Gone to Texas: Day One

One of my oldest friends — let’s call her Gir, since I didn't ask permission to user her name — got married last weekend. The whole event would have come as a surprise more than a year prior. A Chicago native and staunchly liberal, Gir found herself deep in the heart of Texas while pursuing an advanced degree. She lamented the necessity. Every time we spoke, she told me she couldn't wait to leave. However, Gir was set on completing her education.

It didn't come as a surprise that Gir met someone while studying in the San Antonio area. She is a bubbly, exciting individual who is pretty much always fun. True to her nature, she told the man she'd met (whose name was… Prefect? Pontiff? I’ll remember eventually.) that the relationship wouldn't last, and that once she was done with school she’d be leaving town. Undaunted, he courted her. He looked for work in Chicago when she moved back to the city, but when nothing panned out, she decided to move back to Texas.

Oh yeah, and somewhere in all that, they got engaged.

The wedding invitation was a work of art in its own right. Packed in an envelope that was lined with a page from Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens, the invite itself was designed to resemble a library check-out slip. The care that went into making them was evident, right down to the texture of the paper. Despite having just vacationed in Los Angeles, I tightened my budget so I could be sure to make the trip. While I would not be standing up at the wedding, Gir did ask me to read a poem during the ceremony.

While making plans to travel with an old friend, I received a message from one of the bridesmaids, Amelia(also not her real name), asking us if we were interested in splitting the bill three ways. Figuring that a woman would want a little privacy from two (technically)eligible bachelors, I started planning for a suite instead of a room with two beds. My friend, however, was hesitant to settle on anything. After a week of back-and-forths, and with barely a month to go before the wedding proper, the original hotel I’d planned to reserve a suite at was booked. I scoured travel sites and began to plan anew, this time cutting my friend from the trip and considering only myself and Amelia. I found that two rooms at a local resort would cost little more than a suite, and paid for the trip after quickly verifying that Amelia was still on board. With flights and hotel rooms reserved, I counted down the days until we could celebrate one of my favorite people getting hitched to the man of her dreams.

Because I was worried about getting stuck in rush hour traffic, I arrived at O’Hare Airport an hour earlier than I should have. Thankfully, I have a friend who works there. He took a break from his work and we spent my extra time catching up. I can neither confirm nor deny that this friend pushed me through the VIP line while I may or may not have glared derisively at the plebeians in the regular queue. I met Amelia at the boarding gate. We toyed with the idea of grabbing a fast food breakfast but wisely decided against it.

I enjoyed the flight from O’Hare to San Antonio. It was on a smaller plane that had comfortable two-by-two seating, even in economy. Amelia and I spent part of the flight getting to re-know each other(I’d taken her on a less-than-impressive date more than a decade prior) and watching an episode of Community, then did our own thing for a bit(she read Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and took a nap; I worked on a writing project and read a few chapters of Randal Munroe’s What If?).

After landing we took a shuttle to pick up our rental car, selecting a Nissan Altima as the chariot for our weekend adventure. We started with lunch at El Chaparral, where I had my first enchilada and Amelia enjoyed tortilla soup. Our waitress offered us what I believe was the first “Y’all” of the trip, a portmanteau I didn’t hear nearly as often as one would assume. You’re slipping, Texas.

Following lunch, we traveled to Gir’s house so we could help complete last-minute crafts for the wedding. Her home was in the middle of a subdivision with the most frustrating naming scheme ever: every street was named Spring something: Spring Grass, Spring Breeze, (comedy options: Spring Autumn, Spring Spring, or Spring Roll), and so on. One of the other bridesmaids, Bono, and her husband, The Edge, were already there.

(Unlike Gir and Amelia, those are not pseudonyms. Bono is indeed actually a woman, and she is married to her constant collaborator, The Edge. Gir and Bono have been friends for years, ever since Bono dated a mutual friend of ours, Dmitry. That also isn’t a pseudonym, as Dmitry has a healthy ego and enjoys being the center of attention. Hi, Dmitry!)

Along with Gir, Bono and The Edge were making tassels. Amelia and I joined them in the task. I was not great putting them together, and failed miserably when it came to tying a final wrap around the bundled string. Instead, I breezed through the second part of our project: punching holes into personalized bookmarks. Some might argue that this task is far less challenging than creating tassels, and they would be right. Finally, we strung the tassels through the bookmarks, creating the eighty-some mementos needed to act as table assignments and keepsakes in less than twenty four hours. More of the bridal party and other close friends of Gir arrived just in time to not have to do anything. While the group conversed, The Edge and I sneaked outside to play with Gir’s dogs, Navi and Fumble(since dogs can neither read nor legally compel me to do anything, I feel perfectly comfortable using their real names). After spending a little time hanging out with more of the bridal party, Amelia and I hit the road.

While making the way to our hotel, Amelia spotted a sign for a Dairy Queen. “I could go for a Blizzard,” she remarked. I’d like to act like I stood my ground and stuck to my semi-strict diet, but the truth is and has always been this: if a cute woman asks me to do something, I will probably do it. Compared to previous indulgences(”You want to call a TV psychic from my phone for an hour? Sure!” “Of course I’ll give you and your family some laptops!” “What harm could there be in giving you access to Caprica’s defense systems?”), a tasty treat is infinitesimal. I left the expressway and pulled into the restaurant’s lot. We each ordered small ice cream treats: hers blended with M&M’s and mine a superior combination of mint and Oreo cookies.

After our refreshing pause, Amelia and I got back on the road. We made our way along a winding road that eventually let to Tapatio Springs. The resort was a far cry from the disappointing hotel I found myself in during my LA trip. Far from traffic and right in the middle of nature, it was decorated with a rustic-ornate palette largely made up of wood and stone. Featuring opulent on-site facilities like a spa, fitness center, golf course, and working ice machines, at no point did it seem like the terrible compromise my last hotel was.

Amelia and I had rooms that were side-by-side but did not share a door between them. After resigning myself to the fact that the weekend would not feature any farcical door-slamming, I took a moment to get ready for the night’s main event: rehearsal dinner.

Held at a restaurant just a few miles from the actual wedding location, the rehearsal dinner took place at restaurant called Po Po. When we arrived, we discovered buildings on either side of the locations’ sign. To the left, along the road, was a stone building with a neon sign declaring “EATS.” On the right, through an old gate, a path led to a wooden building. Amelia and I first followed the path to the right, but upon approach it appeared to be empty. Finding this suspicious, she suggested we check the more lively structure just a few yards away. Seeing the logic behind that line of thinking, I followed her. We approached the reception area, where the restaurant’s staff redirected us to the place we’d just left.

The door to the hall where the rehearsal dinner was held lacked a proper doorknob, but Po Po staff opened the door before I could properly comment on its non-existence. Following a quick round of introductions, the entire wedding party filed out of the dining area and onto the building’s back porch, where a very quick rehearsal of the next day’s event took place.

Upon returning to the dining hall, I took a seat an empty table. I soon found myself flanked by Bono and Amelia, with more of the wedding party following suit. We made small talk as Gir and her almost-but-not-quite-yet husband (Practice? Purchase?) handed out gifts to the bridesmaids and groomsmen. I didn’t see what the groomsmen got, but the bridesmaids received personalized scented lotions and necklaces that suited each one beautifully.

Once gifts had been handed out, buffet-style fajitas were offered. Everyone at our table waited patiently as others filed through the line, eventually making our way to the table. I filled my place with a chicken fajita, some salad, tortilla chips, and queso — that’s cheese dip to anyone not from Texas. In the hubub, Dmitry and his wife appeared, so I sat with them for a moment to catch up. After quickly polishing off my meal, I returned to my original table, whereupon Bono and Amelia jokingly chided me for ditching them.

It was a long but wonderful evening; Gir and Peanut (that’s it! Has to be!) moved about the room as their closest friends and family members got to know one another. The Edge shared his phone’s WiFi hotspot with me when I discovered my service in the area was less than stellar, and I found that I got along swimmingly with one of the other bridesmaids, The Brain, and her husband, Pinky. I tried, and was unimpressed with, bread pudding.

The party ended well after dark, which led to another discovery about Texans: they don’t believe in lighting busy roads or clearly marking them. Amelia took on navigation duties as I struggled to see through the inky darkness of unlit Texas night. I missed nearly every highway entrance and exit at least once as we traveled to a local Walgreens. After making it through the ordeal, Amelia and I purchased supplies that were almost certainly not for vandalizing the car of the bride and groom, and returned to our hotel. After making tentative brunch plans, I almost immediately passed out in my comfortable, inviting bed.

Posted on October 19, 2014 and filed under Travel.