Survivor’s Second Season

A friend of mine took me to a party in La Mesa with the understanding that I wouldn't write about it. When I grabbed a pen from the car, she said, "What are you doing? I told you that you can't write about this.""Let's ask the lady throwing the party."

Laura Farmer had no problem with me writing about her second annual "survivor" party -- no, it had nothing to do with the TV show. Laura is a cancer survivor. She told me, "This party comes on the anniversary of my first day of chemotherapy. I realized during the whole struggle that all any of us really have is each other. I decided to have a party every year for all the people I love, or who have helped me with this."

There were more bottles of wine at Laura's party than any party I've ever been to (excluding the wine shop party), and the Mexican food was catered (from El Indio, I think). She had hired two bartenders to serve drinks.

Natasha was painting henna tattoos on guests' hands. My friend Anne asked her, "Do you take tips?" The artist said she did but that she was paid to be at the party, so she didn't expect gratuities. Anne said, "Why don't you tip her, Josh?" I took a fiver out of my pocket and slapped it on the table. As I looked through the book of animals and Egyptian patterns that Natasha could reproduce, I heard her say that she used to belly dance. Her husband bought her a henna kit seven years ago, and she learned how to tattoo. When she finished with Anne, she insisted on doing one for me. I chose a lizard, which stayed on my hand for almost a week.

Sitting nearby was a guy reading tarot cards. I heard him say to one woman, "This card shows that you will be taking a trip soon." The lady was excited. "Yes! Yes, I am! I'm going to Hawaii." The guy continued, "You will spend a lot of time outdoors there." When the woman walked away, I asked her, "Couldn't anything he said about a trip be accurate? What if you were going to L.A. for a few days? That's a trip. And once you said Hawaii, he told you that you would be outdoors. Most people don't go to the islands to sit in their hotel." She laughed and said she thought the whole thing was BS, but that she had never done it before. I heard the guy tell someone he was new at reading cards. Laura said, "Yeah, he didn't even look you in the eyes. He wasn't very good."

Just as I started stuffing a burrito into my mouth, I noticed Natasha carrying her suitcase of paints downstairs. I went to help her and ended up carrying this heavy thing down 50 stairs and up a big hill to her car. She told me she was off to play with her band at a pub.

I saw a few people in Hawaiian luau shirts and was told that Hawaii was the theme. It worked perfect with the back yard, which was green with plants and trees.

I met a woman at the party whose voice I recognized. It turned out she'd done voiceovers for local commercials. "Do you have a studio at your home?" I asked. "Of course!"

Late in the afternoon, a few people started leaving. I heard one guy say, "You're leaving already? Well, drive fast and reckless." A few older couples left, and someone said to me, "Parties are interesting. Old people and couples leave early. Single people end up staying all night. Maybe they are hoping to meet someone."

One guy told me about his rich brother who had written best-selling computer books. He told me how unhappy he thinks his brother's life is, despite the money he has. He said, "I have a good job, and I enjoy life. I enjoy hanging out with friends, going to parties like this." I mentioned a rich person I met at a party, and he said to me, "Do you ever read about the parties that guy in the Reader writes about?" Anne started laughing and said, "This is the guy that writes those." It was my 15 minutes.

When it got dark, we left the back yard and headed for the living room. After telling stories, somebody suggested we play a game. A few ideas were thrown around, like charades. I suggested a game with teams -- a word is thrown out and each team has 20 seconds to sing a song that has that specific word. The first team that can't think of a song loses a point. It was fun listening to people sing as if they were at a poor man's karaoke bar. When somebody sang a commercial jingle, there was an argument as to whether that counted as a song. The woman who sang it said, "I heard a Disney song. That's the same as a commercial."

One guy who appeared drunk had trouble coming up with songs. When it wasn't his turn, he'd start singing a song from a word that was used 15 minutes earlier. Somebody said, "You're a guitarist. You shouldn't have so much trouble with this game." A guy suggested he get his guitar, and he walked to his car to get it. He walked through the screen door without opening it and knocked it to the ground.

He came back and played songs for half an hour. He sounded great, but often forgot the words when it got to the bridge. Someone said, "I guess the song game is over, huh?" Laura enjoyed playing host, bringing in chips and chocolate and keeping the wine flowing.

There was a couple at the party whom I think were in their 70s. They were energetic, belting out their songs. I tried to talk to them before I left, but the guitar was too loud.

I gave Laura a hug before leaving. I admired her attitude regarding the cancer and her second chance at life. I look forward to next year's survivor bash and seeing Laura again.n

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

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