They say the bird of paradise flies over weddings and blesses them from above. A different kind of bird flew over Liz Zubritsky's recent nuptials. Its blessing was a little less wondrous -- and a lot more memorable.
The bird let fly with, shall we say, waste material -- on Oct. 2, the day before Liz's wedding, as she and her bridal party were posing for photos under large old trees. The waste material landed below the knee of Liz's very white wedding dress.
Ordinarily, this would not require anything more powerful than a few squirts of Mr. Clean. But the bird that singled out Liz must have been eating some sort of exotic pudding. The splotches he left on Liz's dress were purple.
"On an ivory silk dress. I screamed," Liz said.
But screams do not dislodge purple stains. What would? Liz and her attendants scurried to a nearby florist shop, where they burned up the phones looking for a dry cleaner who could cleanse the dress by the end of the day. All shops pleaded ignorance or lack of time.
Liz next tried the bridal shop where she had bought her tiara, veil and accessories -- but not the dress. An employee said she'd try to help.
En route there, Liz passed Sam's Custom Cleaners, on Slaters Lane in Alexandria. Liz had patronized Sam's when she lived in that neighborhood. She remembered being pleased with his work. She stopped to confer with him.
Sam Tran "was hesitant," Liz reports. He said he wouldn't have time to press the dress, even if he could de-stain it, because Saturday was his busiest day, and this was a Saturday. But Sam agreed to give it a whirl if the bridal store couldn't do the trick.
It couldn't -- or perhaps a better word would be "wouldn't."
Because Liz had not bought the dress there, an employee said the store could not attempt to clean it "because of liability." How the store would have been less liable if Liz had bought it there was left to answer another day.
Anyway, it was back to Sam's, with time rapidly running out. "He immediately whisked my dress into the back," says Liz. "He came out a few minutes later and showed me what he had done."
The purple stains were "nearly gone," Liz says. "If you knew to look for them, you could see faint shadows, but otherwise you couldn't tell."
Sam then pressed the dress, even though he had said earlier that he wouldn't have time. When he handed the dress back to Liz, she asked how much she owed.
"Nothing," Sam said. "I do it as a favor to you."
Liz "eventually convinced him to take $20 and use it to treat his employees to lunch." Don't even bother asking where Liz will be taking her dry cleaning from now on.
How did Sam perform wonders on the dress? With a chemical called Pro.Te.Cal. Plus.
It's not a solvent that just anyone can buy and use, he told researcher Lynn Ryzewicz. It takes practice to know how much to dab on a stain, how long to let the first dab sit, then how and when to apply additional doses. Sam said it took a total of 20 minutes to clean Liz's dress.
If Sam hadn't helped her, Liz said, she would have tried to clean the stain herself or would have covered it with a piece of lace. If the stain had been visible during the ceremony, Liz would have told "everybody what happened and let them laugh about it," she said.
By the way, Liz's groom, Michael Snyder, wore a morning suit during the ceremony. No bird deemed him worthy of a "present" before, during or after.
Jill Vaning moved away from Washington, the land of her birth, a little more than a year ago. She now lives in Charleston, S.C., and says she misses the D.C. area "terribly." She tries to ease her homesickness with this column, as plucked from washingtonpost.com. "It's like a little piece of home every day," she says.
I'm very grateful for the kind words, Jill. But I'm wondering why you miss the D.C. area so much, especially after The Sunglasses Dance you suffered here about a month ago.
While flying to Dulles International Airport, Jill left her sunglasses aboard a plane. "I am one of those people who hates to squint on a bright day," she says. So the day after she arrived, she decided to buy a replacement pair. She set off from the family home in Round Hill, Va., figuring her errand would take just a few minutes.
It's an errand that's still going on.
Jill tried Hecht's at Dulles Town Center. A salesperson said the store does not stock sunglasses "during the winter."
Jill found that puzzling. First of all, winter is still several weeks away. Second, "does the sun not shine in October?" she asks.
"We only sell sunglasses during the warmer months," the salesperson said.
Jill next tried her luck at Lord & Taylor. Same deal. L & T does not sell shades during fall or winter, either, Jill was told.
"Could you shed some light on this phenomenon?" Jill asks me.
The best kind, Jill: The information you got in both stores was incorrect. Both sell Ray-Bans, Tommy Hilfigers and several other brands of sunglasses, all year, every year, spokesmen say.
So why was Jill misinformed? She must have hooked up with a couple of salespeople who ventured out into that strong fall sunshine without shades.