Monday, January 21, 2013

No. 500 – Going Under

Performer: Evanescence
Songwriters: Amy Lee, Ben Moody, David Hodges
Original Release: Fallen
Year: 2003
Definitive Version: None

Paul and Jin set a September 2004 wedding date when they got engaged in 2003. However, because they’re pagans, they wanted to have a handfasting ceremony. Paul’s family is heavily Catholic and Jin’s family—my family—isn’t exactly known for its open-mindedness, so they decided to have the handfasting ceremony separately and in secret.

By secret, I mean only the closest circle of friends and loved ones were invited to attend. I was included, of course, as were Scott, Shani and Matt. (Leah, who wasn’t yet 1, would stay home with Dad and Laura.)

Jin also wanted to invite Casey, but she had reservations. He’s closer to Dad and Laura than anyone, and she wasn’t sure he could keep a secret—even at 16—so she gave him a cover story: He was invited to California to attend Paul’s bachelor party, along with the rest of the family and their friends in L.A. That the weekend just happened to be on the Summer Solstice made no impression with anyone.

I wouldn’t have missed the ceremony for anything, but the Clippers were on the road that weekend in a stroke of good fortune, so I didn’t have to miss any games. Scott and Shani drove up from Cincinnati, dropped off Leah and the four of us flew to L.A. At the time, I had a large suitcase, and I thought it was pointless for me and Casey to have separate luggage, so I had him pack all his stuff in my bag, too. (Matt had flown out from Torch Lake.)

The flight was uneventful, and Paul and Jin greeted us at the airport. We went to baggage claim, and after a fairly long wait, we got Scott’s bag … and Shani’s … and … and … uh oh.

It’s a sinking feeling when you don’t see your suitcase come out onto the carousel, and when the conveyor belt finally shut off, we knew we were in trouble. We went to the customer-service counter and were told that, yes, the bag wasn’t on that flight. (No kidding.) It seems the airline tagged my suitcase for Salt Lake City for reasons only it could fathom. The customer-service rep said the airline would ship it as soon as it could—arriving sometime tomorrow.

Under normal circumstances, this delay would be a nuisance. However, on this trip, it was a real problem. The handfasting wasn’t going to be in L.A. but in Carmel. We needed to get on the road first thing in the morning. Everything Casey and I brought was packed in that suitcase.

There was only one solution: Head to Target and buy underwear and a few other pieces of clothing we could wear up north aside from what we had on. At least then we would have something.

When we got up in the morning, however, we heard from the airline that my suitcase had arrived and it was on its way out to Jin’s house even as we spoke. It turned out we didn’t need our Target clothes after all. Jin said she’d return them, so I’d get my money back—apart from a couple T-shirts Casey and I decided to keep.

Naturally, because it was an airline, it wasn’t exactly United on the spot, so we waited … and waited … and waited. Finally, we couldn’t wait any more. A few people, including Paul and Jin, were going to stay at a campground south of town (the rest stayed at a hotel in Carmel), and the campground registration closed at dusk. We had to get going.

Paul and Jin rented two vans to take everyone up. Paul’s van would haul Scott and Shani and two of Paul and Jin’s friends from L.A. The other van was Jin, Matt, Casey, me and all the luggage that couldn’t fit in Paul’s van. Paul took off to get on the road. We said we’d catch up.

Just as we were about to leave, with me and Casey’s Target clothes after all, the airline van pulled up and gave us our suitcase. (All things considered, I’m surprised it didn’t charge me for the “service.”) OK, off we go.

We took Highway 1 up, which, of course, Is an amazing drive. I had taken it once before all the way from Carmel to L.A. with Dad in 1982 and had gone as far south as Big Sur with Debbie in 1995.

It also can be a slow one due to the windiness of the road and the scenery. At some point, we figured we’d meet up with Paul, yet we never heard from him. He was on a mission. It also didn’t help that after we got north of Santa Barbara, our cellphone reception got sketchy. By the time we hit the cliffside portion of Highway 1, our cellphones were worthless.

Fine. Paul could get to the campgrounds and check in. It was a beautiful day, so we meandered, stopping multiple times along the road for pictures. One time we even saw a whale a ways off the shore.

Everytime we stopped, Casey tried to throw a rock into the ocean. We were right on the edge of the cliff. How difficult could it be? Considering we were probably at least the length of a football field from the water, impossible—at least for him.

It was getting dark when we finally arrived in Carmel, and when we finally were able to get a cell connection in town, or at least enough of one to reconnect with the first van, it was discovered that there had been much tumult. To wit, the passengers in the first van had no idea we were so far behind and couldn’t get reception at all at the campgrounds.

Consequently, Scott was concerned that we had wrecked and did a fair job of convincing himself that all his siblings were dead. He was overjoyed to see us when we showed up at the restaurant where he and Shani were having dinner.

Jin, however, was ticked that Paul had just vanished over the hills instead of stopping at some point to wait for us. When he showed up, Matt, Casey and I went to get our own dinner and left them to talk, and afterward, when I spoke with Jin, there was doubt whether the handfasting even would come off. Maybe all we needed was a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow’s another day.

(To be continued)

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