Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
We’re on our way to Shanny and Amber’s wedding when we pull into the Piggly Wiggly in Princeton, Wisconsin, to ask for directions. We find a nice lady in the parking lot with a cardigan sweater, glasses and bad ’90s hair to help us out. You can tell she lives around here.
“You take a right onto County Road T, and then at the subway, go left.”
We’re all piled into Ryan’s dad’s minivan, the one we drove in four hours from Minneapolis to get here. We are totally in the middle of nowhere. After driving on a four-lane highway for two hours through farmland, we got off the highway and drove another two hours through more farmland.
We hit two towns along the way, towns that look frozen in time with no Starbucks or McDonald’s or 24-hour convenience stores. These are the kinds of small towns that have a VFW on Main Street with hand-lettered signs on the roadside that say things like “BINGO FRIDAY 5 PM” and “2 FOR 1 GLAZERS” (I asked: they’re glazed doughnuts). There are lots of antique shops that have all kinds of junk piled up outside and a Gun Store and Fly Shop that is the only place that has cars parked in front of it.
We’re in the middle of the Midwest, deep in the heartland. People here still live like Americans lived when America was becoming America, when there were cities and there were small towns, with nothing in between.
So we’re trying to find this place where we’re staying. We’re with our friends who are also from Minnesota, the next town over from where Ryan grew up. I’m thinking that, being from the Midwest and everything, they probably understand what this lady who is giving us directions is talking about.
“What’s a subway?” I ask from the front seat so I’m not actually looking at anyone when I say it. “I mean, obviously, they don’t have any subways around here.”
Our friend Mary starts laughing and goes, “Subway as in Subway sandwiches.”
And I’m like, “Oh! I thought she was speaking some kind of Wisconsin code or something.”
Everyone starts laughing and I feel myself turn red, realizing exactly how far out of my element I really am.
The wedding is about as beautiful and picturesque as a country wedding can get, a rude awakening in terms of all the details I haven’t thought about or planned for my own wedding, which is like, three months away.
The bridesmaids wear bright green dresses and carry sunflower bouquets. The groomsmen all have these cute matching ties and suspenders and Vans sneakers, and I’m wondering if our decision to forgo a wedding party is a bad idea.
Every detail is spot on, from the flowers to the napkin holders decorated with petrified leaves and tied with hay straw. Why didn’t I think of that? There’s a kick-ass bluegrass band and a fiddle player who can do “Devil Goes Down to Georgia” like there’s no tomorrow. There’s Grandpa Shanahan’s salsa and they serve sausages and cheese curds late night, which is a huge hit. I’ve never eaten a cheese curd in my life and Ryan basically forced me to. I can’t argue with the fact that little pieces of fried cheese are the bomb – crazy good.
At the reception, we’re sitting across from this couple from Chicago and the guy is ridiculously good looking, like a young Rob Lowe with dark hair and blue eyes and a wide face and dimples.
“So what do you do?” I ask, thinking the right thing to do is start up a conversation, try to get to know everyone at the table.
“I work for United,” he says.
“Oh, he’s a flight attendant,” his girlfriend says. Yes, he has a girlfriend and she’s perfectly nice and pleasantly attractive without being obnoxiously, over-the-top gorgeous. And her boobs appear to be real.
What I don’t know is she is being facetious because this guy, in addition to being unfairly handsome, is some high-up executive at United and everyone knows it but me. Here I am, trying to be all politically correct and down with the hot guy at the wedding being a steward.
It’s the second time today people are laughing, clutching their bellies with tears rolling down their eyes because of me. I don’t know if I’m just disoriented because I have no idea where the hell we are or because it’s the first time I’ve had a drink since I’ve been on my cleanse. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m in a different country. No, wait. I feel like I’m in my own country. Clearly, Aspen is nothing like the rest of America.
We have a wonderful time at the wedding. We dance up a sweat and watch fireworks go off above the barn and have fun with the young kids who are out on the dance floor. The bride tells me I look great, which is a role reversal if I’ve ever heard one. God, is she a nice person, salt of the earth. I can see why if this is where she comes from.
When we finally drag ourselves out of bed the next day, we pile into the van and drive the quarter mile it takes to get to one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen with big old growth trees, rolling golf course greens, waterfront restaurants and big houses with private docks. We eat fancy salads and drink Bloody Marys at a nice restaurant and end up going out on a luxury pontoon as part of a free demo that’s going on during a Sunday afternoon boat show.
As I’m lounging on the leather chaise on the back of this beautiful $65,000 boat watching the sky go by, I finally get what’s so funny. I actually found someone to marry me.
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