I heard about a jungle-themed party in National City. I put on a pair of khaki shorts and a jungle shirt that my mom gave me years ago. I’d worn it only once before. I borrowed a pair of binoculars and, outfit complete, headed out.
I thought I’d have the coolest gear, but when I walked in, I saw three people who were dressed just like me. Two with hats. I turned into a third-grader, though, thinking, Ha! My binoculars are bigger than theirs. They’ll have binocular envy.
One guy was dressed in a gorilla outfit. I heard him say to someone, “My banana is wilting. Do you have stuff I can put in it?”
Half an hour later, I met an entire family in banana outfits.
It was a good environment for a party. Aside from all the costumes, there was a game room — pool table and a video game. There was a woman in a witch doctor outfit behind the bar fixing smoothies with a machine that she recently bought. As she made a strawberry-banana drink for me, I asked her why the new machine was better than a blender. She raved about the shaved ice and how it doesn’t just crush it. I told her that she should do a commercial for the thing.
The back yard was small, but it had a pool with skulls around it that had water coming out of them. It had a slide and a ledge that kids were jumping from.
I saw a table with Batarzan shirts for $5. I asked what Batarzan was. I was told it was the band that was going to play. The name stood for “bass, guitar, and a little Tarzan thrown in.”
The drummer had a baseball bat for a leg. “Is that your costume?” I asked him. “Uh, no. I only have one leg.”
I would’ve felt bad asking that, but he chose to use a Louisville Slugger for a leg. I asked if that helped him play the bass drum. “These guys made it for me, and I think it looks cool.”
His name was Steve. He told me he’d developed a blood clot when he was 35. He was a professional skateboarder and a merchant marine. He told me that he still skates and about something interesting he does for extra cash: “I went to Victorville. The military pays amputees $250 a day. They put us up in a hotel, plus expenses. They want their soldiers to be trained in realistic situations. I worked with some Iraqi Americans. They wanted them to work through a translator. One of the things they had me do...I was in a Cadillac near a house. It blew up. We were told to roll out of the car and scream. They had my leg all made up. They had asked if they could do an IV on me. I said sure. This was my first day there. Well, they forgot to cut it off and someone had forgotten about me. All this blood was draining out of me into the bag. They finally came over and put it back in. Usually, though, it’s fun work. Victorville isn’t the best place. But I lay on a cot, taking a nap. I just worked an hour at the Air Force base out there. Four days total. It was easy money.”
As he finished the story, a woman came over and handed him a folded-up diaper. A few people laughed. I had no idea what that was about.
There were a few other skateboarders I talked to. One has a board deal with Creature. Another mentioned a shoe deal with a company called Vox. I found out that a guy named Neil, who I did a cover story on for the Reader, was released from prison. He was charged, along with his wife, in the death of their son. They told me his wife was still in prison.
I enjoyed talking with the musicians. There were a few guys from the band Creepy Creeps. We talked about the local music scene and a few people we knew.
There were a lot of punk and rockabilly records being played, and when one hardcore song came on, Jim’s wife said, “Can you play some nicer music?” She mentioned that someone’s parents were at the party.
I asked Jim about the machine I saw in his garage. He told me it’s for silk-screening shirts, which explains how they could sell the Batarzan T’s for only $5. I bought one. He said, “My daughter said she’d sell them if I gave her a cut. But, she’s over in the swimming pool, so don’t tell her, but she just lost a buck on this sale.”
I’d seen an old hot rod on the front lawn and asked Jim about it. It was a car he’s rebuilding. We talked about old cars. I told him I just bought a ’69 Jag, and he said I was crazy and told me that Jags have a lot of electrical problems. He said, “At least you won’t have to smog it.” I asked if he built the elaborate pool slide and back-yard set. He did.
I went to get food from the kitchen and saw a caveman’s club on the table. I remembered seeing a caveman earlier, but I couldn’t resist. I picked it up and said to Steve, “Is this one of your legs?” Luckily, he has a sense of humor about his leg.
A few people started talking about medical conditions. Someone mentioned that he’d had two brain tumors that were removed through his sinus cavity. Another guy said his grandmother had a tumor and that they had to take her eyeball out to remove the tumor. I said, “You guys are making it hard for me to enjoy these celery sticks.”
A band started playing, and it was difficult to hear people talk. I asked Jim if the neighbors ever called the cops. He said that the police don’t show up unless it’s after 11:30 p.m. It was still late afternoon.