A friend of mine was going to a party in Irvine and asked if I wanted to write about it. I told him that Irvine was outside my scope, but I went anyway.

When I met him in Vista, I saw a house setting up for a graduation party. I figured if the grad bash was still going on when we got back, I’d crash that.

We drove up in late afternoon. Since it was a family reunion, I felt awkward when I walked in with Mike. As all eyes were looking at me, I said, “Well, with that ban on gay marriage being overturned, Mike brought me up here to introduce his new husband to the family.” Most of them laughed. A few looked confused.

I met a guy from Cleveland who collects autographed baseballs. He told a few interesting stories. One was about getting a signed baseball from Tony Gwynn in the early ‘80s and how it’s his prized possession. He talked about bringing his kids to Padres and Angels games and how hard it is to get autographs these days.

I noticed that he had an Ohio State tattoo on his leg.

His wife talked about a $35,000 Mustang she had that was tricked out and that she was in an accident that totaled it. She ended up getting screwed by the insurance company. She said, “I think it’s because I’m a woman. When I got a lawyer, they said I should’ve never accepted it from the repair shop since it wasn’t fixed properly.” I asked what was wrong with the car. “It pulled hard to the right. I could barely hold the steering wheel. Also, they repainted the racing stripe a completely different color that looked horrible. They told me it will look better once it fades in the sun.”

Chicken was being BBQ’d, and there was food on the counter — potato salad, corn on the cob, chips... I grabbed a Dr Pepper and went on the back patio to talk more sports. I figured I’d eat later.

An hour later, when I walked in, the food was gone, except for a couple of pies. I grabbed another Dr Pepper and went back outside for a cigar.

A woman had a tiny dog on her lap. When I went over to pet it, it growled, jumped up, and tried to take off my finger. She said, “Bean is real protective of me.” I replied, “Kurt Cobain’s daughter is named Bean. Why did you guys pick the name?” She told me her kids thought the dog was small like a bean.

Most of the conversations were about kids. One lady has a daughter working at a music venue in Texas. She’d recently filled in for a bartender and got a $120 tip. The lady with the totaled Mustang told me about her son totaling a truck by driving off the freeway. I said, “I think car accidents run in the family.”

She was quick to point out that the Mustang wreck was from someone who hit her.

When we got back to Vista, it was around 9:30 p.m., and I saw that the graduation party was still going on.

I walked up and asked them who the party was for. A bunch of Latinos looked at me, wondering who I was. One of them then said, “It’s for Cynthia. Her graduation.” I asked if I could meet her. I got a few more weird stares, but they walked me inside.

They had a canopy and several chairs on the front lawn. Graduation balloons filled the garage. They also had some hung on the stop signs nearby. I overheard her mom tell someone, “We bought two dozen silver balloons and a pack of 300 regular balloons.”

I met Cynthia and her brother Junior, who owned the house. He said, “Yeah, you can crash this party. We’re known for our parties here. In fact, we had a neighbor move out after our last Halloween party.”

As I talked to him, he did seem conscious of the neighbors. He had closed the door at 9:00 p.m. so they wouldn’t hear the music, much of it provided by his brother, who’s a DJ. It was a mix of hip-hop tunes and mariachi. He’d also mix in funny tracks, such as Homer Simpson singing “Spiderpig.”

I asked Cynthia what school she graduated from. She told me Cal State San Marcos. I asked if she was the first to graduate in her family, and she told me Junior graduated. He now works for CSUSM.

Cynthia’s mom couldn’t have been more proud. She said, “I have four kids, and I raised them all as a single mother.”

Cynthia told me that she’s going to get married and then go back for her master’s in communications. She hopes to work in PR. I asked her where her fiancé was, and someone said, “Oh, he’s already passed out.”

Junior and I started talking about fantasy football. He told me about a bet he lost and how there’s a pink shirt his softball team has. If you strike out, you have to wear it into a bar. A bet he made on a football game resulted in him wearing it, covered in whistles, into a bar in Oceanside. Lucky for him, the looks didn’t last long, and the bar owner gave him a few free beers.

When I went outside to talk to people, I told Junior I could see how it would be loud for some neighbors. But, for Halloween or a graduation party, they should be more understanding. He said, “Yeah, well, sometimes we’re loud. He complained about the parking, too. He said this was a private road.” As we were talking, a car alarm in the garage went off. I said, “Hey, Cynthia, is that your graduation gift?” She replied, “I wish! I probably just got cards. And some money. Maybe when I get my master’s. Hey, I should graduate more often.”

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