Something about the sixty-two messages on my e-mail
tells me something's up. A click here and a bleep there and I
discover that Darcy's having a party. It's Darcy and Patty's
birthday (almost) and I'm reminded almost daily that there is
liquor to be consumed.
There is something about the subtle tones of Patty's e-mail
that tells me that a present would not be unexpected. My
first message reads "My birthday party. Bring presents". I
assume that they will be serving more than triscuits and carrot
sticks at this event. One look at my empty refrigerator and the
stack of loan payments slips on the kitchen counter prompts me
to mark my calendar for the event. "Darcy and Patty - Birthday.
Don't mention grey hair or underwire bras, wear pants."
Years of schooling taught me something about decorum).
The day arrives and I ease my old hoopy onto the freeway heading
for some place called Maple Grove. Somewhere northwest of
Minneapolis, someone's forgotten a turn on my directions sheet and
I wind up heading south. Eventually, I find myself in downtown
Minneapolis asking someone named Lestoil directions to Maple
Grove. I follow her directions, two rights and one left and wind
up at the greyhound station. Eventually, after paying a few tolls
to street merchants for directions, I find myself back on the
highway heading North.
I find my way to the right apartment building loaded down with
an annoying present (a hat that whines out a happy birthday tune)
and an impressive cache of liquor. Inside the front door, I find
a phone and a directory that has printed names the approximate
size of footnotes. Squinting, I study the numbering system for
a moment, and immediately wish I had paid more attention to the
"new math" I was taught back in grade school. I begin to sweat
as I reach, index finger extended, for the keypad. I think I
understand: 62 for Darcy's room.
The button depresses and I wait expectantly like a couch potato
watching the lottery numbers roll out on the ten O'Clock news.
Nothing happens. I readjust my armload and again reach for the
keypad. Before I can punch a number, I hear a buzz and scramble
for the door two feet away. The buzzing stops, and I find myself
tugging at a locked door while Earnie from room one shakes his
head disapprovingly in the lobby like I just spilled grape juice
on his white pile carpet. I mumble an obscenity and shuffle back
to the phone. This time, I press the button long and hard (two
adjectives that have never before been applied to me) before
scrambling back to the door. Earnie is apparently amused as he
calls to Phyllis and creates an instant audience. The door
buzzes. I pull. The door buzzes. I pull. Nothing. I wait
expecting a third opportunity that never comes. I imagine
Phyllis and Earnie making popcorn as I shuffle back to the key
pad. I strike 62 again and hold it downake a point. Upstairs,
they're taking no chances as the door buzzes for a minute straight
and I make it inside. Earnie sensing my frustration and concerned
by my new proximity retreats back into his room.
Darcy's apartment is a congestion of Mile High members scarfing
down cooked animal parts and beer. In the dining room, the food
is guarded by the buffet groupies who are deliberating over every
item on the spread. They point at the food and, in crescendo of
gossipy voices that rise and fall with the pitch of an adolescent
reaching puberty, discuss the merits of the various cheeses. They
tell me I have to try Beth's layered dish and watch out for the
cheese dips. I fill my plate and taking the latter half of their
advice scamper quickly away from the dips gossiping about cheese
I take a bite of food and run into Dave. Dave is an engineer to
the nth degree and begins to tell me all about, I mean ALL about
the processed piece of metal he received as a gift for Christmas
last year. It is so smooth and really just a large mock up of a
dental implant, he says. I try hard not to listen because I know
how dangerous it would be to fall asleep with food in my mouth.
As Dave drones on, Jane, who helps make weapons of destruction in
a defense contracting firm, has her elbow bumped and spills her
beverage on my sleeve. OH, she is SOOOH sorry. As she wipes her
beverage from my elbow, Beth walks up with a bright and cheery
"hello." Beth is an environmentalist who I can imagine ramming
Finnish Whale Trawler in a Green Peace boat. And I wonder if the
mixture of defense worker and environmentalist might not prove
combustible. I conjure up images of a fierce cat fight with Jane
and Beth clawing and scratching and tearing at each other removing
skin and clothes. Actually, that thought has very little to do
with their respective career choices and represents more of a
recurring dream I've been having.
Off to one side, Patty assembles a group of four for a picture.
They all discreetly check their teeth and lips for any errant
spinach dip. Drinks in hand they grin their Cheshire cat grins
for a painful moment until . . . FLASH. The group breaks into
laughter as if the photo were the punchline of a joke. At that
moment, I feel a tap on my shoulder, I turn to find Shirley.
Shirley has a new job at a bank and tonite is her normal disarming
self. Naive, yet not quite so naive. She is known among the group
members as "hard to read", killing more amorous aspirations than a
Rosanne Barr centerfold. I decide to make an impression. I try and
think of something to say, some bit of small talk that's not too
small. The weather, sports, the day I wore unmatched socks to work,
or the effect peanuts have on my digestive system all seem out of
the question. I strain to remember any interesting lines I know by
Nietzsche, and wind up spending a good five minutes musing about
how the name Nietzsche is spelled. (I looked it up when I got home).
I look dumbly at her and see that she is clearly unimpressed. When
I manage to croak out a weak invitation for dinner, the death blow is
delivered swiftly and deftly as Shirley coes "maybe". Maybe? I
puzzle over the coy answer. Is that a "yes" or a "no". I turn to
ask, but it's too late. Shirley has skipped off to the far corner
of the room to talk with Corey.
At this point, Jane and Tim have seized control of the stereo and
threaten the room with everything evil from the seventies. The music
is as moldy and smarmy as day old hot dog water, but the two lovebirds
are oblivious to the rooms discontent. Two ABBA and one Meatloaf song
later, we're listening to the first of Barry Manilow's greatest hits.
Tim and Jane don't seem to notice the dwindling numbers, but a shivering
group is growing on the apartment's balcony discussing a suicide pact.
I swear I've seen at least two people hurl themselves off as I
contemplate my own protest by dousing myself in gasoline and performing
an old Indian ritual with a stove burner. Just in time, Patty declares
it's time to open the presents and the music is shut off.
Mike Bigelbach is proud of his gift - a catalog of Sexual devices that
would confound Madonna. He explains the new models like a show room car
salesman, pointing out all the sleek designs and ergonomic engineering.
In a morally bankrupt society, Mike has a level of knowledge about these
things that has raised some concerns among the group. Some have suggested
that he get a pet, others a girlfriend. I personally feel that medication
is in order.
The gift giving tonite centers around food products as Darcy unveils
Vitamin D tablets, r-rated fortune cookies and a battery activated
cucumber (travel size). The cucumber is a big hit and is passed around
the room like a baby at a Christening. Dave tries to pretend he's
unimpressed but as he hitches up his shorts, it's apparent that he is
not unimpressed with its machining. Jane cuddles the cumcumber like
a child, eyeing Tim, the cucumber, and Tim again before passing the
gift along. The daisy train ends with Patty, who apparently confuses
the cucumber with someone she knows, calling it Alonzo and stroking
it like a pet Gerbil.
Concerned about the unusual display of affection for her present,
Darcy pries it from Patty's grip and marches off for what many suspect
is a test drive. The room is anxiously gripped like two butt cheeks
after three pounds of block cheese. Dave is informing Shirley of
stress factors and weight ratios that the cucumber can endure, while
Shirley hasn't quite grasped the situation, believing the gift is a
kitchen utensil for tossing salad. Minutes pass as Jane strokes Tim's
neck like a pet poodle and Mike discusses the benefits of his
membership to sex world in downtown Minneapolis. After much waiting,
Darcy returns with the satisfied look of an arab at an oasis and the
We play a game called "pin the part on the old fart", and I realize
that I've been at the party for almost three hours. I'm not certain
what's in blender drinks, but I'm starting to have just a Jim Dandy
kind of time. I'm thrilled with Tim and Jane's "Village People" and
discuss the song "YMCA" like a Mozart masterpiece. I think most people
here really enjoyed my Michael Jackson impersonation, especially when
I lit my hair on fire and put lit matches in my mouth. As far as the
artwork I knocked off the wall, well, nobody's perfect. (What's a Renoir,
It isn't too much later, and I've goosed Shirley twice and told her
all about the effect that peanuts have on my digestive system. I
even make up a quote by Nietzche and show her how I can make beer
come out my nose. I'm convinced that she's impressed. Moments later,
I've got Dave in a headlock and I'm dragging him towards the blender
drinks. Whaddya drinking,old boy? I'm buying. I say to him as I playfully
nooggie his distinguished skull. Pointing to Chris Mielke across the room
putting on his coat, I shout, "Hey Chris baby . . . Love ya . . .
don't forget it." To Shirley who is now on her way out the door- "Give me
a call, we'll do lunch."
"These people are so kind," I'm thinking as they bring me my coat and hat
and lead me to the door. I didn't even ask for help. In fact, I didn't
even tell them I was leaving. Such hospitality. Especially considering
I didn't wear a coat . . .or a hat to the party.
I must jot them all a note.
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