I heard from a friend of a friend about a leap-year party in Clairemont. I brought a few of my friends who are in their late 20s. I didn’t think there was much of a difference in our knowledge of pop culture — I’m only ten years older — but when I brought up Jack Lemmon, my friends didn’t know who he was. When I mentioned the movie The Odd Couple, one of them said, “There was a movie of that before the TV show?” Another said, “I thought Walter Matheau and him were just in the Grumpy Old Men movies.” As I was about to bring up Billy Wilder films, I stopped myself, not wanting to sound 30 years older than them.

As we pulled onto Convoy, I sang the song “Convoy.” Only one person in the car knew the song, and she said that was just because Bart sang it once on The Simpsons.

We stopped at a liquor store for booze, and I sat in the car watching them grab bottles of wine and beer. Someone who stayed in the car with me said, “Look at all those people preparing to get drunk.” The first two guys that walked out, older Latinos, were carrying jugs of water and chips. The second guy to leave had red hair. I heard from the back seat, “Look at that Irish dude. He got alcohol!” I said, “First, we don’t know that he’s Irish. Second, we don’t know that it’s booze. It’s wrapped up in a brown bag.”

As we watched to see how many people left the store with booze, we were surprised by the number of people who stopped near the door to look at the fuzzy dice. I wouldn’t have figured those to be impulse items.

Of ten people leaving, our friends were the only ones who went in for alcohol and the only ones who didn’t peruse the fuzzy dice.

When we arrived, I discovered that it was a surprise party. I was glad that we showed up late and didn’t walk up as the surprise guest arrived. I asked someone if he was born on a February 29. “I’m not sure, but that would be a trip. Do you just have a birthday every four years, or what?” A woman responded, “They can choose to celebrate it on the first of March or on February 28.” The two of them ended up having a debate about it.

I was standing in the living room, which was packed with people, when I saw a guy named Daniel whom I had met at a party a month ago. He was wearing a shirt with Chinese characters on it. One of my friends is half-Japanese. I said, “Can you read that?” She laughed and said, “That’s funny.” Daniel looked surprised, “You’re Chinese?” She said, “No. I’m half-Japanese. But I can read Chinese.” The shirt read, “Now accepting applications for Chinese girlfriend.” Daniel said, “I thought the shirt was funny, and Chinese girls usually giggle. Guys ask where they can get one.”

I walked out into the back yard and was surprised by how large it was. The house was a small three bedroom, two bath, and the big back yard and deck worked perfect for their packed party.

There was a selection of booze and a kegerator.

I poured a Coke and lit a cigar. My friend Mike had given me a bunch that had a ring size of 70, which are the thickest you can buy. Someone said, “I won’t tell you what it looks like you’re doing with that thing in your mouth.”

I noticed that several of the women were casually checking out the guys. At most parties, you don’t notice people checking each other out, especially women.

When I went into the kitchen to look for a knife, a woman who appeared to be drunk said, “Be careful with that knife.” I smiled, and she said really loud, “It will cut you up!”

I heard a few people talking about marriage proposals. A guy said, “The only time a woman can propose is on leap year.” Someone else said, “No, it’s the only time a man can’t refuse.” They argued and a woman said, “That was back in the early 1200s. It’s not like that anymore, so you don’t have to worry. The man could be fined a pound or a silk gown if he refused. I think it moved to leap day when guys bitched that it was a whole year.” A Greek woman said that in their culture it’s bad luck to get engaged during leap year.

There was a big, white dog walking around that looked sad. If you called it over, it walked slowly and reluctantly. Sometimes it went in a different direction right before you’d pet it. Other times, it would stand there, wag its tail a few times, and then walk away. Someone asked, “What’s the dog’s name?” The response from someone else was, “If it had a ten-inch steel penis, I’d call him Sparky.” Another person said, “That joke was lame. Oh, but I got a good one. A baby seal walked into a club...”

I talked to a Navy submarine mechanic named Tim. I asked if he was always interested in submarines, if he sought that out as a career. “No. When I signed up, they gave me a test. They test everyone and see what areas they’d work best in. I was already a good mechanic.” He also told us how his dad served and fixed subs in World War II.

I overheard Daniel talking to a few attractive women. The subject was swimming. He was a swimmer in high school and had won several awards. I mentioned how difficult it was for me to do the butterfly stroke. Daniel said, “It just takes practice, like any sport.” I said, “Yeah, but if you don’t do that well, you could drown. Some sports, learning to do them can be painful. I have to think pole vaulters have sore asses when they’re learning.” Someone said that pole vaulters practiced in padded surroundings before going out onto the field. Another guy said, “Don’t all kids learn to do that, just in the process of growing up? You run and balance yourself on poles you stick into the ground.” We all looked at him like he was crazy. I then brought up a story that I read years ago about three prisoners who escaped by pole vaulting over a barbed-wire fence. Someone said, “Talk about a sore ass.”

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