Monday, August 04, 2008

That Was The Simcha That Was

I mentioned some time back that one of my cousins was engaged to a lovely young woman he'd been courting for a number of years. Well, the wedding was Saturday. Some details follow:


Since the kids themselves and most of the family live in San Diego, and part of the bride's family lives in Mexico, it seemed smart to have the simcha at a resort in Baja. My cousins spend a lot of time in Mexico, on various vacations and outings and family visits anyway, and both the chasan and the kallah are fluent in Spanish. You get a lot more bang for your buck in Mexico, and there was this resort they like--Las Rocas, in Rosarito Beach. So it was announced that the wedding would take place at Las Rocas.

This presented a certain amount of stress for the San Francisco branch of the clann Bluejeans, because we a. never go to Mexico (since it is rather far for us) and b. were assured by reliable sources that it would be hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. But the kids were getting married, so away we went...


We rented a car, and headed from San Diego for the border. We bought Mexican car insurance. We had our passports. We even had lovely photo-capture directions from the bride and groom.

We reached the border, drove right into downtown Tijuana, and promptly took the wrong exit. Then, we realized that the road we were supposed to take was closed. Then we realized that we were doomed.

For reasons you'd have to ask Mr. Bluejeans about, I'd been appointed navigator, and official translator for the operation. This would have made more sense if I actually spoke Spanish. I don't. Or, rather, I speak about three hundred words of Spanish, and have basically no grammar. I have a terrible accent (I fear that I sound like Peggy Hill), and my vocabulary is weirdly skewed by my profession. I know "estudiante muy bueno", and "no chicle en la sala!" and "el necesita hacer tarea". I also know a staggering range of cuss words, particularly including any form of the verb chingar, all of which I react to by yelling "watch your language!" in English.

So we worked our way through the traffic in Tijuana and I stuck my head out of the window of the car and yelled hopeful things like "La playa Rosarito--donde?" at people in cars next to us. Thank God, the people of Mexico sensed that we had to get to a wedding on time, and rose to the occasion. People pointed, and pointed, and all pointed the same way, and eventually we were zipping down the coast with the beautiful gray Pacific to our right, and not too long after we saw the giant statue of Jesus my uncle informed us overlooks Las Rocas resort.

He sure does. The statue stand seventy-five feet high on a hill overlooking the ocean, and holds his arms out directly at the resort. One of my cousins inquired about the thing sticking out of Jesus' head (you may not be able to see it in the photo above), and was informed that it lights up at night so that low-flying planes don't hit the statue.

We had made it.


Please understand that the heat of the northern Mexican summer had been obsessing us for months, literally. Never mind that this place is fifty miles south of where my aunt lives in San Diego, we were freaked. Shopping revolved obsessively around whether we could find formal clothing light enough. We were afraid.

It was a humid eighty degrees, with heavy marine layer. No one got heatstroke.


Las Rocas is a lovely little resort on the cliffs of Rosarito Beach. The wedding was at five, and took place under a sort of chuppah made of bamboo poles and gauze draping with Gerber daisies. Very pretty. There were seven groomsmen, all in Mexican shirts, khakis, and matching brown Vans, several bridesmaids in pretty brown tea-length dresses, three junior bridesmaids in goldy-tan satin, and two flower girls in white with brown sashes, plus a ring bearer who seemed kind of terrified--possibly because he got stuck on the men's side, away from the other small ones.

The ceremony was very brief, sweet and funny, and conducted by a buddy of the groom's, whose role as officiant had been kept a secret from the other groomsmen. He has a reputation as a clown, so they all panicked a little when he took center stage under the chuppah.

My aunt looked wonderful.

My other cousin, the groom's sister, looked wonderful, and delivered a fabulous toast at the reception.

The food was good.

I encountered the usual run of cousins of my father's, friends of my aunt's, etc., who all told me I was just so high when they saw me last. When you are twelve this is annoying. When you are thirty-five it is kind of surreal. I stopped growing about twenty years ago. (Although I promised one such encounter that I would hit six feet by the time we next met.)

One of said cousins is planning to retire to an island on Puget Sound and raise chickens and foster a horse. Sounds idyllic.

The groomsmen, as a surprise treat, got someone to come after dark and set off fireworks.


This had to happen, didn't it? The return trip seemed like a freebie. We pulled out and headed up the coast, following the signs that said "San Diego" straight up to Tijuana. It was at this point that things began to go wrong.

Basically, there is a huge amount of road work happening in Tijuana right now. There is also a bottleneck, caused by the fact that on a Sunday afternoon there is a huge number of people entering the United States, and we don't just let anyone enter the United States, meaning that each car has to produce suitable paperwork. This take a lot of time. This causes backup. Tijuana is not equipped to deal with backup. So we have a tidal wave of cars heading toward the border, and about three harassed-looking traffic cops trying to get them all through a regulation-sized intersection.

Vay's mir.

We somehow got waved into the morass, but realized right away that something was terribly wrong. We were in a side lane, with some taxis, and we were going too quickly. Wayy too quickly. Everyone else was completely stalled, and we were driving on the open road. Something was wrong.

We finally got a hold of traffic cop who confirmed that, yes, we were in the wrong lane, and were about to drive back down into Tijuana proper, where we would have to try again. This would have meant the loss of only a few minutes--nothing ventured, nothing gained--except that at the bottom of the go-round we quickly found ourselves driving on a two-lane freeway out of town--retracing our steps towards Rosarito.

Turn around, you say? No can do. There's a giant concrete divider down the center.

We drove helplessly south, until we finally spotted a sort of tourist stop--bathrooms, teeny snack bar, water. "Habla ingles?" said Mr. Bluejeans hopefully. The teenage girl behind the counter at the snack bar shook her head. "Nooo." OK. My turn.

OK, enough with the broken phrases, this time I was going to do a complete sentence..."Somos..." I began, and then gave up. "San Diego?" I said charmingly, making arm gestures to indicate that we were helplessly driving away from San Diego.

You know, Barack Obama is right. We need to have our children learn Spanish. Then they can translate for me.

The kid managed, through sign, several slowly repeated sentences, and the magic of my remembering that 'izquierdo' is 'left', to let us know that about 1 kilometer down the road we would be able to make a left turn and go back. At least that was what I thought she was saying, and I was, thank God, right.

We went back to Tijuana, found our intersection and tried again. This time a traffic cop waved us into another lane...that wasn't the right lane either. This time we stuck to our guns, and, thank heavens, a nice young woman let us merge into the real lane.

After that it was just an hour and a half of slowly inching forward, rolling down the windows to give money to small children begging, admiring the plaster Catholiciana, Azteciana and turtles for sale, and showing our passports to a crabby border control official, and we were back on our way to the San Diego airport.


It was a nice wedding. The bride was beautiful, the groom was glowing. (If there's such a thing as a radiant groom, he was. I don't ever remember him so happy.)

It gave me a lot to think about, some of which will probably spill over into this space.

My branch of the family has determined that when my little cousin gets married (no, no announcements have been made, and I should mind my own business), we want Christmas in Seattle.

Mazal tov!

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