Reception in Pink and Black

I found myself lost. I had driven around in circles and into dead-ends for forty-five minutes or so and now I was completely and thoroughly lost. I thought I knew the area well, so when the bride’s mother gave me directions, I didn’t bother with the details.  A big house with a big pink tent in the front yard; that’s all I was going by. But what I knew of this area was from my school days and it was different now and foreign. All the streets and roads were new and they all had the same kind of names, like Meadow View or Meadow Lea or Meadow Vale and all the houses looked the same; like McMansions. I drove into yet another dead-end and was turning around when I saw a man raking leaves. I parked the truck and inquired politely if he knew where there was a house nearby with a large pink tent in the front yard.  I explained that I was in the band that was to play a wedding there but that I couldn’t find it. I had the phone number of the place so he took me inside, gave me a drink and called the number. He wrote the directions down and gave them to me along with his card, and I left. I was soon at the house with the pink tent in the yard and both were huge; they looked like castles. I drove up to the tent and began to unload when the bride’s mom appeared in front of me looking rather glum. “Oh Happy, your music has to save the day for us; the bride is suffering from severe female problems and is absolutely miserable. You must cheer her up!” I told her I would do the best I could and continued setting up as the other band members arrived.  I became concerned about the dance floor. It had started to rain steadily and I could see moisture on it but I didn’t see any leaks in the tent. I had had much experience setting dance floors for parties, and though I knew this one to be a very good and expensive one, it had been set on grass and that usually meant trouble. I mentioned it to the caterers and a few waiters came out with towels, but they saw no worry. The band was ready when the bride and groom came in and the mother’s description of the bride’s mood proved correct.  She was not a happy girl. We played background music for a short time and then gave the stage up to speeches and toasts and announcements and such. It was at this moment that the bride caught my eye and motioned me over to her;            “Oh Happy, this is the worst day of my life; you have to make the party fun!”  I told her not to worry. I got the message. The toasts weren’t long so we were up again. There was no “first dance” with the bride and groom. We played for short time and it was good. No one danced, but they were all still greeting each other and talking loudly to each other and that seemed proper, so we continued playing. Soon there was a big commotion in the front of the tent near the bride and groom’s table. Into the tent came a late arrival and evidently quite an important one as the bride was totally transformed!  She was a different person! We soon learned that this guest was the bride’s favorite uncle, Uncle Darrell, and that he wanted to give a toast; immediately!  So we gave the stage to Uncle Darrell, who was frail and needed help getting up on it. He spoke about the bride and it was apparent he was special to her as she was beaming and very  attentive. But this was not just a toast; oh no; Uncle Darrell went on and on and on.  Finally he wrapped it up to great rounds of applause and more toasts and more clinking of glasses. He was helped off the stage and went directly to the bride’s table. I had been near her during the toast and as I was going back to the stage to start playing again, she  motioned me over to her just as Uncle Darrell got there, and he asked me to play a polka. Before I could answer, the bride said;  “play a polka for Uncle Darrell, he loves the polka; make it a fast one.” “Polka?” I said to myself. “Hmm; what would Mitch Ryder do now?….er… I mean Mitch Miller?   We played the polka, starting off slow and gradually getting faster, making sort of a game out of it. The bride was dancing, as were all, the dance floor was full and everyone was laughing and smiling and happy. This is when my earlier concerns about the dance floor became manifest; people started to slip. There was too much moisture in the air and too much on the dance floor. I watched as two different gentlemen took serious falls, but they both got up and there was laughing and clapping even, so we played on. The bride’s mother came up to me stage side and she was so happy. She said to keep it up, it was perfect!  Now that she was happy, I could finally relax. Because I had been looking at “Mom” I didn’t see the fall, but when I did turn back to the crowd, they had all started to focus on someone who was on the floor. There was no laughter and there was much concern. Everyone stopped dancing and gathered around.  Soon, a fellow who had been crouching over the figure on the floor stood up and gave me a signal to stop playing. We did, awaiting further developments. They came soon enough. The bride obviously got the news first as she shrieked and quickly dissolved into a hysterical wet mess. The person on the floor was Uncle Darrell and he had not slipped; he had departed. There were differences of opinion on the floor as some wanted to administer CPR, but others, with apparent knowledge of Darrell’s condition, said no. An Ambulance soon arrived, but it was too late; there was nothing they could do. Uncle Darrell was gone in spirit and soon in body. The bride and groom disappeared. The guests began leaving and the caterers began cleaning up and clearing out. The party was over. A young man came up to me with a check and an apology for ending the party so soon!(?) I forgave him readily.  I changed clothes and packed up the equipment and with some sadness left the big pink tent behind. I had no problem finding my way out of the area and soon reached home. I unpacked and relaxed. It had been an emotional roller-coaster of a day.  In my pocket was the check; it was a lot of money for less than an hour’s worth of music. And there was the card given to me by the nice man who had helped me with directions. On the back he had scribbled a phone number and “call  me”. On the front of the card it said:  Hon. Antonin Scalia. (later of the Supremes)  At some point not long after this sad affair, I started to imagine that the whole scenario with Uncle Darrell, with his late entrance, his commandeering of the stage, his endless speech and then the dance and finally his death itself, was planned by him.  I think he directed his own demise. If so, he pulled it off perfectly. What a way to go; to die at a party on a parquet dance floor!  A polka to Paradise. The name of the polka we played for his transformation has since been referred to as:  ….The Dear Darrell Polka.

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