Would you dress up as a comic book superhero to attend a wedding? Some friends of mine recently turned down a chance to do just that, and it got me thinking about all the loony ways modern couples try to give their Big Day an extra jolt of pizazz. Wearing zombie costumes. Getting married where they met, even if it’s the Costco frozen food aisle. Or (my personal favorite) having the bridesmaids hold puppies instead of bouquets.
With two family weddings this summer, I was braced for anything: an alien abduction theme, instructions to dress like a StarWars storm trooper, or gathering at the new Taco Bell wedding chapel in Vegas. The invitations we got were somewhat less exotic. For the April wedding, held in the Sierras, Rich and I were to don “mountain formal” attire. “No problem,” I told Rich. “Just buy a buffalo plaid suit!”
The late June wedding involved a posh country club ceremony combining Jewish and Catholic traditions. One Irish grandmother was very keen to include the traditional "Ave Maria" but the kids balked. Incredibly, everyone ignored my suggestion to sing "Ave Maria" to the tune of "Hava Nagila." Go figure.
I managed to pull together an outfit swanky enough for the country club, but it required silver shoes, and here’s where I hit a snag. I no longer wear high heels, which in my view is the most welcome perk of aging. But my collection of dressy flats included nothing in a color that was remotely suitable. Running around to shoe stores, I found every style so uncomfortable I could hardly kick them off fast enough. I kept staring into my closet hoping for a miracle. The best flats I owned were maroon — super comfy but hardly worn because the color was so awkward to work with. Why couldn’t they be silver?
And that’s when it hit me. Why couldn’t they be silver?
Consulting Google, I learned people spray-paint their shoes all the time. It’s fast, cheap, and no, the paint isn’t going to flake off onto the floor like the cloud following Pig Pen in the Peanuts cartoons. Consulting the crafts store staff, I bought specialty fabric spray paint they were confident would do the job. Unfortunately, these particular shoes had apparently been treated with some sort of stain repellant that resisted the spray color with all the vigor of a Victorian maiden spurning the unwanted advances of a drunken lecher. After six coats requiring three $16 cans, my shoes were a ghastly mottled grey-maroon.
Time to employ the nuclear option. From the start, several bloggers had recommended Rust-Oleum, and a single $7 can turned my shoes a sparkling silver with plenty of paint left over. I offered to do Rich’s shoes as well, but for some reason he declined.
As Rich, my silver shoes, and I headed to the wedding, our flight was delayed, and hanging around San Francisco's Terminal 2 we stumbled on an exhibition called Reflections … from the Unknown Museum. Back in the 1970s, a couple of screwball local artists, Mickey McGowan and Dickens “44” Bascom, started collecting iconic domestic objects, such as toys and lunchboxes, that reflected post-WWII American culture. The collection grew into the Unknown Museum, an ironic name as most people (at least of my generation) will instantly recognize practically everything displayed.
Rich and I were having so much fun exploring the Unknown Museum that we almost missed our flight. I’m so glad we didn’t, as the wedding was tremendous fun. No, I’m not going to provide a lot of details or photos; amazingly enough, I’ve discovered not all my relatives, friends, and casual acquaintances are keen to have their personal lives laid bare in this blog. Like me, many of them didn’t grow up with Instagram and still retain quaint notions of privacy. But I will say that I love my new in-laws, laughed a lot, and thankfully did not leave a trail of Rust-Oleum flakes behind me on the dance floor.
Afterwards, Rich and I talked a lot about connections — the ones that last a life time and those that come along seemingly at random, often leading to unexpected friendships and surprising outcomes. In fact, life is like one of those classic Rube Goldberg devices, the kind where one small move — such as lifting a spoon — pulls a string that jerks a ladle, which throws a cracker, making the toucan spring off its perch, sending seeds tumbling into a bucket, and after the cord, lighter, skyrocket, sickle, and string have all come into play, the pendulum eases the napkin across your chin to wipe up any dribbles. And you are ready for another sip of from the soup of life.
I took this picture of Rich at a Rube Goldberg exhibition we visited during our road trip. Goldberg was a Pulitzer-prize winning American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor. He’s most famous for his cartoons, launched in the 1920s, depicting complicated gadgets designed to accomplish simple tasks in a series of indirect, impossibly convoluted moves. Today, some seem almost like premonitions of modern technology.
As Rich and I attempted to operate some of the exhibition’s hands-on contraptions, I was struck all over again by the astonishing inventiveness of the human mind. Look at all the useful stuff we’ve come up with over the years: fire, the wheel, the Internet, duct tape. To say nothing of spray paint. Not everything has worked out so well for us (yes, climate change, I’m thinking of you). But even such time-wasting foolishness as Silly Putty, pet rocks, and Rube Goldberg’s gadgets have provided us with chuckles to lift our spirits and remind us it's fun to be alive.
I chuckled a lot at the wedding, especially during the vows written by the young couple. Heartfelt, funny, moving; one minute they had us roaring, and then the bride and half the guests dissolved in tears. Afterwards, when I congratulated them on their beautiful words, the groom said, “Yeah, I kind of ran out of ideas at the end. So I used ChatGPT to finish it.” And the bride laughed and said, “Me too!”
We all take shortcuts that seem sensible at the time. “Things that look like shortcuts,” says author and tech guru Seth Godin, “are actually detours.” And as every traveler knows, detours are when things tend to get more interesting, taking us off the beaten path and down side streets filled with fresh possibilities. Sometimes the best way to get somewhere isn't to follow a straight line.
Looking back, I’m so glad I was desperate enough to spray-paint those shoes. It's comforting to know that from now on I can always have perfectly color-coordinated footwear in the time it takes paint to dry. Would it have been easier just to buy a new pair of flats? Maybe. But then, this wouldn’t have been much of a blog post, would it?
JUST JOINING US? THE NUTTERS' WORLD TOUR SO FAR
IN PROGRESS: THE NUTTERS' TOUR OF CALIFORNIA
Please, Please, Please Don't Ask Me to Sing Karaoke (San Anselmo)
Keeping It Strange & Wonderful for Future Generations (Fairfax Festival)
Why Isn't Anyone Banning My Books (Alameda)
When Pigs Fly (Yes, They Can!) (Sacramento Pig Races)
Do You Believe in Magic? (Alameda's Macabre Market)
My Close Encounter with the Skeptic Society (Outer Space)
The Nutters' Guide to Modern Comfort Food (My Kitchen)
Relationships: Do Humans Stand a Ghost of a Chance? (Hangtown)
For Nutters, There's No Place Like California (Petaluma Chicken & Egg Day)
Can Artificial Intelligence Help Me Plan the Next Nutters Tour?
RECENTLY COMPLETED: THE NUTTERS' TOUR OF SPAIN
Spain Never Runs Out of Offbeat Curiosities (Zaragoza, Barcelona, Tarragona)
I Travel Deep into the Heart of Nuttiness (Palencia & Pamplona)
Road Warriors: Let the Good Times Roar (Léon & Oviedo)
Travel Alert: You Can't Always Get What You Want... (Madrid & Burgos)
Gobsmacked at Every Turn but Embracing the Chaos (Jaén & Valdepeñas)
All Aboard for the Nutters Tour of Spain (Packing & Organizing)
WANT TO STAY IN THE LOOP?
Subscribe to receive notices when I publish my weekly posts.
Just send me an email and I'll take it from there.
And check out my best selling travel memoirs & guide books here.
PLANNING A TRIP?
Enter any destination or topic in the search box below. If I've written about it, you'll find it.
This blog is a promotion-free zone.
As my regular readers know, I never get free or discounted goods or services for mentioning anything on this blog (or anywhere else). I only write about things I find interesting and/or useful.
I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain and my home state of California. Right now I'm on a Nutters' World Tour seeking eccentric people, quirky places, and wacky food so I can have the fun of writing about them here.
Don't miss out!
SIGN UP HERE
to be notified when I publish new posts.
Planning a trip?
Use the search box below to find out about other places I've written about.
Winner of the 2023 Firebird Book Award for Travel
#1 Amazon Bestseller in Tourist Destinations, Travel Tips, Gastronomy Essays, and Senior Travel