It was Friday, August 7, 1987. The big day: I’d been working at my freelance writing job for two weeks, and was getting paid in another week.
And I’d gotten my final unemployment check!
And the party I’d started planning when I got the job was finally happening.
I’d invited most of my friends in the Twin Cities; my roommates had added quite a few of their own – because, let’s face it, what’s a party without people?
Then as now, I loved going to parties; but I’d never thrown one before. Indeed, other than MOB parties, I’ve never thrown another (not to say I won’t – but that’s a subject for another thread). So I went through some internal calculus, and tried to figure out what made for a great late-summer party. I came up with:
- A grill
It was a scorcher – probably in the mid-nineties, humid as hell. I ran to Big Top Liquors – then as now, the booze lynchpin of the neighborhood – and figured, what the heck, I’d grab two 30-packs of Strohs. Oh, make it three.
Then, to Rainbow, for a couple of pounds of beef, cheese, charcoal, brats, onions, buns…
…and then, home.
People started showing up around sixish. First came Liz’ boyfriend, and some of my late-KSTP friends. Then my pal Rich. Then some of Liz’ co-workers from a group home in Minnepolis. Then the guys from my band. Then more of Liz’ co-workers. Then still more of them.
The party started out so well.
For the first four or five hours, it was wonderful; good company, good conversation given a great shove down a beer-soaked slip-n-slide, good food (I was, and remain, a great grillmeister) – just a memorably good time.
By about tennish, people were gathered on both porches, cooling off, enjoying things. People had nice buzzes going on; roommates’ co-workers, and I think one of my band-mates, started slipping away to the upstairs bedrooms in various combinations. Everyone was enjoying themselves. Even me – although I had long lost track of how many Strohs I’d sucked down in the August heat. Still – it was a great party.
Twenty years later, I’m still not sure exactly where it went wrong.
I think it was around ten that a couple of Liz’ co-workers’ friends showed up. One of them, a fellow who resembled a genetic melding of Jeffrey Dahmer and Zeljko Ivanek, walked in, grabbed a beer, and came out to the porch, scowling. Then heckling people – my friends, my band-mades, and eventually me. And then getting really abusive; “You really shuck. Thish izh a sh**y party. You’re shtupid”.
I took one of Liz’ co-workers – the one who’d brought the guy – aside. “Who izh thish moron?” I asked. He apparently was an off-duty corrections officer from the Stillwater Penitentiary. “Could you tell him to mellow out a little?”
Well, he tried. It didn’t stick.
I don’t honestly remember, twenty years later, what came first – me standing in his face and saying – not yelling, I am fairly sure – “You’re standing on my porch, at my party, drinking my beer, and insulting my friends? What am I missing here?”, him saying “I think you’re a faggot”, or me promising to strangle him with his own intestines. His pal intervened about the time I was picking up a piece of scrap wood off the porch. They left.
Which isn’t to say the party ended. Just that it got kinda weird. Almost like the evening’s gestalt got turned 90 degrees. Which, by the way, also felt like the temperature around midnight. Conversations that had been friendly turned…well, not “confrontational”. Everyone was still having fun. But the near-brawl had lent the evening an edge that it hadn’t had, and didn’t need. And there were some other little scuffles; one of Liz’s co-workers girlfriends hooked up with a differnet co-worker; animosity ensued. And one of my other roommate Brenda’s boyfriends ran into another of them. (It could have been worse; she was stringing three along at the time). An undercurrent of ugly started creeping into the evening.
And of course, everyone kept right on drinking. Some of the co-workers had brought plenty more beer and booze. Now, I’ve never really been a heavy drinker – except for a stretch after my college graduation, I have rarely had more than 2-3 drinks in a sitting in my life. I’m sure I was well past a dozen beers by midnight. Well past.
Damn. It felt good to be working again!
I think it was like 4:30AM when Liz’ boyfriend decided to make one last hamburger. He grabbed a chunk of the beef…
…that had been sitting on the counter since 6PM, in the sweltering evening, in the even-more-sweltering kitchen, molded a patty, and tossed it on the grill.
I think it was about 5:30AM when he chundered phosphorescent green spew all over the kitchen. And dining room. And stairway to the bathroom. And he wasn’t done. Oh, nosireee.
It was about then that I passed out.
Casey, my other guitar player, woke me up at about 8AM. His car, a mid-seventies Toyota, had no starter, and needed a push-start to get him and Bill, my drummer, home. We staggered outside – it was already scorching hot – and gave the car a shove down Fry Street (the irony wasn’t lost on me even then), a block or so, until it caught.
I staggered back to the house, sweating toxic goo, feeling queasier by the step.
I got in the back door. My foot skidded on some leftover phosphorescent green chunder. I felt my stomach jumping up, like one of those videos of a mid-fifties ejector seat firing off; I ran upstairs to the bathroom, and…
…well, you know.
My head felt like it’d been bored out with a grain auger. Every muscle in my simultaneously ached and rioted to eject more stuff from me, from whatever end was available. I lived in a universe of sour and ugly.
Liz staggered into the bathroom. “Telephone!”, she yelled, before clomping back to bed.
I crawled to the phone. “Hullo?” I groaned, sounding very, very sick even to myself.
“Hi, Mitch! It’s your mom! Have a rough night?”
I stayed on the couch, sweating and praying for either rain or death, all day. And then most of Sunday cleaning.