Waiting for the Ball to Drop

Snagging the midnight kiss in Santee, wait, Fletcher Hills

They told me about being in Balboa Park and walking around holding hands and how they saw men driving around. I told them Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called "Balboa Park" about the young boys who work there as prostitutes.
  • They told me about being in Balboa Park and walking around holding hands and how they saw men driving around. I told them Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called "Balboa Park" about the young boys who work there as prostitutes.

When New Year's Eve rolled around, I was surprised to not be inundated with party invites. I did get one from a woman named Sally, whom I'd known back in my junior-high days. Then on December 31 I got a call from my friend Roxanne. She was having a party that started at 9:00 p.m. Since the forecast called for rain, I didn't want to drive from Del Mar to Santee in pouring rain. I told Rox I couldn't make it and gave her a hard time for inviting me at the last minute (and I wonder, if I didn't write this column, would she have invited me at all?). When I showed up at Sally's place, she gave me a tour of their house. When I mentioned something about Santee, she told me they actually live in Fletcher Hills.

She had a collection of cows. That seemed odd. I've met women who collected horses, elephants, and owls. Even unicorns. But cows? It just isn't a cute animal. About the only two places cows look good are on milk cartons and Pink Floyd albums.

Sally's sister Julie was at the computer, laughing. Her daughter had sent Aunt Sally an e-mail pleading for a cell phone. It was funny reading the words of a 13-year-old trying to convince someone that she's old enough and really needs a cell phone. I don't think she realized her aunt would show the e-mail to her mom -- or a roomful of partygoers.

The TV had Music Choice on, and it was set to "party favorites." Sometimes they had great songs. I heard "Louie Louie" and "Tequila" by the Champs. But sometimes they were playing songs that had everyone groaning, like "The Macarena." I did glance at the TV from time to time, because they had interesting facts about the band that was playing. Eventually I realized it wasn't very social to stare at a TV while a party was going on.

So I started talking to the couple right next to me. They looked to have a large age difference. The blonde girl looked to be a teenager, and the guy (who looked like Clint Howard) was balding and looked to be in his late 30s. She turned out to be in her 20s, but I never found out his age. She told me she was a dancer, and she once dated a man from Russia with whom she used to ballroom dance. "He was crazy. And he got pissed if you said he had an accent. And the fucker still has my wet suit!"

She did an impression of him talking. We couldn't stop laughing. She said she thought a friend of his was in the Russian mafia. When she asked him about that he said, "Don't ask me this question. You are not to ask this kinds of things! Never ask again."

She said he also had a demonic cat. But I learned early on in this column not to get women started talking about their cats.

Sally, being the perfect host, walked me to the bar to get me a drink. There were lots of bottles, and I opted for the Sour Apple Pucker. It's the perfect drink if you don't like the taste of alcohol. It's like drinking candied apples. But after about five of them, you can get buzzed.

Sally would then bring me a shot of something. I asked why and she said every hour they were doing a shot for the new year. Someone else explained that, since it was 9:00 p.m., that it was the new year in New York. I got confused when Sally told me they had started the shots at 7:30, since that was Greenwich Mean Time. I had no idea what that was.

One guy drinking a Coke told me he doesn't drink alcohol. He said, "I just hate the taste of it. I don't like beer or hard alcohol. So I end up being the guy at the party that drinks Coke and watches everyone get drunk. And people always come up to me and say, 'Try this drink, you'll like this one.' I end up having sips of all these different fruity drinks people think I'll like."

Since Dick Clark wasn't going to be in New York, I thought I would show my support by wearing a denim jacket I have that says "Dick Clark Productions." I meant to see what kind of job former San Diego talk-show host Regis Philbin did filling in. But every time I saw him on-screen, the volume was down. I could only hear music and the talking of everyone at the party.

When a woman commented on my jacket, she said something about Clark looking so young, and finally starting to look his age. I thought it might be in bad taste to say, "And he's finally acting his age." He had just had a stroke.

I said, "I read in an interview that he never dyed his hair." She responded, "He didn't. His hairstylist did."

I recognized one guy, and when Sally introduced me to Brian Hedges, I realized I knew his brother Kevin in high school. (He's now a teacher.) I told Brian that when he worked at Taco Bell next to our high school, he fired my friend Dave. He remembered that and told me how Dave was always taking food and eating it in the walk-in refrigerator. (Ah, the joys of working at fast-food joints.)

He had his baby daughter at the party, and I was surprised that she never seemed to cry or make a fuss.

When I finally met Sally's live-in boyfriend, Mike, I laughed. She's a short Caucasian (5'1"), and he's a tall Asian (6'3"). They met in a Friday-night bowling league when she was coming out of a ten-year marriage. Her average is 180 and his is 203. I was surprised to learn he hadn't been bowling that long. My friend Mike Cowles used to bowl in elementary school. He has bowled a number of 300 games -- the highest score you can get, which is 13 straight strikes. But for somebody who just started bowling as an adult, 203 is a high average.

Sally walked by giving us more shots. Again, I was confused. I was informed it was the countdown for New Year's Day in the Midwest. These damn time differences, and this alcohol, made everything so confusing.

I thought getting some food into my system would help, since I hadn't eaten since breakfast. The counter was filled with all kinds of snacks. I ate a few of those rolled pita-bread things that have the turkey, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. I've just never been sure how to put them in my mouth. If you hold it one way, it doesn't fit. If you hold it the other way, you bite into it and the contents fall out.

There were also cold cuts and bread set out, a variety of chips, and something I had never seen before. I would have to call it the greatest food invention since sliced bread. It was sliced apples with caramel sauce to dip them in. Caramel apples are so delicious, but I seem to have trouble eating those also. My nose gets sticky. When I was a child, I lost two teeth in one. This was the perfect way to eat these things. Someone else, noticing my amazement, said, "You haven't seen these at Price Club before?" Nope.

Why don't those old ladies give you samples of these when you walk down the aisle? I don't need to eat a half-inch piece of pizza on a toothpick. (I sure hope those Costco folks are reading this.)

There was a guy with a cowboy hat and a long mustache. They told me he played a bank robber in a western-reenactment thing they do. Sally said, "We are in the Shadow River Regulators. It's a historic reenacting group with a comical bent. We usually perform at Poway Midland Park, on a scaled-down version of a working steam locomotive. We rob it from time to time. We volunteer for certain events. Our biggest is probably the Fourth of July. I play a schoolteacher named Belle Star. Some of our gang names really existed in the 1800s."

I got confused by the rules when she said, "Our skits are never the same. No one shoots anyone unless they are wearing a red sash, indicating they're a bad guy. And only women may shoot other women. Unless the woman fires upon the man first."

This reminded me of the Civil War re-creations I've heard about. Sally said, "There is a whole society of reenactors out there. They have a gunfight at Tombstone every year. Locally, there are a few in Ramona and Julian."

The man I met earlier, David O'Neal (who looked so much older than his girlfriend), plays either the mayor or the banker in these productions. When we started talking about crazy things we did as kids, he told this great story. He and a friend, when in high school, were doing a film for a TV production class. They set up toy Army men in the back yard around the pool and were doing a fake newscast about a war. One of the guys was supposed to light the people on fire. They didn't have much luck, so they poured gasoline all over them. The next attempt worked. Everything went up in flames. But one guy's pants caught on fire. He was hopping around and ended up hitting the gas can, which exploded. They kicked it into the pool, hoping the water would put the fire out. Instead, the entire pool was engulfed in flames. I asked what might have been the stupidest question of the night.

"Were you guys able to put the fire out, or did you have to call the fire department?"

There were two girls at this party from Humboldt. The blonde with glasses and stringy hair reminded me of my sister who went to Humboldt State and promptly became a vegetarian, a pot smoker, and a few other things. This blonde was with a cute African-American girl, who seemed shy. But she kept laughing at my stories. So when we were in the kitchen and New Year's arrived...so did my second dumb question of the night: "In which state is it 2005 now?"

All the couples started kissing. This shy woman looked at me, and seizing this opportunity (to be cheesy), I said with a raised eyebrow, "Well, people are supposed to kiss on New Year's."

She again laughed, and my head was spun around by the blonde who'd dated the alleged Russian-mafia guy. She planted a big kiss on my lips. And, if that Russian is reading this, I want him to know...I didn't kiss her back! And it was the black chick I was trying to get a kiss from, not her! Don't hurt me.

Another guy at the party was Scottish. I heard him talking about his clan. I made a joke: When you're at a party in Santee, usually if you hear the word "clan," it's "Klan." Someone said, "This is El Cajon, not Santee."

It was after midnight, and a lot of people started to leave. I sat on the couch talking to a few people. A good-looking Mexican guy asked me why I was taking notes. When I said I write about parties, he said, "I read your stuff in the Reader." He asked me a question about a previous party, and his girlfriend (or wife) said, "This guy reads everything. He's always reading."

They told me a story about being in Balboa Park and walking around holding hands and how they saw men driving around. When they realized the same car had driven by a few times, they realized it was a man cruising for a prostitute. I told them Bruce Springsteen wrote a song called "Balboa Park" about the young boys who work there as prostitutes.

This couple also told me they were going to a party the next day and invited me. I laughed, thinking how some people network at parties. I network by finding out about other parties.

They told me the guy throwing the party was part of a Polar Bear Club that jumps into cold water on the New Year. But they didn't call me the following day.

So I headed up to Del Mar, where I saw a bunch of people jump into the ocean. The water was 59 degrees. When I asked one guy about this, he said, "It's not the Polar Bear Club. It's the Del Mar Penguin Plunge."

He went on to tell me they have done this for 19 straight years. I was surprised that nobody stayed in the water longer than three minutes.

A few women were claiming that the cold water was good for the circulation of blood, and it made their skin look younger. When one woman told me she was 52, and I thought she looked 62, I kept my mouth shut. Another lady said, "I heard it helps the nervous system."

I thought if I jumped in, the only thing it would do to me is give me hypothermia and cause my testicles to end up around my shoulders.

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

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