The Cost of Things: Going Cross-Country to a California Wedding

California WeddingMy lovely friend K — she of the Dress Odyssey — got married this weekend in Palm Springs, California, and I’ve been so happy for the past few days, I’ve been like a character in a Disney movie. Probably I would have been insufferable anywhere else, but in California, natives seem to expect visitors to go around wide-eyed and bouncing, so I fit right in. The sun! The heat! That sky! My pleasure centers went into overdrive.

But we’re not here to talk about my pleasure centers. Let’s look at what I spent.

Despite Thursday’s snowstorm, I decided to take public transportation to JFK to save on cab fare. Total cost: $12. (LIRR ticket, one-way, off-peak, to catch the Air Train: $7; Air Train to terminal: $5). Then, while I was sitting on the runway at JFK, an accident on the icy runway at nearby La Guardia shut that whole airport down. We were merely delayed and, to compensate, JetBlue gave us all free access to the paid movies. I watched, in order, the second half of Wild, the second half of The Imitation Game, and the last third (?) of Interstellar. Cost: $0. 

Though I could follow Wild and Imitation Game with no problem, I didn’t understand anything going on in Interstellar at all. Inside black holes there are apparently libraries designed by M.C. Escher? Whatever! It was kind of freeing and delightful. 

The food I had brought with me wasn’t enough to last through an entire flight plus a significant delay, however, and I got a spicy soba salad on the plane. Cost: $9.

My brother picked me up from LAX and I got to change from snow boots to sandals. I spent the next 24 hours playing with my baby nephew and eating delicious things prepared by my over-achieving sister-in-law and didn’t have to spend any money except $4 on sodas to share. Then, on Friday, my old coworker M picked me up and we drove together to Palm Springs for the wedding.

Both of us had elected to stay at a cheap-o Best Western rather than any of the ornate local resorts and that was an A+ decision I would totally make again. Budget hotels give you free wifi and free breakfast! Often, perversely, the more upscale ones do not. And this was my view at the free poolside breakfast:

poolside breakfast

Can’t argue with that. Two nights at the hotel: $176, plus $5 for housekeeping.

We had dinner Friday night at a wedding event (free) and then the next day M and I drove to the desert — right by Coachella and Joshua Tree! — for a wildflower festival. At a little artisanal market there I bought a thank you gift for my SIL and my nephew ($30) and then, on the way back, lunch at a place that serves pancakes with omelets for M and me ($27, including tip).

After we freshened up, we got fancy and went to the wedding, which featured a live band, an outdoor photo booth, a gorgeous bride, signature cocktails at the open bar, and homemade Kit Kats, as well as five other kinds of desserts. Everything fantastic, especially the pair of doves that perched on a rock above the huppah and watched the proceedings with polite interest. I cried giddy tears. The bride had thoughtfully provided tissues in the gift bag.

I also discovered a psychic power I didn’t know I had: I pointed out a woman to M who I thought looked cool and said, “I want to be her friend.” When it came time for dinner, not only was she at my table, she ended up sitting right next to me. “Wow,” I said to M later. “I have to start telling the universe what I want more often.”

On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at Rite-Aid so I could buy the most expensive cold medicine in the store, because the bronchitis I contracted in February when the heat went out in our apartment for 24 hours still hasn’t gone away. $20. It was worth it: I finally spent a night sleeping rather than coughing.

The next morning, we got up, groggy from losing an hour and gaining three pounds in one night, and drove back to Los Angeles. I bought gas ($37, ouch) and, once at the airport, an “organic” salad made of roughage and penance for the flight home ($12). Because of the time change, I arrived back at JFK around 9:00 pm and decided to splurge on a cab. While in line, I exercised my newfound superpower one more time. I spotted a woman I had first noticed in the terminal at LAX and had thought looked cool — among other things, she was reading Station Eleven — and I asked her, “Hey, are you going to Prospect Heights by any chance?”

She blinked at me. “Yes!” she said.

“Wanna share a taxi?”


Turns out she reads the Billfold. Hi, Rachel!

My part of cab fare, plus tip: $32

Total cost of my mini-break: ~$370. Plus the cost of the flight, of course, which for some reason I can’t locate right now — I’ll add it in once I find it. Worth it? Absolutely yes.



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