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"Who wants kombucha?” Eli shouts as I walk into his new downtown loft around 10:30 p.m. The second-story space on the corner of Fourth Avenue and K Street feels utilitarian and bohemian — all concrete, drywall, and steel — with an echoing living/kitchen area, a pot of quinoa, kale, and onions steaming on the stove, and a jar of homebrewed probiotic tea fermenting on the countertop.

Eli and his friend Andres, who is out of town, recently rented the place, which remains mostly vacant besides a few retro-modern chairs and a video projector swirling colorful geometry on the wall. The two envision hosting international travelers from couchsurfing.com and creating a space to cultivate San Diego’s experimental art and noise culture, starting with a show by free-jazz trombonist, electronic-music composer, and former UCSD professor George Lewis.

Röyksopp and Astor Piazzolla play from the stereo while, outside, the Chase banking tower and Harbor Club condos glow from blocks away. A row of pots on the north-facing window ledge hold herbs, a lemon tree, and chard. By the open windows, Nate tells me that we are waiting for the birthday girl, Liz, a former roommate of Eli’s, to get back from partying at Belo. We realize we have met before and try to pinpoint the connection. “It was at a party, yeah?” I offer. “Oh, the one in La Mesa!”

“La Mesa?” he wonders.

“Yes, you remember, with that funny little dog...and Mawkus was there...and there was that amazing bean dip...”

“Yes, the bean dip!” Nate exclaims. “The bean dip!” It really was good bean dip.

I go downstairs to let my friend Haylie in, and when we return, half the party is engaged in a shadow-puppet contest by the projector. The shadow croissant is winning so far, I am told, but there’s time. “Shadow croissant?” I ask, trying to twist my hand into a sea monster. “Well, someone said it looked more like an apple turnover, but...”

Haylie and Eli get fed up with simple hand tricks and resort to ninja battles in the psychedelic glow of the projector. Later, it comes to light that Eli was once a fraternity brother, and no one can really picture that.

Around one in the morning, a few people leave and Anton comes back five minutes later, saying, “They’re all stuck in the elevator. That’s where the party’s at.” As if on cue, Liz the birthday girl arrives with an entourage of friends and the mood goes festive. Six String Samurai projects on the wall as I talk with Izzy and KSDT Aaron about the local pirate station, 106.9 FM, which is so new, “it may have just gone on air last night.” We talk music, the significance of it all, and Izzy sums it up, saying, “Music is a high. It’s a trip. It makes everything and nothing else matter. It makes the small man large.”

Alex from Norway shows me his spinal tattoo: Viking runes that translate, “Love conquers all, so let us all yield to love.” Inspired, I snatch a megaphone from the floor to proclaim a few things, but nothing happens. “There’s a reason I took the batteries out tonight,” Eli laughs. “I’m turning it into a synth for Burning Man.” And he tells me a bit about circuit-bending.

Later, when most of the party has cleared out, I ask Eli how the gathering compared to his vision of the place as an art and music venue. “It was good, but I’d like to see it even less belligerent,” he says. “And even more classy.” ■

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Chad Deal.

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