Someone on the Reader website clued me in to a Las Vegas–themed party going down in North Park.
I’m glad they did. The small backyard was packed with Vegas-style games and a detached room that was filled with food and booze.
There was a pool table and video-game setup as you walked in near the driveway. A huge banner greeted everyone with “Welcome to San Diego, Las Vegas” — the person throwing the party works for a graphics company. He told me that he throws this party every few years to thank employees and clients.
Everyone was given lots of chips to play with, and there were raffles with expensive prizes.
I immediately put a $100 chip down on a game of blackjack. I was given a 2 and a 3. I kept hitting until I got 19. The dealer got a 19 and we pushed. It was fun but not the rush you’d get if it were a hundred bucks of your own money.
I started to write some notes, and someone asked if I was trying to count cards by writing them down. Another player piped in, “You’d never be able to get a pen and paper anywhere near a table in Vegas.”
When the dealer busted on the next hand and the table erupted in cheers, I heard barking coming from an upstairs window. I looked up and saw a Pomeranian. Kelly, the homeowner, said, “I wouldn’t have a problem letting the dog down here, but he’s so small, and with people drinking, gambling, and not paying attention... I don’t want him getting stepped on.” Later in the evening the dog did make his way down and seemed to avoid all of our feet.
After half an hour of playing, I went for some grub. The DJ played a mix of rock and dance tunes. It wasn’t so loud that you couldn’t talk to the players at the tables with you, even with the roulette and craps table being set up right next to the DJ booth.
I got some chips and salsa and a margarita before heading back to the table for more blackjack. Tom, the dealer, was explaining to one woman why she should hit the 16 she was staying with. When she busted by drawing an 8, I think she thought he had duped her.
A woman to my left was eating fruit, and I noticed some watermelon dripping on the green felt. Tom didn’t seem to mind.
Half the people at the tables cleared when the DJ played “Baby Got Back.” They sang, danced, and grinded along to Sir Mix-A-Lot on the small area of grass that had become the dance floor.
Right before the first prizes were raffled, I saw Kelly walking around to pass out tickets. Her dog was in a basket and looked like Toto being carried by Dorothy.
Someone won a pair of sunglasses in the raffle. Tom started to shuffle as a number was read. The next person won a digital camcorder. He looked at me and said, “How pissed do you think the person is that won the sunglasses?”
I went into the other room to grab a Coke Zero, and a person getting a margarita looked at me and said, “This is my fourth one. I swear, margarita machines at parties...a sure-fire way to get people drunk as skunks.”
A girl named Courtney was at the craps table, and a few people were wishing her a happy 17th birthday. I found out she was a CIF pole-vaulting champ. We talked briefly about that, and she pointed out a few other pole-vaulting teenagers.
Her friend Jeremy is a CIF boys’ champ. I talked to his father about the sport. I asked how one decides to run full speed, stick a spear into a ground, and hope it carries them over a bar and onto a soft mat.
He said he was a pole-vaulter and started because his dad ran track and suggested it.
He talked a lot about the community of pole-vaulters. His son Jeremy was in the nation’s top ten and number four in California. He’s cleared 15 feet.
I asked about the possibility of the Olympics and was told, “You have to clear 18 feet to even be considered. But, Jeremy does have Irish citizenship. If he went with Ireland, he could probably qualify.”
Someone else told me that the Olympic record is 19’8”.
I found out that it’s a tradition for Olympians to have the rings tattooed on them. I mentioned never seeing that before, and someone said, “Oh, yeah. If you watch the women volleyball players, when they’re at the beach, you’ll see the tattoos. Even Michael Phelps has the Olympic rings.”
As we discussed this, someone mentioned the SDSU pole-vaulting coach being somewhere at the party.
I told the only two pole-vaulting stories I have: one about a guy I worked with who told me a pole snapped when he was trying to break a high school record. He landed on his head and thought he broke his neck. It freaked him out so much, he never did it again.
Another story I read about three prisoners — one convicted of murder — pole-vaulting over a barbed-wire fence and escaping prison.
An older lady overheard all this and said, “I’d rather talk about dancing than Olympic sports and prison escapes.” I asked her what kind of dancing she did.
“I love to tango. I also like zydeco. The problem now is, I don’t have a partner. I don’t want just any guy to come up and dance with me. I want a professional. It’s probably why I’m single, too. If they don’t dance, I’m outta there!”
I talked to some of the employees of the graphics business. One was telling me about the cars that have the advertisements wrapped around them. I asked if that ever caused accidents and was told, “No, but we’ve heard of it happening. A customer told us someone was looking at a vehicle we wrapped, and they almost crashed.”
At one point, people sang “Happy Birthday” to Gil. There were thank you’s from the boss and a few employees, one saying they had the best boss ever. And if you looked around at all the fun everyone had, it seemed hard to dispute.