It all started three years ago when I first attempted to make wax rings. I chose a wax that was too soft and the molds sat in an anchovy tin in the fridge since then. The original plan was to have an engagement week and she would get a new ring every day for one week. But then I got lazy. Or, I am lazy. In Pang's words, I was pretty lame for doing nothing for three years.
So I first saw East Brothers Lighthouse Island when my friend Mark Williams took me and Nancy's sister Nora up in a small plane around the Bay Area. It was really cool, even from the back seat and being woozy from Nora's flying. I remember being amazed at the number of small islands I never noticed before in the Bay. East Brothers is a very very small rocky island a little north of Point Richmond. West Brothers is an even smaller island covered in bird shit. That was about two years ago. I didn't learn the name of the island or that there was a bed and breakfast on it until I saw it again in the California Academy of Science's gift shop. We were coming out of the dinosaur exhibit and there it was in a photobook - Islands of the Bay Area. It was destiny.
So December of 2006 Nancy went home to Brooklyn. And the secret stuff began. I told my friend SongGong that I would be making some rings over the break and he was bored so he decided to make some as well. I went to Otto Frei and bought wax tubes, wax files, an oil lamp, and polishing bits. Sorry about all the detail but if I don't write it down it will be lost in time. SongGong and I also visited the Phelan Building in San Francisco to find a caster. Just walking around we met a nice lady that showed us rubies and diamonds and told us about a couple of casters. In the end I went to Sierra Pacific in Oakland. They were very inexpensive and one of the employees teaches at the Crucible.
So after a few days SongGong and I had five rings and a little monopoly racecar to cast. Casting setup was $10/ring, $15 for the car, and plus the sterling silver. A little under $20 per ring not including wax and tools and time! My dad still wins for cheapest wedding ring though. He gave my mom a rubber band.
I then booked the night at the lighthouse. Surprisingly it was booked for a long time before and after the weekend I wanted. Pretty lucky or just everyone else watches the Superbowl. Nancy returned from Brooklyn before the rings came back so I had to secretly refit and polish them. Unfortunately this usually involved transforming her entire sewing station into a jewelry station and back.
The weekend came and I rented a car and we took off. Nancy had no idea where we were going, but she did suspect I was going to ask her THE question. The road to the lighthouse is secluded. Just before going on the Richmond Bridge there is an exit that I suspect most people use if they don't have toll or shit is flying off their truckbed. Past an abandoned brick winery that looks like a castle, some old condemned army barracks, along a bumpy road, to a very small harbor called Point San Pablo.
The winery, Winehaven, we learned was the largest winery in the world for years. After the 1906 fire they moved from San Francisco to Point Richmond, and then was shut down during Prohibition. Later it was owned by the military and all sorts of toxic crap was stored there. Now some casino wants to buy it all and make a fancy destination spot. The harbor during the 80's was an illegal drug lab and a generally unsavory area. A new harbormaster took over and cleaned it all up. Over 20 decrepit ships were scrapped and the harbor was getting retredged when we arrived.
Elan, one of the B&B hosts, picked us up at the harbor and after a few minutes we were climbing a ladder to the island. Katy, the other host, accompanied by a very friendly golden retriever greeted us as we walked up the ramp to awesomeness. Elan and Katy endure unfriendly guests like Danielle Steele, blackouts, limited natural resources, broken appliances, and seclusion. Not everyone could run a bed and breakfast on a tiny rock island, but it helps if the couple can survive together on a sailboat for months like they did. They were very friendly and had great stories which they must tell every goddamn new guest who comes and asks the same goddamn questions.
We lucked out and only one other couple was staying that night. I forget their names but they chose the Marin Room and we chose the San Francisco room. Ours had a great view of West Brothers, the Richmond Bridge, Red Rock, and maybe on a good day - San Francisco. Even the view from the toilet was good. Also the room had a nice rocking chair. At first I had booked the more secluded Walters Quarters. The smaller room was in the old machinery building and provided more privacy but it was very small.
After a game of horseshoes, appetizers, and dinner, I asked Nancy to marry me on top of the lighthouse. I think I said, 'Hey Nancy, you wanna marry me?' And that was that. We played Scrabble with very flexible rules and then went to sleep. Outside our window and down by the water the modern automated foghorn would blow every 20 seconds. I would lie down and think it was really annoying and loud, and then the next thing I know I'm awake again after an hour or so and need to go pee. I think I went pee like 5 or 6 times that night for some odd reason. It was crazy.
In the morning we had delicious french toast souffle. After eating I took some time to look through a couple stacks of old stereo photos with text on the backsides. I learned that turpentine was extracted from trees like maple syrup. At 11 AM we all boarded the boat to return to the mainland and real life. The two other guests were pretty talkative during the meals, especially the guy. I think they thought Nancy and I were a shy cute couple who look alike. Everybody thinks that. Elan, Katy, and the dog were off to look at adopting a new puppy. We went home to think about what it all means.
Personally I do feel a difference after the proposal. Making the rings and following through resolved my years of indecision. Even though we are two very different people, we make quite a good pair. We can wallow in the mud of life together and not tire of the other's company. Nancy grounds and comforts me and fills my belly with good stuff. We make each other laugh and she has a loveable fascination of the natural world. Plus she wants to name the first born Monkey Chen Chan, which would be sweet for everyone except maybe the child, but like his opinion matters. If it's a girl, I'm going to fight for "Pangaea".