Ghost Town: A Venice California Life
The File Cabinet:
A Venice Wedding
Artwork above by Dale
The first arrivals are Luke's brother and his girlfriend and her little boy. We start sampling the punch while I cut up fruit for the fruit salad and veggies for munching. Dale and I change our clothes and half a dozen of his relatives arrive. More neighbors trickle in.
I feel that children need to be given something to do. My old-fashioned internal parent says, "The devil makes work for idle hands." My hippie self says "It's important for children to have the opportunity to help make it an occasion." My est persona says "What people want is to make a difference." Anyway, the kids are in charge of hanging up crepe paper and balloons all over the fences, clothespoles, and exterior of the house. Shortly before seven we collect the adults and whatever kids want to come along and head for Jamie's house. In a gesture of peace, he and Hanrahan have both agreed to host the ceremony in their yard, which is lovely - Hanrahan's section is a floral Eden.
But can we enter it? All these people are bunched up along the side of Jamie and Donna's place, back in the corner by Tilly's miniature apartment, and the gate into the back yard is locked. Everybody stands around confused in Tilly's little area while I double back and go through the house to see what's up. Jamie gets out of the tub and peeks through a crack in the bathroom door. He is puzzled; nay, bewildered. Roland is no help, he's still back at our place barbecuing over two hibachis, in a pair of gym trunks. (Dress code: whatever). Finally I climb out through the back window and find Donna in the dome. She says one of the kids told her we had changed our plans and decided not to have the wedding here. And nobody checked. I can't believe they would rely on the word of any of the neighborhood kids. Do they think we'd be so incredibly rude as to not mention a little thing like that? Or not tell them where to show up instead?
Anyhow, we open the gate and people come in including Dale, who had lingered at our house to collect stray guests and lock up. Did he put the sign on the door, telling latecomers how to get here? He can't recall. I go back to see, and the sign is up. Mrs. Cheng comes down the path with a bowl of fruit salad punch so I unlock the door and put it in the kitchen. She doesn't understand what's going on and says she'll come back later. I tell her, "You come now," and nod and smile a lot and take her by the hand. When we get out to the sidewalk Bob Farrington and Roberta de la Vega are just pulling up.
The entire fashion palette is represented: Roberta in fancy Western style, Noel and Ben quasi-punk, Dale in an African shirt, me in a long pale blue vaguely medieval dress, Dale's relatives in conservative upper middle class garb, various friends and neighbors in whatever they happen to have on. Some people skip the ceremony, or arrive in the middle. Probably fifty people altogether show up for the wedding, the party after, or both. The whole contingent from the house whose back yard we're in - Roland, Jamie, Donna, her nephew, the acid guru, Tilly and her cousin and son. The Upland group - Luke, Maria and Steven. Block club people - Zvia, Eve, Tim, Maya and her husband and their little boy. The four upstairs kids plus Rita. An older couple we've become friends with - she's from South America, he's from France. Sherry from the Hobbit and her snake Rumplesnakeskin, Luz and her mother, AFI student Vivian Lyon, Larry with his teenage kids visiting from New York. Miscellaneous children. And of course Rev. and Mrs. Alexander. Dimitrios is back with the camera but no assistant today. I offer him Donna's nephew, which seems to work out fine.
Rev. Alexander shepherds everybody together so the ceremony can begin: "You can come closer. It's not very contagious." He has his own format, but offers space for improvisation too. Maria reads the part about marriage from The Prophet. As we make promises, a Mr. Softee truck circles the block with its tinkling tacky tune. Dale puts the "magic" bracelet on my wrist, the power object I found in the park. I give him the little gold heart with a red stone in it. When the kissing part comes, the Rev. silently counts a few beats and cracks, "I said kiss, not go on a honeymoon." People hug and kiss us and shake hands. Roberta gives me a spray of three longstemmed red roses. We have to stand still with various members of Dale's family and let others take photos. We suggest doing the photo thing later. But no, it has to be now with this lovely garden as the background so their pictures will be pretty. While we're tied up with the lengthy and tedious camera ritual, a bunch of people who don't know each other straggle back toward our place; we even lose a few who get tired of waiting for things to proceed.
Eventually I'm allowed to leave the photo session and see to the other guests. The kids, who quite understandably expect Dale and me to come back together, are hiding behind the corner of the building. But when they fling rice, I'm the only one it falls on. I tell them Dale will be along in a couple of minutes and they run upstairs to get more rice.
Roland brings in a great big plate of barbecue. Zvia shows up with a silver platter of incredible hors d'oeuvres, little bread squares with a dab of creamy white stuff and a lump of caviar and an edible miniature orchid on top of each one. Larry has baked brownies with an extra secret ingredient that we have to keep away from the kids. He brings in a big box and says, "Do you folks have a wok?" I say, "It's worse than that. We have three woks." Actually all three of them belong to Dale. This one from Larry comes with all kinds of fancy gadgets. In the yard we hang up the pinata I loaded for the little kids and they take turns whacking it with a stick. Maya has made J. Paul Getty's favorite carrot cake, a splendid creation resting in a bed of carrot shavings. Her husband wears his band t-shirt, which interests Ben because one of the guys in that band used to be in the Motels. We are given a plant and a fancy wedding guest register and three different sets of glassware. From Luke and Maria there's a set of wind chimes; from Bob and Roberta a book on cosmic consciousness, a bottle of champagne, and an original Farrington painting of a Venice street scene. I escape for a few quiet moments in my office with Ben and a joint. Dale has his camera set up on a tripod in his room and takes individual photos of the guests. By 11:00 or so the only remaining people are Roland, Rita, and the upstairs kids. Raylyn does a tumbling act on the couch. One of the Houston boys has been lurking outside the screen door for some time. I tell Calvin to invite him in but he doesn't come. Roland tells him to either come in or go home. Finally I go out and get him. He turns out to be shy and rather sensitive, embarrassed about dropping a few cake crumbs.
Eventually even the neighborhood kids get bored and go home. It's over.
The Day Before the Wedding
We went to the grocery store to lay in provisions. By the time we parked in our back lot and unloaded the groceries and were about to unlock the door, two guys were coming up the walk surrounded by a drove of Houston kids and aiming a video camera at us. The long-haired man was Dimitrios, the short-haired bearded man a friend he drafted as assistant for the occasion. After a few minutes of confusion it became clear: Dimitrios thought the wedding was today. They came in and had a glass of Amaretto and a tour of the paintings.
1 cup sugar syrup
Rev. Alexander, who did the ceremony, was one of the
founders of Ferus Gallery.
© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman