Room for Jell-O

Making it to two parties in one night isn't usually a problem, but driving down from L.A. for a 5:00 p.m. event, traffic gets in the way. The first event was a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, which was held at the Pacific Coast Grill in Solana Beach. I didn't know where the restaurant was, but I had an address for it on S. 101 in Solana Beach. As I drove down the 101, I saw similar addresses and tried to park. I couldn't find a spot and circled the residential streets. I found a spot but was an hour late. When I walked to the address I had, there was a Roberto's. I didn't have a contact number, so I hopped back into my car and drove south until I found the place. I find it odd that these establishments have the same addresses.

I found Shannon standing on the bar. Whenever you see an attractive blonde on a bar, you know it's going to be an interesting time. She was yelling out raffle ticket numbers for prizes. One guy won a Habitat for Humanity T-shirt and screamed as if he were a contestant on The Price Is Right. Shannon should've had a bullhorn or a mic in the loud, crowded bar.

There were volunteer bartenders who donated all their tips to Habitat. I ordered a ginger ale, and as I got a few singles to throw in the tip container, it was taken behind the bar. I waited for it to be brought back. When it wasn't, I threw down the rolled up bills. A woman next to me at the bar said, "I don't know why they moved it. It was convenient where it was."

I met Karen, a volunteer who got her friends to work the bar. She came up with the idea for this fundraiser, which is in its sixth year. She said, "I bought a house. It was a mess. That's when I decided to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity."

I wasn't sure about the connection but didn't interrupt her.

"I figured...I like to eat and drink, so this would be a good way for me to give back. We've raised over $10,000 in the years we've had this event." I felt guilty that my two dollars wouldn't put much of a dent in anything.

When Shannon was done giving out prizes, we had a chance to talk. She told me that she was from Salt Lake City and still considered herself new to San Diego. I told her my friend moved to Salt Lake a few years back and bugs me for not skiing when I visit. She said, "I didn't ski until I was 16." I told her that I figured I'd either break bones or that I'd love it so much I'd have another expensive hobby. She said learning to snowboard was a lot easier, which surprised me.

I asked if she was Mormon, and she said she was. "I don't know why I asked you that," I said. "I bet a lot of people do when they find out where you're from." She said, "Yeah. That's why we hate that question so much." Another woman standing nearby said, "No other state is so associated with one religion."

I met the woman who writes the Habitat newsletter. We started talking about plane crashes, and she told me that the previous week she was in Clear Lake, Iowa, where Buddy Holly's plane went down. I asked her why she was there.

"My husband and I saw B.B. King. His family is from Iowa." I asked if they had a memorial of some kind in front of the venue. "Oh, yeah. And all the streets around there -- there's a Buddy Holly Drive. They have photos inside of all the people that have performed there, and it still looks exactly the same." I told her that the Hard Rock Casino in Vegas had a part of the plane Otis Redding died in and that I thought that was morbid. She said, "We talked to an officer that told us they didn't do anything with the airplane. Nobody thought to. It ended up like any other plane that's involved in a crash and was eventually just scrapped."

She told me another story about seeing Paul McCartney at an airport. She said an eight-year-old boy approached and knocked on the limo door and said, "Would you please shake my hand?" Paul did and said, "How would you like a photo?" Her husband asked her why she didn't get a photo as well.

I look through their pamphlets and read several stories about the homes Habitat has built. There's a story about Jimmy Carter.

When Shannon jumped on a table to give more prizes away, I got a phone call -- a good time to sneak to my next party. * * * Tracie, a woman in Ocean Beach, was being deployed to Iraq for a year. She's in the Navy and wanted everyone dressed in aquatic costumes. When I walked in to the party, I saw that they had hung posters welcoming Al back home. Several guests were in military uniforms, and there was a sailor's hat on the table where people had written messages to Tracie. I met Al, who was in an admiral's uniform, and asked him if he was an admiral. "No, this is a fake uniform." I discovered that Al was from Rhode Island and that he went to SDSU before enlisting.

I saw a few people in beach attire and one guy dressed as a pirate. I said, "You're just trying to get as much use as you can from your Halloween costume, aren't you?"

I was surprised by his ability to hold a drink in his hook.

I asked Tracie what she was going to be doing when she got to Iraq. She hesitated, so I asked, "Will you have to kill me after you tell me?" She said, "No. It's just hard to explain. I do radio watch, sending messages back and forth. And I'll do some explosive ordnance disposal. We are bomb techs. And we fix robots that they send out. That's really as much as they've told me so far."

A girl named Alyssa is having someone sign a petition to save seals. She has a shirt on that reads "Save the Seals."

I heard the pirate over my shoulder say some cheesy joke about his favorite subject in school being "arrrr-t." When a woman standing near him started coughing, he said, "Just tell people you have scurvy."

There was a sea net with a variety of things in it over the window. I saw a few American flags on the apartment walls. There was a boat on the coffee table and pinatas that fit the theme.

There were a couple of kegs and a lot of food. Tracie told me she included Cracker Jacks because of the sailor on the box.

As I was helping myself to the seven-layer dip, I heard a woman yell at her friend, "I don't want a Jell-O shot! I have to drive home." Her friend looked at me and replied, "And, uh, a Jell-O shot hinders that?"

"There's always room for Jell-O," I offered.

She said, "I live in Temecula. I have a babysitter with my kids."

It's rare to see someone in their 20s being so responsible at a party.

Her friend walked past me and said, "She acts like I'm forcing her to drink a bottle of Stoli."

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

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