Alice in Copland

Before the new noise laws, if there was a noise complaint from your party, the police showed up. People thought they only showed up if it was after 10:00 p.m. That's not the case. It could be any time of day. And, it could be for any volume of noise. It could be people playing video games if the neighbors thought you were too loud. If the police had to return a second time, they'd give you a ticket. The new law says that the police could issue a $1000 fine without a warning. And, the fine would be to the owners of the home. If the house was being rented to people in the SDSU area and the owners lived in Rancho Santa Fe, they'd be getting a bill, not the students.

I got a call from a guy named John who said, "We're having an Alice in Wonderland theme party." I couldn't imagine the cops would show up to that affair, but then John said, "If you have an instrument, bring it." I looked for my harmonica but couldn't find it.

My date said, "Oh, cool. I have a dress from high school that looks like Alice's. I'll wear that. I have a Mad Hatter hat you could wear, too." Perfect.

When we arrived at the North Park home, I noticed that there was a party going on across the street. That was a good sign -- I knew the neighbors wouldn't be calling the cops, and if the Wonderland party was lame, I could go crash that one.

When we walked in, the living room had a drum circle going. My date looked at me and said, "I'm going to kill you! Nobody in here is wearing anything that remotely looks like Alice in Wonderland."

We walked through the living room and into the kitchen. That's where all the decorations were.

Huge cards were hung on the walls, and most of the people back there were in costume. John's costume was elaborate. "How long did it take you to make?" I asked him. "About a week. I had to make trips to the fabric store."

He had help from a redhead named Diana, his friend of seven years. She worked with a few other costumers, too. Her friends were taking advantage of the fact that she owned a dress business and knew what she was doing. Hearing about all the work they'd put into their costumes made me feel guilty about my hat.

The kitchen table was filled with a variety of vegetarian and vegan foods. There was a cake shaped like a mushroom. I wondered if the hippies I saw at the fire pit in the back yard were taking real mushrooms.

I met a guy who told me about the deli he manages in Sorrento Valley. "My dad was a race-car driver," he said, "so when he opened his first deli, he put his first race car in it." As he talked about the delis, I wondered if all the vegetarians would be bothered. When I excused myself, he said, "Come in some time. I'll give you some ribs. We make the best. And, we get the Reader, too. They're usually delivered on Wednesday."

I talked to Alice, who was turning 30, and, appropriately, was dressed as Alice from Alice in Wonderland. I admired her socks, which were decorated in the suits of playing cards, and she lifted her dress to show me that her underwear matched. If I was in a sitcom, I would've spit out my milk.

Ballots were passed out to vote on the costumes -- "best costume," "best interpretation of character," "best guy," "best girl," and "most psychedelic." I said, "I don't think my hat is gonna win crap."

A few of us were given pens that didn't work. The guy next to me said, "I think the person who wins this is going to be the person who had a pen that worked." This same guy told me I took a picture of him at a party a few years ago. He said, "I was playing a guitar in a band at a party you were at." I asked him for more details and he said, "There was a lot of beer, and it was a long time ago, so..."

He told me about an upcoming party in the desert. When he said it involved a sweat lodge, I lost interest. Ten minutes in the sauna after racquetball is about all I can take.

When more ballots were passed out, I said, "What is going on? This is worse than an Oscar party." These ballots said "best dish" and "best vegan dish." I thought these categories were weird -- someone would be offended if their dish wasn't chosen.

I ran into a guy I've met before who makes his own instruments. I met him outside the Fiona Apple concert at the House of Blues. He had an instrument he wanted to show to Fiona Apple. When I brought that up, he said, "Yeah, her people were so mean. They wouldn't let her see it." I asked him about the various instruments he makes. He said he was going to go home and bring one of his instruments back to show me, but I never saw him again.

I asked John about the drum circle. "We've been doing those for a few years at Balboa Park. Sometimes we do them under the full moon at Blacks Beach."

"Are you guys nude?"

"No. We just like the solitude...the location and being lit by the moonlight."

As the evening was winding down around 2:30 a.m., there were a few girls on the porch and two cops showed up. The drums were still going in the living room. One girl said, "Great, the strippers are here for the party."

John was called over to the door, and he hopped over with a big smile on his face, not realizing that there were two police officers there. He smiled and said, "What's up?" They looked at his costume and then one said, "I'm not even going to ask for I.D. I'm assuming you don't have it."

They couldn't have been nicer when they told us the party had to end, though I was kind of hoping they'd cuff Alice. It would've made for a great ending to my story, or some crazy Arlo Guthrie-style verse: "You can't make all the noise you want/ The drums, Alice, have to stop."

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

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