Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Reception: the toasts

After our entrance as Alex and Krissy Feleppa into the Discovery Room at Gurney's and a little bit of dancing, we asked those closest to us if they might like to say a few words. Krissy's sister Kate Dunkle, the Maid of Honor, led the first toast to honor the happy couple.
Dick Dunkle, the father of the bride, followed and spoke entirely from the heart. By the end of his address you'd be hard pressed to find a dry eye in the place.
And on the chance that there were a few stoic mugs remaining in the crowd we asked Rich Feleppa, father of the groom and Best Man, to deliver the third and final toast. Due to the length Rich omitted some parts of it on the spot, so here it is in it's entirety. Enjoy.
"For those who don’t know me, I’m Alex’s Dad.

Those who do know me know I have a tendency to digress.

Quite honestly, a poem by Philip Schultz who lives near us in East Hampton --- about a city almost as far as you can get from here ---struck a nerve and I hope it gets these remarks off to a decent start.

Of course, I could dedicate the poem, “San Francisco Remembered,” to thank Cathy Feleppa Camenga my goddaughter who traveled all the way from San Francisco, or Uncle Whoop Bill Worth and his family from LA, family and friends from Tennessee, Minnesota, Texas, New Jersey, God knows where, in fact let’s raise a glass to all of you who made the trek, long and short, to be with our family, old and new.

Thank you. And thanks for your generous gifts.

Oh yes, “San Francisco Remembered” by Philip Schultz.

(Clear throat)

In summer the polleny light bounces off the white buildings

& you can see their spines & nerves & where the joints knot.

You’ve never seen such polleny light. The whole city shining

& the women wearing dresses so thin you could see their wing-tipped hips

& their tall silvery legs alone can knock your eye out.

But this isn’t about women. It’s about the city of blue waters

& fog so thick it wraps round your legs & leaves glistening trails

along the dark winding streets. Once I followed such a trail

& wound up beside this redheaded woman who looked up & smiled

& let me tell you you don’t see smiles like that in Jersey City.

She was wearing a black raincoat with two hundred pockets

& I wanted to put my hands in each one. But forget about her.

I was talking about the fog which steps up & taps your shoulder

like a panhandler who wants bus fare to a joint called The Paradise

& where else could this happen? On Sundays Golden Gate Park

is filled with young girls strolling the transplanted palms

& imported rhododendron beds. You should see the sunset

in their eyes & the sway, the proud sway of their young shoulders.

Believe me, it takes a day of two to recover. Or the trolleys clanking

down the steep hills – why you see legs flashing like mirrors!

Please, Lord, please let me talk about San Francisco. How

that gorilla of a bridge twists in the ocean wind & the earth

turns under your feet & at any moment the whole works can crack

& slip back into the sea like a giant being kicked off his raft

& now, if it’s all right, I would like to talk about women …

Women, without whom, we wouldn’t be here today:

Front and center, the beautiful young woman and bride Krissy for taking Alex’s hand.

Carole Good Dunkle for having Krissy.

Sue Worth Feleppa for having Alex.

Carol’s Mom: Hilda Good and Sue’s Mom: Ann Worth and on and on. Going back and back. And the young moms, Kate and her Janaya, and Jen and her Ea, taking us forward.

In fact, let’s raise a glass to all the women, all the moms and daughters here!

Words cannot describe how honored and touched I am to have been asked by my son to be his Best Man.

Notwithstanding the fact that BM means something so totally different to those of us from the Silent Generation.

Aptly put by George Burns who said, “You know you’re old when you bend over to tie your shoelace and you say to yourself, ‘What else can I do while I’m down here.’”

In fact I would like to honor the gentleman who has us all beat hands down when it comes to hanging in there! That would be Howard Good, Krissy’s grandpa, who is God Bless him 94 years of age. Along with his wife Hilda, who are one month away from celebrating their 73rd wedding anniversary. Let’s give them a rousing cheer.

The Best Man tradition they say originated with the German Goths (I’m sure my brother Ed watching over us today would heartedly agree). Also many wedding customs are thanks to the warring clans of Scotsmen (perhaps Brennie Feleppa’s Stuart Clan started it all!) during a time when the Best Man carried a weapon and not just rings to the altar because you never knew when the bride’s family would decide to take her back home. Thankfully a mute point today when I noticed Dick Dunkle walked Krissy down to the sandy beach without a firearm in his holster. Let’s raise a glass to the Feleppas and the Dunkles.

I’m most happy to say I’ve known Alex all his 33 years. Working at home most of the time allowed me to share every part of the day. I have the rare distinction of knowing Alex very, very well – except of course for his Mom Sue who knows him inside and out – and now Krissy who has a great understanding and grasp of the man we love.

We all have a lot of nicknames; unsurprisingly, Alex has had his share. Flipper, during his water polo years at Loomis Chaffee, The Legend during his tag along years with brothers Gian Carlo and Tim. And of course, Pete Mike Sam Henry George, compliments of his Mom.

Of course, my names for my son are my favorites. Rapscallion, sometimes shortened to Scal, for that tilted-head-to-the-side querying look and winning smile that started almost at infancy -– and Scalumente because an Italian name seemed appropriate for that blond haired blue-eyed little boy, new proof of the barbaric Lombard strain in we Benevento Feleppas. Sometimes my name for Alex was Alexahente, because it combined his given name with “having the right beans.”

In addition to being from the same line as Annibale Feleppa, Carlo Feleppa, and Dr. Edward Ernest Feleppa, we have another thing in common: They say that Alex looks like Leonardo DeCaprio. They used to say I resembled Wally Cox as Mr. Peepers.

You might say Alex has had a checkered cloth career. Nursed as an infant in the mud room of The Royale Fish. Babysat by waitresses, bus boys and chefs. Before long, he was hurling pizza dough in Colorado Springs, serving steamy cappuccinos in Hanover New Hampshire, and running a B&B in Half Moon Bay, California.

He’s always been on the run. Who else but Alex would get some space as a youngster by riding his bike hell-bent for election for miles on Town Lane in Amagansett?

Perhaps because he grew up out here, he knows the importance of things sensory: the squish of sand between your toes, the smell of sunrise and sunset at the ocean’s edge, the sound of the grasses, the incredibly unique patterns found in plants, and shrubs, and trees. These and more are all very important to him and in a way his best relaxation after a day well spent.

The quality of the man is multi-faceted and shows in what he does for others.

He’s most loyal! There’s no better friend for the long term. Ask Rory Knight his kindergarten chum (table 8). Or Courtney Van Leight McCarthy, his Parisian travel buddy during high school (table 12). Or McB Smith McManus, Jodie Melrose, Bob Pokorney, and Custom, fellow artists & buddies at Colorado College (also table 8).

Adventuresome too! Sure he’s traveled a lot with the family. But he was quick to find a way his own way to bike Nova Scotia, study in China, trek the mountains & sleep with the rats in Tibet.

Determined too! You absolutely had to admire his grit when he broke his hip. Alex has researched, sought, and achieved those goals that he set for himself: The Loomis Chaffee School, The Mountain School of Milton Academy, The School for International Training in China, Horticulturist Training at the New York Botanical Garden, and now Senior Zone Gardener and Coordinator of Volunteers at The Conservatory Garden in Central Park at Fifth Avenue and 105th Street. Plus his own fledgling consulting business.

On our ritualistic grammar school morning drives from Amagansett to Most Holy Trinity in East Hampton, he noticed the grass not cut, the privet not pruned. He was paying attention to things green way before Al Gore.

Diligent too. If a job had to be done, too often Alex was asked by one of us to help do it. Move the mattress from this house to that house. From that house and back to this house. Heft that furniture up the rickety stairs of the Livery Stable barn. Draw that floorplan. Unload that 40-ft container. Help Gian & Jen & Tim move into Bushwick. Learn Quick Books & set up an inventory. Do a little bookkeeping. Do a lot of bookkeeping.

Also a risk taker. Snowboarding or skiing or surfboarding for example, all skills that I have yet to master. Who else would want to climb trees several stories high for a living -- confident that some rope and a few clamps would safeguard him?

Trusting. Sending cold hard cash to Costa Rica with the belief that somewhere near the white picket fence with blue tips would be the man he doesn’t know and the house he hoped to rent.

Alex is precise. True enough, he doesn’t like to be wrong. But his carefulness stems more from his analytical and exacting nature. He actually loves knowing the Latin names for most flora.

Artistic. This is person whose toddler year drawings employed triangles, compasses, t-squares, and a French curve. His woodcuts and art installations at Colorado College added another dimension to his art. And today a Central Park Conservatory Gardens, he helps create garden planting overviews.

In this family of ours, it‘s easy to make fun of Alex because he is so straight. But it is his being there and his strength of character that we all know we can call on when needed.

Alex knows what he wants and better yet what’s good for him --caring, smart, playful, adventuresome Krissy for example.

There’s a cherry tree on Hedges Lane in Amagansett that was planted the year Alex was born. Its bark is solid, its limbs are broad, and it bears a snowstorm of happy smiling blossoms each spring.

Best of all, it is the feeling that he gives each one of us, his friends and his family, when he shares some fun, some good times, some laughs and hugs. Hopefully speaking for all of us here, it’s like you’re in the water. It feels good. You’re doing something you love. A blip in the distance a minute ago starts to swell. You push off and go like hell. You’re getting a good ride. And you look over and there he is next to you. Thrilled you both caught it.

It was Alex’s brother Gian Carlo the other day who reminded me of that great knock knock joke: Who’s there? Sam & Janet. Sam & Janet who? Sam & Janet evening you will meet a stranger, across a crowded room & somehow you’ll know.

Alex and Krissy from the first enchanted evening of your days may you have as many wonderful years together… May your love endure thru the push-pulls, the gives & takes… May you weather the ups and downs for as long as Hilda & Howard, Hank & Amy, Ann & Bud, Doc & Flo, Brennie & Ed, Jim & Katie, Carol & Al, Howie & Sue, Carolyn & Gino, and Sue and me, and so many of the couples here tonight… May you be healthy, wealthy, and wise… May you learn to cope with what life deals you… May you try desperately not to trade something that might be for something you already have… May you continue to find adventure and companionship and love… May you carve out your own special place, and if you’re really fortunate may you have bright, interesting, respectful, unique and caring children.

May you both remain as lighthearted as the bubbly white water that keeps the sand pipers skipping and playing at the water’s edge.

In the great words of Bertold Brecht: 'Here’s to the Happy Couple!'"


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