My day got off to a bad start. As a volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I was asked to help set up a play set for a child in Santee. I'm useless at things like that but was told there'd be another guy there to do the setup. "We just need you for the heavy lifting. And afterwards, you can stay for the party." When I arrived I was handed a sheet of directions to put together a canopy for the back yard. Though the pictures made it look easy, I found the instructions difficult to figure out. A woman named Autumn came to my rescue, and we were able to get the job done.
When we finished, I asked the guy if I could try his trampoline. It was huge. He said, "We got that for the kids, but adults seem to have more fun on it."
I took off my shoes, climbed on, and started jumping. A little girl told me to jump higher, so I did. I had never been on a trampoline before. I wasn't about to do flips, per the girl's next request. I started flying too far off the trampoline and got nervous. I decided the best way to stop flying so high was to stop jumping. When I landed on the trampoline the next time, I stopped myself. My body collapsed, my knees hit my stomach and knocked the wind out of me, I pulled a muscle in my leg, and I somehow hurt my big toe. As I lay on the trampoline trying to catch my breath, nobody could figure out what I had done to injure myself.
I grabbed a piece of Costco pizza and a ginger ale and left.
* * * I was still in pain when I arrived at the next party. Mark Schindler told me it would start at 7:01 p.m. and go until 9:01. He told me that he always has a theme. One time it was belly dancers, another a massage therapist. This party was a tasting -- a few bottles of absinthe that he brought back from Canada.
I showed up at Schindler's La Jolla house around 7:30. On his back patio he had set out chips, appetizers, and duck. In his kitchen, Schindler had a margarita machine. He said, "To rent these, it's $150. And you have to buy the ingredients. I bought this on eBay for $800, and it's already paid for itself."
Whenever someone went inside to make a margarita, Schindler would grab what appeared to be a Windex bottle, and he would spray it into the drink. He told me it was tequila that he makes. He showed me the barrels of tequila he had aging in his house and garage. He told me that since it isn't made in Mexico, it can't technically be called tequila. He said he pours it into test tubes after three to six months to taste it.
I asked Schindler about the party ending after only a few hours. "People will still have time to go out and do other things. It's perfect. And I don't want to entertain all night!"
Schindler showed me his business card: "Dr. Mark -- Dating coach for lesbians." On the back it had a space for your name, e-mail, and "real phone number." And there were boxes to check that read, "lesbian," "bisexual," "liar." And below that, "single," "not single," "looking to trade up."
Schindler shared his philosophy on how to talk to women, and he called a group of women over to prove his theory. He told this story about a woman who thought her man was cheating on her because she found a pair of female underwear at his house. The story got everyone talking and adding in her two cents. Then one woman said, "I heard you tell that story before." She had an accent. I think she said she was from Croatia. Her friend called her chicken because she wouldn't try the absinthe. She said, "I told you, I'm the designated driver. I can't."
I met a woman named Matilda who was from Greece. Two men were arguing about politics, and Matilda was stuck in the middle. I thought about going over to rescue her. When I ran into her later, she said, "I'm used to people yelling about politics. Back in Greece, that's what everyone does." She told me she travels a lot for her job and goes back to Greece once a year. Her family is still there.
The crowd was older (aside from Matilda). A few had gray or white hair. Our age difference made for interesting conversations. One guy was a professor at SDSU, and he talked about books, movies, and reading the Reader in the mid-'70s. He told me he had a book out called Face to Face to Face. He talked about his partying days, and told me he once was at a party with Peter Fonda. He said, "When [Fonda] hands you a joint, you take it. If you didn't smoke, they'd probably throw you out." Another guy said he hadn't gotten drunk since his college days, which looked to me to have been about 30 years ago.
Schindler had an extensive collection of sports memorabilia, including a baseball jersey that showed all the Negro League teams. I told him I thought Satchel Paige was the greatest pitcher in baseball history.
When it came up that I had gone to the Sundance Film Festival a few times, Schindler told me that he goes every year, and he asked if I wanted to go to the next one with him.
There was a Jacuzzi in the back yard with nobody in it and a kids' pool that was being used as a cooler, filled with bottles of soda for nondrinkers.
Most of the crowd was buzzed from the margaritas and beer by the time Schindler brought out the absinthe. He made a drink called a "green fairy" by pouring the absinthe into a glass and adding sugar cubes, which were then lit on fire. The absinthe changed color from blue to green.