Friday, April 29, 2005

Ken & Rosa get married...

Is it a title meant simply to scare the hell out of you? Or... is there more?

As you know, the new book is just trucking along. In fact, you might not know that I'm over 6,700 words into it now (with over 230,000 words of research - it hurts)! Today, I reached the story of Ken & Rosa's wedding and thought I'd share this little highlight with you.


On Monday, May 16, 1988, Rosa and I woke up early and boarded an Amtrak commuter train to Los Angeles. Wheels were turning, and not just the wheels of the train. We were bound for Seattle, bound to get married.

My father had not only agreed that we should get married up in Seattle, he's insisted upon it. To him, it was a great idea. He was more thrilled, it seemed, than Rosa, who was already making comments about how I was "forcing her" to marry me. But my dad had rules. First, he wanted us to get married in a church. No problem; he'd pay. He'd take care of everything. His other condition was that we attended "wedding classes". Wedding classes? I'd never heard of such a thing! But, sure enough, they existed. We attended a week of them, one-on-one meetings with the pastor of the Christ Lutheran Church in Orange. He said to us things like, "Knowing each other's favorite flavor of ice cream will not make a marriage last. It takes work and a commitment to do the work." and "Once you are married, you will no longer be Ken and Rosa but one family and, so, you must put aside the needs of Ken and Rosa and make the needs of the family most important in your life."

No amount of wisdom or pithy sayings would help us, though. We were doomed from the start.

There was no way for us to know that, though. We changed trains at Union Station in Los Angeles and boarded the Coast Starlight, which would take us all the way to Seattle. Now, when I had made the reservations, I wanted a room with a bed. I wanted the trip to be perfect. But I was young and didn't know much about train travel, I only knew what I'd seen in the movies. So, when the Amtrak employee took my reservation on the phone and suggested "First Class Coach", I thought I was getting a deal. Train travel isn't like it appears in the movies. "First Class Coach" turned out to be "Coach", and we had to endure the next two days in a small chair that only barely reclined. The air conditioning in the car was set on something close to "Arctic" - and they ran out of blankets, given them to the elderly. The food in the dining car tended towards such treats as microwaved prime rib. A child kept kicking the back of my chair.

But the excitement and the potential of the trip was palpable. Rosa took roll after roll of pictures from our cheap, little camera of everything that flew by outside her window, mostly coastline. (We threw away about 90% of these shots when we got back. After all, how many pictures of coastline can you look at?) I couldn't sleep, though we were on the train two days. Rosa slept quite a bit. She was an incredible sleeper, could sleep anywhere under most any condition. As I was awake, I watched her sleep and contemplated her becoming my wife.

Arriving in Seattle, I couldn't find my dad but he found me. I still looked vaguely familiar after all those years but my dad… looked old! His hair was almost entirely grey and he'd put on quite a bit of weight. What had happened? I was in my 20's and he was in his 50's - that's what had happened. We had a day to relax and, before we knew it, it was Friday, the day before the wedding. The few family members Rosa had invited, those who could stand me, couldn't make it. I had invited two people, Rob Sassone who would be my best man and Sean Roberson who would not. He would video tape the event. Sean flew in that night tanked up on airline booze. Rob didn't make it.

What to do? I took Sean aside and said, "Look, Rob was supposed to be my best man but he was supposed to be here for the rehearsal. I feel terrible asking you under these conditions but…" Turned out, he was only too happy to be my best man. He hadn't brought a suit but we'd worked around that.

My dad brought us to the tux rental shop where he'd reserved my tux: a white-jacketed affair with black tie and black pants, which had a shiny stripe down the legs. A racing stripe, I called it. The shop had nothing in Sean's size on such short notice. The nicest clothes he'd brought had been slacks and a sweater.

We had the rehearsal and Rosa went off with Blanche, my step-mom.

My dad said, "You guys can't stay at the house."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because you can't see the bride before the wedding," Blanche called out.

Sean and I exchanged glances - of course. But my dad and reserved us a hotel room. Sean and I checked in and then bought a case of "Mickey's Big Mouth" beer from a local liquor store. Sean was a pretty big guy; most of that would be for him. We filled the tub with ice and planted the beer within. And that was my bachelor party, two guys drunk on notoriously bad beer, watching MTV on the hotel television, and smoking all they could.

The next morning, hung over from Mickey's, which is actually worse than death, I showered, shaved, and got into my tux, laughing at the racing stripe. Sean crawled off the sofa and got himself ready as well. He passed out again in the car as I drove to the church singing, "I'm getting married in the morning! Ding Dong, the bells are gonna" forgetting the rest of the words, hoping to force myself out of the hangover. When we passed the dead moose in the road, I worried about portents for a moment but just for a moment.

At the church, Sean and I were sequestered in the back, where my half-brothers, Dwight and Richard, merely teenagers, awaited us. They'd had a fun night with Rosa, playing cards games and wanted to know what we'd done. All we could say was, "Coffee. Get us coffee." When Rob walked through the door, I didn't know whether to hug him or hit him. And then, the wedding began and I had to walk out. I turned to Rob and grabbed his shoulders, "Stop me from doing this!" I said on an impulse. But it was too late.

Soon, I was at the front of this little, Methodist chapel in Fall City, Washington. Sean, in a blue sweater, stood by my side. Rob, in his finest (albeit goofiest looking) suit, pointed the camera. The minister asked me if I was okay and I told her I was fine. I was far from fine. I was a wreck. I hadn't seen this part of my family, now sitting in the pews as the only guests, in years. Rosa and I were miles away from having a stable relationship. And, to top it, of course, I was hung over.

But then, she walked into the chapel, my father walking her down the aisle. Her dress, hand-made, was beautiful. Her dark brown hair fell down past her shoulders, framing her face in curls. And what a face! It was a face I could spend years looking at and continue to crave. Hers was a beauty that made you want to cry. She was the most beautiful woman in the world and, even to this day, after everything that has happened, remains in the top three. I loved her more than any man had a right to love anybody.

And we were married.

The reception was held at the Snoqualmie Falls. Walking on the path overlooking the falls, I told Rosa about a dream that I'd had when I was just a boy. It was a dream about a girl and there was a waterfall in the background and I had known that she would be the girl that I would marry.

Vicky has said that the story I tell about our wedding had better be superior to this - I have no doubt it will be.

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