It’s only six blocks between the Spring and Kurt and Kathy’s house; and by the time Willie, Amy, and I got there, the party was in full swing. Kathy, Kurt, Lisa, Paul, Jeff were already there. We were soon joined by Jen, Vin, Andrea, Erin, Becky, James, another Jeff, (you can never have too many Jeffs) and a very drunk woman I’d never seen before who apologetically went straight into the house to the bathroom and seemed to stay there.
You know, it’s quite difficult to write about a party. Normally, I take notes; but I was not carrying the purse with the notebook in it, the secret notebook where I write down things I overhear, those silly little one-liners that you sometimes walk into without having heard the full story, things like “...selling them by the pound out of his trunk, all the way from Bolivia” and “…that’s when I discovered there was food in my hair…”
I can tell you about the dark, cool night; about the fridge full of ice-cold beer; about the chips and salsa in the kitchen; about the litter of deck chairs and the clusters of people on the deck; about the laughter; the teasing; the shouts of “grab me one, too!” and the utter brilliance of our insights - ahem! - but the details! The details escape me. It could be the long day, it could be the night air, it could be the beer, but really, isn't a party more of a feeling than anything else? Isn't it the knowledge that these are your people and that life is good?
There are things, however, that I recall. They are, in no particular order, that:
• Every single one of us Saturday night was astute as hell. Just ask us! We'll tell you!
• There were political discussions. Not that I can remember them. What I do remember is that our insights were brilliant. No one I contacted Sunday afternoon could recall what, exactly, we were right about, but we were all convinced that we were on to something important…
• Manchester United was going against Chelsea in a football game the following morning at 8:00 a.m. and Jen and Vin were going to be up in time to go to Brit’s Pub downtown to watch it. Go Chelsea!
• Jen's reputation as a Speller of the First Order is on trial.
Actually, Jen’s spelling deserves more than a bullet point. To tell the story properly, we need to back up a touch.
There is a bar within walking distance (as they all are in Nordeast) called the 331 that hosts drunken spelling bees. I’m not sure what it’s called – it may even be called “The Drunken Spelling Bee” – but that’s not the point. The point is that Jen has gone to several of them, being, separately and collectively, an intelligent woman, a woman who lives just a few short blocks from the 331, and a woman who can generally hold her liquor.
I’m unclear as to the rules of the spelling bee, but I believe that you must drink after each turn, that if you are in the bathroom when your turn comes up you forfeit, and that if you miss your word, an opportunity to stay in the game is available to you if you strip down to your underwear. Not surprisingly, the men tend to take advantage of this loophole, stripping to their undies unabashedly. Also, not surprisingly, the women do not.
Jen has come in fourth place at this bee a number of times; and this time around, Lucky Number 13 was the odds-on favorite to win outright. Her first word: facetious. She spelled it. No problem. Take your drink and await your next turn.
Unfortunately – and here’s where the letters begin to get jumbled and things become fuzzy – Jen and Vin had been at the 331, and drinking, since 2:00.
And it was now 8:00.
Jen, Lucky Number 13, the woman with the sharpest mind on the deck, the woman who passed her bar exam in California, missed her second word. The room was aghast. Out on the second one? How could this be? They even Googled it, looking for alternate spellings. Mais non. The word has but one correct spelling.
Jen told me about this on Kathy’s deck. “But what word did you miss?” I asked.
“I’d rather not say.”
“Oh, come on! You can’t tell a story without the ending!”
It didn’t take too much prodding. The word?
In the sobering light of a day, this is not as funny as it was at midnight on the deck. And that’s the thing about parties: no one can seem to recount them properly and the phrase "you had to be there" comes up far more often than it should. But I give you my solemn vow, that if it takes me the next dozen parties, I’m going to take notes and I'm going to report on it fully. We're going to nail down the nature and spirit of a party if I have to dedicate, oh, the next couple years of my life to it.
And that concludes Saturday, the Mall of America Expedition, and the impromptu but fully necessary 24-hour vacation.
3 hours ago