Notes On A Wedding

Maxwell House Wedding Photo

My apologies for not writing last Friday, but I was caught up in the travel and prep for my younger son’s wedding.

Did you miss me? The wife (Cruella) would say aim lower.

The youngster and his intended live down in Los Angeles. The wedding itself was in Pasadena. Do not, under any circumstances, ever refer to Pasadena as being a part of Los Angeles. They are two very distinct and different cities and while Los Angeles loves having Pasadena nearby (I mean the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl if nothing else), Pasadena abides having Los Angeles nearby. All that new money you know, terribly gauche if you ask Mrs. Snottybottom. She’d tell you even if you didn’t ask.

Trekking down to the Southland from Sonoma means taking Interstate 5 down through the Central Valley of California. If you don’t know what the Central Valley is, just check out your kitchen cupboards. Probably a quarter to a half of all the food you have in there is from the Central Valley. Remember those Happy California Cows or the California Raisins? They both call the Central Valley home. It’s also one of the more conservative areas of California, at least from the standpoint of the landowners there. And by landowners I mean HugeAgriBusiness Inc. Who was supplying the money for the recent recall movement? Most of it came in boxes postmarked from Bakersfield, Fresno, or Merced. So as you traverse the concrete byway that is I5 there are plenty of signs espousing conservative beliefs, from what you would expect (Recall Newsom!) to head scratching (Prevent Man Made Droughts — Build More Dams). So you agree the drought is man made but believe the solution is not to deal with climate change but to build more dams. So you can have more low cost or even free water while us city folk go thirsty. Suuurrrreee.

And that’s all before you get to Harris Ranch, an 800 acre feedlot containing 250,000 head of cattle and all the necessary equipment to turn those cows into what’s for dinner. We call it Cowschvitz. If you’re not at least considering going vegan before driving past, you will be once the aroma of a quarter of a million cows permeates your nostrils. Believe it or not, they have a restaurant and hotel on the property. Hard pass on that for me.

At the end of the 420 mile, six and a half hour car ride was the Langham Huntington Hotel. We had decided to pamper ourselves a bit with a stay here. The last time we were here was about 40 years ago and it was for work. This time we would be able to take advantage of all the coddling and first class service they could provide. They did not disappoint. I mean, turn down service, who still does that? Well they do. And they leave the Bose system in the room tuned to KUSC, the SoCal classical station so when you get back in late at night it’s a calm and soothing way to slip off to sleep.

Jump in past the break, we haven’t even gotten to the wedding yet.

Ha fooled you. Before the wedding there has to be a rehearsal. And a rehearsal dinner. That’s what the groom’s family is in charge of. I was not about to allow anyone else to be in charge of this particular task.

And I had a very special place all picked out.

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, which is right next to Pasadena. Yeah that’s right, I’m a Valley Boy. My parents had a favorite restaurant when I was growing up called The Valley Inn. It’s was old school even back then. And while it had the typical wall of autographed headshots of movie stars, the Valley Inn’s wall was filled with headshots of not just movie stars but sports personalities and political figures. The one thing that you had to be to be on that wall was a Valley resident.

When I found out it was still in operation and had survived pandemic closings, openings, closings again, then openings again, well I was bound and determined the rehearsal dinner would be there. The owner, Sophia, couldn’t believe I wanted to set all this up over the phone. “You haven’t seen the private dining room!” she insisted. “Yes I have”, I replied, “45 years ago. If it hasn’t changed then everything is fine”. Then I explained my rationale. My parents both passed away in the last two years. Having the rehearsal dinner at The Valley Inn was my way of including them in the festivities.

I’m not crying…you are.

Sophia and her crew went all out, decorating the tables with heart shaped confetti and making sure no one’s hand was without their beverage of choice. And the wedding party’s beverage of choice was the lemon drop martini which came early and often and made the evening swing. Me, I’m more traditional when it comes to frosted glasses containing gin and vermouth (shaken, two olives). Then the food appeared. Giant slabs of prime rib that overhung the plate complete with horseradish sauce and gravy and mashed potatoes and who the fuck cares about cholesterol counts on a night like this. Yeah pasta for the veggies in the group and those afraid of a little red meat. Come to think of it, it was probably Harris Ranch. Oh well.

Fortunately the actual wedding was in the evening of the next day, allowing all of us to recover from the rehearsal dinner. It was held in the Maxwell House, a mansion that had been deeded over to the city (as one does with property that will provide a plentiful tax break). Currently it is used as offices for the Western Justice Center. If the name is ringing a bell, and not for being good to the last drop, it might be because it was recently in the news when the Supreme Court ruled that the Pasadena Repugnicant Club couldn’t sue the WJC for not renting the joint out to them when they wanted to have John Eastman speak there. Yes, that John Eastman of Eastman Memo Fame. As my son pointed out, that means he was able to draw more people to his wedding than the GOP could to hear a fascist spout his anti LGBTQ+ crap.

The wedding brought together the two families and all of the happy couple’s friends. For me it was as if the past thirty years of my life was passing before me. His friends from high school, college, his time in London, his life as a cicerone and in the world of beer, and his life living in South Central LA rebuilding a Craftsman style bungalow. In a fashion I am now used to I found a group of his male friends standing around in earnest discussion. Sports? Politics? No, homoerotic themes in Moby Dick. I had to interject that while Moby Dick was scant in it’s homoerotic themes, Billy Budd was filled with them. Then I walked away, cause when you drop the mic that’s what you do.

And oh the bride. There has never been a more beautiful bride, but I’m biased cause she’s my (and this is the first time I’m putting this in writing) daughter-in-law. Adorned in a classic 1940’s style white dress that made her look like a film star of that era, she was perfectly in tune with the building and of course the moment. The look on my son’s face as she came down the aisle is something I will never forget, like it was the culmination of a dream he’s had since the two of them first met.

I don’t cry at weddings, but I understand those who do. Weddings are a summation of what has gone before and a celebration of what is to come. I admit I couldn’t help feeling that summation part pretty heavily. Even though they are much older than I was when Cruella and I got married and even though they’ve been living together for three years, yeah I had that Fiddler On The Roof moment as they stood before the assembled and pledged their love to one another. There was the little boy who put magnets in his shoes because we had teased him he was so skinny the wind would blow him off the Golden Gate Bridge as we walked across, the proud student who mixed artistic endeavors with academic excellence, the passionate firebrand who fought for his political beliefs as fervently as he wooed the woman about to be his wife. I turned to his mother and all I could say was “we did a good job”.

But who knows where the times goes?

Sorry Fairport Convention lovers, this was LA so I had to go with one of the Ladies of the Canyon version

Shapiro Out

4 thoughts on “Notes On A Wedding

  1. Congratulations! Finally! Wishing them all the best and may those treks down I5 become more frequent.

  2. Congratulations. Excellent post. From the pictures I’ve seen elsewhere, the bride has a Myrna Loy thing going on.

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