Annapolis, MD – September 11-13, 2009
It has been many, many, many months since my last entry, and I’m sure that of the six or seven regular readers I once had, there may be two of you who have been waiting anxiously in anticipation of the end of my self imposed hiatus from travelers’ musings. Well I thank the both of you, mom & dad, for your patience. It has been a hectic yet fruitful end of the summer and start of autumn and then winter and then spring and then summer, and I can only make up my tardiness to you, the reader, with the promise that this delay has been caused in part by my participation in a gaggle of fruitful trips to & fro across this country’s grand landscapes. As the summer of 2009 wound down, I was lucky enough to find myself playing the role of the best man in a wedding that took place in Annapolis, MD. As the September month waned, I was able to convince another living human being to travel with me to my hinterland, St. Louis, MO, for a weekend of beer, BBQ, and baseball. I rounded out my fall/winter travels with a 4-day swing in Los Angeles, CA; a holiday weekend in Williamsburg, VA; and then opened 2010 with a trip up to Boston, MA. At the end of this week I’ll be spending a weekend in the city of brotherly love…Chicago. I mean Philadelphia! In my efforts to return to the craft inspired by my hero, Traveling Matt, I will begin anew where last I left off: Annapolis, MD.
And therefore, my first task is to regale you all with the story of the Princess and the Penguin, a wedding tale that unfolded way back in the year twenty-aught-nine, within the friendly boundaries of Maryland’s capital. This particular story features Molly, who was your typical fairytale princess, having lived a princess’s life in the faraway lands of DotComlandia, and Will, a young erect-crested penguin with an eye for adventure and for the young princess. Throughout the courting process, the brave penguin was able to win the favor of the princess and her sigma court, thrice over. Following much of the same plot structure of the movie Happy Feet, the couple was at last engaged. Due to Molly’s fondness of family roots in Annapolis, and Will’s fondness of crabs, the two converged on Annapolis with friends, family, and waddles where they prepared to be married, with the entire event to be narrated by Morgan Freeman.
Many of you who are East Coasters probably know a fair amount about Annapolis. It is a city seated on the Chesapeake Bay, easily reachable from both Baltimore and Washington, DC. The one time capital of the United States, it is most famously known (by most people) for being the home of the United States Naval Academy, where I once attended a summer wrestling camp and was subsequently forbidden from enlisting in the armed services by the armed services. A lesser known fact about Annapolis is that it is also Maryland’s state capital of roundabouts. Evil roundabouts, the likes of which cause those of us who at the time did not own a GPS to be late to wedding rehearsals.
The city of Annapolis has not one but two roundabouts directly in the center of town, one near the State House, and another less than a half mile away near the Historic Inns of Annapolis, where the wedding party was staying. I’m sure most of you are saying, “It’s a roundabout, you go around and if you don’t see what you’re looking for, you drive elsewhere.” Well I, nor my traveling compatriot Rick, said such a thing. And around and around we drove, admiring the State House and lamenting the fact that our hotel had seemingly vanished. Not until over 30 minutes of weaving in and out of the inner and outer lanes of Roundabout #1 (State Circle) did we discover the short route to Roundabout #2 (Church Circle). Realizing the fallacy of our circling ways, Rick and I made it to the hotel and over to the rehearsal at the William Paca House. Successfully navigating the wedding rehearsal, only having sent the bride’s sister into a stray roundabout once, the wedding party then made its way into town for dinner festivities at OB’s Prime. As the groomsmen vied for the attention of the questionably aged bartender, the bridesmaids took pictures, and the bride’s father brandished his taser, we dined on hearty cuts of steak and delicately seasoned tuna, complimented with vegetables, potatoes, and a healthy flow of fresh wine. All the while, speeches and limericks were read to the soon-to-be newlyweds.
Satiated by wedding sentiments and OB’s fare (topped off with Nostalgia black & white cupcakes), the team made its way out for a night of spirits & toasting, ribaldry & merriment, and thanks to Will’s cousins, oyster shooters. Nothing says holy matrimony like downing a shot glass full of a raw oyster, cocktail sauce, hot sauce, and vodka. I suppose you can’t get married in Annapolis without a fair share of seafood being involved, and in the groom’s case, it would be involved twice. In fact, Will was so excited by the thought of oysters (and getting married, of course) that he managed to lose one of his contacts in all the pomp and circumstance. Being the pragmatic penguin that he is, we of course did not realize until the following morning that there was no backup pair of contacts. A mad dash was made in search of appropriate eyewear for the soon to be husband, asking a group of wedding guests to pick up a spare set on their way to town, and making an emergency trip to the local optometrist, for the traditional wedding day complimentary pair of temporary lenses. Crisis averted, Will and I met his family at The Big Cheese, a local delicatessen near the Annapolis waterfront and the Kunta Kinta Memorial.
Continuing an early eating frenzy, we soon met up with the other groomsman and some of the hungrier wedding guests. Making our way through the Naval Academy game day crowd of Midshipmen fans and a surprising number of individuals turned out for Louisiana Tech (yes, a real school), we found ourselves seated inside of Chick & Ruth’s Delly (est. 1965). Recently seen on Man v. Food, this staple of Annapolis features not one but FOUR “Colossal” food challenges, including a 3-lb. deli sandwich, a 3-lb. cheeseburger, a 6-lb. milkshake, and the “Man v. Food Challenge,” which subjects the foodie to a 1.5-lb. sandwich and a 6-lb. milkshake. Needless to say all of the groomsmen needed to be refit for their tuxes (actually, just Mike).
Appetites whetted, it was finally time to begin getting ready for the big event. Preparations went as one would expect, considering the groom was left to get ready with only the support of his groomsmen. Cufflinks were lost, pants didn’t fit, boutonnieres were broken, toasts were made, shots were taken, and two groomsmen disappeared to a local bar only to be found shortly before the start of the wedding by the wedding planner. When it came time for the ceremony, the wedding party and guests could not have asked for a more picturesque backdrop for an outdoor ceremony. Held within the two-acre expanse of the William Paca Garden, the bride & groom gathered just past the bridge over the garden’s pond. In front of the two-story summer house, with the sun shining high above, the couple shared their vows, and most importantly, I did not lose the rings. As the crowd celebrated and the happy couple was announced for the first time, a string quartet ushered us into the evening and on to the night’s festivities. Thanks to the self-styled musings of our string songsters, the wedding party was treated to a traditional farewell song of “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a local trolley gathered us up and took us to the Annapolis Yacht Club.
Dinner and the reception were held at the Annapolis Yacht Club, founded in 1886, and located at the tip of Annapolis where the cove opens up to the Chesapeake. As the sun began to set over the Bay, the waterfront clubhouse was a serene location for the wedding party to be introduced and for the celebration to continue. As the night gave way to speeches and dancing, we were treated to a delightful meal of perfectly paired filet and crabcake with whipped potatoes and veggies, washed down with Pengarini Punch. As the party moved dockside, champagne toasts, cutting of the rug (as the kids say) and the cutting of the cake were all illuminated by the bright lights of the ships settled in the harbor.
Once the newlyweds had been nabbed by pirates and taken far away from all of the partygoers, the rest of us made our way into downtown Annapolis and to Pusser’s Caribbean Grille. In a bar featuring the best that the wedding party had to offer mixed with the players and fans of the victorious Midshipmen football team, what you would to expect to happen happened: Dave broke his camera, Rick left the bar with bottles of beer stuffed into his jacket, Jon went to bed, and I suggested we get pizza. And as best man, I won, so off we went to the home of the finest late night Italian cuisine that side of the Bay: Mangia Italian Grille. As we sauntered through the line, waiting in tuxes and gowns for our turn to order a hot slice of pie, Rick once again proved his mantra of “go big or go home” by buying an entire pepperoni pizza. Delicious New York style, greasy pizza for all! Except, ironically, for Rick.
As the night waned, we celebrated the day’s festivities with toasts of Mountain Dew and vodka and spent the early hours of the following day regaling each other with tales of Annapolis folklore and penguin facts. Sunday morning, we packed, met for brunch, and then made our way back home. One could only look back in amazement at the history of one of America’s most famed cities, and the wonder of the event we were there to experience. And as I was serenaded by the dulcet tones of passing car horns, responding to the message of “That’s right ladies, I’m single,” that had been sprawled across my rear window with window paint as party guests decorated the bride’s car, I thought to myself, “I could go for an oyster shooter.” And that’s what Annapolis, and weddings, are all about. Oyster shooters.