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A Road Trip with Nuptials

We didn't elope in the traditional sense, Annelies and me. No ladder up to her window in the middle of the night. We borrowed her dad's car and left after breakfast.

We were married over the Memorial holiday weekend, 1991, at a place called Lover's Point in Carmel. I was 25, her dark Italian boy from Boston's South end, and she was 24, my fair Irish gypsy from County Kerry. The service was presided over by a gal named Joy and her photographer, who doubled as our witness. Joy was an ordained minister of a nondenominational church we'd never heard of, but she was warm and cheerful on the phone, and this was her job -- we found her through the Carmel Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Bureau under "shotgun."

It was a road trip with nuptials.

On Thursday we headed north out of San Diego, through L.A., and out to the Pacific Coast Highway. Our plan was to drive the coast road to Morro Bay where we'd spend a night. Morro Bay lies about halfway to Carmel and our honeymoon destination, San Francisco. At the Morro Inn, I remember our luggage hitting the bed with an audible thud and drawing the blinds on an enormous rock -- "the magnificent Morro Rock" -- that had been splattered white by pelicans dropping flybys. A briny breeze drifted into our room. That night, the eve of making it legal after six years together, we dined in a fisherman's grotto, drank a bottle of the region's wine, ate shellfish, tossed our leftovers to an otter lolling in the boat basin, and then we went down with the sun. We wanted to be on the road at daybreak.

Heavy fog blanketed the PCH Friday morning. Paso Robles and Hearst Castle were only road signs to us as we followed our headlights up the two-lane blacktop. The sun rose and started its slow burn when we reached the winding cliffs of Big Sur. As the fog lifted, every vista begged a stop, but we had an appointment to keep. We swore to get back to Big Sur and have a proper look-see someday, hug some trees (which we did, on our fifth anniversary -- appropriately, "the wood anniversary").

Despite the drama the lifting curtain of fog revealed -- high above the reaching whitewaters of Pfeiffer State Beach, surrounded by sea grass, succulents, and sky -- our nerves bristled, and we chattered nonstop and turned up the cassette deck. We reaffirmed our ambitions and made campaign promises. We sang our favorite songs unselfconsciously and found each other's hands when the road allowed. We pointed and craned our necks in unison as we passed the Henry Miller Museum, a vine-covered cabin tucked in the trees. Miller was one of our touchstones, and the conversation got headier here. I don't recall the discourse, but it got us to Carmel.

We were to meet with Minister Joy in a restaurant lounge across the street from Lover's Point Park. The scene was reminiscent of one of our local haunts, La Jolla Cove. Giant, gnarled sea-breezeshaped trees shaded the fields of cropped green grass that led to the well-worn foot trails through flowering succulents to the rocky shore.

In the lounge, a window seat offered us a view of the picturesque day. We drank Bloody Marys and munched on the celery and olive garnishes. We took turns changing in the restroom of the bar so as not to miss the lady minister. I waited as Annelies changed from her jeans and sweater into a knee-length floral summer dress. Her fuchsias, violets, and yellows, complemented by the rose bouquet her dad had given her to hold during the ceremony, stood in stark, radiant contrast to the sea-foam greens and sky blues of the coastal park. I remained in the comfort of my favorite jeans and desert boots but donned a fine white shirt, tropical necktie, and blue blazer that Annelies had chosen for the occasion. We drank and we waited. Speech had escaped us, replaced by long draws at our drinks, grins, and giggles.

Joy, a pillowy woman in a soft green skirt and jacket, arrived with her photographer and greeted another couple across the room. She checked their names against her docket and then turned to us. We were her first appointment. She joined us at our table, and the photographer fussed over his equipment at the bar. Joy described her service and asked if we would like to make any changes. We shook our heads no, and she retrieved our license and her log from her shoulder bag. We signed here and we signed there, and we left our thumbprints in her book. It was time.

Across the street, Joy led us to a small outcropping above the shoreline. Waves swelled and crashed against the rocks behind us as we turned to face her. We gripped each other's hands, a bond that Joy accepted and elevated from our hips to our hearts. She smiled at us as if she knew us. She read from a small book of sermons, and everything fell away from the three of us huddled there on the cliff. No camera clicking, no passersby or giant trees. The ocean froze. Joy stopped reading, closed her little book, and spoke to us. In our conversation, she asked me if I would take Annelies as mine forever, if I would protect her and love her no matter what. I assured her I would. The minister leaned in. "Don't tell me," she said. "Tell her." I repeated Joy's words to Annelies, who then said them back to me, the slightest need in her voice for relief, which I offered with a hug and a kiss. We were married.

That night, we took a room on Union Square and walked to a late dinner in a crowded, sizzling, clanging Chinatown restaurant — our wedding dinner — pot stickers, Peking duck, and steaming green tea. Again, everything fell away. At this brimming table for two, my nerves gave way to clarity. In the middle of this confusion, in the middle of this city, in the middle of this life, I took a partner.

This May, in our home, with our two boys, we celebrated these 15 years.

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We didn't elope in the traditional sense, Annelies and me. No ladder up to her window in the middle of the night. We borrowed her dad's car and left after breakfast.

We were married over the Memorial holiday weekend, 1991, at a place called Lover's Point in Carmel. I was 25, her dark Italian boy from Boston's South end, and she was 24, my fair Irish gypsy from County Kerry. The service was presided over by a gal named Joy and her photographer, who doubled as our witness. Joy was an ordained minister of a nondenominational church we'd never heard of, but she was warm and cheerful on the phone, and this was her job -- we found her through the Carmel Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Bureau under "shotgun."

It was a road trip with nuptials.

On Thursday we headed north out of San Diego, through L.A., and out to the Pacific Coast Highway. Our plan was to drive the coast road to Morro Bay where we'd spend a night. Morro Bay lies about halfway to Carmel and our honeymoon destination, San Francisco. At the Morro Inn, I remember our luggage hitting the bed with an audible thud and drawing the blinds on an enormous rock -- "the magnificent Morro Rock" -- that had been splattered white by pelicans dropping flybys. A briny breeze drifted into our room. That night, the eve of making it legal after six years together, we dined in a fisherman's grotto, drank a bottle of the region's wine, ate shellfish, tossed our leftovers to an otter lolling in the boat basin, and then we went down with the sun. We wanted to be on the road at daybreak.

Heavy fog blanketed the PCH Friday morning. Paso Robles and Hearst Castle were only road signs to us as we followed our headlights up the two-lane blacktop. The sun rose and started its slow burn when we reached the winding cliffs of Big Sur. As the fog lifted, every vista begged a stop, but we had an appointment to keep. We swore to get back to Big Sur and have a proper look-see someday, hug some trees (which we did, on our fifth anniversary -- appropriately, "the wood anniversary").

Despite the drama the lifting curtain of fog revealed -- high above the reaching whitewaters of Pfeiffer State Beach, surrounded by sea grass, succulents, and sky -- our nerves bristled, and we chattered nonstop and turned up the cassette deck. We reaffirmed our ambitions and made campaign promises. We sang our favorite songs unselfconsciously and found each other's hands when the road allowed. We pointed and craned our necks in unison as we passed the Henry Miller Museum, a vine-covered cabin tucked in the trees. Miller was one of our touchstones, and the conversation got headier here. I don't recall the discourse, but it got us to Carmel.

We were to meet with Minister Joy in a restaurant lounge across the street from Lover's Point Park. The scene was reminiscent of one of our local haunts, La Jolla Cove. Giant, gnarled sea-breezeshaped trees shaded the fields of cropped green grass that led to the well-worn foot trails through flowering succulents to the rocky shore.

In the lounge, a window seat offered us a view of the picturesque day. We drank Bloody Marys and munched on the celery and olive garnishes. We took turns changing in the restroom of the bar so as not to miss the lady minister. I waited as Annelies changed from her jeans and sweater into a knee-length floral summer dress. Her fuchsias, violets, and yellows, complemented by the rose bouquet her dad had given her to hold during the ceremony, stood in stark, radiant contrast to the sea-foam greens and sky blues of the coastal park. I remained in the comfort of my favorite jeans and desert boots but donned a fine white shirt, tropical necktie, and blue blazer that Annelies had chosen for the occasion. We drank and we waited. Speech had escaped us, replaced by long draws at our drinks, grins, and giggles.

Joy, a pillowy woman in a soft green skirt and jacket, arrived with her photographer and greeted another couple across the room. She checked their names against her docket and then turned to us. We were her first appointment. She joined us at our table, and the photographer fussed over his equipment at the bar. Joy described her service and asked if we would like to make any changes. We shook our heads no, and she retrieved our license and her log from her shoulder bag. We signed here and we signed there, and we left our thumbprints in her book. It was time.

Across the street, Joy led us to a small outcropping above the shoreline. Waves swelled and crashed against the rocks behind us as we turned to face her. We gripped each other's hands, a bond that Joy accepted and elevated from our hips to our hearts. She smiled at us as if she knew us. She read from a small book of sermons, and everything fell away from the three of us huddled there on the cliff. No camera clicking, no passersby or giant trees. The ocean froze. Joy stopped reading, closed her little book, and spoke to us. In our conversation, she asked me if I would take Annelies as mine forever, if I would protect her and love her no matter what. I assured her I would. The minister leaned in. "Don't tell me," she said. "Tell her." I repeated Joy's words to Annelies, who then said them back to me, the slightest need in her voice for relief, which I offered with a hug and a kiss. We were married.

That night, we took a room on Union Square and walked to a late dinner in a crowded, sizzling, clanging Chinatown restaurant — our wedding dinner — pot stickers, Peking duck, and steaming green tea. Again, everything fell away. At this brimming table for two, my nerves gave way to clarity. In the middle of this confusion, in the middle of this city, in the middle of this life, I took a partner.

This May, in our home, with our two boys, we celebrated these 15 years.

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