March 26, 2010

A Big Return on Our Taxes
Del Capri Wedding Chapel

My romantic rendition of the Del Capri wedding chapel. Click image for a the full view.

The advent of tax season means it’s time for our extended family’s annual pilgrimage to Dundalk, Maryland, a working class neighborhood, just east of Baltimore. There we meet Ed, our CPA, at the home of his side business, the Del Capri wedding chapel. We’ve been making this yearly sojourn since our girls were toddlers. Back then, during breaks in the action I’d keep them occupied by walking each of them down the aisle set up for a wedding that was to take place later that day.

Now they are too old to be seen walking any place with their dad, let alone down the aisle. But we still see Ed to catch up on the last year, our annual “discussion” about backing up our computer’s tax records (this year he promised to end his holdout against retiring his floppy disks and I introduced the idea of off-site backups), and of course, to discuss last year’s finances.

As we arrive the ritual begins. First my wife and I go in while my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, along with our girls sit in the reception area eating our packed lunch and playing the games we’ve brought to keep the kids happy. There’s nothing like turning a trip to your tax man into a picnic. This year my thirteen year old spent the couple hours browsing wedding magazines and deciding the color palette for her own nuptials (blue, silver, and white) while her younger sister spent the time “being bored.” My oldest cautioned us on her plans: “I am not getting married any time soon. I am only looking.”

Dundalk is about as far from where I grew up as I can imagine. Instead of the sprawling housing tracts of the San Fernando Valley there are rows and rows of compact 1950s brick houses. As we travel down the road leading from I-95 to the Del Capri we pass three large cemeteries —close neighbors of the living (dead people in L.A. had their own exclusive enclaves far from our Southern California neighborhood). Tombstones mirror the row houses just across the street. The history of this town is a history of our early American immigration. While Catholic churches now dot the way I see Hebrew at the entrance to one cemetery. And Polish and Ukrainian mortuaries are nearby.

Usually our early spring tax outing is accompanied by cold and damp weather. But this past weekend was unseasonably warm and sunny so during my post-tax wait I went outside to photograph. Even though we’ve been coming here for years, I’ve never taken any pictures. My youngest came with me while my oldest continued her wedding planning.

Right across the street from the Del Capri are more brick houses and right next door is the heavy metal hot spot The Black Hole. The wedding chapel and nightclub share a large parking lot and I can only imagine the comedy that ensues when patrons miss their marks.

This year we got good news from Ed, my oldest has her wedding all planned, and my youngest, accompanying me on my photo trek, has found a new calling. You might say our 2009 tax return was definitely filed jointly!

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