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Sally walked by giving us more shots. Again, I was confused. I was informed it was the countdown for New Year's Day in the Midwest. These damn time differences, and this alcohol, made everything so confusing.

I thought getting some food into my system would help, since I hadn't eaten since breakfast. The counter was filled with all kinds of snacks. I ate a few of those rolled pita-bread things that have the turkey, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. I've just never been sure how to put them in my mouth. If you hold it one way, it doesn't fit. If you hold it the other way, you bite into it and the contents fall out.

There were also cold cuts and bread set out, a variety of chips, and something I had never seen before. I would have to call it the greatest food invention since sliced bread. It was sliced apples with caramel sauce to dip them in. Caramel apples are so delicious, but I seem to have trouble eating those also. My nose gets sticky. When I was a child, I lost two teeth in one. This was the perfect way to eat these things. Someone else, noticing my amazement, said, "You haven't seen these at Price Club before?" Nope.

Why don't those old ladies give you samples of these when you walk down the aisle? I don't need to eat a half-inch piece of pizza on a toothpick. (I sure hope those Costco folks are reading this.)

There was a guy with a cowboy hat and a long mustache. They told me he played a bank robber in a western-reenactment thing they do. Sally said, "We are in the Shadow River Regulators. It's a historic reenacting group with a comical bent. We usually perform at Poway Midland Park, on a scaled-down version of a working steam locomotive. We rob it from time to time. We volunteer for certain events. Our biggest is probably the Fourth of July. I play a schoolteacher named Belle Star. Some of our gang names really existed in the 1800s."

I got confused by the rules when she said, "Our skits are never the same. No one shoots anyone unless they are wearing a red sash, indicating they're a bad guy. And only women may shoot other women. Unless the woman fires upon the man first."

This reminded me of the Civil War re-creations I've heard about. Sally said, "There is a whole society of reenactors out there. They have a gunfight at Tombstone every year. Locally, there are a few in Ramona and Julian."

The man I met earlier, David O'Neal (who looked so much older than his girlfriend), plays either the mayor or the banker in these productions. When we started talking about crazy things we did as kids, he told this great story. He and a friend, when in high school, were doing a film for a TV production class. They set up toy Army men in the back yard around the pool and were doing a fake newscast about a war. One of the guys was supposed to light the people on fire. They didn't have much luck, so they poured gasoline all over them. The next attempt worked. Everything went up in flames. But one guy's pants caught on fire. He was hopping around and ended up hitting the gas can, which exploded. They kicked it into the pool, hoping the water would put the fire out. Instead, the entire pool was engulfed in flames. I asked what might have been the stupidest question of the night.

"Were you guys able to put the fire out, or did you have to call the fire department?"

There were two girls at this party from Humboldt. The blonde with glasses and stringy hair reminded me of my sister who went to Humboldt State and promptly became a vegetarian, a pot smoker, and a few other things. This blonde was with a cute African-American girl, who seemed shy. But she kept laughing at my stories. So when we were in the kitchen and New Year's arrived...so did my second dumb question of the night: "In which state is it 2005 now?"

All the couples started kissing. This shy woman looked at me, and seizing this opportunity (to be cheesy), I said with a raised eyebrow, "Well, people are supposed to kiss on New Year's."

She again laughed, and my head was spun around by the blonde who'd dated the alleged Russian-mafia guy. She planted a big kiss on my lips. And, if that Russian is reading this, I want him to know...I didn't kiss her back! And it was the black chick I was trying to get a kiss from, not her! Don't hurt me.

Another guy at the party was Scottish. I heard him talking about his clan. I made a joke: When you're at a party in Santee, usually if you hear the word "clan," it's "Klan." Someone said, "This is El Cajon, not Santee."

It was after midnight, and a lot of people started to leave. I sat on the couch talking to a few people. A good-looking Mexican guy asked me why I was taking notes. When I said I write about parties, he said, "I read your stuff in the Reader." He asked me a question about a previous party, and his girlfriend (or wife) said, "This guy reads everything. He's always reading."

They told me a story about being in Balboa Park and walking around holding hands and how they saw men driving around. When they realized the same car had driven by a few times, they realized it was a man cruising for a prostitute. I told them Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called "Balboa Park" about the young boys who work there as prostitutes.

This couple also told me they were going to a party the next day and invited me. I laughed, thinking how some people network at parties. I network by finding out about other parties.

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