Parked in a red zone

Hold the Cinco de Mayo

Ocho de Mayo party in El Cajon
  • Ocho de Mayo party in El Cajon

Cinco de Mayo, I went with a few friends to Old Town. I had never spent a Cinco de Mayo there. I knew there'd be mariachi music and good food. There was going to be a 13-member band called the Fuerza Musical Air Force Latin Band. My friend said, 'The band Los Dandys is playing here later in the day, too. They're really good." Just then a guy walked by, dressed from head to toe like a cowboy. I said, "He'd look more authentic if he had a pistol in his holster instead of a cell phone."

I was surprised how easy it was to find a parking space, although it was 10:30 a.m. My friend said, "Are you going to write what Cinco de Mayo even means?" A Latino overheard this and said, "It's not Independence Day, which is in September. It's the battle of Puebla. The outnumbered Mexican forces defeated the French. It was on May 5, 1862."

After eating at Casa de Pico and listening to two tables of old people complain to the poor waitresses, we watched a band play a few songs. One of my friends had to go back to work, so we left at around 1:00 p.m. When I went back around 6:00 p.m., I didn't have as much luck finding a parking space. I parked illegally in a red zone, so I could quickly check out the festivities. A shop owner told me it wasn't a good idea. A guy with his car window rolled down said, "I don't blame you, dude. My wife wanted to come here. She insisted. We've been driving around for half an hour looking for a parking space." With that, I got back into my car and left.

I was saved when I was invited to another party.

It was like the "Who's on First?" routine when I got the invite. Dan Gonzales called and said, "Ocho," and I said "Bless you." He said, "Ocho de Mayo, that's the second annual party these guys have. I guess they figure everyone is at other parties on Cinco de Mayo, so they have a party three days later."

I thought this place was in Santee, but when I asked Mike, one of the hosts of the party, he said, "No, we're actually in El Cajon. Right on the border. We might be the only gays in the area."

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I told Mike that when I saw him out front with some guys who were smoking, I couldn't decide if he looked more like Kevin Bacon or Bart Simpson. He said, "Damn, I was going for the Ryan Seacrest look." Another guy looked like Tom Cruise, but he was 6'2" instead of 5'2". When I told him that he started laughing uncontrollably. I asked if it was because of the Cruise comment, and he said, "No, it's because when you were told the six different flavors of Jell-O, you took out your pen and paper and were writing them down. It struck me as funny that you

were taking notes on that."

There was a large assortment of Mexican food, and I asked Mike about it. He said, "Last year we had more food, and actual meals. This year we did a lot of finger-food-type things. Those small tacos, chips and salsa. I usually throw two parties a yean this, and one around Christmas."

He told me later it cost over $400 for all the food. And there was a large supply of alcohol, but most people were drinking strawberry margaritas. One lady was passing out Jell-O shooters she had on a silver tray. When she was passing out chocolate-covered strawberries later in the evening, I asked her if she had been hired by Mike. She laughed and said, "No, I'm his friend. But I made close to 300 Jell-O shooters. There were six different flavors. And I'm not taking any home. So I wanted everyone to finish them." The way she walked around reminded me of Sally Struthers trying to feed the Ethiopians. I also thought, if that was my mom, she'd be glad the Jell-O wasn't finished. She'd save them in the fridge for the next party.

I thought of my mom again when I saw that some people had cups with their names written on them. At first I thought it was like wearing a name tag. Then I realized it was so when a drink was placed on the table you'd know which one was yours. My mom would have you write the name on the cup so you wouldn't have to waste another plastic cup getting another drink. I saw two black Sharpies by the blender.

Since 90 percent of the crowd was gay, I was telling one group of guys about a previous party I went to with a mostly gay crowd. I mentioned one person by name in that column, and he left me a voice mail saying he wasn't "out" to some of his friends and clients. This crowd — which looked to be in their late 20s — all said they were out of the closet.

I heard another small group of guys talking about their favorite newscaster. Then they started talking about the newscaster's hair. Later, Stephanie (who made the Jell-O shots) introduced me to two hairdressers who work at Rudy's in Clairemont. She said, "I love going there. They do my hair perfectly, and I get to hear all the gossip."

Somebody dropped a cup, and I heard a person yell, "I wouldn't bend over and pick that up at a party like this." Another guy got a little drunk and was talking about taking his pants off. But that's as wild as things got in that department.

I commented to Mike about how nice the place looked. There were tiki torches all around the back yard and three different tables of food. He said, "You know how crazy I am? I called in sick on Friday just so I could stay home and clean and shampoo the carpet. How bizarre is that?"

I met a Japanese lady who told me something about liking sushi. First I meet two hairdressers who are gay, and then a Japanese lady who likes sushi. Stereotypes, huh? She told some very funny stories. Her husband recently bought a 280Z he's always tinkering with. She told me.

"My dad would work on cars and make me watch to learn things. My eyes would just glaze over. I hated it. We learned how to change the oil or change a tire. It was funny when my mom got a flat tire and had to call him, since she didn't know how to change it." I told her my stepdad was the same way. And I've always wanted to tell him, all those times he made me watch him change the oil, it seems easier just to spend the $19 at one of those quickie oil-change places. You don't have to worry about the pan of oil or getting dirty fingernails. (Wait...I'm concerned about my nails? This party is starting to have an effect on me — not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Stephanie came over and seemed a bit buzzed from the alcohol. She was telling me that, as one of the few straight guys at the party, I could meet a few of the single women there she knew. She said, "I'm married. My husband couldn't make it here. But you can meet some of these other ladies." I told her I was already talking to the prettiest gal at the party. In fact, probably the prettiest one out of any party I've ever been to.

Her name was Judy, and she was there with her sister Jill. Jill told me two different times, "Make sure you say there were two gorgeous babes there."

When Judy and I started talking, I was surprised to find out she was single and had trouble meeting guys — although I couldn't tell her that and risk sounding like I was throwing a line at her. We talked about our favorite books and movies. I couldn't believe she didn't like Tootsie. When a guy walked by and I mentioned that she didn't like Tootsie, he said, "I like any movie where a guy is dressing up like a woman."

Judy started talking about how much she loved blues musicians. After talking about John Lee Hooker, Jonny Lang, and Robert Johnson, she said, "Okay, a test for you. Elvis or the Beatles?" I said, "Well, Travolta picked Elvis in Pulp Fiction, and Uma seemed happy with that choice. I love Elvis. I have lots of his records. I have a clock in my living room of him, and the pendulum is his hips shaking. But I like the Beatles more." She said, "Wrong answer." She pulled up her sleeve and showed me her Elvis watch. She then said, "Oh, and look how late it's getting. My sister and I have to go."

I was humming "Heartbreak Hotel" as I watched her leave. A guy put his arm around me and said, 'There are plenty of guys here you can meet." I wasn't interested — not that there's anything wrong with being interested in men, although there is something wrong with stealing a joke from Seinfeld.

Now I'm sitting here listening to a blues album and thinking about Judy. I think I finally understand what Muddy Waters is singing.

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