Barbarella
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No animal ever invented anything so bad as drunkenness — or so good as drink. — Lord Chesterton

I pilfered a Diet Dr. Pepper from my friend’s fridge. A couple of people were drinking red wine out of glasses, but the majority of partygoers held plastic red cups filled with foamy beer from the keg outside. Others drank a reddish-brown liquid I’d mistaken for iced tea.

“Yeah, it’s iced tea,” Sara said, laughing at me. She held a cup beneath the dispenser and, when it was full, gave it to a waiting friend. She then explained that the concoction in the giant container on the kitchen counter was the combined remains of all the liquor leftover from her last party. “All the bits of booze from all those bottles, we just poured it in here,” she said.

“It’s been a long time since I had Jungle Juice,” said the guy to whom Sara had handed the cup. He took a sip. “Tastes kind of sweet.”

“You wanna try it?” Sara asked me.

“No, thanks, I’ll stick to this for now.” I held up the soda can. My aversion to the mystery mixture aside, I was in need of rehydration, not some dubious blend of booze. That morning I’d brunched at Starlite, where I’d discovered a new drink called the Breakfast Manhattan, featuring bourbon, maple liqueur, and a spiral bacon garnish. The thing about drinking in the morning is that once you nap it off in the afternoon, the only fluid you’re craving by sundown is water.

That didn’t stop David — he’d also partaken in the morning’s debauchery, but now he was double-fisting a can of Diet Coke and a glass of red wine. “Here, want one of these?” I asked the girl to my left. I recognized her from a local restaurant — just about everyone at the party worked in the food industry. It was a going-away bash for a chef and a server, which explained why it had been scheduled on a Sunday night.

“Thanks,” said the girl, plucking one of the “fried yummies” from the cardboard basket in my hand. She took a bite of the golf ball-sized delight — chunks of pork encased in a ball of mac ’n’ cheese that had then been breaded and fried — and said, “Oh, man...that’s good.”

Just as gay boys have been my gateway to the finest drugs, friends in the restaurant industry are my ticket to top-notch treats. Parties like this were opportunities for cooks and pastry chefs to try out new dishes, and though he’s not a pro like the others, David never shows up without bringing his A game (this time, he brought a chocolate espresso cake with fresh coffee-flavored whipped cream). But unlike the last party (which featured grilled salmon, a slow-roasted pig, and side dishes made from ingredients sourced from local gardens), this shindig’s eats were dished up from a food truck. Someone at the party had an in with the owners of Devilicious; “fried yummies,” smoked bacon dogs with habanero kimchi, and all sorts of good grub was being made to order inside the truck parked at the curb in front of the house.

“I know, right? I’m starting to see the reasoning behind their name.” I’d already polished off a butter-poached lobster grilled cheese with caramelized onions; the fried balls put me way over my naughty-food quota for the week. “So what’s this, you’re drinking soda, too? Or is there some of that Jesus juice in that can.”

The girl finished chewing, sipped from the can, and said, “No, just this. I have to be up early tomorrow. I can’t get drunk.”

“Why don’t you just have one or two? Get a little buzzed, not plastered.”

“With that?” She gestured at the dispenser on the counter. “Yeah, I don’t think so.”

“I feel you.” We raised our cans and toasted our provisional temperance. I said goodbye and began to make my way through the crowd, toward the backyard. I had almost made it to the door when I felt tugging on my scalp — someone had grabbed hold of my pigtails.

Normally I don’t mind a little friendly tug on the hair — a flirtation from David, a playful taunt from a friend.... But when I twisted my head sideways, I saw a dude in white-framed sunglasses (the sun had been down for hours) with a dopey, warped smile on his face. He tightened his grip and giggled, then waved each of my pigtails back and forth as he slurred something unintelligible. He seemed to think he was being funny. I’m surprised he was able to think at all.

“Let. Go.” He did, albeit slowly, and I turned around to size him up. He wore a cap on his head, which was lolling to the side. “Watch yourself, boy. I don’t want to have to get the riding crop out of my car.” He started to laugh, then had a moment of clarity and saw through his sunglasses and fog of inebriation that I wasn’t kidding. “Don’t touch me again,” I said.

The trouble with not drinking at a party is that it makes those who are drinking that much more annoying. I met up with David outside. “Some guy in there’s had a bit too much of Sara’s special brew.”

“Sunglasses?” I nodded. “That’s more than alcohol he’s on,” David said.

Sara interrupted my powwow to inform us that the cops had arrived. “Let’s drag that guy out front, maybe they’ll take him away,” I said to David. But it turned out the patrol car, flashing lights and all, had stopped to nab some Devilicious food. “That’s ironic,” I said.

“How so?” David asked.

“The one time cops show up at a party not to bust us is the one time I’m sober.”

As if on cue, Sunglasses stumbled by us, misjudged his footing, and collapsed to the ground, his bare knees landing in the same spot of grass on which Sara’s dog had recently pooped. “Talk about being shitfaced,” I said, pleased with my pun.

“Ew, I can’t look,” David said while people nicer than us hurried to fetch paper towels from the kitchen.

I ditched my can and turned to my man. “Right, that’s our cue. Let’s get out of here before he remembers how to stand up.”

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Joe Poutous April 8, 2011 @ 6:57 a.m.

Note to self: Go straight to the Starlite, Drink Breakfast Manhattan.

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