Some four or five years ago, Liam (spouse-to-be then) and I were wandering around the galleries in Chelsea. Having drank too much coffee to try to get rid of a headache induced by teaching six classes at various New York colleges at the time, I really needed to find a restroom. We came across one building and an employee — someone associated with a construction company — offered to let us into a showcase apartment: the views are amazing, he noted, as he encouraged us to sneak a preview of luxury condos we knew (and he knew) would never be in our price range. He also gave us a key: “just be sure to use the bathroom that works.” He was right. We marveled at the views, and Liam snapped a photo using his 35 mm camera of me that remains among our favorites. He probably would have taken more, but I was about to go on a tirade about excessive luxury condo building that only a urban sociology professor could offer.
Years later, I met Marta and Casey, who were planning their wedding at the Glass Houses in Chelsea and requested that I be their marriage officiant. An easy going pair, they selected a semi-traditional civil ceremony and choose to write their own vows.
As I walked up to their ceremony site, warm memories returned. The “luxury condo building” now hosts an event space called “The Glass Houses,” as well as apartments, I assume. It is a very elegant space, and a fantastic choice for a wedding any time of year. I am sure the guests were happy to feel the cold air embracing their skin rather than the humid air outside along with the heat of the summer sun.
Below is an excerpt I wrote for their ceremony:
“Everything in your lives will be doubled. Thick layers of dishes, gritty floors, and sloppy piles of laundry await you. Fleeing from such domestic drags is not possible. You cannot conjure ghosts to do your cleaning or your employer’s bidding. Nor are you likely to win the lottery, although I hope you do. The hum of a vacuum, waiting for something to end, and waves of stress will bring heavy signs to your lives. You will need copious amounts of self-supervision to restrain yourselves from snapping at times….Truth be told, though, you probably will not need too much advice, as you are witty, wonderful people who feel an admirable weakness for one another…To each other, you are awesome and delectable.”
I then incorporated “How do I love thee…” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, which was in a card Casey gave Marta many moons ago.
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, – I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
P.S. To those wondering, those same views about speculative building in Manhattan will never go away! Why build more if the luxury office and apartment units are not being rented or sold and the job market offers fewer positions?