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Driving home from Vegas, I got into San Marcos around 10:00 p.m. I drove by a house that had festive lights glowing in the back yard and several cars parked in front.I went home, took a leak, threw on a new shirt, grabbed my camera, and headed to the party.

I saw three teenaged girls on the driveway. I heard one say that she thought some grass she stepped in was poisonous. I asked the girls whose party it was. They looked at me without saying anything, and then one of them said, "Uh, it's my dad Bob's. He's turning 40. Why? Are we being too loud?" I said, "No. I was just wondering if he'd be cool with me crashing."

"Well, I could ask him."

A tall guy came to the door. I could smell alcohol on him. He smiled and said, "Yeah, sure. Come on in." I told him I write about parties for the Reader . One of the girls said, "Oh, my God! That's so cool! I hope we get to be in there."

For the first 45 minutes, the three girls followed me everywhere. I spoke with Jennie who told me that she ran track. She said she was Bob's best friend and that he was her soccer coach.

Another girl played softball. I asked the third girl, Jill, if she played any sports. She told me she's a junior black belt. I said, "I didn't know they had 'junior' attached to that. I sometimes hear about six-year-old kids that have black belts. Now that makes a bit more sense."

She said the junior label is attached if you're under 15. I said, "Have you broken any boards. Or any bones?" She had a serious look on her face as she said, "I've broken two boards. No bones."

As I took pictures of these girls, one of the older guys nearby said, "Put the signs up." The girls were doing things with their fingers as I snapped photos. Since someone had recently brought up Asian women doing a "V" with their fingers, and I was seeing it here from three white girls, I asked what it meant. The girl that did it said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Does the V represent Vista or anything like that?" She said, "No. I thought it just meant 'peace.'" Another one of the girls said, "I know how to claim west side."

There was a poker game going on. Bob came over and said, "I need to get back in that game." I asked him if they were going easy on him because it was his birthday. He said, "Hell no! I've already lost some money. But I'll probably buy back in."

I saw people leaving and asked them why so early. They said, "We've been here for a while. And, a lot of people left before us, around 9 o'clock."

Bob told me his family had been in Lake Havasu and they just got back. He said, "We didn't have much time to plan this party. My mom and I are thinking of going into business together."

Bob introduced me to a few people. He told them that I worked for the Reader. They said, "Oh," and went back to what they were doing. That was understandable at the poker table, but it felt awkward when I was standing near someone and there was no follow-up conversation. They just went back to the conversation they were having.

One guy looked like George Clooney. He said, "Hey, are you that guy who writes about parties?" I told him I was, and he extended his hand. He asked me questions about the parties I'd been to. When others looked over, he said, "This guy is the crasher!" I thought, Now, this is more like it!

We walked out to the back yard where there was more room. It was huge with a grill built on the patio. There was a saloon-style bar stocked with booze. I grabbed a Coke and noticed that across the yard, near the Jacuzzi, one of the girls was watching my every move.

The Clooney guy introduced himself as Tosh. After we talked about my job, I asked Tosh about his. He told me that he worked at the post office, and I asked which one. It turned out to be the same one my stepfather worked at. Tosh knew my stepfather and told me a few stories about him. When I told him that I worked at that branch for a few years, we talked about the mutual people we knew and some of the crazy bosses we had to deal with. I then remembered him from the shift before mine.

When I mentioned my high school reunion, Tosh asked which school I went to. I told him that it was Mira Mesa, and he said his sister Brenda went there. "I think she was a grade behind me," I said. "She was really cute." I asked what she's been up to, and he told me about her job and the various DJs and newscasters in town she's dated over the years.

When he mentioned his half-brother Carl, I said, "Oh, yeah. He was on the swim team. We used to hang out at the basketball courts at lunch. The first time I ever had string cheese was with him. He always had it packed in his lunch."

Then I remembered that Carl and I had a falling out, but I couldn't remember what it was about. I wonder how many kids in high school have fights about little things that end friendships.

As I lit my cigar, Tosh suggested that I dip it into the Amaretto.

I said, "When people find out you work at the post office, do they ask you all kinds of questions about it? Do they assume you get free stamps?"

"Yeah, I get all kinds of questions. The most common one is when stamp prices are raised. People will say 'Why are you doing this? I pay taxes.'"

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