And now back to our regularly scheduled program. (And sorry, by the way, for taking so long. I promise I will be posting very regularly from now on.)
Anyway, there was some b**** at the wedding who kept ordering us about. One of those horrible type-A busy-bodies. I really wanted to tell her off, but I don't really know who she was. We were imagining that maybe she just comes in off the street and bosses around wedding parties just for fun.
They did the whole traditional wedding with me escorting one of Flavor's sisters down the aisle. I pretty much hated that. I had to stand there in the line the whole time with a pink tie on. Now here's the best moment from the trip. Are you ready?
The bishop asked that whole thing about in sickness and in health, yadda yadda yadda. Ouija answered, "I do." The acoustics of the room were great, and for some reason, at that moment, I realized the solemnity of what they were doing. I just let the echo of his voice wash over my ears. Then it was her turn. The bishop asked that long boring question again, but this time I really paid attention to the words he was saying, picturing my brother and his wife in sickness and in health, rich and poor, etc. When it came to the end, she answered clearly in her soprano voice:
Well, she brought the house down. After that stunned moment of silence, everbody was laughing. It was so unexpected. In that moment, I knew she was family. Nanny leaned over to me and asked, "Does she really want us to answer that?" I told him to forever hold his peace.
The funny thing is that it seemed to be the prevailing attitude about the wedding. "Why not?" Well, Ouija, here's to hoping it works out for you. I just hope she doesn't have the same attitude toward divorce. But seriously, I think they'll be good together. I'm not sure about the legality of their marriage, but she at least seems funny.
Dad wondered aloud whether Ouija was ready for such a commitment. Fat Aunt Carol reproved him smartly: "Well, he's four years older than you were at YOUR first marriage, and HIS bride's not even pregnant." Touché, FAC. On a side note, Fat Aunt Carol had her stomach stapled and has lost hundreds of pounds. She's still the fattest one in the family, but she's no longer the fattest person I've ever seen. She's even taken up cycling, somehow. Maybe she's Fast Aunt Carol now. On an even further tangent, at one point my mother (whose mind must be slipping in her old age) almost introduced her to someone as "Fat Aunt Carol." We always have to be careful about that.
The food was Mexican and it was actually really really good. I had to sit at some dumb table while everybody paraded by, including my crazy former landlady. Awkward.
They threw the bouquet, and some little girl caught it. Then they threw the nasty garter belt. There were only maybe ten guys out there. It was me, Doan, Nanny, BamaBeau, and a few children. We were only a few feet away. Ouija didn't even turn his back to us. He just looked at me and threw it right at me. It glanced off my hand, and Nanny dived and caught it. The sad thing is that it's probably accurate.
We had pictures with my dad's side of the family afterward. That was great. I really felt a connection with my cousins. That was nice, since we've never been very close. None of them are even close to my age, so there's always been some distance. But I realize I have an interesting role as the oldest cousin. Natalie, age 15, told her dad that she wished we lived closer. They live in Reno. I had to agree. And John, 12, showed me how far he could bend his fingers and feet backwards, and told me he practices every day. I really got a kick out of that. He wants to bring me to school with him so I can do my contortionist act. Anyway, I hope we are able to stay in touch this time.
During those pictures, Doan, Wiggle, and BamamBeau decorated the car. They put some pretty unmentionable stuff on it, which was funny up until the point when the cousins wanted to go see the car, and there's ten-year-old Emily reading these horrible things aloud.
Emily reading the horrible things Wiggle put on the car
some of the terrible things Wiggle put on the car
When my mom saw that one, she said, "Oh, so that's why the call you Wiggle." Wiggle was so embarassed. It was great.
After the wedding, there was a dance, which I hate. The Maggot was able to charm me onto the dance floor, though. We danced for several songs, with me all bent over uncomfortably to reach her. After a while, I think I was looking drunk enough that she could tell I'd had it. She pulled me down to her ear and said, "I think you're tired."
"You should go rest." And with that, she was gone. What a special little maggot she is.
(This is the only picture you get of the bride, by the way.)
That's my sister, the Maggot
After the wedding, Nanny couldn't find his pants or wallet. The girlfriend stayed with him, and my friends and I went to the store to buy stuff for the Nanny Challenge. The Nanny Challenge is a game Tox and some friends invented. What happens is we blindfold Nanny, then feed him the most disgusting things we can find at the store. Then he declares a winner based on what which was the most horrible to eat. This time I fed him a spoonful of hot chili oil. Bamabeau had pickled pig's feet, Wiggle had anchovy paste, Nestor had baby clams in oil, Doan had a brown banana smoothie with dirt in it, and we brought catfood on behalf of the girlfriend. BamaBeau won with the pigs feet, and Nanny lost, as always. Here's a shot of the winner:
We have a winner! (You can see the cat food I spilled on his shirt.)
After it was done, we put all the remaining ingredients in a blender with some Nyquil, maple syrup, and grape soda, and left our "smoothie" in the fridge with the hopes that his roommate would drink it. It turned out Doan had taken Nanny's pants, by the way, assuming Nanny had left already.
We went outside after that to change the church sign. It said, "Smile. It increases your face value." We figured out how to take letters from the other side so it would read, "Lying. It increases our church attendance." Alas, they had put a padlock on the church sign since the last time we vandalized it. After that, we went back to Tox's house to sleep.
Saturday: San Francisco
Saturday we found out that we had a stowaway on the trip. Our fifth and unknown passenger was Toasteroven's cold. It was living inside of me, and producing a whole lot of snot.
In the morning, Tox came with us to my dad's for breakfast. Dad gave us eggs and tortillas. The first batch was great. The second batch was burnt and horrible, so we clandestinely fed it to the yappy dog under the table. That shut up the dog and rid us of the eggscrement. Then we played Dad's SNL Trivial Pursuit DVD, which was wicked awesome, though it seems only Tox and Dad and I are really into SNL. Meanwhile, BamaBeau and Wiggle were getting a kick out of the fact that the yappy dog was trying to hump my arm. Have I ever mentioned that I hate the concept of pets in general? They are not family! If animals were meant to live in buildings, they'd have invented them on their own. This is why I'm not opposed to pet beavers.
Next we went and fetched Buh. Tox left us at that point. Wiggle climbed her first tree at buh's house.
the first tree Wiggle ever climbed
On the way out of town, Buh and I decided we were hungry and needed Jack-in-the-Box right then. BamaBeau was stressing about driving, though, and didn't stop. Soon we passed another Jack-in-the-Box, but no stopping. On our way to Oakland, in fact, we passed a grand total of 6 Jacks-in-Boxes, and never went to any. Each time, Buh and I would squeal like wretched children, "Jack-in-the-Box! C'mon! I'm soooooo hungry!" BamaBeau was unmoved.
We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. Wiggle was so excited. "Wow, cooool!" BamaBeau intoned, "I am so much cooler now that I've driven across the Golden Gate Bridge."
At that point, Buh, who'd only half been listening to the conversation, perked up. "That's not the Golden Ga--" I nudged him sharply in the ribs with my elbow.
Soon the truth was out. "Hahaha, you guys," I said obnoxiously. "I can't believe you guys believed me that that horrible dinky rusted little bridge was the Golden Gate Bridge. Hahaha." Some things are funnier to me than they are to a bunch of grouchies. I don't know why that is.
We got to Oakland and walked around on the roof of the temple. That's allowed--I promise.
Then we went to the visitors' center. A busload of rambunctious Sunbeams came in and put their fingers in the holes of the feet of the Christus statue. That was cute.
Then one of those sister missionaries took us through the new section about the family. We walked from scene to scene, stopping each time to watch a video about a Utopian (or at least Utahn) family. The family was so saccharinely perfect, from their all-American accents to their color-coordinated wardrobe, that I actually began to be turned off by it. It didn't seem like they were showing us how to be a perfect family, or even conceding that being a perfect family takes hard work. Instead the video seemed to be highlighting the differences between a good family and a real one. Which is what I put on the comment card. And I kept the little eraserless semipencil. Oh, and that was after I fell asleep during the sister missionary's testimony. She was the scratchy-voice type. That's the worst type. I think that in the brain of a scratchy-voiced sister missionary, this is what happens:
Scratchy Drew-Barrymore-style voice=Emotional. Emotional=Spiritual.
It's not as though I fell asleep in the back of a tour group in a darkened room, either. Oh, no. This was just the five of us on a bench, lights on, facing her directly. Even as I slept, I knew she was looking right at me, but I couldn't help it.
Moral of the story: Don't go try to get a spiritual uplift from an annoying person when you're sick and operating on four hours of sleep each night for the last three nights and you really just want a Sourdough Jack more than life itself at that moment.
Next we went to Nestor's cousin's house. Buh and I were pleased with the serendipity of finding a Jack-in-the-Box on the same block as the house. We ate in the car (I got a strawberry-banana shake; I've been accused in the past of being sexually attracted to those things, and that might not be so far off) while the friends went inside. We followed when they were done. I was a bit bothered to learn that the cousin, whose name evades me because I was calling him "Gandalf" in my head the whole time, and his fiancé, who was named after the Loch Ness Monster, were coming with us. I sensed a power struggle coming on.
We decided to take Bart into San Francisco. That stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit. I pushed my way in front of Wiggle on the train, and stole her seat next to Nestor. Wiggle was to have none of that, so she pushed her way onto the seat as well. As the train was going under the bay, we slowly inched Nestor off the seat. We almost got her all the way off before she realized what we were doing. Meanwhile, Buh and BamaBeau had discovered that the Asian gentleman sleeping in the seat across from them had the exact same scar as Harry Potter! I don't know if it shows up as well here as it did in real life.
They would have leaned way in to get a better picture, but his little son kept stoically watching them photograph Dad. And also we have all seen The Grudge.
In San Francisco we saw a trolley, but then boarded a bus (at Gandalf's recommendation). We all had to stand. There was a creepy guy staring at Wiggle, so I moved between him and her. Then he stood up, and I totally got his seat. Yeah, buddy.
We got to Pier 39 soon thereafter, and I headed straight for the sea lions, since I find those to be infinitely more interesting than expensive imported novelties. Alas, mating season wasn't to begin until May and June, but we saw them do some interesting things nonetheless. The sun set right about then behind Fisherman's Wharf, which was beautiful with the lights and the water and such.
Fisherman's Wharf, sea lions, and the sunset from Pier 39
Fisherman's Wharf was our next stop. We ordered various bits of seafood from street merchants. I was kinda wanting to split off from Gandalf and his Loch Ness Monster, but couldn't seem to shake them. The fish and chips I ordered were gross, but I finished them off because they had cost me six dollars. I was hoping for battered fish but got breaded, which was yucky. I think maybe they just had a Costco bag of Van de Kamps under the counter or something.
Then I dragged everyone up to Ghirardelli Square for some ice cream. Wiggle bought the two of us a Foghorn (dark chocolate and raspberries--my mouth waters at the mere memory of it). The seating policy there is terrible. You order at the door, and then you have to find your own seats. Since there were seven of us, that proved difficult. We ended up hovering like vultures over a table of teenagers. Across from us was a Japanese family with its eyes on the same table. As soon as the first of the teenagers left, Wiggle and Buh sat down, thus procuring our spot. Those Japanese were so miffed! Anyway, we got the table.
There was a man sitting by himself at a small table against the east wall. He kept standing up and flipping off/cussing out some invisible person beyond our table. He was a 30-something, good-looking, buff Italian man. It was really creepy. We still never found out whom he was so pissed off at.
Then we took the bus (our transfers were still good) to China Town. Wiggle bought me a really cool knife with a sheath. At some point in the night I went insane, and started running around pretending to stab people, and walking like I had cerebral palsy, and saying strange things to the homeless. I helped Wiggle purchase a beautiful amber bracelet. I got a San Francisco hat. I don't wear hats often, but I thought it would be nice to get one. I also thought it would be nice to get a shot glass for BamaBeau's collection. I got him a rainbow-colored gay pride shotglass. I think I'm hilarious. We soon realized that all stores in China Town have the same trinkets, and I was still itching to get away from Gandalf and the Loch Ness Monster, so we devised a plan. We would take BART back to Oakland, say our goodbyes, and then drive back into San Francisco and keep playing. We proceeded accordingly.
The hitch came while we were waiting for the train at the station, but not in the way you'd think. There was a Target ad lying there, and Gandalf and Buh and I scrutinized it and mocked the models and the tacky fashions. We could tell that the models had had the clothes photoshopped on in some of the pictures. They hadn't even really worn the clothes they were modeling! Anyway, the reason this was a problem was because I started to think Gandalf was really cool. Too bad it happened so late! On Bart, we discovered that we share the ability to bend our fingers all the way back. This was so great. Neither of us had ever encountered another with the same unique ability. We decided that we are a community now, and are going to try to become a protected class. Then I can get jobs and scholarships, I bet.
When we got off BART, we tried to take pictures, but the flash wasn't so hot. I came up with a solution:
not the most flattering angle, but it's the only way we could get everyone in it with Bamabeau's weak flash
Then we got back in the car and headed across the Bay Bridge. We had two breath-holding contests across the bridge. It's really long. I won the first and Wiggle won the second (though I did make it all the way from Angel Island to land again).
We had to go to the Castro, since none of us had ever been, and Eleka Nahmen had told me to see how everyone handled it. The thing is, the Castro is just one small street buried somewhere in this big giant city plagued with steep hills, tortuous roads, and one-way streets. Our plan of attack: drive whichever way was looking gayer until we got there.
We saw a billboard for a gym that had a big muscular guy on it, so we took the next exit. Then there was an intersection. "Well, we shouldn't go straight!"quipped BamaBeau [well, BamaBeau claims I said that]. We took a left and soon we saw a sign that advertized sausages next to a sign selling liquor. Hmmm. Sausage. And then Liquor. We went that way. Soon there were more and more rainbows. All in all, it took us about 15 minutes to find the place.
Parking was awful. We ended up parking on a hill in a space that was just barely shorter than the car. Then we walked. That was the scary part. At first it was fine, and we didn't see anything any more disturbing than what we'd seen in China Town. There were these hilarious rainbow stairs, and I got a picture when no one was around.
me in the Castro
Then things started to get scarier. The girls relaxed a bit when they realized they weren't the only ladies on the street. They were freaked out even worse when they realized that yes they actually were. There were some drag queens, some old men doing things to each other that I don't want to talk about here, and Nestor claims she saw some gross items littering the sidewalk. One walk up the street and a walk back to the car and we were done. I found it mostly amusing, but also a bit disgusting and terrifying. It was further proof that that is no way to live. Wiggle went into shock, and Nestor could only moan something about being "not okay."
We got really lost trying to find the real Golden Gate Bridge. BamaBeau and I sat in the front seat having forcedly airy conversation to try to alleviate the silent pressure that was building up in the back seat. When the girls started to notice that we were way lost in some deserted part of town, they became a bit testy. We found it soon enough, though, and stopped at the lookout point and took pictures. Buh and I even found a raccoon named Trevor that wanted to be our friend, but we only got pictures with Wiggle's camera. Ask her about them!
After that long day, we drove back to Tox's house.
Sunday: The Beach
We woke up really late and straightened a few things. Then we went to Subway. They were having a two-for-one special, so we bought two each: one to eat and one to stow. Then we went to Walmart and bought some supplies. Then it was off through Sonoma county to the beach. We really wanted to get there by sunset, but we were running pretty late. We ended up making it to the top of the hill and our first view of the ocean just as the sun was setting.
Steep Ravine campground was closed when we got there, so we parked at the side of the windy clifftop road and decided to carry everything down the steep ravine. I grabbed my sandwich, my sleeping bag, and one of the tents, and started down the road with Wiggle. There was a sign that said "newt crossing," but it was too dark to see any newts. We got down to the campsite and waited for BamaBeau and Nestor. When they got there, we realized they had left the other tent in the car. It was decided that the girls would sleep in the tent I had packed in, and BamaBeau and I would sleep under the stars (there were a ton). So we started to pitch the tent. That's when we realized there were no poles. It was decided that the girls would sleep in the tent like an envelope. Meanwhile, I was being all anal about people using flashlights. Flashlights are a pet peeve of mine for some reason. Just let your eyes adjust, people.
We ate our sandwiches. Mine had been flattened by my butt in the car, so I pretended it was panini and I think I liked it better that way.
We soon realized we'd not be able to light a fire, since the tide was high and it would be hard to get drift wood or walk along the beach. We decided to bless the sacrament (we'd gotten permission from BamaBeau's bishop before the trip to do the sacrament outdoors). BamaBeau had brought some San Francisco sourdough bread with him. And then he pulled from his backpack the cup we'd be using. I guess nobody had really thought about it beforehand. The cup was the shot glass I'd bought him in San Francisco. The gay pride rainbow shot glass. Yeah. Well, once BamaBeau realized how terrible an idea it would be to drink the sacrament from one of those, he went looking and returned with the lids to our water bottles. Those did the job nicely, thank goodness.
I should mention the frogs. There was a small pond near our campsite. The frogs in the pond were ridiculously loud. Wiggle had never heard frogs in real life like that. Well, as soon as BamaBeau started in on the first prayer, the frogs became very quiet. When we passed the bread around, they were silent. They stayed quiet until the very moment we finished. It was almost eerie.
I took a walk down to the shore about then. I sat on a rock and watched the white foam crashig around me. I started to pray. To be honest, I'd been hoping this trip would be a good chance to sort some things out in my life. I began to pray, and was startled by the bitterness in my voice.
I had asked a few weeks before in the temple for Heavenly father to humble me. I've never done that before, and usually regarded those who recommended that practice with much contempt. On that occasion, though, I had realized that I had not been feeling remorse for my sins, and such a prayer seemed appropriate. I braced myself for the smiting blow from God. And it never came. And I started to wonder why.
Well, here I was on this rock after what was one of the best weeks of my entire life, praying in angry tones. I told my Heavenly father that I was so happy lately. And that was the truth. What I was angry about was that I never feel the Spirit any less, even when I do things that aren't right. And I was getting fed up with making the same decision every day, and getting the same results, and never knowing whether I was even happier living that way than I would be living the other way. I know so many good LDS people and so many of them are depressed and miserable. I don't know why that is. Yes, I know there are happy Latter-day Saints as well, but there doesn't seem to be real correlation. Just as there doesn't seem to be correlation in my life between how I'm living and how I feel.
All this came out on that rock. I also complained about how easy it was for me to be happy with just the nature and culture and family and friends around me and nothing else. And then about how I didn't know if I could really be happy with a woman for the rest of my life.
And the waves kept beating down on that rock, and the rock kept crying out to the waves to just let it fall into the depths of the sea.
this is where I sat and pondered
And then I Understood. It happens every so often when I pray. I Understand. What I Understood was this: it's not fair of me to ask the Lord to break me down and humble me. That's my job. If I'm aware it needs to be done, I need to do it. My tone changed then, to an apologetic one. I told my Heavenly Father how sorry I was for having approached him from such an unmoving stance, and how I hoped he would forgive me for always coming to him with my own list of demands and complaints, and never to see what he would have me do. If I were a servant, I'd have been fired long ago.
And then I Remembered. I Remembered how great my life is. I remembered that those things come from God, and I remembered that he is willing to bless me if I do what is right. Most of all, I remembered the time in my life when I had a girlfriends, and how happy and perfect things were then. They were even better then than they were on this road trip. I realized that I could be happy with a wife, and that she could be in on the adventure with me. And then the Spirit was there. The same Spirit I hadn't felt at the Oakland temple because my heart was not there yet. My prayer came to a peaceful conclusion, and I sat for a moment watching as the waves actually did their cadent work of breaking down the rock, only very slowly and much more gradually than the rock desired.
I went back to camp and Nestor was missing. BamaBeau and Wiggle had been freaking out, I guess. I decided that they should go look for her while I stayed at the campsite in case she came back. They were back after a few minutes, and it was a bit anticlimactic, except for the fact that they'd been afraid when they found her because of the spectral light reflecting from the grey blanket in which she'd been wrapped.
At this point it was getting cold, and we decided to go to sleep. Nestor went by herself to the bathroom, and a raccoon jumped out of the trash can and she screamed. That was funny. Then it was beddy-bye time. I was still sick and tired, so I went right off to sleep. So did BamaBeau, but I guess the girls had a little more trouble. A few hours later we were awakened by the sound of the girls being obnoxiously loud and playing steamroller in the collapsed tent. Wiggle told some crazy story about brocolli chewing off people's knees and something about Jell-o molds. Then they came up with the blessed idea to go for a walk. Thank goodness.
As soon as they were gone, BamaBeau and I hatched a plan. We stood up, gathered up the sleeping bags and the tent, and began to move everything to a different campsite. We started up the path with the tent dragging between us, but soon we heard the girls coming back up the trail toward us. "Into the bushes!" I whispered. We took off into the brush, but the problem was that it was dry and we made a loud crackling sound. We started all-out running, but soon there was a flashlight beam on us.
"Busted!" cried Wiggle over the roar of the surf. We knew it was true. Still, we maintained our course through the bushes and found a flat spot and lay down to sleep. The girls found their way over, too, and slept in their tentvelope. BamaBeau stolr Nestor's pillow for me. That was nice. Soon everyone was asleep.
Monday: Back home.
As I slept in, the others went to the ocean and took pictures of the sunrise and such.
sunrise from our campsite
a stream at the beach
near the beach
lilies in Steep Ravine
the hills from our campsite
I don't know what these things are
Eventually I woke up and noticed that the "bushes" we'd run through the night before were actually poison oak. That was a bummer. We packed up and hiked all the way back to the car. We actually saw a newt crossing the road this time. His name was Toby. He didn't really want to be our friend, but he let us take this picture:
Toby the Newt
We got to the car after what seemed like forever. I slept all the way back to Tox's house. The we did a modicum of cleaning and packing, and we were on our way. I slept until Reno. Then it was Nestor's turn to drive. As we were driving and playing this game Wiggle invented where we name all the jelly belllies by color, the car started to do something weird. BamaBeau was asleep in the back seat. Nestor pulled over and they opened the hood and Wiggle declared that the belt had come loose and was trying to figure out which part was the belt. When Bamabeau was awake fully, he asked Nestor what had happened. She reported that she'd been driving, and then all of a sudden the car wouldn't accelerate and it would just make a noise like "VRZHOOOOM" when she hit the gas. BamaBeau explained that she'd simply put it into neutral. Oh, right. We got back in, she put it in drive, and we were fine. A while later we got pulled over. We were worried. I did my patented move where I put the seatbelt on under my arm so the cop can't tell from the back. The guy told us that one of Wiggle's headlights was burnt out, made sure everyone was over 18 (good thing we didn't end up bringing J; apparently it's illegal to take minors across state lines without written parental consent), and let us go without even a warning. That was nice. The rest of the trip passed uneventfully, and at 3:00 a.m. we were home.
p.s. I managed to get poison oak on my arms, legs, and lips, and I still have that dumb cold.