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I missed a couple of Cinco de Mayo parties because of a migraine headache. A few weeks before that, I missed some parties I didn't know were going on until after the fact. On April 20, I received calls from friends asking if I had gone to any "420" parties -- pot parties.

The next day, I got a few voice-mail messages from people who had thrown 420 parties. Some didn't invite me because they didn't want to get into trouble for smoking dope. One couple couldn't find where they had left the Reader with my number. I asked one of them about the origin of "420." "Well, dude, every year it's on 4/20, the day and month. At my party, there was a big debate on how it got its number. Some say it was the THC levels in the drug, others say it's the California Penal Code for drug possession. We don't really know. But, hell, if Hallmark can create these bogus holidays to get you to buy cards for your mom, or a Valentine, we can have parties once a year where we get together and smoke some bud."

Last month I hit a lot of art parties. A few of the paintings looked like they were done while people were under the influence of some substance.

One was in the Mount Helix area. The street we went down was narrow, but there was a lot of parking space. There was a house being built nearby, and guests were allowed to park in that driveway. Street parking wasn't hard to find either.

I went with my friend Anne. We talked about how interesting the house was, with its different levels, and huge back yard with multi-level decks. Anne said, "I want to pretend this is my house. Nobody will know." I wasn't sure what she was talking about and got more confused when a couple walked by and she told me within earshot of them, "Thanks, we just put that in. We aren't sure what exactly we want to do in the back yard."

Anne ran into somebody she worked with at SDG&E. While they talked art, her husband and I talked about sports. I pointed at three paintings that looked like a tic-tac-toe game with an X in the middle. "Do you think the artist would get mad if we finished that game? It could be like an evolving piece of art."

The three paintings were titled Tic, Tac, and Toe. They were $220 each and painted by Theresa Vandenberg Donche. She had about 15 other paintings hanging at the party. I liked the one titled The Sitar Player best.

Anne told her friend that her blue eyes looked great standing next to a large turquoise painting. She agreed, and asked her husband about buying it. He said, "It's too big for the room." Anne said, "Get a bigger room then."

Someone else was looking at the turquoise painting, which was an abstract piece. I said, "If someone likes the colors in it, they should just try to paint something like that themselves. It would save them money. It's abstract, so it wouldn't be hard to do, and nobody would be able to tell if you made a mistake." This lady said to me, "I actually did that once. I saw an abstract piece I liked; it cost thousands of dollars. I kind of stole the idea and painted one similar a few days later. I liked mine better. And I was able to use a few more of the colors I liked that weren't in the piece I saw."

I met a woman named Starlene. The few times I heard her introduced, people would say "Is it Arlene?" or "Did you say Darlene?"

There were a few abstract sculptures. One was made of wood, and I couldn't figure out what it was supposed to be. I thought it would make a cool CD rack, though.

There were a few creatures made from old skateboards. One creature had a doll's head, with bull horns for arms. It looked creepy.

I joined some guys in the back yard for a glass of wine. It was late afternoon, so not too hot out. There was a huge tree in the middle of the deck. A cross hanging from the tree was another piece of art.

I saw a piece out there called Meter Man, which looked like a person with a face from a parking meter. The meter man's penis was made with nuts and bolts. I thought it would be a cool gift for Paul Newman (his character in Cool Hand Luke got arrested for breaking off parking meters while drunk).

There were several framed photographs that I didn't think fit in with all the paintings. One had a bunch of brooms. I thought it might look best in a maid's house. Or a witch's.

Looking at photographs can be interesting, but whenever people try to do arty things with them, it comes across as pretentious to me. And does it really take talent to take good pictures, or just a nice camera?

There was a nice photograph of a gondola in Venice. It looked beautiful. But I'm sure that anyone who would've been to that part of Venice could've taken the same photograph.

Anne and I went into the kitchen to grab some of the cheeses. I saw a boy who looked to be around seven taking some Peanut M&Ms. "I bet those are better than all those funky cheeses over there." He smiled and said, "I don't like cheese." We each grabbed handfuls of M&Ms and went our separate ways.

Back in the kitchen, Anne introduced me to Janet De Mello. She had done a lot of the faces I had seen on the walls. I asked her where she gets all the things to design them. "I find the items all over. Junkyards, garage sales, the hardware store. I use a lot of scrap metal to make the faces." I loved how the hair on all the faces looked like dreadlocks. Anne told her, "The necklace you're wearing is beautiful. Did you make that?" She did, and it was her first piece of jewelry. Her husband Eider came over and said, "She should make more jewelry. She missed her calling."

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