I got a call from a woman who works at L.A. Fitness In Poway. (Am I the only one that thinks it's odd there's an "LA." Fitness in the San Diego area?) She invited me to a party Wednesday night for the chamber of commerce. I was told there would be belly dancers (a plus) and food from Pat & Oscar's (a negative). I wondered where they would put the food. Would I find bean dip on the weight machines?
They had rooms in the back for the party. People were showing up to work out in their bicycle shorts and sweats, while others in suits came for the party. I took a picture of Ms. Poway as I waited around. When the fifth older gentleman walked in with a suit, I asked myself what I was doing here. It was a weeknight and people were dressed up. This wasn't my idea of a party. But at least I got a paragraph out of it and a picture of a cute girl.
The next night, there was a party/meeting for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. I do volunteer work for them, so I figured I'd write about that I arrived at the Rancho Bernardo Rec Center, where a woman was telling us that we had 131 wishes granted for kids last year and we're shooting for 150 this year. I looked at the crowd of eager volunteers and wondered how I'd get a party column out of them. I thought about exchanging stories about the kids we worked with. The last one I picked up at the airport flew in for a Chargers-Vikings game. He was from Minnesota, where it was ten degrees. He was also going to see the zoo and Sea World. He didn't seem to like the autographed picture of the Vikings I bought him (which was expensive), and he told me my car looked like crap (he was right about that, but you don't want to hear it from a ten-year-old). As sick as it may sound, I never rooted so hard for the Chargers in my life.
Luckily, I found a party that weekend, and it was also football-related. It was for the conference championship playoff games to determine who makes it to the Super Bowl.
The guy who threw this party, Paul Willemssen, is a member of OMBAC. That stands for the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club. Somebody else said jokingly, "It stands for 'old men behaving as children.' But don't print that."
Paul said, "OMBAC was started over 50 years ago by the guys who invented the Over the Line tournament. They were runners in marathons, and you needed an athletic club to sponsor you in those events, so they formed their own. But we don't just do the OTL events and crazy parties. We sponsor an amateur rugby team, which is one of the best in the county [OMBAC Eagles]. We do wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, and other sports. We also have a surf contest that has the proceeds go to wheelchair-related things for the beach."
Paul's house in Bay Park was beautiful. But parking sucked. I parked way up the street, near a person carrying two six-packs of Heineken who said, "I should've parked at Sea World and taken the shuttle over here!"
The Spanish-style home had food catered by El Indio: a great variety of Mexican stuff and a large amount of alcohol. One person told me, "You'll always find lots of alcohol at OMBAC parties. Help yourself."
Some people hate parties during sports events, because everyone gets in the way of the TV, and the conversations can keep you from hearing the announcers. But this wasn't the Super Bowl. And there were more TVs than I've ever seen in a house. The front living room had a big screen. The bar in the kitchen had a TV. The kitchen had a small TV facing the opposite direction. The bathroom near the kitchen had a TV. Outside, near the Jacuzzi, there was a TV. There was a thatched hut with food and drinks underneath and another TV there. I walked up some stairs, and there was another deck with a TV. I walked up some more stairs, and there was a room specifically for the smokers. It had a giant TV, some couches, a small bar, and about eight chairs. One woman complained and left when I lit my cigar. The guy next to me said, "She knew this was the smoking lounge." He ended up telling me he had a lot of money bet on the "under" in this game (meaning that if the combined score was below 46, he would win).
Somebody came around collecting money for a pool, one of those charts with boxes everywhere that I've never been able to figure out. You throw in a buck per square and write your initials in it. I think if a touchdown is scored during the time frame you have in the game, you win all the money everyone threw into the pot. About 15 minutes later, I hear the guy who collected the money saying, "Nobody won this time. Nobody had the square filled out when that field goal was kicked."
During a time out, I went onto the deck. You can see the water and Sea World. I'm sure the view is ten times nicer at night. Some guys out there were debating whether a team can win a Super Bowl without a hall of fame-type quarterback. I went down the stairs to grab some rolled tacos and saw three women hunched over. I stopped to listen and one of them was talking about how beautiful the flowers were there. One said, "I think those are snapdragons." I quickly got my rolled tacos and headed back upstairs with the men.
I said to Paul, "Shouldn't there be Mexican guys here from El Indio serving this food?" He said, "No, that costs extra. And we already spent over $600 on this party. People can get their own plates and serve themselves."
I saw a little kid open a cooler and somebody yelled, "If it isn't your cooler, don't go into it. It's an OMBAC rule!" The kid looked around, saw another cooler, and grabbed a Coke.
I heard a guy talking about all the different devices that can be used to open beer bottles when you don't have a bottle opener. He mentioned a plastic lighter. He said, "You can use a car door — there's a certain way to do it. But when you're learning how, you end up with a few broken bottles. A seat belt buckle works great." I wonder if he drinks and drives.
The smoking room filled with smoke, even with the doors and windows open. Paul pulled out a roach clip, which was attached to a car antenna. One guy said, "Cool, you got some weed we can smoke?" Paul said, "No, this is for my cigarettes," and explained how he welded and made this device. Somebody said, "You only need those for joints that are too small to hold." Paul responded, "You can send this to NASA and you won't find pot residue on it. It's strictly for my cigarettes. I hate my fingers being discolored and stinky from smoking, even though I only smoke two a day. And putting it on this antenna, I can extend it to any length I want."
Another guy saw this and said, "That is so gay! You are smoking a cigarette with a roach clip." Paul told him, "It's more like a cigarette holder." Another guy said, "Are you Bette Davis? Who the hell uses a cigarette holder?"
"I used to buy all kinds of products for my fingers, and they'd still smell after smoking. This was the only solution."
I finished my cigar just as the first game was ending. A lot of people were leaving, and I told Paul I didn't think many were going to stay for the second game. Paul said, ' "Actually, some might show up for that game that aren't here now. That's what's great. It's two games instead of one, like the Super Bowl. I'm going to do this every year."
I saw more people leaving than arriving.
Next week, it'll be the Super Bowl parties I write about.