were almost identical to his.  She appreciated both liturgical music and Ella Fitzgerald, as he did.

The happy, Warby Parker-wearing couple
Growing up in Carmel, Indiana, she was a bookworm with an early curiosity about God.  “When she was small, she’d say things like, ‘This summer, I’m going to read the Bible,’” said her father, Dan Sloan.

(I used to say things like, “This summer, I’m going to read Finnegan’s Wake,” or “This summer, I’m going to read Remembrance of Things Past.”  I never did, and I’m betting she never read the damn Bible either.)

The two began walking back and forth to each other’s houses for long talks about early Christianity (her specialty) or the pros and cons of joining a religious order.  “Sometimes, I could hear him coming because he would be singing to himself, usually opera,” said Ms. Sloan, 31.

(The couple didn’t just have long talks about Christianity – they had long talks about EARLY Christianity.  And the guy didn’t just sing shoegazing indie songs to himself on his walks – he took preciousness to a whole new level by singing opera to himself on his walks . . . in Italian, no doubt.)

When she visited his house, she generally arrived with an armful of baguettes and pastries, leftovers from the bakery where she worked. “I started referring to her as our ‘friend with breadifits’,” he said.

(Samuel Johnson once opined that puns are the lowest form of humor.  This particular pun that Dr. Johnson was correct.)

He did not own a car, but she did, which also helped forge a bond between them. She often gave him rides to Trader Joe’s for groceries.

“It was always an adventure,” she said. “He’d get in the car and he’d have a CD, or a magazine article he wanted to read to me, or biscuits he baked that morning. I was like ‘Who is this guy?’ I’m a more slow, plodding, contemplative person, and he’s always on the go.”

(Do you know the old Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys song, "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed"?  If not, you can click here to listen to it.)

One day, he borrowed her car and got into a minor accident, which left a bumper dented and a headlight wobbling like a loose tooth.  When she saw the damage, she just laughed and got out some duct tape, which really impressed him. “His words to me were, ‘Mom, she’s being saintly about this’,” said his mother, Elizabeth Peters.

Still, neither thought of becoming more than friends, partly because one or the other was usually dating someone else.  Also, Ms. Sloan said: “It took a while for me to wake up to how great he was.  It took a year of friendship.”

During that year, they created several traditions together.  “Sunday nights were ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ or, when those were not on, Shakespeare,” he said.  They formed a group that gathered regularly at his kitchen table to sing in harmony, and he taught her how to cross-country ski on the trails outside the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt.

The Trapp Family Lodge
Eventually, Ms. Sloan said, the two were spending so much time together that she asked him: “‘Is this fair?  We are not too close, right?’  He said, ‘No, we are just two pilgrims along the way, traveling together for a while.’”

Early in the summer of 2014, he invited her and some other friends to his family’s house on Martha’s Vineyard.  “It was a disaster weekend for me,” she said. “My hat blew off while we were sailing.  I lost my sunglasses in the water.  Nathaniel and I went swimming and there was a riptide.”  He ended up carrying her out of the waves.  “I had this moment of, ‘This is really nice!’” she said.  “But at the same time I thought, ‘We have to not be holding on to each other anymore.’”

(Wouldn’t you love to live a life that was so insulted from pain and suffering that losing your sunglasses qualified as a “disaster”?  Hopefully Warby Parker makes sunglasses, too.)

Not long after, she recalled, he asked her: “Remember our conversation about being two pilgrims along the way?  Well, I would like to make a slight amendment. I’d like to take you down to the Public Garden and have a picnic and read from P.G. Wodehouse.”  For once, both were single at the same time.

(I remember the days when a guy would say to a girl he was courting, “I'd like to take you back to my room, get you drunk, and play a little game I like to call ‘Hide the Salami’.”)

On July 23, 2014, they arrived at the garden carrying a picnic basket and “Something Fresh,” a novel by Wodehouse which he read aloud to her under a willow tree.  “It was the best first date ever,” she said.

(I'd love to hear what her worst first date was like.)

Over the next few days, they continued reading the book together.  Near the conclusion, Mr. Peters said, there is a great description of a kiss.  “We both got impatient so I thumbed to the end of the book, read it and kissed her,” he said.

It wasn’t long before they were musing about marriage, which Mr. Peters imagined would be like “entering into a deep mystery with my best friend.”

Ms. Sloan, who is now a Ph.D. student in theology at Marquette University in Milwaukee, said she could never have conjured up a partner who could cook, analyze medieval texts, climb trees and dance as adroitly as Mr. Peters.  “If someone asked me for a list of qualities I would want in an ideal person, my list would fall so short of who Nathaniel is, so far short,” she said.

(The lesson to be learned here is that one should never settle for less than a mate who can cook, analyze medieval texts, climb trees, and dance adroitly.  I would want the other person to speak French without a trace of an accent as well, of course – but that’s just me.)

On May 31, 2015, he proposed in a tiny stone chapel that his great-uncle, Werner von Trapp, built in the woods behind the family lodge.  He asked her to wait outside while he decorated the floor with beeswax candles arranged in the shape of a heart and a cross, which glowed in the dark like a constellation.

“I came in and the first thing I remember is this beautiful smell of beeswax, this lovely, warm smell,” she said. “I gave him a hug for support, like: ‘We both know what’s happening. You can do it!’”

By the time his proposal was over, and she accepted, all of the candles had melted.  “I said, ‘I have a feeling this is what marriage is going to be like,” he said. “We’ve just had this moment of intimacy and now we’re sitting here scraping wax off the floor.’”

(Give him credit for being honest and telling her to be prepared for a husband who’s always going to make her remember those melted candles.)

The bride and groom
On June 4, they were married at Blessed Sacrament Church in Stowe, he in a vintage morning coat and she in a gown that was both subtle and sparkly, like her.  The couple created a 16-page illustrated pamphlet to guide the 172 guests through the carefully curated nuptial Mass, which was led by the Rev. Brian E. Daley, a Roman Catholic priest.  Along with many prayers, blessings and readings, there were 15 different pieces of music performed.  Mr. Peters described the music as: “Joyful, rich, lush. Lush like a forest, not like an alcoholic.”

(A “vintage” morning coat – a new morning coat isn’t ridiculous enough, so naturally he wore a vintage one.  And a “subtle and sparkly” gown that matches the bride’s personality.  You two are soooo special!)

Mr. Patrico, the best man, watched the groom throughout the ceremony.  “He is sitting very erect [sic] in his chair and he’s swerving and bobbing just like a conductor,” he said.  “He picked out all the music and he knows it by heart and it’s the music he chose to express these feelings he has for Jane.  He was crying at the end of every piece.”

(No doubt she was crying at the end of the wedding night.  Rimshot!)

Afterward, there was a reception in the “wedding meadow” outside the family lodge, with views of the Worcester mountains and maple syrup in little leaf-shaped bottles as gifts for guests.

“In the days leading up to the wedding,” the groom said, “I’ve felt like I’m wading into a pool of joy and I don’t know the depth of the joy yet.”

(And I feel like I’ve waded into a pool of horsesh*t, and it’s over my head.)

The couple made a graph of their wedding guests’ professions, for fun and to examine the kind of people with whom they spend time: there were 12 doctors, three astronomers, four computer programmers, 18 Ph.D. students, four Roman Catholic priests, 10 teachers and one private investigator in the crowd.

* * * * *

When I first read this and the other “Vows” columns featured in the last few 2 or 3 lines posts, I was overcome by a powerful urge to wax sarcastic.
But I wasn’t equal to the task.  I’ve used up my entire supply of contempt and scorn without inflicting significant damage on my targets.  

The typical “Vows” column is so over the top that it is far above my poor power to satirize, lampoon, burlesque, and mock it.  It’s a tar baby situation.  The more scorn I heap on these wedding announcements, the more tedious and unfunny my writing became.  No más! 

"I’m glad to go, I cannot tell a lie" . . . it’s time to leave the New York Times “Vows” column behind and move on.

* * * * *

Here’s “So Long, Goodbye” performed by the original cast of the Broadway production of The Sound of Music:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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