...And All I Got Was This T-Shirt

Since my voice mail appears at the end of this column, I get interesting calls. One person wanted to know why I made fun of Asians. Another person called saying I was making fun of people in AA. I get requests for recipes, for the location of clubs, or for information on food that was catered. One guy called who said he worked as a bouncer at a strip club and always read the Reader when he's working. I can think of better things to look at than a Reader. Imagine my shock when I got ten phone calls after a Crasher a few weeks back. I had mentioned rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot and his ode to overweight women. The messages left for me were all nice but explained that the song is about his love of "big butts," not overweight women. Silly me. I thought the two went hand in hand. I've never seen skinny, petite women with big butts. The song has lyrics like "I like 'em round and big" and "A word to the thick soul sisters/I wanna get with ya." I would close, in my defense, with this verse: "When it comes to females/Cosmo ain't got nothing to do with my selection/36-24-36/Only if she's 5'3"."

I called a few of my basketball buddies (i.e. black guys). They all said I was an idiot and that the song is about big butts, not big women. They claim that many black women aren't fat, but still have big "bubble butts." They were shocked I had never seen one.

Okay, on to the party.

I got a call from Carla Swanke. She told me she'd love to have me come for her husband Todd's birthday, saying, "He reads your articles all the time." She mentioned that twice without saying "we" read your articles. Just that he did. When I asked her about that she laughed and said, "Sometimes I read them, but I'm usually too busy."

Their house in Rancho Bernardo was huge. It was the shape of the hotel in Monopoly (but not painted red). I found out they had five kids, so they needed a place this size. But the house was the only thing that was huge. There wasn't a single big butt in the bunch. I guess the Swankes are only friends with thin folks.

The party had a western theme, with animal horns and skulls on the walls. I wondered if vegetarians would be bothered.

There was a pool table in the living room, but nobody was playing. A few people were playing Ping-Pong in the garage. I played a few games out there, but got tired of trying to find the balls when they'd roll under something.

Todd was a gracious host. He made me a few drinks, showed me around his house, and told me how much he loved my column. He did introduce me a few times as "Joel," and it wasn't until the fourth time that I corrected him. The first time I wasn't sure I heard him. The second time he was walking away and I couldn't correct him. The third time I thought, if I corrected him at that point, he would ask me why I didn't correct him earlier. By the fourth time I realized that if I didn't, everyone would have my name wrong.

Todd had a company from National City making street tacos -- the small ones with meat, cilantro, and onions. I asked him how much it cost to have them here. He said, "They cost $500. I think I spent another $500 for everything else here."

I never feel comfortable talking about money, other than how much people have spent on their parties. Especially how much a person makes for a living. I continue to be amazed by the number of people who will just ask, "So how much do you make a year?"

I did ask Todd what he did for a living. He told me he ran a car dealership in National City. "I put in 80 hours a week running that place." I asked why so many hours and he said, "I have five kids and this house I have to pay for. My wife doesn't work. This is expensive."

I asked how many parties he had a year and he replied, "Maybe three or four." His friend mentioned a party they had with a zydeco band in the front yard, but that was when half of the houses on the street were still being built.

There was a band named Three Card Monty at this party, but they were set up near the kitchen. They were missing a guy, but had Kent Malmberg playing guitar and singing and Troy Molsberry on drums. They were playing a lot of Rush songs, and Kent said, "We're not a Rush tribute band. We just like them a lot. Most people either love them or hate them." Luckily for everyone at the party, Troy sounded like Rush's drummer (Neil Peart), and Kent sang better than Rush's vocalist (the band writes great songs, but has a horrible singer).

A blonde woman was telling me that Troy had a drum scholarship at USC. I didn't even know there was such a thing. I meant to ask Troy if he knew anyone who played on the Fleetwood Mac song "Tusk," since they used the marching band from USC, although that was in the early '80s, and he was too young to have been around then.

When I was introduced to a woman named Mickie, I said, "You're my favorite Toni Basil song. She replied, "Oh, God, I'm so tired of everyone singing that to me when they meet me." Okay, so I'm not always original.

It was hard to talk to people when the band got loud on a song like "Spirit of Radio." I laughed when Kent said, "Let's get the loud songs out of the way so the cops don't shut us down." Someone else at the party said, "The sheriff is a friend of ours. He even comes to some of these parties. I don't think we'll have a problem."

The band did a great version of "Spirit of Radio," but I could've done without "Subdivisions" and another tune I can't think of at the moment. But whenever someone yelled something out, like "Play some Pink Floyd," the band would perform the request. It was great.

I wandered out to the back patio for a street taco. Todd was showing a new barbecue and counter area he had installed all along the patio. A few concrete tables with thatch covering helped make this small back yard a comfortable place for a party.

I heard a group of people talking about Ozomatli winning a Grammy. One lamented, "Yeah, now we won't get to see them at the small venues like the Belly Up." Another person added, "Well, last time they played 4th & B, so I think they had already moved up to the bigger places. As long as ticket prices don't get too high."

One blonde woman named Kitty was very friendly. She mentioned that she got Elvis Costello tickets for Todd's birthday present. I said, "That show sold out. You're lucky you got them in time. What a cool gift." She then said that she and her husband would also take Todd and Carla to dinner the night of the show. She said something to me like, "We just got him T-shirts last year. How many T-shirts does he need, though?"

As Todd got a little alcohol in him, he seemed like someone who would like T-shirts with phrases on them. I heard him say things like, "Birthdays only come once a year. Aren't you glad you're not a birthday?"

When the band stopped after 45 minutes, Todd kept bugging them to continue. I was talking music with them in the back yard until it started drizzling and we went back inside.

I started talking to one guy about the Lakers and sports radio. Every time one of us would bring up a good debate from one of the recent sports shows (steroids in baseball, instant replay in football), someone would come over and interrupt us. I don't think we ever finished a single subject we started on.

At one point, a few of the Swanke kids came home. They had spent the evening at a neighbor's house.

Someone asked Todd his age, and he said 41. I told him he looked good for 41 and his friend said, "Well, all the alcohol he's consumed over the years has sort of pickled him." This guy then went on to tell me some crazy drinking stories about the two of them. "There was one time we were drinking until the bars closed. Then at two we went down to TJ to drink some more. We got back to his place after 5:00 a.m. And his wife got up and ironed my shirt, since I was going straight to work. That is an amazing woman he's married to." Carla was nice, and I can't imagine anyone looking better after having five kids. Someone mentioned they had been married 18 years, but Kitty said Todd had dated her when she was under 18. She wouldn't tell me how old he was at the time, though.

The band started playing again. Someone yelled out for the Who, and they played "Baba O'Reilly." When the lyric was supposed to be "teenage wasteland," they sang "41-year-old wasteland" instead.

When I worked in radio, this song was always requested by the wrong title. People would call in for "Teenage Wasteland." That and the song "Karn Evil #9" by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer were the two that nobody knew the title of but always requested. ("Karn Evil #9" is the one that starts "Welcome back, my friends/to the show that never ends.")

One woman at the party was trying to set this guy up with a friend of hers. She said, "I'm not sure if you'll like her, though. She deals poker and she's really independent." The guy said, "I've met 150 girls just like that. And they all become dependent." We all laughed like teenagers.

Todd called me into the kitchen and gave me a shot of something blue. It didn't taste bad. He pointed out a few other things and offered me some. I told him I didn't want to drink much since I had another party to go to.

I headed out back to finish the music conversation. We were talking about our favorite Beatles albums, and a woman said, "Why do people act like the Beatles are so great? Is a song like 'I Want to Hold Your Hand' that much better than those Herman's Hermits songs?" We all laughed. Then we all started shouting at once. One guy asked, "What about Revolver?" Another said, "Sgt. Pepper changed music in 1967." Another person was trying to explain the brilliance of Rubber Soul. When someone told her, "What the Beatles did with The White Album was unheard of," I jokingly said "Yeah. McCartney has a song where the only lyric is 'Why don't we do it in the road?'" Another guy laughed and said, "Yeah, and that album has that one song with just noises and a voice saying 'number nine, number nine.'" The woman looked confused and then said, "See. You guys are all proving my point." Then she said, "Do any of you guys like the Bee Gees as much as the Beatles?"

That may have been the hardest we laughed all night.

Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation for Josh Board.

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