Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Maybe it's because we started planning too early, but we've had plenty of time to second-guess the numerous plans we made during this two-year engagement.

We were so pleased and proud to have chosen Portugal as our honeymoon destination. An unusual choice, romatic, culinary, with fine weather in October. Unfortunately, the high price of oil and the low value of the dollar have caused us some trouble - especially as our wedding budget has ballooned.

We started revisiting an earlier idea - not fully developed at the time - and now we may have struck upon an even better honeymoon plan: Mendocino County, California.

Below, a full table of comparison between the two options . . .

Category: Itinerary
Mendocino: Mostly relaxing with periodic bouts of adventure, interspersed with great wine and spa treatments. A+
Portugal: Mostly sightseeing with periodic feasts of succulent pork, interspersed with driving and struggling with language. A-

Category: Accomodations
Mendocino: Posh spa resorts on the oceanfront. A+
Portugal: B&Bs and affordable "boutique" hotels. B

Category: Activities
Mendocino: Abalone hunting, mushroom foraging, wine tasting, hiking among redwoods. Did I mention spa treatments? A+
Portugal: Churches, castles, wine tasting. A

Category: Beaches
Mendocino: Breathtaking, but cold and rugged. B+
Portugal: Warm, sandy, and relaxing. A

Category: Food
Mendocino: Locally grown cuisine at the height of harvest season, fresh seafood including famous Tomales Bay oysters. A+
Portugal: Salt cod and suckling pigs. Not for everyone, but for us it's A+.

Category: Currency
Mendocino: $1 = $1. B
1 = $1.57. D

Category: Airfare
Mendocino: $300 (economy), $1,150 (first). A
Lisbon: $900 (economy), $5,000 (first). C

Category: Weather
Mendocino: Mild to cool, with regular fog and rain. C
Portugal: Mild to warm, with periodic fog and rain. B

Category: Homophobia
Mendocino: Nonexistent. A+
Portugal: Low in cities, high in the country. B-

Although Mendocino is the clear winner on these merits, it'll never be Europe. And Europe has such a unique appeal for the honeymooner, in particular. What do you think? Do we save Portugal for another day, when the recession is passed and the world has regained its confidence in the U.S. of A?


Friday, May 16, 2008

Good Enough for Now, I Guess

I received a sweet, unexpected email from my sister yesterday saying, simply, "Congratulations!" on the occasion of the California Supreme Court's decision to . . . erm . . . stop the politicians from robbing a whole class of human beings of their rights.

I just wrote and then deleted a long and pessimistic post about the state of the world and the slow progress of justice. It is true, I think, that this week's "victory" is too small, too temporary, and is overshadowed by the seemingly inexhaustible mass of fear and ignorance. So I'm trying again for something more optimistic.

As I wrote of my anger today, I also began to feel compassion for those who sense their power - their long history of privilege and authority - being stripped away. It is this anxiety and loss in the face of radical changes in the world that leads them to fight against marriage equality, among other objectively good changes. When I hear them say, "think of the children," or "threat to the family," or "it's a slippery slope," I know that those are merely effigies of hurt feelings.

At the risk of sounding condescending, I would pray for them, that they should every day reflect on the fact that all their power, all their privilege, that all authority and all dominion come from God. Power is not a right, but a costly gift, and one that we all - who possess it - are called upon to steward wisely as we strive to live more fully in God's image. Our power gives us the capacity to choose the right, to love one another, and to live well.

I also pray that my own patience and compassion should increase. I know that I share in the sinful tendency to translate my subjective experiences into a putatively objective reality. I should remember that my moral judgments primarily stem from my own anxiety, and that by better understanding my fears as well as my desires, I will see the world and people more clearly.

I am happy that so many California couples, after years of faithful love, now possess the right to seal their unions under the law and in the witness of the community. I am happy that these justices understand that democracy - and, indeed, civilization - depend upon the rule of law and not majority rule. But I am unhappy that this is so extraordinary an occurrence. We are living in the 21st century, and yet our progress is continually offset by fear and ignorance.

Perhaps the resolution to this ambivalence is to shift one's focus from the general to the particular. If one sets one's sights on the vast and perpetual battle between human dignity and human darkness, one is inevitably frustrated. The score is impossible to calculate at that scale. But in reflecting on the love one feels and the love one witnesses, gosh, in this there is so much comfort.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Peaches Party

Truth be told, I too am growing quite fond of the dog. But it is not for lack of puppy love that I am hesitant to allow Gunndi to be a part of our wedding. It is that, long before she came into our lives, I had suggested that we find some way to involve the Peach in the ceremony. My suggestion was met with derision, yet I fail to see why it is any crazier than having the dog participate.

For one thing, the cat is clearly more obedient. She is more likely than the dog to come when she is called, and she won't touch the food on the buffet as she is a very fastidious eater and since we are probably not serving lamb and rice pellets we should have nothing to worry about. She is also much tidier than the dog; for example, if we leave a pile of dirty laundry out on the floor too long, Peaches gently reminds us that we need to take care of it by kindly urinating on it.

So on the whole, not only will the cat be a better animal member of the wedding party, she was around first. So I will be damned if that smelly creature who wakes me up at the crack of dawn and tries to eat the food off my dinner plate gets to be a part of my special day but the preciousest of all all preciouses, my princess Peaches Pussypants, does not. So there.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Tableaux Vivants

In the perpetual effort to do something unique - have I mentioned that I am very competitive? - the issue of long vs. round vs. square tables keeps cropping up.

Long banquet tables are very hot right now. They have a dramatic look and good symbolism, with everyone sitting together like Medicis in their piano nobile. It would seem that they are more expensive, because you have to rent more long tables than round tables to seat the same number of people. I also assume the long linens are more expensive, because the whole rental system is designed to punish you for having ideas. And, you need more flower arrangements for this to look right.

The other trendy thing to do is to mix square tables (eight-tops, as any waiter would say) with round tables. You get a good visual impact thanks to the variety, and you retain the flexibility of those round tables, which can seat 7 - 10 people.

Finally, what is probably the sensible thing to do, is to stick with all round tables and to be creative with the tabletop decor. Rounds have lots of room for "tablescaping" with flowers, lanterns, and other stuff.

The real complicating factors here are budget and space. I have planned countless catered affairs before, but they were gala fundraisers with huge budgets. And they were in New York. The circumstances here are so different, it's like starting from scratch. And our caterer is so accustomed to working with wealthy clients that she hasn't been very detailed or concerned with budget issues; her estimate didn't even show the rentals itemized.

I guess when we do our rentals walk-through in two weeks, we'll have to demand three separate, detailed estimates, and we'll try to maximize. I just hate having these ideas hanging out there in the purely theoretical realm, when we have only 5 months left. ACK!!!


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Puppy Party!

If you asked me just a few months ago - before Gunndi came into our lives - if I thought it was a good idea to have a dog in a bow take part in our wedding, my answer would have been an unqualified No.

Oh, how things change.

In the past several weeks, sympathy has turned to warmth, and warmth has turned to love. That filthy, hyperactive, greedy creature has nuzzled her way into my heart. It's not a matter of wanting her to be a flower girl - it's simply that I would miss her so much if she weren't around on our wedding day.

Now that we are doggie daddies (or puppy papas?), a surprising number of people assume that Gunndi will be there with a big bow around her neck. And, she loves the farm; she loves the dogs who live there (adorable Bubba, Ike, and Sissy). She's good in crowds of people, especially if they pet her.

Michael is still opposed to her attendance. I can see his point. She has little self control. God knows she'd try to eat the whole buffet, and a wrong move by any squirrel could ruin the ceremony. She'd be a terrible ring bearer, with her lack of focus and love of running. But she's so darn cute! What would you do?


Monday, May 5, 2008

Don't Cry Out Loud

Michael and I have a certain problem in common: we are both pretty much on the verge of tears at all times. It takes approximately one drink and the rhythm guitar opening of Love Is a Battlefield to get us seriously sobbing. Our wedding ceremony is destined to be a tear-drenched mess of Terms of Endearment proportions.

Since alcohol won't help, and we've successfully avoided Xanax so far, what can we do to keep the emotional outbursts in check? Aromatherapy? Yoga?

I'm a little bit unsteady right now, just thinking about it! We are strong . . . no one can tell us we're wrong . . .


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Important Hotel Update

Well, the Marriott people weren't lying when they said we picked a big weekend. The hotel is, apparently, booked up, and taking no more online reservations at this time. Some rooms may be released as the date draws nearer, and we suggest you try calling 800-228-9290, as things change every day, and an operator may be able to help.

Meanwhile, please remember that we have a block reservation of our own at the Courtyard, and the rate is only $78. We will be running a bus from that hotel to the wedding site. The reservation number is 919-309-1500, and mention Bruno-Beyer wedding for the group price.

Across the street from the Courtyard is the Comfort Inn Medical Park, which currently has plenty of rooms available for $89 and $99. The phone number there is 919-471-6100.

For those who would prefer to stay downtown (and there are many reasons to do so), we have identified some alternatives, including three highly recommended B&B's. They are all within walking distance (particularly for you city folks) of the Marriott, where you can pick up the wedding bus.

Blooming Garden Inn
Morehead Manor
Old North Durham Inn

The Duke Tower Residential Suites seems like a genuinely cool option. It's in the "arts" section of downtown in a strange historic building, near to the farmer's market. And it's super cheap! Reviews on Tripadvisor are very good, too.

For those of you who plan to rent a car for exploring the town, there are many more options near Duke University, including the Washington Duke Inn, the Hilton, and the Millennium. Finally, don't forget the lovely Arrowhead Inn is within 5 minutes of the wedding site.