There are weekends. There are weekends. And then there’s the wedding celebration we were part of these past few days, for which a pedestrian term like “weekend” is insufficient.
[UPDATE: Kaylea has now posted Jess’ amazing photos in a Facebook album]
As much as Nellie and I wanted to head up to meet our friends at the cottage on Thursday night we both had to put in full days at the office on Friday. After work we picked up the car (a Hyundai Genesis sedan, somewhat larger than what we usually get, but that would come in handy), then picked up a bunch of meat at the behest of the resident chef, A. We also picked up B, the chef’s girlfriend, who would be our companion for the drive there and back, and an utterly charming one at that.
Leaving the city was a pain in the ass, but the DVP wasn’t nearly as bad as it could be. Were in good shape until we decided to deviate slightly from our normal route, and ended up driving haltingly across Highway 7 in what we quickly realized was a colossal mistake. Then our planned escape route north was temporarily closed, and our attempted end run around the detour went disastrously wrong as we fumbled about the various cul de sacs of Markham and went airborne over the speed bumps therein, which the four live lobsters in the car must surely have enjoyed. We eventually gave up and got back on Highway 7, then herked and jerked behind some slow-ass drivers for far too long, finally reaching the familiar highways which we knew curved north and east toward our friends.
We finally made it to the cottage just after 10pm, by which time the other guests — who were waiting for the food we carried — were ravenous. Chef A tossed the lobsters in the refrigerator’s crisper and began prepping hamburgers. Matt handed me a special cask-aged beer to help erase the memory of the drive, and we slowly melted into cottage life. This particular cottage, though, was humming: it would house more than a dozen people over the weekend. But within a few minutes we were riding its vibe, and lowering the bundle of work, the city, the traffic, and the misbegotten routes from off our shoulders. We ate, drank, talked, and laughed until morning, then crashed. The organizer had graciously given Nellie and I a room; many slept on couches in the living room, or on futons in the sun room, or just on the kitchen floor.
After being scared half to death by the afore-mentioned kitchen-floor-sleeper (who abruptly sat up after I’d been unwittingly standing next to her for an hour) I helped eat three pounds of bacon. So my heart was getting a workout.
There were bagels too, I guess, but that right there was the main attraction.
Sufficiently greased, I went with the groom and a friend to run some errands — fetching water, carrying kegs, sampling beer, organizing tables — at the venue, a maple syrup house (my people!) which also hosts events and giant barbecues (again…my people!), then came back to the cottage long enough to run a few more errands, slam some advil and take a nap in an attempt to ditch an oncoming migraine, and get dressed for the wedding.
The short bus ferried us to the venue just in time for the rain to begin. Not real rain, mind you, just the heavy-ass mist that gets you wet but for which you’d feel silly unfurling an umbrella. So, Halifax in the fall, basically. The ceremony was short and pretty, and we could bring our drinks — which seemed a little unusual but was actually brilliant because we could immediately toast them — and then our good, good friends were married. We ate cheese and drank cider and walked the grounds and poured beer while they had pictures taken. Meanwhile, for some reason Nellie and the maid of honor wanted to beat someone up, but I was never sure who and anyway they never quite got around to it.
Dinner was prepared on-site in a series of grills and smokers which looked like a Red Army outpost. I had pulled pork (twice) and brisket (twice) and salmon and too many sides. I ate too much, is what I’m saying, and I was hardly the sole member of that club.
After a few speeches (in which Nellie’s Lannister-ness and my Stark-ness were called out) and butter tarts for dessert, the dancing started. Music was supplied by Jeff Young and the Muskoka Roads Band, who were fantastic. Just…rock and roll. All the way through. They set a lot of people to dancing, especially Kaylea and her bridesmaids and, most importantly, her Dad. Who is a goddamned farmer force of nature, by the way, and with whom I feel I bonded, though I suspect anyone who talks to Ray for more than five minutes feels the same.
As the night continued we met more and more of our friends’ friends — keep in mind, Nellie and I were the only ones there, as best we can tell, who weren’t family, university friends, camp friends, or co-workers…we were former patrons who somehow lucked into this fraternity — whilst drinking Beau’s Nightmarzen and Muskoka Cream Ale and maple Old Fashioneds and other cocktails that Wes cooked up when he ran low on raw materials. Eventually the short bus came back for us, and we all piled back to the cottage. The rest of the night gets fuzzy from there, though I do remember drinking lots of wine with Kaylea’s friend who works for Lifford, and then singing in the boathouse until 5am with the afore-mentioned Jeff Young and another member of his band. Which was, uh, pretty goddamn cool.
The next morning chef A (and erstwhile sous chef B) saw to the lobsters’ untimely demise, and prepared poached eggs, more bagels, and a hash of the lobster, corned beef, potato, and other deliciousness.
Since the kegs had followed us back from the wedding venue, and we had nothing to do that day — it was too cold even to go swimming — we commenced our assault on their contents and set about doing fuck-all for the morning.
Swimming or no, that wasn’t bad to look at. Kaylea and I took a quick paddle off the dock before I joined the rest of the crew on the lawn, where we did…nothing. Well, that’s not true: we ate some terrific Reuben sandwiches and Nellie had a full-on nap on the grass.
Anyway, this precision exercise in doing nothing continued throughout the afternoon. Ultimately the chef and sous began their next shift, and started prepping steaks. Three wonderful, magical steaks.
Now, without scale I can see how you might mistake — as one of my Facebook friends did — these steaks for lamb chops, with a paring knife sitting on them. No. That is a very large chef’s knife, and those are the tomahawk steaks that the gods themselves eat when they’re on Atkins. We ate these magnificent bastards along with some delicious corn and potato salad, and laughed ourselves stupid (somehow trench foot came up and I thought it was the funniest thing of all time, but for the life of me I can’t remember the context) and drank terrific Canadian wine (Norm Hardie County Pinot Noir, Tawse Cab Franc, Mission Hill Cab Sauv) and ended up waving around the bones like stolen trophies.
After dinner we drank more draft on the deck, then sat around a camp fire smoking cigars and laughing even more. Kaylea found a shroud in which to wrap herself. B pilfered some firewood. Nellie and Jeff tapped the Muskoka keg. If Saturday had been the monumental dawn of a new day, this Sunday was the comfortable, perfect sunset.
Comfortable, that is, until the next morning, which felt like a laser in my eye and a drill in my skull. Chef A cooked breakfast, a mishmash of everything left over from the previous few days. I ate what I could, mostly shoving whole slices of corned beef into my mouth like they were Pringles, since I had to drive home. Nellie, not wanting to be hung over for the drive home, just stayed drunk. Strategic! We gathered our shit and did our hugs goodbye and piled into the car with A + B, and began the drive south. Nellie was in charge of the music, a mistake which became apparent when she played “It’s Tricky” by Run-D.M.C. at a volume not suitable for the sober occupants of the car. We made a very necessary stop at a McDonald’s outside Beaverton, undoubtedly the best McDonald’s ever but which produced a spill situation which caused Nellie to exclaim “Is that blood or ketchup?! IS THAT BLOOD OR KETCHUP?!!?”, and then rocketed home just under the car-return wire. Sadly, there was no rest for the wicked-wedding guests…we walked home, showered, and went right out the door to our first TIFF screening. More on that in a later post.
Look, it took us a few days to recover from this. And judging by our friends’ Facebook statuses we weren’t alone. It was without a doubt an epic weekend. What I didn’t mention here was all the cool people we met, or got to know better. Or the family we got to meet. Or the momentous happiness you could feel coming off the whole affair. It was far from the most exotic or impressive locale we’ve visited, but jesus hell was it one of the most memorable, if just for the sheer love and enjoyment running like a current through those four days.
All weddings are eventually labelled as celebrations, but not many live up to the word. This one? This one embodied it. Congratulations, Matt & Kaylea. Thanks for letting us be part of this.