This week continues the closing novella, told in third-person, in which everyone comes together. Since a lot of us are still locked up, I think I’m going to share a bit more of this one in a few installments, since this part is 20,000 words or so. You can catch up to last week’s installment here or start at the top here. Last week, we set up the Southern California social event of 2029, the wedding of the mayor’s daughter at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Downtown L.A. Now, the wedding is about to begin.
It all began with the procession, because there was no “Here Comes the Bride” or opening hymn. Instead, a lone flute played a mournful tune, and then there were drums at the back of the house — yes, Alejandra thought of it in those terms, because she at least fully understood how the Church created western theater out of older Roman and Greek traditions, and how Mass and a play both were rituals, and she was going to take full advantage of it. The drums were pure Aztec and they played a few bars from house left before the first mind bend happened, and accordion music started up on house right.
Yep. Native American ritual drumming combined with a goddamn polka and, as they had discovered in rehearsal, the two went together so well it was ridiculous. Right as the audience was looking around in confusion, the entertainment entered from both sides. Down the outside left aisle came the Aztec dancers in full native regalia — feathers and fringe and fierceness. Down the right side, came the Bavarians, in lederhosen and dirndls. The two sides could not have been more different, but the two together could not have been more L.A.
To be honest, even Alejandra started sniffling at this point. It was just so sublime and incredible, unexpected and yet absolutely appropriate. As one reporter would describe it later, “This American wedding of the century could not have been a better representation not only of how Los Angeles has put itself back together a mere five or so months after a major disaster, but of how the country has done the same in almost a decade since we came to the edge of another Civil War, but averted it when unity finally prevailed.”
As all of the other performers gathered together and knelt in front of the bema, four of them mounted it — two men doing the Schuhplattler, which is that famous Bavarian dance that involves slapping the knees and thighs, jumping in the air, slapping the knees and thighs again, and then slapping each other. A young woman in traditional dress with sleeves and leggings decorated in red feathers took her place above them. Her face was covered in white make-up embedded with shimmering glitter in red and green that caught and reflected the light. From somewhere, the smell of incense began to fill the room, a mixture of sage and pine. The young woman watched them, arms lowered. Meanwhile, another woman came to stand above all of them, dressed as the Aztec Xochiquetzal, the goddess of beauty, love, fertility, flowers, and vegetation, and the patron of arts, weaving, and prostitution.
The woman portraying the part is young and beautiful — she was actually Miss Hispanic California 2028 — and the lyrics of the old song La Bikina described her perfectly: “Altanera, preciosa y orgullosa…” Well, the way she played the character, at least. She held a bouquet of flowers in one hand (Jackson had convinced Alejandra to use green carnations, even though they were not indigenous) and had a headdress made of bird’s feathers. In legend, those of Quetzalcoatl, the flying feathered serpent, but since those didn’t exist, Jackson had made a deal with Fumiko to contract another vendor in the garment district to obtain seagull feathers and dye them in shades of cyan, teal, seafoam, forest, and Kelly green. Although slightly harder to get, they were the better choice, because crow feathers — also the more indigenous choice — would need to be bleached first, and that would just soften them and ruin the effect. He had considered peacock feathers, but to some people they represented bad luck. Besides, those wouldn’t read as Quetzalcoatl at all.
Finally, Miss Hispanic California, whose name was Kathy Ruiz, was decked out in a lots of gold jewelry, which was entirely authentic and loaned by a shop down on 7th that was next door to the 24-hour Walgreens.
It was a stunning tableau, made more amazing by the lighting by world renowned and award-winning designer Dan Weingarten, abetted by the crew from CTG, the jewel of the Music Center (and Culver City), not to mention the amazing tech set-up in the cathedral.
Yeah, only in L.A. would a Catholic sanctuary have lights and sound that would give a Broadway theater a run for its money.
But the performers hit their places, the lights did their thing, and the two white guys were downstage slapping each other silly as the two women hovered above them in contrasting colors, Xochiquetzal looking increasingly upset even as the woman with red feathers appeared more sad.
“Moketsa!” the goddess suddenly cries out, and the young woman raises her red-feathered arms high. “Aufstehen,” an offstage voice cries, and then the men stop slapping each other. They make eye contact with the most profound sense of forgiveness before they hug. The woman curves her arms around them without touching, then pulls away, turns abruptly and bows to Xochiquetzal, who gives a gesture of benediction. The woman nods, turns back, and moves in a ritualistic way. She circles the men twice to the left, twice to the right, then stops above them, raises her arms, and lets out a single shout. She raises her arms above her head, slowly lowers them to be by her sides, then sharply turns to her right, moves a few steps, turns to her left, then marches out. The men follow without ceremony, then Xochiquetzal raises her arms.
“Tlasojtlalistli. Paxia. Tlauelkaktli.”
There’s a dramatic light change, the music stops, and they all exit in the brief moment before the processional of the bridal party finally starts.
And no. It’s not “Here Comes the Bride.” That would be too obvious, and, besides, the bride and groom have taste and a sense of humor. They enter to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies, but, of course, it’s not recorded — the lady herself is performing live from the back of the ambulatory, the entire wedding party comes in doing the choreography, and the crowd goes crazier than Dodger fans after Stefanie Lopez hits another homer.
The best part about the choreography is that it takes the wedding party the whole length of the song to make it to the altar, and in their outfits, it just looks spectacular. Alejandra thinks, “Jackson outdid himself,” and makes a mental note to give him and his assistant an extra bonus because of this moment.
The priest and altar servers leading the way are also doing the choreography. There was the added bonus of Father O’Malley, a middle-aged man who’s gayer than Christmas, leading eight teenage boys and girls in cassocks down the aisle first and doing the same choreo. The cute young blond (but of-age one) up front is O’Malley’s partner, but everyone knows it, and Pascale and the padre are rocking the hell out of it. So is everyone else.
After the bride and groom and wedding party, both families follow but, while Valentina and her soon-to-be husband Chris, along with the groomsfolk and bridal party and both fathers make it up onto the bema, the song runs out, so the extended family is left to change the dance and we get another olidie — Born This Way by Lady Gaga. Valentina was a fan of the oldies, after all.
The rest of the ceremony proceeded in a more traditional fashion, although typically for a Catholic service in L.A., the readings and sermons were an equal mix of Spanish and English. Father O’Malley himself had attended seminary in Mexico, and his first assignment was to a church in Puebla, which was really the only place in that country where Cinco de Mayo was a holiday, because that’s where the original events happened.
Once O’Malley had come back to L.A., the celebrations here made him feel like he was back in what he considered his second home, especially all around La Plaza, El Pueblo, and Olvera Street downtown, right across from Union Station and a stone’s throw… well, a Metro stop from the cathedral.
One of the unique things about Southern California in general and Los Angeles in particular was that the city had never lost its Spanish heritage, and even more so had never lost its Mexican heritage. After all, this was part of the western third of what was now the United States that used to be Mexico before it was taken from them by the U.S. Sure, there had still been racist pockets of people here and there, but mostly in Orange County and until the end of the last century the west end of the Valley, but those people had all fled to the even more conservative and racist Simi Valley once everything north of Victory and west of Reseda became very Hispanic.
That was all before what Father O’Malley termed the American Troubles, thinking back to what his ancestors in Ireland had gone through about forty years earlier. But after the events that the press had dubbed Retribution and Reconciliation, the bigots and racists seemed to disappear from public life completely. Of course, a lot of them had simply died because of their own bad decisions, but that was all in the past now.
“Funny how the mind wanders when you’re doing something you’ve done a billion times,” he thought as he snapped out of his reverie having not missed a beat or a word of the Gospel (he had chosen John 15:12-16), and was very present as he delivered his homily, very cannily basing it on Mark 10:25: “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,” but rather than playing it as a straight condemnation of wealth — mustn’t piss off the guests too much — he steered it toward a description of the difficulties a marriage could face as two people suddenly tried to follow a single path.
“And especially,” he noted, “Dos personas de dos mundos diferentes, two people from completely different worlds.” This became a meditation on how embracing differences only made the world stronger, and the only way for two threads to make it through one needle was for them to wind themselves around each other. And in the real world, if you sewed that way, one thread around the other would create a thing of greater beauty, because both colors would show in a spiral and make the whole cloth much more interesting.
Jackson and Finley both looked at each other at this one and smiled, and Finley knew that Jackson was getting ideas — although it would be damn hard to pull off on a standard sewing machine, and hella expensive to do by hand.
“Dos hilos, una vida; dos mentes, un corazón; dos almas, un verdad,” he said. “Two threads, one life; two minds, one heart; two souls, one truth: Valentina and Chris unidos, united.”
Once the wedding part of it was over, the rest of the Mass still had to happen, and this was when a lot of the press took their lunch break. They hadn’t been invited to the pre-ceremony luncheon.
When it finally came time for the recessional, the song was I Won’t Let You Down by OK Go and yes, the actual band was performing that one live, too. Their costumes, also designed and created by Jackson on Alejandra’s commission, reimagined them as Edwardian gentlemen, but each one themed to the vibrant primary colors that they had been splattered in at the end of their video for This Too Shall Pass, released nearly twenty years earlier.
It was known as the “Rube Goldberg” video because of the elaborate jury-rigged machine that followed the tune and led the viewer through a warehouse of insane contraptions until that one moment when the band members were shot with paint cannons — Andy in yellow, Damian in blue, Tim in red, and Dan in green. Jackson put each of them in elegant morning dress all of similar cut, but each one made from fabrics in five different hues of the chosen color — swallow-tail cut-away coats the darkest; pinstriped pants slightly lighter with the stripes matching the coat; shoes slightly lighter again (in suede), laces matching the pants; cuff, collar, and tie lighter still; and shirt in the most pastel version of the color. Cufflinks and tie-tacks contained the appropriate gemstone — in order, citrine, sapphire, ruby, and emerald.
Almost as an afterthought, he gave the four-button coats surgeon’s cuffs with piping just above to match the pants, figuring that the band would unbutton them and that they would add just a touch of visual flair to their playing as their shirt sleeves flashed beneath. He had figured correctly.
While the wedding party didn’t ride out on Honda unicycles a la the video for I Won’t Let You Down, they did all twirl umbrellas. The bride, groom, best man, and maid of honor had white umbrellas with a red spiral winding from the center, while the rest of the wedding party had solid red umbrellas — yet another incidence of the costume planning colliding with the props to follow Alejandra’s hidden theme, which was also a direct reference to the band’s classic video for the song they were now playing. Alejandra and Jackson had both nixed the idea of having anyone do a quick-change into a Japanese school-girl outfit from that video, though. That would have been too much.
And then it was on to the reception, which was in Grand Park, and in two parts. South of Hill street, on the City Hall side, was the public celebration, everyone invited, and absolutely free — admission, food, beverages, games, dancing, entertainment, whatever. North of Hill up to Grand right below the Music Center was the private party, guest list only, and where Alejandra would be soaking the millionaires and billionaires throughout the course of events. Various bands had been scheduled to play on the landing at the top of City Hall’s steps from one in the afternoon onward — easily viewable by the people south of Hill, and particularly south of Broadway, but a bit farther away and occluded to the hoi polloi north of Hill, especially by the red and white party tents that had been set up to make the rich not have to look at the poor — in their minds — but which Alejandra had intended for the opposite reason: so that normal people didn’t have to look at the rich assholes who were literally above them topographically, but which she considered completely beneath them socially.
She had arranged for her special VIP guests to be told, “Come to the reception for the food, then duck out and go down the hill right after the cake to party with the real people. You’ll enjoy that one a lot more.” That schedule was a lot more interesting and diverse, and was publicized in all of the social media posts and posters like so:
11:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m………………………………………………… Mick, Paul, Keith, and Ringo
Hot off of their Beat the Stones Farewell Tour, half of two famous bands that have become an even bigger legend together give a preview taste of their upcoming final U.S. gig at Amazon Dodger Stadium.
12:30 p.m. — 2:00 p.m…………………………………………….. Meghan Trainor featuring MIKA
“Daft by Design.” Join Meghan Trainor and MIKA as they team up to celebrate and lament love, loss, life, and lollipops.
2:30 p.m. — 4:00 p.m……………………………………………………………… Red Hot Chili Peppers
A special command performance in honor of the royal wedding on the palace steps from 2:30 thence to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, the Twenty-Third of September Two Thousand and Twenty-Nine.
4:30 p.m. — 6:00 p.m…………………………………………………………………………………… OK Go
We’re playing the wedding, but wanted to share with our fans, so we asked and the mayor got the county to let us put on our own show for you all. It’ll be interactive with giveaways and all the usual OK Go fun. DL the App for the full AR experience. See you there!
6:30 p.m. — 8:00 p.m…………………………… Maná with Natalia Jiménez and Special Guests
¡Les invitamos! Domingo el 23 de septiembre, 2029. Ven a la fiesta y disfrútenla, pero por favor no nos falten las dieciocho y media hasta las veinte en el pórtico suroeste del palacio municipal en un concierto corto por todos.
8:30 p.m. — 10:00 p.m………………………………………………………………… OMG OG-a-y-cons
Darlings! Join the last of the red-hot Mamas as they show you they’ve still got it as these Divine Divas revisit their greatest hits. They may be the original generation gay icons, but they are still iconic to this day, and to everyone. Barbra. Bette. Cher. Combined, there’s over 254 years of talent on that stage.
10:30 p.m. — 12:00 a.m………………………………………….. Shakira with Maluma and Pit Bull
¡Ven y bailen con nosotros en un espectáculo muy especial! Nuestros anfitriones serán Argelia y Omar. Tendremos muchas sorpresas, camisetas, carteles, y otros grandes premios. Y presentaremos un estrella invitado/a tan famoso/a que no podemos mencionar el nombre.
12:30 a.m. — 2:00 a.m…………………………………………………………………………………… A-Pop
The world phenomenon boy band that has taken all of Asia by storm is now conquering the west. Treat your eyes and ears to their decadent music and looks as they show off for you in public!
2:00 a.m. — 4:00 a.m………………………………………………………………. DJGomes and VJBDJ
Electro Beats cultivating the House vibe with flavored Italo Disco Cuts on top as we scratch the old skool vinyl with the latest AR and spin hits from the last 75 years of American, Euro, Latin, and Asian pop, rock, dance, disco, EDM, and anything else you can think of. Come with your dancing shoes on and your mind wide open and expect anything to happen.
OMG OG-a-y-CONS had been a compromise. Alejandra had wanted to call it “Octetris,” since all three of them were in their 80s, but they had all rejected the idea — although not as vehemently as Barbra and Cher had rejected Bette’s suggestion of “Octopussies.” Instead, they came up with “OMG OG-a-y-cons.” It was awkward, but if you read it slowly, it scanned, and this turned out to be the most popular event of the evening, despite the stars being a good fifty or sixty years older than most of the audience.
After they wrapped up at midnight, it was a dance party with DJGomes and VJBDJ that went until four in the morning, although the rich people side of the reception would have wrapped and gone off in their limos at eleven p.m. The DJs had wanted to call their show “EDM-Night Shamalamadingdong,” but the county had rejected that idea as culturally insensitive, so they went with their names.
Everything happening on City Hall steps and the southern part of Grand Park had been arranged and paid for by the county as a wedding present to the bride and groom, and also as a trade-off, since Grand Park was actually county-owned and maintained…
To be continued…
Image source: The Ezcaray Reredos altar carving, Our Lady of Angels Cathedral, Los Angeles. © 2017 Jon Bastian. All rights reserved.