Nora, a local singer, told me that Ike Turner’s old band was going to play a party in La Jolla. I showed up that afternoon and met Steph Johnson, another local musician. She was waiting for friends, so I took the opportunity to ask her about what was going on. She informed me that it was a benefit for the Jewish Community Center.
I walked in to the sound of honky-tonk piano. The guy playing, Ernest Lane, has worked with several acts, including the Monkees. Listening to the few songs he played prompted me to go out and find one of his CDs.
I listened as the band rehearsed “Rocket 88,” the song that’s considered the first rock tune.
The drummer had his son, who was wearing a Chargers jersey, standing near him. When they finished, I asked the drummer about his kid. “Well, it’s my day with him,” he said, “and he likes hanging out. He’s usually on the computer. He goes to the South Park website.” I said, “He probably knows more about computers than you.” The guy said, “Oh, no. I’m a graphic artist.”
The band members were talking about what songs to perform. One left the conversation for some tea. Another, one of the horn players, looked exhausted. I wanted to ask him if playing a horn wears you out more than, say, drums or guitar, but he went backstage.
When they started playing again, I listened to two songs. And then when Steph was harmonizing with members of the band JZMN, I slipped out.
* * *
A few days earlier, I’d heard about a party for a woman named Nicole, who was turning 30. Bruce and Nate would be hosting the party at their condo in Hillcrest.
The invitation that a friend showed me stated the date that Nicole was turning 30. I showed up at the condo on that date and buzzed Nate’s place but nobody answered. I thought it was odd to throw a party on a Thursday night, and I was surprised when I found parking so easily.
I called the friend who had told me about the bash. He laughed and said, “Yeah, there was some confusion about that. The party is actually tomorrow.”
I headed out to play racquetball instead, figuring I’d skip that bash.
The next day, however, I’d no other parties to attend, and a friend and I were going to see a movie in Hillcrest at 10:30 p.m. So, I figured I’d hit the party for an hour before the movie.
I introduced myself to Nicole. She gave me a tour of the condo, which she and her fellow architects built.
She talked about growing up in Texas and playing sports. She ran the 400 and broke a few school records.
One of her friends came over and interjected, “You won’t find a person with more energy and athleticism than Nicole. She once had a cast on, after a major surgery, and she still went dancing with us. She was really cutting up a rug. It was insane that she even wanted to go.” Nicole invited me to go dancing with the group later in the evening.
Another guy told me that he’d seen her dance while she was wearing eight-inch heels.
I spoke with Nate and Bruce in the kitchen. They were holding their dog, Toto. Nicole walked over and said, “I like bigger dogs better. I want a sheep dog. Something big that I can wrestle.”
A guy nearby overheard her and said, “Ohhh, girlfriend, I’ll wrestle you!” I said, “I’ll only wrestle ya if there’s mud involved.”
There were a few birthday cakes. I said to one woman, “Damn, they probably aren’t going to cut these cakes before I leave.” She laughed and said, “I try so hard not to eat cake. You guys can eat and gain weight, but for women it’s tougher. Look how big I am.” I said, “You look great.” She smiled and said, “Are you straight...? I meet so many guys at Nicole’s parties, and they’re all muscular and good looking and I get all worked up...but, they’re all gay!” I said, “Yeah, it’s weird. Us heterosexual males, we don’t care about staying in shape, do we?”
A woman named Stephanie introduced herself. She said I had met her at a party a few years earlier. I have a good memory, but I couldn’t place her. When she told me that it was at a VFW hall in P.B. and that there was a drunk guy who kept pulling down his pants, then I remembered. One guy nearby said, “Why wasn’t I at that party?”
I told her that I’d heard from a couple who was at that same party. They’d flown to Hawaii to get married. I also remembered a woman with a scar on her arm and a guy who worked as a producer on Punk’d. She said, “Yeah, he told you more stories about that show then he ever told us.” I said, “Well, he was drunk by the time I got there. And, half the stories he told me he said I couldn’t print or he’d lose his job.”
When Toto ran by, I asked Stephanie if she had a dog. She told me about her coon hound, Dewie. She showed me a picture of the dog going to the bathroom and said, “I’m going to embarrass him by showing this photo to any of the girl dogs he brings back to the house.” I said, “Are you kidding? Dogs sniff each others’ butts. To them, a photo like that is porno.”
Nicole came over and said, “Stephanie is the smartest person at our office. She runs the place.” Stephanie smiled and said, “I didn’t see you writing that down. I want you to quote her accurately on that.”
Nicole said, “She’s going to be single soon, hint hint.”
They put candles on the cake and brought it out to Nicole. She looked as if she’d never eaten a piece of cake in her life. I grabbed a piece, and headed out to the balcony, which had an incredible view of the city.
I lit up a cigar and talked with a woman who works with a friend of mine. Her husband works in submarines, and she told me a bit about that. A military guy started asking technical questions about it. He then told a funny story about the war games his unit plays.
Stephanie came out for a cigarette, and we both admitted that we were afraid of heights as we looked over the edge.
I saw that it was time to meet my friend at the theater and that I was going to have to say goodbye to Nicole. I had heard her trying to talk people into going dancing later in the evening, and I didn’t want to get talked into that, so I snuck out.
I heard from Nicole the next day. They went dancing until morning and she woke up the next day on one of her friends’ couches. She didn’t break any limbs.