Saturday, January 25, 2014

No. 131 – It’s All Too Much

Performer: The Beatles
Songwriter: George Harrison
Original Release: Yellow Submarine
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: None.

After the Ohio train contingent arrived in Los Angeles in September 2004 for Paul and Jin’s wedding, we checked into our motel not far from Jin’s house in the Valley. Then Scott and I met up with Matt and Casey, who arrived with Dad and Laura the evening before, to get our tuxes.

The tux shop was close to the Gal-uh-re-uh (said in the manner of the T-1000 in T2) in Sherman Oaks. As we dressed, Casey wanted to make sure he looked good all dudded up—like James Bond—so I told him I’d go into the mall and ask some random babe to stand next to him to find out. I was about to when he said, no no no.

Everything fit like a tuxedo, so then we went for lunch at a Japanese restaurant Jin had introduced me to that was between where we were and the motel. It was a fun afternoon of just guys, and now that I think about it, it might have been the only time the four of us have done something together, just us.

After lunch, it was time to round up the posse and head over the mountains to Malibu for the wedding rehearsal. The wedding was going to be in two days at the Malibu Nature Preserve just off Highway 1. The place had a party house for the reception, and the ceremony would be among a grove of trees up the hill several paces.

The setting and ceremony would have several pagan-y elements, but it was subtle, not like the hand-fasting. For those not in the know, Jin said, it was just an outdoor ceremony in the woods. Why was everyone in a circle? No reason …

Because the ceremony itself would be loose, typical rules weren’t followed. Even though we were dressed as groomsmen, Scott, Matt, Casey and I were bridal attendants. We stood on Jin’s half of the circle, not Paul’s.

We would gather in an area below the grove and walk about 200 yards to the circle. Paul’s group would come from the other direction. All we had to do was listen for a bell being rung by the celebrant. That seemed easy enough, except no one could hear the bell from our station. OK, we’ll work on that.

It was at this time that I met the houseguest who was occupying the room I was supposed to take that fall. As I mentioned, Sheila moved in after a bad breakup with her live-in boyfriend just before the wedding, which scotched my plans for a little while.

Sheila also was hot—dangerously so. After Melanie, I’d pledged to never go after any of Jin’s friends. Until I met Sheila, I’d never wanted to. Well, I still wasn’t going to, but … if this happened and that happened and we hooked up that weekend? I certainly wasn’t going to prevent that from happening.

Actually, what I hoped even more would be that we’d get along well enough so when I moved out to California, SHE would introduce me to her friends. A friend of Jin’s? Off limits. A friend of a friend of Jin’s? Fair game.

I don’t remember what we did for dinner that night, but after our early-morning arrival on the train and the day’s activities, it wasn’t long before we called it a day back at the motel. With Mom in bed and Shani staying with Leah, Scott and I headed to the adjacent Denny’s for a nightcap.

I kid you not. A Denny’s that has a bar is a perfect combination. After you get your drink on, you can order a Grand Slam for a little preventative hangover treatment.

Scott and I weren’t looking for that, just to have a cold one away from Mom’s prying eyes. (As I said, I wasn’t going to drink in front of her, because to do so would be to condone her drinking.) We’d been there no more than a couple minutes when all of a sudden a hand came clapping down on each of our shoulders and a booming voice behind us said, “I thought I’d find the two brothers here.”

It was Tim from the Vegas Ratpack. He was staying at the same motel and just got into town himself. Hell, EVERYONE in the wedding party, it seemed, was staying at the same motel. Needless to say—but I’ll say it anyway—Tim joined us for a Denny’s nightcap.

The next day began with another drive over the mountains, this time to Santa Monica, where Jack and Sally were holding a pre-wedding celebratory brunch at a nice hotel on the beach whose name I’ve long since forgotten. We started with mimosas and coffee in the atrium. At the appointed hour, we moved into the dining room, where brunch was served buffet-style.

The family table filled up fast, so I was left to choose a table with Sheila. (Darn the luck!) I made it a point to not sit next to her to avoid any discomfort. Paul and Jin also chose our table, so that made it more comfortable.

The food choices extended far past your typical eggs and bacon and biscuits and gravy. There were lox and crepes and the crème de la crème, or as I said to Jin when I got back to our table: “They got crème brulee!” Paul and Jin immediately went up to inspect for themselves.

When I sat down, I saw that another woman had joined the table. Sheila introduced us, saying she was a friend of Paul’s from Chicago. The redhead held out a hand. “Laurie.” I shook it. “Will, brother of the bride. Nice to meet you.”

Then Laurie promptly asked whether Sheila and I were together. Umm … ha ha! No ... (Gulp!) Sheila made a joke about how we’d been fighting, so she made me sit one chair apart from her as punishment, and when Jin and Paul got back to the table, I learned more about Laurie. Oh, you’re an editor at a magazine? I was in the newspaper business but left to write a book. Wow, that’s cool.

The brunch was a smashing success and finished about the time that Paul went back to the buffet table and brought back an entire pan of crème brulee. (When you’re the groom, you call the shots.) We hiked down to the ocean, so 1-year-old Leah could dip a toe into the water for the first time. She didn’t like it, at all.

The agenda the rest of the day consisted of a hike at Solstice Canyon in Mailbu—the site where Paul proposed to Jin—followed by the rehearsal dinner at an Italian place back down in the Valley. I was the only one of the train crew to go on the hike. Dad wanted to go, too, so we drove back over the mountains together.

A good enough group assembled that we divided in two. Paul would lead those who wanted to take a more grueling route; Jin would lead the wusses. I went the wuss way, because I wanted to be with Jin. Dad joined us, and one of Jin’s friends came, too.

The park at Solstice Canyon includes the ruins of several older homes that were wiped out because of one of the many brush fires that hit California at a moment’s notice. The paths converge at the site of the largest ruin, which is next to a steep waterfall that’s strewn with climbable boulders. It seemed as good a place as any to ask someone to marry you—particularly if you’re into the outdoors, like Paul and Jin were.

Sheila didn’t join us on the hike, but Laurie did. She went with Paul for the same reason I went with Jin, but after the groups met up, the two of us walked around the ruined house a bit. I pointed out how it was covered by massive aloe, which I call man-eating plants, because, well, they look like they should be, don’t they?

After a while, everyone went down the easy way, but Laurie walked with Jin, and I walked with Paul, Dad and aunt Linda—the only other family member on the hike. It was starting to get dark, and we had to head back to the Valley, shower up quickly and get to dinner.

Dinner itself was where I met Paul’s family, who just arrived from parts Southeast—Florida to be precise. The dinner was OK, although the thing I remember most about it was that Leah—and Scott and Shani, for that matter—weren’t feeling it. They wanted to head out with Mom almost right away. I said, go ahead; I can get a ride with someone else. You sure? No problem.

Almost instantly after they split, I ordered a glass of wine. I couldn’t have a nice meal without at least a bit of vino. Besides I wanted to hang out a bit. As for my ride home? It came courtesy of Tim, who decided that the right rental in L.A. was a convertible.

He drove me home … the long, lazy way, to be sure. Cruise Ventura Boulevard in a convertible? You’d struggle to get more L.A. than that. Too bad I’d left my sunglasses back at the motel.

We went to Paul and Jin’s home to drop off a few things that had been left behind and to see Jin once more before the wedding. Paul was spending the night at a friend’s. The next day was the autumnal equinox and the wedding itself. It was going to be a big day. As Tim and I cruised home, I was unaware just how big.

(To be continued)

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