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I arrived at Armando's 40th birthday party in a bad mood. I was invited by his girlfriend Laurie. She and I talked on the phone, and I learned that they had worked together and dated for years and that both had kids from previous relationships. I also learned that Armando liked Harley-Davidsons. I decided to bring him a Harley mug as a gift, and I went to a mall where I knew they were sold. Backing out of my space in the mall's parking lot, I smashed into another car that was backing up. It was a huge SUV, and it did a number on my taillight and dented and scratched my car. As the driver and I exchanged info, things got a little heated.

I got lost driving through Spring Valley and called Laurie's cell phone, but she wasn't answering. I drove around for 30 minutes before she called back to give me directions.

On the way, I was behind a redneck who threw a cigarette out his window as he pulled up to a red light. I decided to get out, pick the cigarette off the street, and throw it back into his car because not only was he littering, but he could've started a fire. As I opened my car door, I saw a rifle on a rack in the back. Plan aborted.

I got lost in the residential area because their street was small and had a handmade street sign that was difficult to see. I drove up and down the block until Laurie called me saying she was going to pick up the birthday cake and saw me driving around aimlessly. She led me back to their place.

The party had an '80s theme, and Laurie was dressed as a Mexican Madonna. I wore a Wall of Voodoo shirt that I had purchased at the Belly Up Tavern the night before.

I noticed that there weren't many people dressed in '80s attire. The crowd consisted of older family members at first. You don't expect to see a 70-year-old with Flock of Seagulls hair.

I met a guy with a Raiders hat. His name was Julian, and he was the cook. Laurie laughed and said, "Yeah, he was chosen to volunteer to cook." The poor guy never left the grill. Since he was a Raiders fan, I had little sympathy and left him to stand there in the smoke.

He tried to hand me a piece of meat he had cooked, but I told him it grossed me out to eat food with my hands. He grabbed another set of tongs, handed it to me, and I threw it in my mouth. Armando made fun of me because of that and asked if I were a vegetarian.

As Armando and I spoke, it came up that I volunteer for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and he introduced me to his daughter, who had recently beaten her battle with cancer. Through Make-a-Wish, she was able to meet Raven, who was on The Cosby Show and has her own clothing line. Armando's daughter was shy, so he told the story of meeting Raven, having photos taken with her, being given clothing, and how nice Raven was.

The majority of the crowd at the party was Latino, but a few Anglo neighbors showed up. One of the neighbors was wearing what looked like an African shirt, and I told him he had a Steven Seagal look with his hair up in a rubber band. Someone else said it was more of a Stevie Wonder look.

I asked him if neighbors partying bothered him. "The bassist of the Cowsills used to own this house. In fact, we're going to see him in San Francisco next week. We are used to loud music. One neighbor had an aviary, though, and that was really loud. We also had a neighbor who used to be a heroin dealer. So, loud music is the least of our worries."

Laurie spent most of her time in the kitchen mixing drinks. She said, "This party is for Armando, so I told him I'd be the bartender. But I said I was only learning how to make one drink -- mojitos."

When Laurie argued with her sister about someone forgetting an ingredient in the beans, she said, "You aren't going to put that in your story, are you? Damn, we should start talking in Spanish." As they talked in Spanish, I went to talk football with Julian.

It was an interesting back patio they had, with steep stairs going down to another section where the food was cooking.

There was a band setting up, but one guy was late. I wondered if he got lost.

Armando joked about getting the band for free. "One of the benefits when your brother-in-law is the bassist.... This band is ethnically diverse. The drummer is from Italy. The keyboard player is from Africa. The bass player, well, he's just a brother from the 'hood."

The band played for an hour and then a DJ set up. He played '80s songs that went with the theme. A group of ten women showed up dressed in '80s outfits and rock T-shirts. One had her three-year-old wearing a tiny Siouxsie and the Banshees T-shirt.

There was a girl wearing an off-the-shoulder Duran Duran T-shirt and another wearing a Ramones T-shirt, who asked me who Wall of Voodoo was. I sang, "I wish I was in Tijuana/Eating barbecued iguana."

I went back into the house and Laurie asked if I wanted another mojito. I said, "I'm tired of spitting those mint leaves out of my mouth. Plus, I'm going to a concert." We hugged, and she said, "Thanks for bringing Armando a gift. A lot of cheap people come to parties and don't bring presents." I said, "Well, I don't usually buy gifts for people I don't know."

I left the party in a better mood than I arrived in, and I didn't back into any cars on the way out.

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

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