I received an invitation to a funeral, which I didn't think would be fun to attend, but then several miniature five dollar bills fell out. It would be a Vegas-style memorial in honor of a woman named Beverly Jean. She was a cashier at a casino in Las Vegas and had passed away in the mid-'90s (according to the invite, by myocardial infarction). At the bottom of the invitation: If you're dying to attend, would it kill you to RSVP? (I thought this was funny because I had gone to a party the previous day where the host complained that people never RSVP, and she never knows how much food to make.)
I drove up Washington and knew I had found the place when I saw a skeleton sitting in a Mercedes, with the seat belt on.
M.E. Law and Pete Boneman performed dirges in the living room. Upstairs, Madame Marushka Babushka read tarot cards. Ariane had written in the program, "Please limit your reading to 10 minutes in consideration of other souls who need saving."
They wanted me to sit for a reading, and I told them I didn't believe in it. I told them I didn't want to have nightmares. A woman told me that what was said was accurate and that Madame Babushka had no way of knowing anything about her. A guy said, "We have a skeptic in our midst!" We ended up having a "spirited" debated about the accuracy of such readings.
I went to use the bathroom, but the door wouldn't shut, and the way the mirrors were angled, it looked as if the people I was just talking with could see me. I had to go so bad that I didn't care.
There were several skeletons, so as I was getting punch, I asked why there wasn't a skeleton hand floating in the punch. A guy standing next to me said, "It would sink." I asked him if he was a scientist. "No, an engineer." I said, "Close enough."
Later in the evening, I saw Ariane smoke a cigar using a skeleton hand.
As everyone smoked outside, M.E. Law, who looked like lawyer Johnnie Cochran, came outside. In his red velvet cape, he had a Screamin' Jay Hawkins vibe about him as well. Law was a retired cop and told interesting stories. We talked about female officers, Charger player Steve Foley's troubles, and Law's daughter, who recently joined the police academy. He said, "She really wanted to. We weren't thrilled about the decision."
Law performed standards -- "St. James Infirmary," "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" -- and he wrote an original for the occasion -- "What Was Your Scene, Beverly Jean?": Died on the first of April/ Bet you were nobody's fool/ You learned on the streets of Vegas/ What they didn't teach in school. And later in the song he sings the lines: Inside your cardboard castle/ Hiding for so long/ Rising up from your ashes/ Sing a long forgotten song.
That line made more sense when I talked with Ariane about the event. "When I moved in here, we found Beverly Jean in this crappy box in the closet, with a typed label on it. She had been in there for ten years. We thought we would have a proper service for her. And, it's an excuse for a party."
I told her the house fit the Las Vegas, New Orleans, Day of the Dead themes that she prepared for this party. She said, "The house was built in 1913. We just decided we'd decorate the front yard, put some stuff up around the house. It was fun."
Since the party was around Halloween time, the decorations worked for that as well.
I couldn't determine what was edible from the food tables, and I wasn't as brave as the guy who was gobbling down the eyeballs. He said, "They taste like Gummy Bears." I said, "Really? Not like chicken? Well...I think I'll pass."
There was plenty of activity outside the house as well, and I talked with a woman who said she was a Charger fan. She had heard me talking about the Foley case earlier and complained about the police. We got into an argument, so we changed the subject. She talked about Chollas Lake and the memories she has: "Two different guys proposed to me there. One guy was 21 years old. The other guy was 49. And he was married at the time!"
I glanced at the program and remembered that you were supposed to bring something to be placed with the urn that Beverly Jean could use in the afterlife. I was going to bring a deck of cards, but I forgot.
The program listed upcoming events that I wasn't going to stay for -- eulogies, prayers, a candle-lighting ceremony, a sing-along to "When the Saints Go Marching In," and the evening was going to conclude with a seance.
I overheard one lady say to her husband, "Isn't this inappropriate to do when someone dies?" He responded, "No. It's putting the 'fun' in funeral. And what do you think they are doing down the streets of New Orleans when someone dies...playing all those horns and trumpets? It's like a celebration of the person's life. It's not sitting around crying over a casket that is being buried in the ground. It's singing, dancing, celebrating. And that's what we're doing here tonight."
Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.