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I was invited to four parties one weekend. And I had problems trying to attend three of them. The first one was thrown by the UCSD alumni association. They had author Rex Pickett, who wrote the novel Sideways and is a former UCSD student (although it's SDSU, not UCSD, that's mentioned in the movie). It cost $65 to attend, but since Sideways was my favorite movie of last year, I was thrilled about going. I wouldn't tell Rex I liked the film much more than his book. I'm one of the few people who like the movies better than the books. I think book snobs just want to impress you with the fact that they've read the book when they say, "The book was better." But I enjoyed The World According to Garp, One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Cider House Rules, and Catch-22 more than the books. I often joke to my friends, "Those books don't have any pictures. And the best thing a story told onscreen has over the written page -- no words you have to read! You can enjoy popcorn and Coke." It made me wonder when I saw The Passion of the Christ if someone was looking down thinking, "My story is being told while people are munching on Goobers and Red Vines!"

A former UCSD student named Lynn alerted me to this party, but the alumni association said the event was sold out. Even though they would have good food and fancy wines, I told them I wouldn't eat or drink (although I had visions of sneaking wine, the way Miles did in the story). I was repeatedly told I couldn't go, even if I didn't plan to eat or sit at one of the tables. I wondered if it had to do with the recent story of a UCSD student making a sex film. That story was all over the news, so maybe they didn't want to risk having any media at this event.

Lynn sent me an e-mail with an elaborate set of instructions on how I could sneak in, where I could park, and which side doors to use. She ended by writing, "You are the 'party crasher,' so crash this thing!"

I had two other parties to go to instead. One was for a women's rugby team called the San Diego Surfers. Jamie invited me to this, but then found out that some of her teammates weren't thrilled with the idea of my showing up at their Robb Field soiree. I figured: two outs, one to go.

The last party I had lined up for this night was in Hillcrest. The lady who invited me told me that I shouldn't wear any clothes I was attached to, because one of the things that would happen is that if someone likes your shirt (or outfit) you have to exchange with them. I thought this sounded interesting. I wondered if, after people got a few drinks in them, they'd start changing clothes without going into another room. I also wondered whether, if someone forgot, or showed up not knowing this, they would still have to give up their favorite shirt. I grabbed an old Jane's Addiction shirt I didn't care about and headed out.

Then I realized I didn't have the directions. When I had gotten this invite, I knew I had two other parties so I just deleted the info on my voice mail, but I still had the cell phone number of the gal who invited me. I called and she never answered. She returned my call the next day to tell me the party was great. And I wondered if I could write about a party I didn't actually attend.

I had one party that I could go to the following night. I had the address and all the info. It was a costume party, but I didn't dress up. I got to the place on Sunset Cliffs around 10:00 p.m. Matt Wendell, who invited me, introduced himself. He gave me a great Macanudo cigar that I promptly lit up. He pointed out a few people on the front porch in superhero outfits. One was this crazy homemade thing that I thought he said was a character from South Park. It wasn't until I walked in later and saw a few Spider-Man and Superman costumes that I found out it was a superhero theme. So I'm glad I didn't dress up.

Matt told me he was moving to Kansas City to start a new job and this would be his last party at the house. He worked in marketing at Sea World, but said, "They don't pay shit and I can't move up." I asked how he could afford a huge house on the beach. He said, "We moved in here five years ago and got a good deal on the rent. The owner lives in the guesthouse behind us."

I asked what the owner thought of these parties. "Sometimes he comes out and stares at us. Or he'll clean up in the morning making noise, so we get the idea that he's mad. This time we have an area of the back yard taped off so nobody goes over there. You hate to see people just standing around peeing near his house. One of our neighbors was an old lady who died. So nobody is living over there and the other neighbor doesn't complain."

About 15 minutes later, when someone complained about the line for the bathroom being too long, one person said, "Go across the street to the beach. That's what I did."

Matt pointed out how they black out the front windows on the nights they have parties. "We don't need cops driving by and telling us to wrap it up. And when someone comes outside, we make them shut the door. It keeps the noise down and nobody driving by will see all the lights over the dance floor." Inside the living room, there were two DJs and four turntables going. They did a great mix of current dance tunes and stuff from the '80s.

Matt introduced me to Jill, a tall blonde. She's the one who threw this party to raise money for cancer. She's a triathlete and every three months throws a fundraising party. I asked how else she raises money, and she said, "We have bake sales. And we contact family and friends."

I said, "With all those bake sales and parties -- and I see you're drinking now -- does that ruin your diet?" She said, "Yeah, but it's not like we're partying every day." One guy walked by and said, "I am! And sometimes the day before a race. I've tried running after a heavy night of drinking. It doesn't work so well, but I'm not going to give up the drinking. It's one of the few joys I have in life."

I asked one of Jill's friends what the distances were in a triathlon. She said, "I'm not sure, but I think it's 25 miles on a bike, six miles to run, and one mile to swim." I was thinking how I got a little winded just walking to this party, since I had to park half a mile away.

Another girl named Heather told me about an event she is putting on to raise money for breast cancer. It's a three-day, 60-mile walk that costs $2,100 to participate. Heather is a student teacher in National City and I told her that I'd mention the event. The website is www.3day.org.

There were 10 Spider-Man masks sitting on a table in case anyone came without a costume. One guy had a Spider-Man costume with fake muscles inside. Another guy came as the Hulk with muscles and green paint.

I was about to ask Matt why he didn't have a costume when I noticed he had a Superman shirt underneath his dress shirt. I said, "With those glasses, you really do look like Christopher Reeve when he played Clark Kent." He said that he hears that a lot, so he went with that as a costume.

As we were talking, a woman said to him, "I thought you were moving." He said, "Not until next week. That's when I head to Kansas City." She said, "I thought you were moving to Missouri." He looked at me and smiled and said, "Buy a map." She then said, "So which is it? Where are you moving to?" We both started laughing. I don't think it's that bad if someone gets confused as to which cities are in which states, but I would think when the person mentions something about a map, that would be a cue to realize you may have messed up.

I talked to one young guy who looked like a typical skateboarder. I was surprised to hear that he taught kids with A.D.D. He seemed to enjoy his job, too. When I mentioned this to an older teacher at the party, he said, "Give the kid time. He'll hate his job within a few years. Teaching can be very rewarding and many aspects of it are good. But when you teach special ed kids and deal with a lot of problems and angry parents, you question why you ever chose this as a profession."

I talked with one lady who mentioned that her fiancé left her three months before their wedding. She seemed to be in good spirits while talking about it. He was her boyfriend for years, but now he's with a rich woman and he doesn't have to work. As we talked in the back yard for 15 minutes, at least five guys came over to hug and flirt with her.

A cute, short Latino girl came over and hugged me. She looked like a young Paula Abdul. She was talking a mile a minute telling me how much she loved my column. "Meeting you is like meeting Tom Cruise," she said. She spent five minutes stroking my ego and then said something about "going upstairs." I thought, "This is going to be the greatest night of my life." When she repeated herself, I realized that she was saying, "My boyfriend lives here, upstairs. Come inside, I want you to meet him." D'oh!

One guy sat in a chair that broke. His friends laughed. One of them said, "You are supposed to be a superhero and you go and break a chair."

Another person was wearing an angel costume. Everywhere this tall guy walked, his wings were hitting people in the face.

I saw another guy who looked to be a bit buzzed talking to the woman whose fiancé had left her. I heard him say, "I had this Ferrari that I got up to 170 miles per hour. That was in Morocco. When I put it back in the garage, the hood was so damn hot." As I walked away, I heard him say, "You should give me your number so we can keep in touch." I almost wanted to say, "Did I ever tell you about the Maserati I got up to 180 miles per hour?"

One group of guys was talking about what superpowers they would like to have if they were real superheroes. One woman said, "I'd like to read people's minds." I said, "No, you wouldn't. Just think of all the times you've asked your boyfriend if you look fat in your jeans. If you could read minds, you'd know the answer to questions like that. From him and from everyone walking around UTC."

Another guy said, "I'd like to be invisible. I'd pay a visit to the SDSU women's volleyball team when they were in the locker room." I said, "Yeah, but if you're hit by a car, nobody would know. You'd just lay there dying." He said, "Okay, what superpower would you want?" I responded, "Maybe to fly. You'd save a fortune on airline tickets. You could win some gold medals in the Olympics doing the long jump. Have a nice career in the NBA slam-dunking all over the place." Someone else said, "Would they let you in the NBA if you could fly?" I said, "I wouldn't tell everyone I could fly. I already get bugged by my friends who need rides to the airport. They'd want me to fly them everywhere. And I don't need some religious nut shooting me, thinking that I'm a witch."

Every time I ran into Matt, he was telling funny stories about the times he'd had at this house. One of his roommates mentioned a woman he brought home recently who was a screamer. The entire house couldn't sleep that night listening to her yell in the heat of passion.

One of the guys said, "And you want to leave a house like this? Look around here." As he said that, I did. A couple was in the Jacuzzi kicking back. People were dancing in the living room. Others were smoking pot in the back yard. Matt said, "I don't want to leave. I've been here for a long time, and I'm going to miss San Diego." I started talking to a girl named Malia Schlaefer. She's a waitress at the Prado. When that girl was impressed with meeting me, Malia said, "Why don't you ask for his autograph? Jesus!" But Malia turned out to be really nice and a great photographer. Her photos were on the walls, plus she had photo albums that were fun to look at. Lots of her photos showed people in awkward situations that really captured interesting facial expressions. One couple in bed. Another with a woman looking upset after a possible rape. Malia is going to leave the house soon also. She wants to go to San Francisco to finish school.

When I went to look for Matt again, he was on the front patio. I lit another cigar and watched the waves on the beach. We started talking. A drunk woman showed up at the party and stumbled over. She was hugging everyone and knocked over a beer. When she saw one guy she started freaking out. Apparently they had a Spanish class together eight years ago. A lady next to me said, "I've lived in San Diego my entire life and go to lots of parties. I never run into any of my old classmates."

We started talking about our high school and college days, and Matt showed me one of his fingers. It's about half an inch shorter than the rest. When he went to USD, one day he was running through the halls chasing a friend who made a comment he didn't like. The friend slammed the door on his finger and he lost the tip of it. As one girl screamed "Gross!" I said, "Gee, and to think I was complaining about this hangnail on my thumb earlier this evening. I guess that's worse."

After I looked at all of Malia's photos, I noticed there weren't many people left at the party and it was almost 4:00 a.m. Matt was cleaning up. I asked why he didn't wait until the morning. He said, "Who wants to wake up to a dirty, messy house?"

My mom would love this guy.

One of his other roommates said, "Some parties have ended and Matt is walking down the street cleaning up. Some of our guests park far away and they leave plastic cups and trash all over the street. Matt cleans all that up, because he thinks the joggers on the beach in the morning shouldn't have to look at all our garbage everywhere. I'm different. At one party, I had on some women's clothing and I was drunk. As the sun was rising, I just stood on the porch heckling the joggers as they went by."

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

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