Red House Party
Sunday, June 27 2004
Party preparations continued throughout the day. Gretchen was toiling away in the kitchen for hours at a time, displaying the sort of single-mindedness I simply could not match. I'd vacuum or clean toilets (there are four of them) for twenty minutes and then need to take a break. Gretchen was clearly disgusted, and even I admitted that I wouldn't be much more than just another guest at my own party. But there's no way to equal Gretchen when it comes to this sort of thing. She lives for baking and for friends, two things that have much less attraction for me, and in preparation for this party they constituted a sort of perfect storm of Gretchen motivation. (By the way, I hate the term "perfect storm," but there's no other phrase to economically express this idea.)
At a certain point I drove into town with the dogs to get last-minute supplies. One of my goals was to buy all-natural soft drinks, preferably those belonging to the reliably-delightful Dr. Whatever brand (they feature upside-down question marks on their labels). But it's impossible to actually buy Dr. Whatever at supermarkets, even funky ones like Hurley Ridge Market (which I tried after trying Hannaford). Finally I settled on the funkiest no-name beverages I could find, a variety of "Joe's Teas." It's a brand with a studied form of humility and a range products that include chocolate soda, root beer, birch beer, and highly-caffeinated teas. Unlike Dr. Whatever, they aren't entirely natural, but they were the best I could do.
People started arriving at our "Our House is Red Party" well before the appointed hour, and they continued streaming in at a steady rate. Somehow I ended up at the end of the table out on the south deck, chatting mostly with a group of older neighbors and their somewhat younger relatives. One of the guys there was the landlord for our friends the Meat Locker People (who couldn't make it), and I knew him to be an avid mountain cyclist who occasionally rides down the Stick Trail, a trail he was using years before it came to be lined with sticks.
He told me about a few places out there in the distant forest and it was apparent that he knew it all at least as well as I do, which should come as no surprise given the fact that he's been living in this area since he was a little kid.
At one point one of the guests came back and proclaimed that I was holding forth like some Don Corleone waiting for people to kiss my ring. Near the end of our party this same guest, who'd arrived in his red Jaguar (we'd told people to bring something red), had an accident on his way home, news we received while entertaining our last pair of guests. He wasn't badly hurt, but his car (a gift from his father) was pretty well destroyed. He'd been drinking, of course, but eyewitnesses on the scene reported that he'd been cut off by another car, so police never bothered to investigate his blood alcohol content. We went to see him at the hospital and even offered to let him stay at our place, but after he checked out he took a taxicab home.
Other than that, it was a great party. 32 people came (not counting dogs and children), and everyone remarked about what an interesting and diverse crowd it had been. It featured an Italian sauce maker, two National Geographic writers, an Absolut-swigging lawyer, a Jewish sculptor, a lesbian mother, adopted Asian children, a liberal butcher, a Viennaphilic real estate agent, and at least one vegan artisan. Demographics that it lacked included wealthy Republicans, conservative Christians, and African Americans. Indeed, this Red House Party was even whiter than our wedding had been. But it was nonetheless a remarkable achievement considering we've only lived in this area for a year and a half and none of the people we know from elsewhere attended. Hats off, Gretchen, you really know how to throw a party!
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