THE HONEYMOON FROM HELL (AT LEAST FROM THE BRIDE’S PERSPECTIVE)
As told by the Groom
“Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution?” –H.L. Mencken
The wedding was normal enough in most respects. We had a nice wedding in a big church so that the bride could walk down a center aisle (the cathedral of the West Texas diocese of the Episcopal Church; her parents’ Baptist church had no center aisle). The ceremony came off without a hitch. The truth was that we both looked forward to the marriage with some trepidation; although we had known each other for three years, our visits were brief due to geographic separation and we figured that we had only been together three or four days all told. Anyway, the church reception was mainly for the family and friends of the bride, mostly Baptist, for in those days good Baptists did not drink, at least in public anyway. As we all crowded into the basement reception area, the room got very warm and I asked one of the groomsmen, probably my best man and now brother-in-law, to turn down the air conditioner. Instead, he apparently accidentally turned on the heat and while stifling it sure shortened the reception. The second reception was held for close members of both families and assorted non-Baptists at the home of the bride’s parents. Champagne and wine were served along with hors d’oeuvres, and all were well entertained. As the second reception wore on, we were unable to find the bride’s aunt from Louisiana, a tiny elderly woman, very prim and proper. And a teetotaler, we were told. She was later discovered fast asleep in a bedroom, her small size being unable to assimilate the three or more glasses of champagne she had imbibed.
The newlyweds adjourned to a nearby motel where the best man had reserved a room for us under an assumed name—I found out at the reception that the assumed name was that of a notorious gangster, so we slept uneasily that evening.
The next day we were off to Laredo for a day or two, awaiting all the visitors leaving so that we could return to claim our wedding loot and load up for the long trip to Cambridge, where I was to report early for an unexpected induction into a law school honors organization that ran the moot court proceedings. With some stars in our eyes, the evening of our arrival in that pleasant border town we went across the border to Nuevo Laredo to shop a little and then go to the famous Cadillac Bar for drinks and dinner. It was a wonderful evening, with wonderful food, Mexican of course. We ate everything put before us.
A penalty was paid, however. Whether because I was a full-blooded Yankee at that point or got into some bad food, la turistas invaded me and I spent considerable time on the toilet —any available —both in Laredo and in San Antonio, where we returned to pack up.
The packing process was a male’s introduction to the volume of female necessities. We had a Corvair Monza coupe, a sporty little vehicle, and it was packed to the gills. And many items were quite bulky and hard to pack, such as a full size hair dryer, mind you not the kind you hold in your hand these days but one like those in beauty salons, the ones that look like bee hives. So off we went, leaving the bride’s mother and father somewhat sad, but tired and wondering whether the match would work.
This being a honeymoon, we figured that a stop in New Orleans was in order. Neither of us had been there but we were advised to stay a bit outside of the center of town to avoid the high French Quarter rates, and that we did since neither of us had much money to squander. We did indeed find a motel but of course were worried the whole time that in the run down section the motel was in, uninvited guests might well seize the opportunity to “unload” our car for their own purposes, so most of the delicate packing was undone by carrying most of the visible packed goods into our room, including the infamous hair dryer. By then we were ready for some fun, so we went to the French Quarter, had dinner I don’t remember where (see below for why) and then strolled the Quarter, ending up at Pat O’Brien’s, where the music was very good and they served up a drink called a “Hurricane”, allowing you to take along the glasses you were drinking out of. I apparently thought this was great fun, and I figured that the alcohol would kill the bug I had acquired in Laredo. The waitress egged us on by suggesting that I could get two parfait size glasses for every big glass we had consumed. We left with eight parfait glasses some time after that and (luckily) found our motel. Of course it was later than we planned, and we had to hit the road early to be able to get to my parents’ home in Belleville, Illinois. My bride won’t tell me what happened to the treasured Pat O’Brien parfait glasses, but I do remember that we used them a time or two actually for parfaits.
I woke up abruptly the next morning worried about getting to Illinois that day, and red-eyed groped for my watch. In great alarm I announced that it was already 9:15 am, so we jumped out of bed. That was the first time in our brief relationship that she got upset with me, at least the first visible time. Actually it was just 5:45….I was holding the watch wrong. Well, we were up anyway, so we decided to drive on since the Pat O’Brien medicine not only didn’t cure me but made us both feel limpy most of the day and we were certainly not in any garden spot. The next leg of the adventure was most uneventful, a good time in Belleville, my bride seeing the country from Louisiana to Illinois for the first time, the tourista issue slowly subsiding, and most importantly my new bride slowly forgetting my Laredo misadventure and New Orleans mis-timing. After a day or so at my ancestral home, we again packed up our worldly goods, and the packing effort was so impressive my father even took pictures for posterity, since everywhere we went we seemed to add a few things to the packed goods.
We decided to get up early and try to make it all the way to Niagara Falls in one day, and except for a bit of confusion with the Chicago Tollway, we breezed through the countryside. About Ohio, my bride innocently asked, “Did you make reservations at Niagara Falls?” Not having ever made reservations for a hotel anywhere, I replied “What reservations?”, and I instantly saw a mixed look of disappointment and apprehension on her face. Funny how you never get to see all these human reactions from your partner before you tie the knot, but the concern was amicable. Unfortunately (and remember that this was over 50 years ago) the trip took longer than we thought it would and we rolled into town after 9 p.m. After stopping at several nice but old motels we were basically told that there was no room to be had, except perhaps for a hotel downtown. We went there, checked in—it was very seedy and run down, but cheap—and proceeded to try to sleep, only to be kept up most of the night by people of the night, if you know what I mean. My bride has never let me forget that we booked into a flophouse during our honeymoon.
The next morning we were in no mood to spend much of the day looking at the Falls and then get into Cambridge after midnight, so off we went toward Boston, looking forward to a nice comfy and quiet bed in our apartment that I had rented, furnished, near the law school.
That last statement bears some background. My first year of law school was spent with two other guys I knew from college at Harvard, and the apartment we rented, furnished with solid but out of date furniture, was quite acceptable. Once I knew that I was to be married, I went to our landlord, a Mr. Cafasso, to see whether he had anything available for a young couple. He showed me a nice first floor apartment in a three story building next to his own home down the street, roughly behind what was known as the “Divine Triangle” at Harvard—the Divinity School, the ROTC buildings from World War II, and the electron accelerator operated by Harvard. The apartment was of course occupied at the time, with the same solid but out of date furniture as I had at my other apartment, so I gave Mr. Cafasso a deposit and that little task was all taken care of.
Well back to Niagara Falls. As we were leaving that unfortunate place, we got onto what must have been one of the first interstate highways, and it was all clear until we came over a hill to see traffic at a dead stop because a pack of dogs was crossing the road and the initial cars had stopped cold, resulting in a multi-car collision behind them (they let the dogs go by and then went on, leaving the mess behind them). I took evasive action to avoid a full frontal crash with the car in front of me and slid in between the guard rail and the stopped cars, turning slightly to the left but not thinking right then about my bride. Besides, we had just purchased some coffee and she was mixing sugar in mine and had hers resting on the glove compartment door (yes in those days you could do that). Coffee went everywhere, and my bride was near anger because of the coffee and because I had veered to the left, exposing her to the brunt of the crash.
We cleaned ourselves best we could and after the cars disentangled and we discovered that the car was quite drivable but damaged all along the right side, we proceeded on to Boston with yet another delay behind us. My new companion mellowed as we looked forward to sleeping in our own bed that night. Best I remember we rolled into Cambridge around 7, and I went next door to get the key from Mr. Cafasso, whom I must confess I did not forewarn that we were coming.
“Well I can give you the key but what are you planning to sleep on?” he said. “Well, the apartment is furnished and we have a few sheets.” “No, the apartment is unfurnished, so we have a problem. Tell you what. I have a mattress in the basement you can use tonight. Then tomorrow we will figure out what to do.” I did not look forward to announcing the latest problem to my new companion, but of course I had to. Surprisingly she took the new problem in stride. I think I had just worn her out and she was tired and looked forward to sleeping wherever without interruption.
The next day Mr. Cafasso took us to Goodwill and we were able to get most of our furnishings. Since he felt bad for us he contributed a bed he had, and I made a bookcase out of bricks and boards. For couches we bought two doors, put legs on them, bought some foam cushions and my handy new life partner sewed slipcovers for the foam. Looked pretty nice actually, but spare. And once we had furniture in each room we declared the honeymoon over.
And despite all this we lived happily ever after…..
The end of this escapade is really a footnote. Before I could call the insurance company to settle the damage to the right side of my car, I inadvertently backed into a large tree whose trunk grew 4 or 5 inches into the street, denting the right rear corner of the car in a bad place, where there was a graceful curve. Then before the adjuster came I had yet another fender bender; at the end of our block the street ended and everyone parked right up to the corner, so that if you were at the end, you had to pull forward to see whether anyone was coming. I did that and a car immediately came by, scraping the entire front of my car that I had so carefully kept from damage in Niagara Falls. When the adjuster got there I was of course worried that he would make me pay three different deductibles for three accidents, but it worked out. After he had surveyed the damage, he came to the apartment and said “if you will explain all this damage to me I will only make you pay one deductible” I told him the entire story and got the car repaired so that my bride could help support me the next two years.
MORALS TO BE DRAWN FROM THIS STORY:
—Don’t let your husband make the reservations for a trip
—Don’t let you husband plan important events in your life
—And most important, don’t order drinks at a place that lets you take the glass.