The Wedding Carver
Have Knives, Will Travel
Being retired from gainful employment has it’s advantages and it’s drawbacks. The main drawback is that, my fixed income (yes, I’m on one of them) is trying to extinguish my cavalier flame of living large and tipping big, and I hate that. It has a lot to do with the amount of money that I don’t have for extended periods bellied up to a bar or letting someone else cook for me at a fine dining establishment. And, it has to do with my inability to leave my hard living, freewheeling, ‘there’s plenty more where that came from’ personality behind with my hairline, waistline and twenty-twenty vision.
So, I’ve taken random employment; one of my gigs is cutting up dead animals at special event gatherings such as rehearsal, wedding and company awards functions.
Tonite, it’s a wedding with all the stops pulled out at one of my favorite French Quarter restaurants. I won’t mention names, but it’s a place that, I tell folks, can furnish anything you want and can afford. From an intimate private dinner for two, to twelve hundred of your closest friends, you can get anything that you’re willing to pay for. From piped in music to sixteen pieces of guitar slamming, horn playing rock your sockers. Ice sculptures that dispense martinis, flame throwing dessert stations, low, medium and high grades of alcohol. Do you want fire works? Second lines? Mystics and mind readers? Clowns? Would you like the friggin’ circus?
Do you want passed hors d’oeuvres, sit down dinners, buffets, oyster shuckers or a person or two to slice meat thinly, smile broadly and be ready to cut the cake when the time comes?
Tonite is a wedding with all of that. The band commands such a draw on the electrical output of the place that the air conditioning (after running at full capacity all day) is cut off. I’ve come to naming functions; this one is the ‘women in tight clothing and men with powerful credit cards’ types. But it will only be a more sophisticated version of the ‘ women with braided armpits and men with little dental work’ functions that I’ve worked elsewhere.
First to arrive, by a good forty-five minutes, is the parents of the bride. Madame explains that the groom is ‘allergic’ to alcohol and will be drinking ice tea, Red Bull and ginger ale. I wonder if that is a new concoction or his actual menu of choices. Then Mama checks out seating places for the elderly, is assuaged by the marketing manager and witnesses the arrival of the flowers, which to me look like they’ve just come from a funeral parlor.
Now the chandeliers are being lit, candles line the entranceway and the ‘thirty minutes before’ icing down of the liquids that require it. The party starts at six after the ceremony; passed appetizers until eight, food (including two carvers) in two rooms from six to nine, band starts at seven and stops at ten. There are two meetings with management and staff to co-ordinate the function. Extra furniture has been stored in rented trucks and, of course, nobody shows up until six twenty-five.
I am in the second room with a sixty pound haunch of beef, five-hundred volts of heat lamps and knives honed to deadly edges, my co-carver is in the next room with access to a half a dozen deep fried turkeys.
Here they come; a random husband (Jack) hits the bar for drinks for him-n-her, drops off hers (Jill) and heads back to the bar for another for himself…there’s gonna be a heartache tonite. Terminally thin women start with Cosmopolitans, Aunt Ruth and Uncle Maury want to know if there’s any coffee, the groom’s friends that never learned to dance or dress and the bride’s friends that did. Lawyers and Dentists in seersucker (Dentists have suede shoes). Doctors in white linen, older women in two piece suits, younger women in strapless whose breasts don’t quite fill up the cups and the requisite ‘Parachute Woman”. And me cutting dead cow.
A buddy of the groom has brought his own thirty two ounce cup that he wants filled with Jack and Diet, uh oh, and young Jack is on his sixth beer this hour. He’s telling a group of peers jokes that only he finds amusing, his peers are more amused by him and his condition. His wife has given up on him and has joined a coterie of the thin ones that won’t be having any dinner.
You can tell that the newlyweds have had a long relationship; she starts drinking and he fills his plate to capacity.
The door to the courtyard is on a spring strong enough to stop the charge of a water buffalo and some of my amusement will come from the imprisonment, between door and jamb, of young children, the frail and inevitably…the bride’s train.
The photographer hits the buffet about an hour and a half in; the band will hit us at break time. You can tell the band because they are either dressed better (or worse) than the guests and they’re not fooled by fillers like potatoes, jambalaya or fish. They hit the raw bar and the protein (not the pate though) and of course the alcohol. I just keep cutting.
The band takes a break for the toasts. Uncle Maury, who’s been yelling his conversation, winds up with “and the man hasn’t held a decent job in thirty YEARS!!!
Then, the testimonies: Teary eyed pair of young women: “Trish and us have been best friends since third grade and like we’ve never seen her looking soooo HAPPY!” The kid brother; “I brought them together…” The Father: I’m sure that they’ll be as happy as her Mother and I have been”---(right). The Buddy “I remember the night Keith came home and told me ‘I’ve met the woman that I’m going to marry”, The older brother “At least now he’ll have someone else to fight with!” And on and on.
Then the cake, throw the bouquet, that weighs twelve pounds, and every one second lines out except the six or eight that want to close down the bar. Too late, things are wrapped, stacked, put away, closed and already the crew is moving tables for tomorrow night’s functions. One room is having a sit down ‘Divorce Dinner’: 48 people, the other room has a wake with a replica of the deceased in potato saladpotato salad, no carving necessary. Say goodnight Gracie.