The couple danced into the night — her wedding gown shimmering in the Caribbean dusk. Friends had gathered in her apartment in the poor barrio of Santiago. And the soft Dominican ballads were barely audible above the traffic noise outside. Two things were constant on this island — noise and heat.
The groom, tired and bewildered, was ready to get back on a plane and head to Eureka, his cat and his quiet house awaiting him. He would even leave the marriage certificate behind. It would be hard to explain to friends. And maybe — if he had second thoughts — he could forget it all happened.
Friends have a way of determining how and how long one grieves when he loses a spouse. And the man worried that people would think he had acted too quickly after losing his wife that May. On the other hand, no one had asked him how he felt, nor would they have understood a whirlwind courtship.
He didn’t understand it himself — making lifetime plans in a matter of days, then exchanging vows in a shopping mall.
He hadn’t taken it lightly. He sent rent and food money for the family of three. And when they needed something — a refrigerator or a mattress — he bought them on the spot. It was his family now —young, vibrant and fully dependent on an old guy on Social Security.
He had been warned of the peril, Dominican women who married for a plane ticket and a green card. He also had seen the consequence of this woman’s single parenting, two children whom he came to love as his own.
I was that man, videotaping every step of our relationship. For better or worse, I would have something tangible and material to ponder later. I could store it with the other videotapes of my life —photos of people I had known. Maybe someone, sorting through my boxes, would put those pictures together to make some sense of me. On the other hand, who would watch it?
That is when I decided to put together my video story myself. I would take the slides, photos and old video tapes and string them together to watch on my computer. Maybe then I could make sense of it all.
My stories included a man who made wooden ships for his bathtub and the late Peter Perdew who would take us on a tour of North Coast Christmas lights.
I had also recorded my Eureka attempt to be a hip-hop deejay, opening act for an Oakland group rapping about AK-47s. I am sure they thought I was upstaging them because they escorted me out of the building.
The result is a funny and nostalgic look at my episodic life, a 30-minute video called “Dave, We Hardly Knew Ye” to be aired soon and regularly on Access Humboldt. At the very least, it is a programming alternative to those reality shows on hoarding and house flipping.
It concludes with that sweet video of the wedding party on that sultry Santiago night.
The worst that can happen is that no one will understand my story. That is reasonable since I don’t understand it either. But there is something self-affirming about it, whatever its form. I kept all those videos for a reason. Now I can work on what that reason was.
I have worried about what my young co-workers will think of my story. I shouldn’t be concerned. Only a few have mentioned any of my other video projects. In fact, it is hard to get young people these days to speak in simple declarative sentences about anything.
So, I will keep my video ready to play to myself at any moment. I can turn to it when I feel sad, discouraged or disconnected.
It will remind me that I once interviewed Tiny Tim and spied on a pregnant moose. I rapped at a Eureka nightclub and washed second-story windows with water balloons.
I also married a Dominican woman and brought her to live with me — a bold adventure I have never regretted.
We can all find flaws in our lives. But we can also re-examine its carats of goodness and cherish the diamond that shimmers in the dusk.
Dave Silverbrand’s columns and other writings are available on his website, www.davespeople.com.