Monday, November 10, 2008

Marriage #2: The Marriaging

Our first marriage was before God and family on a small goat farm in North Carolina on October 11, 2008. Our second marriage (depending on how things go) was in the little mountain town of Ukiah, the county seat in Mendocino, California, where Emerson and I were honeymooning.

We set out early the morning of Thursday, October 16, before the sun rose to make the long trek over the mountains to Ukiah. We stopped for one of the best scones I've ever had in a little village called Boonville, the hippiest town in the hippiest place I have ever been (I do not exaggerate when I say that the entire county smelled like pot). We didn't have much time because we had to meet Josh Bowers, the guy we hired on craigslist to take pictures and be our witness.

Ukiah had only one main road and ironically the county seat was not on it. Instead, it was a few blocks off, right next to the county prison. As municipal buildings go, this one wasn't so bad, although it had clearly been a school at one point in its existence, which would explain the baseball fields behind it. It probably stopped being a school around the same time the building next door became a prison (although you never know with these mountain types).
The first thing we had to do was go into a large, open office that reminded me of my high school administration, and fill out a form with things like our names, our parents names, and verifying that we weren't married. We then had to swear an oath to the hippy behind the counter that everything we said was true to the best of our knowledge. It was a tad bit surreal. Then we had to wait while the clerk typed up all of our information. Meanwhile, we checked out the spots where people liked to get married.

Apparently one of the popular spots was in front of the building by the willow tree. That tree, however, was right in front of the garbage bin. Marriage #2 was already bizarre enough; it didn't need to be made more bizarre by a trash heap; that would come later on the baseball field. No, we decided to not get married by the tree between the front driveway and the refuse pile. Instead we would get married in the "courtyard chapel".

Being a typical municipal school turned county administration office, the Ukiah county clerk was able to provide us with a concrete courtyard surrounded by windows looking into various government offices. In the corner was a white wooden arch with absolutely no adornment or flowers or plants or anything. It was perfect!

Right before we started, she asked us if were planning on exchanging rings. Shit! We quickly took off our rings and swapped them so we could exchange them in front of God and Josh the photographer. The clerk read from her print-out of the marriage ceremony, her gold-spangled costume necklace jingling down to her navel. After our big gay wedding on the goat farm, standing in the bright morning sun in the courtyard of an old school next to a prison in front of a softball field felt a tad bit anti-climactic. After our beautiful vows in front of friends and family, declaring our lifelong commitment of love and fidelity in front of an amateur photographer from Mendocino seemed underwhelming; it was difficult to hold back the chuckles.

But somewhere, right at the end, when I was reciting those words that you hear countless times on television and in the movies, it struck me how monumentally important this moment was. It didn't take us 14 months to plan; it didn't involve the precise melding of a million minute details to be perfect; it didn't involve the approving enthusiasm of our family and friends. We had to rely on the actions of strangers, Josh the photographer, Kathleen the deputy clerk, the California Supreme Court, to bring our marriage to the country. Now, an entire state of strangers avowed that they had a stake in my relationship. It was pretty fucking cool.

When it was over, the clerk handed us a colorful certificate declaring our marriage. It may have been in Comic Sans. I don't think it made it back to North Carolina. But we remembered to order an official notarized copy before the big vote. So our marriage has the honor of being real in the eyes of those who love us and, however briefly, real in the eyes of the State of California. And although we will undoubtedly celebrate October 11 as our anniversary, October 16, no matter how fleeting, will forever remain an important part of history.


Shanu's Dad said...

My marriage was witnessed by a couple of gays 12 hours before the ceremony on a tequila soaked bar top.

That's what Pennsylvania calls getting married quaker style...

Anonymous said...

My marriage was witnessed by a couple of gays 12 hours before the ceremony on a tequila soaked bar top.

That's what Pennsylvania calls getting married quaker style...

Words and Steel said...

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Anonymous said...

Emerson! Michael! I miss youse! Hopefully, you are just waiting for your pictures to come back before regaling us with details and bidding a final fond farewell!

Flash Dawg said...

Hey guys!

Actually the school is about 2 blocks down from the jail... Right next to the cemetary.

Really simplifies the whole process :) Straight from school, to jail, to the ground.

Most popular classes in the county? Agriculture of course! Starts in 4th grade... :) We grow all the things that get people f*cked up, whether you prefer to drink it or smoke it.

Anyways... Hope you guys had fun while you were here, and congrats.

And you had scones in Boonville? REALLY!? That area scares me and I've lived here my whole life! Still gives me the "deliverance" vibe when I drive through (quickly).

All my best and happy new year!