Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The glory that is a Greek wedding


It was probably a hint of what is to become "Our Big Fat Greek Wedding, 2.0" when the Bombshell of the Balkans concluded: "We're going to need a bouzouki player."

And yes, that was the sound of my forehead hitting the kitchen counter.

It was with great joy when Steve Canyon the Elder announced he was planning to wed the Florence Nightingale of Atlanta.

But a wedding announcement also triggers that secret female chromosome to begin planning, planning and more planning. By comparison the Seal Team 6 assault on Osama bin Laden's compound was born from a spontaneous fit of whimsy.

"I think Mom's getting a little carried away," Chuck Yeager the Elder observed as preparations for an engagement soiree began to make the union of William and Kate seem like a bad Love Boat episode.

Ah! A moment for parental wisdom had arrived.

And so it was that I put the little grasshopper on my knee to clear up a few facts of marital life.

What Sky King the Elder needed to understand is that a wedding has absolutely nothing to do with him beyond showing up at the appointed time to say: "I do."

Any man who thinks he is an active equal co-participant in his wedding is either deluding himself or lying through his teeth. For the past 29 years, the Sunflower of Sparta has been dreaming, yearning and burning more candles at Greek Orthodox churches than the last scenes in Carrie in anticipation of the day her son would get engaged.

Now that moment has arrived and if Charles Lindbergh the Elder thought he was going to botch things up by getting involved, if the Marigold of Macys and the Clara Barton of Auburn had anything to do with it (and they do!) he had another think coming.

The idea was to have a small engagement party at Channelside's Taverna Opa, so that both sides of the family and several friends could celebrate the long-awaited moment. Ergo, the pressing need to retain the services of a practitioner of the bouzouki, which is sort of like a Hellenic mandolin. Think of Anthony Quinn's iconic dance in Zorba the Greek.

And start drinking heavily.

But there was a problem. How hard should it be to find a bouzouki player? You would think all one would have to do was call the International Association of Amalgamated Bouzouki Players and order up one bouzouki artist to go.

Unfortunately, last weekend also marked Greek Independence Day, when bouzouki performers were in more demand than Lindsay Lohan's lawyers.

We would have had more luck getting Bruce Springsteen to drop by and play a few tunes.

Alas, crisis enveloped the bouzouki-challenged engagement party.

What to do? Greeks love to party, love to dance and love to throw stuff in the air like the odd Turk or two. A Greek social event without a bouzouki is like Bern's Steak House just ran out of meat.

But things worked out. Taverna Opa had plenty of recorded bouzouki music, which was a good thing because it gave the belly dancer something to belly dance to.

Now it is true that belly dancing is not usually associated with Greek culture. But I didn't notice anyone complaining.

You wonder at such moments what the mother and brother of the bride had to be thinking as castanets clinked, napkins flew around the room, and strains of "Opa!" and flaming cheese were everywhere.

But I would like to think they felt their daughter and sister was marrying into a culture and an extended family, which only goes back a few thousand years, that appreciates good food, good wine and an impulse to start dancing at the drop of a worry bead. At least that was my impression when I first met the Petunia of the Peloponesus' family — all 400 of them, or so it seems.

Over the next few months, there are going to be more showers than the postgame Tampa Bay Rays locker room and other various events until the big day in late September.

By then the family of our daughter-in-law-in-waiting ought to have ample time adjusting to the Greekiness of it all. But I rather doubt anything can prepare them for the traditional Greek dry-spitting on the bride for good luck. Probably better to just let them experience the moment.

Or to paraphrase Roy Scheider in Jaws: I think we're going to need a bigger bouzouki.


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