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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 
and such.

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 
party continues.

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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