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I was invited to four parties one weekend. And I had problems trying to attend three of them. The first one was thrown by the UCSD alumni association. They had author Rex Pickett, who wrote the novel Sideways and is a former UCSD student (although it's SDSU, not UCSD, that's mentioned in the movie). It cost $65 to attend, but since Sideways was my favorite movie of last year, I was thrilled about going. I wouldn't tell Rex I liked the film much more than his book. I'm one of the few people who like the movies better than the books. I think book snobs just want to impress you with the fact that they've read the book when they say, "The book was better." But I enjoyed The World According to Garp, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Cider House Rules, and Catch-22 more than the books. I often joke to my friends, "Those books don't have any pictures. And the best thing a story told onscreen has over the written page -- no words you have to read! You can enjoy popcorn and Coke." It made me wonder when I saw The Passion of the Christ if someone was looking down thinking, "My story is being told while people are munching on Goobers and Red Vines!"

A former UCSD student named Lynn alerted me to this party, but the alumni association said the event was sold out. Even though they would have good food and fancy wines, I told them I wouldn't eat or drink (although I had visions of sneaking wine, the way Miles did in the story). I was repeatedly told I couldn't go, even if I didn't plan to eat or sit at one of the tables. I wondered if it had to do with the recent story of a UCSD student making a sex film. That story was all over the news, so maybe they didn't want to risk having any media at this event.

Lynn sent me an e-mail with an elaborate set of instructions on how I could sneak in, where I could park, and which side doors to use. She ended by writing, "You are the 'party crasher,' so crash this thing!"

I had two other parties to go to instead. One was for a women's rugby team called the San Diego Surfers. Jamie invited me to this, but then found out that some of her teammates weren't thrilled with the idea of my showing up at their Robb Field soiree. I figured: two outs, one to go.

The last party I had lined up for this night was in Hillcrest. The lady who invited me told me that I shouldn't wear any clothes I was attached to, because one of the things that would happen is that if someone likes your shirt (or outfit) you have to exchange with them. I thought this sounded interesting. I wondered if, after people got a few drinks in them, they'd start changing clothes without going into another room. I also wondered whether, if someone forgot, or showed up not knowing this, they would still have to give up their favorite shirt. I grabbed an old Jane's Addiction shirt I didn't care about and headed out.

Then I realized I didn't have the directions. When I had gotten this invite, I knew I had two other parties so I just deleted the info on my voice mail, but I still had the cell phone number of the gal who invited me. I called and she never answered. She returned my call the next day to tell me the party was great. And I wondered if I could write about a party I didn't actually attend.

I had one party that I could go to the following night. I had the address and all the info. It was a costume party, but I didn't dress up. I got to the place on Sunset Cliffs around 10:00 p.m. Matt Wendell, who invited me, introduced himself. He gave me a great Macanudo cigar that I promptly lit up. He pointed out a few people on the front porch in superhero outfits. One was this crazy homemade thing that I thought he said was a character from South Park. It wasn't until I walked in later and saw a few Spider-Man and Superman costumes that I found out it was a superhero theme. So I'm glad I didn't dress up.

Matt told me he was moving to Kansas City to start a new job and this would be his last party at the house. He worked in marketing at Sea World, but said, "They don't pay shit and I can't move up." I asked how he could afford a huge house on the beach. He said, "We moved in here five years ago and got a good deal on the rent. The owner lives in the guesthouse behind us."

I asked what the owner thought of these parties. "Sometimes he comes out and stares at us. Or he'll clean up in the morning making noise, so we get the idea that he's mad. This time we have an area of the back yard taped off so nobody goes over there. You hate to see people just standing around peeing near his house. One of our neighbors was an old lady who died. So nobody is living over there and the other neighbor doesn't complain."

About 15 minutes later, when someone complained about the line for the bathroom being too long, one person said, "Go across the street to the beach. That's what I did."

Matt pointed out how they black out the front windows on the nights they have parties. "We don't need cops driving by and telling us to wrap it up. And when someone comes outside, we make them shut the door. It keeps the noise down and nobody driving by will see all the lights over the dance floor." Inside the living room, there were two DJs and four turntables going. They did a great mix of current dance tunes and stuff from the '80s.

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