from Sandy Needham

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pre-Wedding Dispatch

Our trip for Jake and Larissa's wedding began with an extra connection from São Paulo to Newark: a propeller plane from Washington D.C. The problem was that soon after take-off one prop stopped working. We had a disconcerting view of a motionless propeller out the window and a necessary landing in Baltimore, but the pilot maintained straight and level, bless 'm. We tangled with the morass that was United Airlines trying to put everyone on a bus or a train to Newark, opting for the train which could drop us earlier in Trenton, nearer our weekend destination at my sister and brother-in-law's, Donna and Larry's, near Princeton. 

Donna and Larry's hospitality remains unparalleled, especially for the already travel-weary. A 'Larry martini' is still equivalent to a week at a spa; the champagne that flows is not the cheap stuff that gives you leg cramps; yes - I ate my first grilled filet mignon in 19 years and loved it - oh, with fresh New Jersey white corn-on-the-cob and strawberry shortcake (I thought I'd die of summer joy). Our niece, their daughter Sara came over to join us and help me out with wedding clothes possibilities.

We spent the next afternoon at Seward Johnson's fabulous "Grounds for Sculpture" in nearby Hamilton. As I mentioned in last year's dispatch, he is the octogenarian, eccentric part-heir to the Johnson and Johnson fortune. He is known for his realistic bronze figures that startle passers-by around the world. The restaurant area is set in the tranquil replication of Monet's Garden at Giverny. There are several of Seward's installations nearby. We then embarked upon the acres of manicured natural beauty and sculptures by other artists, as well, that were missed last year in a rainstorm.

It is just as hard to believe from up-close, live, that this young woman's towel and clothing are also made of bronze! 

Here is the lovely and evocative Nine Muses by Carlos Dorrien:

Seward Johnson's giant Marilyn finally exposes the hitherto implicit rear view!

Dinner was Italian, at a local favorite of Donna and Larry's, Vidalia. It was another perfect summer night.

I will warn you that I will rhapsodize about summer nights throughout the dispatches from this wedding trip, as the dark descends on our evenings in the Northeast of Brazil at 5:30pm in the winter (now) and 6:00pm in the summer. That late evening summer light in the US takes me back irresistibly to endless childhood summer eves, playing hide-and-seek till 9:00 with an entire neighborhood of kids of all ages while fireflies and june bugs provided visual and olfactory accents! I will always be in love with that long summer evening light. 

On Monday morning we caught the train to Manhattan for three days of wedding clothes-hunting and the nourishment Manhattan offers the souls of devotees. I had to give up on the turquoise silk mother-of-the-groom dress I was trying to sew in Brazil; house construction headaches, the World Cup raging, sewing/dying problems and schedule squeezes prompted my decision to go to 'Plan B:' shop in New York City at the incredible second-hand shops. I will adapt that attempted dress into a non-wedding dress to use in Brazil, which means the problematic sleeve can now be sleeveless and the non-matching turquoise bottom panel of crepe chiffon can now be black. (A week of bleaching and soaking the turquoise crepe chiffon in ever-stronger red hibiscus tea to tweak the color enough to match the turquoise silk resulted in the phenomenon of a color that WOULD NOT BUDGE. Hats off to the most permanent color I have ever encountered.)

This was our first time to stay in the Chelsea neighborhood, and we loved it. The Leo House - a Catholic 'hotel' on 23rd between 8th and 9th which has been recommended by a couple of friends - proved economical, convenient, and requiring only the removal of the room's hanging crucifix for total comfort. I had a list of the best second-hand shops in the area, so off we went on the sidewalks of New York - the whole point, always! Newton found a great Ralph Lauren suit right away which required tailoring for the pants, but turned out perfectly. I finally found my dress replacement on the third day - whew. It fit like a glove and was so very beautifully made - even the lining was silk. 

We loved happening upon places like this mid-block tavern for lunch:

The Blanche de Chambly was a perfect draft beer for summer! 

Can you believe my beloved girlfriend, Flavia, from Natal was in NYC just then? We met for a great lunch at Chelsea Market on Tuesday while Newton went off to New Jersey for a meeting with his partners. She recommended a tapas bar half a block from our hotel none-too-soon; we were too exhausted to walk any further for dinner that evening, and it was our favorite! 
El Quinto Pino on 24th at 9th Avenue.

I went uptown to Seigo Neckware to buy Newton's promised Father's Day wedding tie. I had recently read an article in the NY Times about the Japanese man who hand sews his ties from Japanese silk. Our dear friend Pierre had already sent a handsome silk handkerchief for Newton and a small pearl purse for me. With the handkerchief in hand, I marveled at the gorgeous selection and bought the perfect tie. I also bought a pink polka-dot birthday tie for Jake's honeymoon cruise; such a marvelous place for someone who loves selecting ties!

This photo is sneaked in from the future - Jake on cruise!

The wedding plot thickened on Wednesday evening with the family gathering in from points north and west for an early dinner at Carmine's in Times Square, ahead of a show:

Then followed "Avenue Q," an hilarious X-rated muppet musical. Several from the wedding party and some poker friends joined us (in from Las Vegas, North Dakota, Puket, Thailand and Germany!). 

Against our better judgment, we joined this happy team of partiers after the show and persevered till 4:00am, when we made our lone departure via subway. 

Thursday morning we only had to drag our luggage and newly-tailored suit over to 6th Avenue to catch the Path Train to Hoboken, NJ to pick up our rental car. Here is a nice view of Manhattan from Hoboken:

We then headed north along the Hudson River to Rockland/Westchester Counties to prepare for Friday's Rehearsal Dinner for the wedding party. Being in charge, as the groom's parents, we visited the charming venue on the river to select the wines and plan the table arrangements for the event. 

All was moving quickly now; wedding momentum underway!



  1. You certainly do know how to do a pre-wedding trip and turn it into an adventure the makes one wonder how the wedding might top the pre-wedding. The picture of you and Flavia is a really good picture, one that deserves a frame and a place to it. The Grounds for Sculpture is now one of my destinations. We have visited a number of the gardens in the Philly area that were preserved for the public by the families from Merck and Dupont. It's nice to see some of the J&J folks have done the same. Looking forward to the "Event Dispatch"


  2. My dear Sandy! What an adventure! You do know how to color life in the brightest of colors. I loved the story of finding the perfect dress. My own experience of driving across town to "find" something- on sale- at a local department store seemed so colorless by comparison. And the colors in the tie shop were so vivid. What a great start to the wedding weekend. Thanks for telling the story as only you can.


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