Time To Settle Accounts
January 15, 2012: Going to the chapel.
“Let’s walk,” I said, leading the group across Chicago Ave. on Damen late Saturday night. We were out for Hugh’s 30th, rolling from Roots Pizza to Bar Deville, and when we reached the intersection the light was stale. There was no traffic approaching from the east, while the nearest car to the west was a police SUV half way up the block. I was walking a half-step ahead of Teppei, the two of us followed by staggered groups of friends, about fifteen in all. We walked across the street.
A horn sounded as I stepped onto the curb. I turned around and saw the police SUV waiting for the end of our group to clear the intersection. “Assholes!” I said, flipping them off. They drove past our group, and then I heard the horn again – it was Teppei, blowing some kind of rounded, hand-held wind instrument that he’d apparently pulled from his coat pocket. Teppei is a tall man, highly spirited, with stringy black hair to his shoulders and a stylish collection of tight-fitting shirts and slacks along with a varied array of necklaces and scarves; he is also the only person I know who can do that folded-arms Nutcracker dance with the low-to-the-ground kicking.
When we got to Bar Deville we were dismayed to find a line. “Hugh,” Beth shouted to Hugh, “Is this really a line?” She was walking with Dave, her fiancé.
“I’m afraid so,” Hugh said. “Fortunately, we have this,” and he pulled a bottle of bourbon from a gold gift bag he’d been given at dinner. The air was cold and blowing, and the bourbon was warm, and we huddled in a mass outside the bar passing the bottle about. Feeling like the moment called for a sing along, I began the chorus of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, which immediately proved a hit. Hugh danced next to his friend Dennis, Beth and Dave swayed arm in arm, I blew on my balled fists between lines, took the bottle on its way back and poured another sip, and then watched as Teppei pulled a harmonica from his pocket and began playing notes that slowly morphed into the wedding song.
“That would be perfect if Hugh were getting married and not, you know, turning 30,” I said.
“We’re getting married!” Beth shouted.
“Dennis can marry you!” Hugh said.
The couple looked curiously at Dennis, who nodded in confirmation. “It’s true,” he said. “I’m registered in Illinois as an officiant. Not sure how official it will be here on the street, but we can do it.”
“Well?” Beth said to Dave.
“Why not?” Dave said.
They straightened out next to each other and listened, the cold air blowing and the bourbon loose. “And so, by the powers vested in me by the state of Illinois,” Dennis said, “I now pronounce you man and wife.” They kissed, I looked at Teppei and yelled, “Teppei! Hit it!” and Teppei resumed the wedding song. He then put the full-size harmonica away and pulled out a miniature one from a different pocket and played it as we passed the bottle again; the doorman finally opened up, and though we all agreed it had been a beautiful wedding, we were excited to go inside.
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“The Wedding Song” can be heard at the start of this clip: