I got an invitation to celebrate the 39th anniversary of John Sant's 21st birthday. I don't know what age that makes him. I'm sure it's a simple math problem....His house was on Mount Soledad. As I walked up, I thought the architecture was incredible. And as I was admiring the beauty of this place, I noticed something rather tacky -- a bunch of pink flamingos in the front yard. I didn't count (again, that's math...and I never want to contradict myself; I once told a math teacher "When will we ever need to use this stuff out in the real world?"), but there had to be at least 20 flamingos.
When I met John Sant, the homeowner, I asked if he was a big John Waters fan and what the deal with the flamingos was. He said, "When we moved in here, the neighbors complained because we had our logos on the van. We were running our photography business out of our home. So we put all these tacky flamingos on the lawn as a way of saying 'fuck you' to our neighbors. We like pissing people off. The Union-Tribune did a story about how to piss off your neighbors, and they contacted us. A travel magazine did a story and mentioned this house as a place to see."
I've never thought the phrase "cutting off your nose to spite your face" was ever more appropriate.
John's wife Linda is about 15 years younger than he is. She gave me a tour of the house, and was nice enough to turn on a big-screen TV in her bedroom so I could check the score of a Sunday-night football game.
I noticed a lot of photos on the walls. Linda told me that John had taken them. She said, "He has a photo that's in the Smithsonian, another in the Royal Albert Museum in London, one at the Museum of Man in Balboa Park. They were requested from the museums in the mid-'80s when he returned from working in the Middle East."
When I saw a photo of a red-and-white '57 Corvette on the refrigerator, I told her that was one of my favorite cars. She called John over and he took me into the garage to take a peek at it. I told him I would write a lot of nice things about him if he let me take it out for a spin. He said, "I spent a lot of time restoring that. You can buy it from me for $60,000."
Any readers out there wanna go halves?
I asked John about the pictures he had of women from the Middle East. "Are you allowed to photograph them?" He responded, "They didn't mind. But a few guys wanted to kill me. I would quickly take a Polaroid and hand it to them. That usually got me out of trouble." He then showed me a photo of a woman breast-feeding her baby. He said, "You'll never see a photo like that. You can see she's smiling, too."
John looked a bit like George Carlin, with longer hair in the back (in a ponytail) and a handlebar mustache. I told him my stepfather and I had argued about what exactly a handlebar mustache was. I heard it can be the kind like Rollie Fingers's (which John has), or it can be one that points downward and is long. Or it can be long and bushy at the end. He said, "Nope. A handlebar mustache has to be waxed and curl up."
Since I've described John, I won't get hate mail for describing this next guy. He was a tall, good-looking black guy using an upper-class accent as he said, "I just love this pâté." As he was spreading it on a cracker, it broke. I made fun of him. He made fun of me when I asked if something was German chocolate cake. It wasn't.
I had to ask the stereotypical question, "Do you play basketball?" He did. When I told him he looked a little like Karl Malone, we talked about how much we hated him.
This guy is a cameraman for Channel 8 now and used to work in Utah. He told me stories about the Jazz players. He had met a lot of celebrities and said they were all nice. He once spent an entire evening talking with Rosemary Clooney (now probably more well-known as George's aunt). He said, "The only star that was ever a jerk was that guy from Dukes of Hazzard. The black-haired guy [Tom Wopat]. Usually, I have the camera, so people are nice. They don't want to act mean while I'm filming. The person that usually takes the star up to their room hadn't shown up, and they asked me to do it. I did that and he started snapping his fingers at me, saying, 'I want a Wall Street Journal. Now!' I said 'okay' and left."
We talked about growing up playing basketball. I told him I had played with Jud Buechler (formerly of the Bulls) in Poway once, and a few times with Bill Walton and former SDSU star Michael Cage. It didn't sound as much like name-dropping as it does now. He told me, where he grew up in Texas, Spud Webb came into the gym. This was before his NBA career, which was highlighted by winning a slam-dunk contest (and he's only 5'6"). He said, "I was pissed I had to cover him. I said 'Why do I have to cover the short guy?' He then slam-dunked on me. The next play, he faked me out. I fell down and he slammed it again. I just left in embarrassment."
I didn't want to leave the kitchen, because we were having such a great conversation about hoops. There was lots of homemade Indian food, carrot cake, and other snacks.
I walked by the pool, which was difficult. One table was occupied by a group of people, and there were lots of trees and bushes, which meant if you weren't careful, you'd fall in the pool. One person walking through there said, "You need a machete to get by here." But the view of the lights in P.B. from this high up was spectacular.