A young friend invited me to a wedding at St. Patrick’s Cathedral the other day. Not to the reception, mind you-just the wedding itself. “The church is open, anybody can come,” he said. It seemed like an off-hand invitation, but I gathered that it was important to him that he sees my face on his big day.
He’d expressed a great deal of anxiety and fear about the whole thing, and looked to my wizened experience.
“Millions of people get married every day all over the world,” I told him. “You’ll be okay.”
I usually do other things Saturday mornings, like drop off my compost and go shopping. But that morning I dutifully shaved even though it was a no-shave day; I do it every other day, saves money on razors- but a wedding at St. Patrick’s certainly requires a shave. And a nice pressed shirt and tie. I opted out of a whole suit and wore chinos instead. It was hot outside, after all.
I got on the subway down to Rockefeller Center to go support my young friend and hoped there would be a bathroom somewhere along the way. The most important thing to an old person is a bathroom. Ask any old person.
I got off the D train at the 47th-50th Street station, figuring to walk through the wonderful concourse under 30 Rock, a true gift to the city of New York. There had to be bathrooms somewhere in this warren of shops and restaurants.
I’ve always liked walking through the marbled passageways of the concourse, reveling in the Art Deco design of the last golden age, when radio was king and this was the center of the universe.
Eventually I came across an usher, wrangling people onto elevators to the observation tower above. One of the things that I one day hope to do, visit the top of the rock. I asked him where there was a men’s room and he directed me.
“Straight down and to the right. Next to Blue Bottle Coffee.”
I thanked him and found my saving grace, which was coincidentally right next to the escalators to the street. I had arrived at my destination, as Google maps likes to say.
As I walked into the church I noticed there were a great deal of tourists in the lobby. I told the usher I was here for a wedding and he pointed me to a velvet rope. The edge of the rope was crowded with tourists and my young friend wasn’t kidding when he said the church would be “open.”
I saw men in suits and women in expensive dresses beyond the purple velvet rope and assumed they were in the wedding party, but since I didn’t know any of them I didn’t gesture or call out. Then a group behind me appeared, they were invitees too. It was a group of three couples, and they were undeterred by purple velvet ropes.
“Follow me,” one of the women said, and led the group up a side aisle. I did as I heard and followed them close behind. We boldly trooped up to the middle of the church, where she lifted a rope to let the party through to the section where the wedding party was. As she went to clip the rope back on its rig I took it from her and said, “Thanks. I’m going to the same place you’re going.”
I found a nearly empty pew near the front and sat on the aisle.
The mighty St. Patrick’s organ was playing and it took me back to my first wedding, which was at the Swedish Seaman’s church just two short blocks away. We were supposed to have an organ player too- my friend Dave Buck who was a sideman for the B-52s at the time. My wedding party waited and waited for Dave, and when the reverend Olsen who was officiating got fed up we got married without the organ music.
Luckily for my young friend this organ player was present and the majestic space was filled with dramatic chords. Later on during parts of the mass a woman stood at the lectern and sang as well. The only thing I recognized was Ave Maria, beautifully sung.
My ex-wife and I did get a song, as the reverend Olsen said, “You have to have music at a wedding,” and treated us to something sung in Swedish. It was a little awkward for me, but I guess Cate dug it, being half Swedish herself. After our wedding our small wedding party walked up to Central Park were we ate pizza and rented rowboats. Then we took the subway down to our apartment on Houston Street and did coke until we all ran out of money.
Which was not the case this day, I’m happy to say.
I watched as my friend’s bride walked up the aisle with her father, and seeing them recite their vows and exchange rings and kiss made my heart well up.
There was communion, and even though the last time I was at a mass I went up and took communion without the benefit of confession and wasn’t struck down by lightning or turn into a pumpkin I opted out this time. It would seem too hypocritical to do so, leave the wafer for someone who believes in it.
After the wedding I took a picture of the wedding party on the steps of the church, and my young friend noticed and acknowledged be with a smile and a nod.
Duty done, I walked across 50th Street to Sixth Avenue and loosened my tie on the way. I passed by the 30 Rock marquee where in a past life I would make my way past the crowd waiting to go up to SNL, give my name to the desk and ride the cast elevator up to Studio 8H where I supplied some of the cast and staff with controlled substances. Those were different times.