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07.23.02 1:29 a.m.

WEDDING, n. A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one, one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become supportable.

 -Ambrose Bierce  

Previously in Xenology: About a year ago, Emily and I went to the Orange County Fair with her old friend Emory and his fiancée Susan.

Something Old
On Saturday after work, Emily asked me to drive to her house so that Gina, she and I could go to the Orange County fair (also so I would already be in her clutches to go to Emory and Susan's wedding). I obliged, because I am an obliging sort who knows better than to make Emily sad, despite the fact that work had totally wiped me out (I have been working full time at the library since I returned home from Summer Scholars).
(Okay, time for a stupid library anecdote that is only funny to me! I was shelf reading, because it was the most spirit-crushing activity they could fathom to give me at that moment. A couple came by and asked where they could find books on feng shui. I scuttled to a computer and looked up the call number. Returning to them, I informed them that these books were somewhere between witchcraft and psychology. See, because feng shui is not a practical science and... Come on, isn't that even a little funny? No? Well... bite me.)
Immediately upon entering the fair and deciding the rides seemed something equidistant from unsafe, expensive, and toxic. Sundry, largely domesticated animals in various tents, however, surrounded us. As such, we felt the moral need to pet at many variations on the theme of "goat" as we could reach. The tent owners were trying to bilk money out of the crowds by selling carrots (there was honestly a sign out front that forbade us to bring our own carrots in, as though carrots are at the bottom of every woman's purse outside of a Warner Brother's cartoon) and wet naps for well above the logical cost. Little did they know that I brought my own wet naps! Ha ha! Didn't have a sign yelling at us about that, did you, goat man?
We also stumbled upon a caged peacock and peahen that seemed quite content until I appeared. Then the peacock began strutting toward me and flapping his wings in an accusatory manner. To the delight of the assembled yokels, he went so far as to threaten me with his plumage. I quickly realized that my shirt was roughly the same color as the peacock (which says a lot about my wardrobe) and the peacock was worried I was after his mate. Though she did have a pretty damned sexy beak, all pointy and such.
It should be noted that this spectacle was next to a quarter-ton of unprocessed pork chops and bacon barely masquerading as a living being. Living beings are required to breathe and this sow barely had the strength for that anymore, so great was her girth. Though I suppose she is still quite a sight better than the one I witnessed roasting over a spit last year. It makes it hard to believe in the mythos of pigs instilled upon children by Charlotte's Web when one witnesses such a creature that can hardly protect itself, let alone its young (who were using the sow's nose as the finish line for a race). "Some pig" indeed.
The feeding trough  
She has no idea why these people are such freaks.
Worse than the big pig were the spectacles outside the cages. As Emily put it, "My god, there are a lot of fat, ugly people. Look at them all. How are they moving? Why are they here? What kind of skeletal structure can support that much meat?" I tried to educate her on the finer points of white trash Americana, having been a student of an inner-city high school. County fairs are like a breeding ground to this sort. It is one of those savage acts of nature that we as humans cannot fully comprehend. We just have to step back from our moral compasses and understand this gut-wrenching act as necessary for the circle of life, like a puma hunting a box of breakfast pastries coated in butter. All the men sporting torn and dirty t-shirts and fake gold chains, eating fried Oreos, are exactly the same as the peacock (though, if there is a god of any sort, they will not show you their "plumage"). All the fourteen-year-olds in tight-to-the-point-of-constricting clothes drooling over these men... well, they are just hoes. Ain't no two ways about that.
However, when we encountered the woman-beast who was tanner than George Hamilton on Venus, who evidently felt her melanoma in training was not tan enough so she also used a chemical tanner (turning her a brownish-orange color like the faux leather interior of a junkyard car), I knew I was out of my depth (or shallowness, as it were). She was a species of white trash that I had never quite witnessed before. Not only did she have camouflage skin, like a retarded chameleon, but she wore a bangle in her belly button that could have easily been used as a bracelet for a normal person (or a belt for Kate Moss). We just stared as she passed us, like we were seeing Bigfoot.
Hey, maybe under all that hair, Bigfoot has a really bad tan. I could be onto something.
After we left the fair, a few dollars lighter but with key chains that bore our pictures, the three of us decided to go to the Olive Garden for something to eat (I am so sorry, Melissa. We were hungry and they gave us breadsticks and salad. We are weak.) We parked next to a car that looked like Beauty School Drop-Out's. Of course, it wasn't hers. That would be silly. It had the wrong stickers and whatnot. Crisis averted.
While we waited to be seated, Emily noticed a red-haired boy leaving the lavatory. He gave us a querulous glance, but seemed to not be giving us much thought. At least, not until Emily waved at him. He is BSDO's ex-boyfriend, thus close enough to be dangerous. As proof, he informed us that he was dining with BSDO and would bring her over. The moment he turned the corner, I told Emily that I could be sick. With... malaria. If that is what she needed. Bubonic Plague? But no, she insisted we hold our ground. As long as that ground does not bear the weight of BSDO for more than five minutes, I said I would hold valiantly.
BSDO came toddling out, affecting that strut seen only in people who think they are drunk after having sipped one beer for three hours. We greeted her in a lackluster fashion, though she plainly did not care. She informed us that her cadre and she were heading out, which seemed like a wonderful idea. BSDO's supposedly ex-boyfriend who was making single entendres at her was wearing the same anime shirt as his friend. This is not cute or charming. This puts them in the same category as the County Fair species.
They left to our unanimous delight and we were promptly seated. Our waitress was an amazingly charming girl by the name of Noelle. She joked with us and was very quick-witted. We asked her about her favorite cookies (non-fried Oreos) and she treated this as a perfectly normal request. I remarked that I was working on my telekinesis and she act as though she were flung back upon the adjoining table. What was most remarkable was that she honestly seemed to be joyful in her job, which is a rare trait. I think I am doing her a disservice, as she really was quite out of the ordinary. Definitely a good person. Gina said she looked like Geena Davis from the side, if that helps her case any.
Near the end of the meal, singing coming our way confused me. I assumed that it was the waitstaff singing in celebration of the only other people in the room with us and was shocked when they came to my table and Noelle served me ice cream with a candle in it. We had achieved such an informal and friendly sort of rapport that I almost believed this was a joke on her part. Once they departed, Emily confessed that she had told another waitress that it was my birthday to embarrass me, as is her occasional inclination. I just can't trust that girl alone for a minute.
Noelle, incidentally, didn't see reason to charge us for our desserts. She's mad cool.
Once we had paid the check and were outside, Emily asked why I hadn't given Noelle my web address. I stated that I had thought about it, but it seemed awkward. She something like dared me to do so, so I scribbled it down on a piece of paper and returned to the restaurant. Noelle was not unhappy to see me. I explained that she was the best waitress I had ever met, meaning to say that she seemed like a very good person and I wanted her to visit this site. She asked what it was all about and I squeaked something of how it is a true-life novel that keeps building upon itself. It is not a web log, because it is a lot more fleshed out and has character development of people who are not me, along with foreshadowing, irony, and the other staples of storytelling. "My friends," I said, "are an interesting lot, prone to hunt space aliens in Pine Bush." She smiled her wide grin and said, "Best place to hunt them." I smiled back, platonically enamored. She should so be my friend.
So, Noelle, if you are reading this, you should so be my friend. That is all.
When we parted, she wished be a happy birthday and I felt a twinge of guilt, though I was totally out of the loop with the joke.
Emily asked why I was grinning so contentedly when I returned. I began to tell her an elaborate story wherein Noelle and I were going to fight demons in South America, and then told her the truth for the sake of brevity.
It's the soul of wit, you know.

Something New
The next day, M and I began to mount the excursion to Emory and Susan's wedding. Well, we showered first, of course. No use going on an excursion dirty, now is there? Emily asked my opinion of which nail polish she should wear. I looked at them and selected the silver. Once applied I remarked, "You look heavenly... I mean infernal. Infernal. I always get those words confused." She pretended to be mad, which was immensely cute.
We were rather hungry when we finally left the house and discovered, quite by accident, that McDonald's serves food. Did you know that? I thought that was just where Teeny Beanies were distributed. But no, real food. Pancakes and biscuits.
Emily bought me a Weekly World News, so I read her articles from it to keep her awake through part of the trip. Then I closed my eyes for a moment because the sun was shining in them and awoke forty minutes later at a gas station on the edge of New York. In order to preserve out lives, Emily suggested I stay away to keep her from falling asleep at the wheel and killing us.
How long I actually did this, I cannot remember. I may have rested my weary peepers for a few minutes. The next I recall, we were in Great Barrington, MA and an hour and a half early. I choose to believe my falling asleep caused us to drive backward through time. It seems the most reasonable explanation.
We happened upon a used bookstore. As is our habit when we stumble upon old books, we try to find vaguely occult ones that predate the eighties. It's never easy, but that is what makes it a challenging hobby.
Okay, remember that sentence I just wrote? There was a section marked "Occult." I found a copy of Ritual Magic from 1959, Ancient and Modern Initiation from 1955, The Web of Destiny from 1928, The Chalice of Ecstasy from 1923, and Initiation Into Hermetics from 1971 all in fair to excellent condition. Emily found a copy of the Egyptian Book of the Dead from 1972. Clearly we can now raise a little hell properly. We were so lacking in materials before.
We arrived at the wedding early still. We changed from our humble street clothes into our formal wedding clothes in the parking lot of the establishment. Emily could just slip her simple and yet elegantly sexy white dress over her head and doff that which was underneath. I had to undergo a process of hiding behind car doors at strategic moments in order to array myself in the clothing that is labeled my "Russian count outfit." When I emerged, I got the distinct feeling Emily desperately wanted to remove it from me. By force. With her teeth.
It is a good outfit.
Walking into the hotel, Emily insists that I was checked out quite a bit by older women. When I stepped inside, I did get the feeling like I had some sort of presence. Well, the outfit did. I merely stood inside of it while is captivated people. Looking evidently quite a bit like a vampire, Emory's mother shook my hand and declared that I was exactly the sort of boy she thought Emily would end up with. I firmly believe Emily should be deeply offended.
The wedding was outside, which seemed like a very bad idea. Maybe the vampire suit was getting to me, but direct sunlight seemed like a bad thing. Given that Emily returned from this with a bright sunburn on one shoulder, I feel vindicated.
The ceremony was short. I was kept amused by Emily shuddering in pain every time the rabbi used the word "wedlock." I can say I disagree, it is an unpleasant word and not something I should like to hear on the happiest day of my like. Wedlock sounds painful, like sharp metal handcuffs that are a bit too small.
In the reception, Emily informed me that Susan was a bit annoyed because her new husband had known Emily longer. M reminded her that she had just married Emory, so it more than balanced out.
We did not have place settings at the dinner, unlike every other person. We noted that each table had the place card of a Hobbit family with the Elvish translation painstakingly written underneath. Emory informed us later that he had worked for hours reproducing each name, which I think give you a great insight into Emory and his bride. We started out at the Took table with people approximately our age. However, we got bumped to the Hornblower table, full of elderly couples that didn't seem to appreciate our intrusion at first, nearly as much as we did not appreciate intruding. After dessert, Emory summoned us over to the Baggins table (of course, the main table) and gave us audience. So we are like Hobbit whores.
Emily and I danced a lot, which was a small joy. I had forgotten just how much I love watching her move.
Emily was most impressed with the bathrooms. I know that is an odd statement. While they lacked automatic faucets, the offered a paper towel dispenser that gave towels only if one waves ones hands before them. Similarly, the soap dispenser required a very specific series of movements to fulfill its purpose. Ah, pointless technology for the sake of looking good.
On the way home, we ended up getting very lost (in that we ended up in CT for a while) because I was being "verbally distracting" and she could not concentrate. Several hours later and several barely existent cell phone calls to my home (reception is not so good when all you can see are cows and grass), we finally ended up in Dutchess County, albeit a section of it I had never heard of before.

Soon in Xenology: Ziti, Angela decides M deserves many orgasms, Matt and the farmer, Kiwi Bob

last watched: Waking Life
reading: American Gods
listening: Greatest Hits 1990-1999
wanting: Not to have to work full time right now.
interesting thought: Humanity consists of all sorts of people. The bizarrely tanned included.
moment of zen: being attractive because of clothes.
someday I must: wear the Russian Count Outfit again.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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