After a short memory loss, I finally located the old familiar Holiday Inn. I still felt like I knew the town like the back of my hand. I caught Franz just in time as he was leaving for Scotts Valley where he would be staying for the duration of the wedding festivities. The accommodations there were more suitable for entertaining his imported lady-friend from Slovenia. His “apartment” in Santa Cruz was actually a downstairs bedroom, part of a house whose landlady didn’t approve of any visitors, male or female. Anyhow, he gave me the directions to his place, and said it would be all right to park on the street. “Mighty nice of him,” I thought. Actually, my little parking space turned out to be one heck of an “overlook”, a panorama of Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, and the ocean beyond. Not half-bad for the first night’s stay.
Okay, that was Wednesday night, August 29th, and between then and the morning of Monday, September 3rd, it was one bacchanalia. The Father of the Bride certainly laid out the red carpet for his daughter Leslie and everyone attending. In order of appearance, there was a restaurant gathering, an open-house party, the rehearsal dinner, the wedding ceremony and reception, and the present-opening brunch. They don’t call Franz the Organization Man for nothing. Signs of the times: Both parents of the bride and groom were divorced, and the newly-weds had been cohabitating for eight months!
The Mother of the Bride had done her homework too. Lynnet had rented a house that could accommodate as many people as physically possible. It was a bonanza for me because I could park in the driveway. I never was quite sure how many people were actually “registered” in the 407 Woodrow Street Motel. Every time I walked into the house, there seemed to be a new body materializing out of the woodwork. The several recognizable ones were Lynnet’s mom, Elsa Chu Harlan, and her two sisters, Dashi and Bambi along with their respective hubbies, Bodhi and Michael. One cannot help but have a great time with Bodhi Kosica, the effervescent mad Czech. His stock sardonic phrase was: “We are here to have a good time. We must have a good time.” You had to love the guy. I also, as usual, enjoyed the company of Elsa, a very genteel lady who, in a subtle way, was like the matriarch of the household. It turned out to be a very congenial gathering, and considering there was only one bathroom, there never seemed to be a waiting line. I guess everyone’s bladder was in sync.
Oh, but the beauty of our little habitat was its proximity to the bay. Everyday, I went cycling along the path above the cliffs, seeing a whole new aspect of Santa Cruz (I didn’t have the luxury of a bicycle ten years ago). I would occasionally pause to pan the splendid setting – thunderous waves crashing against the rocks and cormorants dive-bombing for fish – it was almost hypnotic. Naturally, I would do some people-watching, reflecting on how these Californians seemed to cherish the Pacific. It was like there was some sort of unspoken bond between them and “their ocean”. Only in California! Well, I certainly wasn’t taking my opportunities for granted….this land-locked land-lubber was trying to seize every moment. One day, I even biked over to the Santa Cruz Pier, just to watch the pelicans swoop down and around the wharf. I couldn’t get enough, it seemed.
The wedding was held at The Hollins House, a country club set high above the city where one could see the Monterey Peninsula peaking above the ubiquitous cloud bank that constantly hovered over the bay. The ceremony was held outdoors under an ideal, idyllic setting. Oh, it was all so perfect! At the reception, I met Dagmar, Franz’s sister-in-law (divorced) and her son, Justin, who was literally a clone of Franz. Aside from meeting and mingling with others, those two were the real joy of the evening. Oh yes, there was always Bodhi with his aphorism: “We must have a good time.”
The next morning, all of us at 407 Woodrow got the word that we had to evacuate the premise by 11 o’clock. I tell ya’, it was like rats sinking a deserted ship (or is it the other way around?). We finally made the joint look like it was when we found it. Fortunately, the site of the brunch was right around the corner. The hosts had offered their beautifully landscaped back yard as the setting for the gift-opening ceremony. The sun shone down through a cobalt-blue sky, and the champagne flowed freely. It was another one of those it-sure-reminds-me-of-California backdrops. Leslie graciously chose to open my present first, and the throng was awed at the sight of two watercolors of the Golden Gate Bridge. “How appropriate!” everyone exclaimed. Seriously, I did get a little lump in my throat, seeing how surprised and pleased they were. It made my day.
Later on, I met Franz and Marianna (with her daughter) for lunch at the 99 Beers (on the wall?) Cafe in downtown Santa Cruz. It was an amiable gathering although I felt sort of like an outsider as Franz and his girls seemed totally engrossed with one another. Well, what the heck. I just rationalized that weddings were not the best time for the involved parties to get to socialize with those who made an effort to come. I was hoping Mr. Helbig would invite me to his hideaway in Scotts Valley for one last night of merriment, but for some inexplicable reason, it wasn’t meant to be. His only parting words were, “Glad you could make it bro’. Have a safe trip back.” That was it. I was left hanging there. Then I had a feeling of relief… I was on my own again. My itinerary was wide open from there to wherever the roads would lead me.
I just had to bike around the downtown area which has one of the most pleasant main streets in all America…the bicycles and pedestrians take presidency over the automobile. I was overjoyed at seeing how the town had resurrected itself from the devastating earthquake that had levelled half the downtown buildings in 1989. I drove over to The Cliffs and found a perfect overnight parking space underneath a bosky of pines and overlooking the bay. Naturally, I hiked along the seaside path to get one more last gasp of the Pacific panorama. The wind chill factor made it feel like about 50 degrees. It felt great to get back inside and listen to an Oakland A’s ballgame. And get this. To top things off, a full moon rose, its rays reflecting and glistening in perfect alignment off the waters of Monterey Bay. And there were still several sailboats out there, their tiny triangles silhouetted in the moonlight. Only in California! Then I thought, “This sure beats being in Scotts Valley.” Funny, how things turn out.