Friday, February 13, 2015

Dave's party was on a night just like this

Dave’s Party

Tonight is a beautiful, warm San Diego Friday early evening. It reminds me of a beautiful, warm Spring Friday early evening back in Illinois, my junior year in high school. 

As pretty as the sunset was, I could not enjoy it because I was feeling so sorry for myself; I had heard of the big party, but I wasn’t invited. So I was staying home. Again.

Hell, even my parents were getting ready to go to a party.

All I could imagine were all the cool kids getting dressed up and ready to go have a blast. Whereas I was going to drink Seven-Up and watch an old movie on WGN in the kitchen on our tiny TV.

As a junior, my social stock had soared due to being the starting tailback on the football team. And I had gone out with a few great girls. But I just didn’t get invited to the cool parties. The final, but crucial step to cool.

It was on this night when my really popular friend, Bruce, who was also a junior starting at safety on the football team, pulled up in front of my house in his parent’s faux-wood paneled, forest green Ford station wagon. He honked the horn. I went outside.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“O’Brien is having a party. Let’s go.”

Dave O’Brien was the cool senior who threw all the great parties.

“Yeah, I know. I can’t go. I got . . . stuff to do.”

I was too embarrassed to tell him I wasn’t invited. 

“Shut up and get in. You’re going.”

As a friend, Bruce was good like that. 

In sixth grade, it became clear to Bruce I did not know what the four bases of sex were. So as not to embarrass me in front of our friends, at recess, he ran around the bases pantomiming the sex acts: kissing at first, feeling-up at second, etc. 

For years, when someone said they got to second or third base, I had to have Bruce run the bases in my mind to remember what was what.

After clearing it with my parents - who seemed a little too delighted I was finally going to a party - we drove to Dave O’Brien’s house. The Stones' "Tumblin' Dice" came on the radio. There was also a rolling stone in the pit of my stomach.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, the idea of being humiliated and kicked out of the party was too much.

“Listen, Bruce, I can’t go.”

“Why not?”

“. . . Dave didn’t invite me.”

Bruce looked at me funny and then started laughing. It was the same laugh Butch gave Sundance when Sundance told him he couldn’t swim.

“You idiot, he doesn’t “invite” anyone, it’s all word of mouth.”


In my mind parties had mailed invitations, or the host asked you in person. At the very least they called you on the phone and invited you. It never occurred to me that, once you were told second-hand about a party at school, you were invited. 

All I could think about was all the parties I had missed due to my prudish invitation standards.

Dave O'Brien’s parent’s house was a beautiful stone Tudor mansion on a private lake it shared with four other estates. The tall trees were strung together with lit white lanterns and there was a band playing in the gazebo by the lake. 

The thump of a live bass drum is one of the greatest sounds on earth. It goes straight to your soul. 

As we walked up to the house, out came Dave O’Brien. Uh oh. What if Bruce is wrong? What if Dave kicks me out? Dave started running toward us. Oh crap.

Dave gave both of us a hard handshake and a slap on the back.

“Bruce, you brought Kase. Damn, Alex, I was starting to think you didn’t like me. You never come to my parties. Come on in inside, let me get you guys an Old Style.”

And just like that, suddenly, and without any warning, I was one of the cool kids.

The rest of the night was;

"Whoa, finally, there you are, Alex."

"Where you been hiding, Kase?"

"Yeah, AK, we thought you had some secret woman tucked away."

Later that night, I made-out in the basement with a gorgeous girl named Maggie, a wildly popular senior cheerleader with long brown hair who smelled like Chanel perfume and Marlboros, but when I kissed her, she tasted like strawberry lip gloss, Old Style beer and heaven.

Maggie did not make me a man that night. But she did show me that being a man was going to be a hell of a lot of fun. Let's just say, in my mind, Bruce had a nice jaunt on the bases. In fact, I think Maggie and I invented a new base, but now is not the time. 

(The next week, Maggie's boyfriend came home from Dartmouth, and I was tossed aside like so many empty Old Style tall-neck bottles. But I did not care. And, yes, I mentioned Old Style again)

Before the night of Dave's party, I would have believed I was Batman before I would have believed I was a cool kid. 

The moral? 

Don't let anyone, your mom, Oprah, Dr. Phil or even Ellen, tell you otherwise: there is simply nothing better than being a cool kid in high school. 

It is the best.