This time, the occasion was a pool party, a tradition each year for Memorial Day. I rode out there with the groom's cousin, with whom I'd developed a bond during our time together in the house. Although my experience decorating cakes was on a very, very much more amateur scale, I felt equipped at least to explain what she was doing (to some extent), and also to play bouncer, a little bit, when the chattering young lady was present. The job is hard enough under ideal circumstances, and the house had some drawbacks already (the AC was locked to go no lower than 76 degrees, so it was hot and sticky the entire time; the refrigerator interior leaked, so it was hit-or-miss to be able to store things inside of it; and we were outside of town, so sudden realizations that more supplies were needed meant hauling oneself 15-20 minutes back into Temecula--not an overly onerous commute, but enough of a hassle that an alternate location would have been more convenient). Putting up with all of that while simultaneously dealing with a woman who loves to hear her own voice at slightly-more-than-necessary volume would have been a ridiculous challenge. So, I put myself out there to help as much as I could, and the groom's cousin was seriously good-natured about the whole thing, and in so doing, we developed a friendship.
The car ride out to Murrieta was carefree and comfortable, and once we got there, we found a patch of shade on the patio near the pool and kept our conversation going. It was awfully nice to just be casual and not feel like I had to...act, in any way. Everyone else who was there (just the bride's immediate family, plus her uncle and his family from Toronto, and also the groom's best friend growing up, who now lives in Maine but whose wife is from Orange County, CA) split into obvious subgroups: the mothers of the bride and groom, along with the bride's sister. The fathers of the bride and groom, along with the bride's uncle and his family. The bride and groom, along with the bride's sister (and matron of honor) and her husband (an usher), and the groom's best friend (and best man) and his wife (a bridesmaid), who were also near the bride's two brothers, one of whom is married with children. The kids were in the pool (along with their grandfather) for part of the day, too.
The party was very low-key. There were sandwiches and soft drinks, leftover cake and also cheesecake. It was comfortable to sit in the shade by the pool, because there was a pretty strong breeze keeping it cool, but there were also several indoors fully out of the sun. In all, a good get-together.
Still, I can't say I was too upset when the groom's parents decided that it was time to head back to the house. The groom's cousin had already left, because she was meeting some former coworkers up the coast. We said our goodbyes (to everyone except the bride and groom, who would be staying with us in the rental house that night) and got back in the car. This time, we were prepared; the bride's sister helped me get directions back to the house that did not involve any major roads, which was a great comfort to the driver and to me.
The rest of the day was pretty lazy. We packed up most of our stuff and dozed and read. It was too hot to spend much time outside. We ate a hodgepodge of food that was leftover from the week, in an effort to have less to throw away and to avoid needing to go back into town.
Oooh! I nearly forgot. While we were at the pool party, we all realized that, after having a seizure, the groom's driving privileges were in question. The original plan was that he was going to drive me to the airport on Wednesday morning, but that no longer seemed the best option. When we got back to the house, I started requesting quotes for a car ride (not a taxi, but also not a limo--something in between, just a guy driving a regular car from Temecula to LAX with me and my two little bags in it). I sent out a request from the place that seemed the most legit, and that I thought would be the most reasonable. They didn't get back to me right away (or within a few hours, even) so I sent another request. They wrote back almost right away, but their quote was well beyond my choke level:
100 miles in a Prius, for $273. Uhhh? But wait--then I got the second quote, which was actually from the first place:
Yeah. That's $345 as a discount. At least it would be in a Suburban, so it would be less awkward than sitting with your elbow in the guy's ear like the Prius. But seriously? My flight back to ORD cost less than either of those. Like, about half of the second one. We were gonna have to find another way!
After much, much, much discussion (and a little argument--the groom was absolutely vehement that I would see the Pacific Ocean on this trip!), we agreed that I would accept a ride from the groom as far as Newport Beach, CA. He and his father had plans for a sunrise hot-air balloon ride on Wednesday morning. We decided that, as soon as they returned, we would pack up both cars (the groom's and the bride's), split the groom's parents' luggage between them, and the groom's mom would ride with the bride while I would ride with the groom's dad in the groom's car. We would plan to meet up at the Balboa Bay Beach Club in Newport Beach. The groom scheduled a SuperShuttle (the local go-to car service) to pick me up there.
With that settled, there was little more to do than take a quick shower and try to get some sleep. The next day, I would see the ocean...and I would be back home.
[the title quotation is by Roald Amundsen]