A line I’ve always loved is from the Nerf Herder song ‘Sorry’;
“Sorry I said those things to your father
Sorry I crashed through your window on acid
Sorry I made a mess
Sorry I bled to death”
I can’t say for certain that I’ve never seen somebody crash through a window on acid, because I have actually seen somebody fall out of a window at a party. What sort of substance use may or may have not led to the glass-breaking and subsequent fall is immaterial; what’s important is that when you see crazy shit like that happen, you know you’re at a good party. On the night in particular I’m thinking of, a few hours after some poor asshole fell out of a second story window and emerged with only some cuts and bruises, I puked on the sidewalk in front of the house, had to get a ride home, and reluctantly made the nearly hour-long back to my car the next afternoon so that I could go to work at the pizza place. This was after my car had been stolen for the first time, but before the second, and if there is one thing I’ll say about the luck I had while doing pizza delivery for a year, it’s that I spent an inordinate amount of time going to get my car from distances of miles away.
I also heard about a party in Arcata one summer where a guy fell backwards through a first-floor window into a cactus in the front yard. That party happened while I was out of town, and I’m somewhat bummed I missed it, but hell, I had plenty of good times in Arcata. I realize in the majority of mentions I’ve made of Arcata and Humboldt County, I’ve focused too single-mindedly on feeling miserable, confused, and suicidal, but I intend here to catalog some radical times behind the Redwood Curtain. Let’s focus on two parties where I had that ever-present of college desires: getting some action.
Party One: October of Sophomore year, at someone’s house near the foot of California St., off of LK Wood. I showed up at this party solo; frankly, I can’t remember who invited me, or how I heard about it. Maybe some co-workers from the cafeteria, who knows. Early on in the night I ran into my friend Cha, who I was just getting to know at the time, and was really pleased at being able to talk with her at length. She didn’t seem to know many other people at the party either, so we passed a good hour or more talking, and as the minutes continued sliding past, I started to get the notion that maybe I could make out with her. I was eager to get back into the swing of physical romance, as I had just broken up with my second-ever girlfriend a few weeks earlier, and the more Cha talked about the lackluster array of potential bedmates at the party, the more hopeful I grew. It was pouring out, and romance was in the air.
At some point we split up for a bit, and outside I was on the receiving end of an angry Hawaiian teenager’s rant about how awful white people are, and what ruin they had collectively made of his brief life. “If we were in Hawaii, I’d fuck you up,” he said to me, and he didn’t seem amused when I asked him how things were going to proceed given our mainland theater of location. After he successfully picked a fight with some other moron, I walked around the back of the house looking for Cha. Seeing her making out with some shaved-head hoodie dude on the back stoop took the wind out of my sails, so I went back inside the house and commandeered a bottle of brandy which I started taking inadvisably large pulls off of. When Cha crossed my path again several minutes later looking irritated, I sheepishly asked her what was up with that dude.
“Ah, some lunkhead who told me I was cute. Let’s get out of here.”
“Where to?” I did not feel like going home, especially since I saw the renewed opportunity to capitalize on Cha’s current disappointment.
“Let’s go to Tony’s.”
This is where the evening got magical. Tony’s #2 was a 24-hour truck-stop type eatery on the periphery of town, a haven I would find solace in many, many times in the years to come. At the time, I was mostly unfamiliar with any part of town more than a mile away from campus, and with Tony’s at a distance of comfortably two and half miles away, I’d never heard of it. We walked to Cha’s car, and set off into the deluge.
One thing I had not considered at the time is that if there is only one 24-hour eatery in a town, you are very, very likely to find cops there in the middle of the night, especially when yr in a relatively remote area that is preposterously over-served by overlapping law enforcement jurisdictions. At different times at Tony’s, I saw Arcata police, HSU police, Humboldt County Sheriffs, CHPs, and even once a National Parks Ranger who had a gun on his belt. But as we cruised into Tony’s that first evening, the sight of a CHP cruiser outside had me worried. I pointed it out to Cha, who sanguinely repeated the old college student’s maxim “All you have to do is act normal.”
Riiight. She got a chicken sandwich, I got a burger, and an hour later, she drove me home. There was a brief awkward moment as she pulled up in front of my dorm where I got tongue-tied and waited to see if she’d invite herself in, but the moment passed and I got out. That was the first night I ever fell asleep on my side.
Party Two: A Saturday, my birthday, 2003. I am one year out of college, unemployed, and loving life. I had moved back to Arcata a month earlier after my time interning for the City of Brentwood ended, and I had been making up for lost party time pretty efficiently. My friends in Junior Night Ranger from back home were in town, and along with my current Arcata band, The Sleeze, we were going to be playing a girl named CeCe’s birthday party at her house, a few blocks from my place. The JNR gang had rolled into town the night before with two girls in tow; C’s girl An and S’s girl A-train. C had made his customary grand entrance by waltzing into my apartment, grabbing a can of beer, and TeenWoilfing it. TeenWolfing a beer consisted of biting into the side of the can, shotgunning it, and then slamming the empty can on the ground, but C’s tendency was to shotgun about half the beer before dropping the can and stomping on it, which usually resulted in a nice beery puddle wherever the can fell. My living room carpet became the latest victim of his practice, and that set the tone for Saturday quite nicely.
Saturday we all awoke hungover and spent the day strolling around town. Most of us (read:the men) were steadily getting drunk again, and those that chose to were high as hell. Around dusk, a marathon viewing of some Beavis and Butthead DVDs C had recently acquired began, and around seven we started walking all of our gear over to the party. The Sleeze’s equipment was brought over by the rest of the guys in that band; Johnny Hollywood, Armwah Villalobos, and the drummer, Mag Falcon. I had very, very few concerns about how the night was going to unfold, but if I had one, it was how I’d react to K being at the party.
K was a girl I had been seeing recently; we had first met at a Valentine’s Day party a month earlier shortly after her roommate had stuck his hand in a fishtank and screamed O Death, Take Me! in response to his ludicrous fear that he had retroactively been exposed to AIDS by his cheating ex. I was plastered, and did not remember meeting K that night. However, unbeknownst to me I was on my way to her house for a different party a week later. That night was more lucid, and we stayed up until 4AM talking about taking walks in the woods, and the salvation of writing. We had been on a few dates, the first of which saw us watching the sun set on the Trinidad coast, and the second of which saw us driving out to the jetty in my car for another sunset viewing. The first date was uneventful and resulted in no monkey business, while the second was a near-disaster that began to go south when we got back to my car after the sun had set and found it dead. After a frigid walk to a nearby campground and a few frantic phonecalls, Mag Falcon’s girl Sterno came to grab K and I in Mag’s sweet crappy Lumina and saved us. Sterno gave K and I a lift back to her place, and we watched LA Story, which did not increase my desire for her or anyone. The night ended as affectionless as the first.
I had seen her once since then at another party where she walked up coked to the gills while I was talking to some sunburnt maniac about how he claimed to have found a hundred pounds of weed on the beach in Florida. She was primarily concerned with not grinding her teeth, and didn’t have much to say. I did not count that encounter as our third date, and indeed, I was not intending to have one.
However, she showed up early that night at the party and said Hey, Come With Me, I’ve Got A Birthday Present For You. Suitably intrigued, I followed her back to her car, where she gave me an excellent hand-made piece of framed glass that she had etched the Golden Ratio nautilus onto. I loved it, and I have it on my wall to this day, yet I played it cool in the moment; saying thanks, and Let’s Get Back To The Party.
People were gradually showing up, and I cracked open an MD 20/20 before the Sleeze started playing. We had about six original songs at that point, a wobbly, unintentionally-out-of-time cover of Molly’s Lips, and a half-baked plan to play ‘Happy Birthday’ for CeCe. We hacked our way through four songs and about thirty seconds of some bullshit that we said was ‘Happy Birthday’ before yielding to Junior Night Ranger.
Tension began brewing as some dreadlocked trusty-looking asshole came up to us as JNR set up, saying that we couldn’t play. WHY? Oh, because his jam band was the next and final band of the evening, and they were anxious to start giving people half-boners. I suspect he had already felt the sought-after “chill groove” of the affair dissipating while the Sleeze played such crowd-pleasers as ‘The Knife” and “Mutha’s New Lova”, and was hoping to prevent any more hard rock lest it start driving the hordes of hippie chicks that were the basis of CeCe’s friend group from the party.
Side note on CeCe: I never really got to know this girl. She was a co-worker of Mag and Armwah’s at a local coffee house, and though it may seem I’m condemning her on the basis of her deplorable hippie friends, as much as I got to know her, CeCe was pretty cool. To wit, she asked Mag if his offensive rock band would play her party for “balance”, and she basically meant she wanted some aggro energy there to counteract the increasingly boring feel that her groovy gang carried with them. Also notable is that the year after this party, I was hanging out with Mag on his front porch, and CeCe walked by. After inviting her up to the porch, the first thing out of her mouth was Wanna Do Some Whippits?
BACK to the party on my 22nd birthday, we told the hippie to dude All Right, We’ll Just Play Fifteen Minutes, which he reluctantly agreed to. We then cranked it out at full volume, sending most of the party into the front and side yards. The volume reached the main drag a block over, and curious passerby started detouring over to see what the commotion was. C repeatedly flung himself into the crowd, knocking his bass viciously out of tune, and I finished the Mad Dog shortly before taking a bafflingly caterwauling solo on John Holmes’ Last Stand. The ten or so people that stayed in the room loved it; amongst those ten people, however, were neither An or A-train. An was generally a pretty amiable person, but A-train’s sinister lameness had convinced her that these guys are assholes who only care about their band, not us. AND?? SO?? In any case, when the hippie guy came in from outside, hands over his ears, and demanded we stop playing, C was the first to notice that his and S’s girlfriends had left.
The resulting emancipation led C and S back to my apartment to see if perhaps their women had retired there, leaving me susceptible to a few chugged forties with zealous friends wishing to punish me on my birthday. I vaguely remember taunting the hippie jam band with C’s signature line circa 1999, “BOMB KOSOVO!!”
Later, I walked K home and slept with her. We dated for two months, broke up for four, dated for another three, broke up, kept sleeping with each other on and off for another year. We remained friends for another few years after that, but she doesn’t talk to me any more.