“What color was the cake?” demanded Ray when I picked up my cell phone. I was 900 miles into nonstop driving from where I had left his and Ann’s home in Bullhead City, Arizona, early that morning. And 140 miles from getting my poor car with its new radiator, condenser, battery and engine home to Cottage Grove, Oregon, where we had left six weeks ago to the day.
Ray was asking about the wedding cake from Tim and Mary’s wedding reception yesterday in the Fiesta Room of Bullhead City’s El Palacio restaurant. Tim is a long-time Bullhead City architect. Ray and I worked together as land developers years ago and Tim had been our colleague and friend. Passing through Bullhead City on the weekend of Tim’s wedding was happy serendipity.
At the reception Ray had casually told the bride that her cake “looks like a Halloween cake.” Ann, of course, was mortified. It must have still been a topic of their conversation, which explained Ray’s call to me on the road.
Mary, who already was a nervous wreck, having flown from her home in Washington, DC, to marry Tim among his coterie of oddball friends, had taken it fairly well and still smiled for the cameras as she and her Guam childhood flame had cut the white cake covered with orange and green flowers.
“Ray, I don’t know what color it was,” I answered him a bit too shortly. I really didn’t remember.
“Well, why did I call it a Halloween cake?" he said.
“I don’t know,” I guessed. “The cake was orange?”
On our way to the reception Sunday morning, Ray, Ann and I had stopped to buy a wedding card. A desert fire was burning in the wind, down near the Colorado River. All weekend the blue sky and mountain vistas had been blurred in heavy smog from L.A. and Las Vegas. Over in Laughlin amid the casinos the annual biker festivities were winding down. (“Though marred in 2002 for a fight between the Hells Angels and the Mongols that resulted in three deaths, Laughlin River Run continues to draw a bigger…”)
Ray was telling us what to expect at the reception. We weren’t sure if Tim and Mary were going to get married before coming to the restaurant. We only knew that they were being married by “Reverend” Gary, a retired realtor (now living the high life in Flagstaff) who had his ordination from the online Universal Life Church (“We are all children of the same universe”). Gary wore a black short-sleeved t-shirt stenciled with a minister’s outfit.
Tim, though a brilliant architect, is notoriously casual. I have never seen him in anything but Hawaiian shirts, shorts and sandals; his wedding day proved no exception. Recently Tim moved to live with Mary in Alexandria, Virginia, and had taken a job at a real architectural firm. He had withered under regular office hours, boring work and typically-DC-competitive colleagues. So he quit. He said his headaches were starting to go away. After the reception Mary was going to fly back to DC. Tim was riding his Harley to the East by way of Ft. Myers, Florida.
“One thing I can tell you about this wedding for absolute sure,” Ray said to us as we pulled into the pharmacy parking lot. “It is impossible to make a faux pas,” he laughed, apparently proud of his conclusion that he was soon to conclusively disprove with his Halloween cake crack.
A few days earlier I had flown back to El Paso to retrieve my car. One more cheesy motel – this time the Airport Microtel – $78, plus the $50 cab ride to the Honda dealer. Ka‑ching, ka‑ching! I had to pay Rudolph Honda the $5,060 bill myself, since they still hadn’t gotten the insurance check. Rick had been driving my car home at night, just to be sure it was running well. When he pulled it up for my departure we both noticed that the exhaust still slightly smelled like it did when the head gasket blew – it had reminded one of the car guys of burnt brisket. I talked to the mechanic, however, and believed he and Rick had done everything possible to fix it right. “It will get you home,” the mechanic assured me, with genuine (and, as it turned out, well-placed) confidence. Rick gave me his cell phone number and made me promise to call as soon as I got home.
About 20 miles west of El Paso a pickup truck in front of me lost its load of aluminum siding. Big sheets caught the desert wind and one-by-one flew into the air and across I‑10. I slowed and missed them all. And then I was free of Texas.
In six hours I was in Tucson, where I was to stay with Ben and Jay, the bachelor brothers. Ben grilled baby-back pork ribs in honor of my big pig adventure. First, though, I went to the Sonora Desert Museum and hiked around in the cactus for several hours. I lingered at the exhibit of a herd of javelinas. In the midday heat they were flopped in the shade of a stone bridge over their habitat. So close, they appeared twice as large as I remembered the size of that dead pig rolling down the highway behind my car. No wonder it had done so much damage. Lucky the whole family hadn’t shown up.
A nice-looking couple was standing on the bridge, also enjoying the pig show. “I hit one of those five weeks ago,” I said to the woman standing next to me. “Just today I got my car back from the shop.”
“Did it last very long?” she asked.
I thought that an odd question about my car. “It was an extended, agonizing event,” I said smiling.
She didn’t ask me to elaborate and they walked away rather quickly, it seemed to me. I saw them again and recalled our brief exchange. Then it hit me. “Oh-h, now I get it,” I thought. She was asking about the pig, not my car. I considered correcting our miscommunication but decided I didn’t really care if they thought I was happy that the pig had suffered an “extended, agonizing” death.
As for the Bullhead City wedding cake, Ray and I never agreed on why he thought it reminded him of Halloween. Ray’s mind works in mysterious ways. Like the universe we share.
I called Rick at the Honda shop in El Paso the morning after I got home. “Be sure to look me up if you get back to Texas,” he said.
“When pigs fly,” I laughed.
“Well, you did make one pig fly.”