My buddy Mark and his girlfriend Liz recently moved from Pacific Beach to North Park and threw a housewarming barbecue to inaugurate their new place. Maybe 12 friends, many of them old pals from East County, sipped bottles of beer in the yard and poured cocktails in the kitchen, where our hosts had prepared pitchers of Moscow Mules and Dark & Stormys.
“The landlord is awesome. He’s a Zen master, into sustainable everything,” Mark said as Parliament-Funkadelic played from the stereo, reminding me why Mark is listed as funeral disc jockey, DJ kID EGO, in my unofficial will. He picked up a bundle of sage and lavender that he and Liz had bought at the farmers’ market that afternoon, saying, “We want the house to smell really good.”
Out front, Mark, a first-level sommelier, told me about his trip to Outside Lands art and music festival in San Francisco and a subsequent jaunt around wine country. Talking about one music festival generally turns into talking about every festival, so friends piped up in anticipation of FYF Fest and Burning Man and shared stories from Sasquatch and Coachella.
I confessed that, for better or worse, I’d never knowingly listened to a song by rapper and mega-producer Kanye West, who headlined Coachella. Mark mentioned the Bassnectar show at Rimac in September, and, as if on cue, both Kanye West and Bassnectar came up on Mark’s playlist moments later.
We considered the stereo synchronicity while Mark blasted the Weber with lighter fluid. It reminded me of our Boy Scout days, when all we really accomplished was blowing up things between the occasional hike, canoe trip, and snowboard outing. Carson, a fellow scout from back when, filled me in on his band, the Saint Cloud Sleepers, which shares members with A Scribe Amidst the Lions, his roommates in Linda Vista.
“We’re getting back together, recording, pressing vinyl, and going on a few mini tours,” he related excitedly.
I recall middle-school camping excursions with our scout troop, the Camels, self-consciously scuffing our first pairs of Converse shoes and talking about punk rock — what it was and what it wasn’t. It definitely wasn’t punk to talk about punk, we knew, but it was still a regular conversation piece, and for a minute I think we honestly believed that just the act of listening to Sex Pistols, Misfits, and Minor Threat albums would somehow transform the world, or at least get us girlfriends.
When Mark finished barbecuing steaks and sausages, we all sat around a table in the side yard and picked at the meat, eating couscous with lemon juice from pink plastic cups. Liz passed around shots of Pomgasm, a mix of PAMA liqueur, triple sec, vodka, and rum. As the sauce worked its magic, my attention was repeatedly drawn to a tall sprig of brush on the horizon silhouetted by the sunset. It looked like a Ferris wheel.
A Pomgasm or two later, someone exclaimed, “Is the carnival in town?”
“Oh, my God,” another responded. “I thought the same thing.”
It turned out about half the table had been contemplating the illusory circus in their periphery.
“Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock played from inside and Apples to Apples came out, which is pretty much the most fun a bunch of half-drunk 20-somethings can have without getting into any real trouble. Around 11 p.m., everyone started making their way out. Having grown up a half hour east of San Diego, parties nowadays often end up feeling like high-school reunions. This one certainly did, and I was glad. ■