Last updated Sunday, April 11, 2004 . Best viewed at a monitor resolution of 1024x768 or better.

A Tale of 2 Weddings

San Francisco City Hall, 2:30 pm, March 10, 2004

Lee (center) & Pat (right) get married just 24 hours before the California State Supreme Court halted same-gender weddings

At the moment of commitment the universe conspires to assist you.

-Barbra Streisand speaking on The Actors Studio with James Lipton

Last update: Sunday, April 11, 2004 11:49 AM

WEBMASTER’S NOTE: Many of the hyperlinks on this page go to VR (Virtual Reality) 360º photographs (e.g. Fisherman’s Wharf) on other websites. Since those sites do not explain how to view the images, I’ll try to explain here for those of you who may not be familiar with them.

First of all, choose the size of the image you wish to view based upon your monitor size and internet connection type. If you have a large monitor and a high-speed DSL or better internet connection, choose the larger image.

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Use your CONTROL or SHIFT keys (Mac) to zoom in or out on the image. Frankly, I don’t know the corresponding keys to use on the PC to accomplish this zoom effect, but hopefully someone will email me and let me know.

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Where do I begin? October, 1996 when Pat & I first met? November, 1996 when I moved in? April, 2001 when we re-financed the house and my name went on the title next to Pat's? January, 2004 when Gavin Newsom was sworn in as the new mayor of San Francisco?

I think I’ll begin with February 11, 2004 when Mayor Newsom ordered his city employees to start issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples in San Francisco. No one thought it would last more than a few days; surely the governor, the attorney general, or some judge would step in and put a quick halt to it all. Pat and I watched the news reports like everyone else around the country with awe and fascination, never even entertaining the thought of simply driving across the bridge and joining into our nation’s newest form of civil disobedience, but at the same time loving every minute of it.

Four days into the San Francisco gay marriage frenzy, we quietly celebrated my 56th birthday. On Thursday, February 19th, I awoke with the sinus infection from hell whose misery all the Sudafed pills at Walgreens could not alleviate. The sinuses in my face were so swollen that I had to stuff my nostrils with Kleenex just so I could sleep at night and I had to wash my entire collection of 37 or so handkerchiefs once a day just to have something to blow my nose into. I was so miserable that it was difficult to sit in a chair and watch the news reports on the marriages in San Francisco, much less consider joining in.

Sunday evening, February 22, an old friend from Omaha, Guy Gerhard, called to say that he and his partner, Heath Eigenberg, had an appointment at San Francisco City Hall on Wednesday, March 10, at 9:00 a.m. and would be driving out here, leaving Omaha on the preceding Saturday. Could they stay with us? Between blowing my nose profusely and sneezing, I quickly said, “Of course!” They’re arrival would be in just two weeks and I hoped the sinus infection would be gone by then.

Monday morning I got some stronger Sudafed from Walgreens and, coupled with an Excedrin chaser, it seemed to alleviate the symptoms though clearly it was not addressing the infection. In any event, I was able to function well enough to call San Francisco City Hall to see if there was a snowball’s chance in hell that Pat & I could have a double ceremony with Guy & Heath. By this time City Hall was so swamped with requests that they had brought in volunteers to man the phones and the volunteer I spoke with didn’t know the answer to my question. He did check the city’s website and told me that if I signed up on the internet, the first available appointment was on April 30th.

On March 4th, three weeks into the sinus infection, three days before Guy & Heath’s scheduled arrival, and still no end in sight, I finally headed down to Highland Hospital to see a doctor who prescribed a cocktail of the Sudafed I had already been taking plus amoxicillan to attack the infection itself. By Saturday I could finally function halfway decently and certainly well-enough to help Pat clean the house top to bottom. Knowing Guy & Heath had left their home at five o’clock that morning, I kept calling their cell phone to check on their progress. All I can say is those boys must have some heavy feet because by the time Pat and I went to bed Saturday night, Guy and Heath were at a motel in Wells, Nevada.

Sunday, March 7, 2004

They called us around one o’clock Sunday afternoon from Reno and said they were going to take an hour or so to see the city. I tried to discourage them to no avail. When you live in the Bay Area you know that the skiers head back from the Sierras on Sunday afternoons. Sure enough, when they got to Sacramento around four, they hit gridlock. They spent nearly two hours just getting through Sacramento. Fortunately, they arrived here a little after 7 p.m. in plenty of time to watch the season opener of The Sopranos at nine o'clock. Turns out all four of us are hooked on the HBO show.

But first things first: feed them after two days of being cooped up in a car. On the previous Friday our incessant winter rain storms and chilly temperatures (mid 50s to low 60s) had come to a screeching halt and were replaced with sunny days and 80 degree temperatures. It was as if we had skipped spring altogether and gone directly to summer. The weather was far more pleasant than that experienced by our guests from Philadelphia last April. And this was early March! Better yet, the forecast indicated the summer-like weather would continue through the entire week. On Saturday, I uncovered our backyard patio furniture and propane grill, so the four of us headed out to the patio and grilled some hamburgers. It was a much-needed relaxation for them after the long drive and for us after the excited anticipation of their arrival coupled with the intensive all-day housecleaning.

By nine o'clock we were all comfortably seated back in the living room and ready to watch one of our favorite shows. One look at Guy and Heath after The Sopranos finished at ten o’clock told us 1600 miles of driving in 40 hours had taken its toll and we sent them off to bed.

Monday, March 8, 2004

When Guy had first called us to say they were coming out, he told me that they would be leaving immediately after their 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning ceremony to honeymoon in Lake Tahoe and already had reservations there. That left us with only two days to show them the sites around the Bay Area.

Monday morning Pat called in to work to take off the next three days for personal leave; first time he’s ever taken off work while we had out-of-town visitors. After morning coffee, the four of us piled into my car and headed three blocks down the street to Evergreen Cemetery to show them the tombstone erected in memory of the Jim Jones Jonestown, Guyana tragedy victims who are buried there. Next stop, Sarber’s Camera Shop in Montclair to get Heath a card reader for his digital camera to replace the one he had accidentally left at home.

Guy (left) and Heath at Oakland's Mormon Temple

View of downtown Oakland from Skyline Drive

A mile back down the freeway, we stopped for a few minutes on the grounds of the Mormon Temple where our guests got a view of our city, then up to Skyline Drive in the Oakland hills to enjoy the views of the Bay Area and the homes clinging to the wooded hillsides. We then drove down the east slope to the redwood forest at Canyon and got out of the car to enjoy the 200-foot tall trees. We did lunch at the Oakland Grill in downtown Oakland’s Jack London Square, then walked over to the marina to see the estuary and all the boats.

Just as we got there, two tall-masted 19th century sailing ships were making their way up the estuary. They had sailed into the bay from Hawaii and stopped off in San Francisco for the tourists there to admire for a few days. Now they would berth at Oakland before returning to Hawaii. Heath and I were standing out on the end of the San Francisco Ferry pier taking pictures of them when they set off their canons; totally startled, we nearly landed in the water.

Tall ship from Hawaii enters Oakland estuary.

Canon firing scares the be-jesus out of all of us.
Still early in the afternoon, we headed across the Bay Bridge for Guy and Heath’s first visit to San Francisco. Getting off the bridge at the Fremont Street exit, I headed over to the financial district and turned onto California Street. We drove atop the cable car tracks to the crest of Nob Hill, passing the Mark Hopkins and Fairmont Hotels, and made a left onto Mason Street. Guy and Heath, in the back seat, saw the whole city drop out of sight below us as I started down the hill at a nearly 45º angle. The steep descent down Mason Street to Market below is one of the more popular San Francisco car chase locations in many movies.

For the next 45 minutes I went frantic trying to find a way to turn eastbound onto Market, crossing over multiple times and circling several blocks. Eventually I succeeded in outwitting the myriad of NO LEFT TURN, NO RIGHT TURN, and ONE WAY ONLY San Francisco street signs and pulled into the parking lot at the Ferry Terminal Building across from Justin Herman Plaza. By this point we had nicknamed Heath, Ansel (as in Ansel Adams), because he was clearly the avid photographer of the pair. He was particularly enamored with the Ferry Terminal Building with its huge Port Of San Francisco neon sign. Pat and I continued to point out the nearby sights of interest: Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge we had just crossed, etc. and peppered the sightings with local knowledge such as the movie studios on Treasure Island where Don Johnson’s now cancelled San Francisco cop show, Nash Bridges, had been filmed.

Port of San Francisco Ferry Terminal Building

Heath & Guy pose before the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge

Lee (left) & Heath wait outside for Guy to finish his shopping at the Ghirardelli Chocolate store.

Back in the car, we drove the fifteen blocks north to Fisherman’s Wharf, parked again, and strolled through the fish market, the marina, and the souvenir stores where Guy bought some shot glasses he had promised to get for his sister. Both of them went nuts when we walked into the Ghirardelli Chocolate store. From there we wandered across the street to Pier 39 where we took in the street performers and the sea lions gathered on the floating docks.

Lee (left) and Guy enjoy the aroma of fresh crab at Fisherman's Wharf.
Heath (left) & Guy at the Fisherman's Wharf Marina.
Note the progression of sunburn on their faces!

Alcatraz as seen from Fisherman's Wharf.

Although still tired from their long drive plus all the sightseeing we were doing, their appetite to see even more seemed insatiable, so we left Fisherman’s Wharf, drove through the Marina District, and parked at Fort Point, directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. Ansel started deleting photos from their cross-country drive to make more room on their digital camera’s chip and kept snapping pictures from every conceivable angle. Though we offered, they admitted they didn’t have the energy left to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sea lions at Pier 39.

Guy (left) & Heath under the Golden Gate Bridge.

The sun was going down and I decided it would be an excellent time to show them Cliff House and Ocean Beach.. Heath’s first view of the Pacific Ocean. Strangely enough for San Francisco, we immediately found a parking spot along the cliff and our two guests, giddy with excitement, rushed down to the beach and trudged across the sand towards the water’s edge. The sun was just setting on the water, so both took out their cell phones, called loved ones back home, and held their phones up towards the pounding waves for their listeners to hear the roar of the ocean. Of course, their intent was to make the call recipients insanely jealous for which the universe promptly struck Guy and Heath with a dose of hubris by sending a rogue wave in that washed over their shoes, socks, and nearly up to their knees.

After the sun disappeared into the ocean, we poured our tired bodies back into the car and drove through a very dark Golden Gate Park. Guy wanted to see Haight-Ashbury, so we headed over there in search of the remnants of San Francisco’s psychedelic past. From the Haight we drove over to the nearby Castro District to see the gay mecca of the planet. Too tired to do any more walking, not to mention Guy and Heath’s wet feet from Ocean Beach, we viewed everything from our passing car, then headed back to our house in Oakland for a change of footwear. Pat and I fed the cats, then we all piled back into the car and headed down to the Green Garden, an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet about two miles from our house. Too tired to cook at home, we all inhaled the food just before closing time at 9 p.m.

We followed that up with a quick trip over to the beach in Alameda to see the lit skyline of San Francisco. Back home by ten, we urged Guy and Heath to stay up for the eleven o’clock news in an effort to adjust their internal clocks to the Pacific time zone and avoid awakening the next morning at 5 a.m. They watched the news, went to bed, and crashed. It was a pretty exhausting day containing far more than I had initially planned.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

They still got up at 6 a.m., so staying up for the eleven o'clock news the previous night clearly didn't work. Showers for everyone, coffee for Pat and me, and diet Cokes for Guy and Heath eased us all into the morning. The fellows borrowed our computers to check on their email. I busied myself downloading yesterday’s photos from their camera onto my computer so they’d have an empty chip to work with today. Since I had originally planned to save touring San Francisco for today, yesterday’s activities left me with only a few locations left to show off. We got over to the city a little after eleven and stopped for breakfast at Mel’s Drive-in on Lombard Street in the Cow Hollow district, a chain of 50’s-style restaurants featured in the movie American Graffiti.

Heath's shot out the moon roof of the car as we cross the bridge.

Heath & Guy at Vista Point,
the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge

Entrance to Muir Woods.

Back in the car, we headed across the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped at Vista Point on the north end. Ansel clicked away through the moon roof of the car as we crossed and at the Vista Point parking lot, he really went to town recording the panorama. It was another gorgeous day in the Bay Area with not a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the upper 70’s. Then we headed up 101 past Sausalito to the Highway 1 cutoff which we took up into the Marin hills to John Muir Woods, arriving around 1:30 in the afternoon.

Muir Woods is a grove of first growth redwood trees, many of which are over 350 feet tall and over 1,000 years old. It is truly an awe-inspiring place. We followed the trail along Redwood Creek through the tall trees for a mile to the end of the floor of the canyon, sitting down frequently to rest. Heath’s back was giving him trouble, but clearly all of us were a bit spent on energy from the previous day’s activities. On the way back, we all got brave and took the Hillside Trail footpath that hugs the side of the canyon halfway up its side. It was neat viewing many of the same trees at their halfway point in altitude.

Heath (left) & Guy are dwarfed by 350' redwood.

Heath (foreground), Guy, and Pat relax on bench
in Muir Woods National Monument.

Guy (foreground), Heath, and Lee hike down narrow Hillside Trail hugging canyon wall of Muir Woods.

We returned to the city in late afternoon and drove the guys to the top of Twin Peaks for a heart-stopping view of San Francisco. Once again, Heath got very assiduous with his digital camera. We had planned to have dinner at the Metro, one of Pat's and my favorite Chinese restaurants on Market Street in the Castro, but it was still a little early for dinner. So, we wandered through some residential neighborhoods until we came upon Alamo Square, a San Francisco city park adjacent to the six ladies, a row of Victorian homes purportedly the most photographed houses in the world. Alamo Square is also a dog park and we spent some time talking with several of the dog walkers and petting their animals.




Downtown San Francisco as seen from Twin Peaks.

Guy peaks over the wall at Twin Peaks to enjoy the dynamic vista of the city and the surrounding Bay Area.

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge as seen from Twin Peaks.
The Campanile (bell tower) of U.C. Berkeley can be seen in the center of the background hills.

The "Six Sisters" across from the city park at Alamo Square.

San Francisco City Hall as seen from Alamo Square.

Off to dinner at the Metro and, miracle of miracles, we found a parking spot on 15th Street, just up the hill from the restaurant. Lo and behold, the Metro was closed... as in permanently... as in the whole restaurant had been stripped down to the bare floors! Time to come up with a Plan B. We walked up Market Street and down Castro in search of another bistro. Left onto 18th Street from Castro where Pat and I knew there were several good restaurants, many of which we had eaten in before.

We checked the menu posted outside of the Bistro LaMooné, but Guy and Heath didn’t seem too excited over Asian-Fusion cuisine. Little did Pat and I know at the time that we would be returning to LaMooné on Friday evening with his niece Kristin and her boyfriend Anthony. For now our sole focus was on getting Guy and Heath to the alter on Wednesday morning and sending them back to Omaha with some great memories. We headed directly across 18th Street and walked into the Red Grill with its more standard American classics. We were seated in the open-air patio in the back surrounded by trees, plants, columned space heaters, and other diners.

Famished, we all tore into the homemade loaf of bread on the table, asked for a second, and a third. Pat ordered a Beam & 7 while I sipped on a Corona with lime. Both Guy and Heath abstain from alcohol and were content with diet Cokes and glasses of water. A third of the way through my beer, the water boy came by to refill the glasses and we were so engrossed in conversation that I didn’t notice he refilled my beer glass. Pat had the pork chops and I settled for the New York Steak special swimming in a tasty sauce. Guy ordered the whiskey flank-steak and Heath the grilled chicken.

After a wonderful dinner, we strolled through the Castro stopping to peer into shop windows and take in the ambiance of the neighborhood. Guy and Heath went into one shop and bought some cookies. Eventually we found ourselves back at the car parked on 15th Street, piled in, and headed for the Bay Bridge back to Oakland. Along the way, Heath mentioned he’d like to get a night shot of the Port of San Francisco, so we exited the middle of the bridge onto Treasure Island where he got some really great night shots of the San Francisco skyline.

The Bay Bridge as seen from Treasure Island.

The Port Of San Francisco (Ferry Terminal Building) as seen from Treasure Island.

It was 9:40 when we got back to Oakland and I had promised our friends, Bill and Gary, that we'd stop by to introduce our Nebraska/Iowa visitors. Exhausted, we kept the social call to 45 minutes. Back home by 10:30 p.m., I downloaded the day’s photos from Heath’s camera while Pat fed the cats and our guests showered and went to bed. Tomorrow was the BIG DAY! Pat and I had no clue at the time that it was to be our BIG DAY as well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004: THE BIG DAY!

Back-to-back 14-hour-days of intensive sightseeing had taken its toll on all of us. For Guy and Heath it was the 40-hour car trip; for me it was the medication and the sinus infection that strained my physical resources. Even Pat was worn out from the whirlwind housecleaning we did over the weekend in preparation for our guests’ arrival. But, as we all got up at six o’clock Wednesday morning, we all mustered the energy to get through one more day, which we believed at the time, would be a thankfully short one. Guy and Heath’s ceremony was scheduled for 9 a.m. We should be back at the house in Oakland by 10 a.m. And by 11 a.m., our guests should be loaded up, out of our driveway, and headed up to Lake Tahoe for their honeymoon. With that collectively in mind, everyone got dressed this morning in a great mood.

Guy and Heath, of course, put on suits and dress shoes. As an official witness, I did likewise. Pat, on the other hand, does not own a sports jacket, so he donned his best olive green slacks, a dress shirt, and his nicest pair of shoes. For the previous two days of sightseeing we had all worn comfortable walking shoes. But this was a special occasion and we didn’t expect we’d be doing much walking. We couldn’t have been more wrong about the day we were about to embark upon.

By seven o’clock we piled into the car once more and drove down Seminary Avenue to the Coliseum BART station. Everybody got their tickets and we headed up to the train platform. Within ten minutes a San Francisco/Daly City train pulled into the station and we boarded. Twenty-five minutes later we exited the underground Civic Center Station into the sunshine of another fabulous San Francisco morning and walked over to City Hall. Several couples had already gathered on the steps and were having their pictures taken while everyone waited for City Hall to open at 8 a.m. We congratulated and chatted with each other. Many were from California, but several were from out of state and a few from Europe. The excitement and happiness of what we were all about to participate in enveloped all of us.

Lee (left) adjusts Heath's tie at Coliseum BART station before catching train to San Francisco.

Lee (back to camera) shows route to Guy & Heath.

Ronnie Caropreso (L) & Stacey Mark of Charlotte, North Carolina pose on steps while waiting for City Hall to open up for the day's business.

Guy and Heath pose in front of San Francisco City Hall before going in to be married.

Heath (left), Lee, & Guy admire San Francisco City Hall prior to going inside.

Morning Tai-Chi exercisers in front of San Francisco City Hall .

Several were taking photos with digital cameras, camcorders, and even old-fashioned film. Several of us exchanged business cards with email addresses to get copies of each other’s photos. At eight o-clock we all started going through security, allowing those with the earliest appointments to go first. The guards directed all of us to the County Clerk’s office in Room 146 which was through the rotunda and down the hall to the right. I headed to the nearest restroom and silently prayed that all of Guy and Heath’s paperwork would be in order.

Couples and their supporters wait their turn in the anteroom of the City Clerk's office (background).

A sunburned and perspiring Heath looks on as Guy fills out the last of the paperwork for their marriage certificate.


I found Pat in the anteroom of the County Clerk’s office where he told me that Guy and Heath were still inside at the desk. The room was packed with happy couples, some chatting amongst themselves while others sat before a long table filling out papers. Guy and Heath came out of the Clerk’s office and said they had to wait to hear their number called. I grabbed Pat and said, “Let’s go in and ask them if we can sign up for an appointment here rather than do it on the internet.”

“Let me check the computer,” the County Clerk’s office worker said to us warmly. He returned in ten seconds: “How does 2:15 this afternoon sound to you?” Stunned, I barely glanced at Pat before blurting out, “WE’LL TAKE IT!!!”

“How much,” I asked the clerk.
“Eighty-two dollars.”
“Do you take plastic?”
“Cash or check.”

Thank God I had gotten a cash withdrawal from the ATM back on Saturday. I pulled out four twenties, but had nothing smaller. After going weak in the knees, putting both hands on my face, kissing me, crying, and saying, “I love you,” Pat coughed up a buck. Between us we didn’t have another dollar. I ran out to the anteroom and told Guy what had happened and could he spot me a buck? He forked one over and I ran back into the Clerk’s office and exchanged the eighty-second dollar for the papers we would have to fill out and return by 2:15.

By the time we walked back to the anteroom to see Guy and Heath, Pat had morphed into his freaked-out flaky-fairy alter-ego. I explained in detail to them what had just happened and consequently, they’d have to delay their departure for Lake Tahoe in order to witness for us. I think they were happy for us, but can’t be sure; I was in my own personal fog over the import of what had just transpired.

It was 8:20, and with forty minutes left to go before Guy and Heath’s ceremony, Pat and I decided to head outside for a cigarette. If there was ever a time we needed to inhale nicotine, this was it. Out on the back steps of City Hall, Pat was a steady stream of “Oh my God” and “I’ve got to call so-and-so.” He fumbled with his cell phone and was unable to contact any of our close friends or relatives who might be able to come over to the city on a moment’s notice to witness for us. In all fairness, most of their numbers weren’t stored in his cell phone’s limited database. For the few that were, he kept hitting the wrong buttons. Since we were witnessing for Guy and Heath, we certainly wanted them to witness for us but it would have been nice to have at least one of our local friends or relatives there. But fate had tossed us a huge wave and we were determined to ride it out.

After clearing security for a second time, we found Guy and Heath inside at 8:45; their number had just been called and it was time to head to the rotunda for their ceremony. Heath handed me their camcorder and showed me how to use it. Their deputized city official, DJ Dull according to his nametag, met with us and we all headed up the grand staircase to pick a spot for the ceremony. Guy and Heath chose a recessed nook at the very top of the stairs and the ceremony began.

City official DJ (left) consults with Heath & Guy prior to beginning the marriage ceremony.

Pat was supposed to take still photos with his film camera or perhaps it was Guy and Heath’s film camera. I was so intent on capturing the best video possible that I kept my eye to the viewfinder to the exclusion of everything else going on around me. I think I circled around the couple and DJ to get different close-ups, but can’t be sure until I see a copy of the video. I never did notice what Pat was doing. I vaguely remember Guy and Heath exchanging the wedding bands they had bought for the occasion and had shown us back at the house. Eventually I heard the words made famous by all the media coverage of the San Francisco gay marriage circus: “I now pronounce you spouses for life!”

They smiled, they hugged, they kissed, I zoomed in with the camcorder. They thanked DJ while I ran down the stairs to videotape their descent from the grand staircase into the rotunda as Rosie O’Donald and her partner had done just a few days before. Congratulations all around from both Pat and me as well as total strangers in the building who were waiting around for their own ceremonies. It was a magical moment that was to be repeated for Pat and me in less than five hours.

Heath (left) and Guy pose on the grand staircase in the rotunda of San Francisco City Hall immediately after their ceremony.

Guy & Heath's "souvenir" marriage certificate issued as
a courtesy by the City of San Francisco.
Both certificates had to be signed by Pat and myself as witnesses.

Guy & Heath's Official marriage certificate.

Picture taking and congratulations over, it was off to the recorder's office to pick up their official marriage certificate. Sitting on the recorder's counter was a two-foot-high sign containing a quote by John Shelby Spong, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, New Jersey, that so perfectly captured the City of San Francisco's position on the issue of gay marriages. With the coveted official marriage certificate in hand, we returned to the rotunda to get ready for Pat's and my ceremony. So, what to do with those five hours? We were all exhausted from two days of sightseeing and the dress shoes we were wearing were already killing all of us. Walking through the city would be painful for everyone, but waiting at City Hall would bore us out of our minds. We decided to head up to Market Street and find a place to have breakfast.

We walked out into the blazing sunshine where the thermometer had already hit 80º and started walking towards Market Street through United Nations Plaza where a farmers’ market had been set up. The heat, the physical exhaustion from two and a half days of sightseeing, and the lack of sleep from the previous night were all taking their toll on us. But, more than anything else right now, it was the dress shoes that were killing us. Guy stopped at one stand to sample some popcorn. Left turn onto Market Street and we started walking uptown in search of a cafe for breakfast. Three blocks later we found one and sat down at the sidewalk tables. Less than three minutes later the sun drove us inside; if only we had the energy to cross to the shady side of the street. It took a lot of effort just to move indoors.

We stretched out breakfast as long as possible, content to have chairs beneath our butts and the weight off our cramped feet. It all came down to how we could kill another four hours. Despite the medication I was taking, I started feeling the symptoms of my sinus infection coming back. The sinuses themselves were swelling up again bringing with them a mild headache. I started sneezing and blowing my nose, and the pressure in my head started to affect my hearing. As we trudged up Market Street, Heath, who was walking along side me, said something I couldn’t discern over the passing traffic and I asked him to repeat it. Unfortunately, he turned his head away from me to look at something in the street as he was repeating and I didn’t catch what he said for the second time.

“Sorry, I still didn’t hear what you said.” At that point, Heath’s temper flared and I flared right back, saying something to the effect of, “Look! I don’t ask people to repeat things for the fun of it.” Somehow we both managed to get past the anger of the moment, but it served to point out just how tired everyone was.

As we approached Powell Street I asked, “Hey, have you guys ever seen a circular escalator?” San Francisco Mall was right across the street and we headed in taking the curved escalators five floors up to Nordstrom’s. Cool air, less walking, and something to look at; seemed just what we needed. But there was nowhere to sit down, so we kept moving, not stopping in any of the mall’s shops. Checked the price tags on some shirts at Nordstrom’s, then back down the escalators to the street. Three hours to go. “Hey, it’s just three blocks up Powell to Union Square. You guys want to see that?” Guy said he’d like to see Macy’s.

By now, even my back was starting to give me trouble. The same appeared to be true for Guy and Heath. Pat was just plain tired and running on adrenaline. We got to Union Square, pointed out the St. Francis Hotel, the Disney Store, Saks Fifth Avenue, Levi Strauss, Macy’s, and Nieman Marcus, then headed over to Tiffany’s to peak in the windows. Pat and I had looked at the Christmas displays in the windows of Tiffany’s many times, but neither of us had ever been inside the store. The four of us walked inside where Guy and Heath found a settee and immediately sat down. Pat and I made one trip around the display cases and concluded our guests would prefer to move on.

We found a shady spot to sit down in Union Square after Guy and Heath bought some diet Cokes from a street vendor. Actually, during the past few days they had never passed up an opportunity to get something to drink and I think we may have hurt their feelings every time they offered to buy us a beverage and we declined. Fact is, Pat and I rarely drink anything.

While sitting on the marble retainer wall under the date palms in Union Square I suddenly remembered that Heath, while seeing my Mac computer at home, had mentioned he had once downloaded Apple’s iTunes software to his PC but had encountered difficulties in running the software. “Hey guys,” I piped up, “a new Apple Store just opened down the street from here last week and I’d like to see it. Maybe we can get an answer to Heath’s iTunes question on his PC there.” With two hours still left to go, the game plan became Macy’s, Apple Store, and hop a trolley back to City Hall. Everyone seemed to be in agreement, so across the street to Macy’s we went. We stopped at a flower vendor's stand at the corner of Geary and Stockton Streets and bought two rose boutonnieres for Guy and Heath. The vendor gladly pinned them on but couldn't change my twenty dollar bill, so I had to borrow the money from Guy for his own "gift."

Pat is the department store tour guide and I happily deferred to his taking over. I had no idea where in the store he would take us or whether Guy and Heath wanted to see anything in particular. My back and my feet were screaming at me by this time, not to mention my head from the resurfacing sinus infection. It took the last remnants of any energy I still had just to keep moving and follow wherever Pat took us. After two escalators and no stops, he herded us over to an elevator which we took to the furniture department on the sixth floor. Seeing all the living room furniture before me, I wanted to collapse in some cushy sofa, but stayed with the group until I could determine where Pat was going.

Linda and Lauri (L) pose in City Hall while their bridesmaids and ringbearer wait for the ceremony to begin.

Surprise, surprise! He headed directly over to a couple of nice leather sofas parked next to a window overlooking Union Square and all four of us dropped into them. These were display pieces of furniture not intended for use by exhausted tourists, but I believe all four of us were determined to stay there until we were chased away. That three of us were dressed in business suits probably kept the store clerks at bay longer than would normally be expected, for which we were extremely grateful.

After twenty minutes we moved on. I assumed we were going directly to an elevator, down to street level, and would walk down Stockton Street to the Apple Store where we could probably find another bench or chairs to sit in. Surprise again! Pat took us down one level to the housewares department where we stopped and admired the crystal ware. If there is one thing that Pat should have learned about me over the years, it’s that when my back and my feet start to go out I have to keep moving at a brisk pace; to slow down and look at things just kills me. It’s either walk fast or sit down when my body is in that condition; there is no in between. And, of course, we’re with company who appear to be appreciating the crystal wine glasses and art pieces so I’m compelled to suffer in silence rather than give in to my inclination to scream at him.

Finally we head for the elevator and during the ride down I remembered that we were planning to catch a trolley back up Market to City Hall. MUNI requires exact change and three of us had only twenty dollar bills. Pat was out of money entirely and needed to stop at a Washington Mutual to get some cash. On the way out of Macy’s we stopped at two registers and asked the clerks if they could break a twenty. Both said they couldn’t open their cash drawers without a purchase.

Down Stockton Street two blocks and we arrive at the front doors of the Apple Store. A greeter asked how he could help us and I told him Heath had some questions about the iTunes software for a PC.

“No I don’t!”
“But you said earlier you were having difficulty with it.”
“You’re trying to get me to buy a Macintosh and I don’t want a Macintosh!”
My voice went up 90 decibels: “I AM NOT TRYING TO SELL YOU A MACINTOSH!! You said you were having trouble with the iTunes software you bought.”
“I didn’t buy it! I downloaded it for free from the internet. It was a piece of shit, I deleted it from my computer, and went back to Windows Media!”

I was furious. Heath was furious. Pat and Guy looked on in stunned silence and the poor Apple Store clerk didn’t know what to do. Pat finally broke the standoff with some suggestion that I don’t even remember and, next I knew, we were walking into the store. Apparently I mentioned something about a problem I was having with my G5. The clerk said I could ask one of their experts about it, and since they weren’t very busy, I could probably have an answer in a few minutes. He led me upstairs and Guy followed with me. On the way I mentioned the trolley fare conundrum and the clerk offered to break our twenties for us. One problem solved! Five minutes later I got the answer to my G5 question and we left the store. Pat found Washington Mutual half a block up Market Street and got a cash withdrawal. We walked across to the trolley island in the middle of Market and waited.

Several buses pulled up and the three of them asked me why we weren’t getting on the buses since there weren’t any trolleys in sight. “Because the buses turn off Market to other parts of the city and the trolleys don’t. Besides, we’ve still got 45 minutes to get back to City Hall and it’s only a five minute ride.” We boarded the trolley when it arrived and got off at U.N. Plaza. As we stepped onto the street, Pat announced that he needed cigarettes and disappeared across Market. Heath went to get some Cokes while Guy and I hunkered in the shade of a hotel entrance. None of us had seen which way Pat went and for the life of me I couldn’t spot a single store that looked like it might sell cigarettes.

After what seemed an interminable amount of time, Pat returned and we trudged through the farmers market for the second time and on across the plaza towards City Hall.

Pat and I were now experts at the procedure and where to go. After clearing security we went directly down the hall to the anteroom of Room 146, sat down at the table and filled out the paperwork. Carry the paperwork into the Clerk’s office and shell out another $62 for the ceremony. Pat, now flush from the ATM, covered that one. Hand us a number and wait to be called. Back in the anteroom, we started talking about whether or not to exchange wedding rings... which we didn’t have. We agreed to do the ring exchange during the ceremony using the ring I had given Pat for Christmas seven years ago and the one I had bought myself for my fiftieth birthday.

Suddenly my sinus infection reared its ugly head again and I filled two handkerchiefs. My face swelled up, mucous started draining out my tear ducts, and those lovely stabbing pains attacked my head. Oh crap, not NOW! I headed off to the restroom to take a leak and wash up, perspiring all the way. All the angst of our trip uptown with Guy and Heath was completely forgotten. The world had suddenly shrunk to just two people: Pat and me. I willed myself to get through this.

The sinus attack abated as I came out of the restroom and when I approached the hallway leading back to the Clerk’s office, Pat grabbed me in a frenzy: “They’ve called our number! Hurry! We’ve got to get in line now!!” Left turn towards the rotunda and into the line to wait for a deputized city official to perform the ceremony. Hopefully, it would be DJ, the same fellow that married Guy and Heath. Instead it was Joanna McClure who led us up the staircase and asked us where we’d like to stand.

Pat holds on with closed eyes while Joanna explains the proceeding.

Pat totally loses it as Joanna begins.

We chose a spot in the smaller rotunda beyond the grand staircase and just outside the recessed nook that Guy and Heath had used. Pat was wearing his ferret pendant and I my ferret tie tack. Noticing them, Joanna asked if we had ferrets and when we replied in the affirmative she told us she also had ferrets and knew this fellow in the East Bay that she had called periodically for health advice on her “girls.” “His name is Lee,” she said, and looking down at our paperwork and seeing my name, blurted out, “Oh my God! You’re Lee!” I recalled Joanna calling me twice about her ferrets, most recently just a week ago.

My love for The Sopranos is rooted in how accurately the writers portray the typical New Jersey penchant for keeping a tight rein on public displays of emotion and the hidden meanings in conversation. It was instilled in me at an early age that one never shows nor discusses their true feelings in front of others. Don’t ask, don’t tell is more accurately attributed to New Jersey than to the Clinton administration. I grew up straining to escape this emotional prison and, although I managed to get away from New Jersey in early adulthood and quickly learned that the rest of the planet does not subscribe to these social tenants, to my dismay I discovered that I brought the rigid dogma along with me.

Sure, I’ve loosened up emotionally over the years to the point that I am no longer welcome amongst most members of my own family. But my childhood rearing is so ingrained in my psyche that my personality still confuses and offends others. Despite all of my self-talk that it’s okay to show my emotions, I just can’t bring myself to do it. And here I stand on the most important day of my life at its most critical moment and in spite of my desire to break out of my shell to enjoy the wonderful feelings I’m having inside, I immediately go into stoic mode: Stand up straight! Listen carefully for your cue to respond! Make sure you’re smiling for the cameras. And for God’s sake, get Pat through this in one piece lest he be reduced to a blubbering pile of tears!

It’s why I love him, you see. He responds to everything emotionally. He is what I can never be but have always aspired to. Okay, so maybe he goes a little further than even I would want... but if I could just be a little more like him and less of the logically-minded control freak.

But it was not to be. The control freak of my mind assumed command of the situation and ordered all other thoughts out of the room. Number one: tune out all thoughts of how my family members were likely to be appalled. Number two: look like you’re in control and know exactly what you are doing. Number three: focus on Pat and do whatever you can to get him through this in one piece. After all, we can’t be going to pieces in public, now can we? It simply wouldn’t be proper.

Pat grasps my hands tightly as the ceremony continues.

On Joanna’s command we joined hands and faced each other. Guy and Heath were somewhere out there in the cosmos, I sensed off to my right, with cameras capturing the moment. I focused on keeping a smile on my face. Tears were streaming down Pat’s and his facial expressions kept switching back and forth between a sweet smile and a blubbering wreck. I winked at him with my left eye so neither Joanna nor Guy and Heath’s cameras would catch it. Didn’t want them to catch me being emotional, you see. The wink worked: Pat switched back to a sweet smile.

It took three more winks to keep Pat together and at one of them he nearly giggled. Oops! Slow down there, Lee; this is almost too effective. Joanna asked us to produce the rings. Pat’s ruby slid effortlessly up to his knuckle and stopped dead. I pushed and pulled to no avail. We were taking too much time! “It’s okay, I’ve got it,” he whispered. His turn. I held my hand out to Pat and he slipped my emerald on up to my knuckle but was having difficulty getting it past. I tried to get it the rest of the way to the base of my ring finger without success and held it in position with my thumb until the ceremony was over.

Lee fumbles with Pat's ring.

Pat struggles to place Lee's ring on.

We made it! Note that Lee still hadn't gotten his ring past the knuckle of his third finger.

A few more sentences from Joanna before the pronouncement of those magical words: “I now pronounce you spouses for life!” In less than a heartbeat Pat had his arms around me and we kissed. My stage smile disappeared into a real one that enfolded my whole being. We turned and thanked Joanna who then had Guy and Heath sign the witness lines on the paperwork.

Arm in arm, Pat and I headed to the grand staircase and started our descent. A few steps down, we heard light applause from the floor of the rotunda. A fair-sized crowd of couples and their supporters was there awaiting their own turns and we suddenly realized it was us they were applauding! Pat and I both smiled broadly and started waving our marriage certificates at them, at which everyone in the rotunda started applauding, waving, and shouting congratulations at us as if we were celebrities. What a moment!

Catching our breath and posing for a few more photos at the bottom of the staircase, reality suddenly flooded back into both of us simultaneously: Guy and Heath needed to get out of town and on the way to their Lake Tahoe honeymoon. We rushed out of the rotunda and over to the recorder’s office to pick up our official marriage certificate and a few minutes later the four of us were walking out of city hall for the last time.

Lee smiles as Pat cries at completion of ceremony.

Waving to the applauding crowds as we descend the grand stairway.

Yes, it was still hot. Yes, we were even more exhausted than an hour ago. Yes, our feet were screaming even louder from within the confines of our dress shoes. But, as if we had breathed a collective sigh of relief, we all knew it was finally over and all we had to do was make it to the Civic Center BART station. We all smiled widely and chattered away amicably as our now lively steps took us across to U.N. Plaza where Guy stopped to buy two bags of popcorn from the vendor who had offered him a sample earlier in the day.

Down to the BART platform we went, where I quickly declared that we may have to pass up an overloaded train or two, but my body was in no condition to stand all the way back to Oakland as we had done on the way over during the morning rush hour. Indeed, the first train through was standing room only, but waiting an additional ten minutes produced a train with open seats we all gratefully fell into for the ride back to Oakland.

As I pulled to the curb across the street from our house, Pat and Guy jumped out to move their cars out of the driveway. I pulled in first, followed by Pat, then Guy, positioning their car for a quick launch. Like midwestern tornados, Guy and Heath started packing and loading their possessions the moment Pat turned off security and unlocked the front doors. I rushed in, turned on the computer, started downloading the day's pictures from Heath's digital camera, and burned all the digital photos taken during the past three days onto a CD for them to take home. Within twenty minutes we all hugged goodbye and their car disappeared around the corner towards the freeway and off to their Lake Tahoe honeymoon.

Inside the house I found a Zip-lock bag containing Heath’s camera battery charger and other accessories sitting on our dining table. Guy’s souvenir shot glasses for his sister and his Ghirardelli chocolate were in a bag sitting atop my bedroom TV. My bedroom was a disaster area as was our bathroom. I stripped my bed and put on clean sheets and gathered up the used bath towels from the bathroom and started a load of laundry. In the interim Pat was straightening up the kitchen. We laughed at the mess, delighted in the knowledge that the 72-hour whirlwind was over, and collapsed into our living room chairs, he with a Coke and me with a Dr. Pepper, and spent the rest of the evening watching TV. Our neighbor, Rona, rang our doorbell with her new puppy in her arms, wanting to introduce him to us. Hoping I didn't sound rude, I told her we were just too exhausted for visitors and asked her to come back tomorrow. Pat went off to his bedroom at nine and I crashed and burned back in my own bed by ten o’clock.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Pat had long since left for his first day back to work by the time I finally awoke at 10 a.m. Obviously my body had needed the twelve straight hours of sleep and I wondered how he would get through his day with only eight. But it was hardly my only concern. His first day back to work was also the day of Penneys' Billion Dollar Jewelry Sale and on every one they hold throughout the year he rarely finds a piece he can’t resist.

Sure enough, my phone rang at ten after eleven, just as my morning coffee had finally kicked in. “I found some wedding bands,” he told me. “Dear God, how much,” I asked? “With my employee discounts, only $6,000,” he told me cheerfully.

Six thousand dollars? Did we really need them? Hadn’t we agreed to designate our current rings as wedding bands? But, but, but is what I heard as he endeavored to justify the purchase with stunning descriptions of the bands in question. “Whatever you decide, dear!” After hanging up I went back to writing emails, processing photos, and writing copy for our website to share the news of our wedding with the rest of the planet.

The phone rang again, this time October calling from Northern Nevada Ferret Network, whose website I manage, wondering why I had yet to post the stories and photos she had sent last weekend. I explained what had transpired during the past four days, hung up, and put the wedding announcements on hold while I worked on her website to catch up. During breaks from the computer I managed to finish cleaning up the kitchen and returning the household to how it looked prior to Guy and Heath’s Sunday arrival.

Around three that afternoon a friend called to tell me the California Supreme Court had just halted the same gender wedding ceremonies in San Francisco. I immediately went up on the web to check and found nothing until the San Francisco Chronicle posted the story on its website at 4:08 p.m. As it later turned out, the court had issued it’s order at 2:15 that afternoon, twenty-four hours to the minute after Pat’s and my ceremony.

The court had not decided the issue of marrying same-gender couples, but rather had halted the ceremonies while it took up the issue of whether San Francisco city officials had the authority to act independently of state law which they contend violates the equal rights provisions of the state's constitution. That decision would be handed down in June and in no way would determine whether the 4,161 same-gender marriage licenses issued by the City and County of San Francisco during the past 29 days were valid.

Pat called again at ten after four to tell me he was on his way home. “And are you bringing something shiny with you,” I coyly asked? “Oh yes,” he replied, “but not the ones I told you about this morning.” I was relieved, mistakenly believing he had managed to find something a little less expensive. “By the way,” I interjected, “it’s over,” referring to San Francisco’s gay wedding ceremonies. But Pat had hit a dead zone in his cell phone coverage and we were cut off.

He walked into the house at 4:45, marched into my office, and started in on the story of the great wedding band heist as he reached into his shopping bag and produced a small jewelry box. “The ones I told you about this morning were actually my second choice because they couldn’t find a matching band to the one I really fell in love with. But when I returned from lunch, the gal from the jewelry counter met me at the door, said she had good news and to report to the counter as soon as I had a free moment. Keep in mind, all of these Lévián trunk-show jewelry sales contain one-of-a-kind pieces. The one I really fell in love with this morning was platinum and while I was at lunch they managed to find an identical setting done in 18 carat white gold. Your’s is a size eleven-and-a-half, but I’m afraid it will still be too small for you; but we can get it resized if need be.”

I opened the box and took out a platinum ring with a pavé of eighteen diamonds with a total weight exceeding 1.5 carats. Surprisingly, the ring was a perfect fit for the third finger of my left hand. I had to admit, it was stunning. Pat slipped on his matching band done in 18 carat white gold. Like mine, his diamonds also weighed in at just over 1.5 carats. “And how much were these,” I asked?”


A tad more than the $6,000 pair he had told me about earlier that morning. But, what the hell; he was clearly happy. “So, with tax they totaled up to about $8,700?”

“Oh no, together they were over $10,000.”

“That’s impossible! The tax is only eight-and-a-quarter percent.”

He went on to explain that with his employee discounts, etc., etc. he got a real bargain when I suddenly realized he meant that EACH ring had been originally priced at $8,000! The final tally for the pair had come to $10,860... with tax. My face went as white as both of the rings. But what could I say? He was clearly happy with them and the symbolism meant a lot. There went our vacation for this year and probably next year as well, but... what the hell... I liked the rings too. And, with the marriage ceremonies now halted by the California Supreme Court, the new symbols of our marriage to each other took on a greater significance than we could ever have imagined.

Those of you reading this who think more with your heads than with your hearts have probably been asking since this missive began what the point of two men getting married is. After all, our marriage certificate isn’t recognized in any American city, state, or town that I’m aware of. And it seems almost certain that the courts, be they state and/or federal, will eventually declare it invalid. The IRS isn’t going to allow us to file a joint tax return. So, what’s the point?

It’s our belief that at some point in the future, perhaps twenty, thirty, or fifty years from now, same-gender marriages will be accepted in American society. But to reach that level of acceptance it is up to us to push the envelope today even though we may not be alive to see it bear fruit. I suppose that as members of our generation, Pat and I feel just a little like Rosa Parks did back in 1954 Montgomery or the Stonewall rioters felt in New York’s Greenwich Village back in 1969. We’re proud to be pioneers.

On another note, I never believed that a piece of paper would have any significant impact on the nature of the relationship Pat and I have shared for the past seven-and-a-half years. I was wrong. The act of standing up and publicly stating our commitment to each other has had a profound affect on both of us. Our relationship has reached a comfort level never before experienced. It has removed the ever present question in all gay relationships, “How long can this last?” True, like the line in Simon & Garfunkel’s song America, we had already “married our fortunes together.” But, a public declaration addresses the needs of the heart. And aren’t we all entitled to the same level of happiness?

With our daily catch-up of each other’s day complete, I headed out to the patio to bake the potatoes and grill the pork chops I had removed from the freezer that morning for thawing. Pat fed the cats, got the veggies ready, and set the patio table. With a clink of our wine glasses and my “dinner music” CD selections softly playing on the backyard’s outdoor stereo speakers we quietly enjoyed our first dinner together as an “old married couple” amongst the splendor of our blossoming garden and the air of a warm spring evening.

Around eight o’clock we schlepped the dinner plates and utensils back into the house and set them on the kitchen counter by the sink. Pat headed off to his bedroom to call several of his family members with the news while I retired to the living room to watch that day’s VCR tapings of Judge Judy, Tom Brokaw, and BBC News. Around 9:30, Pat came into the living room to inform me that his niece, Kristin and her boyfriend Anthony, were taking us out to dinner in the Castro tomorrow night.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Pat’s only sibling, older brother Mike, and wife Charlotte have three adult daughters. Oldest niece, Karen, lives in Atlanta and Pat flew there to visit with her, husband Mark, and their two daughters back in the fall of 2001. Youngest niece Heather, husband Brad, and their children live in L.A. near Mike and Charlotte. Middle niece Kristin is the only member of his immediate family living here in the Bay Area. Just because she lives nearby doesn’t mean we get to see her all that often. She is, after all, a busy attorney in her early thirties, who when not practicing law is frequently backpacking it in the Sierras or hiking secluded beaches along the Mendocino coast. In any event, she and her Uncle Pat are kindred spirits and, along with her boyfriend Anthony have graced us with their presence on a couple of Christmas Eves and proffered promises to visit more often that never seem to materialize.

Pat still in his work clothes and Lee still in his black socks.

When Kristin first heard of the gay marriages being performed in San Francisco she immediately called Pat to ask if we were planning to get hitched and, if so, demanding to be included in the ceremony. It was she that Pat was desperately trying to contact with his cell phone from the back steps of San Francisco City Hall. And when Guy and Heath finally departed for Lake Tahoe, it was Kristin that Pat first called after locating her correct phone number.

Pat takes phone call from Omaha before leaving for night out on the town.

Kristin’s screams of excitement pierced Pat’s ears as he told her of our shotgun ceremony and she insisted on taking us out to dinner in lieu of her missing the event. She and boyfriend of four+ years, Anthony, pulled into our driveway at 5:05 p.m., just minutes before Pat arrived home from work. The two rushed into the house with a boutonniere for me, a daisy crown with trailing bridal veil and a wedding bouquet for Pat, and a wedding cheesecake for the two of us. I nearly died laughing at the wedding veil as did Pat when he got home a few minutes later. She insisted he wear it for the entire evening out in the city. Of course she had also brought along her digital camera and was intent on getting photographic proof to pass along to the rest of the family.

Anthony's first stop was our kitchen to make himself a Beam & Coke and I decided I could use a Beam & 7 as well. I told him I was glad he was wearing shorts and wouldn't have to change out of mine. He glanced down at my black socks and ordered me to change them. "Too old-fogey," he said. If there's anything I like about Kristin and Anthony it's that neither of them are intimidated by my New Jersey bruskness. Anthony's probably the only person that has ever "ordered" me to do anything since I moved to California; I loved it! Clearly I had permission to be myself for the evening without having to worry about its affect on others.

Pat changed out of his work clothes and came out of his bedroom wearing a pink shirt, blue jeans, and a pink belt. It was to be a casual evening despite the fact that Kristin was dressed to the nines. We laughed it up in the living room over a few drinks and took a congratulatory phone call from a friend in Omaha before piling into Pat’s van for the trip down the street to the Coliseum BART station.

Above: Lee, Kristin, and Pat pose for Anthony while waiting for next train in a San Francisco MUNI station.

Right: Pat, wearing his bridal veil and holding his wedding bouquet in MUNI station.

The tone of the evening was an adult version of a seven-year-old's birthday party at Chuckie-Cheese.

Commuters on the platform and riders in the train car smiled, giggled, and/or offered congratulations to Pat and me at the sight of his bridal veil and my boutonniere. A lengthy delay at one station caused Kristin to grab her cell phone and call the restaurant to extend our seven o'clock reservation time. Arriving at Civic Center Station for the second time in as many days, we switched over to the MUNI underground and garnered more knowing smiles and/or congratulations. At seven o’clock we emerged from Castro Street Station and hiked down to 18th Street and the Bistro LaMooné, the same Asian Fusion restaurant that Guy and Heath had decided against on Tuesday night.

We had received a lot of attention from Pat’s get-up and my boutonniere on the train rides over to the city, however we merely blended into the normal fabric of the Castro and the restaurant. The hostess seated us at a graceful, round, glass-topped dinner table, noticed Pat’s wedding bouquet, and returned in a few moments with a vase to put it in, hence sprucing up our table with a lovely centerpiece.

Kristin & Anthony at LaMooné

Though the majority of dinner entrées were of Japanese origin, the serving style was typically Chinese in that each entrée was to be shared by each diner at the table. When our waiter appeared, Kristin immediately ordered a celebratory bottle of champaign while Anthony asked for another Beam & Coke and a fried calamari appetizer for all of us. When the waiter returned with the champaign, he expertly popped the cork without a sound from the bottle and poured its contents into four fluted glasses. After ordering our entrées and a toast to the happy couple by Kristin, the animated table conversation continued.

Pat was sitting next to Kristin and the two of them were in a world of their own discussing our wedding and God knows what else. Anthony and I were seated next to each other and, unable to get a word in edgewise in Pat and Kristin’s conversation, struck up a talk of our own. A native of Kingston, Washington, he had received his electrical engineering degree years ago from the University of Washington but had given up his job in favor of returning to school and pursuing a law degree. Now in his first year of law school at the University of California-Davis, he expressed discontent with his 3.25 grade point average. Kristin jumped in to explain that Anthony, who graduated U.W. with a 4.0, does not deal well with not acing everything.

I’m not a big fan of champaign and, apparently, neither is Anthony as he sipped more on his Beam & Coke and urged me to order a Beam & 7 for myself. When the waiter next came by the table, Anthony ordered me one before I could speak up myself and we all proceeded to get happily toasted while yakking it up and dipping the calamari into the sauce bowl with our chopsticks. Though Kristin, Pat, and I had ordered entrées to be shared... grilled Chinese eggplant for Kristin, crab fondu for Pat, and chicken Yakatori for me... Anthony, who had been up since 4 a.m. and was both tired and starving, had announced that he was ordering the dry-aged Rib-eye steak which obviously, he wouldn’t be sharing... according to him.

Lee & Pat at LaMooné.
Note "wedding bouquet" in vase.

Surprise, surprise! Anthony’s Rib-eye arrived thinly sliced in traditional Asian style and quite suitable for plucking from his plate by the rest of us. Mid-meal, I got the waiter’s attention and asked for another Beam & 7. “I’m sorry sir, but we don’t have any Jim Beam at our bar. Could I interest you in something else?” Confused, I quickly told the waiter that I already had a Beam & 7 and that Anthony was drinking a Beam & Coke. The jig was up and Anthony had no choice but to fess up. “It’s 7 & 7. Let’s face it, you couldn’t tell the difference.” I thought my first drink had been a little weak but had blown it off to a typical bar drink vs. the ones I make for myself at home. Clearly, fast on his toes, Anthony was going to make one hell of a terrific lawyer!

Pat & Kristin behind Pat's fondu pot.

Anthony & Lee ham it up for Kristin's camera.

Knowing we had a wedding cheesecake waiting for us back at the house, we skipped dessert after two hours of sumptuous dining and strolled through the now windy and chilly night air of the Castro back towards the MUNI subway station at the corner of Market. Not a head turned nor an eye raised at Pat’s bridal veil; indeed the denizens of Castro Street that night were more interested in the costumed patrons queued up for the Castro Theatre’s sing-along showing of The Wizard of Oz.

But, while finishing our after-dinner cigarettes at the plaza in front of the MUNI station, Pat did notice two Japanese tourists with a camera who were keeping a polite distance while debating if they dare approach us for a photo. “It’s okay! Come on over and take a picture,” Pat told them. Smiling happily, the one girl joined us in the pose while the other snapped the picture. We chatted amicably with the two girls for a moment or two, then disappeared down the steps into the subway with Kristin and Anthony to catch a train back to BART and home to Oakland.

Lee & Pat "cut the cheese" cake.

Kristin had been taking digital photos of us all evening to commemorate our “wedding supper.” She clicked a few more in the stations and even while riding BART. We gabbed amongst ourselves and even struck up a conversation with another passenger who needed help transferring from our Dublin/Pleasanton bound train to one bound for Fremont. During a few quiet interludes, Pat and I couldn’t help noticing Anthony holding Kristin’s hand and gently massaging her fingers while sitting in the seat in front of us. “He absolutely adores her, you know,” Pat whispered to me. Indeed, I had observed several such romantic moments between the two of them during the course of the evening as well as on other occasions when they had visited.

Back home at the house, Pat and I ceremoniously cut the cheesecake while Kristin dutifully photographed the event for posterity. After serving, eating, and promising Kristin that we would remove the four-inch-diameter top layer and store it in our freezer to be eaten on our first anniversary, Anthony told us that being up since 4 a.m. had taken him past his limit and they needed to get home... quickly! We hugged, we kissed, we thanked them both for a fabulous and memorable evening, and by ten o’clock we were alone again.

Epilog: Be careful what you wish for!

Gay couples and individuals across this land chafe at local demands that they conform to the straight lifestyle. For the most part gays learn to lead double lives, acting/appearing “straight” amongst the society in which they live and letting their hair down and allowing their inner selves to come out only in private settings such as gay bars, the homes of other gay friends, etc. The majority of straight society in this country adheres to the rule, “We know you’re gay; just don’t wipe our faces in it by acting gay.” And then there are those isolated pockets around the country (Rhea County, Tennessee come to mind) where they don’t even allow gays to live.

“Acting straight” in a so-called “free society” is a depressing, mind-numbing, full-time job for many American gays. On one hand some become so adept at it that it becomes second nature. As in Guy and Heath who had so well-programmed themselves to act straight at all times in public that they couldn’t allow themselves to hold hands or publicly show any affection for each other even while visiting San Francisco. Indeed, Guy revealed to me in a phone conversation a few days after they returned home to Omaha that he and Heath felt threatened every time Pat and I engaged in public displays of affection.

Then there are those who cannot be anything but themselves no matter where they are. Sadly it is this group that produces the Matthew Shepherds and Gwen Arguellos of the world. Pat is a member of this group. He can walk arm-in-arm with me down a street in Walnut Creek. He can hold a wedding bouquet while wearing a bridal veil on BART. He can dress in drag for a fashion show at his workplace. And think nothing of any of it. He’s just being Pat.

And me? I fall somewhere in between. I ingrained the ability to act and appear “straight” into my psyche years ago and, if I do say so myself, became pretty adept at it. Always in the back of my mind was the glimmer of hope that someday I could abandon the psychological burden of my double-life. But frankly, I got tired of going to lunch with my boss back in Omaha when I realized I was doing it for appearance sake and she was hoping it would lead to something more. The lure of San Francisco grew ever more appealing.

So, here I am. I’m gay... and nobody cares. I hold my honey’s hand in public... and nobody cares. I have rainbow stickers across my car’s back bumper... and nobody cares. For Pat, a native of the Bay Area, it’s the environment in which he was raised and, although on one level he is aware that life is very different elsewhere, he really cannot comprehend the gravity of it all. For me, after seven-plus years of living here, I, too, am starting to take my newfound freedoms for granted.

Yes, I still act and appear straight to a lot of folks. And yes, Pat is still surprised when I occasionally act a little nelly. But as the years go by, the behavioral balance in my mind is tilted more and more towards being myself at all times. It’s refreshing. A lifelong burden has been lifted. My pangs of guilt have long since evaporated. I've become bored with being the “token gay couple” at our straight friends’ social events.

But my new sense of self comes with its own pitfalls. As my memory of the need to conform fades I find myself genuinely surprised at the Guys and Heaths of the world who cannot allow themselves to act like children, even while visiting Disneyland. The media frenzy over gay marriages in San Francisco seems like just another typical news event in the Bay Area. The Bay To Breakers race, the Gay Pride Parade down Market Street, the Halloween street parties in the Castro... they’re all part of everyday living here and I’ve learned to take them for granted. So why rush over to City Hall and get married? It’ll be here tomorrow.

And when tomorrow came, it all suddenly disappeared. The rest of the country ordered us back into our closets. And, in my newly developed nonchalance, I nearly missed it. I came ever so close to having the closet door slammed back into my face. Close, but not quite. I have a legal document now and the “powers that be” may render it moot. But they’ll never get it back. It’s mine. It’s Pat’s. It’s ours. They gave it to us. And we have the proof!