I went to a party on 21st and B Street one afternoon. I asked a few guys if this area was considered downtown, and the guys living there weren't sure.

It was a good location for a party. The two houses (one behind the other) were filled with young guys who like to party. They live on a corner, with only one neighbor who never complains.

When I arrived I saw a motorcycle on the porch and heard a buzzing sound. I knocked on the screen door a few times and the buzzing would stop. I walked around the side of the house and down a path to the back yard and the other house. I joked with someone that it sounded like a tattoo parlor in the front house. "It is right now. This guy Miguel is in town from Sacramento, and he's been hooking us up with tats."

I saw a guy I recognized from a party I was at a year ago. I said, "Are you that writer from CityBeat?" He was. His name is Ken, and the few times I've talked to him it's been about local bands we both like.

Another guy was walking over, and we heard a dog squeal. He had accidentally stepped on it. There were three cute puppies (one was a pug), and I thought more would be stepped on as the drinking continued.

One guy heard I was a writer and told me his brother was a writer in L.A. He told me his brother wrote liner notes for the band Goldfinger. "He writes for a publication called Mean Street in L.A. It's like the Reader but not nearly as big. And it's crazy, because when they did a special on Eminem on VH1, they had [my brother] comment. And when he agreed to write about Goldfinger, he called me. He didn't know anything about the band. He ended up writing it, and he got paid well."

We all agreed it would be cool to write the liner notes for a band we liked. I remember when I worked in radio, my friend and coworker Peg was thanked on a few different CDs (Stone Temple Pilots and Alien Ant Farm).

I talked to a guy named Mike who had just quit his job in Riverside. He seemed bummed about being unemployed. We talked about some of the horrible jobs we've had over the years.

I talked about when I was in high school and working at McDonald's. My first day, I dropped the entire set of 12 hamburger buns just as the burgers were ready to be pulled off the grill. My trainer looked at me, looked at the buns on the floor, and quickly scooped them up. "We don't have time to toast new ones." At least we didn't serve any food with fingers in it.

One employee put a cockroach in the fry vat. We all laughed as it sizzled. That guy was promptly fired.

I almost got fired too. My friend and I used to try to make each other laugh in the drive-thru window. One of us would be on the grill and would press the button of the headset so only the person working drive-thru could hear you, not the customer. He always cracked me up, but I could never get him to laugh. I would say "Welcome to McDonald's, where 23 million have been served. Make that, 23 million and one with your order." Nothing. "Welcome to the home of the Whopper." Nothing. Finally, two minutes before closing, an old lady pulled into the drive-thru. As my friend took the order I picked up the other headset, determined to make him laugh. The old lady yelled, in her old-lady voice (think "where's the beef!?!"), "I would like one Super-Size Coke please." Determined to make my friend laugh, I pressed the button for him to hear me say, "How about a Super-Size cock instead?" What happened next surprised everyone. The old lady said, "Excuse me? What did you just say, young man?" I ran into the storage room scared. I had pressed the wrong button. She paid for her drink and left without complaint. I guess you need hot coffee on your lap to complain at McDonald's.

After all the talk of horrible jobs, we realized that we were sweating. Someone said, "That's the problem with afternoon parties. We're drinking and standing in the sun. Last time I did this, I was sick for two days, and I didn't even drink that much."

A few of us then stood against the fence, which covered us in shade. Two cute girls were sitting in chairs, and one guy said, "It will be hard for us to talk to any of them if we're over here against the fence." Someone else said, "I'd rather not get burned up and have skin cancer when I'm 50."

I heard one of the girls say, "I'm, like, totally a vodka girl. I don't do beer." I figured I wasn't missing much standing in the shade and missing that conversation.

I met a guy named Alex who said, "I can't shake your hand, man, I've got beer in both of 'em."

One guy in uniform, and I asked if he'd be going to Iraq soon. He laughed and said, "No. I'm in the Coast Guard." The guy celebrating his birthday overheard this and said, "I'm going to Iraq." His name was James and this was his combination birthday/

going-away party. He's in a band with two friends, "Wank" and Danny. They're called "Stripmall." I asked them how they got the name. "Well, strippers are cool. And, just imagine a mall full of them." They told me their previous band had "Tom Hanks" in the name. One of them said, "We changed it because we thought we might get sued." I responded, "Yeah, but how cool would that be to get sued by Tom Hanks?"

The last case I read about like that was about the band Postal Service. The United States Postal Service sent them a letter telling them to change the name. But after the USPS researched the band and found out Postal Service was popular and didn't use explicit lyrics, they made a deal with them. They could keep the name if they did a few promotional things for the Post Office.

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