I was invited to a party at the Miramar Air Show and a black-tie event. Instead, I went to a housewarming party. A cute 20-year-old blonde named Erin, who works for a dog-grooming business, was going to move to Las Vegas with her mom. Her boss said that if Erin stayed she’d build her a guest house, and someday she’d get to take over the business. She stayed and had a housewarming party to celebrate.
After taking the I-8 into Lakeside, I couldn’t find this place. The directions were sketchy, and I was driving up a lot of dirt roads. Of course, when you’re lost and calling people’s cell phones, that’s when they don’t answer. Somebody finally did, saying, “Look for the Quonset hut.” I didn’t even know what the hell a Quonset hut was. The guy finally said, “Like that thing Gomer Pyle lived in with the other Marines. It has a rounded top and is silver.” I finally found it. It was on an estate with lots of animals: miniature horses, regular horses, chickens, roosters, goats.… Is this what they meant by “There will be a lot of party animals here”?
A guy named Gary, who looked like Ernest Hemingway, was on grill duty. He used to be a lobsterman and about ten other things. He recently had “shoulder replacement surgery.” I’m no doctor, but I don’t understand how that is possible or what it involves. It didn’t slow him down cooking hamburgers, chicken, and squash (or something that looked like squash). And when a woman asked, “Can you make me a hot dog?” he yelled jokingly, “Do you see any goddamn hot dogs?!” He’s the kind of guy who makes sex jokes, but nobody finds them offensive the way he tells ’em. And when somebody is pumping the keg, he makes loud orgasmic sounds. He wore a shirt that said, “The perils of nude fly fishing” that showed a fish about to bite the fisherman’s balls.
When somebody commented on the salsa being spicy, Gary said, “On the boats, sometimes we’d take anchovies and dip them in Tabasco sauce. We’d have fishing line between two anchovies and throw it in the air. Two seagulls would each grab one end and be fighting over it in the air. Then the one that got it would spit it out because it was so hot. And as it was falling, two other birds would jump on it.” Ah, stories from the sea.
There was a good variety of food, but also a variety of flies. All different kinds. I wonder if that was because of all the animals nearby.
One lady in her late 40s got mad when a 25-year-old guy was getting up from his seat and said, “Damn, I’m getting old.” She said, “No, you’re not! How old are you?” He said, “A quarter of a century.” What I found interesting about that 25-year-old was that he was Mormon. And his wife just recently turned 21, so people were trying to hand her beer. Because she converted and became a Mormon, she was not allowed to drink any. Although I’ve heard Mormons also aren’t allowed to drink soda, or eat candy, or have anything with caffeine, it must not say anything about them telling dirty jokes. The 25-year-old Mormon told one that went, “Why do they call Darth Vader ‘Lord Vader’? Because they couldn’t call him Master Vader.”
Since this was a dog grooming business, it was fun to listen to stories about being bitten by dogs. And since my dad was a letter carrier for 25 years (and I was for a month and a half), I could appreciate hearing the war stories. The most interesting thing was a dog that was doing tricks at this party. First, his owner told him to go catch a chicken. The dog ran after a chicken. The chicken looked as if it might get away, and then the dog jumped on it as they were both going full speed. The dog got it in its mouth and brought it back to its owner as if it was a Frisbee. Somebody asked, “Does that mean we’re having fresh chicken on this grill?” Later, the dog stood on its hind legs, and they put food on its nose, like something out of David Letterman’s “stupid pet tricks.” Its owner was saying, “I know that food smells delicious. But you can’t eat it until I tell you. I know you want to chomp on it, but just be a little patient. In a few minutes I’ll let you eat it, but not now.” There was silence for ten seconds as the dog stood motionless on its hind legs with food on its nose. The guy said, “Okay, you can eat it now,” and the dog tossed it up into the air with his nose and caught it in his mouth and ate it.
I was talking to the gal who had turned 21 a few days before. She was telling me not to go to Ralphs, since she’s worked there five years and is currently on strike. It was interesting to hear the people in their early 20s debate an issue like this, since they don’t have as much life experience, don’t have families to raise, and don’t have the bills that older folks have.
I glanced at one couple who met earlier at the party, and they were comparing tattoos. She had her grandmother’s face tattooed on her back, and he had some design on his arm. Ah, the courtship rituals of the young.
To get to the next party, I had a bit of a drive, from Lake Jennings to Vista. And I went from a young girl having a housewarming party to an older lady having a divorce party. Opposite ends of the spectrum. When I got to Vista at around 9:30 p.m. the cops had already made the band, My Middle Finger, stop playing. Somebody told me, “They only played one and a half songs, and the cops showed up. I think the neighbors called the police when the band started setting their equipment up.” For some reason, the party ended up moving to a house in Carlsbad.
There was a punching bag set up, with the exhusband’s photo on it. People took turns punching it. I asked the divorcée about the party, and she said, “Two days ago, my divorce became official, so we thought we’d throw a little party to celebrate. And look at all these cool gifts I got.” She showed me various vibrators and sex toys. One had the words “Your new husband” printed on it. Another was really small, and somebody wrote on the card, “I figured, since this is the same size as your ex-husband, it would be an easier transition.” She said, “His size wasn’t the problem. It was a lot of other shit he did.”
I asked, “Do people come up to you and say, ‘Congratulations’? What is the appropriate thing for somebody to say when they show up?” She laughed and said, “Well, the weird thing is, my dad is here. And he seems to be having fun. It’s kind of a weird reason for a party, I guess.”
I looked at a few of the other gifts. I saw a bottle of booze with aspirin taped all over it. I saw a “Rugburn Prevention Kit.” It had BandAids, kneepads, knuckle/toe protectors, and a padded backbone strip. The side of the box said, “Stain resistant, and virtually invisible in total darkness; one size fits all.”
Since one woman flew in from Michigan for this party, another started telling her about the local band the Rugburns, and everyone started singing the lyrics to “Hitchhiker Joe.” It was a chorus of women singing: “Don’t pick up Hitchhiker Joe / He’ll slit your throat / He’ll cut off your big toe / He’ll make you smile from ear to ear / Then he’ll lock you in a trunk for 99 years.”
But that was a pleasant change from what the women were talking about minutes before. It was how men are scumbags, How men all cheat on their wives. One was saying, “Men just can’t keep their dicks in their pants.” Another piped in with a list she had in her purse, about the 50 reasons why a cucumber was better than a man.
Since the ratio of women to men was 10 to 1, all I could do was smile with the others and take the abuse.
One gal made 250 Jell-O shooters. They were so strong, people weren’t eating more than one. The lady who made them said, “I can’t let these all go to waste.” I replied, “Yeah, there are poor people in Ethiopia who don’t have Jell-O shots. It would be a shame to waste these, knowing that there are starving people in the world.” I think she ended up eating most of them herself and was getting quite drunk. She had a beer in her hand an hour later and was walking backward talking. She fell over a chair, landed on her ass, and stood up, still holding the bottle of beer. She yelled something about “I didn’t spill any, or even drop the bottle. That takes talent.”
I found out later that when the cops showed up to close down the party, she yelled into the microphone, “Fuck the police!” And that was before she was drunk!
The divorcée was in good spirits. Not just because of the amount of spirits she consumed. She had a new boyfriend. And her daughter, who had a problem with her kidneys last year, was now better. And she was even showing me tattoos that were on various parts of her body.
I felt stupid when I saw a guy’s name tattooed on her, and I said, thinking it was her exhusband, “I bet you feel stupid now, having a man’s name tattooed on you.” She said, “No, that’s not my husband, or an old boyfriend. That’s my brother’s name. He died last year. We were really close, and that’s why I got his name tattooed.” (Note to self: never ask a woman when she’s due or about any of her tattoos.)
When a lot of the women left and there were only a few crashing on the couch, I enjoyed the conversation more. When the Cars CD came on, they debated which of the singers had died. One insisted it was Ric Ocasek and didn’t believe me when I said he’s a producer now, still married to model Paulina Porizkova, and doing well. But I couldn’t think of the name of the singer who died, so she didn’t believe that it wasn’t the singer. In case you’re reading this, Renee, it’s Ben Orr, who also played guitar.