About a month ago, I drove to El Cajon for an annual horseshoe tournament in memory of Jack and Duke, two deceased friends of the organizers.
When Chris called to tell me about it, he said that Duncan Hunter attended last year. And this year, they were donating a portion of the money to a cancer charity.
I walked up to where Kevin was barbecuing. He had a variety of meats, but mostly beef tri-tip. He was telling me about a powwow at Barona that he was going to be working. He beat out seven caterers to get the gig. He kept trying to have me taste what he was cooking, but I kept refusing.
I didn’t turn down what the next guy handed me. Chris was smoking a cigar and handed me a bag of stogies. He said he knew I liked ’em and “wanted to hook me up.” I lit one as he showed me around.
A blond guy named Darren, I was told, was the best at horseshoes. I asked him about his technique, and he showed me. He handed me a shoe to throw. I said, “If I pull a rotator cuff, I’m suing.” It was the first time I had ever thrown a horseshoe. I was proud to see it land only a foot from where it was supposed to land. I was told they weigh two and a half pounds, and every person I asked seemed to give me a different set of rules.
It cost $20 for the people to buy in, and they drew partners so nobody could show up with a ringer.
There were horseshoe pits all around the backyard. A lot of the teenagers hung out near the pits by the side of the house. When I needed to relight my cigar, I asked one of the kids if I could use his lighter. As I lit it, he said, “Dude, you’re wasting all my lighter fluid!” He then asked me for a puff. His friend said, “Why don’t you just ask him if you can make out? That’s just as gross.”
The tables in the backyard had a pretty centerpiece of flowers. They also had jars filled with beef jerky.
Everyone gathered around when they said a prayer and told a few stories about Jack and Duke. Shirts were passed out to commemorate the eighth annual event.
I was talking to Chris before he had to throw. He told me about the wine he makes at home. Someone walking by said, “Isn’t that called moonshine?” Chris said he had won second place at the San Diego County Fair with a pomegranate wine. He grows everything in his yard in Granite Hills and is working on blueberry and nectarine flavors. His wife makes jelly.
I overheard a group of guys discussing throwing strategy. But it wasn’t all horseshoe talk. I heard two guys talking about a Chargers cheerleader they know who’s an English teacher.
I watched as one guy flipped a horseshoe in his hand, much like the way a drummer twirls his stick before a solo. He had a good toss, even though it hit the branch of a nearby tree (that branch would be cut off an hour later).
A few people told me about Jack and how he did drywall and stucco and was friendly with everyone in the neighborhood. His buddy Duke (nicknamed because his birthday was the same as John Wayne’s) died in a car crash a year after Jack did.
I talked to a number of interesting people. A few had done jail time. A few had been kicked out of Chargers games for being rowdy. One guy had a scar from a car accident.
I heard a story about a guy who was hunting and killed a boar. He had kept one of the animal’s babies as a pet, but one of his horses ended up kicking it.
I asked someone about who first decided to put a piece of metal on a horse hoof and who decided that throwing horseshoes would be a fun game.
I was told, “They started putting the steel shoes on horses way back in the Second Century in western Asia. I don’t know if that’s true, but it was a long time ago. And I think people were pitching discarded horseshoes back then, but it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that rules were established. The first tournament didn’t take place until 1910.”
That night I headed to North Park for a 30th birthday party at a place called True North.
Someone told me that Tiffany went by the nickname “Tits McGee.” So, to be funny, I stopped at Vons to buy a cake. I wanted to put Hostess SnoBalls on top, to make them look like breasts. I couldn’t find any, so I used blueberry muffins. I asked someone in the bakery to put them on the cake and cover them with white frosting. The teenager who did it said, “I don’t work in the bakery, so I don’t know what I’m doing.” I told him he was doing fine, and then he asked, “Do you want me to make areolas with pink frosting?” I laughed and said, “No. I bought this bag of peanut M&Ms for that.”
When I showed up with the cake, Tiffany laughed. One of her friends put her face in the cake. A guy nearby said, “I can’t believe she’s motorboating the muffins. And I thought it was gross when people spit while blowing out candles.”
A few women were talking about their breasts and how they compare to the cake.
I talked to a woman who had just gotten back from the New Orleans jazz festival. She said she made it onto the set of a Josh Brolin movie based on a graphic novel. When I started to show excitement as she talked, she said, “You realize I’m not in it, right?”
Three tables were filled with people, and a few of the smokers had a table on the back patio.
Tiffany wore an interesting necklace of jewels that belonged to her grandmother, who died in December.
A few of the women talked about the last time they were at True North. One said a drunk guy kept rubbing up against her. Another said she had her shoes off and a guy started sucking her toes. She said it was gross, but “…someone dared me. And I’m game for most things.”
When we were eating cake, one guy gave his date a hard time because she got a corner piece but was scraping off the frosting. Another guy told a story about being in Vegas for his 30th birthday. He said, “My friends locked me out of the room naked.” I asked how he got naked, and he said, “We had this huge suite. We were doing it up right. We had a hot tub in the room, and…well, it was Vegas. Who isn’t naked in Vegas?”