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Posted on 2003-11-03 11:04:08 by Denver

A Marriage
Mike Howe, aka "Snake", the bass player for the long time Chico disco band Brutilicus Maximus, is among those musicians who, though not exactly a starving artist, feel that musicians play better when they are in a bar and hungry and a little under the influence than in the more rarefied academic or institutional settings. He belongs to a loose knit collective of disco, blues, rock and countrybilly musicians who play the weddings, bars, and fairs of Northern California. Nonetheless, Snake, like many Chico musicians in their forties, is a homeowner now. He's a swimming pool contractor by day, and a musical Iago by night, happy to recount his musical enemies and sexual triumphs all in the dry emotionless recall of one who has already been through this life and wasn't impressed. At the barstool in Duffy's, the local artist tavern, he has distinctively different discourse with men and women. At six feet in jeans and a button down vintage shirt and the mussy hair of an artist, he is a handsome rake in the melting pot of sixties refugees and their offspring who have settled in Chico, CA and hire him and his cohorts to entertain them.

It was today at this gig, in Butte Creek Canyon along the banks of the Mount Lassen born stream and under the circling herons and eagles of the Sierra Nevada foothills, that Snake and Dave "Twelve Pack" Sorenson, the wedding band musicians who call themselves the Incredible Diamonds, Kelly Meagher (who owned this fertile Butte Creek Canyon property), Kelly's gardener Maya, the hippy catering company, eleven bridesmaids, five groomsmen, the wedding photographer, the bride Gina Tropea and the groom Saul Henson as well as the hundred odd family and friends of Gina and Saul assembled to celebrate a marriage.

This was the union of a young, beautiful tempestuous Chinese-Italian American woman, her hair pulled back in a tight dark black bun, her lips ruby red and pursed in a smile, her lashes prominent and painted, her lithesome figure statuesquely enfolded in a shiny red wedding gown bulbous with petticoat skeleton, like a juicy red Chinese candy, and a handsome, Jimi Hendrix worshipping rock guitarist and Chico State international relations student. These two had met and fallen in love many years ago, at junior high school, and endured the vicissitudes of youthful folly and distraction. The guests knew the couple's long, tempestuous journey of courtship was almost over and they had been called to a twelve o'clock tee off time. Unfortunately, Gina's parents were nowhere to be found. As the sun reached its zenith and then began its descent down the eastern sky the guests stewed about, kicking at the grass, drinking chardonnay, fending off the sun and making small talk with neighbors, until at 1:30pm the groom was able to pinpoint the location of the missing parents of the bride.

Once the Tropeas arrived everyone settled into their seats, an acoustic guitar serenaded the groomsmen's entrance. A hush went over the crowd as the assembled friends and family gasped at the eleven bridesmaids in yellow dragon lady evening gowns. As the ceremony proceeded, the minister, who was the grandfather of the groom, skillfully administered the vows intertwined with salient references to the Old Testament. His face was filled with pleasure and an enduring faith in God. He administered the religion tenets of marriage and it bounced off the muddled congregation of intellectuals, atheists, agnostics, and hippys but found a large antenna dish for Christian feeling and morals at the table of Denny Latimer. One young woman in the back was heard to ask a friend what religion had to do with this event. The crowd narrowed in focus for the final bridal vows, then watched in confusion and apprehension as the bride turned to Elizabeth Latimer, the maid of honor, for her husband's wedding band, only to be met with a look of shock, horror and embarrassment by the absent minded, empty handed maid. The maid turned and looked at the minister - her eyes and the wrinkles of her forehead spoke, flashed a pattern, which could only be interpreted as

'I'll leave the ceremony for a minute and fetch the missing ring. I know where it is.'

And to which the minister replied with a tightening of his eye sockets, which could only be translated as-

'Do not leave your position under any circumstances young lady!'

Diagnosing the problem immediately, Dylan Latimer, the maid of honor's brother, rushed up near the front and, in an attempt at sign language, asked his sister where she had left the ring.
"Up in the bedroom" she whispered like a Gilbert and Sullivan pirate sotto voce in an aside during the ship wreck scene. Dylan raced away, while Elizabeth wrenched the dime store ring her ex-boyfriend had bought her on the beach in Santa Cruz, and palmed it over to the bride. The bride stuck the girl's ring on the groom's pinky and grimaced. Then the emotions of the moment, the union of these two lives, became manifest and the comedy bloomed into heartfelt relief and joy at reaching the emotional pinnacle of these two young lover's lives.

After the vows were exchanged the guests wolfed down a sushi and seaweed buffet and then sat idle as a long pause in the official itinerary of the day ensued. The hippys gathered in their shaded corner under the watchful tutelage of Dean and Terry Kaveney, the owners of Stormy's Bistro. Gina and her dragon ladies dispersed along the edges of the lawn and down onto the banks of Butte Creek. Some guests took off their shoes and drank wine on the grass. Some went up the back stairs to Kelly Meagher's living room and sat in a thick cloud of herbal smoke as they watched the San Francisco Giants lose their decisive third game of the National League divisional playoffs. Most people visited with their friends, family, and new acquaintances. A few listened to the golden tressed lead singer of Iguana Jive growling about Himalayan ecstasy accompanied by a few of the multitude of folk and rock musicians in the crowd. At four o'clock, the wedding activities resumed. There were toasts; the father of the bride spoke on the importance of community. The maid of honor talked about the I Ching and fate. A friend of the bride related his experiences in New York City observing marriage and its shifting priorities.

There was a Chinese tea ceremony and a lion dance by a team of musicians and martial artists in four exquisite Chinese lion outfits. After that a full buffet of Chinese red bean and spinach buns, sweet and sour pork, fried fish, and lo mein noodles was served. An Italian rum cake that tasted like it had been prepared by a Milanese pastry chef topped the evening's culinary experiences. Under the soft glow of the moonlight a young African American woman stepped to the mic and sang "Ribbon in the sky" while Saul and Gina shared their first connubial waltz. Then the bride and groom took the stage and joined the wedding band as Gina belted out a few country soul ballads including "Angel of Montgomery" and "Wild Nights". Gina shared the mic with her maid of honor for a rousing rendition of the Tina Turner blues number "Rock Me Baby". Matt Hogan and the Incredible Diamonds waltzed and danced people into the end of the evening with Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard covers. Hogan kept up a running monologue throughout the set about the superior legal and cultural matrix of neighboring Glenn County where, among other things, you are allowed to burn trash in your backyard without a government permit.

The groomsmen, assorted relatives and musician friends of Saul, had disappeared along the various tracks of the marriage's evening activities. Some of the bridesmaids gathered on the dance floor and hugged each other, laughed, and danced with a four year old boy who called himself the party robot.

In the fading light of the sunset Jihad, another friend of the bride, a twenty man from Berkeley, got a hold of the band's microphone and urged everyone to vote against Arnold Schwarzenegger. Elizabeth, the maid-of-honor and Jihad's best friend, yelled a note of approval for this surprising note of political activism, retrieved the missing ring and gave it to her best friend the bride, Gina, who placed it on Saul's finger. Saul took his finger and curled it slightly to play a chord, a B flat, the beginning of House Rent Boogie by John Lee Hooker. That song struck a spark under the heel of Mark McGinnis who stopped talking to the female gardener of the property and announced he was headed to the back lawn to dance. She joined him and as they stepped lightly onto the dance lawn she pointed out the beautiful creeping magnolia bushes running off the edge of the yard down the hillside and into the creek bed. And high above a blue heron smelled the autumn drift of that magnolia's scattered pollen in the crystal clear winds of the Lassen Mountain air and wheeled his wings homeward to join his family.
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