I decided to have a cookout for Labor Day this year, mainly to satisfy the perverse curiousity that accompanies that all important party question: will anyone come? Maybe it's just the neurotic 7th grader still locked inside of me, but throwing a party is intensely stressful. You've got to have enough food to feed everybody, but not so much that you're eating potato salad and dried-out hot dogs for the next week. You've got to satisfy drinking habits ranging from Bud Light
drinkers to those who prefer Jakartan microbrews
. Most horrifying of all, you've got to somehow ensure that everyone has a good time.
Now, in college (and, truth be told, some years after college), the way to do this was to order a shit load of pizza, get an unmarked keg of beer (since, I'm convinced, the taste of beer, like soda, is largely dependent on association with a brand name), and make sure to liberally pack and pass the bong around. Throw in drunk coeds who are art majors and smoke clove cigarettes
, and you're in business in a big way.
Sometime over the last year or so, that kind of carousing has lost it's luster. Being a dissipated asshole at thirty something is kind of pathetic, like your friend who still listens to Phish
. So this party had to produce the goods without the benefit of binge drinking (and, alas, the bong).
C and I talked it over, examining the problem from at least two different angles, then did what Americans are best at: throw money at the problem and hope to christ that everything turns out alright. That solved the entertainment/food issue, after some short-lived drama at Vons involving a credit card, a cell phone, and a bag of peanuts.
Next up, the central (to me) question of "will anybody come?". But I had an answer for this as well. I left the inviting almost entirely up to C and my room-mate R. I figured that I couldn't go wrong with two women at the forefront of this thing, and I was right. It's like the maxim I followed in my more selfish days - "why do for yourself what others can do for you?". Hey, it worked then, and it works now.
We had a good turnout, twenty or so people, mostly actors, which is the unintended consequence of letting two actresses handle the guest list. But hey, actors are cool, mostly, unless you're in the talent management field, when those adorably quirky artiste types you put in your student films become petulant and difficult artiste types who skip callbacks to take a sense memory class. But I digress.
Everyone liked the choice of beers, everyone liked the snacks, everyone liked each other, all was right with the world. Until I lit the grill. Suddenly my landlord, who in a perverse quirk of fate lives two floors directly above me, is calling down in heavily accented english to exhort me to move the grill. I'm standing on my balcony with a grill full of flaming Kingsford Match Light Charcoal Briquets, and now I've got to move it. A bucket of dirty mop water later, I'm on the sidewalk with the grill. I'm thinking no way is this thing gonna light up again, it's soaked. But whatever Napalm-esque chemical they drench those "charcoal" briquets in is apparently not water soluble, and easily ignites while wet.
So, I get my grill fired back up, I've got a beer, my two associate grill masters are also nursing beers and offering unsolicited grilling advice, and once again all was right with the world. Until my landlord "suggested" that I move the grill across the street to an unoccupied house. Now, I'm a peaceable guy, when not driving, but I had to "rebut" his "suggestion" in "the strongest terms possible".
After being faced with my airtight ontological argument regarding my right, nay, my duty to operate a grill on Labor Day, he relented and disappeared into the green shag seclusion of his lair. I cooked my dogs. I fed them to my guests. They liked them. They ate them. After dinner the party broke up into conversation clusters, before inevitably moving into the kitchen.
Then, suddenly, I realized that I was having a good time. I was standing in my kitchen in L.A., on a pretty cool little planet tucked in against a nice mellow sun, whirling around a galaxy in the cold vacuum of space, my life inching on, an eyeblink in infinity, and I was having a good time.