It was--or at least it turned out to be--a reassuring tableau of peaceful Southern California coexistence. But at times it seemed to be composed of characters and circumstances that could only have been dreamed up by Lewis Carroll.
Happily, the centerpiece of the whole theatrical afternoon in Dana Point was a wedding. It was a small, tidy outdoor one, held on the bluffs overlooking the harbor. And, as advertised, it was brief, touching and lovely.
But with many outdoor weddings in rather public places--this one was held in a small recessed amphitheater at Lantern Bay State Park--it's sometimes necessary to contend with other weekenders who want to use the area, often, it seems, at cross-purposes. The fact that on this day the principals in the nuptial drama managed to keep their minds on the vows at hand and not on the boil of activity scant yards away from the portable altar was almost certainly a testimony to the power of true love and iron concentration.
To begin with, there was the martial arts class. Just up a small embankment from the wedding site were dozens of pajama-suited youngsters slashing and grunting away at each other under the supervision of several black-belted adult teachers. After ascending the hill to the park, this was the first sight the wedding guests saw. It fueled speculation that the wedding was actually farther down the road.
There is probably nothing more exuberant on earth than a large class of children learning martial arts. They made Cossack dances look like the minuet. When they weren't practicing various lethal-looking maneuvers, the kids were holding sprinting races, turning cartwheels on the grass or, if there was no other immediate outlet for their sizzling energy, simply jumping up and down.
The sight lent a certain youthful sheen to the arrival of the guests, some of whom mentioned that they felt oddly secure with such a group on their left flank.
On the other side of the amphitheater were the kites. They were not the simple kites I remembered flying as a child, but geometrically complex multiple-bodied airborne projectiles that darted and swooped and shivered in the breeze as they strained against their human tethers. The people flying them, it seemed, were holding them barely in check, often with two guy lines. The kites gave the impression that if their lines were cut they would go wheeling wildly off over the ocean like a flight of carnivorous birds, looking for something to dive-bomb.
Out in the harbor were the foghorns. The fog was not thick--it was more like what so many Southern Californians euphemistically call "haze"--but it was enough to obscure most of the sea view from the bluff and therefore thick enough to set off the horns. They weren't loud, but they were foghorns, and that particularly mournful sound often is enough to cause a quick hitch in even the most animated conversation.
Oblivious to the Potentials
Into the middle of this vortex of activity stepped the bride and groom, grinning as brides and grooms do, ignoring the kung-fu riot, not acknowledging the kites, deaf to the foghorns, seemingly oblivious to the potential for disaster all around them. Even the guests seemed to be melting into the bliss of the moment. My imagination began to race. My God, I thought, don't they realize all the horrible things that could happen at any second?
I had seen Bruce Lee movies. I knew all about kung-fu mania. On film, one stray punch or kick could send the entire cast into an orgy of screaming violence in which restaurants, evil potentates' palaces, even entire neighborhoods, were kicked to pieces. What if something accidentally set off the dozens of karate kids just on the other side of the mound? They could come swarming down into the middle of all those summer dresses and all that millinery and. . . .
It was too horrible to think about.
And the kites! Didn't anyone realize that at any second the straining strings could snap, sending the evil little things diving into the midst of, heaven help us, the ring ceremony, possibly skulling the minister and sending the young ring bearer into a daylong crying jag?
And what about the foghorns? Surely Murphy's Law would apply in spades, causing the closest and the loudest horn to belch away like a basso whoopee cushion just as the bride opens her mouth to say, "I will."
Wasn't anybody worried about all this?
No Jitters at All
No. The ceremony went on. Smoothly, serenely, just the way weddings are supposed to go in every bride's dreams. The singers sang, the harpist played, the flowers stayed bright, the breeze stayed even and the young minister read the vows like a veteran. The bride and groom, showing no jitters at all, spoke their vows clearly, kissed neatly and smiled becomingly.
And on the hill above, the martial arts class had fallen silent. In the air, the kites had stayed up, even lending a festive touch with their bright colors. Out in the harbor, the fog had begun to blow away, silencing the foghorns.
I seemed to be the only one feeling a sense of nervous anticlimax.
Another guest suggested a brief stop at the El Adobe restaurant in San Juan Capistrano for a drink, to fill the gap of time before the start of the reception.
It was a good idea. I needed one.
Marriage is hell.