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When New Year's Eve rolled around, I was surprised to not be inundated with party invites. I did get one from a woman named Sally, whom I'd known back in my junior-high days. Then on December 31 I got a call from my friend Roxanne. She was having a party that started at 9:00 p.m. Since the forecast called for rain, I didn't want to drive from Del Mar to Santee in pouring rain. I told Rox I couldn't make it and gave her a hard time for inviting me at the last minute (and I wonder, if I didn't write this column, would she have invited me at all?). When I showed up at Sally's place, she gave me a tour of their house. When I mentioned something about Santee, she told me they actually live in Fletcher Hills.

She had a collection of cows. That seemed odd. I've met women who collected horses, elephants, and owls. Even unicorns. But cows? It just isn't a cute animal. About the only two places cows look good are on milk cartons and Pink Floyd albums.

Sally's sister Julie was at the computer, laughing. Her daughter had sent Aunt Sally an e-mail pleading for a cell phone. It was funny reading the words of a 13-year-old trying to convince someone that she's old enough and really needs a cell phone. I don't think she realized her aunt would show the e-mail to her mom -- or a roomful of partygoers.

The TV had Music Choice on, and it was set to "party favorites." Sometimes they had great songs. I heard "Louie Louie" and "Tequila" by the Champs. But sometimes they were playing songs that had everyone groaning, like "The Macarena." I did glance at the TV from time to time, because they had interesting facts about the band that was playing. Eventually I realized it wasn't very social to stare at a TV while a party was going on.

So I started talking to the couple right next to me. They looked to have a large age difference. The blonde girl looked to be a teenager, and the guy (who looked like Clint Howard) was balding and looked to be in his late 30s. She turned out to be in her 20s, but I never found out his age. She told me she was a dancer, and she once dated a man from Russia with whom she used to ballroom dance. "He was crazy. And he got pissed if you said he had an accent. And the fucker still has my wet suit!"

She did an impression of him talking. We couldn't stop laughing. She said she thought a friend of his was in the Russian mafia. When she asked him about that he said, "Don't ask me this question. You are not to ask this kinds of things! Never ask again."

She said he also had a demonic cat. But I learned early on in this column not to get women started talking about their cats.

Sally, being the perfect host, walked me to the bar to get me a drink. There were lots of bottles, and I opted for the Sour Apple Pucker. It's the perfect drink if you don't like the taste of alcohol. It's like drinking candied apples. But after about five of them, you can get buzzed.

Sally would then bring me a shot of something. I asked why and she said every hour they were doing a shot for the new year. Someone else explained that, since it was 9:00 p.m., that it was the new year in New York. I got confused when Sally told me they had started the shots at 7:30, since that was Greenwich Mean Time. I had no idea what that was.

One guy drinking a Coke told me he doesn't drink alcohol. He said, "I just hate the taste of it. I don't like beer or hard alcohol. So I end up being the guy at the party that drinks Coke and watches everyone get drunk. And people always come up to me and say, 'Try this drink, you'll like this one.' I end up having sips of all these different fruity drinks people think I'll like."

Since Dick Clark wasn't going to be in New York, I thought I would show my support by wearing a denim jacket I have that says "Dick Clark Productions." I meant to see what kind of job former San Diego talk-show host Regis Philbin did filling in. But every time I saw him on-screen, the volume was down. I could only hear music and the talking of everyone at the party.

When a woman commented on my jacket, she said something about Clark looking so young, and finally starting to look his age. I thought it might be in bad taste to say, "And he's finally acting his age." He had just had a stroke.

I said, "I read in an interview that he never dyed his hair." She responded, "He didn't. His hairstylist did."

I recognized one guy, and when Sally introduced me to Brian Hedges, I realized I knew his brother Kevin in high school. (He's now a teacher.) I told Brian that when he worked at Taco Bell next to our high school, he fired my friend Dave. He remembered that and told me how Dave was always taking food and eating it in the walk-in refrigerator. (Ah, the joys of working at fast-food joints.)

He had his baby daughter at the party, and I was surprised that she never seemed to cry or make a fuss.

When I finally met Sally's live-in boyfriend, Mike, I laughed. She's a short Caucasian (5'1"), and he's a tall Asian (6'3"). They met in a Friday-night bowling league when she was coming out of a ten-year marriage. Her average is 180 and his is 203. I was surprised to learn he hadn't been bowling that long. My friend Mike Cowles used to bowl in elementary school. He has bowled a number of 300 games -- the highest score you can get, which is 13 straight strikes. But for somebody who just started bowling as an adult, 203 is a high average.

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