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'It's a Budweiser and badminton bash," Brandon said when he invited me to his son's birthday party at Balboa Park. I had plans that day but had to know what people called a "shuttlecock" after a few beers.I met Brandon at a party a year earlier and remembered commiserating with him over the Lakers losing in the play-offs.

Parking was tough for a Sunday afternoon, and by the time I got there, the party was wrapping up. Brandon's wife told me that I had missed the exotic animals they brought in for the kids. Thinking about Siegfried & Roy (this was before the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, was killed), I asked about the dangers. A kid said, "They were all in cages, so it was safe." I asked the boy what animals he saw. "An armadillo, a crocodile, a huge albino python, a skink, and a wallaby."

"I don't know what those last two are," I admitted. The boy, excited to explain something to an adult, told me a skink was a lizard and a wallaby was a tiny kangaroo.

When I saw the Snow White pi#&241;ata, I imagined how funny it would've been to see the kangaroo taking punches at it.

Brandon sounded dejected when he told me, "I wanted them to bring a fox. They didn't, though." His wife asked me if I wanted to eat. "I ordered 20 pizzas, and we have so much left over." I told her I wasn't hungry, but she insisted I bring a pie home with me. And I couldn't refuse a piece of the birthday cake.

I saw an attractive woman in a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt and asked Brandon about her. He laughed and said, "She's my sister-in-law. She can be a lot of trouble." When we were introduced, she hugged and kissed me and said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I hope you didn't mind that I kissed you. I've lived in other countries, and that's the norm."

A few adults were looking at the table of presents for the birthday boy, and one said, "That's a lot of booty." His friend thought he was talking about a woman walking by, and a big discussion ensued about the origin of the word "booty." The final verdict between the two was that it had something to do with pirates.

I heard one woman congratulate another about her pregnancy.

I saw someone showing a wave tattoo on his back. When I asked about it, he told me, "It's a fix-it tattoo. It's covering one I got when I was only 17 years old."

As everyone was leaving, Brandon invited me back to his house for a beer. A few of his friends from the party were heading over as well. I saw his wife's collection of Elvis memorabilia on the walls. She was impressed when I told her about my autographed Elvis album. She wasn't impressed, however, about my Elvis clock that has a shaking pelvis. Never to be out-Elvised, she named her daughter Presley.

I was forced to sit in a red chair that Brandon's mother-in-law had won on The Price Is Right. The mother-in-law told me, "I was on the first episode of the show that went to one hour. Before that, they were only 30 minutes long. I won a lot. I got a bar set and a Kiss pinball machine. I lost the Cadillac, though." Her daughters say, "Tell him what you did with the Kiss pinball machine." I was expecting an x-rated story involving Gene Simmons. "I had to get rid of it. My kids were charging all the other kids in the neighborhood to play it. They would bring over all these quarters! That's illegal. So, I got rid of the thing."

* * *

Every couple months, the Museum of Art in Balboa Park hosts an event that my friend described as "culture and cocktails." I said, "One out of two ain't bad. Let's go." My friend was on the guest list, and we were able to walk right in. A DJ had things hopping. That volume in what was normally a quiet gallery was bizarre, though. After the DJ, an opera singer started belting out arias. I overheard a couple discussing whether she was lip-synching or not. The man said, "This is an art gallery, not a karaoke bar." His wife replied, "They do their own singing in karaoke, so what are you talking about?" The guy excused himself to the bar.

While viewing the artwork, I heard another couple arguing about Hermes and said in my best Homer Simpson voice, "Boring!" While my friend continued to view the art, I joined the guy at the bar. They were serving a drink with grapefruit juice and tequila, which was tasty -- and powerful. There was a cash bar for other cocktails.

My friend and I wanted to check out what was happening upstairs, but a woman with dyed blond hair and two guys who were all over her were blocking the stairs. She looked to be in her late 40s but acted as if she was 17 -- and working El Cajon Boulevard.

It turned out that they were giving free massages upstairs. I told my friend, "Make sure you tip...especially for a free massage."

"Do you think I was born yesterday?!"

The guy from the bar came over to me and said, "Aren't women bitches?"

"Sometimes," I said, "but...she's just my friend. You're actually married to one."

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

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