I drove up to Oceanside for a surprise party that Wayne was throwing for his wife’s birthday.
I squeezed into a spot on the street, slightly blocking the driveway of a nearby neighbor.
I could hear the band playing from down the block. Two percussionists and a trumpet player were blasting Latin rhythms into the neighborhood.
I walked through the front door and toward the backyard, where I could see the party was going on. While in the house, I saw a Latina watching the Lakers. Dang! I had completely forgotten about the game. It had just started. I said to her, “I’m a big basketball fan, so I’ll probably be joining you in a few minutes.” She didn’t acknowledge me. Her eyes never left the screen.
The band started playing “La Bamba,” and a crowd was dancing on the back patio. When I hear that song on the radio I switch the station, but something about hearing it live worked for me. Maybe it’s because the band was tight. I couldn’t take my eyes off the talented drummer. Or the cute trumpet player.
I met Wayne and asked him how he pulled off the surprise party. He said that it was difficult. I asked his wife if she was surprised or if she had a clue that there was a party being planned. A sly smile came upon her face when she said, “Well, there were a few things that made me suspicious...
and ways they were trying to get me out of the house. My sister kept telling me to hurry up and take a shower. Things like that.”
Wayne laughed when he told me, “I’d take tables out and set them up, and she’d come back, so I had to go put them away. It was a bit hectic.”
He insisted I get in line for some of the street tacos being prepared. There were ten people in front of me, so I grabbed a juice box out of a large cooler nearby and jumped in line. The singer of the band Luna Llena announced, “Get food, get drunk. We’re going to take a break, but we’ll be back.”
The trumpet player ended up behind me in the food line. Her name was Elizabeth Meeker, and she’s been playing for 20 years. Aside from being in this band, she teaches music.
She’s been with this Afro-Cuban band for almost two years, and I asked if she had any ear problems from playing. “No. My arm is hurting a little, though.” A girl walked by at that moment telling her friend that her feet hurt from dancing so much. I wondered if musicians liked hearing that at a party they’re playing. Or if they liked it more that the people throwing the bash provided food.
The guy making the street tacos handed me a couple tortillas with his bare hands. Part of me thought it was gross that he touched them, but part of me also thought that that added some authenticity to street tacos. And for some reason at parties, you don’t seem to care if someone hands you a burger or taco like that. If a waiter did it at a restaurant, though, you’d be livid.
There was a guy slinging drinks from behind a bar. I asked if the glass container had margaritas in it. “No,” he said. “That’s Tuscan lemonade. It tastes similar, though.” I grabbed a glass. The bartender told Wayne the lemonade was running low and asked him if he should go pick up some more at Costco. A guy leaned in and said, “Those are nice friends to have at parties, the ones who volunteer to go on alcohol runs when you start to run out.”
There didn’t seem to be a shortage of booze, though. One cooler was filled with a variety of wine bottles. Another cooler had lots of beer. And there was a cooler of soft drinks.
After finishing my lemonade and a glass of wine, I was a bit buzzed. My girlfriend commented that the food they were serving was tasty.
When I leaned over to respond, the balloons tied to the back of the chair kept getting in my face. I saw one guy take the balloons off his chair and put them somewhere else, but one got away from him and sailed off. I noticed all the low-hanging telephone wires and wondered if anything could happen with a balloon getting tangled in one. Maybe I’ll throw that by Mathew Alice in the hallway at the Reader office.
The band started up again, but I went inside to check on the Lakers. There was a crowd watching the game. The score was close, and it was near the end of the game. Two guys behind me kept complaining about the referees. The older Latina was in her same place without an expression on her face. I stared at her for a few minutes, and I don’t think I saw her blink.
As I went back outside, I saw three cupcakes sitting on the kitchen counter. I brought one out to my girlfriend, who snapped at me. “Those aren’t for us to eat! You don’t grab food out of someone’s kitchen! The food outside is for the guests....”
She wouldn’t touch the cupcake, so I ate it. I said, “Hey, it’s a party. If I see cupcakes, I’m eating one. I’m not going to go into someone’s refrigerator and grab food, but it was on the counter. And there were only three. That leads me to believe there were more, but they had been eaten earlier.” She was having none of it.
Luna Llena took another break, and belly dancers came out. One of them was male, and I joked that he looked like Adam Lambert of American Idol. Maybe it was the eyeliner.
One of them was twirling fire, which was fun to watch.
All the kids at the party were well behaved. I heard a nearby table of them thanking the adults and being very polite. One teenager told her friends that she was leaving the party to go see her friend’s band. I asked her about it, and she said, “My mom was trying to make me feel guilty I was leaving her party for another one. But, she knows I love her. I mean, I felt bad, but these are a bunch of older people. And my friend’s band is having a CD-release party.”
I asked her the band’s name, and she said they were called Without Warning. (I told her I’d give them a shout out in the column.)
The belly dancers wrapped things up, nothing got burned from the fire they were throwing around, and as expected, the Lakers won.
As we were heading out, they were preparing the birthday cake. I overheard yet another woman say her feet were sore from dancing.
These were all signs of a good party.