I was walking my dog around University Heights and saw a party setting up at a house near Adams Avenue. I dropped my dog off and headed back over. I walked in and a few women looked at me strangely. I asked who lived in the house, and they introduced me to the gal. I saw a few disco lights going and, out of the corner of my eye, a naked blow-up doll. I asked the woman if I could crash the party and she said no. I explained what I do, and she firmly said, “I don’t know you and don’t feel comfortable with that.”
I went back home and took my dog to the park.
There was a woman named Jan I overheard talking about a party. I asked if I could follow her and crash it. She said that normally wouldn’t be a problem, but this was a “celebration of life” for a guy named Robert, who only had a few weeks to live.
She called the people throwing the party, and they gave me the green light.
I got my girlfriend, and we brought a chocolate cake.
MapQuest didn’t note that the street ended at a school, and I had to drive around it via three different streets before the original street continued. But, I finally found the place.
I was told Robert had cancer on his nose and it had quickly spread. I spotted him right away, wearing a Phantom of the Opera–style mask. He had long black hair and reminded me of a Mexican Jim Morrison.
He was in good spirits, shaking hands and thanking people for coming. He talked about how great his life was and how he felt blessed to be having this party while he was still alive. When an older lady with all gray hair walked in, I heard someone say it was his mom. She started crying, and I almost lost it as well. She quickly regained her composure.
My girlfriend and I looked at a collage of pictures. We especially liked a painting of Robert. He came over and told us about it. He said he’d paid a friend who had gone to a New York art school. He pointed out how she made a collage on the side, as he often used to create collages and other types of art.
Robert wore shoes with skulls and flames. As fast as he was walking (combined with his long hair), it was hard to read the sentences written on his shirt. At one point I told him he had the only T-shirt that nobody ever read completely. I saw the words “sole” and “body of the male.” He turned around so I could read it. It was a long story about seahorses and love.
He mentioned how amazing seahorses are and how it’s the male who gives birth. I said, “I’ve heard that, but it seems a more logical conclusion that the scientists just labeled the wrong ones male and didn’t want to admit to the mistake.” He laughed and said, “No. It is the male who gives birth.” He then explained it in more detail.
When I complimented a guy’s pendant — a turquoise scarab beetle — he pointed at Robert.
“He gave it to me years ago. And I never take it off.”
Robert told me he worked with jewelry, and we met a cute older lady who did some work with him. She told some interesting stories about reading fortunes by looking at gemstones. I told her about some pet psychics and how I thought it was BS. She believed they were real, and as I started to talk about it, my girlfriend leaned in and whispered, “Okay…chill out.”
I did agree with the last thing she said: “Friends are like jewels. The more you have, the richer you are.”
An African-American woman named Debra saw me grab some Hershey’s Kisses and pointed to her husband, who was passing out brownies she made. I asked if they were funny brownies, and she said, “The only thing here funny, honey, is me!” We talked about the desserts she’s made. At one point, she broke out this amazing operatic voice to sing a few verses of something.
A couple who owns Café 2121 brought some delicious cookies. They have a cute kindergarten-age kid named Elmar, who told me he has a number of different girlfriends. My girlfriend said, “What a coincidence. So does he.”
Elmar wanted me to guess their names, and it got tough with some of the foreign students. When he said, “I have a few boyfriends, too,” his dad looked shocked. I replied, “I think a lot of people at this party do, too.”
There were guys at the party with AIDS whom Robert had met at a medical marijuana place.
An attractive sister of Robert’s was dancing to one of the songs and joking with the many people she knew. At one point I saw her crying as she talked with someone about Robert. He came over to me and said how wonderful she is. He added, “This isn’t a sad day. I’m so happy right now.”
The backyard had a canyon view and many different sections. One area had a bar with a five-foot-in-diameter sculpture of lips behind it. The homeowner told me the lips were hanging at Foggy’s Notion, near the Sports Arena, for years. He had an artist repaint them, which cost more than he’d anticipated ($800).
There were stairs that descended to a lower level, where I noticed a mariachi band was performing. Robert danced and sang along. I said, “You can’t possibly know the words to this tune.” He got a huge smile on his face and said, “I know all the songs.”
He got a few other people to get up and dance, and they were having a blast.
I talked to Sundi, who lives with and has helped take care of Robert during his battle with cancer. She told me many stories about what a great guy he is.
And as Robert went back upstairs, I overheard him talking about his 15-year battle with the disease.
I made my way out and listened as people tried to figure out who blocked a car with their Porsche. I glanced over and saw Elmar saying bye to Robert. He asked a question about his mask. Robert politely answered him, and then there was a moment of silence. The boy extended his arm up to him, and as they shook hands, he said, “I hope you feel better soon.”