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I thought winter would be the perfect time to write about the "Summer of Love." That was the theme of a party that Pat and Gene hosted to celebrate their 40 years of marriage. They got married in 1966, before Gene was shipped off to Vietnam. (Talk about a honeymoon!) The anniversary party was in La Mesa at a VFW hall. In the parking lot, people compared outfits. Some of the friends didn't recognize each other in their wigs and hippie attire. I overheard several people say, "Oh, it's you!" As I watched people getting out of their cars, I realized that not everyone was dressed in '60s outfits and that several people wore rock T-shirts as their costume -- the Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Led Zeppelin. One guy painted a peace symbol on his T-shirt, which made the cannon in front of the building seem odd.

I met a guy in a suit and tie who looked like Al Gore. My date said, "I think he's 'the man.'" He was standing near the bathrooms at the entrance, and we asked him if he was "the man." He smiled and said, "I'm over 30. And, so, you can't trust me." Someone with tie-dye pants walked by him and said, "You commie pig!"

The inside of the hall was decorated in the '60s theme. There were peace flags near the stage and tie-dye sheets hung on the walls. The tables had tie-dye tablecloths with incense burning on each. The aroma filled the room and enhanced the '60s vibe, as did the several guests drenched in patchouli oil.

Some couples wore Mardi Gras beads or outfits that appeared more "disco" than "hippie."

Other outfits, however, were impressive. One guy dressed in white was the image of Timothy Leary.

While searching for the food, we came across a commotion near the bathroom. I thought someone had smuggled in pot but discovered that two women were locked in the ladies room. A crowd was trying to figure out how to get them out. Not being a locksmith, I continued toward the grub. At the food tables I commented that the brownies looked like they had pot in them. A woman walked by and said, "No, it's spinach. Someone did that to be funny."

A band took the stage, the Ballad Mongers, and I noticed that it was Gene on guitar. They started to play the intro of a Country Joe and the Fish song, which I recognized as the one Country Joe played at Woodstock saying, "Give me an f," but instead of spelling "fish," they spell another f-word. Of course, with children present, Gene and his band didn't spell that word.

As Pat entered the hall, the band started playing an instrumental. She held a bouquet of about a hundred flowers and walked through the room tossing them to the crowd.

When all of the flowers were thrown, we sat to watch the band, but I couldn't help checking out the people coming in because their outfits were interesting. One guy wasn't wearing a shirt and had painted his body. He had an American flag on his chest and on his back, the message "Make Love, Not War."

A woman at a nearby table had a sign on her back that read, "61, 63, 65, 67, 69, and counting." The people around our table spent 20 minutes trying to figure out what that meant. It was an IQ test that our group was failing. "They are odd numbers starting at 61, and they skip a number. It should be simple enough to figure out," I offered. In the end, I went over and asked her what they meant. "Oh, well, this was my maternity dress in the '60s. Those are the years I had my children. I still have the belly and swollen feet I had back then."

A few people rolled fake over-sized joints that they were carrying around. I tried to talk to one guy who was holding a joint, but we were standing next to someone who kept yelling song titles to the band. Along with the '60s tunes, the band played Elvis Costello's "Peace, Love, and Understanding," which is not a '60s song, but still a great tune.

The married couple got up to speak, but I was near the back of the hall and couldn't hear everything that was being said. At one point, everyone laughed, and I asked a person next to me what was said. "She said that their marriage has lasted 40 years because of a lot of pot and a lot of sex."

A guy walked through the door wearing tight yellow pants and a white shirt. The guy I was talking with said, "Is he going to a '70s party or a '60s party?"

I decided to move closer to the stage to hear what the couple was saying about their life together. They spoke of camping trips they took together and skits they put on, some of which they would perform later in the evening. As Pat was telling her stories, Gene played guitar accompaniment for her.

I saw a guy wearing blue jeans that had white blotches around them. I asked him if he made them. "Yeah. My sister used to make these all the time. I just tried to remember how she did it."

I saw a guy who resembled Richard Dreyfuss. He was wearing a Who T-shirt with a vest over it and a bandana on his head. I began to wonder how many of these people were wearing clothes that they have in their closets...not costumes.

As my date and I made our escape before the family talent show, we stopped by the ladies room to see if the two women had found a way out. We didn't hear any screaming or pounding, so we assumed they did.

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

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