One sunny day a few months ago I went to a tiki party in Escondido. The back yard had several tiki statues and thatch huts. There were tikis holding up the patio, which had a view of a canyon full of eucalyptus trees. There was a pool that had a slide built from fake boulders. I mentioned to someone how impressive the rock slide was, and he told me that the same company that built this one also built them at SeaWorld.
Kids were jumping off the rocks into the pool. I told Chris, the homeowner, that if I were a kid, I'd live in his back yard. He said, "There's a baseball team next door that came over earlier just to use the pool. All of them were doing back flips." I was about to ask him if he was worried that someone might get hurt when he yelled, "Hey, nice back flip!" I guessed not.
One kid jumped from the rocks onto an inflatable jet ski and then slid into the pool in pain. Another kid kept jumping off the rocks with different items -- a snorkel in his mouth, an inner tube around his waist.
One guy walked into the party with three cases of wine. Someone said, "He owns the Orfila Winery in Escondido. He's great about bringing wine to parties. He just asks that we give him back anything we don't use." (Note to self: become friends with a wine maker.)
Someone told me that the pool had salt water in it, which is better for the skin than chlorinated fresh water. He explained to me how bacteria grows, but when the explanation got long-winded, I excused myself and headed to the outdoor bar to grab some dip. Chris was in the process of making salsa with guacamole in it, and a crowd was waiting for him to finish. It reminded me of people crowding around the free samples at Costco.
There were a couple food tables where guests could drop off what they brought. One woman had made two kinds of wraps. My date said, "Wow, I've never seen peanut butter and jelly wraps." She ate four.
There were several interesting characters at the party. One guy called himself "Tiki Dan." He had long hair and a surfer vibe. He pointed out a surfboard tiki that he had carved into one of Chris's palm trees. He told me it takes them two or three years to dry out and that they're 80 percent lighter when they're dried. He invited me out front to his truck where he showed me more of his woodwork, such as the danger signs with skulls that he sells for $20. "I'll make you something if you want," he said as he grabbed his tools. I thought he was going to start right then and there. I thanked him and said I didn't need anything. A neighbor Tiki Dan had done work for pulled up and handed him a beer and money that he owed him.
I then met a guy named John who wore a Negro League baseball cap. I asked him if he knew anything about players Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige, and we talked about the history of the Negro Leagues. He told me that he got interested in the teams when he found out his uncle played on one. John's wife is a retired cop, and I asked her for a few crazy stories. She said there were too many.
John went to college on a football scholarship. He told me that when he wasn't getting playing time, he ran track. We talked basketball, and he told me a story about playing with Bill Walton in the late '60s at Balboa Park. "He was always so respectful of everyone. And he just loved the sport. I saw him recently. I hadn't seen him since he was playing back in high school. He looked up as he was signing an autograph and said, 'Oh, hi John.' I couldn't believe he remembered me."
A bunch of guys who obviously work out were walking around shirtless. "There's no way in hell my shirt is coming off in this crowd," I said to my date. Just then, a big guy named Danny came up and said in an exaggerated Italian accent, "Yo, man, listen. I love your column. You got lots of good write-ups. But the one you write about this party better be good. I don't wanna have to come pay a visit to your wife or hurt anyone. Ya know what I mean?"
I found a chair in a thatch hut where I petted a big dog and talked with a couple until Chris called me over to try his dip. I told him I didn't eat avocado and took a plate of plain salsa.
When a guy reached over to turn off the stereo, Chris asked him why. "It's playing Clapton's 'Cocaine.' I don't want the kids hearing that." I told him that I was a kid when that song came out and that it didn't influence me to do cocaine or other drugs. He said, "Well, I don't want to contribute to it. I'd rather the kids just don't hear songs like this."
He pressed skip and the disc went to the next song, which was hardcore rap with worse lyrics...
When a kid came up to the stereo 15 minutes later, someone said, "Nobody under 40 can touch the stereo," which explained all the Jimmy Buffet and Beach Boys.
Chris told me that he used to work for Fineline Entertainment in Colorado and got to meet a lot of bands. I asked him if that's how he got the guitar signed by the Eagles. "No. I bought that on eBay for $400." He told me he didn't get autographs backstage because he didn't want to bug the bands. He told me how he once got John Elway's autograph for a friend's son. He said, "I had it, but I lost it." I said, "You lost it before you even gave it to the kid?" He replied, "Uh, no. He had it. But he died."