Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dispatches From The Marriage Factory: The Lightning Round

Now a word from Joe.

Fridays at the Marriage Factory usually get busy toward noon, just as I'm ready to duck out the door and join friends for lunch.  Sometimes that rush is mild and other times, well...

Two Fridays ago was the day after Valentine's Day and the day before a 3-day weekend.  The first 90 minutes were not unusual, even a bit slow.  Then more couples started arriving.  And more after them.  By 11:20, I had 5 licenses on my desk, and several in the queue.  Luckily, the second wedding room was still decorated, so Clerk C offered to bring the couples up to me, and I'd marry 'em one after the other, switching rooms as needed.  We got through 9 couples in about an hour that way, with each bride and groom still getting a very nice ceremony.

Last Friday was back to normal.  Five or six couples, with a few more hitting our doors about noon, including one in a formal wedding gown.  My relief arrived at 12:30, and I was out the door, so I never got to see how that one panned out.  As Janet says, we have no endings.

The two dresses of note over the last two weeks were turquoise.  The first week's dress was a floor-length sleeveless maternity dress worn by a bride almost ready to give birth.  She looked lovely, perhaps even glowing. By contrast, Week 2's dress was a traditional Chinese Muslim wedding dress, very ornately embroidered, with a head covering, also lovely.

Joe Mallon

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I got played

Yesterday was my day to work with the First Graders.  I helped them write stories about a class project.  I taped together Chinese dragons that took too deep of a cut.  I worked long and hard on math family facts with one little girl. 

She doesn’t like to work with me, or anyone else.  We had problems like

** / ***= ____

She was to create the family facts for addition and subtraction from the objects in each box.

The numbers she could use for the above problem were  2, 3, 5





We had two pages similar to this.  Once she settled down, she did a good job.  And once she understood that in subtraction the biggest number always goes first, she loved it.  Score one for me, and one for her.

I then set out snacks for the class.  They were to work while they ate.  I then walked around and listened to them read.  One prima donna started sobbing when I asked her not to eat while reading to me.  She sobbed she was soooo hungry, she had to eat.  I said tough in a nice way and made her put the food down.  She had had breakfast, no starving child here.

But after recess again with a child N soooo hungry.  She took some of another child’s snack.  I talked to her about why, and it being wrong.  She told me she only had had a piece of buttered bread for breakfast.  And her lunch was a jelly, not peanut butter and jelly, sandwich with two pretzels.  I took N to a back table, found a snack and let her work there and eat.  I then talked to to Ms. H about her.  Ms. H laughed and said,”You got played.”  N is the spoiled rotten darling child who has everything she needs and wants. Ms. H knows the parents well.  No starving child here either. She doesn’t like what the parents put out for breakfast and refuses to eat until they give her what she wants.  This time she just wanted more of a tasty snack and took another child’s. 

I’ll know better next time.

Monday, February 25, 2013

East Meets West, Orchid Show 2013

This year the Orchid Show was the weekend of the Chinese New Year.  All through the show were displays highlighting the New Year.

It is almost overwhelming when you walk into the show.  There are thousands of orchids: some beautiful, some weird, some a little of both. There are orchid blooms as tiny as a gnat’s behind, and orchid blooms as big as a soup bowl.  We walk around taking picture after picture.  The plants are brought from all over the world.  Other plants types are there also, and they are strange and beautiful too.  A few orchids are fragrant but most aren’t.  That is a good thing, if they all were fragrant one would be nauseated from the varied aromas.  I took over 100 pictures and want to use them all.  I won’t.  I picked some favorites to share with you.  Enjoy.

Be sure to click on the pictures to see the details.


This is me taking a picture of me and some winning orchids.


This orchid is strange and beautiful.  Strange shape and strange color.  Who would think a brownish floppy flower could look so great.


Marty showing you the tiny blooms.  Orchids on a stick.


Several exhibit tables.


Just because they are pretty and are shaped differently from many orchids.


Lady slippers.  The one type which Marty has had no success. 


Look at this.  The blooms are tiny and are almost on the ground.  In a field you might miss them.  You would just be seeing the “grassy” leaves.

IMG_3308                  IMG_3348

Yes, these are orchids.  Weird and strange shaped. 


This is my favorite ever exhibit.  A fire breathing surfing dragon with pruning shears.


Another fun exhibit.


More sophisticated exhibits.


This table is just outstanding.


This plants has really tiny blooms.  Each yellow stalk has dozens of blooms. 


Orchids on and in a Metropolitan from the 1950’s. 


I take this shot every year.  This is the sales area of the show.  Orchids and everything you need to grow them in one compact space.

The Orchid Show every year is fun, educational, and costly.  It cost a lot to get in, to eat a sandwich here, to park, and of course to buy 1 or 2 beauties to take home.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Marriage Ceremonies

Wednesday was a busy day for Spanish ceremonies, English not so much.  I did have some interesting couples. 

One couple had not known they had to have a license and a ceremony in order to be legally married.  Now they were not from a foreign country where you sign a book at City Hall and are declared married.  They were born in the USA.   The bride’s divorce was final in the last year, so she had experience in the marriage game.  How could they not know a license was needed and a ceremony?  They were highly miffed at the need for a ceremony.  Lots of moaning and groaning.  I did the three sentence ceremony and we sent them on their way.

Then we had the happy bride.  This young woman had an infectious smile and laugh.  She was beaming and so was I.  And the groom, he is interesting for his name.  I will not tell the real name.  But I will give you an example.  Let’s say his name was Pee Wee Reese Jones III. Not a name many mothers would pick. I asked if there was a connection to famous name.  He said no, his grandfather was born before famous name made baseball history.  Such a one of a kind name, and makes me wonder how his family came by it.

White lace dresses seem to be the fashion choice lately.  One of my brides was on her third marriage.  She was around 40 and she was built like a fireplug. Really she had no waist. That is not said with disrespect, but so you can visualize the bride.  She wore a short white lace dress, had a blue garter at the knee, nude stockings (few wear stockings anymore) beige heels, and carried painted daisies.  She was hyper excited, explaining too much, talking talking, and crying. He was the calm her down guy.  They were sweet.  And I hope this marriage works for her.

The last couple were so tiny.  Tiny bones, short, delicate looking people.  He was maybe five foot three.  She wore 4 inch heels and was still shorter than the groom.  He wore a black suit and tie with a white shirt that had silver threads running through it.  The bride wore a white lace mini that had a square neck.  A gorgeous couple.  As Clerk C finished the paper work, we all talked.  The groom said, “Graduated from college, check.  Married, check.  Now we need jobs.”  Both with engineering degrees and they are waiting tables.  How sad is that?  I really would like to hear a good ending for them. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back to School

Last week I did not work with the First Graders.  I was having a bad day with this dumb cold that comes and goes.  But this week I was there.  When I went to check in at the office a woman kept looking at me.  I thought she looked familiar but I couldn’t place her.  She asked me my name, I told her, and she got really excited.  She yelled, “You married us.  I knew I recognized you and your voice.”  The Marriage Factory and school have crossed paths.  I guess it was only a matter of time.  I have married thousands of couples over the years.  Once or twice other people have told me I married them.  I felt bad I didn’t really remember her.  She was just a familiar face.

It was a good thing I felt well enough to go to school.  The two parent volunteers were sick and it was just me to help Ms. H.  I worked with children at different stations.  One little girl totally shuts down when I try to help or prod her to work.  She has done this every time I talk to her.  She may be one it is best I just leave alone.

Ms. H asked me to read a story about Lincoln.  I showed the children where his birthplace in Kentucky was.  Then where his family moved to in Indiana, and the move to Illinois.  I read about travel on flatboats and by horse and buggy.  We discussed slavery, the Civil War.  Then we talked about Lincoln’s life and his assassination.

This is where the difference between now and the 1800’s became really hard for them.  Some of their questions:  Why didn’t the Secret Service have guards for him?  Why didn’t someone use their cell phone to call for help?  How come the police didn’t use helicopters to track Booth?  Why weren’t there cars?  Why did Abe have to borrow books from the neighbors, why didn’t he go to the library?  How could they own people?  Why did Lincoln have to walk two miles to school?  Why didn’t someone drive him to school?

As you can see, they had great questions and I hope I helped them to understand.  We don’t just read fun books to them.  We teach with story time as well as entertain them. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Other signs of Valentine’s Day

I posted about the Marriage Factory on Valentine’s Day.  But there were other signs of love in the air.    Roses were delivered to the Marriage Factory for some of the clerks.  As Marty and I drove home, we saw people carrying flowers.  On Facebook people showed pictures of what loved ones had given them.  There were posts of love messages from friends and family.  Our three pretend grandchildren  were shown with heart shaped pizzas they had made. Cards arrived from family.  Valentine’s Day has become a day of love for friends and family, not just for couples.  I think that is great.

Marty and I had to stop at Safeway for a couple of things for supper.  The parking lot was full, and people were coming out with bouquets and plants of blooming flowers.  Everywhere we looked there were men and women carrying flowers.  Inside the grocery there were dozens of empty containers that each once held 6 or more bouquets.  There were some flowers left.  People were also buying candy, heart cookies/cakes/cupcakes, heart balloons, orchid plants, and other blooming plants.  There were little Teddy Bears that had candy attached.  Champagne was in carts.  And the lines to pay were really really long.  Just in the floral department the line was at least 20 deep.

One of our new neighbors works in the bakery.  We talked to her about all the last minute shopping.  She told us the rush had begun the day before.  That they just kept restocking the flower containers, and restocking cakes etc.  Not only was this a great sign of love, but it showed maybe that the economy is improving.  Roses are stupidly expensive Valentine’s week.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine’s Day at the Marriage Factory

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  We only had 10 appointments, compared to 30 in other years.  Staff knew we could have walk-ins, but no idea how many   How many volunteers would be needed to work that day?  I came all day and two women came for an hour each.  Staff did non English ceremonies.   We worked at a steady pace, nothing frantic until the 3:00 rush.  White dresses were everywhere.  And it was only me for the English.  From 4:00 to 4:30 I did three ceremonies, and then I had to leave.  Staff still had at least 6 weddings to do.  We had a total of 41 ceremonies for the day. 

Memories of the day are of white dresses, red dresses, tuxes, and flowers everywhere.  Staff decorated the counters, marriage rooms, and the lobbies with roses, other flowers, and hearts.  They raise money through the year to buy the flowers.  Thank you to the staff. 

Every year we have a problem with people stealing the roses and other flowers.  Last year they took flowers off  the clerks’ counters, as the clerks were telling them not to. After the first theft yesterday, I jokingly told the deputy he was to frisk people as they came off the elevator.  He offered me his Taser to protect the roses.  He did make up signs Please don’t take the flowers.  Thank you and hung them around the building.  We didn’t lose many after that. 

This was the day for romance, the building was full of love.  Many of the brides were in gorgeous wedding dresses.  The wedding dresses had sequins, seed pearls, boned corsets, embroidery on the skirts, lace cut outs.  Every style you can think of came through the doors.  We had long white chiffon dresses.  There were short lace dresses with cap sleeves. One lace dress had a tight bodice and a circle mini skirt that stood out with a crinoline under it.  The bride was long legged and definitely could wear this look. We had white satin dresses that were skin tight and way too short.  And white satin dresses that were ruched and fit nicely.  We had boobs falling out of a V necked dress.  Many brides were in jeans and fancy shirts.   And the grooms you ask?  We had jeans and tee shirts, black suits, tuxes, dress pants with white shirts and ties that matched the brides’ dresses.  One couple wore matching tennis shoes.  And the shoes, you know I love shoes.  Even the men had great shoes.  Cowboy boots, high heel boots, high heels, platform heels, sparkly buckles, sequined heels, it was a feast of shoes.

The witnesses wore reds, pinks, and purple.  Many wore hats with feathers or flowers, and some wore fascinators. One guest had an interesting accessory, a pint bottle of liquor in his hip pocket. 
Always we have standout couples:

One couple had two children .  The baby boy was in a little black suit.  The  3 year old daughter wore a bright red satin dress, red sparkly hair clip, and red sparkly shoes.  The bride wore a long white wedding dress with seed pearls.  The groom wore a red shirt, black tie, and black slacks.  The little girl did not want to be left out of the ceremony. To prevent a temper tantrum, I had her sit at the feet of the couple with the red dress billowed out against the white dress.   What a lovely picture that was.  When the couple joined hands to say their vows, the little girl got up and put her hand on their joined hands.  Not a dry eye in the room.

My favorite couple was in their 40’s.  The groom was all in black with a red rose in his shirt pocket.  The bride wore a dark dress with a white lace coat sweater with ruffled edges.  She carried pink roses and she wore a turban.  I could see a thin fuzz of hair at the edge of the turban.  The turban was not a fashion statement.  The ceremony was intense and the bride was crying.  Everyone in the room cheered when I pronounced them married, and then they all cried.  I later talked to the witness and asked if the bride was sick.  She said, “She was, but not now.”   And that made me really happy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

You may have noticed

I am pretty sure you noticed I have not written for nearly a week.  I have had a cold.  Not just any cold.  THE COLD that has wiped out the Bay Area.  I have felt awful, but luckily have not been as sick as many others.

Joe the Landlord was sick in bed for 5 days.  I have a friend who has been in bed off and on for over a week. Some friends were so sick they missed days of work.  I have drug around for a week.  I start to  think I am better and then I need a nap, a three hour nap.

In this time at home I had planned to write cute, clever blogs.  I wrote them, I read them, and then I deleted them.  The cold has killed my thought process.  I can't write, and I have trouble reading.  It is just too much trouble to concentrate.

I didn't go to the Marriage Factory last week, I didn't work with the first graders today, and I am worried about Wednesday and Thursday.  Wednesday is my Marriage Factory day. Thursday is Valentine's Day, a very busy day for weddings.  I need to be on my A game. I am the only volunteer for the day.  So keep a good thought for me and the couples I will be marrying.  May my befuddled mind work well enough to do a legal ceremony.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Nothing seems to go right

We had unpacked nearly everything.  The place was looking good.  Pictures up, and after three hours of hell the wood and glass sculpture was hung.  This all meant we needed to go to San Diego and get the rest of our clothes, orchids, kitchen stuff, and odds and ends.  We planned to rent a trailer, which would be cheaper than a truck.  Also that way only buying gas for one vehicle. Well that didn’t go well.

Marty and Richard went to pick up the trailer.  The rent on the trailer was say $300 dollars.  But ,”Oh we forgot to tell you the trailer hitch costs another $400.”  They came home without the trailer.  We couldn’t rent a van, they only rent vans for round trips.  I suggested a SUV.  So we did. 

It had a compartment on the floor, like a drug secret place.  We filled that up with small items, and then filled it with orchids and boxes.  I drove our car and it was full of boxes and suitcases.  Even the front seat was full.  We were ready to come home with almost the last of our stuff.  (We left some of Marty’s glass, and other things I have no idea what they are)

Monday morning Richard asked what we would do if the two GPS take different routes.  We laughed and said go with the front vehicle.  And we pulled out.  Less than 1/4 of a mile a car pulls in front of me, and Marty is out of sight.  The dumb woman in front of me stopped in the road to text.  She had no idea I was behind her.  I honk, yell at her and head for the highway.  No sign of Marty.  I get on 94, and head to LA and all points north.  I was hitting 80 and still no Marty.  Wouldn’t he have driven slowly until I caught up?  NO.  I phoned him and asked very sweetly, “Where the hell are you??!!”  He is on 8.  I should get on 8.  Well, I had already passed that exit.  I was headed for 5.  He then said I should get on 805.  Really, passed that one too.  One hour and a half later we found each other, on 405. 

I was mad as a wet hen.  And in full panic attack mode.  Agoraphobics do not do well when the plan fails.  We are terrified, and have been known to pass out.  I held it together and only cried a little.  By lunch time I had decided to let him live. 

The drive continues I led some, he led some.  And then it happened.  Marty is leading, we are on 5 and the road splits to go to 99.  I see the sign, hear the GPS, and watch Marty stay in the left lane and we are taking a right exit.  I honk, and honk and then leave him and go on 5.  I called and, oh I won’t say what I said.  It was rude and ugly.  He didn’t know I wasn’t behind him, he didn’t know he was on 99.  He was just driving north.  That time he caught up with me in about 20 minutes. 

Now none of Marty leaving me behind was a surprise.  He had done this for 45 years.  He drives and you better keep up.  Before GPS and cell phones it was really terrifying. When I told our son, Erik, about the trip, he said, “That sounds like Dad.”  And I said, “ He is consistent.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Some Thoughts from Joe

Every now and then even Joe has a slow day at the Marriage Factory.  I think everyone is waiting for next week, Valentine's Day.  

Weddings were thin on the ground this week - just five.  During one ceremony, the groom got choked up, barely able to say the vows.  The dumbstruck groom made me think of AMOUR, a french movie currently playing in a few art houses here in the Bay Area.  It's the story of an elderly couple as the wife slowly loses her faculties and slips away.  AMOUR won top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and is nominated for several Oscars.  It is by all accounts a powerful and masterfully made film.  Despite the acclaim and glowing reviews all around, I won't see it.

Every description of the movie mentions how wrenching it is to see someone lose the person who means the most to him.  As I get older, the fear of that loss grows in me.  I am more sentimental than I used to be, tearing up at images of loss in songs, TV shows, and even the odd commercial, so sitting through 2 hours of that is a non-starter.

How does someone get so connected to someone else that just the confirmation of that connection overwhelms him?  I see the depth of that connection every week, sometimes several times in a single shift.  I don't mean to cast aspersions on those couples who aren't moved by the wedding I perform - many have already had elaborate ceremonies or are legally codifying a union they've had for years.  Do those marriages where one or both of the partners gets verklempt have a better chance of succeeding?  Statistically, no, but I'm guessing it's a good start.

Fashion report: the most memorable witness of the week was the child with a tuxedo shirt like the ones that were all the rage in the '70s who also had spiked hair that looked like a strip of galvanized roofing nails.  Not an easy look to pull off.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Confidential and Public Marriage Licenses

Wednesday I only did 2 wedding ceremonies, one public and one confidential.  Refresher course on marriage licenses: a public license needs at least one witness at the ceremony, anyone may get a copy of the license; on the other hand a confidential license doesn’t need a witness for the ceremony and unless a judge issues a court order, no one except the bride and groom may get a copy of the license.

Why get a confidential license you ask?  Some people have lived together for many many years and do not want people to know they weren’t married.  Police officers, public figures, famous people, criminals, and celebrities don’t want anyone one to know their address/the name of their spouse.    There is personal information on the license that could be dangerous for enemies, press, stalkers to have.  Finally, some people are just very private.

We are going to skip over the public wedding on Wednesday and go for the confidential wedding.  Guess who I married Wednesday afternoon.  A celebrity and his celebrity wife.  One hint, it was not Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  Another hint, I can never tell you if you guessed right.  No hints as to whether they were actors, political figures, head of the CIA, reality stars, gunman and his moll on the run, computer nerds, sports figures, Mayor of Las Vegas, the list could go on forever of who I won’t tell you. 

But I can tell you some things that happened.  People in the lobby recognized them and asked if they were there to marry.  They said no, they were there for another reason.  Many of the clerks recognized them as did the Deputies.  Me, I had no clue until it was explained to me.  I need to keep up more. 

The couple are well over the age requirement.  They are pulling down big bucks.  They live in a really really nice area.  They are independent, they can do what ever they want.  But it was if they were 16 year olds who had eloped.  They seemed to be looking over their shoulders for someone to forbid the marriage.  Interesting feel to the room  They were very much in love, excited about the wedding, but hesitant at the same time.

After the paper work was finished, they stressed again that no one could find out.  We explained even if it were a public license no staff would tell.  All our customers have that promise of confidentiality. Now as to the people in the lobby who saw me with the license take them upstairs, who knows what stories they will tell.