Friday, February 26, 8:45 p.m. A University Heights house at Georgia and El Cajon is illuminated by the retro neon “Boulevard” sign, lending the epithet “The Big Pink.” The theme is “Walmart Rollback.” Leif opens the door and I behold an unholy image. It’s as if I’m looking in the mirror. Leif, too, wears obscene daisy dukes. His too-small tummy shirt mimics my own. “Red stag,” it reads. We even have identical moccasin leisure slippers. The coincidence is unsettling. We drink a beer to come to grips. Nobody is here, yet.
We rearrange the living room, establishing a dance floor. Sarah, a roommate, shows us her fake redneck teeth and describes her booty shorts, which are even more scandalous than ours. “We invited, like, 200 people,” she says. Another roomie, Markus, arrives with the DJs, who drove from L.A. to play the party. We all meet — Abstract Buttafingaz, Phoniks, Alcendor, and NSOK from the Five Signs crew. “It’s a Walmart party,” Markus explains. “That’s why they’re dressed...like that.” They all sit down in the backyard and eat some fish tacos from El Zarape. “Man, we don’t get tacos like this up in L.A.,” Buttafingaz laments. NSOK tells us about bike culture in the Wicker Park neighborhood. “There’s maybe one street with a bike lane in all of L.A.,” he says.
The band, Knockout Bell, pulls up around 9:50. While they unload their van, a few newcomers discuss libations for the evening. The high-octane energy booze Four Loko is a prominent theme. “I had to leave North Carolina because of Four Loko,” one guy says. “Well,” Sarah says, “I’m pre-gaming now because this jacket is coming off and then everyone will see my strawberry pasties.”
The topic shifts to post-university existentialism. Some say they hate their jobs, which have little to do with their college degrees. “I blame the economy,” says Leif. “It definitely can’t be my fault.” Alice arrives in decidedly regular attire and relates her ambitions. “I want to hop a marine biology research cruise to Costa Rica.”
Around 10:15, about ten kids on fixed-gear bikes arrive, having just departed from the Critical Mass ride. Someone produces a glass bubbler and pungent California reefer makes its way around. My friends Lauren and Jeanna arrive on their bicycles. Jeanna’s get-up is so elaborate, I hardly recognize her. She wears sweatpants, a leopard-print jacket, a nappy silver wig, and a fake mole. A Sharpie tattoo on her stomach says, “Head south.” “I’m all high off my yoga class,” Lauren says, smiling. Katie shows up with a fifth of Jack Daniel’s. “I’ve had a tutu incident,” she says. “I spilled my soda all over it.”
Inside, the Talking Heads play over the stereo as maybe 30 costumed partiers pour drinks and jabber away in the kitchen. “I could so see you at Walmart buying beef jerky and beer,” a girl named Lana tells me. A dude in dukes hollers, “Hey, nice shorts!” We take a photo.
Knockout Bell kicks-off in the garage, alternately reminiscent of Tortoise, King Crimson, and Wharton Tiers. About 20 trashy party-goers in sleeveless Wrangler button-ups and false muffin tops wiggle around to the music. A wide-eyed Leif grabs me by the shoulders and proclaims, “It’s like an aural orgasm!”
Out front, Mark shares a bottle of Spanish wine, explaining how to pair it with food. A recently certified sommelier, he says, “A lot of it is improvisation. But there are objective values like sugars and tannins. Certain cheeses react with particular tannins in the wine, which is important when pairing.” A few KSDT radio jockeys smoke cigarettes and discuss racial tensions at UCSD.
One of the Four Loko bunch takes a liking to Lauren’s hot pink bobbed wig. “I like you,” he slurs. “I’m not gunna lie. I have too many shortcomings to be with you at the moment, but...uh...” Lauren makes a peacock sound and gives me her wig to snap a few photos. “You gotta suck it in,” Katie says. “Use your MySpace angles.”
Later, I see Four Loko inside waiting for the restroom. “A fight’s about to break out over there,” he says, pointing ominously toward an empty room. “Oh, yeah?” I ask. “Between who?” “Me and some meat heads,” he grins, cross-eyed. A group of maybe 15 people dance around to Michael Jackson and Gorillaz in the living room.
The band ends around 12:30. Bassist Bob tells me about plans for K.O. Bell, a side project of Scribe Amidst the Lions. “We want to tie in the funk. Get a few horns.”
Katie and I give each other sharpie tramp stamps. “Will you tell me what it says on the small of my back?” Katie asks a latecomer. “Wait a minute,” the girl responds. “Is this a dress-up party?”