Ever since the early wonderyears of highschool, I have been partially averse and partially drawn to parties, as a social form and phenomenon. The aversion stems from the fall of false promises. Parties are supposed to be social occasions, I take it, but I rarely get beyond that lingering sense of public solitude, the loneliness in the midst of hundreds, that parties always seem to bring on in my recesses.
I internalize, and sink into the same funk of hidden pain, in some far-off corner of the house. Rarely can I convince anybody to do anything, aside from occasional bits of token “craziness,” and I inevitably become discouraged from the sheer inertial mass of hundreds of Heineken-soaked souls, looking for something that they might never find, but determined nevertheless to stay put until they do. That is, no matter how hard the partythrowers tried to make the occasion resemble the TV-fictions, I couldn’t help thinking that parties were not, in the Deweyan sense, “an experience,” complete and meaningful. I thought they were shams, in shorter words.
Granted, I don’t drink— this probably explains a lot— and I could just be rationalizing the fact that my ego is strained and helpless against the pumping decibel-levels and the sticky social necessity of unmotivated boozing. But, ego politics aside, fifty heads gathered under one roof is always abuzz with potential. And this is what, ultimately, intrigues me.
I hold fast to the maxim that every social gathering should be a sociological experiment, in and of itself. Compelling me, from time to time, to plan and detonate partybombs— Molotov cocktail parties— upon the first onset of boredom. Usually with help from a den of other antisocial saboteurs. That, or I try to deflect the energies of the crowd into a more intense and defined activity, like knifethrowing or breakdancing or, well, like wrestling. Wrestling is the best. Nothing in the known world is more contagiously uncivilized than wrestling. What starts with a quick shoulder-shove ends with a All-Out Monster Brawl on the kitchen linoleum, as the crowd cheers and gathers, and the partythrowers beg the contenders to please-please-stop-it-what-are-you-doing. But they cannot stop— no way. The entropic forces of Chaos in the Universe have exploded in the center of kitchen and sucked them— and the crowd about them— into its vortex.
You can understand, then, why I was so pleased when my boisterous Richmond roommate James, over one particularly festive April weekend, agreed to help me spread joy and mayhem throughout the holy land. We showed up at overfull houseparties— mingled a little bit— with our intentions secretly hidden underneath our dayclothes (well, I was wearing a nightie, but whatever). Then James slipped away into the bathroom, very Clark-Kent-like, as I doddled and readied myself for the coming grapple. Minutes later, James emerged wearing nothing but a thong and a leg of pantyhose over his head, giving him the ghoulish, headmelting look of a psychokiller bankrobber.
Our eyes met and widened. The room fell silent. And with sufficient drama and wrestling-federation flair, we collided and tumbled every which way into the splitting crowd like bulls in the San Ferm’n festival. Rolling into their safety spaces and whipping the room into a panicky, beer-clutching confusion, as I brandished James’ bare ass around the room like a broadsword. Then as the climax popped, James fled and I resumed my evening as if nothing had happened, whistling by the punchbowl, just soaking in the giddy satisfaction of a job well done. “That hit the spot! Delicious.” The agon and pandemonium— this stuff is addictive. Have you ever read Euripides’ The Bacchae, by any chance? I highly recommend it to all the would-be chaoticians among you. Its lesson is manifold.
However, moreover, notwithstanding, I could not expect to conduct all my sociological research in the field. I needed some labwork to back my findings. Only one weekend remained before my departure for Providence. Might as well make the most of it. Two “parties” back-to-back, to forever secure my name in the field of experimental sociology, once and for all. Martian sociology. Antisociology. Surrealism with a human face.
The first party was actually a show in my living room, a six band line-up that included James’ ensemble, John Wilkes Youth, and other faraway faves. And the possible hardcore contingent provided the perfect opportunity for everyone’s favorite partybomb, gayporn. Straight porn is nothing, a cop-out sociologically speaking. People understand straight porn. They know where they stand, even with the most demented and gonzo flix. Gayporn confuses everything and everyone; because it confuses the subconscious first and foremost. “That’s sex,” it clearly sees that, “But where am I?” Even liberal-minded people— and most folks present were miles left of liberal— still struggle to categorize the sweaty Man-on-Man fleshmonsters crawling around the television screen. With the off chance that there were real live homophobes, or even closet homophobes, in my apartment that evening, I was thrilled to think that I could, even as a practicing heterosexual, brandish homosexuality as a weapon, much in the manner and high tradition of Turbonegro and its “rhinestone homo rock’n'roll,” the denimclad Norwegian band that rocked such radio-friendly Kasey-Kasem favorites as “Ass Cobra” and “Time for Anus.”
First to Kinko’s to mimeograph some man-gina in pretty neon pink, yellow, and green. We plastered the place from ceiling to floor with nude Chaka-Bra surfer dudes with micropenis, sports porn capitioned “Cross Country Cock” and“Wow! Great Catch” (use your imagination), misshapen scrota and asscheeks akimbo, musclebound Key West macho-men with crotchless pants, and a healthy dotting of intensely fucking scary pictures from porcelain doll collector magazines. A twisted, psychosurreal pic of a Shirley Temple doll (with an even smaller Shirley Temple doll on her knee) and a “Pillsbury Doughboy and friends” lost in a swirl of limp cocks, hard cocks, pink cocks, green cocks, yellow cocks, cocks in tiger costume, and inscrutable genital puzzles— “Is that his penis or his sack?”
G.G. (whose real name is Chris, but was rechristened “Goth Gay Chris,” later truncated to G.G.) was good enough to lend us two videocassettes of hilarious mid-eighties moustache porn— “House Boys,” about three willing, mulletéd catamites in Hollywood hills, and “Dream Doll”— a pinocchio fantasy with many long and involved scenarios with a blow-up sexpuppet which in the end, turns into a real live boy… just like the original Disney version. Perfect, too perfect. Science at its finest.
The bands came in and smiled as the joke slowly seeped in. The audience poured in and got the joke even slower, judging by the squints and winces and occasional shaking heads. Some, I think it’s safe to say, did not get it at all. Tensions were running high and flustery, and I’m ninety-five percent sure that the gayporn was the magic ingredient. Hypothesis: confirmed.
Some might think that such experimentation— treating my good friends like labrats— certainly does not seem very “sociable.” My only response to this is: I would wish the same thing upon myself (further proof that the Golden Rule should not apply to masochists and weirdos; that it becomes bad advice when churned through my particular sensibilities). Really, though, if a party is going to be an experience that people can share together, it must be traumatic, able to change the reality of a thousand partygoers all at once. Trench Bonding. Something that changes you— this is what makes an experience, and brings people together in a binding way, to cope. “Thou shalt cling together against the darkness.”
The songs stopped. Unconditional love and confusion wafted through the living room. And I saw people kissing sweetly before the night was even over. But there I was. With the hidden pain and inner freefall. Where was the error or miscalculation? I felt unsatisfied. Seems my science left something out of the equation.
I returned to my bedroom in the household pantry, to plot out the masterpiece that was on the drawing board for the following evening. A surprise party. The surprise party rather. For Jolene Updike. We had spent a week whispering invitations, swearing invites to absolute secrecy, bedecking the living room with ribbons, origami, and “Happy Birthday, Jolene” banners, and even buying a birthday cake from Food Lion with candles and her name purposely misspelled across the top.
But the real surprise was: it wasn’t her birthday… not even close. Nevertheless we managed to keep that secret from both Jolene and the attendees. And best of all, we weren’t going to be present when the two sides collided. It is essential here to understand the fundamental similarity between— and equal significance of— Stanley Milgram and Candid Camera, or behavioral science and the practical joke. The former is only the latter systematized. And we— we were proceeding as systematically as possible.
Val and I ran crowd control. Gray handled Jolene, forcing her to drive him around on pointless missions and wild goose chases. When they finally got home, the crowd was hushed, crouched in the darkness, ready to pounce. Gray told her “Why don’t you see what Brandon is doing,” and, pretending to go to his room, slipped out the front door, with her heading down the hallway. On the other end, I turned off the lights and silently coached the crowd, before escaping out the back door at the last minute. Two variables were ready to collide. As we leapt off the back steps, I heard, loudly and triumphantly:
“Surprise Happy Birthday!!!”