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The following is a true story. The names HAVE NOT been changed to protect the innocent. No one was innocent.




Once upon a time, there were three friends. For want of better names, we'll call them Dick, Ray, and Tucker. Their friendship went back to their freshman year in High School and of course, they were very cool. They grew older together each marrying high school sweethearts and each participating in the other's wedding.

Years passed the friendship grew. Ray and Tuck remained married. Dick married and divorced two women before moving in with a lovely woman named Dee. Dee knew that Dick vowed, “to never marry again.”

Dick’s first two wives and eventually Dee discovered Dick had bad habits. Bad habits that are best left to the reader’s imagination.

One afternoon, about an hour and a half into HAPPY HOUR, Dick was very happy. Dick's lady Dee was not. She raised her gavel and threatened, "Richard, either change your ways or I'm out of here!" Only Dick's mother and Dee called Dick, Richard, and only when they were angry. Dick didn’t change his ways. So Dee left Dick and San Francisco and moved into a condo with a swimming pool, two tennis courts, and two golf courses.

Dick, Ray, and Tucker love golf. Dick loved it first. For Dee to move into a condo with two golf courses was especially painful for Dick. "It's like having an acute case of Poison Oak and no Calamine lotion," he said.

Three weeks after Dee departed, Ray and Tucker decided to treat their despondent -- best newly single friend-- to a round of golf at Pebble Beach, in Monterey. Pebble Beach golf course is very expensive. But the trio got their money’s worth by hitting their golf balls many, many, many times.

On the way back to San Francisco, Ray and Tuck quizzed Dick about his newly single status.

“Are you happy?”

Dick, grinned. "Are you kidding? I’m free. Man, you wouldn’t believe how many terrific ladies there are on this planet. Wait till you meet Lydia,” Dick made a bubby chest gesture. “And she loves cribbage, crossword puzzles, and sudoku. I’ll never marry again, but if I did, Lydia . . .” Dick continued to expound as they crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. Apparently Dick was not very despondent.

Twenty-four hours after Dick had stopped expounding, Tucker received a phone.

"Changed my mind, Tuck." Dick cried in a rush. "Gonna do it one more time. I'm getting married."

Tucker gasped and said loudly, much too loudly "You’re out of your mind! You have to be kidding, right? You just met. What’s her name . . . Lydia? The sudoku lady?”

In the background, not far away, not down a hall, or echoing from a cellar, Tuck heard, “Who the hell is Lydia?” Tuck knew that voice. A familiar voice. Dee’s voice. “And what the hell is sudoku?”

Tuck always liked Dee. And before that fateful reply, Dee liked Tuck. But after the ‘You’re out of your mind!' Or the, 'You have to be kidding, right?’ After, Tucked asked about ‘Lydia,’ 'Lydia,' became a blunt, verbal cleaver severing their relationship for almost a year. Dee or Tuck never did discuss sudoku. People should tell people when you’re on speaker phone. It’s the polite thing to do.

Tucker was not chosen to be the best man at their wedding, which may have been the original intent of the call. Ray was chosen. A wise decision. Ray never mentioned Lydia or sudoku. Never.

Dick and Dee decided to have a destination wedding. Not too far away. Close enough so close friends could come. A small contingent joined their celebration.

The wedding was held at the Chapel of Love in South Lake Tahoe, overlooking Harvey’s gambling casino.

Reverend Gregory Luste presided. Reverend Luste, stoic, sixty, with white hair, with a tiny blond streak combed straight back, was a no-nonsense-marrying-man. Marrying was Luste’s vocation. But the contingent consensus was Luste could have made a fortune on a T.V. ministry fleecing money from god-fearing Christians.

He gestured to the neon lights blinking around the ceiling and staircase of his knotty pine chapel. “When the lights go on, the bride will descend the stairs. Do you understand?” Tuck and Ray and the rest nodded vigorously. Luste fingered a tall, plastic Calla Lily and leaned against a six-foot-six ebony box. The assembled realized it was a coffin. The Chapel of Love was used for more than one purpose. No one wanted to tell the Bride or Groom. But there were a few stifled laughs and whispered comments. Reverend Gregory Luste had been blessed with excellent hearing.

Suddenly, Reverend Luste spun around, waved an arm, and exclaimed. "This a temple of the Lord," he pointed to two video cameras mounted on opposite walls. "And the Lord is watching. Once you're in a seat, STAY THERE! Do not get in the way of my cameras. Do you understand?” Dick and Dee’s wedding party understood. Ray was in the bathroom, but the message would be related. Reverend Luste pointed to a stack of folding chairs leaning against a silver and gray six-foot-six box. "Each of you grab one and set it at the bottom of the staircase." The mindful congregation lemminged their way to the chairs and set them down in four rows of three.

Luste continued. “Dick and Dee’s ceremony will be professionally taped for friends and relatives unable to attend this sacred event." He wiped a bead of sweat oozing through the make-up on his forehead. He spun around again. "Of course, tapes will be available at the door for those of you who did attend. Nineteen, ninety-nine. Or two for thirty-five." Luste hit a switch. The lights dimmed and stopped blinking. A side door opened. Luste disappeared.

Ray returned from the bathroom with a folding chair and whispered. “That guy’s not right.” Tuck nodded. “Do think Dick’s happy?”

“They say three’s a charm.” Tuck shrugged. “I’m still trying to make peace with Dee. You’re his best man, ask him if . . ."

The room went dark. Reverend Luste’s brother-in-law, Bucko, entered the room and played a rendition of the Wedding March on accordion. Bucko, the resident musician, squeezed his instrument and blew a few accompanying bars on a harmonica he wore strapped to his mouth. Sadly, Bucko’s music turned out to be the main highlight of the evening. Bucko sold C.D.s of his latest album: Trashy Tahoe Tunes for the Timid. . . “All original tunes,” he promised. Ray bought one immediately. On the back side of the CD was a small card:








TAHOE 555- 696- 7718

The ceremony began. The room went dark. Bucko blew a few dissonant minor notes and on cue, splashes of neon light chased each other up down the staircase.

Dee descended the staircase. She looked radiant. At the bottom of the stairs, Dick took her hand. Dick didn’t look radiant. He looked lost. Befuddled. The ceremony proceeded nicely until Reverend Luste asked if anyone objected to this marriage taking place.

Dick turned to the crowd. His eyes seemed glazed. He lifted his hands, palm up. A gesture that could have been interpreted as a plea for help. Or, just as easily a ‘Hi, everyone, I’m so glad you’re here.’ Dick turned to his 'Best Man,' and mouthed, ‘say something, Ray.”

"Way to go!" Ray said.

A few people clapped. Ray’s speeches were always noted for their brevity.

Dick turned to Tucker who might have been ‘Best Man,’ if he'd shut up about Lydia. Dick mouthed, ‘say something.’

Thirty years of friendship. High School. The Marine Corps. Two previous wives.

Tucker raised his hand. Reverend Luste stood stunned. Dick stifled a smile.

Reverend Luste moved Dick aside and glared at Tucker. "Do you have an objection to these proceedings?"

Dick stood tall. Tucker shook his head no and pointed to Bucko. "Does he know, “When the Saints Go Marching In?’"

Bucko did. He puffed his chubby cheeks and quietly blew his harmonica and squeezed his accordion through a medley of gospel favorites throughout the rest of the ceremony.

Dick and his new bride left shortly after the ceremony. Luste and Bucko quickly ushered the guests from the Chapel of Love. Maybe to prepare for a late wedding or an early funeral.

In the parking lot, the guest decided to celebrate with cocktails and have a pee-wee-golf tournament. Ladies vs. Gents.

It was over cocktails that Tuck offered to set up a Marriage Pool. He explained to the looks of confusion. “Dick’s been married three times. Actually, four because he married one of his wives twice. We’re surrounded by casinos. I’m taking bets, how long do think this one will last.”

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